Outdoor Living Areas: Keeping Warm in Autumn. What is a Power Inverter?, The Best This Old House Renovations and More

  • Transcript

    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: Standing by to answer your home improvement questions, to help solve your do-it-yourself dilemmas, to help you do all but pick up the tools and get the job done. We will tell you what to do; we won’t help you hold the hammer because we’ve dented a lot of fingers that way. We’ve learned that it’s best to just give verbal instruction and not get in the middle of the swinging force of the steel hammer as it drives towards the nail. But don’t let that stop you. We will give you the advice, the tips, the suggestions that you need to get the projects done that are on your to-do list. So why don’t you give us a call and make the first item on that to-do list calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    We’ve got a busy show planned for you. Coming up this hour, if you’re feeling the chill and already missing spending time on your deck or patio, you don’t have to hurry inside just yet. We’re going to have a few ideas on improvements that you can make to help enjoy that outdoor space a little while longer into the cooler weather.

    LESLIE: And if you’re trying to squeeze in one more outdoor project, even a camping trip before the really cold weather hits, have you ever heard of something called a power inverter? Now, these take 12-volt car power and then boost it up to 120 volts that you might need to run maybe a power drill or even a portable saw. And so we’re going to have some guidelines to using these cool, portable power devices, in just a bit.

    TOM: And are you one of those still facing water issues from the storms that rolled through your area earlier this year? You know, our Community section has been inundated – flooded, I dare say – with folks that are dealing with wet basements and other post-Irene and other storm damage. So we’re going to have some help for all of those that are facing post-storm water damage, coming up.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And if one of the projects that you might be wanting to tackle this autumn season is installing a new hardwood or even a laminate floor, pick up the phone and call us right now. Because we’re going to help you with that project but we’re going to give you even more help, because one lucky caller is going to get a $250 gift certificate to Lumber Liquidators. And they have brand-name flooring for less, because they cut out that middle man and they are buying that flooring directly from the mill, so it’s going to save you a ton.

    TOM: The number is 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. Pick up the phone, give us a call right now. We’ll toss your name in The Money Pit hard hat and you just might be the one that wins that $250 gift certificate from Lumber Liquidators. Let’s get right to those phones.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Tankless water heaters are certainly very popular and Victor in Maryland has some questions on them. How can we help you?

    VICTOR: Yes. I’m a blind homeowner and I have some aging appliances that I’m hanging onto because they’ve been labeled in braille for me.

    TOM: OK.

    VICTOR: One of them is the water heater and I know that’s going to go sooner or later and I’m just curious. About maybe five or six years ago, all you heard on the radio were commercials for tankless water heaters, how great they were. And now you don’t hear anything about them at all. Have they just disappeared or people just don’t want them anymore or what?

    TOM: Well, actually, no. They’ve become more of the norm and so that’s why you don’t hear about them as much anymore. But tankless water heaters are here to stay. They’re super-efficient; they deliver more hot water than a typical tanked water heater, for a lot less cost. They are more sophisticated, they are more expensive but they do last a lot longer. And so I think it’s a real good idea to have a tankless when your current water heater leaks. It may be time to think about changing over to tankless.

    Do you have gas?

    VICTOR: Yes.

    TOM: Alright. So, then, as long as you have gas, then I think it’s a good idea to use a tankless water heater.

    VICTOR: OK. So, is there more maintenance involved? Because I flush it …

    TOM: No, not really. There’s really no maintenance involved except for there would be service with your heating system every year, just to make sure it’s burning correctly and not getting dirty. But there’s no tanks to flush or anything of that nature.

    VICTOR: OK. Because I do it as a matter of course because there’s sediment in the water.

    TOM: Sure.

    VICTOR: And especially during the wintertime, with all the salt that they put on the roads and stuff, it ends up in the water. And I was told to flush it at least twice a year.

    TOM: Yeah but that’s not an issue with tankless water heaters, because it’s tankless. There is no tank for the water to sit in, so there’s no sediment for it to form and it’s just going to work for you.

