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Home Improvement Tips & Advice

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    Hosts: Tom Kraeutler & Leslie Segrete

    (NOTE: Timestamps below correspond to the running time of the downloadable audio file of this show. Text represents a professional transcriptionist’s understanding of what was said. No guarantee of accuracy is expressed or implied. ‘Ph’ in parentheses indicates the phonetic or best guess of the actual spoken word.)

    BEGIN HOUR 1 TEXT:

    (promo/theme song)

    TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles. This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Call us now with your home improvement project. Call us now with your do-it-yourself dilemma. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.

    Well, the holidays are just around the corner so you may be thinking about, ‘Gosh, what can I get done in my house before the swarms of relatives show up?’

    LESLIE: Start ringing your bell.

    TOM: And start ringing your bell. Maybe there are a few simple projects that you can do. We can help you with those. Call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Also, getting chiller and with cooler weather coming through most parts of the country, you might have thought that you were off the hook when it comes to your yard work. But actually, there is some yard work you should be doing in the winter as well. We’re going to tell you how and why in just a bit.

    LESLIE: And also this hour, where do you think you’re most likely to get a leak in your home? I bet you’re thinking the bathroom or the roof. Well, you’re going to be surprised to find out that it’s not necessarily your roof. We’re going to tell you how to protect your home against all kinds of leaks a little later.

    TOM: And this might shock you but one out of every four homes needs an electrical upgrade and if your next home improvement project’s going to include electrical work don’t make another move until you hear the advice today’s guest has for us. It’s Kevin Ireton. He’s the editor of Fine Homebuilding magazine. We’re going to be talking to him shortly to learn the nine most common wiring mistakes and how to fix them and, most importantly, how not to make them.

    Leslie, I’ve got to tell you …

    LESLIE: Yeah.

    TOM: In the 20 years I spent as a home inspector, electrical mistakes were just so common and they’re sort of the silent killers because they sit there and they seem to work until they don’t work and then there’s a fire, there’s an arc, there’s a spark and it’s gets ugly fast. So we’re going to learn how to avoid those mistakes from Kevin Ireton.

    LESLIE: Yeah and it’s crazy. I’m always amazed at how many people want to tackle electrical problems or fixtures or updates themselves. I mean it’s amazing to me. When the risk of injury with your home improvement project is death (Tom laughs), it’s always better to hire a pro. So, thanks to Kevin for helping us sort out all those mysteries and things we need to know about wiring.

    And also, we’ve got a great prize today. We’re giving away 150 bucks worth of Minwax products this hour. It’s a sampling of stains and finishes. It’s going to protect all of your woodwork. You are going to find something for just about any woodworking project you’ve got going on in that kit.

    TOM: I just might have enough touch-up to handle all three kids and their dings and their dents. (Leslie chuckles) With 150 bucks of different stain products from Minwax.

    Well, good reasons to call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Let’s get right to those phones.

    LESLIE: Mark in New Jersey, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you?

    MARK: Well, I’ve got mold in – it’s actually a dining room – on the ceiling in three different spots. Ah, not too big. About a handprint size worth. And on the exterior paint of the same room.

    TOM: OK. Are you sure it’s mold?

    MARK: Yeah, I did the little check and I got the result back. It’s like you mail it in and it comes back.

    TOM: OK.

    MARK: It’s a black mold. It’s a very common one. But still, I want to be able to basically get rid of it.

    TOM: What’d they tell you it was? Did they tell you it was cladosporium?

    MARK: Yeah, that’s the one.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: Yeah. Very, very common. It’s the kind of mold that you clean off your shower and that sort of thing. Most people are fine with it unless you happen to be like super mold sensitive.

    So what you’re going to want to do here is wipe it all down with a bleach and water solution and then you’re going to want to prime those surfaces. I would use a good quality primer like a KILZ or a …

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And would you want to prime the whole ceiling rather than just those spots?

    TOM: Yeah, you know what’s going to happen if you just prime the spots and then you try to paint over it? You’ll actually get a slightly different sheen from the paint.

    MARK: Right.

    TOM: So it’ll look kind of different, you know, when you – you’ll see it. You’ll still see the spot through because the paint will absorb differently in those areas. So I would prime the whole ceiling and then after that you can go ahead and put your topcoat on. You’ll be good to go.

