Occupancy Sensing Switches Add Safety and Savings, Spruce Up Your Outdoor Living Space, Choose the Right Vacuum for Your Needs, and more
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: And we are here to help you with your home improvement projects. So help yourself first; pick up the phone and call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
Coming up on today’s show, if spending so much time indoors may have left your outdoor area, perhaps, a little neglected, we’re going to have some tips on how you can spruce up that space for spring and turn your backyard into a showplace you’ll be proud of.
LESLIE: And if you find yourself fighting the battle of dirt and dust way too often, it may not be your cleaning skills. You might have just chosen the wrong vacuum. I like that: blame the vacuum; don’t blame the vacuumer. That is an excellent idea.
We’re going to share some tips on choosing the right kind for your needs.
TOM: And we’re also going to tell you about how a simple sensing switch can save you money and keep you from stumbling around in the dark. It’s actually called an “occupancy sensor.” It takes only about 15 minutes to install and we’re going to tell you about a free class that’s going to be happening at over 2,000 Home Depot locations on March 21st, that will teach you exactly how to install it yourself.
LESLIE: And not only that but we’re also going to give away one of those Maestro Occupancy-Sensing Switches from Lutron, as well as a Skylark Contour CFL LED Dimmer to one caller. And they’re worth about 45 bucks.
TOM: So if you want to get in on that giveaway, pick up the phone and call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. That prize package will go out to one caller that reaches us for today’s show, drawn at random. The number, again, 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Let’s get to it.
Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Joe in Illinois, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
JOE: I have a single-story house that’s got hot water. I’ve got a boiler with a hot-water heat baseboard. And about eight years ago, I had air – central air conditioning installed.
JOE: And when they did all that, they ran all the trunk lines up in the attic, put all my registers in the ceiling.
TOM: Yep. Mm-hmm.
JOE: And now the problem I have is during wintertime, I’m getting condensation. You know, I’ll go around and shut those registers off but it’s not 100-percent shut-off on those registers, of course. And I’m getting condensation that’s forming up in my trunk line and I’m getting condensation dripping out of my registers, which – I’m starting to get some water stains on my ceiling around my registers from this.
TOM: Alright. So you have an energy problem. The problem is that those registers are so cold that when the warm, moist air from the house strikes them, it condenses. And so, you need additional insulation in the space above that. You may need to insulate in or around those ducts. You may need to wrap those ducts with additional insulation. You need to keep those ducts warmer and frankly, the bigger problem is one that you can’t see. If it’s that cold at your ceiling, you’re probably losing a lot of heat through that ceiling. So, I would get up in that attic space and take a look.
In your part of the country, having 15 to 20 inches of insulation is not unheard of and it is certainly a good idea.
JOE: Well, basically, I know when they put it in there, they laid those trunk lines right on top. I’ve got like 20 inches of blown fiberglass and they laid those trunk lines. I need to peel that fiberglass back, bury those trunk lines and insulate all around that real good.
TOM: I think that would make a lot of sense.
JOE: Sounds good, then.
TOM: Alright, Joe. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Mary Lee in Washington has a call about radiant heat for the floor. Tell us what’s going on.
MARY LEE: I’m going to remodel my bathroom. It’ll have a tile floor. Some of my neighbors in my condominium have put under their floors and say they love it. But I wonder if there’s any efficiency to it or if it’s just an expensive comfort.
TOM: I think it’s more of a luxury item, because your condominium probably has enough heat with the core heating system.
That said, it is kind of nice to have that toasty floor in the bathroom. And if you don’t mind the expense to install it, you can control the expense to run it, because you’re always going to – you’re only going to operate it when you need it. You can put it on a timer, you could heat the floor up just for one particular bath/shower experience. You can really control that usage.
But it is awfully nice to have. There’s nothing efficient about it; it’s definitely going to cost you some money to run, because it’s electric. And it’s the most expensive form of heat.
MARY LEE: OK. Thank you.
LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com.
Happy St. Patty’s Weekend, everybody. Maybe you’re painting a room green, maybe you’re dyeing a river green. Who knows what’s going on?
Whatever you are working on, hopefully there’s a home improvement project in there and we can give you a hand. We’re available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Up next, when you go into a room that’s dark, especially with your hands full, it can be dangerous. So we’re going to tell you about a simple switch that you can install to automatically light the way, after this.
