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Prevent Unexpected Oil Delivery, Safe Household Waste Disposal, Fix a Low-Pressure Faucet, 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: Give us a call right now with your home improvement question. Let us help solve your do-it-yourself dilemma. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. Before you pick up the tools, you’ve got to pick up the phone and call us, because we will help, 888-666-3974.

    Got a great hour planned. First up, everybody dreams of striking oil, right? Well, for one New York couple, this dream became a total nightmare when their basement was mistakenly pumped full of oil. And it’s a surprisingly easy error for a fuel-delivery company to make. We’re going to tell you how it happened and what you need to know to make sure it can never, ever happen to you.

    And also ahead, in honor of Poison Prevention Month, we’re going to have tips on how to get rid of household toxins, like old paint or lawn chemicals. Plus, if your morning shower is lacking power, we’re going to help you get it back to full pressure once again.

    And we’ve got a great prize to give away because this hour, we are giving away some luxury floor covering from Loloi Rugs. It is a prize worth $500. You’re going to get to choose any rug in the Encore Collection that they have. It’s going to go out to one lucky caller who reaches us with their home improvement question. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. Let’s get to it.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Todd in Louisiana wants to work on a wood-flooring project. How can we help you today?

    TODD: Yes. I was listening to your station the other day and somebody had called in and stated that they had put in some wood flooring. And they had put it in, at the time – well, let’s put it this way: they had a contractor put it in and it was done during a time of the year where the gentleman had left a little gap or swelling. And then when the other season came on by, instead of swelling, it contracted, so the gaps that he left were even larger. So I’m trying to see, at what point in time of the year is the wood going to be already contracted, so I know how to adjust for this?

    TOM: Well, in Louisiana, you don’t have the temperature swing that we might have to deal with, for example, in the North, which is a bigger issue.

    TODD: OK.

    TOM: So you’re – I don’t think it’s going to make a difference in your particular part of the country. But generally speaking, wood is going to shrink in the winter and swell in the summer.

    TODD: OK.

    TOM: High humidity is going to cause everything in your house to swell. And that’s where doors start to stick and that sort of thing.

    TODD: OK.

    TOM: But the rule of thumb here is that if you’re going to put in hardwood floors, you want to put that material in the house and let it acclimate there for a few days, you know, before you actually start the installation.

    TODD: OK.

    TOM: You don’t want to take it from one climate, bring it into the indoor climate and start banging it in right away. You do want to let it acclimate a little bit, for a little bit of time.

    TODD: OK.

    TOM: So I don’t think it’s as much of a concern for you in Louisiana, for those reasons.

    TODD: OK. Hey, I appreciate it.

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

    LESLIE: Ooh, now we’ve got Catherine from Colorado on the line. Not something we like to deal with: pest control. What is going on with the mice and the rats?

    CATHERINE: Well, the downstairs in the house is not finished. So, somehow, they’re getting in downstairs and I see little droppings, different days. So what I’ve been using so far is the – those green pellets of poison? But I’ve heard from a friend that there is a new product out there: the Ultrasonic Plug-In. So I wanted to get information about that, if you would know.

    TOM: Yeah. I would skip that. I think that’s kind of junk science. So, I would skip any of those ultrasonic plug-in things.

    What you want to do is a couple of things. First of all, you want to eliminate nesting areas. So around the area of your house, if you have firewood, trash cans, debris of any sort that’s anywhere near the foundation, those are nesting areas for rodents. You eliminate those. Secondly, you plug up any openings in the outside walls of that house. Now, mice need something the size of about a quarter or even less to get in, so any openings should be plugged.

    Inside the house, you want to make sure that there’s no food for them. So, a lot of times, people will make mistakes by providing food when they don’t realize they’re doing it. For example, I had a friend who used to keep her pet food in the garage and it was a big sack, 50-pound, whatever it was, bag of pet food. Never really even noticed that the mice had dug themselves a nice, little front door for this that wasn’t obvious. And they were just getting a big meal every single day from the pet food. So, look for things like that where food is being left out for them. Moisture is also very attractive to rodents, so water that collects at the foundation perimeter can bring them in.

