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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: And we are here to help you with your home improvement projects. We want to help you solve your do-it-yourself dilemmas. What’s on your fall fix-up to-do list? Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT and we will help you out.

    Just ahead this hour, open houses aren’t worth all the hassle it takes to put one together if they’re not done right. We’ve got tips to make sure your open house isn’t closing the door on potential new offers, just ahead.

    LESLIE: And also this hour, are you considering a facelift? No, you’re not listening to the wrong show. We’re talking about bathroom-lighting facelifts. Because you know what? You’re going to get better lighting but you’re also going to get a better reflection in the mirror once you improve the lighting. So we’re going to help you with some tips for seeing everything in your bathroom in a new light.

    TOM: And you may have a plan for keeping your family safe during extreme weather. But have you thought about how an emergency could threaten your money? We’ve got advice on keeping your finances safe when you need them most, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: Plus, this hour we’re giving away $500 towards beautiful, solid-wood cabinets from CabinetsToGo.com.

    TOM: Cabinets To Go builds beautiful, well-made cabinets that can add to any kitchen or bath. That $500 gift certificate is going out to one lucky caller, so pick up the phone and call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Dennis in Georgia, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we help you with today?

    DENNIS: Yes, ma’am. I’m having trouble getting stains off my roof. I’ve applied Wet & Forget twice within the last three months and it still has not come off.

    TOM: Alright. What kinds of stains are these? Because Wet & Forget is designed to kill algae and mold. I wonder if you’ve got something besides that.

    DENNIS: Well, I had my whole front yard reworked and I had some trees cut down. Ten oaks in all. And I just cannot get the stain off.

    TOM: Yeah, you might have some tree droppings or something else on there that’s causing this, sap and that sort of thing.

    DENNIS: Yes, sir.

    TOM: Hmm. Well, one of the things – one other thing I might try is a produced called JOMAX. And it works pretty well at cleaning up pretty gross spaces. I used it recently on a picnic table that had really discolored. And simply by applying the JOMAX and then cleaning with a pressure washer, we were able to make it very attractive once again.

    So, it’s called J-O-M-A-X – JOMAX – made by the Zinsser Company. Give that a try and let us know how you make out, Dennis.

    DENNIS: OK. Where can I buy this at?

    TOM: Home centers, hardware stores. Pretty readily available. And if you use a pressure washer, just take it easy. You don’t want to poke holes in that roof or wear off the coating.

    DENNIS: I enjoy your show.

    TOM: Thank you, Dennis.

    LESLIE: Ollie (sp) in South Carolina has a painting and design question. What can we do for you?

    OLLIE (sp): I’ve got paneling. I don’t know if it’s laminated paneling or not but it’s got little grooves in it all the way down and it’s darker than the other paneling itself. And I wanted to paint it. Do I have to do something to fill it in – lines or cracks or what you want to call it?

    LESLIE: Now, the lines that you’re talking about, those are like the beading. It’s like a decorative feature; it’s supposed to be there. Is that what we’re talking about?

    OLLIE (sp): Yeah. 

    LESLIE: OK. You don’t want to fill that in only because if you try to fill it in with joint compound or wood filler, it’s just going to dry out, crack, detach. It’s never going to last. 

    So you kind of have to think about it. Can you embrace the look of the paneling, as far as a core element, but paint it a different color and love that vertical lining? Or do you just hate that so much that you want to sort of try to remove it or cover it up?

    OLLIE (sp): No, I’d like to leave it if it would make a nice design, you know?

    LESLIE: I personally like it. I think painted paneling can be very lovely in the right type of space with the right type of décor and if you choose a good color. Now, the fact that you don’t know whether it’s wood or laminate, that could be a little bit of a concern only because we want to make sure that you have good adhesion. 

    So if the finish on the paneling, right now, is a little bit glossy or has a shine to it, you want to use a product like a liquid sander. And that’s something that you just wipe on and it sort of abrades the surface. 

    First, I’d give it a good cleaning, then I’d lightly abrade it with a liquid sander. Then I would prime it and I would prime it well with a good-quality primer. And then once that’s done, I would paint it. And I really enjoy the look of a paneling that’s in a glossy white. But I think if you go with a neutral color and try not to get crazy and just sort of let it be a neutral background with a decorative detail in it, I think it’ll be great.

    OLLIE (sp): I think it would look nice. But thank you. You have a good day.

    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, we are officially in autumn. And with Halloween around the corner, are you getting your money pit into a spooky presentation? Well, we can help you get your house look scary and be safe at the same time or pretty much help you with any home improvement project you are working on. Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, you may have a lot to take care of during a weather emergency, so you want to make sure your money can take care of itself. We’ve got tips on high- and low-tech ways to protect your assets, your liquid cash and your bill-paying when severe weather strikes, next.

    (theme song)

    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: Standing by for your call at 888-MONEY-PIT. 

    One caller we talk to on the air this hour is going to win a $500 gift certificate towards beautiful, solid-wood cabinets from CabinetsToGo.com. 

    What a great prize. CabinetsToGo.com offers high-quality, solid-wood cabinets for roughly 40 percent less than made-to-order, big-box stores.

    LESLIE: Yeah, these cabinets have solid-wood doors, dovetail drawers, premium hardware and lots of great finish options. There’s a style for every taste, including their brand-new Roberto Fiore frameless, European-style cabinets. You dream it, we design it.

    TOM: Visit CabinetsToGo.com and call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. One caller drawn at random is going to win $500 worth of cabinets from CabinetsToGo.com.

    LESLIE: Ben in Minnesota, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today? 

    BEN: I have a really old house, kind of like what you guys have, and built in the early – probably early 1900s. Don’t know exactly. But it’s got a rock foundation and we’re in southwest Minnesota, so the ground does freeze pretty deep. 

    And basically, the mortar between all of the rocks has pretty much turned to sand. Some places, they worked on re-tuckpointing it here and there. But it’s all kind of coming apart again and some of the rocks, especially on the corners, are even tipping out a little bit. So I’m trying to figure out what I need to do to fix that, if I need to dig down. I have access to equipment. I work in the HVAC business, so we have lots of equipment and I do lots of stuff on my own. So, just seeing if you guys had any pointers for me.

    TOM: So, the foundation is damaged or you’re just concerned about the rocks that are sticking out?

    BEN: Yeah, well, the foundation isn’t particularly damaged; it’s actually pretty solid. It’s just that the mortar – since it’s so old, the mortar between all of the rocks has deteriorated to the point where it’s almost like sand. You know what I mean? And it just falls out from between the rocks.

    TOM: So what you need to do is simply to repoint or replace that mortar. Pointing is the act of mixing up new mortar and pulling out the old stuff and then pressing new mortar into place. 

    And the type of mortar that you use for repointing is a little stickier than the mortar that would have been done originally. Usually, it has a bit more lime in it, which tends to make it a bit gooier and it sticks to the old stuff pretty well. 

    So, what you do is you work one section at a time. You do remove all that loose stuff and then you repoint it up with new mortar. And that’s pretty much normal maintenance with a 1900 foundation. You do have to eventually repoint a foundation like that; it’s not unusual. You can slow it down with proper drainage and things like that but essentially, that’s what we would expect, OK?

    BEN: Right, OK. Perfect. Hey, thanks so much for your time and the advice.

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

    LESLIE: Cody in Texas, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    CODY: Yes, ma’am. I was calling because I’m having a problem with scorpions and bugs and stuff. And I was going to see if you could recommend an economical way to treat them, both inside and out. You know, we’ve used commercial businesses in the past to come in and spray. That’s just not in the budget right now. And I’ve tried Sevin Dust granules outside and just wanted to see if you could recommend anything that would be good inside and out.

    TOM: Well, if you’re concerned about spiders, there’s a new product out called Miss Muffet’s Revenge that’s made by the Wet & Forget Company that’s inexpensive and can keep them out for a year. But I don’t think that’s going to keep the scorpions out.

    CODY: OK.

    TOM: One natural product that folks have reported good success with is boric acid. And boric acid can be applied a number of ways. You can sprinkle the powder, you can mix the powder with water and spray it. But you have to remember it doesn’t kill on contact; it essentially kind of messes with the skeleton system of the scorpion and causes them to die from dehydration. So, it’s more a preventative than it is sort of an immediate use – an immediate-result product.

