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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: Happy New Years, everybody. It is the season to renew your home improvement pledge; to take that home improvement resolution. We know there’s a project that you want to get done around your house and we pledge to help you do just that. Well, you know, sticking to those New Year’s resolutions though, they can be a little tricky; especially if they involve, say, losing weight.

    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Yeah. (chuckles)

    TOM: I say that the resolutions for your house are a lot easier to tackle and we can certainly help you do just that.

    LESLIE: Well, I can certainly find less excuses to not do work on my house, that’s for sure. (both chuckle) And well, we see merchants this time of year, in this economy, are not accepting returns that they usually would after the holidays. Usually you’d be like, “Man, I don’t want this.” “No problem. Here’s a store credit.” Not so much in this economy. We’re going to tell you what you to need to know to make sure that you aren’t stuck with a gift that you don’t need or actually can’t use.

    TOM: And, after all of that holiday cooking and all of those trips, by family and friends, to the bathroom, perhaps you’ve been considering one more improvement to that space: a bathroom fan.

    LESLIE: Gross, Tom. (both laugh)

    TOM: Not only do they keep moisture down; they help clear the air in there, too (Leslie laugh); and, if you install it right, it will actually do that. We’re going to share some tips on how to get that project done, in just a bit. Yeah, I might as well jump right off the ship, go right for it, get it out there. Y’all know what I’m talking about. We’re going to fix that. We’re going to fix that. (chuckles)

    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Yeah, yeah, yeah. And you know what? If you vent it into the attic, you’re getting to get stuck with a moist and very stinky attic space. (both chuckle)

    Alright, folks. Well, we want to start off some lucky listener’s kitchen renovation at this hour. We’re giving away a brushed stainless steel sink from Blanco. You guys know I’m a fan of Blanco.

    TOM: It’s worth 300 bucks, so call us right now. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Let’s get right to those phones, 888-666-3974, for the first home improvement solution of the year.

    Leslie, who’s up?

    LESLIE: John in Connecticut needs some help in the bathroom. What can we do for you?

    ANN: I’m sorry. My husband had to leave and it’s me, now, on the phone. (laughs)

    LESLIE: (chuckling) OK.

    TOM: OK, what’s your name?

    ANN: He has no patience. (Tom and Leslie chuckle) That’s always what’s wrong with the toilet. (all laugh) The toilet runs unless you jiggle it; jiggle the little handle. And we can’t seem to get it fixed anywhere. Maybe it’s old and the parts aren’t available but is there something that we can do besides getting a new one?

    TOM: Yes. Now you say the parts are not available anywhere? Have you tried the Fluidmaster website?

    ANN: Fluidmaster? No.

    TOM: Yeah, Fluidmaster is a good brand. They make toilet guts, essentially, for almost any fixture in the country. What’s happening is you need a new fill-and-flush valve, which are easily replaceable and …

    LESLIE: And inexpensive, too.

    TOM: And inexpensive and not a difficult project either. I mean if your husband is a bit handy, he could probably do it himself.

    ANN: Yeah, he is. He can do it, probably. So it’s a fill-and-flush valve?

    TOM: It’s a …

    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Impatient but handy. (Ann laughs)

    TOM: (chuckling) Yes.

    ANN: Oh, you know him, huh? (chuckles)

    TOM: (overlapping voices) Fill-and-flush valve.

    ANN: OK, so it’s a fill-and-flush valve and I can get it online at Fluidmaster.

    TOM: Fluidmaster.com or it’s – they’re also sold at hardware stores and home centers all over the place.

    ANN: Great. OK. Well, thank you very much. This is something we’ve been working – you know, talking about and never getting fixed.

    TOM: Alright, well tell John he should have stayed on the phone because now he’s got a project to do. (Leslie chuckles)

    ANN: I know. See?

    TOM: Alright, Ann. Have a good day. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Gary in Missouri is dealing with a dusty heating system. What can we help you with?

    GARY: We are trying to put in an air purification system …

    TOM: OK.

    GARY: … in reference to maybe 3,000 square foot: upstairs, 1,800; bottom stairs of course – the bottom would be 1,200.

    TOM: OK.

    GARY: Our furnace is in a corner of the house. Do we put one on the furnace or do we just go with the ones that are for individual rooms?

