Preventing Identity Theft
TRANSCRIPT FOR MAY 4, 2009, HOUR 2
Hosts: Tom Kraeutler & Leslie Segrete
(NOTE: Timestamps below correspond to the running time of the downloadable audio file of this show. Text represents a professional transcriptionist’s understanding of what was said. No guarantee of accuracy is expressed or implied. ‘Ph’ in parentheses indicates the phonetic or best guess of the actual spoken word.)
BEGIN HOUR 2 TEXT:
TOM: Hi, I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And you are tuned to the Money Pit podcast. We are so glad that you are.
Now all this month on the podcast we’re going to be talking about staycation tips throughout our show and these are some ideas to make your home a little more comfortable, a little more pleasant, a little more fun if you’re not going to take a vacation this year; you’re just going to sort of stay at home and enjoy the place you have.
Now, if you head on over to MoneyPit.com, we’re also making available a free chapter of our book, My Home, My Money Pit. It’s the outdoor living chapter, available for free download at MoneyPit.com; chock full with lots of staycation tips to make your summer a lot of fun if you’re staying at home.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm, and you know what? All of this great information and all these great ideas are brought to you by our friends over at Fiberon Decking and also the WORX GT Trimmer/Edger.
Alright, folks. Let’s get started.
TOM: Now, on with the show.
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: Pick up the phone, give us a call right now with your home improvement question, your do-it-yourself dilemma. We’re here to solve it. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.
Coming up this hour, it is time once again to get all decked out for spring and get ready for your own personal staycation. If you can’t afford to go away, no problem. We’re going to give you some tips on how to stay home and fix up your home, so it’s kind of just like being away. (Leslie chuckles) You know, just get the …
LESLIE: Minus the air travel.
TOM: Yeah, get a DVD with Hawaiian scenes on it. You know. (Leslie chuckles) Play soft music in the background, turn off the phones, hide your Blackberries and enjoy it. (Leslie chuckles).
LESLIE: And put a Go Away sign on the front door.
Alright, folks, also ahead this hour – do you want to make changes to your home but are you worried about what investments are truly going to pay off in the long run? Well, put that spa bathroom on the back burner for now and take on projects that are truly going to protect your investment. The best part is that right now, energy-efficient improvements are going to cut down on the amount of money that you’re going to owe Uncle Sam come next year, April.
TOM: And we want to tell you about a scenario that’s all too common nowadays. You begin the process of applying for a mortgage and you find you already have one. How is that possible? Well, it could be if you are the victim of identity theft; one of the fastest-growing and most vicious crimes in America that leaves you alone to pick up all the pieces of the demolished financial history that you worked so hard to get.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm, but there is good news here. There is actually a way to make sure that your identity is never stolen. We’re going to hear from the CEO of LifeLock a little bit later this hour.
TOM: That’s right. Todd Davis is actually going to give us the do-it-yourself version of how you can protect your identity.
888-666-3974. Let’s get right to those phones.
Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: John in North Carolina has a water-heating question. What can we do for you?
JOHN: Yes. I have some apartments that are used in an overflow situation for my family when they come visit us.
TOM: You’ve got a big family, huh, John? (Leslie chuckles)
JOHN: A huge family. (Tom chuckles) I’ve got 21 grandchildren and 9 children.
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Wow!
JOHN: But anyhow, the – each one of these apartments has their own bathroom with a small hot water heater; about a 10 or 20-gallon hot water heater.
JOHN: And it’s not used that often and therefore the water stays in the hot water heater and begins to smell. And I was thinking about taking those hot water heaters out of there and replacing them with on-demand heaters and wonder if the on-demand can serve two such bathrooms at a time.
TOM: Oh, absolutely. I mean, you’re talking about a tankless water heater, correct?
JOHN: Yes. Tankless.
TOM: Well, a tankless water heater, you know, can serve five, six, seven, eight bathrooms; it depends on what it’s sized for. But that’s an excellent solution, especially when you have the issue of not only stale water but – these are electric water heaters?
JOHN: Yes. They’re electric water heaters.
TOM: Right. Well, first of all, if they’re electric water heaters, then – do you have them on all the time or do you have the power to …
JOHN: I think we do. I guess we do leave them on all the time when the kids are not here.