    MARK: So it’s basically just growing on the paint? Both on the inside of the house and the outside? It’s nothing I have to …

    TOM: Yes, yes. It’s probably landing on there. It’s landing on there like a seed in a garden and then it sprouts and those mold spores go out and they attach to the wall and that’s what’s going on.

    LESLIE: Now for the outside of the house, Mark, if you find that it’s the north side of your house or just tends to be a shady area, if there’s anyway that you can open up any of the landscapings that more light does hit that area where you see the mold growth, it will – the sunlight helps to hinder that growth. It sort of acts like the natural bleach. So do clean it with bleach and water first and then try to open it up to get some more natural light on there to help do it’s job.

    MARK: OK, I have an air conditioner in the wall in that same in that same room. I wonder if that’s relating to the …

    TOM: Oh, you know what? If you do you want to look at the – you want to make sure you clean the air conditioner. Very often you get cladosporium that will actually land and grow inside the air conditioning vents. So and if that’s the case, then guess what’s spraying mold spores onto your wall? (Leslie chuckles)

    MARK: Right.

    TOM: So you want to make sure that that’s cleaned really well.

    MARK: That’s great. Thank you very much.

    TOM: Mark, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.

    Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: Now we’re going to Oregon to talk to Cathy. What’s happening at your money pit?

    CATHY: Well, I heard you talking the other day about the tankless water heaters.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: Yep.

    CATHY: And I thought I had heard something. We live out in the country …

    TOM: Mm-hmm.

    CATHY: … and we have spring water.

    TOM: OK.

    CATHY: I had heard that they do not do well with the tankless water heaters. Do you know …

    TOM: Mm, not true. Not true. Now I tell you …

    CATHY: No?

    TOM: … tankless is absolutely the way to go today. If you’re thinking about replacing your water heater, tankless is the hot ticket because it’s an on-demand system. It’s a little more expensive to install up front but it’s on-demand so that you’re always going to have plenty of hot water when you need to use it. Now, do you have gas in your house?

    CATHY: No, we don’t.

    TOM: What do you have?

    CATHY: We have electricity.

    TOM: Then I wouldn’t use a tankless because the electric tankless are not nearly as efficient or as effective as the gas-powered.

    CATHY: Oh.

    TOM: If I have electricity and not natural gas power, I’m going to install a high-efficiency electric water heater, one that has extra insulation on it, and I’m going to put that also on a timer so that it doesn’t run in the middle of the night when I don’t need it. Because the problem with a regular water heater is it’s sort of dumb. It runs 24/7/365 whether you need the hot water or not.

    CATHY: Right.

    TOM: So I would use a high-efficiency electric. I would put it on a timer so that it can come on, you know, for a few hours before you get up in the morning; heat the water up; stay on through all the morning showers; then go off sort of midday; come on again, you know, 4:00-ish in the afternoon; stay on through the evening showers and supper and all of that and then go off in the middle of the night. Because you really only need to run that thing about half to maybe two-thirds of the number of hours in the day; not 24 hours a day.

    CATHY: Well, that’s a great idea. Where do you install the timer?

    TOM: Oh, it gets installed usually right near the water heater and an electrician can do it for you.

    CATHY: I see.

    TOM: OK, Cathy?

    CATHY: Alright, thanks a lot.

    TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Yep, tankless is great but not when you have an electric system.

    CATHY: You are listening to The Money Pit and everything here at the Money Pit is all about you so call in your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. Gives you the answer to your home improvement question and some tools to help get the job done.

    Now, here’s a tip. Yard work in the winter. Do you have to do it? Well, absolutely. I’m going to tell you what you can do now to prune down your spring workload right after this.

    LESLIE: (chuckling) I like that. ‘Prune down.’

    (promo/theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit is brought to you by Ryobi, manufacturer of professional feature power tools and accessories with an affordable price for the do-it-yourselfer. Ryobi power tools. Pro features, affordable price. Available exclusively at The Home Depot. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And we make good homes better. Call us now with your home improvement question. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974. Soup to nuts, floorboard to shingles. Let’s talk about the projects that you want to get done in your house. Like maybe it’s a bathroom. Ever wonder what the difference is between a full bath and a half bath? Well, you can’t take a bath in a half bath.

    LESLIE: No, you can’t.