MIKE: Hey, this is Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs and I’ve just been told that Tom and Leslie might have a dirtier job than me? I find that hard to believe but then I heard they worked in a pit. It’s a money pit but it’s still filthy.
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 we are taking your calls at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. One caller who gets on the air with us this hour is going to win a Maestro Occupancy-Sensing Switch from Lutron.
Now, it senses when someone is in the room and automatically switches the lights on or off. You’re also going to get Lutron’s Skylark Contour CFL LED Dimmer, which basically is a dimmer that works with any type of bulb, especially the energy-efficient CFLs and LEDs.
And they’re worth about $45 altogether. We’re going to give this package away to one caller drawn at random from those that reach us for today’s show at 888-MONEY-PIT. And you can check them out at ChooseLutron.com.
LESLIE: Alright. We’ve got Anthony in Tennessee on the line. How can we help you today?
ANTHONY: Yeah, I’ve got a ’99 379 Peterbilt and it’s got one bed in it. And we pretty much live in the truck and we’re wanting to turn that one bed into a bunk bed. We tried to widen it and it didn’t work out too good. So I’ve got to go right weight, because I’ve heavy and the truck’s real heavy. So if I do it in 2x4s, it’s going to be a real heavy, heavy truck.
TOM: Anthony, you know what comes to mind, that I think would be a good solution for you, is a metal bunk bed – an army cot bunk bed. The army cots, if you just Google “army cots and bunk beds,” you will see a wide variety of metal bunk beds that are stackable. And they certainly have them in light-duty to heavy-duty designs.
They’re not terribly expensive. I see them online for $300, $400, $500. And they’re not very heavy and they’re super-strong and they can be two, full, twin-size beds stacked one on top of another.
ANTHONY: OK. Well, the bed that’s in here, the frame of that bed is part of the truck.
TOM: So it has to sit on top of that, correct?
ANTHONY: Yeah, I have to set something into that framework above my bed.
TOM: Right. So then maybe what you want is just basically one half of that cot-style bunk bed. And then you have to build supports to get it up in the air for the space. So I would take a look at these metal bunk beds online.
TOM: I think you’re going to find your solution there and it’s going to be a lot easier to deal with than trying to frame something out of wood.
ANTHONY: Yeah, because then I could just set it in place and mount it to my bed.
ANTHONY: Yeah, I hadn’t thought of that.
TOM: Alright, Anthony. Well, I’m glad we helped you out. And I’ve got to say, this is one very unusual question for us and I’m glad we were able to come up with a solution.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Maria in Delaware on the line who needs help with a paneling/painting project.
So you’ve got a new house and it’s got a lot of it, huh, Maria?
MARIA: It sure does. You know, about 25 years ago, the paneling was probably very popular but I’m really tired of looking at it. We tried painting one room and we sanded it a little bit, primed it and painted it. I’m OK with that but my husband is not, because you can still see the grooves through the paint. So we were wondering if there was a way to take care of those grooves – maybe spackling it or whatever – but we didn’t want the spackling to later flake out or chip off and cause more problems than we already have. So, hopefully, you know of some way that we can do this without just taking all the paneling down.
LESLIE: Yeah. Anything that you’re going to fill in is just going to come out, just like you think. So, really, the best thing is to either sheathe over it with a ½-inch drywall or take the paneling off and put drywall on.
MARIA: OK. A ½-inch drywall. So, how would that affect the molding that we have. I mean all of that would have to be replaced, as well, like around windows, everything?
TOM: Yeah, you’d have to pull that off.
The thing is, what you might want to try first, though, is just removing the paneling and seeing what’s underneath it. Because there might be a halfway decent wall underneath and if you’re lucky enough to find out that the paneling was not glued to those walls, then maybe you can just repair the wall, spackle the nail holes, fix any tear – torn areas – or any other damage and then just paint the walls again. Because that paneling was often nailed on with a very thin ring nail.
MARIA: Yes, it was nailed on. I can see the nails in that.
TOM: Yeah, it usually pulls off pretty easily. So I would – first thing I would do is pull that paneling off. Nothing you put over that paneling, in terms of – there’s no way to really fill it in, because I know what you’re asking us to do. But there’s no way to do that, because it’s going to crack and fall out and it’s going to look worse than it does now.
