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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.)


    (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 right now with your home improvement question. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974. And if you are thinking about the long, cold winter ahead – you want to fix up your house so it’s just right for those months – give us a call right now. We’d be happy to help you out.

    Speaking of the long, chilly winter ahead, we’re going to talk this hour about indoor air quality, which you may be experiencing; especially as you’re trapped in your house when it gets chilly out. You might not realize how bad indoor air can really be. In fact, the EPA says that the air inside your house can be far more dangerous than the air outside your house. Can you believe that?

    Now, you can use the standard air filters for your heating systems but they won’t clean out the tiniest virus particles, the tiniest mold particles. What will do the job? We’re going to tell you in just a bit.

    LESLIE: And we’re also going to tell you how to do a carbon monoxide inspection in your own home. You know, CO poisoning kills hundreds of Americans every single year, but how do you know if the carbon monoxide is building up in your home? Well, we can help you figure out if you need to be worrying, just by checking out some of your appliances.

    TOM: And the ultimate indoor air quality expert is going to join us this hour; our friend, Jeff May, author of My House Is Killing Me!, My Office Is Killing Me! and The Mold Survival Guide.

    Gee, with titles like that, he’s a fun guy (Leslie chuckles) to be around. He’ll be by …

    LESLIE: The life of the party.

    TOM: He’ll be by later this hour to talk about his latest book, which is called Healthy Home Tips. I think that’s a much more positive spin on the past series. (Leslie chuckles) At least it doesn’t have death and destruction in it. (Leslie and Tom chuckle)

    LESLIE: At least you’ll want to hang out and talk with him at the party …

    TOM: That’s right.

    LESLIE: … instead of running away. (Leslie and Tom chuckle) Plus, we’re giving away a Veto Pro Pac tool bag from the folks at CableOrganizer.com. We’ve got a great prize this hour.

    TOM: It’s worth 130 bucks. If you want to win it, pick up the phone and call us right now. You’ve got to have a home improvement question and we’d be happy to toss your name into that Money Pit hard hat and give away that Veto Pro Pac tool bag at the end of today’s program.

    Leslie, let’s get right to the phones. Who’s first?

    LESLIE: Alan in Florida is looking to get some backup power to his home. What can we do for you?

    ALAN: Just that. We bought a home about a little under two years ago and I’m looking to try to find out what would be the proper-size backup generator in case the power goes out.

    TOM: Well, you’re talking about a standby generator so you want this to power the entire house, correct?

    ALAN: Preferably, yes.

    TOM: Yeah. You know, it’s a good time to buy a standby generator. We’ve had a lot of storms this year and other reasons – for that and other reasons that force our power to go out, having a standby generator is very, very nice. I actually have in my house, Alan, a Generac unit that we put in. It’s got to be at least five years ago now and it’s a beautiful thing when the power goes out and I’ve got the only house on the street with lights and refrigeration and everything else that you depend on it for.

    To determine how big of a unit you need, it really depends on how many circuits that you want to power. If you want it to power the entire electrical panel, you’ll need a bigger panel than if you want to just sort of do the mission critical circuits. But you’re probably talking about something anywhere from around 12 kilowatts up to about 20 kilowatts for the average-size house.

    ALAN: OK. I pretty much want to be able to sustain the whole house because I’m – well, one of the reasons – I’m an over-the-road truck driver and I’m gone a lot and …

    TOM: Mm-hmm.

    ALAN: I don’t want my wife to have to worry about it.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: Yeah. And of course this is going to be natural gas-powered so you won’t have to worry about gasoline. It’ll all just run automatically. You have natural gas in your house?

    ALAN: No, it’s actually an all-electric home.

    TOM: OK. Do you have – you may want to think about going with propane then, because this way …

    ALAN: OK.

    TOM: … the system will all be – would be ready to go no matter what happens. You don’t want to have to rely on having gasoline to operate a generator because when the power is out, guess what?

    LESLIE: You can’t get the gas.

    TOM: The pumps are down, too.

    ALAN: Right.

    TOM: Right. So, you’re probably going to look for a propane system. You know, there’s a good website that has a lot of information on how to size generators and you can actually go through and add up the circuits that you have …

    LESLIE: It like takes you through a five-step process, so you know exactly what you’re getting.

    TOM: Yeah. It’s ElectricGeneratorsDirect.com.