    VICTOR: OK. Well, when the time comes, I will definitely look into it. Thanks a lot.

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

    LESLIE: Sandy in Washington needs some help with a new, wood cabin that was just built. How can we help you?

    SANDY: Hi. We put a tongue-and-groove fir and pinewood on both levels of the cabin. And on the lower level, we used a white, pickling whitewash.

    TOM: OK.

    SANDY: And the upper level, we used Danish wood stain – wood oil.

    TOM: Danish oil?

    SANDY: Yes.

    TOM: OK.

    SANDY: But we didn’t put a sealer and I’m wondering if we need to do that or do we just leave the wood like that and periodically re-oil or …?

    TOM: This is inside or outside?

    SANDY: It’s inside.

    TOM: Oh, thank goodness. I thought you just told me you put Danish oil on the outside of your house.

    SANDY: No.

    TOM: Alright. No, I mean you don’t have to. You put a – so you put a whitewash, a pickling stain on the bottom and you put Danish oil on the top?

    SANDY: Yes.

    TOM: That’s fine the way it is. There’s really – you’re not protecting it against UV very much. It’s on the inside of the house; it’s climate-controlled. I think that’s a fine finish; I think you can stop right there.

    SANDY: OK, great.

    TOM: Alright?

    SANDY: I like that answer.

    TOM: You like that answer; that works for you.

    SANDY: It’s going to be not so much of a money pit then.

    TOM: Alright. Well 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. Pick up the phone and give us a call, because we are here to give you a hand with your home improvement projects 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And guess what, guys? We are just a few short weeks away from Thanksgiving and if you’re anything like my house, you’ve got guests coming and a lot of them. So let us help you get your home in tip-top shape. Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Still ahead, a warm fire outside on a crisp, fall day is a great way to enjoy the season. We’re going to tell you easy ways to extend your time on the deck or the backyard, well into the cooler seasons, next.

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    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Bostitch. Professional-quality hand tools. Pneumatic and cordless nailers and staplers.

    TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. And we would love for you to be part of The Money Pit, so pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Now, one lucky caller who gets on the air with us this hour is going to win a $250 gift certificate to Lumber Liquidators. Now, Lumber Liquidators, they’re awesome. They pretty much have every type of flooring, in every style, color, finish; you name it, they’ve got it. And they can give you an awesome price because they cut out that middle man and they buy it directly from the mill, so you’re going to save a ton of money. And if you win our $250 gift certificate, heck, you’re halfway to a full room. So pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Well, if you’re missing the days of spending warm evenings outside on your deck or patio, there’s no need to stop. You can use your outdoor spaces for a bit longer if you know how to make them cool-weather friendly.

    Now, the first thing you need is heat, of course, and an outdoor fireplace can do the trick. You can buy a simple fire pit – I’ve got one of those – or a more elaborate one can be built and fueled by wood or gas. Now, you might also consider something called a chiminea. These are pretty cool. They’re clay fireplaces, they’re portable, they’re inexpensive and they throw out quite a bit of heat.

    Next, think about light. You’ll need more of that as daylight gets more scarce. Adding outdoor lighting can definitely enhance your home. If you don’t have a lot of money, no problem. You could pick up some solar lights. They are a DIY installation and they work really well, especially this time of year.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Now, if you really want to make your outdoor space cozy, think about adding an outdoor rug. Because those cold cement or even paved, patio floors, they can feel chilly, so an outdoor rug is a great choice. And they come in a variety of colors, patterns and they’re made of materials that are meant to withstand the elements. And you can just hose them down when they get dirty.

    Now, finally, for true year-round comfort, you might want to consider enclosing your patio or deck. And this doesn’t mean that you’re losing that outdoorsy feeling altogether, because many enclosures are mostly glass so that you can still feel like you’re outside, even when you’re staying toasty and warm.

    But whatever you decide, a cozy backyard with a roaring fire will extend the use of your outdoor space for most of the year.

    TOM: Inside or out, 888-666-3974. Give us a call right now with your home improvement project.