    CODY: Spray it around the foundation, on the exterior of the home? I actually wouldn’t want to spray that inside or would it be OK to spray inside?

    TOM: Well, you could spray it inside, as well. I mean it’s pretty safe to spray inside and outside.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Another natural oil that they just don’t seem to like, for whatever reason, is cedar oil. So if you mix cedar oil with water and then spray that around your perimeter or if you’ve got gaps or cracks in your foundation or on your interior, you can use that, as well. They also don’t like lavender. So if you plant some lavender around your foundation, they’ll tend to stay away.

    CODY: Awesome. I appreciate the help, guy. You all have a great rest of the day.

    LESLIE: Well, you and your family are vulnerable in emergency-weather situations. So, make sure your money isn’t. When the forecast calls for severe weather, it’s important to make sure you’re ready for the storm.

    Here’s a tip to do just that, presented by KOHLER Generators.

    TOM: Start by keeping your financial records and documents in one safe place. A wide variety of safes and lockboxes are available for protecting against heat and weather and come small enough to be carried out of your home in a hurry. And if your financial records include electronic files, make sure your safety box is one that stays below 150 degrees, even in a fire. Otherwise, the electronics could be ruined.

    LESLIE: Smartphone apps can help you bank when you don’t have any access to your filing cabinet or computer. Download apps for any banks, lenders and business partners so that payments go uninterrupted. And also, crucial financial information can be easily accessed in case of a storm emergency.

    While you’re at it, download FEMA’s phone app. The app can update you on emergency response and recovery in your area.

    TOM: This Severe Weather Tip is presented by KOHLER Generators. Running on clean propane or natural gas, a KOHLER standby generator is permanently installed outside your home and comes on automatically within seconds of a power outage. 

    To learn more, visit KOHLERGenerators.com.

    LESLIE: Naomi in Pennsylvania, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today? 

    NAOMI: What I have is my backyard, over the past several years we’ve taken down a couple of major trees. They died. And now, whenever it rains, pretty much I have standing water for a long period of time and it’s really nasty. 

    So, I’ve been looking online for ideas. I’ve gone to garden centers looking for plants that do well in standing water. And in the Northeast, we don’t have a long growing season, so a lot of the plants that I’m looking up don’t seem to be doing well. 

    So, other ideas my husband and I have kicked around are putting a floating deck, I see, that you can build out there?

    TOM: Floating deck? That’s called a raft.

    NAOMI: Yeah. Spring …

    TOM: I don’t think you have to become Tom Sawyer here, Naomi, OK, and build a raft to float down the river.

    NAOMI: Well, my husband’s idea was to put stone all over.

    TOM: How about this idea? How about if we drain the backyard of water? You like that idea?

    NAOMI: Well, how do you go about doing that? We were not sure … 

    TOM: So, first of all, it sounds like the backyard is sloped in such a way that the water runs into it but doesn’t run out of it. Is that fair to say?

    NAOMI: That’s pretty – yes, pretty fair to say. My neighbor’s yard is slightly higher.

    TOM: And then is an area below your house that’s slightly lower than the backyard?

    NAOMI: After we bought the house, we found out it was built on a swamp, so everybody has drainage problems.

    TOM: I’m pretty sure that you’re not looking at the water table there; you’re looking at some water that’s staying around. So here’s the solution: it’s called a “curtain drain.”

    And what a curtain drain is is a trench that you construct from the part where the water is ponding to somewhere lower than that in the elevation. Now, the curtain drain is a trench that’s about 12 inches wide and 12 inches deep. You put in a couple of inches of stone, then you put in a perforated PVC pipe. And then you put more stone and some filter cloth and you cover it with soil so it’s completely invisible when it’s done. 

    But here’s what happens: as the water runs down to that area where it’s ponding now, it falls into the trench, it comes up into the pipe and then it runs down through the pipe and discharges at a lower area of your property. So you are essentially collecting the water, shooting it around the house and then discharging it somewhere at a lower elevation.

    NAOMI: Does this require a backhoe or is this something that we can do with shovel and …?

    TOM: No, you can do it with a shovel. And you don’t need much pitch either: you need about a ¼-inch a foot – per foot – on the pipe. So just as long as you get a nice, clean trench dug, you get the stone in there, you get the perforated pipe in there, it’ll work very well. And it’ll drain that yard whenever it fills up.

    NAOMI: And I look for the wettest part of the yard to start it in and then I go to a – you said a ¼-inch per foot?

    TOM: Foot, yeah. And you want to bring it down to someplace lower on the yard where you can discharge it. And the best thing to do is to discharge it to daylight; in other words, have the pipe actually pop out somewhere so the water can run out.

    NAOMI: OK, great. Terrific. Thank you so much.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Tom in Nebraska on the line with a decking question. How can we help you today? 

    TOM IN NEBRASKA: I’m building a cedar deck and I’m trying to figure out which products to use in order to preserve the life of it.

    TOM: OK. Well, cedar is a good choice because it’s naturally insect-resistant, so you don’t have to worry so much about decay. But if you want to stop it from cracking and checking and splitting, which it’ll do simply from exposure to the sun, then you really need to think about putting a product on it that’s got a UV protectant in it, like a stain. 

    Now, since it’s brand new, I might suggest, in this particular case, a semi-transparent stain that’s going to give it some UV protection. It’ll help even out the color and it’ll protect it from the cracking and the checking that goes on.

    You can pretty much put it on right away but sometimes when people put – build cedar decks, they want to enjoy them for a few months, just until they start to gray a bit, and then they’ll stain them. So the choice is yours but a semi-transparent stain would be a good option for you right now.

    TOM IN NEBRASKA: OK, cool. I wasn’t sure what to do, you know? I appreciate it, man.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Michael in California on the line who wants to start an A/C debate. Let’s hear it.

    MICHAEL: I had a question with regards to a window unit changing out to a split system and what your feelings are in regards to cost saving.

    TOM: Yeah, Leslie and I both have split-ductless systems in our homes. Now, I have one in my office and I actually have a central air-conditioning system but on this side of the house, in the west side of the house, it gets so much sun that the central A/C can’t keep up with it. And so, as a result, it gets really hot, especially on the super-warm, summer days. 

    So I use split-ductless there. It can handle a bigger area than a window unit. It’s going to be quieter than a window unit and it’s actually more energy-efficient than a window unit.

    LESLIE: I mean, Michael, they truly do kick butt. We have one in our basement at home because, apparently, we’re the only house in the Northeast of the United States that has a super-hot basement in the summer. Every other person I know, you go down in their basement it’s freezing; ours, it’s like a sauna. So we put a split system down there and it cools fantastically. And to be honest, ours sort of works as an air conditioner, a dehumidifier and we also have the optional heat pump so that we could have supplementary heat in the basement in the winter months. 

    And in the summertime, I practically never even put it on air condition, just because the dehumidification option cools the space fantastically. It’s super-quiet; you would never even know it’s on. The condensing unit, which will go outside, is slim and small; it does not occupy a large footprint. I thought it was an affordable option and it works fantastic.

    MICHAEL: And do you have a recommendation for any particular brand?

    TOM: Yeah, take a look at Mitsubishi Electric’s Cooling & Heating System. They are one of the leaders in the split-ductless category. Their systems are very energy-efficient and they have a technology that works like a cruise control in a car and then it ramps up to the cooling temperature that you want, very quickly. And then it maintains there without turning on and off and on and off; it kind of slows down and speeds up. It actually feeds that cool temperature, leaves it nice and steady. Super-quiet system and also has a couple of cool features.

    For example, it has a smartphone app that you can use to run it. So if you like gadgets, like me, you like good-quality, energy-efficient equipment, take a look at that Mitsubishi system.

    LESLIE: Still to come, a little lighting upgrade can go a long way in the spot where most of us start our day: the bathroom. Kevin O’Connor, host of TV’s This Old House, is going to share some advice on choosing and installing the right lighting for your space, after this.

    TOM: And This Old House on The Money Pit is brought to you by Bostitch Mechanics Tools. Delivering the rugged reliability you’ve come to expect from Bostitch. Designed for the professional, built to last. 