    LESLIE: And you know what, Alan? Every year there’s a cost-versus-value survey about updates that you can make to your home and this year they added backup power generators to their surveys. And in the Miami area, you recoup 89.2 percent on putting this into your house so you know it’s a good investment, especially when it comes time to sell.

    ALAN: OK. Thank you. That’s good information to have.

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

    LESLIE: Going over to Utah where Mary Jane needs some help fixing cracks in the basement. Tell us what you see.

    MARY JANE: Well, in the middle part of the basement where we once had a great, big furnace, there are tiny hairline cracks and they don’t appear to be leaking or have air or anything like that but I just wondered what you would do. It’s a concrete floor.

    TOM: If they’re hairline cracks, I would probably not do much about it, Mary Jane. Do you want to finish the floor somehow?

    MARY JANE: No. It was just that I didn’t want them to get worse. (chuckles)

    TOM: Well, the hairline cracks are probably shrinkage cracks and it’s not likely they’re going to get worse; they’ve probably been there for a long time, as you said. If they’re bigger cracks and we’re just trying to seal them up so that we don’t get water in there, we don’t get dirt in there, we don’t trap our heels in there, then we would tell you to use an epoxy patching compound or to use a flowable urethane caulk product. But if they’re hairline cracks, there’s really not much you have to do and, in fact, if you use perhaps one of the epoxy floor paints, they’ll probably fill in nicely …

    MARY JANE: Oh, OK.

    TOM: … and you won’t even see them anymore.

    MARY JANE: Thank you very much.

    TOM: Alright, Mary Jane. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Pick up the phone and give us a call with your home repair or your home improvement question – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s starting to get cold out there, folks, and we can help you stay warm and save energy dollars but you’ve got to ask us your question. 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. Up next, tips to keep your home from becoming a sick house. We’re going to tell you what you need to know, 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: And as we move into the chilly, fall days, have you been thinking about where you’re going to store all that outdoor furniture – the lawnmower, the kids’ toys come winter? How about tucking them inside a brand-spanking new, 8×10 shed from Lifetime Products?

    It’s got double-wall, heavy-duty panels with steel reinforcement. It’s got a steeply pitched roof that allows for drainage of rain and snow. It’s got skylights to help you light up the inside. It’s worth almost 1,200 bucks and the best part – you could win it by playing the My Home, My Money Pit Home Improvement Adventure Game and Sweepstakes.

    LESLIE: That’s right. We’re celebrating our new book in a very big way. We’re giving away hundreds of prizes, just like that, with this promotion and it’s sponsored by Lifetime Products, along with Rinnai, EasyWater and Monkey Hook. You get to have some fun testing your home improvement knowledge in the process of the whole quizzingness that goes on online and you could even possibly win our grand prize which – get this – is $5,000 cash. All you need to do is go to MoneyPit.com to play the game and then enter.

    TOM: Five thousand bucks; you could do a lot with that this winter. Speaking of which, why is it that we seem to get sicker in the winter? It’s not because we’re outside in the cold weather more. Surprisingly, it’s because we’re inside a lot more. We’re holed up with less fresh air and more close contact with other germ-carrying people, you know, like your family. (Tom and Leslie chuckle)

    LESLIE: But you love them.

    TOM: Yeah, but we love them. All that adds up to the germs spreading like crazy and there’s one way that you can control some of that indoor air and that is by installing a whole-house air cleaner. Aprilaire makes a great model. I’ve got one here in my house; it’s the model 5000. It does a great job and it’s got great reviews. They can actually get the very smallest particles out of the air, like viruses, and an air cleaner is really a must if you’ve got allergies or if you’ve got asthma.

    You can learn more about that product at Aprilaire.com but seriously, think about installing a whole-house air cleaner this winter; it’ll keep your family far more healthy.

    LESLIE: Now we’re going to head on over to Michigan where Brad is having a problem in his basement. What’s going on?

    BRAD: Hi, guys. Thanks for taking my call. I’m moving in with some friends to help out with rent and I’m going to be stuck living in the basement. It’s got a concrete floor and I’m just concerned about the moisture in the basement doing damage to – like the fact that, you know, I’m going to have a bed down there and clothes …

    LESLIE: Oh.

    BRAD: … and sheets.

    TOM: You know, a nice, inflatable, rubber raft (Leslie chuckles) could kind of serve a dual purpose here, Brad.

    LESLIE: I hope you’re paying less rent (Tom chuckles) than the other roommates who actually get a nice, warm room.

