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    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: Here to help you with your home improvement projects. Let us help tackle those do-it-yourself dilemmas that are on your to-do list. If you don’t want to do it yourself, if you want to get a guy, we can help you get that spec together so you know exactly what to order, how to order it, how to find the best products, how to make sure that you get exactly what you intend to get when you hire a pro. Whatever is on your home improvement list, give us a call right now. We’ll help you get that job done, 888-666-3974.

    Coming up this hour, do you want to ramp up your outdoor entertaining space but you’re not sure where to start? We’re going to have a trend report that highlights the most popular looks for outdoor spaces so you can redecorate with confidence.

    LESLIE: And also ahead, wet weather and warmer temperatures mean things are probably in full bloom around your house. We’re going to tell you how to trim back those hedges by pruning properly, with tips from This Old House landscaping contractor Roger Cook, coming up this hour.

    TOM: Plus, while you’re out and about in the yard, you might be checking out a space for your new garden. You know, vegetable gardening is more popular than ever right now. And if it’s something you might want to try, you want to be sure to invest in some quality tools. We’ll tell you which ones should be on the must-have list for basic gardening.

    LESLIE: And we’re giving away a Bissell vacuum to one lucky winner. We’ve got the Symphony All-in-One Vacuum and Steam Mop, which will eliminate the need to sweep before you mop.

    TOM: It’s a prize worth $219. So give us a call, right now, with your home improvement question. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Frieda from Ohio is on the line with The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    FRIEDA: Hi. My Amana Radarange microwave, it’s mounted above my stove. And on the bottom, the down light that shines down onto the stove, the light bulbs in that keep burning out. And I have to replace them about once a month and they’re getting expensive.

    TOM: What kind of light bulb are you using? Just a regular incandescent?

    FRIEDA: It’s like the R11, the little appliance bulbs? Forty watt?

    TOM: And is this a fairly new problem, this once-a-month burnout, or has it been going on for a long, long time?

    FRIEDA: It’s getting worse. I mean we’ve had the microwave in here – it’s probably about 16 years old or – give or take.

    TOM: Yeah, that doesn’t really owe you any money. That’s pretty old for a microwave appliance. You’ve pretty much reached the end of a normal life cycle. In fact, I’m kind of surprised it lasted that long, because it’s been my experience that the microwave ovens that are mounted above ranges don’t last nearly as long as a countertop microwave. Because the additional heat from all that cooking has the effect of sort of wearing on those components.

    Typically, when you get a bulb that burns out quickly, it’s either because you have a loose connection, you have a loose ground or you have a problem with the voltage that’s going in there.

    Sometimes, depending on what’s happening with the power company, you could be getting, say, more than 120 volts. You might be getting 125 or 130 volts, sometimes, because there could be something that is bad down the line with the power supply – the quality of the power supply. So if you have extra volts going into those lights, that is one of the first things that tends to show it. It’s kind of like the canary in the coal mine. When the lights start to go – burn out frequently – like that, it could be an issue with the voltage.

    So, have you been thinking about a new microwave?

    FRIEDA: Not really.

    TOM: What I would suggest is that at this point, you really need to have the voltage tested. So I would call the utility company and ask them to meter the voltage going into your house and see if it’s – let’s eliminate that as a possibility.

    If that is OK, I would – the second thing I would check is the plug that it’s actually plugged into. I’d check the outlet to make sure it’s properly grounded. And if it’s properly grounded, then I think you’ve exhausted the two things that are the easiest to fix and at that point, you might want to think about replacing the microwave.

    FRIEDA: Alright. That sounds good.

    TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Nick in Iowa is on the line and is doing a tiling project. What can we do for you?

    NICK: I did a project in my bathroom, on the second floor, a couple years ago. And I laid ¾-inch tongue-and-groove down.

    TOM: Plywood?

    NICK: Yes. And then I laid down a ¼-inch fiber-cement underlayment that is meant for tile. And I made sure that the seams weren’t in the same spot as the tongue-and-groove.

    TOM: Right.

    NICK: And it’s been – like I say, it’s been probably two years and I’ve got just a hairline crack running through all my tile that’s right on that tongue-and-groove seam. And I’m getting ready to start a kitchen project where I’m going to do some tiling. And I guess I want to know if you had any suggestions on where I might have went wrong.