    TOM: (chuckling) So maybe you need to put in a full bath. We can teach you how to do just that. Call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. If you do, you’ll get the answer to your home improvement question and a chance at winning this hour’s prize, which is a whole toolbox full of Minwax products worth 149 bucks. It includes a selection of wood stains, finishes and all in convenient half-pint size cans packed up in a reusable tool box; all of the stain you could need for all of your home improvement projects, available to one caller to today’s program but you’ve got to call to be tossed into the Money Pit hardhat and maybe win that great gift from Minwax. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Yeah, and you know the cooler temperatures this time of year really make it perfect for any painting or staining or finishing projects because of the low humidity. It allows everything to really dry in the amount of time that it would normally take rather than be slowed down by all that moist air. And if it’s getting cooler where you are, you might be thinking well, I don’t have to quite do as much or any yard work but that’s not true. Winter is actually the perfect time to prune your fruit trees and your rosebushes because this is the time when they’re not budding. You want to get to it before these things do start to bud. You want to make sure that you remove any cross-caning; you want to thin the branches; and you want to finish by spraying the plants with dormant oil. It’s going to save you a lot of extra work when springtime comes around and everything starts to bloom back to life.

    TOM: So pick up the phone and call us now with your home improvement question. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Richard calling to The Money Pit. What can we do for you here?

    RICHARD: Well, I’ve got a problem. About two years ago I bought this house. It was built in 1970 and there’s a rear patio that had a roof over it. I’m sorry, it’s not a patio. It’s a wooden deck with a roof over it. And I made a room out of that area. However, the decking was on the ground. It was ground level. You couldn’t really get under there and now I’ve got an odor coming up through the floors. It’s a damp …

    TOM: Where the deck’s over top of it?

    RICHARD: Well, it was a deck that was actually on the ground …

    TOM: Right.

    RICHARD: … and I enclosed it into a room.

    TOM: Hmm.

    RICHARD: And the odor coming up seems to be a dampness. It may be a mildew smell.

    TOM: Well yeah, because decks are designed to be enclosed into rooms so it is going to be very, very damp in that space and you may very well get a mildew smell.

    RICHARD: OK, is there anything I can do about that? Can it be vented or …

    TOM: Well, what’s below it right now?

    RICHARD: Just dirt.

    TOM: And is it open? Wide open below there?

    RICHARD: No, it’s not. No, that’s another thing I did because I poured around it.

    TOM: Oh, man. You know, you’ve done this in such a backwards fashion that it’s hard for us to tell you how to get out from under this, Richard. Because what’s happening is you’ve essentially trapped this organic structure on top of soil and then you’ve blocked all of the access to the side so you can’t even vent it correctly.

    RICHARD: Well, I was wondering if something like a radon – what they use to get radon out of the ground, if something like that would work. If I could tap in – because there’s a closet in this room …

    TOM: Mm-hmm.

    RICHARD: … I could tap through the floor and then vent it out through the top.

    TOM: Well, you mean by putting in a ventilation system?

    RICHARD: Yeah.

    TOM: Well, I mean it might help. The other things that you can do is to try to take steps to reduce moisture around the foundation area wherever this is; making sure your gutters are clean and free-flowing and water’s discharging away from this area. Make sure the soil’s sloping away. Things of that nature may help to reduce the humidity but it’s really going to be a shot in the dark as to whether it works.

    Richard, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    RICHARD: Thank you.

    You know, when you build something, you know, in such a nonconventional way …

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: … this is a good example of how problems can develop and, you know, we can’t tell you – I mean I can’t tell you to vent this because there’s no way to vent it.

    LESLIE: Yeah.

    TOM: He’s got the whole thing buried in concrete. It’s a wood box surrounded in concrete.

    LESLIE: So it’s bound to get stuffy in there.

    TOM: Yeah, sooner or later, when you don’t follow the rules folks, this can happen to you, too!

    LESLIE: So call first. Build later

    Now we’re going to talk to Beth in California who listens to The Money Pit on KQKE and you’re talking about gas or electric; which is more efficient. We both have a pretty strong opinion about this but let’s hear your question.

    BETH: OK. So we are building a new house in California and so we can pick whether we want electric or gas appliances and let’s say washers and dryers is what we’re kind of focusing on right now.

    TOM: OK.

    BETH: And we were wondering what opinion you had.

    TOM: Well, is this – what about the heating system? What kind of heat do you have?

    BETH: It’s going to be forced steam heat.

    TOM: But it’s going to …

    LESLIE: That’s good.

    TOM: It’s going to be gas?

    BETH: I believe so.

    TOM: Yeah, probably. Well, I mean if you have gas appliances – I mean if you have a gas heating system, I would use a gas dryer.

