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Protect Your Home From Wildfires, Decking Materials Can Save Time and Add Enjoyment, Clean Your Outdoor Furniture in Minutes, 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: And we are here to help you take care of your money pit. We consider the money pit a term of endearment. It’s a term of affection, a term of love. And if you love your house but feel like it always needs care and feeding, we’re here to help you take that first step. 888-666-3974 is the step you need to take. Call that number. You’ll be connected with us and we will help you get the project done.

    Coming up in this hour of The Money Pit, we’re going to talk a bit about wildfire protection. There are things that you can do to protect your home from the threat of wildfires, which is super-high, especially in the summer season. We’re going to give you the step-by-step to make sure your home is safe, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: And now that warmer temperatures are here, would you rather be relaxing on your deck or maintaining it? I’m going to vote for relaxing on my deck. We’re going to tell you how your choice in building materials will actually help make it an obvious choice to you. Relaxing on your deck. That’s what you want, guys.

    TOM: And speaking of relaxing, is your outdoor furniture on that deck covered in dirt and grime? You don’t want to relax on that, so we’re going to give you some tips on how to make it sparkly clean, with things that you probably already have around the house.

    LESLIE: And of course, you don’t have to clean the areas where people who came over for Memorial Day cleaned with their tushies for you guys.

    Also ahead, guys, one lucky caller this hour is going to get a great Father’s Day gift for themselves or perhaps the father-figure in your life. It’s a 204-Piece Mechanics Tool Set from DeWALT. And it’s part of DeWALT’s Father’s Day Gift Guide, which you can check out on MoneyPit.com.

    TOM: It’s a great gift for Dad worth $240, so let’s get to the phones. Give us a call right now for the answer to your home improvement question and your chance to win. 888-666-3974.

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

    CELINA: Last week, I had estimates done on my home to have all my drainpipes replaced.

    TOM: Hmm. Why did you do that?

    CELINA: My house was built in 1944 and we’ve had some trouble here lately with clogs and everything. So, I just decided to go ahead and replace all the drain lines.

    TOM: Is that because the – you were getting roots and that sort of thing in the pipes?

    CELINA: I don’t think there’s roots in them, no, because we’ve had those – the pipe from the house back to the drain replaced already. This is just the inside pipe. And they’re old and yes, we have had a couple of them to rupture but I just decided to get them all replaced.

    However, today, my son told me that all of that is useless if I don’t get the main line coming into the house replaced, also. And I wanted to see what your take was on that.

    TOM: Well, we’re talking about two different types of pipes. You’re talking about drainage pipes versus supply pipes. And the supply pipe that comes into the house may or may not need to be replaced. The questions I would have for you are: what’s the pipe made out of and are we having any problems with it?

    Now, in an older house, you may have the original steel plumbing – steel main-water pipe – coming into the house which, if the house was built – did you say the 40s?

    CELINA: Right.

    TOM: That’s a super-old pipe that definitely is at risk of breaking.

    CELINA: OK, great. So when they come back out to do my plumbing, because they’re doing it in two weeks, I need to ask them to look at the pipe. And that means – because none of the people that gave me estimates even mentioned it was bad.

    TOM: Well, I would take a look at that. And typically, in a house, you don’t replace the drain pipes. I’m a little surprised that you’re doing that. Typically, in an older house with steel pipes, you end up replacing the supply pipes. And you do the horizontal pipes first because they’re the easiest to access. And you do the vertical pipes that go up through the walls last because they’re the hardest to access. And you can do it in stages.

    The first step of a steel-pipe conversion is to do the main. The second one is to do all the horizontals in the basement crawlspace and the third is to do the verticals. And so, typically, that’s what you do in a house that has that kind of plumbing.

    You mentioned you had some problems with clogging with the drainpipes but that’s pretty unusual. And I actually have never heard of anyone wanting to replace drainpipes. Typically, they replace supply pipes.

    So you might want to get a second opinion on this and not just take the opinion of the plumber that wants the work.

    CELINA: OK, great. Thank you so much.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’re heading on over to Kansas where Russ has a roofing question. What can we do for you?

    RUSS: OK. I’ve got a farm that I bought eight years ago and on the farm, there’s a very large, very old barn. A matter of fact, the loft is large enough that you could probably fit a regulation-sized basketball court inside of it. According to the graffiti inside the barn, it was built in either ’34 or ’38. And it was done originally with cedar-shake shingles with 1×4 stringers, what, about every 4 inches or about a 3½-inch space in between them.

    TOM: Yep. I know the construction well.

    RUSS: OK. And as you know, those cedar shingles are not going to be in very good condition as of this point. So I know I’m going to have to go up there. Trying to figure out a safe way to work up there so I can remove the cedar shingles, so I can prep it to go back with, probably, a metal roof. The question is – I’ll have to screw the roof down. The question is: am I – will I be able to go directly with the 1x4s with the metal roofing or would I be better off nailing everything fully and putting down some plywood or OSB?