    We’ll be back with more, after this.

    JOHN: Hi, this is John Ratzenberger. Played the part of a know-it-all on Cheers and I’m behind the Made in the U.S.A. movement. You know what was probably made right here? Tom, Leslie and The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. That’s right. And I tell the truth.

    (theme song)

    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: And even the best pumpkin latte can’t take the edge off autumn’s most dreaded chore: raking. But cleaning up those leaves doesn’t have to be a headache. You can round up some raking tips for fall on the home page, right now, at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Henry in Illinois is taking on a driveway-repair project. What can we do for you?

    HENRY: Where my driveway meets the asphalt road in front of my home, right where it meets, I have a hole forming there. And it goes down about 3 to 4 inches deep and probably about 4 feet in diameter. And so it turns out that when I turn my wheels to turn into the driveway, well, the left front wheel hits it and it kicks that rock out. And I put new pea rock in there and it just kicks it out, too.

    TOM: So you have a pea-gravel driveway and the force of the car running it over and over and over again is sort of wearing away a hole. There is a solution for that, Henry, and that is – what I’d like you to consider doing is pouring a concrete apron at the foot of the driveway. 

    So what the concrete apron does – it doesn’t have to be very big: across the entire driveway, maybe 2 feet, maybe no more than 3 feet deep. But 2 feet will probably do. That concrete driveway – that apron then serves as the entry point for those tires. 

    So you hit that, you go over the concrete apron and then you go into the pea gravel. And the edge of the concrete apron will retain – acts as sort of the retaining wall for the pea gravel in the driveway. That’s the easiest way to stop that from happening. Otherwise, it’s going to be a constant maintenance hassle for you to replace what is really just a very soft apron now with the pea gravel coming right out and spilling out into the roadway.

    You’ll also save a lot of stone in the winter when the plows come by and start pushing that snow around.

    HENRY: OK. Hey, thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Well, when you wake up each morning and head to the bathroom, a perfectly illuminated reflection of your sleepy self might not exactly be the way you’d like to start the day. I know I look amazing in the morning.

    TOM: Well, you must be the only one, because that frightening image may not actually be you at all if bad bathroom lighting is in place. Kevin O’Connor is host of This Old House and joins us now with some tips on how to achieve brilliant bathroom illumination.

    Welcome, Kevin.

    KEVIN: Hey, guys. Great to be here.

    TOM: So that green glow staring back at you in the morning might not be from lack of sleep?

    KEVIN: No. And it might not be the bottle of wine or the six-pack of beer, either. You might actually be able to blame it on your lighting and in particular, maybe your fluorescent lighting?

    LESLIE: Oh, terrible.

    TOM: Ah, yes. So many old bathrooms out there have those tubular fluorescent lights and it’s just really the worst choice.

    KEVIN: Yeah. They sort of give you a greenish glow. They’re not flattering at all. We like the efficiency of them but it’s really – I guess it’s just not what you need first thing in the morning.

    So, when you’re thinking about bathroom lighting, there’s a couple of different things to think about: certainly, the type of lighting but also sort of – how are you going to use the lighting? And they fall into a couple different categories. In the types of lighting, there’s – well, there’s three categories that I like to think about: there’s the general lighting, the task lighting and then the sort of decorative lighting.

    The general lighting, that’s what you want when you just – when you step into the dark bathroom and you want to be able to navigate around. You just turn on the overhead light and it illuminates the entire space. It allows you to navigate through that space without tripping over things. If you’re in the shower, an overhead light in the shower – the general lighting there is great so that you’re comfortable and you’re well-illuminated in the shower. Those are good.

    But for task lighting, well, you know, when you’re actually at the vanity – when you’re shaving or when the woman’s putting on her makeup – that’s a whole different type of lighting. And it’s good to keep in mind that you don’t want the source of that light to be overhead. You don’t want …

    LESLIE: Or too many shadows. I’d put on way too much makeup. You would see a very different Leslie. Lots of eyeshadow.

    KEVIN: Yeah. I mean that’s what it does: it casts shadows when it’s overhead. So, ideally, that task light, when you’re at the vanity, is positioned at about face height and it’s to the left and the right of your face, if you can pull that off. So, fixtures that are on either side of the mirror, sconces sometimes that are actually into the mirror, that is ideal. 

    And then every once in a while, you’ve got the decorative lighting. Maybe there’s room for a chandelier in the center of the bathroom. Give it a little bit of elegance and a little bit of pop. That would be great. Or if there are architectural features that you want to call out, that decorative lighting can be a good choice.

    TOM: Now, let’s not forget about natural light. Any opportunity to get natural light in a bathroom is a good thing, because you’ll need less electric light if you can add a skylight or a sun-tunnel light or something like that.

    KEVIN: Boy, that is ideal and especially for that morning bathroom trip. If you’ve got natural light coming in, it’s going to help wake you up, it’s going to be more enjoyable and vibrant.

    LESLIE: And maybe you won’t be so crabby to the kids if you feel like you look nicer.

    KEVIN: Maybe you won’t be.

    LESLIE: Now, I think with this light-bulb revolution that’s sort of going on – as at least in my mind, that’s what I like to call what’s happening in the light-bulb world – how do you know what bulbs to choose that are really going to give you the best light effect so that you can put your best face forward?

    KEVIN: It is a little bit more complicated these days, because our traditional incandescent bulb, where there really wasn’t much of a choice, that’s sort of going away. And the alternatives are here to stay: the CFLs, the LEDs and the halogens. Whether we like them or not, they’re here and they give us some choice. Because we can actually now start choosing different colors of light. 

    There’s an index called the CRI, which is the color rendering index. And you can find it on the packaging. A good rule of thumb is that if you are in the bathroom and you’re going with a CFL, a CRI of 90 or above is a good place to start. That indicates that they’re closer to displaying the colors that they were for daylight tones.

    TOM: That’s a good point, because lighting color is important. And folks don’t understand that a bulb is not a bulb is not a bulb. The bulbs are designed to give off different color light. And especially when it comes to that important task lighting, you want to make sure that it looks as much like daylight as possible.

    LESLIE: Well, it’s interesting. We have two lamps in our dining room. Both are on dimmers. Same lamps we’ve had for a hundred years. When we switched over to different light bulbs in there, I put one in that had a cool and one that had a daylight and not even realizing. And then I’d turn them both on and there truly was something starkly different about both of them. And it wasn’t a couple of days until I realized exactly what the heck was going on. But it’s true: the temperature of the bulb really does make a huge difference.

    KEVIN: Yeah. And unfortunately, I think it’s a little bit of trial and error. I think you do have to go get a couple of those bulbs, understand what color they are and put them in different fixtures and figure out: “Is that the right color that I want for this particular space?” In the bathroom, daylight is a great thing to shoot for.

    TOM: Now, Kevin, with all these choices, what do we need to consider when it comes to choosing the light controls?

    KEVIN: Well, the nice thing about controls is that there’s a lot more of it these days.

    TOM: Right.

    KEVIN: We can control our fixtures and such. And so, some great things to think about with the bathrooms are switches that will turn things on and off automatically.

    TOM: Right.

    KEVIN: So we can actually have a bathroom fan that goes on automatically and stays on for a set period of time, so that when we’re done taking a shower – well, you know what? That’s not the right time to turn the bathroom fan off. That fan still needs several minutes – 15 or 20 minutes, maybe – to clear all the moisture out of that room. So there are controls out there that will say once the fan is on, it will stay on for a minimum of, say, 20 minutes or so.

    Same thing for turning the lights off. There are occupancy sensors out there. They will know, because there is no more movement in the bathroom, that there’s no one in there anymore and it will turn that light off for you automatically.

    TOM: And of course, when you’re having a nice party, you want to make sure that your bathroom is illuminated, perhaps using those decorative lights. Dimmers work well for that so people can find their way into that room and shut off just enough light when they leave.

    KEVIN: So here’s something that’s a little quirky but I just saw for the first time. You guys go to the International Builders’ Show where all the new, fancy stuff comes out. They’ve got a toilet with built-in nightlights.

    LESLIE: Like in the bowl itself?

    KEVIN: It’s built into the toilet and it’s this little, blue circle of light right around the bowl.