    TOM: Well, the very best floor base for a tile project is called a “mud floor.” Do you know what a mud floor is?

    NICK: No, I do not.

    TOM: So a mud floor is one where you put down tar paper first, then you put down woven wire mesh, then you mix up a sand-and-cement – essentially, mud. It’s a very dry mix; not a lot of water to it. Generally, it’s one bag of Portland cement to about 40 shovels of sand. And when you mix it perfectly, you can kind of hold it and it forms sort of a ball in your hand, right?

    Now, you take that mud and that mud mix and you spread it out across the woven wire mesh. And you’ve got to be a pretty good do-it-yourselfer to pull this off, because it’s really a professional tile guy’s way of doing this. But you spread it over the mud. You use a long, straight edge to kind of get it absolutely perfectly flat and you let it dry. It’s got to be a minimum of maybe 1-inch thick and it could go up to whatever you need it to be.

    For example, I have a laundry room in the second floor of my house. Really old house. And we decided to tile that and there’s just no way I could level this floor any other way. And so, we put down a mud floor. It was about 1 inch on one side of the room. By the time we got to the other side of the room, it was about 2½ inches because the floor had that kind of a slope in it. But then when we were done, it was perfectly flat and absolutely rock solid.

    If you put a mud floor down, you will never, ever, ever get a crack, if you do it right. That’s the best way to do it. Any of those tile-backer products are subject to expansion and contraction and that may help develop some cracks, not to mention the fact that it can’t really help you level a floor that’s out of level.

    Now, when you – you said you were doing this in the kitchen. We’ll give you an additional caution: you’ve got to be very careful around the dishwasher. Because if you put a thick floor around that dishwasher, you may not be able to get the dishwasher back in again. Or you can do as this ridiculous tile guy did at my sister’s house. He tiled her dishwasher in. So when the dishwasher had to be replaced, I had to help her take the countertop off of the sink, off of the cabinets, take the sink out, take the countertop up in order to lift the dishwasher out from the cabinets and replace it, which was really ridiculous and very annoying.

    NICK: That doesn’t sound like what I want to do, no.

    TOM: No. So don’t tile your dishwasher in and watch the thickness of the floor so that you can actually get the dishwasher back in if you take it out.

    NICK: Alright. Sounds good. Thank you very much.

    TOM: Call us. We’ll give you more work, 888-666-3974. Thanks so much, Nick.

    You know, we always say, “Do it once, do it right and you won’t have to do it again.” And that is absolutely true when it comes to putting down tile. If you don’t take the time to put in a proper base, you will ultimately be repeating the process.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com.

    Well, spring has sprung and I know this because allergies are truly kicking my butt. And if you’ve got some spring things going on at your money pit, we’d love to give you a hand whatever you are working on, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, would you like to revamp your outdoor space but maybe you’re just not sure where to start? We’ve got tips to help you bring some trendy new looks to your landscaping, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Foundry Specialty Siding. Foundry vinyl cedar siding gives your home the beauty of real cedar shake without the hassles and worries that come with wood siding. Foundry, unsurpassed beauty and strength. Find out more at FoundrySiding.com.

    TOM: Making good homes better, this is 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. If you do, you just might be the winner of a prize that really sucks. It’s the Bissell All-in-One Vacuum. It’s called Symphony from Bissell. It’s the All-in-One Vacuum and Steam Mop.

    Now, you’ve got to love that, Leslie, because around your kids, you drop something on the floor or on the carpet, you can steam it and then turn the vacuum on and make the whole thing go away, kind of in one shot. It’s like two products in one.

    LESLIE: Yeah, it’s pretty awesome because the Symphony will vacuum and steam at the same time, so it’s eliminating the process of broom, dustpan, mop, bucket, all of those things, which are really gross. And to be honest, if I pull out a bucket, the first thing my little guy, Charlie, wants to do is put his hands all over it. So the less gross cleaning things I can have out, the better.

    And the Symphony has a powerful, cyclonic action, which is going to clean away dried debris. So, Cheerios left over from breakfast that have solidified on the floor will now easily come up.