So if you don’t like the painted look and you want to go back to just a clean wall, I would take the paneling down. Do it one wall at a time, one area at a time, until you get the hang of it. And this way, you can almost not do any molding work whatsoever because, generally, that stuff is cut around the molding or you can cut the paneling really tight to the molding and leave it there.
MARIA: OK. Thank you both so much for your help.
TOM: You’re very welcome. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, has this happened to you? You walk into your laundry room, your garage or your basement, your arms are full of stuff, so loaded that you’re just trying to find that light switch in the dark with your elbow? Well, truth is, it’s happened to just about all of us.
Well, Lutron – they’re a trusted Money Pit sponsor – they have a very easy solution to this very common problem. It’s called the Maestro Occupancy-Sensing Switch. And what it does is it actually switches on the lights when it detects that someone has walked into the room, which is not only going to save your elbows but it actually saves you a bundle on energy costs, because it also turns off the lights after you leave. Which is especially good if you’ve got kids that just love to leave the lights on.
TOM: Now, this switch takes only about 15 minutes to install and in fact, no matter what your skill level, you could actually learn to install it yourself when you take part in the nationwide Home Depot Do-It-Herself Workshop, presented by Lutron, on Thursday, March 21st. It’s a free how-to demo and it’s actually going to take place at every Home Depot in the country. Like 2,000 locations. You’re going to get expert instruction and you’ll get the answers to even your most basic questions.
You can learn more about the workshops at HomeDepot.com and more about the Lutron products at ChooseLutron.com.
LESLIE: And if you happen to be in the New York City area on March 21st, Tom and I will be conducting the Do-It-Herself Workshop at the Home Depot in Midtown on 3rd Avenue. That’s between 58 and 59. You can stop by, say hello. We’re going to teach you how to install the Maestro and you might even take home a copy of our book for free. So pop on in and say hello.
TOM: And remember, guys, it’s called the Do-It-Herself Workshop but you are welcome, too, especially if you’re a single guy. It would seem to me that there could be a good opportunity to meet some ladies that love home improvement.
LESLIE: Jim in Arkansas is on the line with a chimney question. How can we help you today?
JIM: Well, the reason I called is because I have an issue with my fireplace. It’s just a regular wood-burner. It doesn’t have an insert in it. And I want to seal the chimney for health and energy-loss reasons. I was thinking about putting a steel plate on the top because here in the Ozarks, whenever we get bad weather and that wind is howling, it sounds like a freight train coming through my fireplace and I have quite a bit of a draft. And the damper just does not hold securely enough so I don’t get that air through there.
I was wondering, can you give me some advice as to who to contact if it’s feasible to do something like this? Is safety a concern?
TOM: It’s certainly feasible to do this project. It’s sort of the kind of project that you’ve got to be a bit creative with, because what you’re going to want to do is try to form some sort of weather-tight shield across the top of the flue. I would tell you that whatever you do to this, make it removable because chances are if you sell this house at some point in the future, somebody might find it really attractive to have a fireplace there in the Ozarks and want to reactivate this chimney, so to speak.
So, however you seal it across the top, you’ve got find out – find an easy way to do that. One thing that comes to mind is that there’s a damper that fits in the top of a chimney liner. And it’s sort of like a weighted, heavy, metal door. And the way it’s activated is that there’s a stainless-steel cable that goes down through the middle of the chimney and it’s hooked onto the side of the fireplace. And when you release the cable, the door flops open. So that would be a way to put a device up there that’s really designed for a flue and will serve the dual purpose of sealing off the draft from the top.
JIM: OK. Well, I thank you very much for giving me the time. And I love your show. Listen to it two hours every Sunday morning.
TOM: Alright. Well, thank you very much, Jim. It’s nice to hear. We appreciate it.
LESLIE: Laurel in Pennsylvania is dealing with some stinky drains at home. Tell us what’s going on.
LAUREL: My bathroom drain and the kitchen drain, they’re starting to smell like garbage. And nothing I put down there helps. Can you help me?
TOM: What have you tried to do in terms of cleaning them?
LAUREL: Like dishwashing liquid and real hot, sudsy water.