    LESLIE: That’s kind of amazing.

    KEVIN: Isn’t it? And so you never have to leave a light on in the bathroom. The only thing you really need lit up in the middle of the night is that bowl and it’s sort of always on at night.

    LESLIE: That’s amazing.

    KEVIN: Crazy, huh?

    TOM: That’s a little disturbing.

    LESLIE: No, I like it. Because I leave the bathroom light on all night, like super-dimmed low just in case somebody’s got to get up and go.

    TOM: Yeah. Right.

    LESLIE: And this way, it’s easy to find. But that would be great and maybe a five-year-old would actually pee in the toilet instead of elsewhere. Not saying …

    KEVIN: Light up your bulb, light up your life.

    TOM: The blue …

    LESLIE: Exactly.

    TOM: Go to the blue light, Henry. Go to the blue light.

    Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    KEVIN: Thanks for having me, guys. Always a pleasure to be here.

    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 and Ask This Old House are brought to you by GMC. GMC, we are professional grade.

    Still ahead, are you opening your door to prospective homebuyers this fall? We’ll help you make sure your open house isn’t keeping you from closing a deal, with tips on the pitfalls to avoid, from the insiders at the National Association of Realtors, after this.

    (theme song)

    TOM: Where home solutions live, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. The number to call here is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    One caller that we talk to on the air this hour is going to win a $500 gift certificate towards beautiful, solid-wood cabinets from Cabinets To Go.

    TOM: What a fantastic prize. Cabinets To Go offers high-quality, solid-wood cabinets for roughly 40 percent less than made-to-order, big-box stores. And I’m telling you, these cabinets have solid-wood doors, they’ve got dovetail drawers, they’ve got premium hardware and lots and lots of great finishes.

    LESLIE: There’s a style for every taste, including their brand-new Roberto Fiore frameless, European-style cabinets. You dream it, we design it.

    TOM: Visit CabinetsToGo.com for more information. And call us, right now, for your chance to win that fantastic $500 gift certificate towards beautiful, solid-wood cabinets from CabinetsToGo.com by calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT with your home improvement question.

    And it’s time now for today’s Real Estate Tip of the Week, presented by the National Association of Realtors. And today, we’ve got tips on how to get your home ready for a realtor-led open house.

    LESLIE: Holding an open house is a great way to get lots of potential buyers in the door. But first, you’ve got to make sure your home is ready to be seen.

    Now, buyers really need to be able to envision how they’re going to live in your space. So, clearing clutter is the best place to start. And you can also open up rooms by removing larger surplus furnishings.

    TOM: Buyers won’t notice if your home is spotlessly clean but they will notice if it isn’t. Hire a cleaning service to make it sparkle and neutralize odors by shampooing carpets and keeping those litter boxes clean.

    LESLIE: Touches like new towels in the bathroom or a beautifully set dining table also make an impression.

    Outside, trim your lawn, weed your landscaping and prune the shrubs. And once the day of the open house arrives, leave. Buyers are going to be more comfortable, ask more questions and take more interest if you’re not around. And your realtor can highlight the positive features of your home without bias.

    TOM: And that’s your Real Estate Tip of the Week, presented by the National Association of Realtors. Considering selling your home? Today’s market conditions may mean it’s a good time. Every market’s different, so call a realtor today and visit Realtor.com.

    LESLIE: Laurie in New York is on the line with a gardening situation. Tell us what’s going on.

    LAURIE: I have a tea-rose bush in my backyard, which attracts a lot of Japanese beetles. And I was wondering if there is something that I can do to get rid of the Japanese beetles, to save the tree.

    TOM: Well, yeah, there’s traps for that and the traps work very well. They’re usually scented or they have some sort of a chemical attractant for the beetles. And the beetles are essentially – will essentially walk into the trap, fall into a bag and that’s that. 

    One company that makes them is called RESCUE! – R-E-S-C-U-E. You can go to RESCUE.com and take a look at the Japanese and Oriental Beetle Trap. I’ve used the RESCUE! products on wasps and bees and always found that they worked really, really well. 

    And we’ve seen these folks at many of the trade shows that we go to and they always seem to have a very good-quality product line and they’re very serious about making sure their products work well. And I think that you’ll – that would be a good place for you to start. The RESCUE! Japanese Beetle Trap, RESCUE.com.

    LAURIE: Very good. Thank you very much. I’m going to try that as soon as I get off the phone. I will look at their website.

    LESLIE: Alright. Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit.

    Still ahead, outdoor play structures are all fun and games. That is until rough or rotted surfaces crash the party. We’re going to tell you the best ways to finish wooden play structures for maximum fun, safety and appearance, after this.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Pavestone’s easy-to-stack RumbleStone Rustic Building Blocks. Create any outdoor hardscape you can imagine, to instantly add old-world charm. Available at The Home Depot. For more information and product instructions, visit Pavestone.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: And hey, did you notice that hurricanes keep making headlines? Well, make sure your home doesn’t. We’ve got step-by-step advice for shielding your house against high winds this hurricane season. It’s on our home page, right now, at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: And while you’re online, you can post a question, just like Vince did who writes: “I’ve built a large play structure for my kids and I’m wondering how or if to finish it, as I really don’t want to have to refinish it every year or two or three. I used composite lumber for the deck boards and stringers and pressure-treated Douglas fir for the structural members. I’m concerned about the ladder. I’ve seen numerous products advertised on the internet as so-called lifetime finishes but I suspect they’re scams. Are there any real apply-once products that work or should I be looking at something like a semi-transparent deck stain? Since I live in a moderate California climate, can I just leave it unfinished? I’ve been told that my kids will outgrow the play structure long before the pressure-treated lumber is deteriorated.”

    TOM: That’s a really interesting observation, which is actually true. I mean the playset – the pressure-treated lumber – is going to last 20 or 30 years. But you know what? The splinters won’t take nearly that long to show up.

    So, look, I would say that if you used composite lumber for the surfaces that their little, tiny feet are going to be upon and their hands and the railings and that sort of thing, then finishing is completely optional. It’s really just for color. But if there’s any exposed wood, then you do need to finish it. And the best way to finish that is to probably wait through one season, so the wood dries out a little bit, and then the second season you’re going to want to apply an oil-based primer and then a solid-color deck stain, not semi-transparent. Solid-color because the more pigment, the longer it lasts.

    Unfortunately, there’s no finish out there that’s going to be sort of one and done, Vince. And you’re right: a lot of those lifetime finishes are scams, in our opinions, so I would stay away from those. But just do the basics: wait a year and cover those exposed surfaces with a good-quality, oil-based primer. Then you can use a latex, solid-color deck stain on the exposed surfaces and take it from there.

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post from FantasticSkins1 who writes: “We have a home that was built in the early 70s. The builder used Formica for the countertops and also the backsplash area in our kitchen and both bathrooms. We have a huge counter in the kitchen and would like to change it from Formica to another product on the counters and have tile on the backsplash areas. Can I tile over the laminate?”

    TOM: Yes, you certainly could tile over the laminate. But I will say, if you have not seen Formica lately, you really need to take another look. Because they have got so many fantastic colors and patterns and styles and new techniques for finishing the edges today that really just look gorgeous. And they cost so much less than the solid-surface materials that they very often replicate. So I would definitely take a look at what’s new from Formica, which I’m sure you could find at Formica.com.

    And then in terms of tiling over, certainly if the old countertop is structurally in good shape so there’s no rotted areas – perhaps even around the sink. That’s the most critical area to check because a lot of times, you’ll get some damage around the faucet. But if there’s no rotted areas, absolutely no reason you cannot tile right over that. In fact, there are tile-mastic products that are out there which will allow you to sort of glue tile easily to the countertop surfaces. And you can grout the same day.

    LESLIE: And the same material that you’re using on the countertop can also be used for the backsplash, so that will make it a very easy project for you. And it’ll make a huge difference.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show joining you on a beautiful fall weekend. We hope that you’ve taken some time to get outside and enjoy the great day that we’re having in our part of the country. Hope you’re having one in yours, as well. But if you’re not, hey, there’s plenty of fall projects to take care of inside your house.

    Whatever it is, inside or out, we’re here to help you, 24-7, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. The show continues online.

    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 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.)