    BRAD: Yes, I actually am but the nice thing about the basement is that it will be a larger room than anybody else in the house has and it does seem – the house does seem to have a good amount of drainage and the things that you guys tend to preach about; about keeping moisture out of the basement. But I’m still a little bit concerned because I am going to be having more fabrics and more things down there that could be considered mold food.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm, and those things tend to smell musty if you don’t really control the moisture.

    TOM: Well, Brad, I’ve been exactly in your shoes. When I was a college student, I lived in a rented basement of a house for about a year; saved a lot of money but we did have a bit of moisture, a bit of humidity. And this is a good situation where if you’ve done all the things outside that you need to do – your gutters are clean, your downspouts are extended away from the house, the soil slopes away – the last two things I would do would be first, to paint the block walls with a moisture-proof paint; and secondly, add a dehumidifier.

    Now, since it’s a rental situation, you’re not going to be able to talk the owner into putting in a whole-home dehumidifier – which would be the best – so in this situation, I would use a portable. But I would try to pick up a portable that’s got a condensate pump built into it because this way you can pump the water outside as quickly …

    LESLIE: And you don’t have to empty anything.

    TOM: Yeah, as quickly as it accumulates, it goes right outside.

    BRAD: Oh, now, that would be really, really nice to not have to worry about emptying out a dehumidifier all the time.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Especially if, you know – if you step away from the house for a day or go away for the weekend, it cuts off after a couple of hours when you’re gone; everything will yucky by the time you get home.

    BRAD: Oh, yeah, that’s probably – that wouldn’t be good but it definitely would help a lot more. Thank you guys so much for your help.

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

    LESLIE: Heading over to North Dakota to chat with Al about an exterior situation. What’s going on at your house?

    AL: Oh, hi. I’ve got a 1920 house – stucco on the outside – and it’s starting to crack and chip away in spots. Trying to figure out the best way to restore it and prevent it from cracking.

    TOM: Hmm. The reason that it’s chipping away is probably because moisture is getting into that space. Now …

    LESLIE: And as it freezes, it sort of pops itself off, correct?

    TOM: Yeah, that’s right. That’s right. What have you been using to seal it up, those – seal up those cracks?

    AL: Just paint.

    TOM: Yeah, well, (Tom and Leslie chuckle) that’s probably part of the issue here. What you really need to do is get a little more serious on the crack process. What we would recommend are epoxy patching compounds or epoxy-based caulks that seal up and get in there really well. The goal here is to try to keep the water from getting into this space and the more effective you could be at doing that, Al, the less of this cracking you’re going to experience.

    LESLIE: Chris in California needs some help with windows. Tell us about it.

    CHRIS: I’m thinking about putting the window film on my windows and …

    TOM: OK.

    CHRIS: … I was wondering if it was worth the investment and if it really does reflect the sun and if it does reflect sun for fading, what happens in the winter? Does it keep the sun from warming my house?

    TOM: That’s a good question because I’ll tell you, I remember years ago when I was a home inspector and I was called to do this inspection on a house. The complaint was that the homeowner had installed brand new, energy-efficient windows and she didn’t think they were working very well. And I said, ‘Well, why don’t you think they’re working well?’ She says, ‘Well, before I put these in, I used to sit at this chair in my kitchen table every morning and have my coffee and I really felt the warmth of the sun coming in (Leslie chuckles) and warming my whole body and now I’m just cold all the time.’ (Chris chuckles) I said, ‘Well, that’s the point of low-E windows.’

    LESLIE: (chuckling) It’s working.

    TOM: You see, it is working because it reflects the heat back outside.

    CHRIS: I have the low-E and the dual-pane but I have – what is it? – a west-facing side of the house, wherever the sun beats in …

    TOM: Mm-hmm.

    CHRIS: … in the afternoon and the late afternoon.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    CHRIS: It just really – it fades the furniture and I don’t have drapes on these windows and sliding glass, so I’m looking for an efficient way to block some of the heat and keep the furniture from fading.

    TOM: Well, in that particular situation, you sound like a perfect candidate for window films. You know, applied properly, they can give you good UV protection. They can prevent some of the fading of the furniture. I don’t think it’s going to have a tremendously adverse effect in the winter, in terms of your comfort or your clarity of the windows.

