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Home Improvement Tips & Advice

  • Transcript

    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.)


    (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 right now with your home improvement question. Call us right now with your do-it-yourself dilemma. Call us right now if you are stuck knee-deep in a home improvement project and have to get it done. We will have the answers that will help you do just that. 888-666-3974.

    Call us now if saving energy is on your mind. I know it is here at our money pit. It’s good for your wallet, it’s good for the environment and there’s one thing that you can do right now, today, that can actually make it – make one of the single biggest impacts on the release of greenhouse gas emission into the atmosphere. It’s not expensive; it will save cash when it comes to your heating bill. We’re going to tell you how insulation can make a really huge difference, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: And also ahead, it might be one of the most mysterious plumbing fixtures in your house and it’s also the most important one, in my opinion. We are talking about …

    TOM: A bidet?

    LESLIE: (chuckling) Well, we’re talking about your toilet; not a bidet.

    TOM: It took me years to understand what a bidet actually did.

    LESLIE: A bidet is the spray-ey one.

    TOM: Yeah, I know. It’s a …

    LESLIE: Helpful for a, you know …

    TOM: It’s a pressure washer (Leslie laughs) for your … (chuckles)

    LESLIE: I have a friend (Tom chuckles) who – and at one time his son was two-years-old and they stayed at a hotel that had both a bidet and a toilet and the two-year-old, Declan (sp), wanders over to the bidet, turns it on and starts washing his face. And he goes, ‘Daddy, look, a sink just for me.’ (Tom and Leslie laugh)

    Alright, well, we’re talking about your toilet, folks. Do you ever hear phantom flushes or gurgles or burps? Well, it is not the ghost and goblins left over from Halloween; it’s a plumbing situation that needs to be fixed. We’re going to tell you what it is in just a few minutes.

    TOM: And if you’ve got a wooden deck, now is the time that you need to get outside and prep it for the long, harsh winter ahead. We’re going to find out exactly how to do that from an expert with the Western Red Cedar Lumber Association that really knows all there is to know about taking care of wood. We’ll walk you through it step-by-step, coming up in just a bit.

    LESLIE: Plus, we’re giving away a Veto Pro Pack tool bag from our friends over at CableOrganizer.com. That’s our prize this hour.

    TOM: It’s worth 130 bucks so call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Karen in Kansas needs some help with a mold situation. What’s going on at your house?

    KAREN: I have glass sliding shower doors …

    TOM: OK.

    KAREN: … and there is kind of a clear rubber going all the way around the shower doors that, I guess, seals the glass to the frame …

    TOM: Mm-hmm.

    KAREN: … and there’s mildew in them and I think it’s behind the rubber because I’ve tried everything on the outside and it doesn’t work.

    TOM: Right. Mm-hmm.

    KAREN: Is there any way to get that clean without replacing the shower doors?

    TOM: What happens is sometimes that acts sort of like as a – like a greenhouse window and then the mold will grow behind it. And if it’s clear, then you’re going to see it. What you might want to think about doing is cutting that out and replacing it with a silicone caulk …

    KAREN: Ah.

    TOM: … which would do the same thing. And if you do use a caulk, you can either use clear silicone or you can use one of the latex products that has Microban in it, which is a mildicide. It’s in all the DAP products; probably in some others as well. But make sure whatever you use has a mildicide …

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: … and that will stop it from growing.

    KAREN: Great. Alright. Thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Nick in Wisconsin needs some help stopping the sidewalk from cracking up. Tell us about the problem.

    NICK: We just recently put some new concrete walkways in our front yard and we had – because our old stoop had cracked out, water kind of [rained on the awning] (ph) and we’re just wondering if there’s a better option besides taking out our awning with the new concrete, just to prevent future cracking out.

    TOM: So the awning was diverting water onto the stoop and that’s what caused the cracks in the first place?

    NICK: That’s correct.

    TOM: And how old was the stoop that you had to replace? Had it been there for many, many years?

    NICK: Yes. It was probably there for at least 10 years.

    TOM: Well, so you got 10 years out of it and now you’d like to get at least another 10; is that what you’re saying?

    NICK: Yes.

    TOM: Well, listen. I mean the awning serves a purpose. I mean it keeps the rain off your house as you’re going in and out of the house. If there’s a way that you can modify it slightly to have a lower volume of water; I don’t know if it – if there’s an upper roof that drains to it that could be diverted, for example, or something of that nature that might reduce the water.