    And the steam is going to sanitize, which is excellent because that eliminates up to 99.9 percent of germs and bacteria. So it really is a handy helper.

    TOM: It’s worth $219. Going out to one caller drawn at random from those that reach us for today’s show, so give us a call right now. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: Marlene in Minnesota is on the line. How can we help you today?

    MARLENE: We have two aluminum-clad, factory-finished garage doors, dark brown in color or at least they were.

    TOM: OK.

    MARLENE: And they’re beginning to fade due to oxidation and sun exposure. Is there anything we can do to restore that finish?

    TOM: Well, not short of painting them. Because if you – when you say “restore them,” that would presume that there’s a way to kind of bring back the luster of the original paint finish. But after years of exposure to sun and especially those darker colors, you do get oxidation where the paint surface is broken down. And you’re not going to bring that surface back.

    The good news is that because they’re metal doors, they’re fairly straightforward to paint. You want to make sure that you lightly sand the door. And then I would use a metal primer – so a good-quality, metal priming paint – and then whatever your topcoat of paint is going to be beyond that.

    And if you do that right – because it’s metal and it’s not organic, so it’s not subjected as much to expansion and contraction and certainly not moisture absorption – a good paint job on a metal door like that could easily last 10 years.

    MARLENE: OK. Well, thank you for your help.

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

    LESLIE: Well, the news is out on the hottest outdoor-living trends, as reported by Industry Edge, the source for insight from the National Hardware Show.

    First, bright, cheerful colors are all over outdoor-living products. You’re going to see these in cushions and accessories. And also very popular are geometric, kind of Art Deco patterns, which you’ll see crop up in those outdoor fabrics.

    TOM: Now, another theme is bringing a worldly vibe to your outdoor space with ethnic and tribal looks. Of course, neutrals are always essential. These would include gray this year; it’s a huge, new color in decorating. And it’s also easy to bring some of these trends to your own backyard.

    And remember, you don’t have to redo everything. You can just change out pillows, change out some cushions on furniture or even repaint furniture. Pick up a few new planters or accessories and you’ve really created a whole new look for very little money, just by sort of changing the things out that are around the edge of your patio space.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Keep the basics the same and change out a few little things and surprisingly, you will end up with a whole new look.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. Let us help you get started on your new look. Whatever project you’re working on, we want to hear about it. Give us a call, right now, at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Jim in Illinois is on the line with some drafty windows. Tell us about your money pit.

    JIM: Well, I have an historic, old home. It’s over 100 years old.

    TOM: OK.

    JIM: And it has all of the original windows and glass in it.

    TOM: Alright.

    JIM: And they are, needless to say, very drafty. So I was trying to figure out a way that was fairly cost-effective closing up those drafts.

    TOM: So if you want to keep the original windows, then you essentially have to work with what you have. So, adding weatherstripping is really the limit of what you can do with those.

    I will say that if you’ve got one that’s really drafty, in a room that maybe you don’t need to open the window, there is a product that’s called “temporary caulk” or “weatherstripping caulk.” It’s basically a caulk that’s designed to go on clear and then in the spring, you can peel it off. It comes off sort of in a rubbery strip. So that’s also an effective way to seal a window that you’re not going to open. But remember, you’re kind of sealing it shut, so you’ve got to be careful not to do that in a bedroom or a place where you need to have emergency egress.

    Now, if you want to replace the window, you could look at different manufacturers that make very historic windows. Marvin, for example, is very good at this. Andersen is good at it, as well. They make windows that fit well into a historic building. Then, of course, you’ve got all the modern conveniences that are associated with that.

    I think that you would find, obviously, huge energy differences, not only in the drafts but also in the solar heat gain in the summer. Because I’m sure there’s nothing stopping all of that heat of the sun from getting into those windows. And if you have new glass that’s got a low-E coating, it’s going to reflect that heat back out.

    So, weatherstripping – liquid weatherstripping or temporary caulk – or window replacement. Those would be your options.

    JIM: OK. Thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Christine in Washington is on the line with a leaky chimney. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.

    CHRISTINE: I have a chimney that’s for a wood or a pellet stove. And the former owners put duct-taped cardboard in the opening. And it leaks when I have heavy rain and wind.

    TOM: I bet it does.