    BETH: OK.

    TOM: I wouldn’t use – an electric dryer’s going to be more expensive to use.

    BETH: Well and that’s what they were saying but I didn’t know what’s going on now with the new kind of …

    TOM: You know, Beth, a lot of people have asked us that question but the bottom line is that as expensive as gas is gas is always going to be cheaper than electric because per BTU, electric is always much more costly.

    BETH: Alright, well thank you for your time. I appreciate it.

    TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Dan in New York’s got some uneven steps. Tell us what’s going on.

    DAN: I’ve got a 1926 house. Lot of arts and crafts detail and …

    LESLIE: Cute.

    DAN: Yeah, it’s a nice house. The front steps are brick and there are four steps into the house. They’re square. Either side of the steps there are – I don’t know what you’d call them. They’re like a knee wall but they’re brick. You know, they’re level with the – they’re about six inches higher than the top step.

    TOM: OK.

    DAN: And they’re topped with sandstone slab; those two side pieces. We’re getting a lot of erosion and crumbling of the mortar …

    TOM: Mm-hmm.

    DAN: … and about four years ago we hired a mason and he came out and he took out a bunch of the bricks and he scrubbed them good with a wire brush and he remortared them and put them back in and re-sat them down in their places. And four years later it looks worse than it did before we called him.

    TOM: Hmm.

    DAN: Lot of the mortar is kind of real sandy. We’ve got a little overhang over the front door so there’s some rain and ice runoff that I think is getting down into the steps.

    TOM: Yeah, I was going to ask you – if this is strategically where you’re getting a lot of rain and ice buildup then that’s clearly going to deteriorate those mortar joints and if, in doing the repair, obviously the mason put good mortar over the best that you had but still that material’s going to continue to deteriorate. So the fact that you did it four years ago and now it has to be redone does not surprise me in the least. I would consider that fairly normal. If you can’t keep the water from getting there it’s going to happen again.

    DAN: So what do I do? We drove around the neighborhood; did a little research and looked at other similar houses and what we found is a lot of people have replaced their steps with poured concrete steps.

    TOM: Mm-hmm.

    DAN: But they just don’t look as nice.

    TOM: Well listen, I don’t think having to do this every few years is necessarily a bad thing. I mean that’s part of the maintenance of having that kind of a charm of a house.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    DAN: Yeah. So how do I do it instead of paying a mason 400 bucks to come and do it?

    TOM: Well, it’s not so hard to do. You can buy some mortar patching compound. You can make up some mortar yourself. Usually when you do repointing you put a bit of – if you mix it yourself, usually add some additional lime to it because it tends to make it stickier.

    DAN: Uh-huh.

    TOM: And the first thing you do is get rid of all of the loose stuff that’s there and then you mix up the mortar and you very carefully repoint the joints. There are special pointing trowels that are like the size of a mortar joint. That’s how it gets that nice curve to it that works really well. And you know, probably the first time you do it it might be a little sloppier than maybe what you’d like but you’ll get good at it. It’s not a bad job to do. It’s not a terribly difficult job to do and, you know, listen. Whatever it is, it’s yours. (chuckling) You know? You own it when it’s done.

    DAN: Well, that’s true. That is true. Any tips on the time of the year up here? We’re heading into winter and another hundred inches of snow.

    TOM: I would let this go til the spring because now you’re going to – this way you’ll have one more year of wear and tear behind you.

    DAN: Yeah.

    TOM: So I would definitely wait til the spring until you get the thaw and then you can attack it.

    Hey Dan, I tell you what we’re going to do to help you out with these maintenance chores.

    LESLIE: Ooh, you’re going to love this, Dan.

    TOM: For calling in tonight we’re going to give you one of our Money Pit American Homeowners Association memberships and that will give you access to a library of home improvement information. It will give you access to preapproved contractors, discounts on all sorts of home-related services from home improvement products to free shipping to …

    LESLIE: Groceries, eyewear, everything.

    TOM: Exactly.

    DAN: Alright, alright. You know, I was a huge Leslie Segrete fan from her TV days.

    LESLIE: Yay, thanks Dan.

    TOM: Oh, you see? We gave it to you before we knew that. (chuckling)

    DAN: Now I’m an even bigger fan and you too, Tom.