    But concrete is a pretty durable material and if you keep it sealed, you know – I think that if you try to keep the water out of it as much as possible; if it was put in properly so it has a slope to it, so the water rolls away; if you’re careful not to use rock salt on it so you don’t degrade it in the winter time, I wouldn’t tell you to take down the awning. I would just consider that normal wear and tear and if you’re lucky you’ll get another 10 years out of this one or more.

    NICK: OK. Thank you very much.

    TOM: (overlapping voices) Alright, Nick? You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    I don’t think you have to give up, I mean just because he got some cracks from this awning.

    LESLIE: Well and I feel like if you remove the awning completely and you really feel that the water in the one area is causing the cracking; now, with no awning, don’t you think you would get more cracking? (chuckles)

    TOM: Potentially, sure.

    LESLIE: Exactly. So keep everybody covered and just seal away.

    You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Now you can call in your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week whenever, whatever may happen around your money pit and you need a helping hand; we are there for you. Just pick up the phone at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. Up next, nearly half of the energy production in this country comes from homes. Yes, I said homes; not industry, not manufacturing but your own money pit. Want to know how to cut down on your own personal carbon footprint and save some energy dollars along the way? We’re going to tell you how, after this.

    (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.

    TOM: The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974. One caller who gets on the air with us this hour is going to win the Veto Pro Pack. It’s an open-top tool bag made by the folks at CableOrganizer.com. It’s made of weather-resistant polypropylene and the tools go in vertically so there’s no digging around in a bottomless tool box. It’s worth 130 bucks, so call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: That’s right. Pick up the phone and give us a call, especially if you are dealing with some high heating bills this time of year. Good news though: home heating prices – they’re coming down, slowly but surely. But you can do your part to save energy and save a few bucks while you’re at it.

    You know, adding insulation to your home is the single most important thing that you can do in your home to cut down on energy costs and reduce your greenhouse gas emissions. Owens Corning advises 19 inches of fiberglass batt insulation or 22 inches of blown insulation in your attic. So check up there; see what you got.

    TOM: And if your joist cavities are already filled; the space between the floor joists already has insulation in it, then simply lay the new insulation in long runs perpendicular to the joist. You can use any leftover pieces to fill in the small spaces that are, say, around the pipes or other places like that.

    If you’d like some more information on energy efficiency and insulation, there is a great website we’d like to point you to. It’s InsulateAndSave.com. InsulateAndSave.com – a website put together by the experts at Owens Corning that will get you started in the right direction to save lots of money on heating bills in your house and reduce your carbon footprint all at the same time.

    888-666-3974. Let’s get back to those phones. Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: Time to chat with Nelva (sp) in Iowa. What’s going on at your money pit?

    NELVA (sp): Yes. I have some scratches in my toilet bowl and I’m wondering …

    TOM: What were you eating? (Tom and Nelva (sp) chuckle)

    NELVA (sp): I think it maybe was an old brush …

    TOM: OK.

    NELVA (sp): … that I threw …

    LESLIE: (chuckling) What you didn’t eat …

    TOM: Alright.

    LESLIE: … but you used to clean.

    NELVA (sp): (chuckling) I didn’t eat, no. (Leslie chuckles) But I was wondering, what is the best paint to use to cover that up or is there any way …

    TOM: Well, you can’t paint ceramic.

    NELVA (sp): Oh.

    TOM: This is inside the bowl itself?

    NELVA (sp): Yes. Mm-hmm.

    TOM: No, you can’t paint the ceramic. The scratches that you’re seeing, are you sure it’s not maybe – you may have some mineral deposits inside that bowl and then as you scratched it, maybe you sort of scratched through some of it but not others? Basically, are you sure the bowl is super-clean?

    NELVA (sp): I mean if I clean it every day real good, then it doesn’t – it seems like there’s something in our water that it gets so black and …

    TOM: Well, that’s what I was thinking. Yeah. You may have some mineral deposits there. Why don’t you try some CLR? CLR is a good toilet bowl cleaner – calcium, lime, rust remover. Works very effective; been around forever. Give that a shot and see if that takes off what you think are scratches and maybe you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

    NELVA (sp): OK. That – I’ll have to – I know the back of the stool is clean because I keep that clean but it seems like the water gets dirty and – I mean comes in and …

    TOM: And that’s why I think that you might want to try CLR. Nelva (sp), give it a shot; let us know how you make out. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Michael in Washington has some unwanted visitors around his home: woodpeckers. I bet they are driving you crazy.