    TOM: Well, I think that a good roofer could work with the 1-by furring strips that are up there right now. Because, frankly, that’s the way metal roof was originally put down. It wasn’t put down on solid sheathing; it was put down on strips just like that. So I think that that’s a fine option for you. I don’t think you need to do the sheathing in this particular case.

    If you were going to put down asphalt shingles, I’d tell you you need to sheathe it. But for a metal roof, you may have to do some additional carpentry to get the strips where you want them, to make the seams on the roof and so on, but I don’t see a reason for you to sheathe this barn. I think the metal can go right on top of that.

    RUSS: OK. So patch the rotted 1x4s and maybe put in some where the seams are and we should be good that way?

    TOM: Absolutely.

    RUSS: OK. Do you have any suggestions on how to safely work on a 45-degree pitch?

    TOM: Yeah. Call a roofer. It’s not a do-it-yourself project. I mean that’s a really high-end project and if you do it every day, you have all the appropriate safety gear and scaffolding and skill set to be able to work on that. That’s a very dangerous place to try out your do-it-yourself skills because handling those big sheets up there, you get a wind gust and you start flying off the roof. Those medical bills add up very quickly, so I would definitely recommend that you have a professional do this.

    RUSS: OK.

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

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Now, you can call in your home repair or home improvement question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, wildfires can be devastating. We’re going to tell you how to reduce the risk one will threaten your home, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: Starting an outdoor staining project? Make it faster and easier with Flood Wood Care products. Start today at Flood.com/Simplify and use the interactive selection guide to find the right Flood Wood Care products for your project. Flood, simple across the board.

    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. One caller who makes it on the air with us this hour is going to get a great Father’s Day gift. And if you’re not a father, well, it’s completely regiftable because it’s the 204-Piece Mechanics Tool Set from DeWALT worth $240. Check it out at DeWALT.com.

    LESLIE: That’s right. You know, the tools all have a non-slip gripping surface. And the set is just one of many great gift ideas that are featured on the Father’s Day Gift Guide, which is sponsored by DeWALT, on MoneyPit.com right now. It’s your source for one-stop shopping for Dad.

    TOM: Give us a call for the answer to your home improvement question and your chance to win that great DeWALT mechanics tool set, just in time to regift it for Father’s Day. Again, that number is 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now we’re heading on over to Washington State where Sabrina is dealing with some grout that’s cracking up. And it’s not laughing; it’s falling apart. Tell us what’s going on.

    SABRINA: So I had some grout installed quite some time ago. And they’re about 18-inch tile pieces. And what I’m noticing now is there are several places – it’s kind of happening all over – where the grout is actually cracking. And I’m not sure what to do.

    TOM: So, is it a fine crack or is it a big crack?

    SABRINA: The grout is cracking and now some of the tile pieces are cracking.

    TOM: Yeah, that’s a problem. It sounds to me like the tile was not put down on a base that was solid enough. When you use a big tile like that, you need to have a really strong base. So you have to have a mud base or you have to have a tile base. And you may even have to have an expansion material underneath that so that you don’t get this kind of cracking. If you don’t get good support across an 18-inch tile and you get a little bit of movement in the floor, it cracks very quickly.

    So, I think this – at this point, it’s going to be something you’re going to have to manage. And if it gets really bad, you’re going to end up taking those tiles out and replacing them. It’s very hard to recover from this when the tile job was potentially not done right to begin with.

    SABRINA: Yeah. And I was wondering if it has anything to do with – I’ve heard a couple of people tell me that the underlayment – and maybe you said that – the underlayment wasn’t secured down properly or whatnot.

    TOM: It wasn’t strong enough, right. It wasn’t strong enough. You see, if there’s more – if there’s flex in the floor, the tile is not going to bend, it’s going to crack. And so that’s why the tile – what’s under that tile has to be really solid. With a – bigger the tile, the wider the tile, the less forgiving it is. If you put mosaic down, it can move all day long and you’re never going to see those cracks. But when you put a big, 18-inch square tile down, it’s got nowhere to go.

    SABRINA: It’s got nowhere to go.

    TOM: Exactly.

    SABRINA: And what is your recommendation for my – for correcting it?

    TOM: Unfortunately, there’s no easy recommendation. If the tile project was done wrong to begin with, there’s nothing I can tell you to do that’s going to fix it at this point in time. It’s really going to be something that you’re going to have to tolerate and eventually, you’re going to end up replacing them. And this time, you’re going to do the proper job with putting the floor down.

    How long have these tiles been down?

    SABRINA: About five years.

    TOM: I was going to say, whoever put them down didn’t really do the job right. You’re going to end up having to tear it out and do it again.