    I know that 3M has a big line of window films; they seem to be the market leader on this. I do know, however, that the application is really, really critical; it’s got to be done right. The windows have to be super-clean; you’ve got to get great adhesion. But if it’s done well, I think it could be very effective in this situation.

    CHRIS: Oh, great. Well, I appreciate your help. Thank you.

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

    LESLIE: Joanne in Florida is having a problem in the bathroom: the plaster is bubbling up. Tell us what’s going on.

    JOANNE: Alright. I have a house that was built in 1967. It’s a block house and in my bathroom it’s plaster on top of the block.

    TOM: OK.

    JOANNE: Between the window and the corner of the room, there’s a section about two feet tall and about a foot wide that the plaster keeps getting soft …

    TOM: Hmm.

    JOANNE: … and bubbling up and I’ve tried spackling years ago and that bubbled out and I’ve tried a plaster patch repair and, over time, that bubbles out.

    TOM: Hmm. It sounds to me like you have a leak, Joanne, and …

    JOANNE: A leak?

    TOM: … we need to get to the bottom of that. Yeah. You mentioned it’s a concrete block house. The thing about concrete block is it’s very hydroscopic; it’s going to absorb water and that water can not only sort of fall down with gravity but can actually get drawn up and across the wall.

    So, the first place I would look is right around that window to make sure that we’re not letting any water in there that’s getting drawn into the block and pulled across to the wall. Because what you’re describing is exactly what happens when that block gets wet and, as such, the plaster can’t attach to it; it gets very saturated and sort of keeps falling off. Could be happening very slowly over time but we’ve really got to get to the bottom of this leak and I’m pretty sure that’s what’s happening.


    TOM: So take a look at the window, take a look at the flashing, take a look at the caulking around it and try to seal it up as best you can and then keep an eye on it and see if it repeats itself. And by the way, the next time you patch this and get it all nice and dry and smooth, make sure you prime the wall with an oil-based primer; that would help as well.

    JOANNE: OK. Great.

    TOM: Alright, Joanne. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. When we come back, we’ve got a great guest joining us because there is a lot of information out there that you might find a bit confusing about air quality, feeling sick this time of year, creating a healthy home. Our guest, Jeff May, is going to join us. He’s a good friend of The Money Pit and he’s an author of a brand-spanking new book called Healthy Home Tips and he’s going to sort everything out for you, when we come back.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by the Western Red Cedar Lumber Association. Discover western red cedar’s unique beauty, performance and environmental benefits at RealCedar.org.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. And whether you own your house or you rent an apartment, you know that your indoor space is your sanctuary from the grit and the grime and the dirt and the yuck that you just find in the world outside, but not if you’re one of those millions of people who actually feel worse when they’re indoors.

    TOM: How is this possible? Do you or your kids ever feel worse when you’re at home and perhaps better when you’re outside? Well, if you do, you’re not alone and we’ve got a guy that can help. He’s Jeff May; he’s an author and he’s a mold and indoor air quality expert and he is personally responsible for our very own mold resource guide, which you can find on MoneyPit.com. We’re thrilled to have him back on the program to talk about his brand new book, Healthy Home Tips.

    Hi, Jeff.

    JEFF: (chuckling) Hi, Tom and Leslie. (Tom and Leslie chuckle) How are you doing?

    TOM: Did we exhaust you with that introduction?

    JEFF: Well, it could have been longer. (Tom and Leslie laugh) It’s a workbook for detecting, diagnosing and eliminating pesky pests, stinky stenches, musty mold and other aggravating home problems.

    TOM: Well, that sounds like some pretty nasty stuff. Is this really a handbook? Is this really sort of an easy guide to – I think when we tend to think about indoor air quality, it gets very, very scientific and it gets very technical and it overwhelms people. Does this kind of break it down for them, Jeff?

    JEFF: Well, yeah, well that’s actually – that’s why we wrote this one, because we found that people really don’t want to know sort of why things go wrong. They really want to know how to spot problems and just, you know, tips on how to fix them. So Jeff May’s Healthy Home Tips is different from the other three books that we did. It’s really – it’s a workbook, actually. You know, there are things, places – things to fill out and check off and …

    LESLIE: Oh, that’s good.

    JEFF: Yeah, and if they take a book out of the library and check it off, then they can’t use it again; so it’s, you know, we’re trying to increase the sales that way. (Tom and Leslie chuckle)

    LESLIE: At least you’re honest about it.