    CHRISTINE: Yeah. How do I close off the opening so it doesn’t leak?

    TOM: So, first of all, we’re talking about a wood-stove chimney that’s been sealed up with cardboard and duct taped. Does anyone think there’s something wrong with this picture? I mean just maybe, right?

    CHRISTINE: Yeah.

    TOM: So, are we still using the wood stove, Christine?

    CHRISTINE: No. It’s empty and I put a table and lamp under it.

    TOM: So you’re not using the wood stove at all. You don’t want to use it? Why not just take it out?

    CHRISTINE: There’s no wood stove there; it’s just an empty space. That’s why I put a table …

    TOM: Oh, OK. So the chimney is left over from the wood stove.


    TOM: Then take the chimney out.

    CHRISTINE: Oh, really?

    TOM: The chimney is a hole in your roof. If you’re not using it for the wood stove, then you don’t need it, right? There’s nothing else that uses the same chimney? Is it a metal pipe?

    CHRISTINE: Yeah. But the – inside the house, it’s part of the design of the living room. It looks like a space for a fireplace. So that’s why it’s all bricked in and that’s why I put a table and chair in it and made it sort of decorative.

    TOM: Right. But if you’re never going to use it. OK, I don’t really care what it looks like inside your house; I care about the penetration where it goes through the roof because that’s where the leak is. And your options are either to properly flash the chimney, whatever that takes – which is not going to include duct tape and cardboard, by the way – but to have it professionally flashed so that it seals the intersection between the roofing shingle and the chimney or vent pipe.

    But if you’re not using it, just remove it and you’re taking that headache away. You can patch the roof and you’ll never have to worry about leaks in that area again.

    CHRISTINE: Thank you very much.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Bella in South Carolina on the line who needs help in cleaning a bathroom project. Tell us what’s going on.

    BELLA: I’m having a problem now of cleaning the shower tub. It’s plastic; it’s not tiles. And it sort of has peaks and valleys; it’s not smooth. So, I tried with bleach and it didn’t do that – it didn’t do very well. And now – I have tried your Wet & Forget when you recommended it but – outside on my patio and it did a wonderful job. But I was afraid to use it for the tub because it’s plastic.

    TOM: There’s a Wet & Forget version for the bathroom, specifically made for a bathroom. It’s designed to clean it up. It’s for the shower. And you’ll find it on their website at WetAndForget.com. It’s actually a brand-new product.

    Sometimes, with the plastic – and especially if it’s the bottom of the tub, where you have the anti-slip treatment to the bottom of the tub – sometimes that gets a bit gunked up and the dirt really gets pressed in with that. It becomes harder to clean that. But I think the Wet & Forget Shower is good for mold and mildew.

    But another thing that you could try, that has just a slight amount of abrasion, is a product called Bon Ami – B-o-n A-m-i. And it works pretty well because it has just a little bit of abrasiveness to it and it can really help to clean an area like that. In fact, I use that in my sink. I have a solid-surfacing material sink that we use that in. And we clean it with it and then we’ll do it again and let the Bon Ami sit on there a bit of time because it has a bleaching effect and really brightens it up. So, I would give that a try.

    BELLA: Yeah, yeah. Well, I’ll try it.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Still to come, has all the wet spring weather got your garden growing a little bit maybe too much? We’re going to have some pruning tips for shrubs and hedges from This Old House landscaping expert Roger Cook, after this.

    ROGER: Hi. I’m Roger Cook, landscaping contractor for This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. If you want to grow more confident in taking care of your money pit, tune in to Tom and Leslie every week for great ideas on saving money and maintaining your home.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Leviton, the brand most preferred by builders for wiring devices and lighting controls. With a focus on safety, Leviton products are the smart solution for all your electrical needs.

    TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    And we are gearing up for one of our biggest annual events: the National Hardware Show in Las Vegas. We love to go. It’s really exciting. Lots of cool, new and of course, the latest and greatest from our Top Products Pavilion, right on the show floor. You can’t go to the National Hardware Show but we can and that’s why we’re sharing everything with you. So check out our top products online at MoneyPit.com and follow along on Twitter with the hashtag #TopProductsNHS.