    MICHAEL: Yes, they are. (Leslie chuckles) Or actually, there’s just one.

    TOM: Oh. (chuckles)

    MICHAEL: One big male that’s giving me a lot of trouble.

    TOM: OK.

    MICHAEL: I bought a house about four years ago. It’s on a hill and the chimney – it’s a stucco finish on all the sides of the chimney and right up at the top, about 35 feet off the grade, this woodpecker pecked a hole in the side …

    TOM: Hmm.

    MICHAEL: … of the chimney.

    TOM: So it’s the foam stucco siding?

    MICHAEL: No, it’s concrete stucco.

    TOM: He poked right through the concrete?

    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Really?

    TOM: Wow.

    MICHAEL: Yeah. Well, yeah.

    TOM: (overlapping voices) He’s like super-woodpecker here.

    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) You would be surprised. Woodpeckers are crazy. We live near a high school and there’s some sort of metal poles around the property. I don’t know if it’s a lamp post; I can’t see what it is but the woodpecker goes to town on this thing and it’s like, ‘Bing-bing-bing-bing-bing-bing.’ I’m like, ‘You’re not getting in that.’

    MICHAEL: Yeah. He sometimes – he’s like an alarm clock in the morning (Tom and Leslie chuckle) and so I paid some guy to come out and erect this scaffolding and he went up there and patched the hole …

    TOM: Right.

    MICHAEL: … and then the very next year, the woodpecker is back and he pecked a new hole right next to it.

    TOM: Oh, nice. Well …

    MICHAEL: And so I don’t want to do that again. I’m just wondering if I have any options on how to get rid of them.

    TOM: Yeah, you do. You have to encourage this woodpecker to fly somewhere else and hopefully just hassle a tree in the middle of the forest. We actually wrote about this in our new book, My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide To Every Home Improvement Adventure. I think there’s a whole chapter on this called ‘Critter Control’ and one of the tricks of the trade here is to attach pie plates to that area; hanging them loosely so that the – it sort of reflects in the sunlight. That freaks out the woodpeckers and the other thing is to cut plastic strips – like taking a big, black garbage bag – cutting it into strips so it kind of flutters. Now, this is something you would attach in the area …

    LESLIE: Yeah, they don’t like the reflection; they don’t like the movement.

    TOM: Yep. You would attach this in the area …

    MICHAEL: Ah.

    TOM: … just temporarily and it tends to want to change their behavior and we’ve found many times that they will not come back and then, you know, a couple of weeks later you can go take this down.

    Tell you what we’ll do, Michael, we’ll send you a copy of our new book, My Home, My Money Pit …

    LESLIE: It’s Chapter 13.

    TOM: … and you can read it for yourself.

    MICHAEL: OK. Thank you.

    TOM: OK? So stand by; we’ll take your number.

    MICHAEL: I did – just so you know, I got one of those plastic owls and put it up there.

    TOM: Yeah. They don’t work.

    MICHAEL: And that didn’t work.

    TOM: No, they don’t work.

    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) And the woodpecker poked a hole in his head. (Tom chuckles)

    TOM: Take that! Alright, Michael. Stand by; we’ll get you that book. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Some of those plastic owls look really good, though. I remember I was out at our vacation home with my mom out in Greenport, on the east end of the island.

    TOM: Right.

    LESLIE: And I saw this beautiful owl on the edge of this building and I thought, ‘Oh my gosh. In the middle of the day. Look at that beautiful owl,’ and as I got closer (Tom chuckles), I was like, ‘I’m a complete doofus. That is a plastic owl.’ But it looked good.

    TOM: Every expert that I’ve ever interviewed over the years says it absolutely doesn’t work.

    LESLIE: Oh, they don’t do anything but they trick me. (Tom chuckles) I ran away. No. (chuckles)

    TOM: Well, at least you stopped poking holes in the house after that. (Leslie chuckles)

    LESLIE: Cheryl in North Carolina needs some help with an outdoor project. What can we do for you?

    CHERYL: Yes. We have a deck that’s 12×24 and it is two stories high in that the basement is at ground level in the back; so the deck is pretty high off the ground. But where the roof comes out, it’s – we don’t have enough height to actually put a roof over the deck and I’m really wanting to have a roof over it.