TOM: Laurel, the odor that you’re describing is most likely what we call “biogas” or “biofilm.”
TOM: Because of the moisture and the waste that gets into these lines, they form sort of a mass of biological material that sort of gels together and releases an awful odor, kind of like something that’s rotting. And there’s no way to kind of make it simpler than that but it’s really kind of a gross thing.
So, what you need to do is – just sort of rinsing it out with hot, soapy water is not going to do this. You’ve got to take the drain cover off, you’ve got to get into the drain with a bottle brush or something like that and scrub the inside of the pipe. And that will start to break down the biofilm and that should help eliminate the odor problem. It’s not just a matter of rinsing it out, because that’s kind of just feeding it. You literally have to abrade this gross stuff away to make it clean once again. OK?
LAUREL: Alright. And I really enjoy your program every week.
TOM: Thanks so much, Laurel. Good luck with that project and call again.
LESLIE: John in Texas is dealing with some mystery plumbing noises. What can we do for you today?
JOHN: I have a problem with my water heater, I think. When we flush the toilet, the hot-water line starts banging. My hot-water heater is in the attic.
TOM: The question would be: what does the hot water have to do with the toilet? Probably nothing, because we don’t use hot water in the toilets. But what is happening is that when you flush the toilet, the toilet has to refill, so the cold-water line is coming on and refilling that. And that cold-water line is the same cold-water line that’s probably running into the water heater above it.
So it sounds to me like what you have is called “water hammer,” which is caused by usually some loose pipes. And when the valve in the toilet opens to fill and then closes when it’s done, there’s some movement there. And the pipe will shake because of – the weight of the water in the pipe has a lot of inertia. And as that water stops, as the valve opens and closes, it will shake, rattle and roll the pipe.
The other thing that will happen is sometimes, as you run cold water through the pipe – and especially with the toilet, because it’s not flushed over and over and over and over again – that temperature change in the pipe could also make the pipe expand or contract. And as that rubs against the wood, it will make some noise, too.
So I don’t think you have a serious problem here, John. I think you probably have a water-hammer issue. The first thing I would do is try to secure as many of the pipes as we can so that they’re tight and they don’t rattle. And then if it does become a problem beyond that, there’s a device called a water-hammer arrestor, which is kind of like a shock absorber for your plumbing system, that you can have a plumber install.
JOHN: Alright. Thank you very much.
LESLIE: Next up, we’ve got Jim. Welcome to The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
JIM: Yes. I’m shopping for a new driveway.
JIM: My old one’s cracked really bad. And I was wondering what to look for as far as to know whether a guy is going to give me what I really need and something good that won’t crack again very well.
TOM: What kind of driveway do you have now? Is it a concrete or asphalt driveway?
JIM: It’s a concrete.
TOM: Well, the key here is going to be the preparation of the base. I mean that’s where the rubber meets the road. If the concrete is not thick enough, it’s not going to be strong enough. And if it’s not strong enough, it’s going to crack. So what I would focus on is making sure that you get a quality contractor first.
And how would I find a quality contractor? Well, I would thoroughly check the contractor’s references. I would go online and check some of the review sites. Take a look at Angie’s List, for example. And see if you can find somebody who’s got a good reputation for doing good work in the area.
And then, once you’ve selected one or two guys that are good, then get their estimates and compare those to try to make an apples-to-apples comparison, because there’s a lot of ways to kind of cut corners when it comes to driveways. You know, one guy could put 3 inches of concrete down and another guy could put 6 inches of concrete down. One guy could tamp the base really solid with equipment that’s designed to do that and another guy might just throw the mud down and drive off.
So, it really comes down to technique and making sure it’s applied correctly. And if it is, you’re going to have a concrete that can – a driveway that can last indefinitely.
JIM: OK. This one gentleman I was talking to about it said the concrete he uses was – has fiberglass in it?
TOM: Yeah. Well, there’s a way to put a – different types of material in concrete that help it resist cracking. And that’s just one of many elements that would go into a good driveway job.
JIM: OK. Do they still use mesh and rebar and stuff like that?
TOM: Oh, yeah. Mm-hmm. Yep. They sure do.
JIM: OK. Well, I really appreciate the help.