    JEFF: Yeah. (Leslie laughs)

    TOM: Well, Jeff, say that you – you know, you’re not feeling comfortable inside your house. You think there is something going on. Is there a place to kind of start your own investigation, say, before you bring in a pro? Where do you start to look? What are the most common reasons that people just don’t feel good when they’re in their own house?

    JEFF: Well, that’s a good point. I mean, you want to start – before you bring in a professional, you know, you can really save a lot of money by trying to figure it out yourself and there are a lot of a different starting points; so depending on what the problem is – I mean, people may have allergy issues, coughing, odor – I mean, there’s a whole lot of different problems and we sort of …

    LESLIE: So that’s what it is, Jeff? You sort of feel like an upper respiratory situation?

    JEFF: Yeah, typically, upper respiratory will involve some kind of allergen in the air. It may possibly be coming from the heating system or an air conditioning system, carpets. Another sort of whole sphere of problems – when you get into bed and you cough or you wake up in the morning and you have worsened asthma systems …

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    JEFF: … and that’s usually dust mite-related or something in the bedroom. And people often have some kind of an idea about, you know, where they feel worse or what the problem might be and so – and that’s a really good place to start.

    TOM: Speaking of good places to start, you say that a lot of this is something that you can diagnose yourself. Where do you think the most common mistakes are that people make, though, that do try to do that themselves? For example, we hear a lot about people that want to refinish their basement. We are constantly, week after week, telling them carpet is a bad idea down there.

    LESLIE: And everybody wants to use carpet; it’s like their first instinct.

    JEFF: Yeah. It’s really a problem. I mean, I’ve been actually – I’ve been doing this air quality since about ’94 and I’ve taken thousands of samples from buildings and I would say over a thousand dust samples from carpets and basements and maybe a handful – maybe a dozen didn’t have mold; so mold is one of the most common problems in basement carpets. And the very unfortunate thing is that people finish their basement and then they, you know, they keep the heat off – it’s cold and damp – and then they send the kids down to play. They turn the heat up. They don’t necessarily dehumidify and so the carpet is full of mold and their kids are crawling around on the carpet there; you know, faces are just about, you know, in a petri dish most of the time and it’s really tragic.

    TOM: And Jeff, now more and more people are trying to make their homes tighter to make them more energy efficient …

    LESLIE: More energy efficient.

    TOM: … but that can be somewhat counter-productive when it comes to this indoor air quality issue. How do you get to the right balance point?

    JEFF: Well, you know, it is tough. I mean, you can get a heat-recovery ventilation system; a lot of people are recommending those and unfortunately, I’ve looked at a lot of them and they end up also being very moldy. If anybody – any of the listeners have heat-recovery ventilation systems, they should be aware of the fact that they have to be cleaned, you know, every couple of months and filters have to be changed and you really have to scrutinize – you know, look at the inside very carefully because most of the ones I’ve looked at were full of mold. And so the people install these things to get fresh air and now they’ve got mold.

    LESLIE: And they’re just recirculating bad air.

    TOM: We’re talking to Jeff May. He is a certified indoor air quality and professional mold expert and author of Jeff May’s Healthy Home Tips.

    Jeff, you’ve got a lot of real quick and simple tips in this book that can help folks. You say a piece of chalk can be a useful diagnostic tool when dealing with leaks. How is that?

    JEFF: Well, just make a circle around a leak – be very careful; just around a stain that is on a ceiling or a wall or whatever. Make a very careful chalk mark and then just see if the stain goes beyond the chalk mark. It’s easy to clean; you don’t have to erase anything. It’s better than a pencil.

    TOM: Oh, good point. So, in other words, you’re kind of like setting that boundary and this way, you can tell if the leak is active or not. And speaking of leaks, you also say that sometimes you just ought to throw it away if it gets wet. Are there some things that you really shouldn’t try to dry out if you get a flood?

    JEFF: Oh, absolutely. Anything cushioned; a mattress or a couch. It’s just hopeless; it’s got to go.

    TOM: Yeah. Our house is really our – have almost more mold food than they do people food …

    LESLIE: (chuckling) It’s true.

    TOM: … so you’ve really got to …

    JEFF: Yeah.

    TOM: You’ve really got to be careful. Well, it’s a great book and that’s great advice.

    Jeff May, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    The book again is called Jeff May’s Healthy Home Tips and it’s published by Johns Hopkins Press.