    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. We want to help you solve your do-it-yourself dilemmas. What’s on your fall fix-up to-do list? Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT and we will help you out.

    Just ahead this hour, open houses aren’t worth all the hassle it takes to put one together if they’re not done right. We’ve got tips to make sure your open house isn’t closing the door on potential new offers, just ahead.

    LESLIE: And also this hour, are you considering a facelift? No, you’re not listening to the wrong show. We’re talking about bathroom-lighting facelifts. Because you know what? You’re going to get better lighting but you’re also going to get a better reflection in the mirror once you improve the lighting. So we’re going to help you with some tips for seeing everything in your bathroom in a new light.

    TOM: And you may have a plan for keeping your family safe during extreme weather. But have you thought about how an emergency could threaten your money? We’ve got advice on keeping your finances safe when you need them most, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: Plus, this hour we’re giving away $500 towards beautiful, solid-wood cabinets from CabinetsToGo.com.

    TOM: Cabinets To Go builds beautiful, well-made cabinets that can add to any kitchen or bath. That $500 gift certificate is going out to one lucky caller, so pick up the phone and call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Dennis in Georgia, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we help you with today?

    DENNIS: Yes, ma’am. I’m having trouble getting stains off my roof. I’ve applied Wet & Forget twice within the last three months and it still has not come off.

    TOM: Alright. What kinds of stains are these? Because Wet & Forget is designed to kill algae and mold. I wonder if you’ve got something besides that.

    DENNIS: Well, I had my whole front yard reworked and I had some trees cut down. Ten oaks in all. And I just cannot get the stain off.

    TOM: Yeah, you might have some tree droppings or something else on there that’s causing this, sap and that sort of thing.

    DENNIS: Yes, sir.

    TOM: Hmm. Well, one of the things – one other thing I might try is a produced called JOMAX. And it works pretty well at cleaning up pretty gross spaces. I used it recently on a picnic table that had really discolored. And simply by applying the JOMAX and then cleaning with a pressure washer, we were able to make it very attractive once again.

    So, it’s called J-O-M-A-X – JOMAX – made by the Zinsser Company. Give that a try and let us know how you make out, Dennis.

    DENNIS: OK. Where can I buy this at?

    TOM: Home centers, hardware stores. Pretty readily available. And if you use a pressure washer, just take it easy. You don’t want to poke holes in that roof or wear off the coating.

    DENNIS: I enjoy your show.

    TOM: Thank you, Dennis.

    LESLIE: Ollie (sp) in South Carolina has a painting and design question. What can we do for you?

    OLLIE (sp): I’ve got paneling. I don’t know if it’s laminated paneling or not but it’s got little grooves in it all the way down and it’s darker than the other paneling itself. And I wanted to paint it. Do I have to do something to fill it in – lines or cracks or what you want to call it?

    LESLIE: Now, the lines that you’re talking about, those are like the beading. It’s like a decorative feature; it’s supposed to be there. Is that what we’re talking about?

    OLLIE (sp): Yeah. 

    LESLIE: OK. You don’t want to fill that in only because if you try to fill it in with joint compound or wood filler, it’s just going to dry out, crack, detach. It’s never going to last. 

    So you kind of have to think about it. Can you embrace the look of the paneling, as far as a core element, but paint it a different color and love that vertical lining? Or do you just hate that so much that you want to sort of try to remove it or cover it up?

    OLLIE (sp): No, I’d like to leave it if it would make a nice design, you know?

    LESLIE: I personally like it. I think painted paneling can be very lovely in the right type of space with the right type of décor and if you choose a good color. Now, the fact that you don’t know whether it’s wood or laminate, that could be a little bit of a concern only because we want to make sure that you have good adhesion. 

    So if the finish on the paneling, right now, is a little bit glossy or has a shine to it, you want to use a product like a liquid sander. And that’s something that you just wipe on and it sort of abrades the surface. 

    First, I’d give it a good cleaning, then I’d lightly abrade it with a liquid sander. Then I would prime it and I would prime it well with a good-quality primer. And then once that’s done, I would paint it. And I really enjoy the look of a paneling that’s in a glossy white. But I think if you go with a neutral color and try not to get crazy and just sort of let it be a neutral background with a decorative detail in it, I think it’ll be great.

    OLLIE (sp): I think it would look nice. But thank you. You have a good day.

    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, we are officially in autumn. And with Halloween around the corner, are you getting your money pit into a spooky presentation? Well, we can help you get your house look scary and be safe at the same time or pretty much help you with any home improvement project you are working on. Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, you may have a lot to take care of during a weather emergency, so you want to make sure your money can take care of itself. We’ve got tips on high- and low-tech ways to protect your assets, your liquid cash and your bill-paying when severe weather strikes, next.

    (theme song)

    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: Standing by for your call at 888-MONEY-PIT. 

    One caller we talk to on the air this hour is going to win a $500 gift certificate towards beautiful, solid-wood cabinets from CabinetsToGo.com. 

    What a great prize. CabinetsToGo.com offers high-quality, solid-wood cabinets for roughly 40 percent less than made-to-order, big-box stores.

    LESLIE: Yeah, these cabinets have solid-wood doors, dovetail drawers, premium hardware and lots of great finish options. There’s a style for every taste, including their brand-new Roberto Fiore frameless, European-style cabinets. You dream it, we design it.

    TOM: Visit CabinetsToGo.com and call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. One caller drawn at random is going to win $500 worth of cabinets from CabinetsToGo.com.

    LESLIE: Ben in Minnesota, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today? 

    BEN: I have a really old house, kind of like what you guys have, and built in the early – probably early 1900s. Don’t know exactly. But it’s got a rock foundation and we’re in southwest Minnesota, so the ground does freeze pretty deep. 

    And basically, the mortar between all of the rocks has pretty much turned to sand. Some places, they worked on re-tuckpointing it here and there. But it’s all kind of coming apart again and some of the rocks, especially on the corners, are even tipping out a little bit. So I’m trying to figure out what I need to do to fix that, if I need to dig down. I have access to equipment. I work in the HVAC business, so we have lots of equipment and I do lots of stuff on my own. So, just seeing if you guys had any pointers for me.

    TOM: So, the foundation is damaged or you’re just concerned about the rocks that are sticking out?

    BEN: Yeah, well, the foundation isn’t particularly damaged; it’s actually pretty solid. It’s just that the mortar – since it’s so old, the mortar between all of the rocks has deteriorated to the point where it’s almost like sand. You know what I mean? And it just falls out from between the rocks.

    TOM: So what you need to do is simply to repoint or replace that mortar. Pointing is the act of mixing up new mortar and pulling out the old stuff and then pressing new mortar into place. 

    And the type of mortar that you use for repointing is a little stickier than the mortar that would have been done originally. Usually, it has a bit more lime in it, which tends to make it a bit gooier and it sticks to the old stuff pretty well. 

    So, what you do is you work one section at a time. You do remove all that loose stuff and then you repoint it up with new mortar. And that’s pretty much normal maintenance with a 1900 foundation. You do have to eventually repoint a foundation like that; it’s not unusual. You can slow it down with proper drainage and things like that but essentially, that’s what we would expect, OK?

    BEN: Right, OK. Perfect. Hey, thanks so much for your time and the advice.

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

    LESLIE: Cody in Texas, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    CODY: Yes, ma’am. I was calling because I’m having a problem with scorpions and bugs and stuff. And I was going to see if you could recommend an economical way to treat them, both inside and out. You know, we’ve used commercial businesses in the past to come in and spray. That’s just not in the budget right now. And I’ve tried Sevin Dust granules outside and just wanted to see if you could recommend anything that would be good inside and out.

    TOM: Well, if you’re concerned about spiders, there’s a new product out called Miss Muffet’s Revenge that’s made by the Wet & Forget Company that’s inexpensive and can keep them out for a year. But I don’t think that’s going to keep the scorpions out.

    CODY: OK.

    TOM: One natural product that folks have reported good success with is boric acid. And boric acid can be applied a number of ways. You can sprinkle the powder, you can mix the powder with water and spray it. But you have to remember it doesn’t kill on contact; it essentially kind of messes with the skeleton system of the scorpion and causes them to die from dehydration. So, it’s more a preventative than it is sort of an immediate use – an immediate-result product.