    And inside the house, I think you’re doing the right thing using the baits and the poisons, because that’s – they’re very effective with most of the baits today: for example, the d-CON. One hit of that, so to speak, it takes them out. I mean it’s just one and done.

    So, I think all those things together is what’s going to control and reduce the rodent population around this house.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now, this problem is something we probably have all dealt with: your water is taking way too long to heat up. Monty in Alabama, tell us about it.

    MONTY: We’ve got a – our water heater – we moved into a house a few months ago and it’s taking about 90 to 120 seconds for the – in the kitchen – for the hot water to heat up. And it’s just this tremendous waste of water.

    And it’s an electric water heater and it’s located on the other side of the house, upstairs, so it’s having to travel so far, I’m sure. Is there any reasonable solution to that?

    TOM: Yeah, well, you hit the nail on the head. The reason it takes that long for the water to get hot is because that’s how long it takes for the water to travel that long run down the pipe and to get over to the kitchen from the other side of the house.

    What I might suggest that you consider is adding a second water heater. Now, you could pick up a tankless water heater and they do actually have some reasonably energy-efficient, electric tankless water heaters right now. I never used to say that but I recently saw some new ones. The technology is getting a little bit better. They actually have heat-pump water heaters that are pretty efficient. But if you were to split the run to get the water heater a little closer to the kitchen, that would make a difference.

    Now, is the kitchen the only place you’re having this? Is it – is the hot water reasonably quick, in terms of where the bathrooms are located?

    MONTY: Yes.

    TOM: Yes, since the bathrooms are more important than the kitchen, in terms of the speed with which the hot water arrives, especially if it’s you standing on a cold floor waiting for the water to get warm before you hop in the shower, I would probably tolerate it, if it was me. I would tolerate it and deal with it.

    Now, the other thing that you could do is you could put a point-of-use water heater, right under the kitchen cabinet, to supply additional hot water. But again, it’s kind of an expensive project and I don’t know if you would ever make that up in terms of the savings on water cost and that sort of thing.

    MONTY: Mm-hmm. Yeah. If it’s not something that we can make up, it’s not really worth doing, because …

    TOM: I don’t think it’s worth doing then, Monty, because it’s not really inconvenient, because it’s not near the bathroom. It’s just you have to be patient a little bit waiting for that warm water to arrive. And I imagine after it arrives, you know, it stays warm in the pipes a little bit longer.

    One thing you could think about doing is insulating that hot-water pipe so that once the warm water gets in it, it stays warm a bit longer. And that would …

    MONTY: Mm-hmm. Yeah, that’s a good thought and that would be inexpensive.

    TOM: Inexpensive, right. And make it a little bit more convenient. OK?

    MONTY: OK, Tom. Thank you so much. Enjoy your show.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show standing by for your calls at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Up next, imagine waking up to find 300 gallons of heating oil mistakenly pumped into your basement. It actually happened to one Brooklyn couple. We’re going to teach you what happened and how to make sure it could never happen to you, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Hey, one caller we talk to on the air this hour is going to win a luxury rug from Loloi Rugs. It’s winner’s choice: any covering from the Encore Collection, you can get. And these are beautiful rugs. They’re power-loomed, shag-style rugs from Turkey.

    This is a prize worth $500. Going to go out to one caller drawn at random from those that reach us on today’s show at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. If you just can’t wait, you can check them out online at LoloiRugs.com. And Loloi is spelled L-o-l-o-i.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got David from North Carolina on the line who’s dealing with a mold issue.

    Welcome, David.

    DAVID: I live in a – it’s a cinder-block house. And in the cabinets, it’s bad in the cabinets and in the closets, especially. You can feel the moisture on the back walls of the cabinets and in the closets.

    TOM: Yep.

    DAVID: And lately, it’s – since it’s started getting colder, it’s on the bedroom walls, as well.

    TOM: So, what are you actually seeing?

    DAVID: It’s green mold and moisture, like dew on the walls.

    TOM: Have you ever had this problem before in any of the past winters?

    DAVID: Last winter, it was a little bit bad. And my wife cleaned it with bleach and water and stuff and it pretty much went away. But then in the cabinets, it started coming back almost immediately after she cleaned it.

    TOM: And how is your house heated?

    DAVID: It’s gas.

    TOM: So it’s forced-air?