TOM: Alright, Jim. 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. Hey, have you been waiting all winter to get outside and enjoy those great outdoors in your own yard? Well, don’t get caught with a shabby-looking space. We’re going to share some tips on sprucing it up, after this.
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: Hey, have you “liked” us yet on Facebook? We would welcome you to do just that. And if you do, you’ll get opportunities to learn about our weekly prize giveaways on Facebook, as well as instant access to the newest Money Pit shows, articles and videos. So, just log on to The Money Pit website at MoneyPit.com, click on the Facebook icon. We’ll take you right over to our page where we would love for you to “like” us there, as well.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Alice in Michigan on the line who’s dealing with mold in the shower. Tell us where you’re seeing it.
ALICE: Hi. I am having issues to where my caulk keeps having black mold come through. I strip it, I redo it and the mold just keeps returning. What can I do to stop that?
TOM: A couple of things. You’re talking about the – just the shower or the shower/tub kind of a thing?
ALICE: The walls are separate from the actual tub, so I’ve got the caulk that attaches on.
ALICE: And I will strip it, I put bleach on it and then I put new caulk down but it just keeps coming through.
TOM: Have you tried DAP caulk? And the reason I bring that up is they have a kitchen-and-bath caulk that’s treated with an additive called Microban. And Microban absolutely, positively will not grow mold or algae in it.
ALICE: I don’t think I’ve tried that.
TOM: You might want to give that a try. And the other thing that I would do is – and I know you’ve been through this all before but remember to pull out all the old caulk. You can use a caulk softener, which is kind of like a paint stripper for caulk, to pull that out. You want to wipe that down and spray with a bleach-and-water solution in a spray bottle, up into that gap so that we make sure we get up in there and kill any algae spores or mold spores that are left behind.
Now, this is on a tub?
TOM: OK. So next thing you do is fill the tub with water all the way up. And while the tub is full, caulk the seam between the walls and the tub. And then after the caulk dries, let the water out. That lets the tub sort of come back up and compress the caulk and helps seal it better so that moisture won’t get behind it and it won’t sort of tear out again.
ALICE: Oh, OK.
TOM: And then, finally, make sure you use the caulk that I suggested with the mildicide. And there are others but I just happen to have good experience with that particular one. It’s DAP Kitchen and Bath Caulk with Microban; that’s the additive.
ALICE: Oh, perfect. OK. Well, I really appreciate that. Thank you so much.
TOM: You’re welcome, Alice. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: If you’ve got a hum-drum front porch, a neglected deck or a bare-bones patio, you can bring new life to your outdoor spaces. Now, this is prime real estate that can expand your home’s usable space if you make it work for you year-round.
TOM: Here to give us some simple tips that can offer big solutions to your outdoor-living décor dilemmas is Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House.
Kevin, great to see you again.
KEVIN: Hi, guys. Great to be here again.
TOM: Outdoor space is really prime these days as more and more homeowners really treat that outside space as kind of an extension of their daily living area. So, how can we make these spaces really work for us and not break the budget?
KEVIN: Man, isn’t this a huge trend? This is all you hear about, right? People trying to change their outdoor space into living space.
So, let’s go through some of the obvious areas, alright? If you’ve got a porch, OK, it’s a great place to start. Think about things like a porch swing, right? Who doesn’t want to sway back and forth on a porch swing? And if you want to dress it up a little bit, use sturdy ropes rather than chains to hang it. That’s going to give a little bit more of a natural look. And then I would just say make sure that the ropes are properly rated to maybe 600 pounds or more. And give it a look once in a while to make sure it hasn’t worn out.
TOM: There was a big article recently in USA Today talking about the return of the porch. It really is becoming a very popular architectural feature once again. So it’s a place that we love to spend time.
KEVIN: I had one. Now I don’t and I miss it terribly.
And in fact, the other tip that I was going to give you was something that we had on our old porch and those were rockers. People love sitting in a rocking chair, so put a couple rockers on the porch or maybe think of a hammock: a great place to sort of relax and hang out. Just keep a couple side tables close for the books or the drinks.
LESLIE: Yeah. And you know what I think? It’s really fun when you’ve got an outdoor space like that.