    And my husband said there’s absolutely no way to have enough slant; enough pitch to keep from having a water problem. And I was wondering if you had any ideas about a good way to do that. Our house is 40 years old and he’s not wanting to tie into the roof to create enough slant.

    TOM: Yeah, that was going to be the obvious first suggestion: why couldn’t you tie into the existing roof? Get up enough height and then you could have the slant.

    CHERYL: Right.

    TOM: We can’t talk him into that, huh?

    CHERYL: Well, he’s not wanting to. (Leslie chuckles)

    TOM: OK. And do you want this roof? Let me ask you this. Do you want this roof for shade or do you want it for water, too?

    CHERYL: Well, I guess really more shade than anything but I wouldn’t want to create a water …

    TOM: Well, if you want it just for shade, why don’t we talk about doing a trellis with – or a pergola, Leslie?

    LESLIE: Yeah. Both of those are great ideas. A pergola generally is what you’d call – well, I guess a trellis, too – but a pergola is really a shade structure that can either come off the house or be four-legged and cover this whole deck area completely.

    And then what you can do for the top – since a pergola usually is sort of open slatting; you know, almost like an Asian-inspired, beautiful open top – you can either, in between these sort of decorative rails, put in some aircraft cable, which is a plastic-coated metal wire, with some fabric on grommets that would hang down that you could run back and forth to either open it or close it to create shade or you could put some sort of trellis wood up there and put some sort of viny, beautiful, green leafy thing like a wisteria or something that’ll give cover naturally. And both of those do provide beautiful shade and really just create architectural interest to a deck as is.

    TOM: And I tell you what, Cheryl …


    TOM: … just to give you all the ammo that you need to tackle this project with your husband, we’re going to send you a copy of our new book, My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide To Every Home Improvement Adventure. It’s got a whole section on building an outdoor room; give you some great tips and ideas and hopefully some inspiration to get this project done. How’s that sound?

    CHERYL: Well, wonderful. Thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Mike in Texas who’s got a question about a whole-house fan. Tell us what’s going on.

    MIKE: Hi, Leslie. Yeah. I guess – I’ve got a ranch-style house here in Texas and I was wondering about a whole-house fan. I was told by the A/C techs down here that I don’t really want to do that because of mold and pollen issues but we kind of like the windows open and we kind of like the lower energy costs.

    TOM: I think that there’s absolutely no reason you can’t do a whole-house fan; it would be a great idea. Let’s make sure that we understand the difference though between a whole-house fan and an attic fan. Now, a whole house fan …

    LESLIE: People get confused so easily.

    TOM: Yeah, they do. A whole-house fan that gets mounted in a ranch would be probably in the hall and pointing, of course, into the attic and then you have to also install, Mike, exhaust venting because you’re going to turn the whole-house fan on, you’re going to open a few windows around the house and it’s going to draw a breeze from the outside into the whole-house fan, up into the attic and then out through the exhaust ducts.

    And by doing that, what I’ve found is you can actually delay the use of your air conditioning system on the start of the season and at the end of the season. It will actually buy you some months that perhaps – when you don’t have to run the air conditioning, so that will save you some money …

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: … and anytime you have a cooler day or you just want to move some air because it’s rather still outside, you could skip the air and flip that on. Another little trick of the trade though is when you pick one of these up, make sure you install it on a timer switch because then when you go to bed at night and it’s a bit warm, you can set it to run for an hour and it’ll cool the house off while you’re falling sleep and then it’ll go off automatically; you’ll be done.

    MIKE: OK, great. I guess one other question on that – so if I put it in like a room of the house that doesn’t have any external windows and gets really hot, that would work as well as a hallway?

    TOM: No. You – no, no, no. You put the fan in the hallway because it’s centrally located in the house and then you open windows where you want to have the incoming air.

    MIKE: OK.

    TOM: OK. And it’ll draw from the windows into the hall and then up through the fan and out.

    MIKE: Very good. Alright. Thank you.