    LESLIE: Orlena in Virginia is calling in with a washing-machine question. Tell us what’s going on.

    ORLENA: My washing machine runs fine until it goes into the rinse cycle and then the water comes out a trickle.

    TOM: OK.

    ORLENA: And it – I’m wondering if it’s because it’s cold water, if it’s maybe that the cold water is turned off in the back.

    TOM: Well, I mean there’s a supply valve that feeds the washing machine, so the first thing I would do is I would disconnect the cold-water hose from the back of the washing machine and make sure that the valve – the supply valve – is turned off. Open it up and see what kind of flow you get. You’re going to have to dump it into a bucket or something but just check the flow.

    If that’s working, then it’s probably a valve in the washing machine that’s not working too well. There is a website called RepairClinic.com that’s an online source where you can actually find pretty much any appliance part you need, along with the instructions so that you could replace it yourself.

    ORLENA: Oh, OK. Great. Alright. Thank you so much.

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

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re heading on over to Rhode Island, where David has got some unwanted visitors in the attic. You’ve got some bees, huh?

    DAVID: Yes.

    TOM: What kind of bees, David?

    DAVID: I believe – I’m not 100-percent sure but from talking to people, I think they’re called “carpenter bees.”

    TOM: Carpenter bees, huh?

    LESLIE: Oh, OK.

    DAVID: They burrow through a little – I think it’s slightly smaller than a dime.

    TOM: Right.

    DAVID: They form …

    LESLIE: It’s perfect dowel size.

    DAVID: Yes. Yes.

    LESLIE: It’s amazing how they do a 5/8-of-an-inch hole every single time; it’s beautiful.

    DAVID: It really is beautiful. So I have an agreement with the bees; it’s like a 15-, 17-year-old agreement: “You don’t sting me and you can stay.” Because they’re not in the living quarters; they just burrow through and they’re in between the living space and the outer wall.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Now …

    TOM: Right. So, let me tell you something. I’m glad …

    LESLIE: Well, they have an agreement with everybody, because they don’t sting, David.

    TOM: Yeah, they don’t sting. They don’t have stingers. That’s right.

    LESLIE: They’re just large and imposing.

    TOM: They’re large and they …

    DAVID: Well, I have been told that, also: that they don’t sting.

    TOM: Yeah, they will intimidate you. They’ll fly at your head and things like that but they don’t sting.

    But carpenter bees, if they are there long enough, they can do serious damage to the rafters. So it’s not something that you want to put up with forever. What you want to do is have them treated and then fill those holes. Otherwise, they’ll come back.

    DAVID: Really? So I have been possibly compromising the 2-bys – the rafters and the floor joists?

    TOM: If they’ve been infesting the attic for 15 years and they’ve been drilling into your rafters, well, they’ll – they drill in from the edge grain, then they turn and they run horizontal to the ceiling rafter or to the roof rafter and they lay eggs and then come back out. So if they – if your rafters have now hundreds of holes in them from the carpenter bees, yes, you could compromise them.

    So, I wouldn’t put up with this; I would definitely have them exterminated and then seal the holes. And this way, they’re gone for good.

    DAVID: Alright. Well, thank you so much.

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

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re going to go to Texas, where Bubba wants to do some air-conditioning maintenance. How can we help you?

    BUBBA: Yeah, I was wondering, on your outside A/C unit?

    TOM: Yep.

    BUBBA: You cut it loose and you want to put it back together with the two, little copper fittings? Is the best way to solder that back together with that little torch kit that comes with acetylene and oxygen bottle or if you can use one of the little propane …?

    TOM: Why did you cut it loose, Bubba? What were you doing?

    BUBBA: I moved.

    TOM: You moved. And you took our A/C unit with you?

    BUBBA: Yeah. It’s on a big, manufactured home, 16×70 feet.

    TOM: Oh, I see. Yeah, I see.

    Well, the thing is, those lines have to be recharged with refrigerant, don’t they?