    TOM: Alright, Dan, here’s what you have to do. We’re going to give your name to the folks at the membership center. The number is 866-Real-Home. 866-Real-Home. Call them. They’ll have your name and they’ll hook you up and if anyone else is interested in getting in on the Money Pit American Homeowners Association Membership we are giving a new Zircon laser level and stud finder to the first 1,000 members. So if you call 866-Real-Home you can get in on this and we’ll give you even the first 30 days of the membership for free.

    Dan, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: This is The Money Pit and we’ve got lots of great home improvement advice coming up, including everything that you’ve got running through your walls all the time in your home and you probably never even think about it when you flip that switch. We’re talking about electrical wiring and it does need to be kept up to date and up to code. We’re going to tell you how to find out if your wiring is dangerous, next.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is being brought to you by – well, by us. Get a $1,000 guarantee that the contractor you hire gets the job done right with your new Money Pit American Homeowners Association membership. And get $50 in Zircon tools if you join in the next 30 minutes. Call now. 866-REAL-HOME. That’s 866-REAL-HOME. Now here are Tom and Leslie.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974, and we make good homes better.

    Now Leslie, it occurs to me that most home improvement projects are relatively safe. Now, but dealing with electricity on the other hand; you know, electricity versus human, not so much. You can get pretty …

    LESLIE: You’re not going to win that battle.

    TOM: You can get pretty hurt when you tackle that and so, you know, this may or may not shock you but one out of every four homes needs an electrical upgrade. So there’s a lot of electrical work that needs to be done out there. We don’t think you should probably be doing it yourself and that’s why we’ve turned to some experts for advice.

    LESLIE: That’s true and you really need to make sure that you’re up to speed on building codes and electrical problems because some wiring mistakes, not only are they illegal but they can be very dangerous. That’s why we’ve got Fine Homebuilding’s Kevin Ireton here with the nine most common wiring mistakes and how to fix them.

    Welcome, Kevin.

    KEVIN: Hi, Leslie. Hi, Tom. How are you guys?

    LESLIE: Great.

    TOM: Great. Kevin, you talk about wiring mistakes and code violations. Let’s talk about the code issue first because I used to here this time and time again in the 20 years I spent as a home inspector. People would ask me, ‘Is it up to code?’ as if code was some wonderful, golden award; it was like getting the Oscar. And I used to say that, you know, making something up to code is like your kid coming home and saying, ‘Guess what, Dad. I got a D. I passed. Aren’t you proud?’ Well, when it comes to electricity you want it to be not only up to code. You want it to be even better. You want to see good workmanship standards behind that and you are actually uncovering quite a few mistakes that may not really leave us safe. Let’s talk about some of those.

    KEVIN: Well, one of the most common ones is when a wire is running through the framework of a house it needs to be at least an inch-and-a-quarter back from the surface of the framing; of the stud.

    TOM: And that’s because the drywall nail is, what, an inch-and-three-quarters and you have a half-inch of drywall? You don’t want the back of that nail to pierce the wire, right?

    KEVIN: That’s exactly right or, in some cases you know, there’s a trim nail that’s going to jeopardize that wire. So you’ve got to have at least an inch-and-a-quarter of space and if you don’t have that much space they make a special metal nailing plate that you can nail over the stud that will prevent a wire or screw from penetrating the hole.

    TOM: So if you’re building a house and you’re having some electrical work done or some repair work done, this is one good thing to check for. What’s next?

    KEVIN: A common thing these days. People are running a lot of low-voltage wiring in their walls. These are phone lines; audio-visual cable for your cable TV; speaker wiring; that sort of thing. That kind of wiring needs to be kept away from your regular line voltage in your house; those 120-volt lines.

    LESLIE: Interesting. Why is that and how can you tell when it’s behind the wall surface to begin with if you’re just hiding something?

    TOM: Is it if these wires get too close together that the low-voltage could then all of a sudden become high voltage because of a short between the two?

    KEVIN: That’s the first problem, Tom. If they’re – they should be separated. They shouldn’t be coming into the same box unless that box was specially designed because exactly as you say. Because suddenly that 120 volts jumps over into that low-voltage wire, which it wasn’t meant to carry; could cause a fire; could ruin your stereo equipment; could ruin your computer. The other problem is that if the wires are run too close together it can create interference. So you can end up screwing up the signal in your computer or in your TV if you’ve got those wires running together in the same hole. They should be kept at least six inches apart.

    LESLIE: Which is interesting, Kevin, because so many people are buying these plasma TVs that are wall-mounted and then thinking, ‘Oh, I’ll just wire it myself and hide everything behind the wall’ when potentially that’s a big hazard.