    Thanks, Jeff.

    JEFF: Hey, thanks a lot, Tom and Leslie.

    LESLIE: Thanks so much, Jeff, for clearing all of that up about healthy air and how to keep our houses nice and healthy and keep ourselves healthy at home.

    You know, there’s one other indoor air pollutant that is not really a good one to have in your house. We’re talking about carbon monoxide. When we come back, we’re going to tell you how to check your appliances and make sure they’re operating safely.

    (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.

    TOM: Give us a call right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. One caller who gets on the air with us this hour is going to win the Veto Pro Pac. It’s an open-top tool bag – a very nice tool bag, I might add – that is supplied by the folks at CableOrganizer.com. It’s made of weather-resistant polypropylene and it’s worth 130 bucks. So call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT with your home improvement question.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now, you can fill up your fancy tool bag with all of the tools and bits and bobs that you need to go around your house and do your safety checks and changing the batteries in your smoke detectors and your carbon monoxide detectors. Well, that’s what we want to talk about and it’s pretty serious because hundreds of Americans; they die every single year from carbon monoxide poisoning. In fact, it’s the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in our country. Now, here is a little checklist to help you make sure that carbon monoxide is not building up in your home. First of all, get a pro and have this person check your furnace’s heat exchanger for any signs of rust or deposits or cracking. The heat exchanger – this is what keeps the air that you breathe separate from the carbon monoxide-laced exhaust gases that come out of your furnace.

    TOM: And that inspection should also include the vent pipes that carry those gases to the outside of your house. I can’t tell you how many times in the 20 years I spent as a home inspector that I found those pipes to be loose, to be cracked; sometimes they had holes in them. You really need to make sure they’re in good shape. You should also check your chimney for any blockage as well.

    And finally, get a carbon monoxide detector; you should have one for every floor of your home. Now, if you can’t afford one for every floor, guess where you should put it?

    LESLIE: In the basement.

    TOM: Well, most people think that – but no. You should actually put it near your bedroom because that’s where most of the deaths occur; when you’re sleeping.

    LESLIE: So not near the appliance?

    TOM: Correct, because the carbon monoxide is easily distributed throughout the entire house and so having it in the basement is no advantage, really. So put it near the bedroom if you can only afford one; but again, best thing to do – buy one for every single floor of the house.

    LESLIE: Now, there are a few more places that you do need to look and you can find the complete carbon monoxide safety checklist in this week’s newsletter. Sign up right now at MoneyPit.com. It’s totally free; we keep your e-mail address confidential. Then, take your checklist, walk around your house and make sure everybody is safe this winter season.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. Call us right now with your home improvement question.

    Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: Now we’re going to head over to California to chat with Michael about a wallpaper problem. What’s going on?

    MICHAEL: Well, not much. What I’ve got is a vaulted wall. It’s 14 feet high, 24 feet wide and it’s completely covered with wallpaper. Now, here and there, different spots – the vertical seams of the wallpaper are peeling away from each other and I am at a complete loss as to how it is that I can get those seams to lay down and make it look like it belongs.

    TOM: Michael, there’s a product that will fix that; it’s called SureGrip. It’s made by the Zinsser Company. They’re a pretty big manufacturer of different types of home improvement products so this is something that should be widely available. It’s called SureGrip Seam and Repair Adhesive. It’s about five bucks a tube and what I like about it is that it actually adheres those loose seams in 10 seconds, so you don’t have to sit there and hold it down …

    LESLIE: And hold anything.

    TOM: … forever. You put it on; it’s got a non-drip formula and it works really, really well.

    LESLIE: Now, it’s time to talk home maintenance. We’ve got Joan in South Carolina who needs some help with the AC and the water heater. What’s going on, Joan?

    JOAN: Thank you for taking my call. I so enjoy listening to your show on the weekends in Greenville.

    TOM: You’re very welcome.

    JOAN: We have owned – we built our home about nine years ago and we’re not having a problem but my neighbors are; with the air conditioner and their water heater.

    TOM: Mm-hmm.

    JOAN: They’ve replaced both and I wonder – my question is, how often do you have these appliances – you know, how often do you have them checked?

    TOM: Well, your neighbor had some bad luck. Both an air conditioner and a water heater can go in eight to twelve years; it’s unfortunate that your neighbor lost both. However, that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen to you.

    In terms of maintenance, a couple of things. First of all, you should have the air conditioning compressor serviced at the …

    LESLIE: Annually.