    BUBBA: Well, not in this particular case. It has a way that you can trap the refrigerant inside the unit.

    TOM: Yeah, you know what? I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to be soldering that yourself, especially with a refrigerant inside the lines. That’s a job for a pro that does it every day. I would hire – I would have a service contractor come out and do that one part of the project for you, pay the service charge and make sure it’s done safely and efficiently so it works well for you.

    Bubba, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Lil in Arizona is calling in with a patio door question. Tell us what’s going on.

    LIL: Well, actually, it’s not a patio door. It’s a sliding, glass mirror door for a closet.

    TOM and LESLIE: Oh, OK.

    LIL: OK. And well, I have – I had stored them underneath the bed for about a year and I put them back up and now one of them is cloudy and I can’t get the cloudiness off of it. What do you suggest?

    TOM: Huh. Well, I wonder if the mirror surface is deteriorating because, you know, when the back of the mirror starts to go, that’s what causes that fade to start to form. So it sounds to me like one of the mirrors is deteriorating. If it’s nothing on top of it and it’s looking cloudy, then the mirror material itself is going.

    LIL: Well, the other one – they’re both stored together and they were both stored with a blanket. And I looked at the back side of the mirrored door and I see no bubbles or nothing that would make me think that it is – has deteriorated. I just wonder if there was something on the surface that I could use that might help restore this or …

    TOM: Well, the question is this: is the deterioration – is the cloudiness on the surface or is it underneath? If it’s on the surface, you should be able to clean it with any type of a strong glass cleaner. If it’s underneath – if it’s the mirror material itself that’s breaking down – then you’re not going to be able to clean it, Lil.

    LIL: Alright. Sounds like I need to buy a new mirror.

    LESLIE: And you know what the other thing is, if you see any sort of, in addition to the cloudiness, almost like a brownish or a blackish mark through the mirror, that could be an adhesive issue to where they attached the mirror to the frame, because there’s a certain adhesive that you’re supposed to use for mirrors rather than anything else. And so if they used the wrong thing, that could cause it to break down.

    Have you tried white vinegar at all, just to see if that does anything?

    LIL: I’ve tried white vinegar. I’ve tried everything I could possible get a hold of and nothing that seems to be clearing it up.

    TOM: I think it’s time for a new mirror.

    LIL: OK. Thank you so much.

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

    LESLIE: Steve in Iowa is on the line with a fireplace question. What are you working on?

    STEVE: Hi. Yes. Thanks for taking the call. Yeah, I’ve been – we have a gas insert into a wall and then on the outside of the house, there’s a bump-out to accommodate it. And we’ve been getting a lot of – we get a lot of drafts in the winter through there. We don’t use it; I don’t think it’s – we just don’t use it. It just makes the room too hot.

    And so we shut it off but I’d like to – really like to insulate around there because I know, not only in the – I live in Iowa and not only is it hot in the summer, they lose a lot of air conditioning that way and then in the winter, get a lot of drafts in there, so …

    TOM: Steve, is this a gas fireplace? Are you talking about the wood chase that sort of covers it?

    STEVE: It’s a gas fireplace. That’s correct.

    TOM: OK. So, is this up off the ground or does it go all the way down to the ground?

    STEVE: It goes all the way down to the ground in back and then the foundation underneath it is bumped out, as well.

    TOM: OK. Because a lot of times, there’s gaps when these bump-out fireplace chases don’t actually touch the ground. But in this case, it’s in the ground, as well.

    So, your options are really limited here because it’s a zero-clearance fireplace and it can be against combustible material but there are rules about how much you can insulate it. So what I would do is I would get the name of the fireplace, I would jump online, I would get the installation instructions and I would determine how the fireplace was supposed to be installed into the chase, which is that structure. And then compare that to what you’re actually finding.

    They’re going to tell you in those instructions where exactly you can seal and insulate and how much insulation you can use. Because you don’t want to do it incorrectly because it could become a fire hazard, either for you or for a future owner. Does that make sense?

    STEVE: Yes, it does.