    CODY: Spray it around the foundation, on the exterior of the home? I actually wouldn’t want to spray that inside or would it be OK to spray inside?

    TOM: Well, you could spray it inside, as well. I mean it’s pretty safe to spray inside and outside.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Another natural oil that they just don’t seem to like, for whatever reason, is cedar oil. So if you mix cedar oil with water and then spray that around your perimeter or if you’ve got gaps or cracks in your foundation or on your interior, you can use that, as well. They also don’t like lavender. So if you plant some lavender around your foundation, they’ll tend to stay away.

    CODY: Awesome. I appreciate the help, guy. You all have a great rest of the day.

    LESLIE: Well, you and your family are vulnerable in emergency-weather situations. So, make sure your money isn’t. When the forecast calls for severe weather, it’s important to make sure you’re ready for the storm.

    Here’s a tip to do just that, presented by KOHLER Generators.

    TOM: Start by keeping your financial records and documents in one safe place. A wide variety of safes and lockboxes are available for protecting against heat and weather and come small enough to be carried out of your home in a hurry. And if your financial records include electronic files, make sure your safety box is one that stays below 150 degrees, even in a fire. Otherwise, the electronics could be ruined.

    LESLIE: Smartphone apps can help you bank when you don’t have any access to your filing cabinet or computer. Download apps for any banks, lenders and business partners so that payments go uninterrupted. And also, crucial financial information can be easily accessed in case of a storm emergency.

    While you’re at it, download FEMA’s phone app. The app can update you on emergency response and recovery in your area.

    TOM: This Severe Weather Tip is presented by KOHLER Generators. Running on clean propane or natural gas, a KOHLER standby generator is permanently installed outside your home and comes on automatically within seconds of a power outage. 

    To learn more, visit KOHLERGenerators.com.

    LESLIE: Naomi in Pennsylvania, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today? 

    NAOMI: What I have is my backyard, over the past several years we’ve taken down a couple of major trees. They died. And now, whenever it rains, pretty much I have standing water for a long period of time and it’s really nasty. 

    So, I’ve been looking online for ideas. I’ve gone to garden centers looking for plants that do well in standing water. And in the Northeast, we don’t have a long growing season, so a lot of the plants that I’m looking up don’t seem to be doing well. 

    So, other ideas my husband and I have kicked around are putting a floating deck, I see, that you can build out there?

    TOM: Floating deck? That’s called a raft.

    NAOMI: Yeah. Spring …

    TOM: I don’t think you have to become Tom Sawyer here, Naomi, OK, and build a raft to float down the river.

    NAOMI: Well, my husband’s idea was to put stone all over.

    TOM: How about this idea? How about if we drain the backyard of water? You like that idea?

    NAOMI: Well, how do you go about doing that? We were not sure … 

    TOM: So, first of all, it sounds like the backyard is sloped in such a way that the water runs into it but doesn’t run out of it. Is that fair to say?

    NAOMI: That’s pretty – yes, pretty fair to say. My neighbor’s yard is slightly higher.

    TOM: And then is an area below your house that’s slightly lower than the backyard?

    NAOMI: After we bought the house, we found out it was built on a swamp, so everybody has drainage problems.

    TOM: I’m pretty sure that you’re not looking at the water table there; you’re looking at some water that’s staying around. So here’s the solution: it’s called a “curtain drain.”

    And what a curtain drain is is a trench that you construct from the part where the water is ponding to somewhere lower than that in the elevation. Now, the curtain drain is a trench that’s about 12 inches wide and 12 inches deep. You put in a couple of inches of stone, then you put in a perforated PVC pipe. And then you put more stone and some filter cloth and you cover it with soil so it’s completely invisible when it’s done. 

    But here’s what happens: as the water runs down to that area where it’s ponding now, it falls into the trench, it comes up into the pipe and then it runs down through the pipe and discharges at a lower area of your property. So you are essentially collecting the water, shooting it around the house and then discharging it somewhere at a lower elevation.

    NAOMI: Does this require a backhoe or is this something that we can do with shovel and …?

    TOM: No, you can do it with a shovel. And you don’t need much pitch either: you need about a ¼-inch a foot – per foot – on the pipe. So just as long as you get a nice, clean trench dug, you get the stone in there, you get the perforated pipe in there, it’ll work very well. And it’ll drain that yard whenever it fills up.

    NAOMI: And I look for the wettest part of the yard to start it in and then I go to a – you said a ¼-inch per foot?

    TOM: Foot, yeah. And you want to bring it down to someplace lower on the yard where you can discharge it. And the best thing to do is to discharge it to daylight; in other words, have the pipe actually pop out somewhere so the water can run out.

    NAOMI: OK, great. Terrific. Thank you so much.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Tom in Nebraska on the line with a decking question. How can we help you today? 

    TOM IN NEBRASKA: I’m building a cedar deck and I’m trying to figure out which products to use in order to preserve the life of it.

    TOM: OK. Well, cedar is a good choice because it’s naturally insect-resistant, so you don’t have to worry so much about decay. But if you want to stop it from cracking and checking and splitting, which it’ll do simply from exposure to the sun, then you really need to think about putting a product on it that’s got a UV protectant in it, like a stain. 

    Now, since it’s brand new, I might suggest, in this particular case, a semi-transparent stain that’s going to give it some UV protection. It’ll help even out the color and it’ll protect it from the cracking and the checking that goes on.

    You can pretty much put it on right away but sometimes when people put – build cedar decks, they want to enjoy them for a few months, just until they start to gray a bit, and then they’ll stain them. So the choice is yours but a semi-transparent stain would be a good option for you right now.

    TOM IN NEBRASKA: OK, cool. I wasn’t sure what to do, you know? I appreciate it, man.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Michael in California on the line who wants to start an A/C debate. Let’s hear it.

    MICHAEL: I had a question with regards to a window unit changing out to a split system and what your feelings are in regards to cost saving.

    TOM: Yeah, Leslie and I both have split-ductless systems in our homes. Now, I have one in my office and I actually have a central air-conditioning system but on this side of the house, in the west side of the house, it gets so much sun that the central A/C can’t keep up with it. And so, as a result, it gets really hot, especially on the super-warm, summer days. 

    So I use split-ductless there. It can handle a bigger area than a window unit. It’s going to be quieter than a window unit and it’s actually more energy-efficient than a window unit.

    LESLIE: I mean, Michael, they truly do kick butt. We have one in our basement at home because, apparently, we’re the only house in the Northeast of the United States that has a super-hot basement in the summer. Every other person I know, you go down in their basement it’s freezing; ours, it’s like a sauna. So we put a split system down there and it cools fantastically. And to be honest, ours sort of works as an air conditioner, a dehumidifier and we also have the optional heat pump so that we could have supplementary heat in the basement in the winter months. 

    And in the summertime, I practically never even put it on air condition, just because the dehumidification option cools the space fantastically. It’s super-quiet; you would never even know it’s on. The condensing unit, which will go outside, is slim and small; it does not occupy a large footprint. I thought it was an affordable option and it works fantastic.

    MICHAEL: And do you have a recommendation for any particular brand?

    TOM: Yeah, take a look at Mitsubishi Electric’s Cooling & Heating System. They are one of the leaders in the split-ductless category. Their systems are very energy-efficient and they have a technology that works like a cruise control in a car and then it ramps up to the cooling temperature that you want, very quickly. And then it maintains there without turning on and off and on and off; it kind of slows down and speeds up. It actually feeds that cool temperature, leaves it nice and steady. Super-quiet system and also has a couple of cool features.

    For example, it has a smartphone app that you can use to run it. So if you like gadgets, like me, you like good-quality, energy-efficient equipment, take a look at that Mitsubishi system.

    LESLIE: Still to come, a little lighting upgrade can go a long way in the spot where most of us start our day: the bathroom. Kevin O’Connor, host of TV’s This Old House, is going to share some advice on choosing and installing the right lighting for your space, after this.

    TOM: And This Old House on The Money Pit is brought to you by Bostitch Mechanics Tools. Delivering the rugged reliability you’ve come to expect from Bostitch. Designed for the professional, built to last. 

    We’ll be back with more, after this.