    TOM: Oh, no question about it, you go for the furnace. Because you’ve got a built-in distribution system there. It doesn’t matter that it’s in the corner of the house. It’s connected by a duct system to the entire house. So you never want to use a space – a portable air cleaner. You want to put one that’s centrally installed that works for the entire house.

    Now, do you have one heating system for the entire house or do you have two zones?

    GARY: We have one heating system, propane; and then we heat with wood – wood stove outside.

    TOM: OK. So do you have a forced air system?

    GARY: Yes.

    TOM: So it’s a wood furnace, then?

    GARY: Uh-huh…

    TOM: OK.

    GARY: No, the furnace is propane. I’m sorry.

    TOM: The furnace is propane. So do you use the propane for your heat or do you use the wood stove for your heat or both?

    GARY: We can use both if we choose but we …

    TOM: OK. Well, the best thing here is to use the propane furnace; install the electronic air cleaner into that; and then, when you want to – you know, make sure you run the furnace when you want to run the air cleaner or just run the fan.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Yeah, you don’t have to have the heat on to run the air purifier. You can run the fan. This way it works all year round, you can put it on – I know Aprilaire has the Model 5000 and I think their fancy thermostat, if you will, or the gauge that’ll be on your wall has even a setting where if you’re having a party it’ll cycle on for a couple of hours beforehand; you know, extra to make sure that it’s really doing a good job of cleaning out the air.

    And what’s so important – you know, the difference between the portable and the one that’s installed into your furnace is the portable one, imagine all the air in that room has to sort of circulate past that unit to actually get cleaned. And you know what? It’s not going to. You’re not going to get the air from the other side of the room all the way over to that unit. You would essentially need four; you know, one in each corner and one in the center to do the job that the whole-house air cleaner would.

    TOM: It’s much more efficient to use a whole-house system. OK, Gary?

    GARY: That’s great to know.

    TOM: Alright?

    GARY: I appreciate that very much.

    TOM: You’re very welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

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

    Happy New Year, everybody. Alright, welcome 2010; if you can believe it. My goodness. And I bet you have 2010 things on your to-do list; so let us give you a hand with that 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Just give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Now, if one of your 2010 resolutions is to lose 20 pounds, forget it; it ain’t going to happen. (Leslie chuckles) However, we’re going to give you a New Year’s resolution for your home that’s a heck of a lot easier to keep. We’ll tell you how, next.

    (theme song)

    TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to the Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show where home solutions live. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete and you should be part of The Money Pit; so go over to your phone, pick it up and give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. We’ve got a great prize, especially if you are tackling a kitchen makeover. We’re giving away this hour, to one lucky caller who gets on the air with us, a sink from Blanco. Now this is their STELLAR line and it’s an 18-gage stainless steel sink and it’s in a refined brush finish. It’s worth 300 bucks. It’s a fantastic sink. I’ve got one myself. I’ve had it for six years. It still looks awesome.

    If you want to check out what they look like, head on over to BlancoAmerica.com for more information. And again, one lucky caller is going to win this prize; so give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. And we know that, by now, you feel like you’ve been on a weekend holiday spree that’s lasted about 10 days. But it’s all going to be over come next week and you might be at the point of time when you’re thinking about those New Year’s resolutions. And if you’re afraid you won’t stick to them, you’re probably right. (Leslie chuckles) However, we’ve got an easier one.

    If you want to lose weight, why not put your house on a diet? You know, it’s a good time to think about decluttering rooms and closets. You can easily drop 20 pounds just by moving one thing. How about that? You can tell all your friends and your family, “Hey, I dropped 20 pounds – on my foot” if you’re not careful. (Leslie chuckles) But that’s an easy way to do that.

    You know, another thing that’s a good thing to do right now is to have your HVAC system evaluated because even though the heating system has been working and chugging along, if it wasn’t tuned up in the last three months, it’s probably wasting energy because these things will still come on and heat your house even though they’re doing so inefficiently. So, put that on your home improvement New Year’s resolutions list and, with a little bit of resolve, you’ll probably start the year off just right.

    LESLIE: Well, for this month, anyway. (chuckles)

    TOM: Exactly. 888-666-3974. And by the way, if you continue to be motivated to do these sort of quick, easy projects, we’ve got a great article called “January Weekend Projects” online right now at MoneyPit.com.

    Let’s get back to the phones. Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: Alright, next up we’ve got Rick in Delaware who’s dealing with some stains on the roof. Tell us about them.

    RICK: I was told they’re algae stains or black stains; the little stains that you see on rooftops.