    DAVID: Yes.

    TOM: Do you have a dehumidifier or a humidifier running?

    DAVID: No, not at all.

    TOM: OK. Well, here’s the thing. You may have a situation here where the mold spores are starting to take hold and they’re multiplying and that’s why it’s happening more frequently. It also could be made worse by the weather conditions. And by that, I mean the weather conditions inside your house, in terms of the humidity and that sort of thing.

    DAVID: Yeah.

    TOM: So, what I’d like to suggest you do is a number of things. First of all, when you clean mold – and you should only be doing this if it’s a small amount, which it sounds like it is although it’s spread in different areas. When you clean mold, you want to make sure that you’re killing the mold spores first. And you do that – the easiest way is to simply spray that with a bleach solution that’s about 10-percent bleach and 90-percent water. And you let it sit on the areas for a good 15 minutes. So you don’t want to spray and wipe; you want to spray, wait and then wipe.

    DAVID: OK.

    TOM: And that makes a difference because this way, the bleach actually kills the mold spores. You’re not just wiping them away and moving them around and sending them back to the air where they’re going to settle immediately. If you can spray it with a bleach solution and let it sit there and then rinse it off and clean it as a second step, that’s important.

    DAVID: OK.

    TOM: In terms of the closets, if you can get more air into those closets – and typically what we do in some homes is add additional vents to the closets. I don’t know – it depends on the way your closet is configured but sometimes, we put louvered doors on them or add vents to the side walls, that sort of thing.

    DAVID: Yeah.

    TOM: But if you could improve the ventilation in the closets so more of the warm air gets in there – and after you clean that – the closets and the cabinets – try to leave them open a little bit longer than you normally would, so that the warm air from the house gets in there and doesn’t let the mold kind of reignite that quickly. Because that warmth from the forced-air heating system is going to create a condition where mold really can’t grow, because it’s going to be drying out that air.

    The moisture in the air is working against you here. And I know that we like to have a little bit of moisture in the house during the winter, because the heat system can be very dry, but an excessive amount can cause a mold problem to develop. Does that make sense?

    DAVID: Yes, sir.

    TOM: Well, imagine getting 300 gallons of free heating oil. Sounds great. What a deal unless A) your house isn’t heated by oil and B) it was mistakenly pumped into your basement. It actually happened to one Brooklyn couple.

    And as awful as it sounds, it’s not that uncommon. A heating-oil company delivered the oil to the wrong address and mistakenly pumped it into an old oil pipe that was sticking through the exterior wall and ended up, you guessed it, in the couple’s basement.

    Now, what happened was this couple had long ago switched over to gas heat and they disabled the oil system. But although they removed the oil tank that used to be in the basement, they left the pipe going through the wall and this is a problem. Let this tale be your warning. If you’ve got an old oil pipe that used to lead to an old oil tank and the tank is gone, you’ve got to get rid of the pipe, too.

    I have to tell you, in the 20 years I spent as a professional home inspector, I saw this time and time again. And I have heard of this exact scenario happening time and time again. So, if you used to be on oil in any point in the history of your home and that oil pipe is still sticking through your basement wall, get rid of it.

    Pull it out, patch the wall. If you don’t know how, call us. Post the question on our website at MoneyPit.com. We will help you and this way, a misdirected oil-delivery person can never show up and pump your basement full of oil.

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

    BETTY: We live in a ranch-style home and we have several bedrooms and bathrooms where the door frames, up above the door frames on just one side, are cracking. And we have repeatedly had contract workers out here to repair them and it has not held.

    TOM: Feel like it’s Groundhog Day? You’re fixing the same thing over and over again?

    Yeah, it’s pretty common. Around the door frame and around windows, those are the weakest portions of the wall. So if you have some movement from a normal expansion and contraction, that’s where it’s going to show. Typically, what happens is you’ll have a painter or a handyman come out and they’ll spackle the crack and paint it and it seems to go away for a while. But of course, as soon as the wall moves again, it shows up.

    What you really have to do here is sand down the area around the crack.

    BETTY: OK.

    TOM: And then you have to cover it with a perforated spackle tape. And that usually looks like netting and it’s a little sticky. You put it across the crack and then you spackle over the tape. And that does a permanent repair, because it actually sort of melds one side of the wall with the other and it should not separate again the next time the wall moves.