    JOHN: Hi, this is John Ratzenberger. Played the part of a know-it-all on Cheers and I’m behind the Made in the U.S.A. movement. You know what was probably made right here? Tom, Leslie and The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. That’s right. And I tell the truth.

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    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: And even the best pumpkin latte can’t take the edge off autumn’s most dreaded chore: raking. But cleaning up those leaves doesn’t have to be a headache. You can round up some raking tips for fall on the home page, right now, at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Henry in Illinois is taking on a driveway-repair project. What can we do for you?

    HENRY: Where my driveway meets the asphalt road in front of my home, right where it meets, I have a hole forming there. And it goes down about 3 to 4 inches deep and probably about 4 feet in diameter. And so it turns out that when I turn my wheels to turn into the driveway, well, the left front wheel hits it and it kicks that rock out. And I put new pea rock in there and it just kicks it out, too.

    TOM: So you have a pea-gravel driveway and the force of the car running it over and over and over again is sort of wearing away a hole. There is a solution for that, Henry, and that is – what I’d like you to consider doing is pouring a concrete apron at the foot of the driveway. 

    So what the concrete apron does – it doesn’t have to be very big: across the entire driveway, maybe 2 feet, maybe no more than 3 feet deep. But 2 feet will probably do. That concrete driveway – that apron then serves as the entry point for those tires. 

    So you hit that, you go over the concrete apron and then you go into the pea gravel. And the edge of the concrete apron will retain – acts as sort of the retaining wall for the pea gravel in the driveway. That’s the easiest way to stop that from happening. Otherwise, it’s going to be a constant maintenance hassle for you to replace what is really just a very soft apron now with the pea gravel coming right out and spilling out into the roadway.

    You’ll also save a lot of stone in the winter when the plows come by and start pushing that snow around.

    HENRY: OK. Hey, thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Well, when you wake up each morning and head to the bathroom, a perfectly illuminated reflection of your sleepy self might not exactly be the way you’d like to start the day. I know I look amazing in the morning.

    TOM: Well, you must be the only one, because that frightening image may not actually be you at all if bad bathroom lighting is in place. Kevin O’Connor is host of This Old House and joins us now with some tips on how to achieve brilliant bathroom illumination.

    Welcome, Kevin.

    KEVIN: Hey, guys. Great to be here.

    TOM: So that green glow staring back at you in the morning might not be from lack of sleep?

    KEVIN: No. And it might not be the bottle of wine or the six-pack of beer, either. You might actually be able to blame it on your lighting and in particular, maybe your fluorescent lighting?

    LESLIE: Oh, terrible.

    TOM: Ah, yes. So many old bathrooms out there have those tubular fluorescent lights and it’s just really the worst choice.

    KEVIN: Yeah. They sort of give you a greenish glow. They’re not flattering at all. We like the efficiency of them but it’s really – I guess it’s just not what you need first thing in the morning.

    So, when you’re thinking about bathroom lighting, there’s a couple of different things to think about: certainly, the type of lighting but also sort of – how are you going to use the lighting? And they fall into a couple different categories. In the types of lighting, there’s – well, there’s three categories that I like to think about: there’s the general lighting, the task lighting and then the sort of decorative lighting.

    The general lighting, that’s what you want when you just – when you step into the dark bathroom and you want to be able to navigate around. You just turn on the overhead light and it illuminates the entire space. It allows you to navigate through that space without tripping over things. If you’re in the shower, an overhead light in the shower – the general lighting there is great so that you’re comfortable and you’re well-illuminated in the shower. Those are good.

    But for task lighting, well, you know, when you’re actually at the vanity – when you’re shaving or when the woman’s putting on her makeup – that’s a whole different type of lighting. And it’s good to keep in mind that you don’t want the source of that light to be overhead. You don’t want …

    LESLIE: Or too many shadows. I’d put on way too much makeup. You would see a very different Leslie. Lots of eyeshadow.

    KEVIN: Yeah. I mean that’s what it does: it casts shadows when it’s overhead. So, ideally, that task light, when you’re at the vanity, is positioned at about face height and it’s to the left and the right of your face, if you can pull that off. So, fixtures that are on either side of the mirror, sconces sometimes that are actually into the mirror, that is ideal. 

    And then every once in a while, you’ve got the decorative lighting. Maybe there’s room for a chandelier in the center of the bathroom. Give it a little bit of elegance and a little bit of pop. That would be great. Or if there are architectural features that you want to call out, that decorative lighting can be a good choice.

    TOM: Now, let’s not forget about natural light. Any opportunity to get natural light in a bathroom is a good thing, because you’ll need less electric light if you can add a skylight or a sun-tunnel light or something like that.

    KEVIN: Boy, that is ideal and especially for that morning bathroom trip. If you’ve got natural light coming in, it’s going to help wake you up, it’s going to be more enjoyable and vibrant.

    LESLIE: And maybe you won’t be so crabby to the kids if you feel like you look nicer.

    KEVIN: Maybe you won’t be.

    LESLIE: Now, I think with this light-bulb revolution that’s sort of going on – as at least in my mind, that’s what I like to call what’s happening in the light-bulb world – how do you know what bulbs to choose that are really going to give you the best light effect so that you can put your best face forward?

    KEVIN: It is a little bit more complicated these days, because our traditional incandescent bulb, where there really wasn’t much of a choice, that’s sort of going away. And the alternatives are here to stay: the CFLs, the LEDs and the halogens. Whether we like them or not, they’re here and they give us some choice. Because we can actually now start choosing different colors of light. 

    There’s an index called the CRI, which is the color rendering index. And you can find it on the packaging. A good rule of thumb is that if you are in the bathroom and you’re going with a CFL, a CRI of 90 or above is a good place to start. That indicates that they’re closer to displaying the colors that they were for daylight tones.

    TOM: That’s a good point, because lighting color is important. And folks don’t understand that a bulb is not a bulb is not a bulb. The bulbs are designed to give off different color light. And especially when it comes to that important task lighting, you want to make sure that it looks as much like daylight as possible.

    LESLIE: Well, it’s interesting. We have two lamps in our dining room. Both are on dimmers. Same lamps we’ve had for a hundred years. When we switched over to different light bulbs in there, I put one in that had a cool and one that had a daylight and not even realizing. And then I’d turn them both on and there truly was something starkly different about both of them. And it wasn’t a couple of days until I realized exactly what the heck was going on. But it’s true: the temperature of the bulb really does make a huge difference.

    KEVIN: Yeah. And unfortunately, I think it’s a little bit of trial and error. I think you do have to go get a couple of those bulbs, understand what color they are and put them in different fixtures and figure out: “Is that the right color that I want for this particular space?” In the bathroom, daylight is a great thing to shoot for.

    TOM: Now, Kevin, with all these choices, what do we need to consider when it comes to choosing the light controls?

    KEVIN: Well, the nice thing about controls is that there’s a lot more of it these days.

    TOM: Right.

    KEVIN: We can control our fixtures and such. And so, some great things to think about with the bathrooms are switches that will turn things on and off automatically.

    TOM: Right.

    KEVIN: So we can actually have a bathroom fan that goes on automatically and stays on for a set period of time, so that when we’re done taking a shower – well, you know what? That’s not the right time to turn the bathroom fan off. That fan still needs several minutes – 15 or 20 minutes, maybe – to clear all the moisture out of that room. So there are controls out there that will say once the fan is on, it will stay on for a minimum of, say, 20 minutes or so.

    Same thing for turning the lights off. There are occupancy sensors out there. They will know, because there is no more movement in the bathroom, that there’s no one in there anymore and it will turn that light off for you automatically.

    TOM: And of course, when you’re having a nice party, you want to make sure that your bathroom is illuminated, perhaps using those decorative lights. Dimmers work well for that so people can find their way into that room and shut off just enough light when they leave.

    KEVIN: So here’s something that’s a little quirky but I just saw for the first time. You guys go to the International Builders’ Show where all the new, fancy stuff comes out. They’ve got a toilet with built-in nightlights.

    LESLIE: Like in the bowl itself?

    KEVIN: It’s built into the toilet and it’s this little, blue circle of light right around the bowl.

    LESLIE: That’s kind of amazing.