TOM: (overlapping voices) Well, that’s costing you a lot of money to heat up all that water that’s never being used, as well.
TOM: Now, the only problem here is that there’s no really good-quality, electric, tankless water heater. You’re going to have to put one in that’s gas-powered – natural gas or propane-powered – because you can’t get the efficiency out of an electric tankless.
JOHN: Oh, I see.
TOM: But that being said, you could put in a high-efficiency, electric, tank water heater and have it do the same thing, which is to serve multiple apartments. And I would also recommend that you put that on a timer so it only comes on when you need it. I mean, even when you have family visiting, you only need to really heat that water 8 to 10 hours a day; you don’t need it on 24/7. And I would also set it up on a master switch so that if no one is going to be in those apartments you simply turn that water heater off because you could have hot water in an hour after turning it on. There’s absolutely no reason to keep it on all that time, John, if you’re not going to be using it because you’re just going to be paying to heat the water and it’s going to cool; it has to be reheated over and over again. It’s a big waste of money.
JOHN: Alright. Well, fine. That sounds great to me and I appreciate the advice.
TOM: You’re welcome, John. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Joan in New York is dealing with a concrete problem. What can we do for you?
JOAN: Yes. We have a 48-year-old house with an oversized, two-car garage. Over the years, cracks have occurred in the cement floor.
JOAN: They have been repaired but eventually reappear. We’re wondering if there’s any solution, other than tearing up the entire floor.
TOM: Not really because you have a structural problem.
TOM: For whatever reason, the floor is moving. It could be that the soil underneath the slab was never compacted properly. It could have been that there was biodegradable material that’s in that dirt – like tree parts and stuff like that – and they’ve rotted out over the years and caused voids. And so, the fact that it continues to crack is just evidence of the fact that the slab is continuing to move and you’re not going to stop that without a major project.
Now, if this was a commercial property and it was a very expensive floor, we could talk about mudjacking and things like that. But for your average residential home, it doesn’t make sense to do any of those sorts of structural repairs. A garage floor, fortunately though, is not load-bearing; it’s basically just a durable surface that allows you to park your car on it, so I wouldn’t worry about it structurally. But if you want to stop it from cracking, it needs to be broken out and then properly poured and reinforced.
LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Pick up the phone and give us a call. We want to know what you’re working on and we want to help you get the job done right the first time, without a million trips to the home center. So give us a call, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Up next, how to make your deck into a backyard oasis and take your very own staycation at home.
ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by the Worx GT, the revolutionary trimmer/edger that’s fully adjustable, runs on rechargeable battery power and weighs less than a gallon of milk. See the Worx GT in action at FreeLineForLife.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. And have we got a very cool prize to give away this hour. We’ve got a wall mural kit from Trace Designs. Now, this really is a great product because if you are not artistic but you truly want the look of a mural in your home, then this is the prize for you.
It is three, foolproof steps: you want to tape the pattern to the wall, then you go ahead and take a pen and you trace it and then you just color it in; it’s exactly like paint-by-number. I helped a friend of mine put this up in her nursery; it was really, really easy. We did the harlequin diamond pattern in chocolate brown and pink for her little baby girl and it was gorgeous.
And if harlequin is not for you, we’ve got 40 different designs and they are all available from Trace Designs at HomeDepot.com. But you can win yours, right now, for free by calling us and asking your home improvement question on the air. The prize is worth 60 bucks but it could be yours for free, so give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT for your chance to win.
TOM: 888-666-3974. You know, before you know it, you’re going to want to be spending every day outside and on your deck, if you’re lucky enough to have one. So this is the perfect time to clean and brighten the surface so it’ll be ready when you are.
Start by giving the deck a good sweeping and if the finish is in good condition and you don’t see any signs of peeling, blistering or cracking, go ahead and give it a good cleaning with a deck cleanser.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Now there are special cleansers on the market that are just made specifically for this purpose. You really want to look at ones – there’s one by Flood; they make a deck cleaner. Behr has one. There are a lot of great products out there, so make sure that you look for one that’s specifically made to clean your deck. And also find ones that are not going to harm your plants or your lawn.