    BETTY: OK. Well, that sounds wonderful. Thank you so much. I appreciate your help.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Carol on the line from Oregon. How can we help you today?

    CAROL: Well, I’ve got a problem. I should know better but I have rented to people with – who brought in a puppy.

    TOM: OK. Oh, that’s terrible.

    CAROL: And now I’ve got to deal with lots of urine, fecal. It’s damage that’s probably been on there too long, too deep. Gone through the carpet to the pad to the subfloor. So, my question is: can the stain ever be removed? I’m thinking I should just take everything up. My question would be what to put down new. Replace the subfloors? Solution? People have said something about KILZ and something like Zenix (ph) or something like that.

    LESLIE: Well, I mean it really depends. If you even want to attempt salvaging the rug that’s there – generally, with a rental situation, you’re probably better off with a tile or a laminate floor just because of cleanability. And then let the folks bring in their own area rugs. But if you want to attempt to sort of get the stain away, get the odor away, there’s a product that I used when I was training our dog, who was untrainable for the first year. And it’s on a website called JustRite and it’s R-i-t-e.com. And it’s called 1-2-3 Odor Free.

    And it’s like a series of different products. One’s a stain remover, one’s an odor remover and it sort of neutralizes through enzymes. And there’s an injector that you use to get through the carpet and into the padding and into the subfloor. And I kid you not, it works. Because there was a spot at the top of the steps that Daisy just loved and no problems to this day.

    So, you might want to try that. However, if there is a lot of stuff to deal with, your best bet is probably to just pull everything off. And you’re right about wanting to seal that subfloor, because if you don’t put a primer – a good one – on top of it, whatever you put on top, get a humid day and you’re going to notice it.

    CAROL: Right.

    TOM: Yeah, so that’s why, Carol, what you want to do is use an oil-based primer like a KILZ or a B-I-N. There are a number of different primers out there but I would use the oil-based ones for a problem like this, because they’re going to do a better job of sealing in odor.

    CAROL: OK. And if I do decide to put down a rug – because this is a house I would like to sell future forward; it’s a nice house – is there a type of rug that can better be cleaned?

    LESLIE: OK, yeah. It is from Mohawk and it’s a carpet that they call SmartStrand. And it’s got built-in stain- and soil- resistance that’s never, never, never going to wear off or wash off or clean off. And it feels soft. And it’s environmentally friendly, because it’s made in part with a recycled plastic.

    And I think it was last year at the Builders’ Show – Tom and I were at the event – and they were just launching this SmartStrand product. And they had taken carpeting and carpeted the pen of an elephant at the zoo and left it in there for a year and then took it off, cleaned it and brought a patch in and had half under the cover of glass and half out. And there was a little door that you could open up to the dirty side and you opened that up and of course, I did and smelled, because I always do strange things like that. And it like reeked horribly. And the side that was cleaned was beautiful, clean, soft, smelled fantastic.

    So, I’m not really sure about the price point but it is an amazing product and available in a lot of different looks, different piles. So I would start with Mohawk, their SmartStrand.

    CAROL: OK. Thank you so much.

    TOM: Hope that helps you out. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Up next, you might want to think twice before you dump old cleaning solutions down your drain. In honor of Poison Prevention Month, Kevin O’Connor, our pal, the host of TV’s This Old House, will be here with tips on safe household-waste disposal. That’s all coming up, next.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Hey, did you make any energy-saving improvements in 2012? If so, you may very well be entitled to tax credits or write-offs. And you can learn more about which improvements are eligible by going to MoneyPit.com and searching for our articles on tax credits.

    LESLIE: Katherine in Wisconsin is on the line with a soundproofing issue. Tell us what’s going on.

    KATHERINE: I live in a condo with a basement and there’s an I-beam that runs through the basement. And when I’m in the basement, I can hear my neighbors from two houses down talking in their living room, because their voices travel down the I-beam.

    TOM: Wow.

    LESLIE: Crazy.

    KATHERINE: So I was – yeah. So I was interested in covering the I-beam somehow to reduce the noise but I wasn’t sure what the best way to do that would be.