    TOM: Alright. That’s the best way to approach that, Steve. 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. Still ahead, on The Money Pit, This Old House host, Kevin O’Connor, talks about the best renovations he’s seen since joining the show. And he’s captured them all in a new – and I have to tell you, gorgeous book – and you’re going to hear all about it here first, so stick around.

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    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you in part by Arrow Fastener Company, the leader in professional fastening products since 1929. The makers of the iconic T50 Staple Gun, the world’s bestselling staple gun, Arrow Fastener has the right tool for every application. Explore Arrow’s latest product innovations at ArrowFastener.com.

    TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: You know, most people typically think of spring as the time for thunderstorms but the truth is that autumn lightning storms can still pack quite a powerful punch. If you’d like to learn how to protect yourself and your home from the fall lightning storms that are out there, check out our website at MoneyPit.com and just search “lightning storm protection.” We’ve got a great article right there that’ll walk you through it and give you the step-by-step and cover all of the options.

    LESLIE: Debbie in Florida is calling in with an electrical question. What can we do for you?

    DEBBIE: I have several ceiling fans in my home and when – they all have the attached bulbs for the light.

    TOM: OK.

    DEBBIE: And when I turn the ceiling fan off with the remote, it stops the fan but the bulbs, at nighttime, unless you – they just constantly flicker, flicker, flicker, flicker. And unless you turn off the wall switch, then you can’t use your ceiling fan, of course. And I was wondering if you knew how to fix that.

    TOM: Hmm. Sounds to me like it’s still getting power and it shouldn’t be doing that. Are all the fans of the same – made by the same manufacturer?

    DEBBIE: Yes.

    TOM: Well, why don’t you contact the manufacturer?

    DEBBIE: That would be a good idea. That’s a great idea.

    TOM: Because I don’t think – what you’re describing is not normal behavior and there may be a core defect that’s affecting all of these fans. But if you have it turned off and it’s not going off, then something’s wrong with the circuit. And when I say circuit, I mean internal; I don’t mean external.

    LESLIE: Like in the light fixture itself.

    TOM: I mean the light fixture itself.

    DEBBIE: Yeah, well, the only way I can stop it is just to turn the switch off.

    TOM: Right. Because then you know positively that you have no power going to it and hence it’s not going to flicker. But when you do have power going to it, it does flicker and it’s not supposed to do that. So, I would contact the manufacturer and take it from there.

    DEBBIE: OK. Well, I appreciate that. Thank you very much. I didn’t even consider that but thank you for your knowledge. I appreciate it.

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

    LESLIE: Well, each week, the cast members from This Old House join us with their tips and tricks for better home improvement. It’s part of a tradition that’s spanned more than three decades.

    TOM: This Old House is America’s longest-running home improvement series, airing since 1979. And along the way, viewers have seen unbelievable transformations from the outside in.

    Now, though, we can see those details of renovations we’ve never seen before, inside stories we’ve never heard before, because of our friend, host Kevin O’Connor’s new book, The Best Homes from This Old House. It takes us on a behind-the-scenes look at homes from the last decade. And Kevin joins us now with a peak into the pages.

    Welcome, Kevin.

    KEVIN: Hi, guys. It’s great to be here.

    TOM: Now, congratulations on this beautiful book. It’s not only well laid-out, it’s also got some great inside stories from the entire cast. Tell us about it.

    KEVIN: Well, it was a ton of fun to make and it’s actually the first time – as you said, Tom, we’ve been on the air for over three decades. It’s the first time that we’ve ever done a book like this.

    And so the idea is, over the course of a season we renovate these old homes, right? And they’re usually pretty beat-up and dilapidated when we get there. We sometimes strip them back a little further and then we put them back together. But it really isn’t until the last half of our last episode that we show our fans the finished homes. Because we’re mostly about process, about sawdust.

    TOM: Right.

    KEVIN: And I can remember a few years back when we actually purchased one of these homes. It was our 25th anniversary. All the guys were sitting around in the finished project. We hadn’t – we didn’t have any homeowners that we had to turn it over to. So we had our feet up on the furniture, we were spending a couple extra days in this home and I’m looking around and saying, “This place is beautiful and no one gets to see it.”