Now, if you find after all the cleaning that the finish is not in great shape, you want to go ahead and strip off the existing finish; this is going to give you a nice, fresh, new surface. And then go ahead and make any necessary repairs and then refinish the entire deck with a good-quality stain. If the wood doesn’t look so great, go with a solid stain which will allow you to still see the grain but cover up all of those imperfections. If it’s in pretty good shape, you can go semi-transparent; you can even go transparent. But let the condition sort of decide which way you go with the finish.
And then all you need to do once everything is dry, finish off the exterior with great outdoor furnishings, plants, accessories. And then go ahead and relax in your own backyard; it’s going to be the best and least expensive vacation you take in your lifetime; I guarantee it.
TOM: And by the way, if you find a badly-cracked deck board while you’re doing that project, just remove it and flip it upside down; you’ll find that the underside is in perfect condition. And then you could restain that to match the rest of the deck.
888-666-3974. Let’s go back to those phones.
LESLIE: Oprah in West Virginia, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?
OPRAH: Oh, thank you for talking with me. I had put carpet on my porch about three years ago and now the edges of the steps are unraveling and I wondered if there was anything I could do or put on them.
TOM: Why did you put carpet on your porch, Oprah?
OPRAH: (chuckling) Because it was – I had a painted porch and the mailmen were always slipping on it.
TOM: So is this like an indoor/outdoor carpeting kind of thing?
TOM: Yeah. Well, the steps are going to take the most wear and tear so you may have to replace the carpeting on the steps more frequently than you do in other areas of the house.
LESLIE: What about some sort of metal edger that just sort of affixes, you know, on the tread and over – you know, down onto the rise?
TOM: Well, you could but you want to make sure that it’s weather-resistant.
OPRAH: Yes, the only – I was afraid that maybe they would catch somebody’s toe with the metal.
TOM: Well, there are different types of thresholds and strips and edging strips for carpet.
LESLIE: Even like durable plastic.
TOM: Yeah, I would head out to the home center, look at what’s available and see if you can find something that actually looks like it’ll fit.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Because if your carpet hasn’t unraveled that much, you might be able to cover it; depending on the depth of these strips that you might find in the store that are weather-resistant. If it’s unraveled enough, you might have to replace whatever is on that step and then go ahead and protect it. But go and see what’s available at the store.
TOM: And thanks for keeping those mailmen safe.
OPRAH: (chuckling) And thank you for taking my call.
TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Paul in Connecticut has got a squeaky stair going on. What can we do for you?
PAUL: Well, actually, I have a set of oak stairways going down into my basement and the trim was broke on the side of them as well. And the problem that I’m having is they squeak and I can’t access them. I have no way of actually securing the stairs.
TOM: Why not? Why can’t you go right through the front surface of the step – the front edge of the tread – and simply plug it with an oak plug and then refinish it?
PAUL: That was the question that I was wondering. I didn’t know if I should …
TOM: Yeah. You can buy a bit at a hardware store or home center that basically will drill the hole. It’ll drill – it includes a pilot, a hole for the screw. You buy these bits to match the screw size and then it’ll countersink it for either a half-inch or a three-eighths-inch oak plug and you can buy the plugs there, too.
And so you put this in the drill, you drill down the hole and then you put a screw in – a couple of screws. And do it nice and neat so that the plugs are all lined up; you know, maybe two or three per step – one in the middle and one six inches from either side of the step. Then you secure that down and then plug it. You’re going to want to use a sharp chisel to get the plug carved nice and flush with the top of the step. A little bit of sandpaper and then a quick coat of polyurethane or two and you’ll be good to go and you can essentially lock that staircase together.
And I don’t know if you’ll completely eliminate the squeaks because what ends up happening is you stop it one place and sometimes it starts somewhere else but I think, overall, it’ll be a lot quieter.
LESLIE: Tony in Florida is dealing with some woodpeckers (does a Woody Woodpecker imitation) but he’s not laughing. (Tom and Leslie chuckle)
TOM: Was that your best Woody Woodpecker impression?
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) It was a pathetic attempt but I tried. (Tom chuckles)
Hey, Tony. Welcome.
TONY: Hi. How are you?
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Good and you?
TOM: (overlapping voices) Excellent.