    TOM: Well, there’s a couple things you can do. First of all, can you frame in the I-beam so that it’s – like has something that we can attach a drywall to?

    KATHERINE: Yeah, yeah, I could. I just wasn’t sure what to do that with or if that would help.

    TOM: OK. So once you – yeah, once you frame it in, there’s a product called QuietRock.


    TOM: And it’s a soundproofing drywall. It’s sold at Lowe’s. It’s pretty expensive. Regular drywall is 5 bucks a sheet; QuietRock is about 40 bucks a sheet. So it’s pretty expensive but you don’t need a lot.

    LESLIE: Yeah. But if she can hear them, they can hear her.

    TOM: Yeah. But you don’t need a lot. You know, you don’t need a lot. So, if you can frame in that beam and you’re sure that’s where it’s coming from, you may want to think about using QuietRocks to actually cover the I-beam and that should do the trick.

    KATHERINE: Oh, really? So I wouldn’t need to put additional insulation between the …

    TOM: No. Insulation is – insulation doesn’t really work as a soundproofing material.


    TOM: It’s kind of a misnomer to think that insulation works on a wall. It’s cheap but it really doesn’t do much. The QuietRock absorbs the vibration of the sound and I think that’s what you need to do.

    KATHERINE: OK, great. And the QuietRock is just spelled like it sounds?

    TOM: Yep. Q-u-i-e-t – Rock. If you go to Lowes.com, you can find it right there. And I was able to find it; I needed it for a project. I was able to find it right in my local Lowe’s.

    KATHERINE: Thank you. Bye.

    LESLIE: Well, you might be tempted to toss old paint, chemicals or even your old VCR or computer tower in the trash. But HHPs, or Hazardous Household Products, they do need to be disposed of properly.

    TOM: That’s right. Tossing products that contain components that are flammable, explosive, corrosive or toxic impacts both our health and pollutes the land, water and air. But it’s not hard to clean up your act when it comes to clean-ups like these. Here to tell us how to get rid of HHPs safely is Kevin O’Connor, the host of This Old House.

    Hey, Kevin.

    KEVIN: Hi, guys. Always great to be here.

    TOM: So, what’s the first rule of thumb when it comes to getting rid of your hazardous household products?

    KEVIN: Well, actually, I think it’s just buy what you need.

    TOM: Yeah, don’t have them, right?

    KEVIN: Right. Well, I mean – or don’t have too many. A case of oven cleaner might be a great deal from the big-box store but are you really going to use it all before it expires? Chemical cleaners, also, they have a limited shelf life. So, you might want to take that into consideration, because you could be wasting your money, as well as storing chemicals that you don’t really need.

    And if you happen to fall victim to one of these amazing deals and you got a little carried away and now you’ve got a pallet of paint or something like that, well, you can give away what you don’t use, right? So think about your church or a charity that might take the leftovers. We, on the show, have actually taken it back to places that resell it.

    And Craigslist. There’s a great spot, right? Go to Craigslist and it’s a great way to find local folks who are interested in your stuff, whether it’s the paint or fertilizers or whatever. And many times, they’ll even pick it up and take it off your hands.

    TOM: I don’t know if you’ve noticed this but Habitat for Humanity actually has Habitat stores where people will take extra lumber and things like that. And they’ll sell it if they can’t use it in their project and then helps fund their work. So, there’s lots of great ways to recycle what you don’t need and put it to good use.

    KEVIN: And believe it or not, we’ve been in these operations where they’re taking your old paint cans, whether they’re full or even half-full, and they are re-canning them, making new colors. And they’re testing them and cleaning them and making sure that they’re good to go. So it’s not a bad alternative.

    LESLIE: Really? Regardless of freeze-and-thaw cycles when you’ve always thought, “Ugh, if that paint’s been frozen, it’s kind of done”?

    KEVIN: They’re inspecting the paint to make sure it’s of quality but a lot of this stuff is. A lot of people think they’re going to use it again and actually take care of it and just never get around to it.

    TOM: Now, what if you want to avoid using those hazardous products? There’s a lot to be said for sort of the natural alternatives: the vinegar, the baking soda. I always consider the fact that before we had all of these chemical cleaners, our grandparents and forefathers that came before us, they used products like that to keep their houses clean.