We have a screened porch on the back of our home and we use it year-round. It really is our favorite place. And you want to sort of make it an extension of your interior décor style, so think about using fabrics and rugs and furnishings that are specifically made to stand up to the elements. And decorate it as you would any room in the house.
KEVIN: Yeah. And if you don’t want to put a rug out there because maybe you get some water on it, even if it is covered, I’ve seen people actually paint rugs down on the porch floor so it’s permanently there, it’s not going to get beat up and it’s a good look. And you can hang plants in baskets in the right places. It’ll really spruce things up and you’re going to want to spend time there.
TOM: Now, if you’re working on your outdoor space, you’re going to want to spend time out there not only in the daytime but also at the nighttime. So it seems like there’s …
LESLIE: That’s the best time.
TOM: Yeah, absolutely. Seems like there’s a good opportunity to improve outdoor lighting, as well.
KEVIN: Outdoor lighting is great. I mean it’s good when you’re out there. But also, when you’re in the house, if you can look out onto your outdoor space and see something lit up, it really gives an extension to the house. So, the simplest way is to use candle lanterns. You can spread them all over the furniture, you can hang them from trees, you can place them on tables or railings. And it really gives a nice nighttime glow. They’re really easy to move around; you can put them wherever you want.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Now, what if you don’t have sort of a set-up outdoor space? Is there anything, architecturally, that you can add to sort of define a room in your exterior?
KEVIN: So if you’ve got a wide-open space, really the trick is to sort of define the edges, right?
KEVIN: Give it a little bit of definition. And you can do it with potted plants, you can actually have things that are high and low or you can use something like a pergola, right? You can imagine what these things are. They’re built-up structures. They’ve got open roofs. Sometimes, it’s great to train a plant up on them so it grows. Those types of things will give great definition.
And then at night, you can create a little focal point. Put a light in one corner so it draws your eye right there and you’re not just seeing the big, open expanse.
TOM: Yeah. A lot of times, you just pick one space and kind of build off of that.
Leslie, you do this in decorating all the time, you know? We have folks that just have a pillow. They love this pillow and they build a color scheme kind of off of that.
LESLIE: Oh, completely.
TOM: You can do the same thing outside; you can pick one area that you really like and then build from that to create that truly outdoor living room.
LESLIE: And I think it’s important when you’re dealing with an exterior space, as well as – to look at your yard and see if you have like a secret nook or a little area that could become a destination. If you’ve got a little garden area – and maybe you want to put a small bistro table back there with a nice pathway and some nice candle-lighting or some potted plants that becomes your little morning-coffee spot or your favorite reading spot. So it’s really interesting to sort of examine what you’ve got in the exterior and sort of create those destinations.
KEVIN: And if it’s adjacent to the house, you’re going to have an exterior wall exposed and don’t think of it as an exterior wall; thing of it as an interior wall. Put sconces on it, hang some artwork on it. And all of a sudden, it becomes a beautiful backdrop for the outdoor space.
TOM: What a great idea. We’re talking to Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House.
Now, something else we love to do outside is to cook. Big trend in doing that are outdoor kitchens today. Any tips for that area?
KEVIN: Well, who doesn’t want to spend time outside cooking and grilling stuff like that? So we’ve all got the grills out there but why not make it a little bit more robust, right? How about a little prep sink for clean-up or getting ready for the grilling? Or a cooler. Step it up a notch, put a little refrigerator out there to keep the beverages nice and cold. You could make yourself a nice little kitchen in an outdoor area.
TOM: Yep. You don’t have to be limited to just the little stainless-steel shelves that hang off your grill, right?
TOM: You can really create everything that you have inside. You can create the prep area, create the sink area. And it doesn’t have to be very, very expensive. All of these things are available today in sort of a modular format, where you can buy just once piece at a time and put it together to create a nice, little outdoor kitchen for yourself.
KEVIN: And just use the smart materials that are good for outside – things like stone or wood that’s going to hold up – and then you’re in good shape.
TOM: Good advice. Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for helping us spruce up our outdoor spaces.
KEVIN: Always a pleasure, guys.
LESLIE: 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 The Home Depot. The Home Depot, more savings, more doing. That’s the power of The Home Depot.
Up next, if your house was closed up and gathering dust all winter long, it’s time for some serious spring cleaning. We’ve got tips on choosing the right vacuum for this job, just ahead.