TOM: Oh, not too bad except for the woodpeckers. (Leslie chuckles)
TOM: Alright. So, where are they attacking, Tony?
TONY: They’re attacking my fascia that is – styrofoam fascia underneath the soffit.
TONY: And as soon as I patch one hole, they’re right next to me drilling another.
TOM: OK. If you don’t mind the fact that it would be unsightly, a little trick of the trade here is to hang some aluminum pie pans off of that soffit. Maybe you can attach them to a gutter or something like that and let them twirl in the breeze. It tends to really drive the woodpeckers crazy and I’ve seen them leave a house and go bother the neighbor by doing this.
LESLIE: (chuckles) Yeah, and once they’re gone you can take them down; we’re not talking about leaving them up forever.
TONY: Oh, definitely, definitely. Because this is only a seasonal thing that they come here in the spring – probably, to nest – and then they’ll be gone after everything is gone. But will I have to be doing this every year?
TOM: You know, you might; depends. I would go ahead and give it a try and see if that takes care of them.
TONY: Well, I’ll do that. I’ll get some pie pans and see what happens.
TOM: Alright. And think about all the cherry pie you have to eat to collect those, too, OK, Tony? (Tony laughs) Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Elaine in North Carolina is looking to keep some bugs out of the house. What kind of bugs are you seeing?
ELAINE: Oh, it’s just an assortment of different kinds of bugs: maybe some palmettos, spiders, you know; not like termites or anything like that. But if we don’t – so far, if we don’t pay an exterminator to come in and spray, you know, every three or four months, they come in the house.
TOM: Yeah, and that’s a problem because with the way these insects are today, the treatments are very, very specific. You know, pest control has changed to the point where the chemicals that we’re using are very, very specific and you can’t put sort of the generic chemicals down anymore and expect them to do the job. You really need to have the pro come in and spray the right products down to keep the infestations down on the bugs that are inside your house.
So aside from sealing and caulking and making sure you have good screens and things like that, if you do want to keep those bugs away from your house you really need a pro to spray every now and again.
LESLIE: Is it more cost-effective if you sign up for some sort of maintenance service plan with the extermination company to sort of, you know, keep costs down from them coming back every so often?
TOM: I think that it is but I tell you I’m so concerned about the level of pesticides that we put in our homes, I always recommend a pro over the do-it-yourself products because I think people tend to over-apply and actually put themselves and their family at greater risk.
TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show.
Up next, imagine that you’ve finally found the home of your dreams and you’re ready to apply for the mortgage but, unfortunately, someone beat you to it; they actually took out a mortgage using your personal information. How can that happen? It’s called identity theft. We’re going to learn how to protect ourselves with some do-it-yourself tips from the CEO of LifeLock, Todd Davis, next.
ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Therma-Tru Doors, the nation’s leading manufacturer of fiberglass entry and patio door systems. Install a new, energy-efficient Therma-Tru door today and qualify for up to a $1,500 tax credit. To learn more, visit ThermaTru.com/taxcredit.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. Pick up the phone and give us a call. Tell us what you are working on.
Well, we’ve got a great guest stopping by The Money Pit this hour and we’re going to talk about something that we are hearing time and time again by now. You know, you go to apply for a mortgage and it turns out that you’ve already got one but it’s not one that you’ve applied for; it turns out that someone has stolen your personal information and then you’re left to clean up this gigantic mess.
TOM: What a scary thought but there is a way to protect yourself. Joining us now to talk about an identity theft protection service that really works is a man whose social security number is 457-55-5462: Todd Davis, the CEO of LifeLock.
TODD: Thanks, Tom. Thanks, Leslie. Glad to be on with you and let me answer the question now: yes, that’s my real (Leslie chuckles) social security number.
TOM: I’ve got to tell you, it’s the first time I ever introduced a guest by their social security number (Todd chuckles) but I guess I can do that because you are so totally confident that your service works; you’ve even plastered it on trucks, billboards and websites.