    KEVIN: Isn’t it? And so you never have to leave a light on in the bathroom. The only thing you really need lit up in the middle of the night is that bowl and it’s sort of always on at night.

    LESLIE: That’s amazing.

    KEVIN: Crazy, huh?

    TOM: That’s a little disturbing.

    LESLIE: No, I like it. Because I leave the bathroom light on all night, like super-dimmed low just in case somebody’s got to get up and go.

    TOM: Yeah. Right.

    LESLIE: And this way, it’s easy to find. But that would be great and maybe a five-year-old would actually pee in the toilet instead of elsewhere. Not saying …

    KEVIN: Light up your bulb, light up your life.

    TOM: The blue …

    LESLIE: Exactly.

    TOM: Go to the blue light, Henry. Go to the blue light.

    Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    KEVIN: Thanks for having me, guys. Always a pleasure to be here.

    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 and Ask This Old House are brought to you by GMC. GMC, we are professional grade.

    Still ahead, are you opening your door to prospective homebuyers this fall? We’ll help you make sure your open house isn’t keeping you from closing a deal, with tips on the pitfalls to avoid, from the insiders at the National Association of Realtors, after this.

    (theme song)

    TOM: Where home solutions live, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. The number to call here is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    One caller that we talk to on the air this hour is going to win a $500 gift certificate towards beautiful, solid-wood cabinets from Cabinets To Go.

    TOM: What a fantastic prize. Cabinets To Go offers high-quality, solid-wood cabinets for roughly 40 percent less than made-to-order, big-box stores. And I’m telling you, these cabinets have solid-wood doors, they’ve got dovetail drawers, they’ve got premium hardware and lots and lots of great finishes.

    LESLIE: There’s a style for every taste, including their brand-new Roberto Fiore frameless, European-style cabinets. You dream it, we design it.

    TOM: Visit CabinetsToGo.com for more information. And call us, right now, for your chance to win that fantastic $500 gift certificate towards beautiful, solid-wood cabinets from CabinetsToGo.com by calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT with your home improvement question.

    And it’s time now for today’s Real Estate Tip of the Week, presented by the National Association of Realtors. And today, we’ve got tips on how to get your home ready for a realtor-led open house.

    LESLIE: Holding an open house is a great way to get lots of potential buyers in the door. But first, you’ve got to make sure your home is ready to be seen.

    Now, buyers really need to be able to envision how they’re going to live in your space. So, clearing clutter is the best place to start. And you can also open up rooms by removing larger surplus furnishings.

    TOM: Buyers won’t notice if your home is spotlessly clean but they will notice if it isn’t. Hire a cleaning service to make it sparkle and neutralize odors by shampooing carpets and keeping those litter boxes clean.

    LESLIE: Touches like new towels in the bathroom or a beautifully set dining table also make an impression.

    Outside, trim your lawn, weed your landscaping and prune the shrubs. And once the day of the open house arrives, leave. Buyers are going to be more comfortable, ask more questions and take more interest if you’re not around. And your realtor can highlight the positive features of your home without bias.

    TOM: And that’s your Real Estate Tip of the Week, presented by the National Association of Realtors. Considering selling your home? Today’s market conditions may mean it’s a good time. Every market’s different, so call a realtor today and visit Realtor.com.

    LESLIE: Laurie in New York is on the line with a gardening situation. Tell us what’s going on.

    LAURIE: I have a tea-rose bush in my backyard, which attracts a lot of Japanese beetles. And I was wondering if there is something that I can do to get rid of the Japanese beetles, to save the tree.

    TOM: Well, yeah, there’s traps for that and the traps work very well. They’re usually scented or they have some sort of a chemical attractant for the beetles. And the beetles are essentially – will essentially walk into the trap, fall into a bag and that’s that. 

    One company that makes them is called RESCUE! – R-E-S-C-U-E. You can go to RESCUE.com and take a look at the Japanese and Oriental Beetle Trap. I’ve used the RESCUE! products on wasps and bees and always found that they worked really, really well. 

    And we’ve seen these folks at many of the trade shows that we go to and they always seem to have a very good-quality product line and they’re very serious about making sure their products work well. And I think that you’ll – that would be a good place for you to start. The RESCUE! Japanese Beetle Trap, RESCUE.com.

    LAURIE: Very good. Thank you very much. I’m going to try that as soon as I get off the phone. I will look at their website.

    LESLIE: Alright. Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit.

    Still ahead, outdoor play structures are all fun and games. That is until rough or rotted surfaces crash the party. We’re going to tell you the best ways to finish wooden play structures for maximum fun, safety and appearance, after this.

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    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Pavestone’s easy-to-stack RumbleStone Rustic Building Blocks. Create any outdoor hardscape you can imagine, to instantly add old-world charm. Available at The Home Depot. For more information and product instructions, visit Pavestone.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: And hey, did you notice that hurricanes keep making headlines? Well, make sure your home doesn’t. We’ve got step-by-step advice for shielding your house against high winds this hurricane season. It’s on our home page, right now, at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: And while you’re online, you can post a question, just like Vince did who writes: “I’ve built a large play structure for my kids and I’m wondering how or if to finish it, as I really don’t want to have to refinish it every year or two or three. I used composite lumber for the deck boards and stringers and pressure-treated Douglas fir for the structural members. I’m concerned about the ladder. I’ve seen numerous products advertised on the internet as so-called lifetime finishes but I suspect they’re scams. Are there any real apply-once products that work or should I be looking at something like a semi-transparent deck stain? Since I live in a moderate California climate, can I just leave it unfinished? I’ve been told that my kids will outgrow the play structure long before the pressure-treated lumber is deteriorated.”

    TOM: That’s a really interesting observation, which is actually true. I mean the playset – the pressure-treated lumber – is going to last 20 or 30 years. But you know what? The splinters won’t take nearly that long to show up.

    So, look, I would say that if you used composite lumber for the surfaces that their little, tiny feet are going to be upon and their hands and the railings and that sort of thing, then finishing is completely optional. It’s really just for color. But if there’s any exposed wood, then you do need to finish it. And the best way to finish that is to probably wait through one season, so the wood dries out a little bit, and then the second season you’re going to want to apply an oil-based primer and then a solid-color deck stain, not semi-transparent. Solid-color because the more pigment, the longer it lasts.

    Unfortunately, there’s no finish out there that’s going to be sort of one and done, Vince. And you’re right: a lot of those lifetime finishes are scams, in our opinions, so I would stay away from those. But just do the basics: wait a year and cover those exposed surfaces with a good-quality, oil-based primer. Then you can use a latex, solid-color deck stain on the exposed surfaces and take it from there.

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post from FantasticSkins1 who writes: “We have a home that was built in the early 70s. The builder used Formica for the countertops and also the backsplash area in our kitchen and both bathrooms. We have a huge counter in the kitchen and would like to change it from Formica to another product on the counters and have tile on the backsplash areas. Can I tile over the laminate?”

    TOM: Yes, you certainly could tile over the laminate. But I will say, if you have not seen Formica lately, you really need to take another look. Because they have got so many fantastic colors and patterns and styles and new techniques for finishing the edges today that really just look gorgeous. And they cost so much less than the solid-surface materials that they very often replicate. So I would definitely take a look at what’s new from Formica, which I’m sure you could find at Formica.com.

    And then in terms of tiling over, certainly if the old countertop is structurally in good shape so there’s no rotted areas – perhaps even around the sink. That’s the most critical area to check because a lot of times, you’ll get some damage around the faucet. But if there’s no rotted areas, absolutely no reason you cannot tile right over that. In fact, there are tile-mastic products that are out there which will allow you to sort of glue tile easily to the countertop surfaces. And you can grout the same day.

    LESLIE: And the same material that you’re using on the countertop can also be used for the backsplash, so that will make it a very easy project for you. And it’ll make a huge difference.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show joining you on a beautiful fall weekend. We hope that you’ve taken some time to get outside and enjoy the great day that we’re having in our part of the country. Hope you’re having one in yours, as well. But if you’re not, hey, there’s plenty of fall projects to take care of inside your house.

    Whatever it is, inside or out, we’re here to help you, 24-7, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. The show continues online.

    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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    END HOUR 1 TEXT

    (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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