    TOM: Yep.

    RICK: Yeah. I’ve got some information; different ways to get rid of it.

    TOM: OK.

    RICK: I wanted your opinion.

    TOM: Sure.

    RICK: I was told zinc – some kind of zinc strips or copper strips. Would that be right?

    TOM: Yep. Mm-hmm, that’s correct. But that’s only part of the solution. What you want to do first is you want to treat it with a mildicide. You can get a commercially-available mildicide at any home improvement store or hardware store; sometimes they’re sold as siding wash or deck wash. And that’s going to treat the plant growth itself that’s causing this.

    You apply the mildicide, let it soak for a little bit; maybe get up there with a broom if you can walk on it and abrade it. Rinse it off and, after the roof is clean, then you can add zinc strips or copper strips; perhaps across the ridge vent. And the reason you’re putting that there is because as the rain water hits it, it releases some zinc, it releases some copper into the rainwater; it washes down the roof and that acts as a mildicide as well and keeps it clean for the long run.

    That’s why sometimes when you look up at a roof that has a chimney and, say, copper flashing or zinc flashing, you’ll see like white streaks under it. That’s the effect of the water hitting the flashing and washing down over that roof. It’ll clean that spot.

    RICK: Oh, I see. Yeah, you’re right because I do have copper around my chimney.

    TOM: Yep, and that’s what’s going on.

    RICK: OK. Thank you.

    TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Gloria in Illinois is doing some work to her 1960s house in the kitchen. What can we help you with?

    GLORIA: Yes. Number one, I love your program. I think you’re both just great.

    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Thanks, Gloria.

    TOM: (overlapping voices) Thank you very much. You obviously don’t know us very well. (Leslie chuckles)

    GLORIA: (chuckles) I do. I’ve been listening a long time.

    TOM: OK, how can we help you?

    GLORIA: I want to know if I can put an identical countertop over one in good condition just to change color.

    TOM: Sure.

    LESLIE: Like you want to put a new laminate down? You want to paint what you’ve got? You want to keep the same shape?

    GLORIA: Yeah.

    LESLIE: All of it.

    GLORIA: All of it identical; just change the color. I want to put a new one over the old one. Can you do that without tearing out the old one?

    LESLIE: Oh, absolutely. I mean if you’re looking to relaminate, you’re right; the approach is fantastically simple. You can have a pro do it. It’s something that if you’ve got the right tools you can do yourself. Laminates are available. There are several companies: Formica, Wilsonart. I mean there’s a ton if you search them out online or even just go to a kitchen showroom and you can get sheets of the laminate.

    And what you would do is you would use contact cement and you would put it on both surfaces – the existing countertop and the backside of the new laminate – and then you let it sort of get tacky and then you place the new one on top of the old one. And I’ve done this before; where you sometimes – you know, once everything gets tacky, you can put little dowels in between the two to sort of roll them out to make sure that they stick in the right spot; because once that contact cement gets in contact with each other, it is super-stuck. So that’s one way to do it.

    There’s also a new product out from Rust-Oleum which is called Countertop Colors. And usually I wouldn’t say paint a kitchen countertop but Rust-Oleum makes fantastic products that adhere really well and are super-durable and they offer, I think it’s 16 different colors on a painting process that you can paint over your existing countertop; you know, just as a temporary fix or a permanent change for a while until you decide if you want to change the material or you find the laminate that you love. And it’s an inexpensive kit.

    TOM: And it’s an easy thing to do.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: I’ve got to tell you, Gloria, while I commend the idea of relaminating the top, it is a lot of work. Because let’s face it, you ask can you do this without removing the top. Well, you can but it’s really tricky and, frankly, you absolutely have to remove the sink. So you’ve got to disconnect the plumbing …

    LESLIE: And the faucets.

    TOM: … and the faucets and, by the time you do all that, you’re about a half-a-dozen screws away from pulling the whole top; which is the easiest way to do this. So, if you want to just change the color, you might want to try that Rust-Oleum paint product, which is great. If you want to laminate it, you’re going to have to go all the way and probably take it off because you’ll find that it’s just easier to work around. Because remember, even when you put the laminate down, you’re going to have to trim it to make it all fit and it’s just easier when it’s not on the wall.

    LESLIE: You know, Gloria, when you go to apply the new laminate, remember: you’re going to have to plunge-cut with, say, a router to cut out where the sink is going to go. This way, you end up with no seams on a long run of your countertop.