    And so that’s the idea behind this book. Here is a way to – over the course of a day or a week, you can luxuriate in the finished spaces.

    LESLIE: And I like that you’ve included four very distinct types of architecture in the photography and in the projects that you’re featuring, from a farmhouse to a bungalow, even to a Spanish revival and then, of course, an urban brownstone.

    KEVIN: We do it on the television show, so we should do it in the book. We’ve got 10 of our favorite projects. As you say, Leslie, there’s different styles. We’ve even got a modern house that we did in Cambridge, Massachusetts, one of the most modern projects we ever worked on. And they’re not just New England homes; these are homes from all over the country, so Los Angeles and Texas, from everywhere. So I think it’s a great cross-section and a great representation of what our guys do.

    TOM: And your photographs are stunningly beautiful.

    LESLIE: They’re beautiful.

    TOM: You had a terrific photographer on this project: Mike Casey.

    KEVIN: I did. And I’m fortunate that he’s a very good friend of mine. Mike and I went to college together and we literally would be sitting around drinking beers one night and we said, “Hey, wait. You’re the host of This Old House.” And I said, “Wait, you’re a photographer. Why don’t we …?” And the next thing you know, we have a book.

    But he’s got a lot of talent; he’s got an experienced eye. And he took these beautiful spaces and he represented them, I think, very well.

    TOM: I think the book’s all about possibilities, too, because you definitely – through the 30 years of taking these ugly ducklings of homes and just showing America what’s possible. And this book is a great representation of that.

    KEVIN: We try to show off the homes. They’re a character in this book, sort of that inspiration and the transformation that happens, which is why it is almost all beauty. There are some photos there about what the homes look like originally but this is really a book about luxuriating in those spaces. We did spend a little bit of time profiling the people who build these houses and we tell some funny stories about not just our guys but some of the guest contractors that we’ve had on the show, as well as some of the people who make the television show. So there are some insights there that people have never heard before, as well.

    LESLIE: Well and that’s really, having worked in reality TV and home makeover shows, that’s part of the excitement of the whole project that none of the audience ever gets to participate in. And that’s some of the best stories that you remember at the end of the project, so it’s so nice that you could share that.

    KEVIN: Yeah, it’s great. I tell some funny stories about our cameraman, Steve D’Onofrio – we call him “Dino” – and he’s the unsung hero of the show, right? So everything we do, he actually does backwards with a camera on his shoulder. You know, it’s like dancing with Fred Astaire, right? And that’s sort of how we portray him.

    TOM: Yeah, you’re walking forward on the roof; he’s walking backwards on the roof.

    KEVIN: Backwards, right? And he’s got a 40-pound camera on his shoulder, he’s got a control booth in his ear and he’s trying to look in and out.

    TOM: Yeah.

    KEVIN: It’s amazing to do. And I can remember one day, he was filming on one of those roofs, it started to rain. So now the roof is slick as ice and the drops are starting to get on the camera. Dino reaches into his back pocket, he takes out a handkerchief and he actually wipes the lens while he’s walking backwards. Never misses the shot, the camera never shakes and the scene goes on.

    TOM: Wow.

    KEVIN: So we tell stories like that.

    TOM: Well, it’s a beautiful book, Kevin. Congratulations. The Best Homes from This Old House is an invaluable resource for anyone interested in creating their dream home or improving the existing home one room at a time.

    Well done, sir.

    KEVIN: Thank you, guys. It’s always a pleasure to be here.

    LESLIE: Alright. The book is in bookstores now and you can catch Kevin in the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. Make sure you check out ThisOldHouse.com for listings.

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

    Up next, power on the go can be easier than you ever imagined, with a portable device that turns your car battery into backup power. We’ll have that trick of the trade, after this.