    LESLIE: Yes. But your grandma cleaned the floor like 50 times a day.

    KEVIN: My grandmother was Irish, so she was used to it.

    No. But seriously, I think you’re right. Think about what you did with vinegar. It seemed like vinegar was the – or club soda, right?

    TOM: Right.

    LESLIE: Those were your two go-tos for everything.

    KEVIN: We had seven kids in the family, so these carpets got beat up and club soda seemed to take it out. So it is a good point: there are alternatives out there and it’s easy to grab the chemical off the shelf but maybe there’s something else you can use.

    LESLIE: Another point is – where we live, we have something called the S.T.O.P Program – S-T-O-P – which stands for Stop Throwing Out Pollutants. And in our town, it’s once a month. They pick a local municipal parking lot. You put everything that you want to get rid of in the trunk of your car. You pull up, they open your trunk for you, they take all of it out. There’s people in hazmat suits sorting and properly disposing.

    And they take everything from e-cycling items to paints to tires to that random jar that that dude in the car in front of me always has that I’m like, “What is that?” But it’s a great point to say that you should be recycling and properly disposing of everything. And your town, your city, your municipality really does make it easy for you if you pick up the phone and ask the question or look online.

    KEVIN: I think you’re exactly right. And just to sort of amplify that, there are places where you can dispose of these things that are convenient and easy but also legally. Because it is illegal to actually dump a lot of these things in, say, a commercial dumpster behind your supermarket (inaudible at 0:26:01). So you don’t want to be the guy that’s actually breaking the law because you’re too lazy to dispose of it properly.

    TOM: We’re talking to Kevin O’Connor. He’s the host of TV’s This Old House.

    Kevin, what about the big stuff: the electronics, like the computers, the TVs. Any tips for those?

    KEVIN: Well, believe it or not, if you gather everything up and you visit your local, say, Best Buy or Office Depot, a lot of those retailers recycle these old electronics for you. And for smaller products – like an iPhone, for example – you can check with the manufacturer for recycling programs. And sometimes, Apple lets you trade in your old iPhone and they give you a gift card to purchase new stuff.

    TOM: Yeah, what a deal.

    LESLIE: You guys are so Apple-biased. The AT&T store did the same with my Blackberry.

    KEVIN: “My Blackberry.”

    LESLIE: See? I still have a Blackberry and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

    TOM: Well, the point is that there are a lot of retailers and a lot of manufacturers that will actually – part of their green program is to help you give your stuff back to them and they’ll make it worth your while to do that.

    KEVIN: Right.

    LESLIE: Which was funny because in upgrading my phone, my son so desperately wanted my old Blackberry. He kept being like, “When you get a new one, I can have this, I can have this,” just for fun as pretend play. And I was totally for it until the lady was like, “And I can give you a $57 gift card.” I was like, “Sorry, Henry.” I was like, “That’s $57.”

    TOM: Go on. That was the price.

    KEVIN: Here’s a piece of cardboard; play with this.

    LESLIE: I think I gave him a picture of an iPhone. I was like, “Here you go.”

    TOM: There you go.

    KEVIN: There you go.

    TOM: Alright. Good advice. Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House, thanks for stopping by The Money Pit and helping us clean up our act.

    KEVIN: My pleasure, guys.

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

    TOM: And This Old House is brought to you by State Farm Insurance. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.

    Up next, a cold winter morning sure feels a lot colder without a blast of hot water from your shower. If your showerhead is just trickling, it might not be a water-pressure issue. We’ll tell you how to fix it, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Stanley Tools, your trusted name in quality hand tools. To learn more about their complete line of quality tools and everything for your tool box, visit StanleyTools.com.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And hey, we’re giving away a great prize this hour to one lucky caller chosen at random. It’s a rug from Loloi. The winner gets to choose any 5×8 rug from the Encore Collection, the designs that work with any style. You can check them out at LoloiRugs.com and that’s Loloi – which is spelled L-o-l-o-I – Rugs.com.

    It’s a prize worth $500. Going to one caller drawn at random from those that reach us for today’s show. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Dorothy from Alaska on the line who’s got a sticky drawer. Tell us what’s going on.

    DOROTHY: Well, I have a kitchen drawer that’s the top drawer, which holds the silverware. The most used drawer in the whole house, I think, going in and out.