    There’s also a new product from a company called Modern Masters and they’ve put out a kit that looks like granite. Now that’s a little bit more on the pricey end. I think that guy is like $250 for the kit but it really does look like granite.

    TOM: (overlapping voices) Yeah, something like that.

    LESLIE: So there are some options, if you want to try something that you hadn’t thought about.

    TOM: Gloria, I hope that helps you out. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Bill in Texas has a leak in the foyer. What’s going on? Tell us about the problem.

    BILL: Oh, I built – my slab was poured in 1980. And in the foyer, we – at the same time they poured the slab, they poured, I guess, a sunken flower holder. And water seeps up through it; through the bottom.

    TOM: Yeah. OK.

    BILL: And it’s coming in where they put the 2-bys around; edge-ways to put the form to it.

    TOM: Yeah, they formed it. OK.

    BILL: Yeah.

    TOM: When you have an excessive amount of water and it collects on the outside of this area, what happens is it’s going to puddle; it’s going to saturate into the concrete. Concrete is very hydroscopic; it means it soaks the water up like crazy. And so it’s drawing into the concrete and ponding inside your house and your foyer area.

    So, what you need to do is look at the drainage situations outside this area. You want to make sure you’ve got a gutter collecting water that comes off the roof. You also want to make sure that the soil around the house has a clear path to drain away. So, in other words, it can’t be boxed in by bushes or brick edging or railroad ties or landscape beds or anything like that. You want it to slope clear, clean away from the wall.

    The way you’re going to stop this is not by putting stuff on the concrete to try to seal it like a boat. The way you’re going to stop this is by stopping the water from getting there in the first place. So this is a water management problem that you need to solve.

    BILL: Alrighty. Appreciate it.

    TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Catherine in Oregon is doing some work on the bathroom. How can we help you today?

    CATHERINE: Yes, we’re having a friendly difference of opinion on how to place or where to place mirrors. (Leslie chuckles)

    TOM: Nicely put. (chuckles)

    CATHERINE: Oh, OK. Well, thank you. We tiled the countertops and then – and we have a backsplash that is also tiled. And on top of the backsplash there is like a 3/4-inch wood molding.

    TOM: Right.

    CATHERINE: My husband and son would like to set the mirrors just right on top of that molding. And my opinion is that they should go above.

    LESLIE: How big are the mirrors? What are the dimensions and how tall are your family members?

    CATHERINE: They’re about 5′; 5’8″ is the tallest. The mirrors are 24″x36″.

    LESLIE: I don’t see any …

    TOM: 24″x36″?

    LESLIE: Yeah, I don’t see any purpose for putting it directly on top of the molding. I think, aesthetically, that’s not going to look so fantastic.

    TOM: Right.

    CATHERINE: OK.

    LESLIE: I would probably give somewhere between a 3 to 6-inch gap because you’re dealing with a 3-foot-tall mirror and that’ll put your face somewhere in the middle of the mirror. It makes sense for the layout.

    CATHERINE: OK.

    LESLIE: But I don’t think aesthetically there is a reason. You know, if it’s a ginormous mirror and the only way to get it because it’s not going to fit in the ceiling is to have it sit on that molding, then alright; I could understand it. But otherwise, I feel like it’s weird.

    TOM: Now, are you adding any additional lighting?

    CATHERINE: The old lighting was a slag light that had just an outlet in the middle of that sink area or the wall area. And I think what we’re going to do is put a bar light.

    TOM: Right.

    CATHERINE: So I think that there’ll be room. We haven’t purchased it yet but should we maybe purchase that first before we place our mirrors?

    TOM: I think that that would be a good idea because this way you can get it just right in between the two.

    CATHERINE: OK.

    TOM: Because once you set that mirror, you don’t want to have to do it again.

    CATHERINE: OK.

    LESLIE: And I don’t know if I would go with a single bar light in between the two mirrors, Catherine. I feel like you’re going to end up with some dark spots. And you know, when you’re dealing with a bath, you want proper lighting for shaving, for makeup application. And then of course you want the ability to use a dimmer to have softer lighting if you want to take a relaxing bath. But I feel like, with double mirrors, it’s either a good idea to do three fixtures – like sconces: one on either side outside of the mirrors and then one in the center; or two individual bar lights above each of the mirrors with down-lighting – because you want to be able to see what you’re doing – and then I might go with like a high-hat or two in the ceiling just to give me more light that’s not so much task lighting. This way, the fixtures get to be decorative but then you have an appropriate amount of light.