    SABRINA: That’s OK. Well, thank you guys. I just wanted to talk to some professionals. And I heard your show and I really appreciate you guys giving me the advice.

    TOM: You got it. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Mark in South Carolina is on the line and needs some help defining different types of insulation. Tell us what’s going on.

    MARK: I put some Icynene in my house and then I heard someone say that closed-cell was better. And then I’ve heard that open-cell was better. Can you explain to me the advantages and disadvantages of, for my home now, choosing either closed-cell or open-cell insulation?

    TOM: What type of Icynene did you put in? Is it open-cell insulation?

    MARK: Yes, it was open-cell.

    TOM: You know, there’s a lot of debate as to which one is better and I think that both have good qualities. Open-cell has a good insulating value. It’s more susceptible to moisture than closed-cell but it still gives you the benefit of being not only an insulator but an air barrier. So it protects you against drafts that are going to try to get into the house. The other advantage of open-cell is it has better sound-absorption qualities. So it’s a little bit of a quieter house and it tends to be more economical to apply.

    So I don’t think you made a bad choice and Icynene is a good product.

    MARK: OK. What would be a reason I would choose closed-cell?

    TOM: That’s a good question. I would say that if you were in a very high-moisture area, like seaside, then you may want to consider closed-cell.

    MARK: Alright. Well, you guys have a great show and thank you for your time and your help.

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

    Well, the past few years have seen a big increase in the danger and even deadly nature of wildfires. With the weather heating up, that risk is even increasing further. But there are some things that you can do to lessen the chance that your home will be impacted by a brush fire that could occur this summer.

    LESLIE: First of all, don’t be the one who starts the fire. That’s some good advice there.

    About 12 percent of wildfires are caused by people who improperly dispose of all types of smoking items. So, never throw a cigarette on the ground. Keep a bucket of water near your fire pit or chiminea and always pay attention to local burn bans. And if you haven’t had rain in a while, just put a hold on the outdoor burning altogether. And of course, remember that fireworks are also a major source of brush fires.

    TOM: But even if you do all of this and your neighbors follow all the rules, the biggest culprit of wildfires is lightning. So, you might want to consider installing a lightning-protection system. The way this works is it safely diverts lightning to the ground instead of letting it hit your house or the ground around your house where it could ignite some bushes or trees.

    LESLIE: Also, speaking of bushes and trees, neat landscaping will greatly reduce the risk that a wildfire will spread to your property. So make sure you clean out all dead leaves, twigs and pretty much anything a fire could use as kindling from your yard.

    Now, this includes your gutters. You want to keep shrubs and hedges trimmed below 3 feet. And prune tree canopies to provide at least 8 feet of clearance off the ground to help keep ground fires from jumping up to those branches.

    TOM: And lastly, it’s always a good idea, if you live in an area that’s susceptible to wildfires, to prepare a go bag, just in case you ever need to evacuate quickly, with all the essentials. We’ve got tips on what you need to include, online, at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Cindy is on the line from Nebraska with an air-conditioning question. How can we help you?

    CINDY: Yes, I have central air but our upstairs does not cool very well. So we put in a window air and I’ve tried to seal it with some of those foam strips and tape and things like that. But now I’ve got some issues. Like when it rains, for some reason we’re getting water soaking through the tape and coming inside and dripping. What other thing can I use to seal that that would be more waterproof but still I’d be able to take it out?

    TOM: Wow. So typically, when you install a window air conditioner, you have the window – the upper part of the double-hung window sits on top of the box and then it has sort of like wings that slide out the side of the air conditioner to kind of seal out the space between the air conditioner and the opening of the window, correct?

    CINDY: Correct.

    TOM: Alright. And so you’ve sealed those areas with tape? Is that what you said?

    CINDY: We used some strips of foam that you put around it to fill in the gaps. So we’ve got – the wings are all stretched out and then we’ve sealed, where we have spaces, with the foam strips.

    TOM: Here’s what I do. There’s a product that is a temporary weatherstripping that looks like caulk; it comes in a caulking tube. Now, typically, you use this inside your house for really, really drafty windows and you almost caulk them shut with this product. But you can use it in a scenario like this. I think for the summer it would probably last fine. When it dries, it kind of looks like a silicone caulk; it’s clear. But the cool thing is that when you’re ready to pull out that air conditioner, you can peel this temporary caulk off.

    Now, it’s made by a number of manufacturers. I think DAP makes – Seal ‘N Peel is the brand name that they came up with. Seal – S-e-a-l – ‘N Peel. And so take a look for that temporary weatherstripping caulk, search it out online. You may have to order it at a hardware store or a home center. And that will be much more effective than the tape, because you’ll be able to get it into those tight places and it will really stick there and keep that water out, OK?