    TOM: Yeah, it’s really fun to do this show because we kind of get to bring you guys the first look of a lot of new products that you’re going to see on store shelves over the coming year.

    For example, Krylon has a new spray-paint formula out now called Dual Superbond, which is really cool because it adheres to many surfaces that paints usually don’t stick to, including laminates and even melamine.

    LESLIE: Yeah. You can check it all out online with our Top Products Gallery and follow us @MoneyPit on Twitter.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Are your overgrown shrubs and hedges making your yard look like something out of a Gothic horror movie? Well, you may know you have to trim those hedges but just where do you start?

    TOM: Well, the solution is to do some very strategic pruning that will improve the look of your landscape and help hedges heal and thrive. Here to explain how is Roger Cook, the landscape contractor for TV’s This Old House.

    Welcome, Roger.

    ROGER: Can we hedge around the subject?

    TOM: So, Roger, I’ve got a story for you. This past summer, my son decided that he was going to help out around the yard.

    ROGER: Uh-oh.

    TOM: So, when I wasn’t home, he grabbed our hedge trimmers and decided that he was going to cut our beautiful Manhattan Euonymus hedges down to the nubs.

    ROGER: Uh-oh. Mm-hmm. How’d that work for you?

    TOM: Which required some pretty serious emergency steps to keep them alive and help them recover. So, in retrospect, that hedge trimmer really can be quite a dangerous tool in the wrong hands, huh?

    ROGER: You know why it’s so dangerous? You don’t get tired using it, so you just go on and on and on.

    LESLIE: And it’s fun.

    ROGER: The old hedge trimmers? Yeah. But the old hedge trimmers that you had to manually do, after a while you’d stop and stand back …

    TOM: Wear you out.

    ROGER: Yeah. “Where am I? What am I doing?” These ones, you just keep going and going and going.

    TOM: So, what we ended up doing was putting a soaker hose down at the roots, giving it sort of an emergency shot of water and then some Holly-tone to kind of get some fertilizer in there. And they did come back and they look great but for a while …

    ROGER: Yeah.

    LESLIE: And you really couldn’t be mad because he was helping.

    TOM: No. He was trying to help out and yeah, I didn’t want to discourage him. But for a while, it was looking pretty bad.

    ROGER: Well, it’s – a lot of plants will bounce back from what we call a really hard, hard pruning like that. And it’s one of the tools we use when we have a really overgrown hedge. We’ll cut it down really low like that and let it sucker out and grow into a new, lower hedge. But for the most part, you really don’t want to look at that for a long period of time.

    LESLIE: Right.

    TOM: Right. So what’s the best way to really deal with an overgrown hedge? It’s kind of very strategic, isn’t it?

    ROGER: Yes. And the tool I love to use is hand pruners. It’s a lot slower but it’s a lot more pinpoint. You know, you’re not just running down cutting every branch; you’re cutting just certain branches so you can shape a plant.

    And the key to keeping a good hedge is to keep it green on the inside. If you look at most hedges where the shears have been used, you part the branches a little bit, it’ll be all brown or empty on the inside.

    TOM: Right.

    ROGER: There’s no interior growth, so you can’t cut it back. So the first step I do is I will open up small holes in the hedge to allow sunlight to get in the inside.

    LESLIE: Right.

    ROGER: And then it’ll start to sprout out. And then you can go back in Year 2 and cut it back even harder, in Year 3 cut it back yarder again and you’ll have a brand new hedge that – no longer 6 feet tall but what could be 3 feet tall.

    TOM: So reach down deep with those pruners, take out chunks, so to speak, of that hedge.

    ROGER: Yeah. Yep. And the reason …

    TOM: But strategically done and then it will sort of close in around those holes that you’re forming.

    ROGER: Right. And the reason we’re doing that is we don’t want it to look ugly. And the few holes that you point in – still, overall, it looks like the hedge.

    LESLIE: Now, what about the areas where you see the shoots of new growth? Do you want to just take off what you see as the new growth or leave those areas alone?

    ROGER: It depends whether you want the hedge to get wider or taller. Obviously, new growth coming from the bottom is going to make the hedge wider. If it’s already in a confined space, then you want to keep it trimmed down.