    CATHERINE: Oh, well that’s very interesting. I hadn’t considered that. So, I’m very glad I called.

    TOM: Alright, Catherine. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show.

    Up next, are mold and mildew taking over your bathroom? Find out how to make it go away for good, next.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Therma-Tru Doors, the nation’s leading manufacturer of fiberglass entry and patio door systems. Install a new, energy-efficient Therma-Tru door today and qualify for up to a $1,500 tax credit. To learn more, visit ThermaTru.com/TaxCredit.

    TOM: Where home solutions live, welcome back to the Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Happy New Year, everybody. If you’re looking for a project to do this weekend, search MoneyPit.com for New Year’s resolutions for your home. We promise they’ll be easier to tackle than losing weight or telling your friend to get lost. Whatever is your resolution, this will be easier.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. Call us right now with your home improvement question. Let’s get right back to the phones.

    Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: Jeff in West Virginia, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?

    JEFF: I’m looking to buy a home and I want to know if there’s some – if you can tell if the home has been remodeled or added onto. Because this home is very nice but it has new siding on it and it might be hiding where it’s been added onto.

    TOM: There’s a couple of things that you can do, Jeff. First of all, before you buy a house you want to make sure you get a professional home inspection because an inspector can discover a lot of that stuff for you. Sometimes there’s very subtle things that a pro can see that will give you some history. If you want to find a good home inspector, go to the website for the American Society of Home Inspectors – it’s ASHI.org – and put in your zip code and you can find a bunch of inspectors that way; then interview them and pick somebody that makes you comfortable.

    LESLIE: And Jeff, it’s so important to find an inspector this way. Don’t go with somebody that the realtor recommends or that the homeowner who’s selling the house recommends because you want to be able to get a completely unbiased interpretation of that house.

    TOM: Now, the next thing you can do is you can go down to town hall and you can ask for the building permit file on the home. This is a public record, so anyone can walk in and ask for it. And this way, you can investigate whether or not there were permits. Especially if it looks pretty clear like there was some recent work done, there ought to be a building permit that was secured before that work was done; there ought to have been inspections. So you can check all that by pulling the permits at town hall.

    LESLIE: Well, you might think that there is no way to escape mold and mildew in your bathroom; you know, not with all that moisture that occurs in there. But bath fans go a long way in keeping moist air to a minimum.

    TOM: Well, that’s right. But you have to know the size you need and how and when to use one. Let’s get that info now from Kevin O’Connor and Tom Silva from TV’s This Old House.

    And Kevin, you know, cleaning mold and mildew can become a thing of the past with the right ventilation. Correct?

    KEVIN: You got that right. Nobody likes cleaning mold and mildew in a bathroom but that job can be made a bit easier if the moisture from a shower or a bathtub is vented out quickly. And you can do that with a properly-sized and properly-installed bathroom fan.
     

    TOM SILVA: Right, bathroom fans are very important. It lessens the chance of moisture that can take hold in the bathroom and mildew can grow and mold will grow. And run the fan longer than you take a shower. What I like to do is I like to put a 60-minute timer in a bathroom so that when you get in the bath and you turn the fan on, it’s going to run for 60 minutes. So when you leave that bathroom, all that warm, moist air is going to be drawn out of the bathroom.

    And it’s very important that you don’t vent the bathroom into an attic or through a soffit. That warm, moist air will get collected into the attic under the underside of the cold sheathing and it condenses. It’ll also wet the insulation and make it more inefficient.
     

    KEVIN: So it’s important to get the exhaust outside.

    Is it true that some building codes don’t require a bath fan to be installed if there’s a window in a bathroom?

    TOM SILVA: Yeah, but that presumes when you get out of the shower you’re going to open up the window in the middle of the winter and let all the cold air in. And more important, you’ve got to remember to close a window when you leave the bathroom. So a bathroom fan is very, very important.

    KEVIN: Alright. Well, if you need more information, there are several videos about bathroom fans on our website at ThisOldHouse.com.

    TOM: Guys, I’ve got to tell you that that 60-minute timer would not be enough in my house with my teenagers. (chuckles)

    KEVIN: Yeah. You’re right, Tom.

    TOM: Tom Silva, Kevin O’Connor, thanks for stopping by The Money Pit.