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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. Pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. We’re going to answer your home improvement questions and possibly shed some light in your life.
We’re giving away a prize package from our friends over at Lutron to one lucky caller. And it includes the Maestro Occupancy-Sensing Switch that’s going to actually switch on the lights when somebody walks into the room or off when they walk out.
Now, you’re also going to get a Skylark Contour CFL LED Dimmer to use with a dimmer bulb. And that’s going to help you save some energy and create some dramatic lighting options for any space.
And you can see them at ChooseLutron.com. Together, they’re worth $45 but if you pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT, we’ll answer your home improvement question and give you a chance to win.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Sylvester on the line from Louisiana who’s dealing with a leaky attic. Tell us what’s going on.
SYLVESTER: Top of the roof is about – at a vertex, is probably 46, 49 feet. Well, there’s a – where the attic breathes, sometimes there’s squares, some rectangular, some round where it ends, the …
TOM: Yeah, the vents. Uh-huh. The attic vents.
SYLVESTER: I’m getting blowing rainwater that’s coming in there, running down the wall, coming in to a bedroom window below on the second.
TOM: Mm-hmm. Oh, boy. OK.
SYLVESTER: How is that – and it has happened before. But it’s only when it’s a strong, blowing wind blowing the rain …
TOM: Is it always in the same spot?
TOM: So it’s probably not all of the vents. It’s just one or two of the vents?
SYLVESTER: I would think so. I don’t know. I haven’t actually gone into the attic yet to see which – where most of it’s coming from.
TOM: So I would do that as my next step, because I would go up in the attic and I would look for the leaks.
Now, it might be that maybe it’s not blowing in the vents; it might be blowing around the vents. The vents could be leaking. Because every one of those vents has to be cut through the roof, so this may not really be what you think it is. But I would get up in the attic with a high-powered flashlight and take a look in the area of the problem. Remember that water will run downhill, so it might start up high, run down a rafter and then drip off down below into – and show up in your bedroom or wherever.
But I would take a careful look to try to find those leak stains. That would tell me exactly where it’s leaking. And if I can identify the vent that’s leaking, I would just simply reseal it or replace it.
SYLVESTER: Thank you much.
LESLIE: Finally, the days are getting longer. You can throw open those blinds and let the sunshine in to reveal what? A big pile of dust and dirt, especially if you haven’t started your super-deep spring cleaning. But you can make up for lost time if you simply have the right vacuum cleaner, which I do not have the right vacuum cleaner right now. It is absolutely awful. So here are some tips that I am going to follow, as well.
If you want to shop for the right one, first you need to consider the type. If you’ve got wall-to-wall carpets, an upright will probably do the trick. A canister option is better if you’ve got varied flooring throughout the house but it could be tougher to lug around.
Also, you want to consider saying no to some of the attachments. There’s really no need for an extra drapery attachment if you’ve only got blinds.
TOM: Well, that’s right. But one thing you really want to pay attention to, especially if you don’t want to take the dust in one end of the vacuum and out the other, is the filtration system.
Now, the filtration system with vacuums vary from zero, which would use – which basically uses a bag to collect the dirt, to pretty sophisticated systems that filter out pollen and tiny articles. The units with the filtration systems will cost more but they’re really great, because they reduce the allergens in your house and they’re not going to recycle the dust back into your house. If you’ve ever used a vacuum and seen dust shoot out the back end, you know exactly what I’m talking about. It seems like a real waste to clean up some – one area of the house to have it shoot out and become airborne in the next. So make sure you really carefully consider those filtration systems and buy the one that’s really best for you.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Matt in Wisconsin who’s dealing with a splashy toilet. That is the worst: constantly cleaning a toilet seat. Tell us what’s going on.
MATT: Well, when we flush the toilet, a good portion of air comes up through the trap, forcefully enough to cause the water to splash up onto the seat or the inside of the lid if it’s closed.
TOM: Well, what really causes that, Matt, is a venting problem. Is this a new problem or has it always been this way?
MATT: No, it’s just within the last couple of months.
TOM: OK. So then what I suspect is that you’ve got a blockage somewhere. If your vent for that toilet is partially blocked, then the drain line is being starved with air. And if it’s starved with air, it’s going to try to gulp that air from somewhere else and that’s what’s causing the bubbles.