    If it can get wider, then you can use those to grow up and make the plant wider, if you’re just controlling the height and not worry about the width.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. But if you’re controlling the height, do you just take off the part that’s the new growth or do you go into the hedge a little bit?

    ROGER: You take old and new wood. That’s the only way.


    ROGER: Because, like I said, once you shear them to a certain height, you can’t reduce them anymore because they get so thick on the end.

    LESLIE: Right.

    TOM: Right.

    ROGER: It grows almost – looks like a hand spread apart. Then you come back the next year, you can’t cut in that close so you come out another inch or two. And it just grows and grows and grows.

    With the hand pruners, you can cut off a whole – one stem with all that fan shape on the end. And you’re opening up a hole. The growth will start on the inside. Then next year, you can reduce it even smaller.

    TOM: Now, is there a better time of year than others to do this sort of thing? Is it a good thing for the spring?

    ROGER: If you’re doing a real hard prune, I like to do it early in the spring before leaf out – before the buds open up. Because you can make big holes and then all of a sudden, the new growth comes out and fills it up.

    LESLIE: Fills up.

    TOM: Now, what about a sick hedge, one that’s not doing too well? Is there a way to sort of save it with better pruning?

    ROGER: Better pruning will help. There’s a number of things you’re going to look at. Is there an insect or something eating at the stem or a bore in the stem, which would make the plant sick? Is there too much mulch around it? Is that the problem? Is it not getting enough water? So, you would use pruning in combination with fertilizing and really looking at the plant to see why especially one or two are dying in the whole hedge row. And also, you want to prevent the whole hedge from dying, so you really want to get in there and figure out what’s going on.

    LESLIE: Alright. We’re talking to Roger Cook, the landscape contractor for TV’s This Old House.

    Now, Roger, aside from trimming, how often should you really fertilize your hedges? And is this really a similar schedule to what you’re looking at for your lawn or are they completely independent?

    ROGER: Totally different. Totally different. The lawn needs much more fertilizer than a hedge should. But the problem you have is if you fertilize a hedge, you’re making new growth, which may make more pruning, more maintenance. So, again, I would recommend you do a soil test on the soil where the hedge is and see what that tells you.

    LESLIE: Because that could be different than the soil for your lawn.

    ROGER: Exactly. It is definitely different. The lawn will tell you that it needs a lot of nitrogen and the plant will tell you, “I might not need so much nitrogen, because that’s just going to make me push new growth.”

    So, take and do a soil test and then add probably an organic to meet the requirements of the soil test. And that’ll just spread out the fertilizing over an extended period of time.

    TOM: Great advice. Roger Cook, the landscape contractor on TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    ROGER: Oh, I had a ball.

    LESLIE: Alright. You can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For local listings and step-by-step videos of many common home improvement projects, visit ThisOldHouse.com.

    TOM: And This Old House is brought to you by Lumber Liquidators. Lumber Liquidators, hardwood floors for less.

    Still to come, is the thought of homegrown vegetables sounding better and better? Well, if you’re ready to start a backyard garden, you want to make sure you’ve got the tools to do the job. We’ll tell you which ones are must-haves, next.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Foundry Specialty Siding. Foundry vinyl cedar siding gives your home the beauty of real cedar shake without the hassles and worries that come with wood siding. Foundry, unsurpassed beauty and strength. Find out more at FoundrySiding.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: And the number here is 888-MONEY-PIT. Now, one lucky caller who gets on the air with us today is going to win a great prize, perfect for your spring-cleaning season. We’ve got the Symphony All-in-One Vacuum and Steam Mop from Bissell.

    Now, what’s so cool about this is it’s really two products in one. Symphony is going to vacuum and steam-clean at the same time. And the powerful, cyclonic action is going to suck up any dry sort of caked-on debris that somehow gets on the floor and maybe doesn’t get picked up right away. I’m not saying that that happens but it happens.

    The steam heat is going to eliminate up to 99.9 percent of germs and bacteria, so you’re going to end up with a super-clean surface.

    TOM: And it only weighs about 10½ pounds, so it’s easy to take from room to room. It’s worth $219.

    It’s going to go to one caller we talk to on the air today. So, give us a call, right now, with your home improvement project. We’ll give you the advice to do the project and perhaps the vacuum you’ll need to clean up from the project, 888-666-3974.