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

    LESLIE: This is The Money Pit. Up next, we are going to have all the tips and advice you need to winterize all of those wooden surfaces, sidings, furnishings; everything that you’ve got outside that needs a little TLC before the snow starts to fall. So stick around.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Therma-Tru, the nation’s leading manufacturer of fiberglass entry and patio door systems. Choose the brand more building professionals prefer and add up to $24,000 to the perceived value of your home. For more information, visit ThermaTru.com.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete and you should pick up the phone and give us a call with all of your home improvement questions; especially if you need some help winterizing your money pit. You know, with fall in the air along with the colder weather that generally accompanies this time of year, it is essential to keep your outdoor space – you know, your decks, your railings, fencing and all of those decorative accents you’ve got out there – protected through these dormant months.

    TOM: Well, exactly how do you do that? We’re going to get some tips right now from Paul Mackie. He’s with the Western Red Cedar Lumber Association and he’s known around the campus as Mr. Cedar.

    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) I love it.

    TOM: (overlapping voices) Welcome, Paul, to the program. How are you?

    PAUL: Fine. How are you, Tom and Leslie?

    TOM: So how did you get the name ‘Mr. Cedar’?

    PAUL: Well, I sort of volunteered because I didn’t say no. (Leslie chuckles)

    TOM: Well, that’s how many – that’s how many of us get our jobs.

    PAUL: Yep.

    TOM: We don’t know when to say no. (Leslie chuckles)

    PAUL: That’s true.

    TOM: I want to talk with you today a little about how to winterize some of the wood surface in your home, starting with the deck. If it’s made out of wood, the winter is obviously a time where you get a lot of salt, you get a lot of harsh weather. What are the steps that folks should be doing right now to protect that from harm so it’s in good shape next spring, Paul?

    PAUL: A couple of tips. Number one, when you talk about winterizing your deck, that means, well, you want to clean it off and that means blowing the debris off or sweeping the debris off as best you can. You want to keep debris out from in between the deck boards and now would be a good time, depending on your weather conditions, to treat the deck with a mild oxygen bleach solution to make sure that any mold or mildew growth is under control, because a mild oxygen bleach solution will kill that mold and mildew.

    LESLIE: And is that something that you want to sort of leave on or apply and then rinse off? Because I imagine, you know, with snow sitting on the deck it’s just a continual source of moisture throughout the entire winter season.

    PAUL: Good point, Leslie. You spray on the mild solution that comes on the tub of the crystals and you mix it according to the recommendations on the tub. It’s best if you use warm water because they dissolve better.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    PAUL: You leave it on for 15 to 30 minutes and then you rinse it off with a lot of water and that’ll kill any mold or mildew that may be present and make your work in the spring much less taxing.

    TOM: We’re talking to Paul Mackie. He’s the spokesperson for the Western Red Cedar Lumber Association.

    Paul, you mentioned cleaning off the deck. I often get calls from folks that want to use pressure washers on the deck and that’s kind of a double-edged sword. Sure, it works real well as a cleaning tool but it very often can harm the wood. Can’t it sort of blast away that soft summer growth between the rings of the tree, so to speak, and actually take some years off the deck?

    PAUL: You’re spot-on and you’re the first person I’ve ever heard talk about spring wood. (Leslie and Tom chuckle) But …

    TOM: It’s a curse.

    PAUL: … that’s absolutely correct. We recommend that you never pressure wash western red cedar because you can damage the surface and you can make it look like your grandfather’s corduroy pants. (Leslie and Tom chuckle) So, washing it instead with a mild oxygen bleach solution and rinsing with a lot of water, you only need garden hose pressure …

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    PAUL: … to rinse it off.

    LESLIE: I mean it is true; as soon as you get a little, you know, excited with your pressure washer, you’ve got everything sort of sticking up and splintering. Now, what about siding; wood siding or planter boxes or any other type of wood features that we’ve got on the house? What do we want to do to sort of help that through the winter season?

    PAUL: That’s another super point. With planter boxes, it’d be a wise idea to empty them. That’ll allow them to dry during the winter.

    LESLIE: Not just the plants; get the dirt out of there, too.

    PAUL: Right, right. No, absolutely. Completely empty them and so that’ll allow them to dry out and then you can refill them in the spring when it’s time to replant and that will lengthen the service life of the planter boxes.

    When it comes to siding, good idea – just like the deck – to keep it clean. And again, you don’t pressure wash it and that will – and by the way, with the pressure washing, the point is that you may make mold and mildew disappear visually but that doesn’t mean you’ve killed it because it is a living organism; so that’s the reason for the recommendation for the bleach solution.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Well and it’s just water; people always are like, ‘Oh. But I use the pressure washer and the water rinses it all away,’ but you’re just sort of moving it around. You’re moving the dirt around; you’re not actually killing it or getting rid of anything.