    KEVIN: My pleasure.

    LESLIE: Yeah, and you know, speaking of teenagers, they’re a noisy bunch. I mean I’ve been over Tom’s house and that house is noisy all the time. Well, if you’re thinking that a bath fan is going to be noisy like Tom’s kids, they really aren’t. There are so many new models with bath fans out there that are super-duper-duper quiet and you might actually get some peace and quiet from those kids.

    TOM: Yeah, probably not. (Leslie chuckles) But that’s why I keep my headphones around; wear them around the house when it gets really, really noisy.

    TOM: What?! Can’t hear you!

    TOM: Well, for more great tips, you can watch Kevin and Tommy on TV’s This Old House. And This Old House is brought to you by State Farm. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.

    Still ahead, trading in what you don’t want for something you can really use. We’re going to help you navigate post-holiday returns, after this.

    (theme song)

    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: Pick up the phone and give us a call right now. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. If we talk to you this hour on the program, your name will be tossed in the Money Pit hardhat and you could win our weekly prize giveaway. We’re giving away, this hour, the STELLAR sink by Blanco America. It’s a beautiful stainless steel sink. Maybe it’ll start your kitchen renovation project, if you win this. It’s worth 300 bucks, so give us a call right now with your home improvement question. We want to hear from you at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Boy, that sink; that would have been a super-duper Christmas gift to receive.

    TOM: Yeah, sorry. But I had to save it for the audience.

    LESLIE: No, but seriously; it’s like that’s a good gift. You know, I feel like every year, once the holidays pass and you sort of have an opportunity to go over all of the gifts that you’ve received – and thankfully so; I mean I’m always happy; I never like to be looking a gift horse in the mouth; I’m always thankful when somebody thinks of me. But it always happens; I end up not feeling the love for that maybe orange-striped crop-top sweater that my sister gave me and would have much rather had a power tool that I’ve been eyeing; say, compressor and brad nailer, Tom. (clears throat)

    TOM: You know, it was very nice of you to blame your sister for giving you the orange sweater but, really, I should take responsibility for that. (Leslie chuckles) It’s OK. My feelings aren’t hurt. (chuckles)

    LESLIE: Well, you know, I’m sorry I didn’t like it. But seriously, what do you do? I mean you’re at a point now where you’ve got a stack of things, perhaps, that you don’t like and you want to return them. Well, in this economy, it can be kind …

    TOM: It’s tough.

    LESLIE: Yeah, it can be kind of tricky. People aren’t taking things back as easily as they used to. So we’ve got some tips that we want to share to make your return transaction a lot smoother.

    First of all, the sooner the better. You decide right away you don’t like it, take it back; because most stores will be most forgiving these few weeks right after Christmas. And if you don’t happen to have a receipt, make sure you don’t cut the tags or anything associated with where it was purchased, what it is from that item. And if there’s any packaging, bring it with it; because if you don’t bring the packaging back, chances are they’re not going to take it back.

    And it’s also important to hang onto that sales slip and be sure to check the return policy that’s usually printed on it. Try on the back because that’s usually where it is.

    TOM: Now, things like clothing that comes from department and discount stores, they tend to offer the longest grace periods; while electronics and appliance chains have the, typically, shortest returns. Some of the these stores, when you walk out the door, sorry; we got your money, you got our stuff, that’s it, have a nice life. However, right now, you may want to be real patient because there’s tough rules on open packages and restocking fees. If you’re persistent though and polite, that’s going to maximize the chance that some of these stores will take back some of those products. And then you can go out and buy the hand tools we know you really wanted to have.

    888-666-3974. Give us a call right now with your home improvement question. Let’s get back to the phones.

    Alright, now we’ve got Terri in Mississippi who’s got a 1920s house and is looking to modernize the bath with river rock. How can we help with the project?

    TERRI: Well, I wanted to know if it was feasible, what do you use to hold it down and do you grout it. (chuckles)

    LESLIE: Hmm. I’ve used river rock on an exterior application. I did it in sort of a covered walkway up to a house in Florida. It’s beautiful. Is your bath sort of like an open shower? Does it have a spa-like feeling or are we talking about a half-bath off a kitchen?

    TERRI: No, it’s a full bath but it’s a very, very old house and we’re having the problem of not being able to use ceramic tile or travertine or anything because it’s so unlevel and we’ve tried to level it and the house is still sinking, evidently.