    Well, are you thinking about some fresh summer veggies? I know I am. And it’s never been more popular to grow your own. Home gardening is a great way to save some money on grocery bills and even help maybe relieve a bit of stress. There’s nothing like getting down on your hands and knees and digging in that dirt at the end of a long, hard workday. You just want to make sure that you’ve got your garden-tool basics.

    First, you need a good garden spade. Now, it can be used for many lawn-and-garden chores but always invest in a quality tool because it’s going to last a lifetime. Don’t go cheap.

    Now, you might also want to think about a spading fork. This can be used to aerate and break up the dirt. Both the spade and the fork should be comfortable to hold. There are lots of tools out there now with new, well-designed, ergonomic handles that are really comfortable to hold and to use. And they’re not going to stress you out through the process of digging up that garden.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. You also want to make sure that you have a really good pair of gloves. You know, the old-fashioned, cotton garden gloves are inexpensive and they’ll certainly do the job. But you may want to invest in a newer, high-tech style that’s going to help shed off water and actually fit your hands and not kind of just float around your hand. You want it to actually fit like a glove.

    Now, much of the weeding and the vegetable picking is often done on your knees, so a good gardening knee pad is going to help you save your joints. Then you’re going to want your basic hand tools. You want a trowel, a cultivator or a hand rake and a weeding fork. If you plan your garden early, you’ll be harvesting your veggies for a fresh-picked salad by mid-summer. How great is that?

    TOM: Sounds awesome. 888-666-3974. Let’s get back to the phones.

    Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Phyllis from the Jersey Shore calling in. What can we do for you today?

    PHYLLIS: I am looking to purchase a home. And the problem is I’m looking at a very specific area because I don’t want to leave the current school district the children are in. And all the homes around here were built in the 60s. So my first question is: what should I look for in that era of home construction that might be a red flag? And also, the way the homes are all built, the bottom floor has radiant-floor heat and upstairs is hot-water baseboard. And I just – I can’t imagine that 50-year-old pipes are not going to go at some point. And I’m wondering, how do I make sure they’re OK or look for signs that they’re getting weak?

    TOM: So you’re basically looking for the good, the bad and the ugly of 1960s construction.

    PHYLLIS: Correct.

    TOM: And the story is that it’s actually a pretty good time for home construction. You had copper plumbing, you had decent wiring. Sometimes the services were a little small but if the homes were mostly natural gas, you really don’t need more than about 100 amps to power pretty much everything, including central air conditioning. And you’ve got hardwood floors. Very frequently, you had hardwood floors in 1960 houses. And it’s interesting because they put the hardwood floors in and they very promptly covered them with wall-to-wall carpet.

    LESLIE: With shag carpeting.

    TOM: Or shag, yeah. That’s right. Which actually protects them very nicely and didn’t allow them to wear. So, it’s a pretty good year for home construction.

    Now, because it’s a 50-year-old house, you’re obviously going to have – how old is the furnace? How old is the water heater? Stuff like that to consider. What’s the general maintenance been? But in terms of an era of home construction, I think it’s a really strong era.

    Now, if you’d asked me about the 80s, I would tell you, eh, not so much. Those houses were put together pretty fast and not always in the best possible way. But the 60s is a pretty good year for construction.

    PHYLLIS: Oh, good. Because I’m moving up. I live in an 80s house now.

    TOM: Oh, there you go. So you’re going to get better.

    In terms of that radiant heat, that’s probably one – the one weak link that that home has. But the thing is, you can’t really determine how far along it is and whether or not it’s going to break. It probably will eventually fail and when that happens, you’re going to be faced with a pretty costly repair. You’ll have to put in some sort of alternative heat system because it’s virtually impossible to repair those pipes in the slab.

    So the first floor of your house will either be running new baseboard pipes or you’ll be running electric radiant or you’ll be adding an air-to-water heat exchanger so that you can take hot water from the boiler, run it through a heat exchanger and blow air over it through your HVAC system, the same one you use to cool the house.

    But I wouldn’t obsess about that. I mean it’s probably going to happen eventually but it may not even happen in the time that you own this next house. So if you like the neighborhood, 1960s is a pretty good era for home construction.