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    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Generac, makers of the number one-selling Guardian Series Home Standby Generators. Now introducing a full line of consumer and professional power washers. Whether you need to power it, clean it or protect it, Generac can help. Visit Generac.com to learn more.

    TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. And the number here is 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Hey, are you looking to spruce up your home this autumn season? Why not? Everybody is. We’re all getting ready to stay indoors a whole lot more. And maybe on your to-do list, you’ve got the idea to add some new floors to your house. Well, why not check out LumberLiquidators.com? They’ve got lots of great ideas for all kinds of flooring options.

    And if you want even more help with sprucing up that floor, pick up the phone, give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT because we’re going to help you with your home improvement project. But one lucky caller is going to win a $250 gift certificate to Lumber Liquidators and that’s going to help you a lot with those projects.

    TOM: That’s right.

    Now, if you’ve listened to the show for any length of time, you know that we are big fans of generators, especially portable generators because they’re a way that you can take power pretty much wherever you want to go. But according to the experts at Generac, there is another option that can do just that. It’s called a power inverter.

    Now, power inverters take direct current – which is the power that might come, for example, from your car – and then it converts it to alternating current or AC, which is the kind of power that you need to power most electrical equipment, saws, drills, you name it. This means that you can plug that inverter into your car’s lighter and power up tools and appliances wherever that car takes you.

    LESLIE: Now, when you’re hooking up to your car’s outlet, you can typically only draw about 100 watts, regardless of the power inverter’s rated output. Now, you don’t want to overload your power inverter. And as with a portable generator, adding up the running watts of all the appliances you’ll be using – and that’s going to make sure that your inverter can actually power all of the tools that you want it to.

    Remember that if you’re using an appliance with motors, that’s going to require about two to three times the running watts to start their motors, so make sure you account for that, as well. And it’s also important that you do not drain your car battery, so you want to make sure that you start your car every now and then to make sure that you’re recharging it, so you’ll actually be able to power what you’ve got and still get home.

    TOM: A good point.

    If you choose a Generac power inverter, these have an audible alarm and that helps because it sounds when your battery is running low. You know, the good news is that you’ve got portable power; the bad news is you can’t drive home because you ran your battery down. So that’s a good thing to know. And it’ll also shut off automatically before the battery voltage drops too low.

    If you want more tips on inverters, you can visit Generac.com or pick up the phone and call them at 888-GENERAC.

    LESLIE: Barry in Connecticut is on the line with a flooring question. What can we do for you today?

    BARRY: We have all hardwood floors throughout our home and they have separated during the weather. I suspect they dry out, then they close back up again. Is there any – as a matter of fact, some of them don’t close up very much. But I’m wondering if there’s anything that can be done to fill in the cracks.

    TOM: Yeah, you can use jute – j-u-t-e. It’s like a rope and you pull the strands apart and you can press it with a putty knife, in between the gap and then you can refinish on top of that. And that will sort of serve as a spacer a bit. You can’t use any kind of wood filler because the wood filler will just crack and fall out. But you can use the rope as a spacer.

    LESLIE: And it’s important to look for jute roping, because the jute isn’t coated with anything. There’s no wax on it; it’s just sort of the natural fiber. So if you wanted to stain it – and I’ve seen people take the length of rope once they figure out the thickness. And the reason why you unravel some of it is so that it fits accordingly into that space. And you can sort of narrow it intermittently so that the rope fits as the crack widens or narrows. And then you can dip the rope directly into the stain and then sort of smush it into that space once it dries.

    So, there’s a couple ways to do it with that but that’s really the only fix that’s going to stay in place.

    BARRY: OK. Is there a color to the jute?

    LESLIE: It’s just like a natural, sort of weedy brown, kind of blondish-looking.

    BARRY: OK. So it doesn’t come in particular colors.

    LESLIE: No, no.

    TOM: No, no. No, no. And that’s why Leslie said it can be stained, too. If you’re – it’s a very natural-looking product and because it’s kind of just filling the gap, you may not even want to stain it.