    PAUL: And most of these oxygen bleach solutions have a little bit of soda ash in them so that acts kind of as a detergent as well.

    LESLIE: Oh, good.

    TOM: We’re talking to Paul Mackie. He’s the spokesperson for the Western Red Cedar Lumber Association.

    And Paul, I’ll tell you that my house is sided with 50 cases – 50, count them, boxes – of cedar shingles. I know that because I nailed every one myself and I’ve got to tell you, when I was done I didn’t want to see another cedar shingle for a while but that was done about 25 years ago and the siding is still in fantastic shape. It’s a very, very durable wood to use …

    PAUL: It is.

    TOM: … for outside projects.

    PAUL: Yeah. And that’s a great testimonial. You’re 25 years into it …

    TOM: Yep.

    PAUL: … and that siding – yet, they could last 150 years.

    TOM: That’s right. If you care for it – you know, a good quality wood like cedar – keep it dry, keep it maintained; it really can last a long time.

    Paul, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit; great tips on how to get those decks and the other wood surfaces in shape.

    If you want some information about the Western Red Cedar Lumber Association, some tips to help take care of your house – they’ve got a great website. It’s RealCedar.org. That’s RealCedar.org.

    Paul, thanks again.

    PAUL: Thanks, Tom and Leslie.

    LESLIE: Alright, Mr. Cedar. Always great to have you stop by with us at The Money Pit.

    When we come back, we will tackle those unexplained noises (makes ghost noises) coming from your toilet. Whoosh!

    TOM: Ghost flushing. (Leslie chuckles)

    LESLIE: We’ll help you unravel those mysteries, next.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Therma-Tru, the nation’s leading manufacturer of fiberglass entry and patio door systems. Choose the brand more building professionals prefer and add up to $24,000 to the perceived value of your home. For more information, visit ThermaTru.com.

    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 over at The Money Pit is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. One caller who gets on the air this hour with us is going to win a Veto Pro Pack open-top tool bag. It’s from our friends over at CableOrganizer.com. The tool bag – it’s made from weather-resistant polypropylene so it is perfect for those outdoor projects that, you know, get interrupted by some foul weather or perhaps a spilled cup of coffee; equally dangerous home improvement incident that could happen. And the tools that you put in the bag, you put them in vertically so it’s really easy to see exactly what you need and to get to it; no digging around. It’s a really nice tool box. It’s worth 130 bucks so give us a call now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT for your chance to win. Oh – and the answer to your home improvement question?

    TOM: You’ll get that too.

    LESLIE: Of course.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Now here’s a common question we get on The Money Pit and that is: why does my toilet seem to flush all by itself? Well, that phantom flush – the gurgles, the leaks – what’s going on there in your toilet? Well, it is one of the more mysterious plumbing fixtures in your house.

    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) You have a ghost with a bladder problem.

    TOM: It could be. (chuckles)

    LESLIE: Duh.

    TOM: It doesn’t have to be, though. What’s generally happening is you simply have a problem with the flush valve. That is the flapper; it’s in the bottom of the tank and what happens is as it leaks some water out, the toilet comes on and wants to refill itself; hence, the ghost flushing.

    If you want to test that flush valve in the bottom of the tank, a simple thing to do is to open up the toilet top and throw in a little bit of food coloring into that tank water. If it shows up in the bowl, you’ve got a leak and you’ll need to replace that flush valve; very easy job to do all by yourself. There are great tips and advice in our brand new book, by the way, called My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide To Every Home Improvement Adventure. That is one of the many home improvement tips we walk you through in that book. It’s also available online at MoneyPit.com.

    888-666-3974. Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: We’re going to help Cheryl in New Mexico tackle a flooring project. Tell us what happened.

    CHERYL: Well, unfortunately my dog had a little bit of an accident on the laminate floor.

    TOM: OK.

    CHERYL: And when I discovered it in the morning, some of it had seeped through the seams of my laminate flooring and it kind of separated and bubbled up a little bit …

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    CHERYL: … along the seams.

    TOM: OK.

    CHERYL: So I was just wondering how I can flatten it out and fix it.

    TOM: Mm-hmm. Do you have extra material?