    TOM: Yeah, annually; usually in the spring. However, you know, if you have your heating system serviced now – because it’s getting chillier out – it’s not a bad idea to have the AC service done at the same time. Frankly, nothing is going to happen to it over the winter and this way you’ll know that it’s ready to rock and roll when it gets warm again …

    LESLIE: When you need to turn it on.

    TOM: … and sometimes, it saves you a bit of money. Secondly, in terms of the water heater, not a lot of maintenance needed there but what you would want to do is when you have the furnace serviced, have the water heater burner compartment checked. Make sure there’s no rust on top of the burner; make sure that the pilot light is good and strong. Because as gas burns, it’s very corrosive and tends to leave some rust in that area, which can impede the flow of the flame, so to speak. And that’s pretty much all you need to do with …

    LESLIE: Tom, what about draining water from the water heater? There’s always sort of like a mixed school of thought: drain a certain amount of gallons out annually or don’t.

    TOM: I don’t think that it’s necessary to drain a water heater. If you have very hard water, some people believe in doing that because the mineral deposits in the bottom of the water heater can sort of form like an insulating layer that can make it a little bit less efficient. But generally speaking, I don’t drain water heaters; but others do and that’s why. (Leslie chuckles)

    JOAN: Alright. Thank you so much.

    TOM: Well, you’re welcome, Joan. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: This is The Money Pit. Up next, we are going to reach into our e-mail bag and answer a question about hot water; specifically, how not to waste that water while waiting for it to get hot. 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: 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: Call us right now with your home improvement question or head on over to MoneyPit.com and click on Ask Tom and Leslie, just like Dee Dee did from Pennsylvania.

    LESLIE: Dee Dee writes: ‘Thank you for your wonderful program. I would like to find out about …’

    TOM: Now, did she really say that or did you make that up?

    LESLIE: No, she really wrote it; I’m reading verbatim. And then she goes on to say, ‘I would like to find out about the most economical way of not waiting for hot water in the bathrooms. I waste a lot of water this way.’ Yeah, and money.

    TOM: Common question and, typically, people think that a tankless water heater will solve this problem but, in fact, it won’t because a tankless water heater – as long as it’s mounted down in the basement, where your old water heater was – is going to take just as long to get the hot water up to the bathroom. The secret, though, is to put a tankless water heater in closer to the bathroom and you can do that because they’re much, much smaller. They’re easy to install, they don’t take as much space and, of course, they’re super, super energy-efficient. Rinnai makes really good tankless water heaters. They’ve got a good sizing guide at their website at ForeverHotWater.com so go there and you can figure out exactly what size unit you need.

    And Rinnai is also a sponsor of our My Home, My Money Pit Home Improvement Adventure Game and Sweepstakes which, by the way, you’ve got about a few days left. It ends at the end of this month. To enter, you could win $5,000 or one of hundreds of other prizes by answering a few simple home improvement questions. You can learn all about that at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Yeah, and Dee Dee’s like, ‘Awesome. I’m going to enter now. You gave me great advice and I can win some pretty cool prizes.’ She’s like, ‘I love your show even more.’ (Tom chuckles)

    Alright, we’ve got Kathy in San Francisco who writes: ‘We have an outdoor terrazzo table. The surface is starting to feel a bit rough. What can we do to protect it? Should we seal it or what? If so, what product should we use?’

    Yeah. People never realize that these natural surfaces – terrazzo, granite, marble – they all need to be sealed like annually.

    TOM: Yeah, absolutely. There’s a good website, StoneCare.com; it’s got a boatload of products that can do just that. The secret here is to get it super-clean before you seal it. If you seal it too quickly, of course, you seal in the dirt. It’s kind of like sealing grout; you’ve really got to clean it first and then seal it and it’s something that you’re going to have to do. Especially if you leave that outside year round …

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: … you’re going to have to do it, probably, at least twice a season; certainly, in the spring and again in the fall.

    LESLIE: Yeah, and if you do that, Kathy, you’ll really keep that table looking beautiful. If you don’t do it, you’re going to notice little pieces are going to pop out; you’re going to find pocks. Take the time, do it and enjoy that table for a lifetime; which is what a natural product is meant to do.

    TOM: Well, with the holiday season upon us, you might be thinking about doing a bit of decorating and sometimes the little details can make a really big difference in your d

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