    BARRY: OK. Well, thank you so much for taking my call. I appreciate the information and I really appreciate your show.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Up next, we are still getting tons of questions about flooding and water damage after hurricane season. We’re going to help solve those water woes, after this.

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    ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit is brought to you by The Iron Shop, the leading manufacturer of spiral stair kits. Visit www.TheIronShop.com today to find out how you can own a beautiful, iron spiral staircase.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Give us a call right now at 888-MONEY-PIT. You’ll get the answer to your home improvement question and the opportunity to win a great prize because this hour, we’ve got a $250 gift certificate from Lumber Liquidators.

    And while we are talking about the subject of stuff that we give away, imagine what you could do with a $10,000 room makeover. That could happen and it could include the assistance of one very, very special decorator that I know very well.

    Leslie, you’re working with the Arrow Fastener team to actually choose one winner for a $10,000 makeover.

    LESLIE: That’s right.

    TOM: Talk to us about it.

    LESLIE: Yeah, it’s really exciting and I mean $10,000 when you are a thrifty decorator like myself, you can really do a lot with a huge amount of money. And if you head on over to ArrowDreamRoom.com, you’ll find out everything you need to know about the contest. We want to know why you don’t like your room, what you want to do with it, what we can help you do to make it better and I will fly out there and help you with this project myself and we are so thrilled.

    So enter today, because you’re running out of time for your chance to win and we’re going to kick this thing off at the end of the year. So get ready, because I’m knocking on your door soon.

    TOM: Well, our Community section is abuzz with folks who are all facing similar problems and that would be water, so we’re going to answer a few of those questions right now and remind you that we have extensive water-damage and basement-flooding information at MoneyPit.com.

    First up from Carol in Long Island. She says, “Our home was built six years ago. We waited two years to make sure there were no leaks in the basement and then had our basement finished. After the hurricane, our basement developed a massive leak. We put in new gutters and downspouts, extended 4 feet away from the foundation.” Good. “We’ve been advised by a contractor to have the basement waterproofed but the estimates are over $6,000. We do not have this kind of money.”

    Well, that’s good, Carol, because if your basement flooded due to the hurricane, you don’t have to waterproof it. You did the right thing. You improved your roof drainage system; you’re getting the water away from the house. You could also improve the grading around your house, make sure the soil slopes away.

    But the fact that your home didn’t flood for two years is very, very good. The fact that it flooded after the hurricane, not so surprising because we had massive amounts of rain and perhaps you did not adequately manage that water at the foundation perimeter. Now that you’ve addressed that, I think that you’re good to go.

    So save the six grand, improve the drainage a little bit and if anything, run those downspouts underground and drop that water well away from the foundation. You want to keep that first few feet of soil around the house as dry as possible.

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up, speaking of water, we’ve got another water-basement question from “dhardy” in Maryland who wrote: “My basement recently flooded and the engineered hardwood flooring was damaged. Will I have to replace the whole floor or can it be repaired?”

    TOM: Well, you can’t repair the hardwood flooring but what you can do is just cut out the damaged pieces and replace only those, especially if you know where it came from. If you got it from a source like Lumber Liquidators, I’m sure you can get replacement pieces. But the flooring itself is not repairable. Typically, you can’t sand something like that, for example.

    LESLIE: No and especially if it’s a water damage. And this even happens with laminate flooring and the same issue with engineered. If the water gets underneath it, which could happen in a basement because of the concrete subfloor, that could cause a whole host of problems: warping, twisting. And really, those boards just won’t be repairable but you can just cut them out, put the new ones in and you’ll be with a brand new, beautiful floor in your basement and you won’t even notice where you’ve patched it. So that’s a definitely do-it-yourself project.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. We hope you’re enjoying the fall fix-up season, one of our favorite seasons of the year because it’s just right. It’s perfect to get outside and tackle lots of projects around your house, from roofing to painting, improving your heating system, picking out a new carpet, choosing some new décor item for the inside of your house. Lots of things you can do this season of the year. Get out there, enjoy it.

    And if you’ve got a question 24-7, reach out and call us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    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 2011 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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