    KEVIN: You know, the truth is you could do it yourself but because there’s a risk of fire; there’s a risk of electrocution, you have to be really careful. You’ve got to know what you’re doing.

    TOM: We’re talking to Kevin Ireton – he’s the editor of Fine Homebuilding magazine – about the nine most common wiring mistakes and code violations.

    Kevin, let’s try to get through a couple of these. You say don’t stuff too many wires into a switch or outlet box. This is like having an extension cord with too many things plugged in, huh?

    KEVIN: Most people don’t realize that every box, when you go and buy an electrical box it’s actually stamped on it somewhere; a certain number of cubic inches that that box represents. You know, typical box might be 18 cubic inches and that literally tells you – I mean if you understand what that means, it tells you how many wires; how many switches; how many splices can be permitted in that box.

    TOM: Interesting.

    KEVIN: If you put too many in heat’s going to build up.

    LESLIE: And again, that’s a lot of specific language that you really need a pro to understand.

    TOM: You also say use a splice box when installing a new fixture to an old wire. That makes sense because of course you’re adding two wires together. You don’t want to have a midair connection.

    I love this next tip. Don’t use wire runs as clotheslines. I actually have seen that time and time again. You know where that’s real popular? In the basements.

    LESLIE: Exactly.

    KEVIN: Absolutely. You’re not supposed to run wiring across the bottom of floor joists because, as you said, it makes a perfect place to hang stuff and, you know, when you’re down your basement trying to put stuff away you know that people are going to do that.

    TOM: Rapping it up you say don’t crowd holes with too many wires. Same situation. You’ve got to make sure there’s plenty of space for the wires. Some of those wires rely on air to actually cool them, so you don’t want to crowd them.

    You have a tip here. Make sure recessed lights don’t become fire hazards. Good point and I think we should talk a bit about this in just a little detail. Insulation contact. IC fixtures. How are they different than regular light fixtures?

    KEVIN: Recessed light fixtures that are labeled IC – that stands for insulation contact – it means that you can put in this fixture and you can insulate all around it. You don’t need an airspace. It’s because they’re built with the airspace already in them and so that insulation isn’t going to cause overheating. But a conventional recessed light needs airspace and if you insulate around it it can overheat and cause a fire. So you have to know do I have an IC recessed light fixture or not.

    TOM: Good point.

    LESLIE: And those are labeled pretty clearly. You also mention don’t disable a smoke detector with bad placement. Does that mean like too close to a return duct or an air conditioning vent?

    KEVIN: Both of those things can be problems. Every smoke detector comes with instructions about where it can and can’t be installed and it’s pretty specific in terms of the location. And one of the things they want to do is keep them away from air supplies and air return ducts because that can either blow smoke or particulate matter to them, causing them to go off more than they should, or it can blow smoke away from them so they won’t go off when they should. Either one’s a problem.

    TOM: And finally you say don’t bury splice boxes. Good point. When you make an electrical connection, especially where there’s drywall covering it, make sure the box comes through. Make sure you know where the splice is; otherwise, you won’t be able to make a repair there or access that if it ever needs an additional repair.

    Kevin Ireton, editor of Fine Homebuilding magazine, great advice. The article called Nine Common Wiring Mistakes and Code Violations is on newsstands now in the current issue of Fine Homebuilding magazine or you can log onto their website at FineHomebuilding.com.

    KEVIN: Thank you, Tom and Leslie.

    LESLIE: As always, good info from Kevin and here’s a mathematical anomaly that I’m sure no one needs to debate. Water and electricity; they do not mix. They do not go together. In fact, moisture is the biggest enemy of your home’s wall system itself and that’s why you really need to do all that you can to keep it waterproofed, especially in high risk areas. But do you know which areas of your home’s wall systems are the most at risk? We’re going to tell you in just a bit.

    (promo/theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit is brought to you by Aprilaire, makers of professionally-installed, high-efficiency air cleaners. For more information, go to Aprilaire.com. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.