TODD: You got it. I’ve even used that bullhorn out there and it is. I’m not crazy. Look, the reality is all of us give out our information to our employers, our doctor, our dentist, our schools, our accountant, the government, the IRS; the list goes on and on. I just am a little more bold by putting it on the side of a billboard truck. (Leslie and Tom chuckle) But the reality is I do it to get people’s attention so that they know there are steps they can take. So, that example that Leslie gave about, you know, finding out you have a mortgage that you didn’t take out – I don’t want that to happen to anybody; I don’t want them to have to spend the hundreds of hours the FTC says it could take to clean it up. I want them to be proactive and prevent it before it does.
LESLIE: Now, Todd, identity theft – it’s clearly the fastest-growing crime in America. And law enforcement – they can barely keep up as the thieves are getting savvier and bolder about stealing people’s identities out there, right from under their noses. Why do you think it’s gotten so bad so fast?
TODD: Well, I really think it’s two things, Leslie. Number one, I think the economy is driving a big piece of this. So, people who would never think about going down to the convenience store, the bank and robbing it to get money – they’re in desperate times. And there – it’s just too tempting to utilize the technology that’s out there: the file-sharing networks that are out there that kids download to get free music.
What people don’t realize is it makes it so easy for me to basically search your hard drive for anything. And just the same way I type in a Google search of tax return, I type that in to peer-to-peer and you know what? Any computer that has any tax return .pdf file stored on their hard drive – I’m going to pull them up real time and you’ll never know I took a copy of your tax return until I’ve used it to go do damage and get that mortgage or open that new credit card and made you a victim.
TOM: Let’s talk about that. When it comes to the mortgages, Todd, how exactly does that whole scenario work? I mean, we read and we hear about people finding out they have mortgages that they didn’t know about when the mortgage is in default and of course it’s already attached to their credit record. We also find out about people that have had their credit stolen a long time ago – say, when they were kids – and only find out about it when they go to buy a house or, say, get a car loan. How does that happen?
TODD: Well, it’s pretty straightforward. I mean once someone gets – and I’ll use the tax return; although you don’t need all the information that’s on a tax return. And so now, as a criminal, I go out, pose as you and say, “I need a home improvement loan” or “I need a second mortgage” or “I am buying a new house” and I’m going to use your credit. But I’m going to use all the information that’s on file with the credit bureaus and so the next thing you know, I’ve gotten the check; I’ve got the home improvement or the second mortgage or even the new place. And you’ve talked about kids? We had one young man who they had bought a business facility building – industrial warehouse …
TODD: … and he was a, you know, teenager at the time. (Tom chuckles)
TOM: He was quite the entrepreneur.
TODD: Yeah, exactly. (Tom chuckles) I don’t know that they were giving him that much credit for that.
TOM: We’re talking to Todd Davis. He’s the CEO of LifeLock.
Now, Todd, what are some ways that people can protect themselves? I mean, obviously, your service does this all for you for a very affordable fee but if you don’t want to use a service like this, are there do-it-yourself options?
TODD: Absolutely. So look, I would envision us – if you’re the type of person that does your own taxes or changes your own oil, great. Let me tell you how to go do this for yourself. Go out there and place the fraud alerts with the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, TransUnion. Just remember that you’ve got to renew those every 90 days; they will expire. But a fraud alert is a great frontline of defense. It’s a notice that appears on your credit report that urges the financial institution to call you to get that verbal authorization before a transaction.
Then, order copies of your credit report; you get three of them – one from each bureau – free every year. Do that at AnnualCreditReport.com.
And then another one that people love: remove yourself from that Direct Marketing Association list – or I call it the pre-approved credit cards.
TOM: (overlapping voices) Right.
TODD: So, just so you stop all that junk mail. Anybody can do that by dialing 888-5-OPT-OUT. And then, any banks that you don’t do business with have to stop sending you those pre-approved mailers and so that’s a great way to reduce the junk mail. And then, finally, buy a shredder though for the ones that you do get and don’t want to take advantage of it. You’ve got that shredder there; you minimize your exposure point.
You can do all those things yourself for free or you can have a service like a LifeLock. For $10 a month, we’ll do all that for you and back it with our million-dollar guarantee that says, “Hey, anything we can’t stop, we’re going to go fix at our expense up to the million dollars.”
TOM: I tell you, that sounds like a great deal to me. It’s just like home improvement; now you could do it yourself (Leslie chuckles) but some projects you just don’t want to do yourself; it doesn’t make sense to do it yourself and that’s why we believe in LifeLock.