    TOM: OK.

    DOROTHY: For years, it was giving me trouble just by not catching right and I have to push down on it a little bit to put it in, to close it. Well, it’s closed and it won’t open and I can’t get it open. I don’t know what my alternatives are.

    TOM: OK.

    DOROTHY: Nobody is strong enough to pull it open. Even if they did, I think they would break it.

    TOM: OK. So, how old are these cabinets?

    DOROTHY: Oh, they’re old. They’re 35 years old.

    TOM: OK. Do you have any other drawers in the kitchen that are the same size as the kitchen drawer?

    DOROTHY: Oh, I think so.

    TOM: What you might want to think about doing is if you have other drawers in the kitchen that are the same size as the kitchen drawer, you might want to think about replacing the kitchen drawer with one of those less-used drawers. Because it sounds to me like some of the hardware is worn out.

    Now, to get it unstuck, the easy way to do that is to go at the drawer from underneath the cabinet below it. I presume it’s on a standard cabinet with doors that are open? And what you would do is go underneath and lift – put your arm in there and push up on the drawer and unstick it and get it moving out. So, somebody should be able to help you with that, just get that drawer moving again.

    But you might want to think about replacing it with another drawer of the same size somewhere in the kitchen and just rotate them that way. If it’s the silverware drawer, obviously that’s probably the most used drawer in the whole house.

    DOROTHY: Yes, it is.

    TOM: And by replacing it with one that’s less used, you’ll be able to have some fresh hardware there for a while. Does that make sense?

    DOROTHY: It makes sense.

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

    Well, if the pressure from your morning shower seems to be waning a bit, don’t call the plumber just yet. It’s probably simply caused by hard-water buildup.

    Here’s what you need to know: mineral salts get stuck in those small openings of the showerhead and the pressure suffers. But the fix? It’s surprisingly easy. What you need to do is to simply disassemble the showerhead, soak it in white vinegar and then put it back together.

    Now, if you’d rather not take it apart, maybe you don’t want to remove it from the shower supply pipe itself, well, all you need to do is soak it in place. Just fill a plastic bag with vinegar and wrap it around the showerhead with a rubber band so that you’re immersing the showerhead into the bag of vinegar. Let it sit there for a good half-hour to an hour and then take it down, rinse out that showerhead and you should be good to go with a brand-new flow.

    LESLIE: Jeff in Delaware is dealing with a mysterious sulfur odor from a well. Tell us what’s going on.

    JEFF: Well, we have a well and I have a water softener on it, a filter and – cartridge filter – and we still have a lot of iron in our water and it has a real strong sulfur smell. And I don’t know anything else to do and it – sometimes, if it sits for – if we go out of town and come back a day or two later, the smell is just horrendous. And I was just wondering if you guys could give me any tips.

    TOM: Jeff, that sulfur smell may not be coming from the well; it could be coming from the water heater. Have you considered that?

    JEFF: No, sir.

    TOM: Because if the anode in the water heater is wearing away, that can result in a very strong sulfur odor. Have you noticed if the sulfur odor is more prevalent in the hot water or the cold?

    JEFF: Hot. Yes, sir. It is.

    TOM: Yeah. I don’t think it’s the well at all; I think it’s your water heater.

    JEFF: Oh, wow. That would be great. OK. What’s the solution?

    TOM: Now, you can replace the anode in the water heater.

    JEFF: OK.

    TOM: It basically unbolts from the top of the water heater. If you look at the top of the water heater, you’ll see what looks like a big hex nut. And you can unscrew that, pull out the old rod and put in a new one.

    JEFF: Oh, OK.

    TOM: So I think you might be looking at the wrong place for the source. I think the problem is the water heater and not the well.

    JEFF: Well, I will sure try that. That’ll be a simple fix for me.

    TOM: It certainly will be. It’s called a “sacrificial anode” for that reason. You sacrifice a little bit every time, for all the time that it’s in there. And at some point, sometimes it develops the point where it has a sulfur smell.

    If you add a replacement anode to there, that should help alleviate the sulfur smell. Because, essentially, what’s happening is the anode contributes to the production of hydrogen-sulfide gas and that’s what has that nasty, rotten-egg odor to it. OK?