    TOM: Making good homes better. Welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete and the number here is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Hey, if we talk to you on the air this hour you are going to be automatically entered into our random prize drawing; aka the Money Pit hardhat. Because we are giving away the handy toolbox prize package from Minwax. It’s worth 150 bucks and it includes a selection of wood stains and protective finishes. It’s all in those super-convenient half-pint cans and everything is packed up in a really cool, reusable toolbox so you’re going to get a lot of things to make all sorts of wood products in your house beautiful and brand, spanking new. But you’ve got to be in it to win it so give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    OK, let’s now talk about ways to keep your house from leaking. It happens a lot in the winter.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: Proper waterproofing and window flashing are the best ways to make sure your home construction remodeling projects are top-notch and last as long as possible. However, there’s also an area around the windows which I consider the weakest link and that is the corners. These are the most vulnerable parts of the wall system. They’re rarely flashed correctly, if at all, and that’s why we get moisture leaks around windows and around doors and once that water gets in there can be a lot of trouble.

    LESLIE: Yeah, and I think the big problem is that, you know, these corner areas; when you’re dealing with the flashing it can be really difficult because you’ve got sharp, 90-degree angles and it’s just hard for you to get to, especially if you’re dealing with those inflexible metal flashings which a lot of people use traditionally and it’s certainly the first thing you think of when you do think of a flashing material. But we want you to know that there are much better choices out there and you really should do your research and ask for them specifically when you’re dealing with your contractor or when you’re doing the work yourself because you can find new, flexible, self-adhered rubberized flashings. And what we like best for this job is a product from Grace called VYCORners. It’s made especially for this difficult area. They’re prefabricated, plastic corners and they totally seal your window at this most vulnerable area.

    TOM: Yeah, that’s right. A few staples is all it really takes and they’re kind of designed to fit any window or door and when you install them in conjunction with a good peel and stick membrane like Grace Vycor Plus you’re going to get a totally durable water and airtight bond.

    If you want more information on how to seal windows and doors so they don’t leak you could go to this website from the Grace folks. It’s GraceAtHome.com or pick up your phone and call us right now and let’s talk about the leaks and the squeaks in your house. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Ron in Connecticut who’s got moss on the roof. Tell us about it.

    RON: Yes, it’s a reoccurring problem, I think, probably all over the country.

    LESLIE: Oh gosh, yes.

    RON: And I think one of your earlier programs you had also had a question about the moss on a roof. Well, one of the older solutions may be – and I’m inquiring about it – is using zinc sulfate because I’ve also run across the idea of zinc strips being …

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    RON: … nailed on to the roof.

    TOM: Yeah, absolutely. Mm-hmm. That’s right.

    RON: And I’m just interested in any comment on zinc sulfate; using that; mixing it and spraying it on the roof.

    TOM: I think any mildicide product like that is effective when you have a very heavy buildup. Putting the zinc strips on the roof is also effective. You can also use copper …

    LESLIE: And nickel.

    TOM: … strips or nickel strips and what happens is the rainwater, as it touches them, some of the metal releases and it acts as a mildicide.

    LESLIE: That’s why sometimes around flashing you see that sort of stripy, clean, dirty area …

    RON: Right.

    TOM: Right.

    LESLIE: … because it does that. It’s washing it.

    RON: Yes.

    TOM: Mm-hmm. Exactly.

    RON: Any ideas about using the chemical mix of …

    TOM: I’ve never used that chemical mix specifically but I’ve used others that are similar to that. I know that’s also incorporated into different types of siding washes and roof washes.

    RON: Uh-huh. OK.

    TOM: So those are all possibilities.

    RON: Uh-huh.

    TOM: And it’s the right idea. The other thing that you can do is, to try to reduce the volume of moss that you have growing on the roof, try to get as much light up there as you can. I mean if your trees are overhanging, typically if you have a real shady roof you get more moss buildup but if you trim back trees and let a bit more sunlight get to that that kind of stops it from coming back.

    RON: Similar now, I’ve run across the idea that some of the newer shingles have a built-in …

    TOM: Correct. They have a built-in …

    RON: … additive of some kind.

    TOM: Correct. Correct. They have a built-in mildicide.

    RON: They do?

    TOM: Yes.

    RON: Now, is that true of all shingles.

    TOM: I think it is, to some extent, on all shingles but I know that there are shingles that are specifically designed to not grow moss and you may need to look for those specifically.

    RON: OK. Yes, thanks.

    TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show.

    Is a room with a view a little too much for you? We’re going to give you some tips to help you get privacy and still have a nice look to your windows, next.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is being brought to you by – well, by us. Save hundreds a month on groceries, not to mention significant savings on home improvement products and services with your new Money Pit American Homeowners Association membership. And get $50 in Zircon tools if you join in the next 30 minutes. Call now. 866-REAL-HOME. That’s 866-REAL-HOME. Now here are Tom and Leslie.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show where we make good homes better. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Hey, you got mold? That’s not such a good thing.