    CHERYL: I do have extra material, yes.

    TOM: OK. It’s possible that you could extract, so to speak, surgically cut out the damage …

    LESLIE: The damaged area.

    TOM: Mm-hmm. Yep. And have some new pieces put in. My concern is that the pieces that are there are very swollen. There’s going to be no way to get them to sort of retract back to their original shape. So what you may be thinking about ending up having to do here is actually cut out the bad pieces and putting in some new pieces and that can be done successfully. Even if it was a lock-together product, you can do it.


    TOM: What you’re generally going to do is cut out, you know, the least amount of material and then where you have to kind of get it back together again, what you would do is instead of using the locking tile, you probably cut off like the bottom of the groove and you would glue the pieces together to replace the locking mechanism that was there originally and that will hold in place.

    LESLIE: Jack in Connecticut has got some sidewalk issues. What’s happening? How can we help you?

    JACK: Well, I’ve used the wrong kind of salt on my sidewalks and it’s caused the sidewalks to pit up and chip away. And I was wondering what kind of process or product you recommend that I could use to level or maybe even put some slate and concrete above the chipped concrete to make a smooth surface.

    TOM: Yeah, Jack, if you use, as you learned, rock salt on the concrete it will damage it. So what you really want to do is use something called calcium chloride.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: Sometimes sold under – one of the brand names is Safe-T-Salt; that is not damaging to the concrete surface. Having already damaged the surface though, your solution is an epoxy patching compound …

    JACK: OK.

    TOM: … available at home centers. You can resurface those sidewalks with the epoxy patch. It gives you good adhesion, which is the key. If you try to just put more cement on top, it’s going to crack and spall and chip right off. But if you …

    LESLIE: It’s never going to stick to one another.

    TOM: If you use a good patching compound with an epoxy base, it’ll last indefinitely.

    JACK: Now, would I have to chip the – I tried to use epoxy, just like you said, a while ago last year and what happened was that it kind of chipped and fell away.

    TOM: It shouldn’t. If it’s a good, clean surface, you should have good binding; that’s the beauty of the patching material. It’s supposed to adhere very, very well. Now, if you’ve had a problem with that, I mean there might – it might be that the sidewalk underneath was dirty or had something that acted as an insulator between …

    LESLIE: It could have even been moist and as the season …

    TOM: Yeah.

    LESLIE: … changed, it just sort of froze and popped it right off.

    JACK: Yeah, I think that’s what happened, actually. Yeah.

    TOM: (overlapping voices) Are you …

    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) You’ve got to make sure it’s clean and dry.

    JACK: Clean and dry. OK.

    TOM: Jack, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    JACK: Alright. Thank you.

    LESLIE: You know, Tom, when you find that calcium chloride …

    TOM: Right.

    LESLIE: … you really have to make sure you stock up on it, because I find it’s hard to just buy …

    TOM: Hard to get. Yeah, yeah.

    LESLIE: … unless you order it on the internet and then it’s expensive because you’re buying, you know, a lot of it.

    TOM: And it weighs a lot.

    LESLIE: So when you see it …

    TOM: Yeah.

    LESLIE: … get it. Get a ton of it and store it away.

    TOM: (overlapping voices) Before the snow hits.

    LESLIE: Exactly.

    TOM: Before the snow hits. I know it’s a pain to store but it’s better to have it than not. What I like to do is mix it up into – I have an old trash can. We mix it up and keep it on the porch where it’s like half salt, half sand.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: And we have a little, you know, scoop in there. It’s easy just to dig in and throw it out there when it gets icy out.

    LESLIE: Yeah. It’s so smart and then you won’t be looking for it and forced to use something that’s just going to damage your whole property.

    TOM: Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: Anita in West Virginia needs some help in the kitchen. What can we do for you today?

    ANITA: I have a Formica counter in my kitchen.

    TOM: OK.

    ANITA: And I’d like to change the color, if I could.


    ANITA: I’ve been hearing about bar coat and I was wondering if I could maybe do some feathering; like marbleize with paint under it and then put the bar coat on top.

    TOM: Well, I don’t believe that you can finish a Formica top with any type of an application like that. I’ve never seen it done successfully; Formica is not really designed to hold paint. However, what you can do, Anita, is you can relaminate on top of what you have as a base. For example, you can have your existing countertop covered with another piece of Formica and of course there are just hundreds and hundreds of different types …

    LESLIE: Endless of choices.