TOM: So, what you need to do is try to figure out where that obstruction is. And it’s going to be somewhere in the vent that is connected to the waste line under the toilet, if that helps you narrow it down a bit.
MATT: Yes, it does. Thanks.
TOM: You’re very welcome. 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. Well, radon ventilation systems, they may keep your home safe from this deadly gas but only if you install them correctly. We’re going to help one member of The Money Pit’s online community solve that problem, next.
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LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: You know the old saying, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”? That is certainly true of your plumbing system. If you’d like to take care of it, just search “home tips to prevent plumbing problems” on MoneyPit.com. We’ll give you tips, like how to stop a toilet from leaking before it costs you an arm and a leg, in terms of your water bill.
LESLIE: And while you’re online, you can head on over to our Community section and post your question there, just like Tammy in Texas did who writes: “A house I was looking at had a radon vent installed. A pipe came up from under the house but was vented into the attic space, not the outside. Is that safe?”
That does not sound safe.
TOM: Well, it may or may not be. Now, here is what you need to understand about those radon systems. In certain parts of the country – and I apologize, Tammy; I don’t know if this is the case in Texas but certainly the case in a lot of the Northeast, where radon is quite common – the building code requires builders to install a radon vent pipe that goes from the basement slab all the way up through the house to the attic. They don’t require them to take it through the attic and outside, because the theory is that you would test for radon after you got in the house. And if it turned out you had an elevated level, you would go up in the attic – or your radon guy would go up in the attic and they would put a fan in line with that pipe. And then they would continue to the exhaust right to the outside.
So, if you have an active radon mitigation system and it’s dumping that radon gas into the attic, that’s a problem. If you have just the rough end of a radon system and that pipe is there in its roughed-in state, then that’s normal.
So, if you’ve not tested for radon, if you’re not aware that you have an active radon system, I would definitely test the house for radon and then at least you have the pipe roughed in. It’ll be a lot less expensive to simply add the fan and get that vented outside and take care of it.
LESLIE: Alright. Next up, Jamie in Pennsylvania wrote: “Last summer, I plugged a bunch of holes around my basement thinking that would keep the mice from coming in from the field this winter. Well, it didn’t work. In some cases, it looked like they chewed through the plywood. Is there anything mice can’t chew through?”
Yeah, steel wool. They don’t like it.
TOM: Well, that’s right. Steel wool is a really good suggestion, Leslie. They can’t get through steel wool.
And it’s really hard to plug up every conceivable space because let’s face it, mice need the space about the diameter of your finger to get into your house. If they want to get in there, they’ll find a way in. But if you have obvious holes, just sticking a little steel wool in there is a good way.
But let’s talk about other things that you can do to kind of rodent-proof your house. First of all, you want to eliminate nesting areas at the foundation perimeter. So that’s like firewood piled up against the house or trash cans that are too close. Any kind of collected junk – high grass, anything like that – can cause a rodent infestation to sort of develop there.
Then inside the house, make sure you get all the rodent food off the floor. What could that be? Well, if you’ve got a pantry and you’ve got boxes of cereal on the bottom shelf, that’s rodent food. You’ve got pet food on the floor, that’s rodent food. So you want to clean all that up.
Now, the last thing that you want to do is set traps, if you’re comfortable with that, or use baits if you’re not comfortable. Because you want to make sure that those rodents, if they take a taste of the bait, they’re done. And that’s an easy thing to do. If you’ve got pets, small kids, you can put those baits into bait stations that are childproof and pet-proof. Very safe way to kind of maintain your home in a rodent-free state.
LESLIE: And you know what? It’s just common sense. Don’t leave anything in your sink overnight. Make sure you clean the drain basket. You know, don’t leave any yucky foods in there. You just want to get rid of anything that could be a temptation for any of those pests. So, use your noodle; you know what to do.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. Do you realize this is the last show before the official start of spring? It’s this Wednesday. So it’s time to do your spring cleaning, it’s time to tackle your spring home improvement projects. And we will be here to help you every step of the way.
Remember, you can reach us 24-7 at 888-MONEY-PIT or any time by logging on to The Money Pit website at MoneyPit.com and posting your question in the Community section.
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.
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(Copyright 2013 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.)