    LESLIE: Uh-uh.

    TOM: But the good news is if it’s a small area and it’s sort of a one-time water issue that’s been resolved you can remediate it yourself. It can actually be a do-it-yourself project. We’re going to show you how in the next edition of the free Money Pit e-newsletter. You can sign up now at MoneyPit.com and while you’re there check out our mold resource guide, compiled by some of our pals. The best experts in the mold field generously gave us some of their advice and it’s all compiled in the mold resource guide online right now at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Yeah, and while you’re at MoneyPit.com checking out the mold resource guide or researching your next project or looking for the right tool to do the job, you can also click on Ask Tom and Leslie. In case you don’t feel like picking up the phone you can e-mail us your question and now’s the time in the show where we do answer those e-mails and we’ve got one here from Jean in Topeka, Kansas who writes: ‘I love windows and I like the view but I don’t like people seeing in and I hate those mini-blinds. You got any ideas?’

    TOM: Hmm. How about the new Roman shade from Levolor? That’s a pretty cool one.

    LESLIE: Well, you know what I think is really cool? Levolor has really done some interesting things as far as the technology in giving privacy; helping insulate the area of your windows so you don’t feel drafty. They have like a honeycomb. They have Roman shades and they’ve done them in a sort of safe and easy to operate manner and there’s a lot of choices. And if you go to your home center, I think – is it Lowe’s that sells them? – you can even pick up samples of the fabric so you don’t have to guess at what you’re getting.

    TOM: You can order them online at the Levolor website but these Roman shades are cool because they go bottom up or top down and they’re totally cordless.

    LESLIE: Yeah, which is great if you’ve got small kids or pets. I think also you should think about draperies. This way you can keep them open when you want to have the view and you want to look out or you can close them up when you’re ready for some privacy.

    One note, Jean, is that those matchstick blinds that you can get at the home center that are super cheap, you can see in at night. When your lights are on you can totally see in but you can’t see out because the lights are on. (Tom laughs) I remember we had those in our place in Queens and I walked by one night coming home and my husband was already there before me and I was like, ‘Oh, my God!’ I could see everything. We had no idea. So stay away from those.

    Alright, next up we’ve got Julie in Montebello, New York who writes: ‘Went to put heat on for the first time. No heat by gas-powered boiler. Water base-board heating. Behind American Standard boiler is water dripping from a pipe that is opened on the bottom. There is a bell-shaped valve on top. Water all over floor. (Tom chuckles) Three-zone heating. Troubleshooting tips for a non-home savvy person?’

    TOM: I don’t think so, Julie. This is not a do-it-yourself project and American Standard is a great boiler but probably what’s going on here is it needs some maintenance. If the – for example, if the expansion tank gets waterlogged what’s going to happen is the pressure relief valve, which is what is the bell-shaped device …

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: … that you have described, is going to open up and let some pressure out. That’s what it’s supposed to do. And so, in this case, you do need to get it professionally serviced because, obviously, it’s not supposed to be doing that. Now, sometimes they leak when they get a bit of debris in them but we don’t recommend that you open them and flush water out because sometimes that debris gets stuck in the valve and then that makes it even worse. So in this case, Julie, heating is a not a do-it-yourself project. Call a pro; get it serviced. You should be doing that anyway this time of year …

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: … so it works efficiently all winter long.

    LESLIE: Yeah, and Julie you should service it in the fall or in the spring but definitely do it once a year.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. We have covered it all soup to nuts, floorboards to shingles but before we go, some parting advice. Just a reminder that on our website there is a great tool called a project finder. So when you can’t reach us, you can’t find us, you can still find the information on the website at MoneyPit.com. We’ve basically contained about, oh, over 1,000 home improvement articles there and we’ve written about all the tips that you need to get the projects done and, you know, learn from some of our mistakes. They’re in there, too. So we wrote it down so you don’t have to make the same ones. It’s all there 24/7/365 along with on-demand versions of The Money Pit radio show.

    I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …

    LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.

    (theme song)

    END HOUR 1 TEXT

    (Copyright 2007 Squeaky Door Productions, Inc. No portion of this transcript or audio file may be reproduced in any format without the express written permission of Squeaky Door Productions, Inc.)

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