Todd Davis, CEO, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit. It’s a great service that you provide.
And if you are interested in becoming a LifeLock member, Todd has graciously offered to give our Money Pit listeners the first 30 days for free, if you call him at this number: 800-886-3031. That’s 800-886-3031. Mention The Money Pit and the first 30 days of LifeLock will be free.
Todd Davis, thanks so much for stopping by the program. It’s a great service and we’re so glad you’re here to protect us.
TODD: Tom, Leslie, thanks so much. Always great to talk to you.
TOM: And again, that number is 800-886-3031.
LESLIE: Alright. Well, now that we’ve got your identity protected, how do you know where to spend money in your home that’s going to protect your investment? Up next, we’re going to tell you how to spend your money wisely for the best payback in this economy.
ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Citrus Magic, the 100-percent-natural, odor-eliminating air freshener. Unlike other air fresheners, Citrus Magic actually eliminates odors and lasts up to four times longer. Visit CitrusMagic.com for more information. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.
TOM: Where home solutions live. This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And if you’re not much of an artist but you love the look of a mural, we’ve got a great prize we’re giving away for this hour. It’s the Trace Designs Traceable Wall Mural. It’s totally foolproof. If you can do paint-by-number, you can do this. You can have a gorgeous mural in about three easy steps: you simply tape the template to the wall, you trace the design with a pen and paint by number. It’s all done just that easily.
Trace Designs has over 40 designs. You can pick your own and we will send one to you. It’s worth 60 bucks. If you’d like to win it, you have to call us right now with your home improvement question, your do-it-yourself dilemma, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Alright. Pick up the phone and give us a call because we know it gets very confusing when you’re out there shopping in the home centers, making plans for what projects to tackle in your home. And we all know that making home improvements is always a good idea, even during a recession, but may even especially during a recession. But what you need to keep in mind is that it’s what improvements you choose to make that is the key question.
For example: maintenance. It doesn’t have to cost a lot but it’s always going to pay off. Now, another good idea for right now are energy-efficient home improvements that are going to pay off to you in the form of tax credits.
TOM: That’s right. Like replacing heating and cooling equipment can qualify you for a 30-percent tax credit on high-efficiency air conditioners and furnace. For details on the tax credits and what kind of equipment qualifies, visit ASE.org. That’s the website for the Alliance to Save Energy. They’ve done a great job of compiling all of this information that you need to know to make sure that you can qualify for energy tax credits on any of the improvements that you’re doing to your house in 2009 and 2010. Again, the website is ASE.org.
Let’s get back to the phones. 888-666-3974.
Leslie, who’s next?
LESLIE: Anthony in Georgia is looking to keep an attic cool. What’s going on at your money pit?
ANTHONY: I was – I built a house last summer …
ANTHONY: … and they installed three little vents at the top. I was in a smaller house; about 1,200-square-foot house. I put a powered attic fan up there; not the gable mount but up at the ridge.
ANTHONY: I mounted it at the top and cut a hole in the roof and put it in there.
TOM: (overlapping voices) Right.
ANTHONY: Seemed to help a lot but I had since been told that you can actually pull cool air out of the house into the attic doing that.
TOM: That’s correct because what happens is when you turn the attic fan on not only does it depressurize the attic space but it’ll reach down through the walls and through the ceiling, through all the little gaps like where wires run through the walls and that sort of space and it’ll actually reach in and find its way into the interior space of your house and actually suck out some of the air conditioning.
TOM: So attic fans – even though they do a great job of cooling the attic – unfortunately, they don’t stop there and they pull air conditioned air from the house itself.
TOM: So the best way to cool that attic is probably by increasing the amount of ventilation that the builder put in initially. You mentioned three separate vents. It sounds like you have three separate roof vents and what you would want instead is a vent that goes down the entire peak of the roof and that’s called a ridge vent and you want to match that with fully-open soffit vents. Continuous ridge and soffit venting is the best way to flush the warm air out of the attic in the summer and the cooler and moist air out of the attic in the winter when that can cause condensation and mold problems, but not an attic fan.
TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, thanks so much for spending your time with The Money Pit. Now, here is one topic that people who listen to The Money Pit, you guys love to ask us about: wet basements. We know you’ve got them out there and we love to help you fix them. So coming up, we’re going to help one homeowner figure out exactly where the heck the water is coming from, so stick around.
TOM: Where home solutions live. This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And if you are too shy to pick up the phone and call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, head on over to our website at MoneyPit.com. Click on Ask Tom and Leslie and send us an e-mail question, just like Robert did from Mechanicsville, Virginia.
LESLIE: Alright. Robert writes: “I recently found water damage in my basement. After tearing down the walls, I noticed a gap between the wall and the slab. What is this for? Why is it located inside the house? Is it a radon hazard? Can I seal it off?” Wow, that’s a lot of questions, Robert.
TOM: A lot of questions there, Robert. I’ll tell you what, the gap between the slab and the foundation wall is normal; it is there so that water that leaks through the foundation wall has a place to go. And hopefully, if your slab was put in correctly, underneath it you would have a drain tile installed that would collect water.
Now, let’s sort of back up here and first address the source of the water. In most cases, it’s caused by bad grading at the outside, gutters that are blocked and overflowing or downspouts that are not extended away. Make sure you address the water issue first so it doesn’t happen again.
Do you want to seal that in? No. But you added another interesting angle to this when you mentioned radon and if you do have a radon problem and your house has to be mitigated for radon – and I assume that you’ve done a test first – then that gap is actually sealed. They put something in there called a backer rod, which is like a one to two-inch-wide, round piece of styrofoam and they sort of fill that with that and on top of that they’ll put a flowable urethane seal to basically seal it off so soil gas can’t get up and go through that into the house. But, unless you have a radon problem, you would leave it open all the time.
OK, Robert? Hope that helps you out.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got one from Marianna in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada who writes: “We noticed a small crack and water leakage mark on our dining room ceiling. Above our dining room is our bathroom, so this means our bathroom is leaking. How do we go about finding the leak?”
TOM: Hmm, not good. What I would do is I would isolate each fixture in the bathroom first: you know, run the sink; look underneath the cabinets; see if water is dripping down there. You know, check around the toilet, around the base of the toilet if you have any softness. Sometimes the toilets will leak underneath at the wax seal level. If you happen to have a shower up there, you’re going to want to test the shower pan. The way you do that is by blocking it with a washcloth. Fill up the shower pan; then watch for any leaks.
And if all of that is negative, I suspect that what’s left is probably some small gaps in the tile in the bathroom or the shower where the water is leaking through. Once you identify those gaps, you can regrout or recaulk. And through that process, Marianna, you will find the source of your leak.
LESLIE: Alright. I hope this helps you all stay nice and dry.
TOM: Well, this past winter, were you giving that humidifier a workout so you didn’t feel quite so parched all the time? Now is a great time to take some much-needed maintenance steps before the humidifier goes totally dormant for the spring and the summer. Leslie tells you how in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.
LESLIE: I know you always think, “The humidifier. Eh, I just take it out of the box, plug it in, use it and then put it back in the box for the summer season.” But you really do need to take a little bit of care of it because if your humidifier is not properly maintained it can get clogged and then stop working or, worse yet, they can go ahead and distribute mold or bacteria through your entire house.
So you want to make sure that you clean your humidifier as recommended by the manufacturer of the one you’ve got. But one trick of the trade here is to soak the evaporator pad in a solution of white vinegar and water because your humidifier – they tend to get clogged up by the mineral salts that are left behind as the water evaporates and that vinegar is going to melt that salt completely away.
When you’re done with everything, be sure you rinse it very well; otherwise, come winter season and you go to use it again, your entire house is going to smell like my Aunt Mary’s antipasto (Tom chuckles) and that is something that is delicious to eat but not to smell during your sleep hours, so go ahead and take good care of it.
TOM: 888-666-3974 is the number you can reach us at 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Coming up next week on the program: more staycation ideas, including how to care and enjoy a composite deck. If you’re thinking about building a deck or you have one to maintain this year, we’re going to have the tips to help you do just that.
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 2009 Squeaky Door Productions, Inc. No portion of this transcript or audio file may be reproduced in any format without the express written permission of Squeaky Door Productions, Inc.