    JEFF: Well, I really do appreciate that. Man, I appreciate you taking my call. I sure do.

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

    This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Up next, snow can be pretty and it can also be pesky when it collapses your gutters. We’re going to teach you how to avoid that situation, next.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Hey, do you have dreams of design but no budget to make it happen? Simply go to MoneyPit.com and search “50 Designs Under $50.” That is a free download from our book, My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure. We show you ways to transform a room for the same price out as a dinner these days: under 50 bucks.

    And while you’re on MoneyPit.com, you can head on over to the Community section where you can post your own question, just like John did from Pennsylvania who says, “Is there a way to keep gutters from collapsing under the weight of heavy snow without going out to clear them several times in the storm?”

    TOM: Yes, John, there is a way to do that. The thing is you need to understand why it’s happening. It’s happening because ice is forming from ice dams. If you improve your insulation, that won’t happen. The water won’t leak down, clog up the gutters and pull them away from the house. So insulation is the key.

    LESLIE: Barry in North Carolina is on the line and looking for some help with a sunroom. Tell us what you’re working on.

    BARRY: Well, we’ve got a 12×15 sunroom and it’s just – it gets cold and it gets hot. It’s double-pane glass, insulated and it’s about 2 inches thick for the bottom part. But it’s like all metal, all aluminum and it’s just cold and hot. And I just want to know – and it is ducted; there’s an air duct out there.

    TOM: OK.

    BARRY: And is there anything I can do to make it warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer?

    TOM: Well, what’s going on here, Barry, is you are not putting enough cool air or warm air in that space to deal with the heat loss that’s going on. So, I presume now this – what you did is extended your HVAC system into this space? Is that how it’s ducted, when you say it’s ducted?

    BARRY: Yes.

    TOM: Alright. And this is typical. The HVAC system is not sized correctly for that area and for the heat loss in that area and for the heat gain in the summer. This is a perfect scenario, though, for you to add a kind of system called a “mini-split ductless.” A mini-split ductless is basically three pieces: you have an indoor unit that hangs on the wall; you have an outdoor unit that’s a very small, very quiet, very efficient compressor; and you have copper tubing that connects the two.

    And you would buy one that’s just big enough for this sunroom and what it would do is supplement the central heat or cold air that’s coming through the duct systems and balance it out. It can have its own thermostat and can supply warm air in the winter and cold air in the summer and make that room totally comfortable. There’s little else that you can do to insulate the structure. It’s just a very cold structure by its very nature, a sunroom. But a mini-split ductless is a good product to install to balance this out.

    You might want to take a look at this website: ConstantComfort.com. That’s the website for the Fujitsu Company. I personally have a Fujitsu mini-split ductless in my office because the room, just like you say, it’s too hot in the summer, too cold in the winter. And it’s been the perfect addition to my HVAC plan, because it really makes this space comfortable.

    BARRY: I’ve seen those units mounted before but usually they’re mounted up high.

    LESLIE: Yeah.

    BARRY: Can they be mounted down low?

    TOM: You know, I believe they can. But the higher the better, especially for the cold air so it falls.

    BARRY: But there’s only like 2½ feet of solid piece down below; the rest of it is all window.

    TOM: Well, what about the wall against the house where the ducts come through?

    BARRY: That’s a point. I hadn’t thought about that.

    TOM: Yeah, see, it doesn’t have to be on the exterior wall.

    BARRY: OK.

    TOM: It can – and in fact, you would want to have it on the interior wall – against the house, where the ducts come through – and mounted up high. And you’ll be amazed at how comfortable that space will be.

    That website, again, is ConstantComfort.com. You can check out the Fujitsus there. And they also have an energy-efficiency calculator so you can figure out pretty much how much energy you save.

    Problem is that we build these spaces and we add them on to our house. We try to extend the heating and cooling systems …

    LESLIE: And it just puts too much pressure on the system.

    TOM: Yeah, it’s just not enough.

    BARRY: OK. Very good. That answers my question then.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. 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.


    (Copyright 2013 Squeaky Door Productions, Inc. No portion of this transcript or audio file may be reproduced in any format without the express written permission of Squeaky Door Productions, Inc.)

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