    TOM: Oh, so it’s still moving.

    TERRI: Yes, it’s still moving after all of these years.

    TOM: Most old houses have uneven floors and the solution to that is the same solution they’ve been using for probably close to 100 years and that’s the mud floor where you pour a thin layer of concrete about an inch thick. It’s actually called …

    LESLIE: To even out the space.

    TOM: That’s right and it’s a mud floor or a mortar floor and that’s reinforced with woven wire mesh which helps it absorb a little bit of the movement in the house. And that makes it perfectly flat. That’s why sometimes bathrooms have a little bit of a higher saddle when you walk up to them.

    LESLIE: That’s why my kitchen is two inches higher than the rest of the house. (chuckles)

    TERRI: (overlapping voices) Right.

    TOM: (overlapping voices) Yeah, in an older house. So that’s an opportunity for you if you want to do that. Of course river rock is an option as well and it’s kind of cool but, you know, it has certain areas where it fits well and other areas where it doesn’t.

    LESLIE: Now Tom, when you’re doing a mud floor as your base for tile …

    TOM: Yes.

    LESLIE: … do you use that as your mastic or do you let that set and then put a tile adhesive on top of that?

    TOM: No, you let that set and dry, completely dry, and then you use a thinset adhesive on top of that and that adheres it to the mud floor. But I’m telling you, it’s a lifetime floor when you do it right. I mean it’s gorgeous.

    LESLIE: And Terri, the river rock, I mean it’s beautiful. You can purchase it from a variety of vendors. I’ve seen it at home centers. I’ve seen it online. I think when I got it I bought it online; because this was a few years back before it was kind of, you know, a mainstay and a trend.

    TERRI: Well, I’m going to do it. Everyone thought I was crazy …

    LESLIE: It’s gorgeous.

    TERRI: … but I moved to this small town a few years ago and – because I liked the land – and I found this old house and I’ve been working on it for years but I think that would be beautiful.

    TOM: Well, go with your gut, Terri. You will definitely be the talk of the town.

    TERRI: (laughs) I already am. (all chuckle)

    TOM: I believe it. Terri, thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: John in Kentucky needs some help with a garage door. Tell us about the problem.

    JOHN: I’m calling about my garage door. I’ve got a house that’s 40 years old and I think the garage door is the same age.

    TOM: (overlapping voices) OK.

    JOHN: It’s wooden and the house has settled on the corners of the driveway and now I’m starting to get gaps. And not only that; part of the garage door is rotting at the bottom.

    TOM: Hmm. OK.

    JOHN: And I’m worried because the gaps are getting big enough for our little dog, Buster; he can get through it. And also, other critters can get in, you know? So, we don’t really want to pay a lot of money right now to replace it, so I was wanting to know what we could do to fix it; to make a stop-gap measure. And then, also, I don’t know anything about garage doors.

    TOM: Well, a wooden door is – you know, they’re a traditional garage door and they are very durable. They also happen to be very, very heavy. The good news is, in your situation, that you probably have a fairly wide and thick bottom rail to that door which actually can be cut to the shape of the now settled garage floor.

    JOHN: (overlapping voices) Yes.

    TOM: If you were to take, say, a block of wood like …

    LESLIE: And there’s enough sort of on the top to allow for this new part to come down?

    TOM: Yeah, because we’re only going to take a little bit off. Basically, you’re only going to take off as much wood from the high side as the gap on the low side; if that makes sense to you.

    JOHN: Right. OK.

    TOM: You can take like a compass and you can scribe it by holding the metal part of the compass against the floor and drawing a straight line across the door. What’ll happen is that compass will follow the angle of the floor and transcribe the line up on the door and that would be the cut line. So you only want to take off enough to level it out. And you could probably do it with a jigsaw and the door kind of half in the air; sort of blocked open. And then …

    JOHN: OK, really – so a jigsaw would do it.

    TOM: Sure. And then what you want to do is sand it and smooth it all out. You’re going to add some new weatherstripping to the whole bottom edge of that door and that should work really well. It’ll come down. It’ll be nice and tight and it’ll seal it up.

    JOHN: OK, great. Well, thank you all for your time. I really appreciate it.

    TOM: You’re welcome, John. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to the Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Happy New Year, everybody. Alright, welcome Baby New Year 2010.

    Up next, we are going to help one listener who’s facing a dishwasher dilemma. Why is there standing water in the bottom and how the heck can we get rid of it? We’re going to share the information, when we come back.