    PHYLLIS: Great. That’s great news. Thank you so much.

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

    LESLIE: Still to come, a wet spring could mean water, water everywhere. So how do you deal with all that excess water in your yard? We’ll tell you how to dry out, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Leviton, the brand most preferred by builders for wiring devices and lighting controls. With a focus on safety, Leviton products are the smart solution for all your electrical needs.

    TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Visit us on Facebook to get in, right now, on our Go Green for Earth Day Sweepstakes. We’re giving away $1,000 in prizes from Staples to one lucky winner, including 500 bucks worth of Sustainable Earth by Staples products.

    LESLIE: Yeah. You know, this is an eco-friendly line which will help lessen your impact on the environment. And it includes everything from office supplies to cleaning products. Just “like” our page at Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit to enter. And don’t forget to share the sweeps for bonus entries.

    TOM: And while you’re online, you can post your home improvement question, like Sal in New Jersey did.

    LESLIE: Alright. And Sal writes: “I have a lot of low-lying spots in my yard with standing water. No water issues in the basement because I follow your advice about drainage. But I have these large puddles and very mushy, wet ground in my yard and I’m wondering if there’s anything I can do about it.”

    TOM: Yeah. Now, if you are following our advice about drainage, you’re probably keeping the water away from the foundation perimeter, which is good. But that means, of course, we’re directing more of it into your yard. So if your yard does not naturally have what’s known as a “swale,” which is an angle that sort of surrounds the house and allows the water to be sort of scooped up and run to a lower-lying area, what you might have to do, Sal, is put in something called a “curtain drain.”

    Now, it’s not a difficult drain to construct but essentially, what you’re going to do is you’re going to find that point – that low-lying point – and you’re going to dig a trench right down through the middle of it. The trench is going to be about 12 inches wide, maybe 12 to 15 inches deep.

    In that trench, you’re going to lay about 3 inches of stone, then a perforated PVC pipe, more stone, some filter cloth and then more dirt and grass seed. So, when it’s all said and done, you’re not going to see it.

    Now, the critical thing is that that pipe has got to pitch so that the water that falls into it – the water will fall into the trench as it comes from the higher areas. It’ll come up in the pipe, it will run down the length of the pipe and then exit somewhere lower than the yard that we’re trying to drain. So, you’ve got to figure that part out.

    Now, based on the angle of your house and your yard, you may talk – you may be dropping that water in towards the street or you’re dropping it into the backyard somewhere else. But that type of a curtain drain will soak up excess runoff from the yard, run it around the house and then discharge it at a lower point.

    LESLIE: OK. Lucy in Kansas is up and she writes: “What’s the best way to determine if I have a pest problem? I’m concerned about some soft spots at the base of my wooden fence. Could it be termites?”

    TOM: Sure, it definitely could be termites. But you know what? That’s what termites do and it doesn’t matter if it’s a fence or a piece of wood laying on the ground. That doesn’t mean you have a pest problem with your house.

    The best thing to do is to have an annual pest inspection done. And this way, a pro can check for termite infestations, carpenter ants, powderpost beetles, all sorts of wood-destroying insects, as well as address any questions about maybe crickets or anything else that’s sort of bothering you.

    I think a regular service contract – an annual inspection – is not a bad thing to do, just to kind of manage the infestations and keep everything under control. But just because you have a problem outside the house, in the yard, doesn’t mean you have the same issue in your house. Termites are one of Mother Nature’s tools for getting rid of dead wood. And it doesn’t matter if it’s a fence post or a dead tree, it’s all the same to the termite.

    LESLIE: Yeah. But they’re still not someone you want at your money pit.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. We’re just about out of time but before we go, I want to remind you that if you’ve got a question, you can log on to MoneyPit.com, post that question in the Community section or simply post it to our Facebook page.

    The fun thing about doing that is that besides Leslie and I chiming in with an answer, you’re also going to get some feedback from the entire community of Money Pit listeners out there. We’re all taking on projects one way or another. Everyone has something to offer and perhaps you’re going to get your answer to that project very quickly by doing that at MoneyPit.com or to the Money Pit Facebook page at Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit.

    The show continues online and on air. 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.


    (Copyright 2014 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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