    TOM: Choices that can give you anything you want. So you’re not stuck with a color and you don’t have to replace it; you can relaminate it and that will achieve the goal of giving you a totally new look.

    ANITA: Oh, OK. (chuckles) Thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: This is The Money Pit. When we come back, we’re going to help one listener with a question on refinishing wood trim around all the windows in their money pit, so stick around.

    (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: 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 if you like our show, you’re going to love our new book. It’s called My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide To Every Single Home Improvement Adventure. Alright and I added ‘single,’ but you get the drift. (Tom chuckles)

    It’s full of great advice and it’s delivered in a really fun way, just like we do every week here on The Money Pit for you. We want you to check out Chapter 8. It’s especially helpful this time of year. We call the chapter, ‘Avoid Freezing, Sneezing, Frying, Fizzling and Freaking Out Over Utility Bills,’ which I bet many of you have been doing probably this very morning as you opened your mail.

    We want you to learn more about our book. Head over to MoneyPit.com. You can look at sample chapters, order a copy. It’s a great website and while you’re there you can click on the Ask Tom and Leslie icon and shoot us an e-mail with your question.

    Got one here from Lisa in Wisconsin who writes: ‘My dining room wooden bay window finish is flaking off. They are stained and about 20 years old. How can I refinish it? I would also like to apply some type of UV protection. Would I be better off painting them?’

    TOM: Naw, you don’t have to give up completely. I mean if the finish lasted 20 years, we probably can maybe not get another 20 out of it but I’m sure we can get six or seven or eight. What you want to do here, Lisa, is you need to abrade that old finish as gently as possible because you’re going to have some oxidation; some buildup on that finish over the years.

    You know, a good thing to use for this is a sanding sponge because it will easily sort of mold to the shape …

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. It wraps right around it.

    TOM: Yeah, of that – of whatever you’re trying to sand and get that off – get that sand just about as much as you can and then you can actually restain very gently on top of that with a fairly dry stain rag – in case you’ve scratched the surface at all – and then you can refinish it.

    I would use a good quality, oil-based polyurethane and that’s going to have good UV protection and that ought to do it for that project.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got one from Jeannie in Connecticut who writes: ‘I hired a handyman to put in a pantry. He covered over an outlet. Should I be worried? (Tom chuckles) I could probably try to estimate where the outlet is and cut a hole in the back of the pantry cabinet myself; it’s a very thin laminate.’ (Tom chuckles) But It could be a hair-raising situation if you get the wrong spot.

    TOM: Well, listen. Chances are, if you have an outlet in there, you’ve got a cover plate on I; I don’t think it’s going to be terribly unsafe. It certainly is going to be inconvenient because gosh, it would be very handy to have an outlet in a pantry so you can charge things in there and use it for other sorts of uses. So, I prefer you have it but I don’t think it’s terribly dangerous that you don’t.

    LESLIE: Yeah, Jeannie, call up your un-handyman and ask him to fix it.

    TOM: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. You know, holiday time means lots of leftovers that end up sitting in the fridge for a while before you eventually get around to tossing them or eating them, if you are so inclined. Well, if that’s your situation, Leslie has got a little tip to help keep that fridge smelling fresh in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    LESLIE: That’s right. Now, when it comes to refrigerator freshness, I’m sure everybody out there – you’ve all heard of a box of baking soda in the fridge. But if you’re looking for a new scent and another natural solution, vanilla extract is the way to go and a little goes a long, long way towards removing musty or strong smells in your fridge.

    You’ve smelled the vanilla in the bottle; it’s so delicious and you know that that scent is just overpoweringly wonderful. So, if you’re looking for a fresh start, empty out your refrigerator, clean all your surfaces with a solution of water and baking soda, dry it all down. Then soak a paper towel with the vanilla extract and leave it in the fridge overnight.

    When the morning comes and you open up that fridge and pull out the paper towel, the entire refrigerator is just going to smell clean and vanilla-licious and you’ll probably want to bake something and then eat it because that’s what vanilla always does for me.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. The show continues online at MoneyPit.com. Coming up next week, have you been so busy shopping and cooking that you’ve run out of time to clean the house and your in-laws are on the way? We can help. We’ll have quick ways to hide clutter on the next edition of The Money Pit Home Improvement 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)


    (Copyright 2008 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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