    (theme song)

    TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to the Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com; your source for the solution to your home improvement resolutions. Easier to do than losing weight or balancing a checkbook (Leslie chuckles) and guaranteed that you have us to help you every step of the way.

    I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete and if you want to be with us every step of the way, why not follow us on Facebook? If you’re not a member or you’re not a fan yet, there’s a really super-simple way to do it. Just text “Fan the Money Pit” to FBOOK at 32665. It’s really simple and you can do it right from your cell phone and you will be instantly added as a fan of the Money Pit. Of course, you’ve got to pay those standard text messaging charges but you know what they are from your company; especially if you’ve got teens like Tom who are text addicts.

    TOM: Yeah, we moved to the unlimited plan after the first texting bill came in. (chuckles)

    LESLIE: And I bet your daughter is the worst. (chuckles)

    Alright, folks. Well, while you’re online, if you want to e-mail us a question you can do so by clicking on the Ask Tom and Leslie icon at MoneyPit.com.

    Alright, here we go. We’ve got one from Kay in New York who writes: “My dishwasher always has a small amount of water left in the bottom at the end of a wash cycle. Any tips on how to fix this?”

    TOM: Well, typically, most dishwashers do have a small amount of water; so I’m kind of wondering how much you consider a small amount. Now, if it’s just a little bit in the (inaudible at 0:33:54.6) area of the bottom of the dishwasher, I wouldn’t worry about it. However, if you ever get the full bottom of the dishwasher that fills with water, that’s usually because the float is stuck in the up position. There’s a little float in the bottom of every dishwasher …

    LESLIE: Like in the toilet?

    TOM: Yeah, kind of like that; except this one is sort of like a little cone and if you grab it with your hand it’ll move up and down. And I find that if it happens and you move it up and down and you spin it a couple of times and maybe even hit it with the sprayer on the kitchen sink, you’ll flush out the stuff that gets stuck inside of it and it’ll …

    LESLIE: That’s keeping it up.

    TOM: … and it’ll do what it’s supposed to do; go down and stop the water from filling up that space.

    LESLIE: Alright. I hope that helps, Kay. Next up we’ve got one from Carol in Philadelphia who writes: “I have a green substance forming on an outside brick wall below the roof at every spot where the roof metal flashings meet.”

    TOM: OK.

    LESLIE: I had the flat roof recoated and new flashings done 18 months ago. A new roofer has said that there was no fabric installed by the prior roofer, along this parapet wall, and that there were cracks and openings in the parapet wall area. He does not know what is causing this green slime on my brick wall below, which is getting worse. Do you have any ideas?”

    TOM: Well, if you’ve got a leak or perhaps even not – because a brick wall is going to hold so much water and then it’s going to sort of exfoliate right back out. You know we get calls all the time about mineral deposits and things like that that show up inside walls. You’re going to have this wet, brick wall – if this is a shady side of your house, what you probably have forming there is moss; because you get seeds and spores that attach to the wall and it’s a nice, damp surface and if it’s – especially if you’ve got a little bit of roof leak above it that’s feeding it, it’s probably moss. So here’s what I would do.

    Number one, I would check the roof flashings because if you do have some cracks and if it’s not flashed right then it’s going to get worse. Secondly, I would clean off what you have; you would treat it with a bleach solution; then you would pressure wash it. And thirdly, take a look at the shade situation around the house and if you can cut back a few branches, let a little more light on that wall, that’s the best natural mildicide out; is the sunshine. If you let it get there, then it’ll stop that.

    LESLIE: Alright, Sally in Michigan is looking for a way to get hot water to their kitchen sink, which is a long way from the water heater, faster.

    TOM: A tankless water heater. Good option. They’re small. They fit in closets. Because there’s a shorter run, Sally, you won’t have to wait nearly as long. Most people will put two in: one on the second floor near the bathroom; and then one down at the first floor for, say, the kitchen and the washing machine.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Yeah, Sally, that’s a really good option and a lot of those water heaters would qualify for the federal energy tax credit; so take a look while you’re shopping around.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. Hope that you had a wonderful holiday season and that you are ready to set forth and work on your money pit in the coming year. Let us come along; let us help you, because we are in the money pit prevention business. We will do the project together.

    I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …

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

    (theme song)

    END HOUR 1 TEXT

    (Copyright 2009 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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