    CINDY: That sounds perfect. Thank you very much.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now up, we’ve got Paul calling in from Tennessee who’s got an issue with a water pump. Tell us what’s going on.

    PAUL: I’m getting some air in this well water. The well is six-and-a-half years old, as is the house. And it goes down 350 feet and the casing goes down 105 feet where they grouted it. When they first put it in, I was bothered by the amount of turbidity I had in it and I was changing the whole-house filter about once a week.

    And I went back to the drilling company and they said, “Well, it would take about three months to quit that.” Well, it was 36 months. And then after about four years, I started getting some water hammer in the cold water, particularly in the basement although upstairs, it’ll do it, too.

    But then I’m getting air out of the faucets upstairs and it’s collecting air from somewhere and I can’t figure out where. And as far as I know, the well tank, with the bladder in it – the 40 pounds of air pressure hold the bladder. That seems to be OK, Tom.

    TOM: OK. Yeah, that was the first thing I was going to think: that if you had a leak in that bladder tank, that that would cause that. Other possible causes are bad siphons but I’m not quite sure how you could test that without having all the gear that you would need.

    Have you had the well company come back and take another look at this, specifically for the air-bubble problem?

    PAUL: No. Because it’s been quite a while and they – the guy they used to have there at the company, in the daytime, didn’t seem to know much about it. In fact, when he told me 3 months it was going to clear up and it was 36 months, I thought, “Maybe I’m talking to the wrong guy.” But I haven’t gotten a hold of him.

    TOM: Well, he told you 3 months because his warranty was 90 days, right?

    PAUL: Yeah.

    TOM: Paul, obviously, we’re getting air into that system and if it’s not coming through the bladder tank, I’m not quite sure where it’s coming in. And I think you’re going to have to get a well expert there – a real expert – that understands these things and try to see if there’s any way they can determine exactly how that air is getting in.

    Do you have another well company that you might try?

    PAUL: Yeah, there’s several of them here because this area is very rural. We’re right at the edge of the Smokies.

    TOM: I would try another well company, because you didn’t have good luck with the first one, and see if you can get to the bottom of it. But I agree with you: if it’s not the tank, it more than likely is the pump.

    PAUL: OK. Well, very good. And thank you. I will try someone here local, then, and see if they can build (ph) it out.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Up next, it’s deck season and we mean enjoying it, not maintaining it. We’re going to talk about decking materials that need the least amount of maintenance, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Trex, the world’s number-one, wood-alternative decking brand. Just in time to give your outdoor living space a summer upgrade, Trex Enhance Decking is available, in stock, at your local Home Depot. To learn more about the long-lasting beauty, hassle-free maintenance and industry-leading warranty of Trex Enhance, visit HomeDepot.Trex.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 you’ve heard us say it many times before – we can’t stress it enough – decks are one of the best ways to increase the usable footage in your house and add value to your home. But to make your deck an even better investment, you want to be careful when you consider the decking material you choose.

    LESLIE: That’s right. You know, Trex makes a high-performance, low-maintenance composite decking that’s really gorgeous and super-durable. And here to tell us more is Adam Zambanini from Trex.


    ADAM: Oh, thank you. It’s great to be here.

    TOM: So, Adam, this is the season for deck construction and we all can’t wait to get outside and enjoy the spring and enjoy the summer. And building a deck is really a great way to do that because our point is that it’s a very inexpensive way to increase your living space, right?

    ADAM: Oh, yeah, that’s correct. There’s a lot of studies that are out there, when you compare the different types of materials and the value that you get out of them in building your deck, in terms of the return on investment.

    TOM: And decks always seem to score high as a valuable addition, in terms of ROI, when it comes time to sell your house, right?

    ADAM: That is correct. And alternative decking, like composite decks, even score higher than wood, in terms of return on investment.

    LESLIE: Well, because there’s far less maintenance and you’re really getting the look of wood without, I hate to say it, the pain in the neck of taking care of a wood deck.

    ADAM: Yes, that’s correct. And yeah, the value proposition for a lot of the alternative decking has changed, as well. When we first got into the category, it was all about it would not rot, warp or splinter. But over the last several years, it’s become more of a high-performance product. So it’s now scratch-, stain- and fade-resistant.

    TOM: Well, you guys have been in the business a long time. I want to mention that where I live, along the Jersey Shore, we have Trex that was used as our boardwalks. And it was down for over 10 years before Hurricane Sandy took it away, along with the structure that it was attached to. But I’ve got to tell you, the stuff really does stand up to all of that foot traffic.

    And now you guys have made it even better. You’re out with a new product called Trex Enhance, which is available at The Home Depot. Tell us about Trex Enhance and some of the benefits of this new product from Trex.

    ADAM: Sure. Well, Trex Enhance is – it’s like most of our other brands, in terms of – it’s green. So the nice thing about Enhance is it’s 95-percent recycled. Most people aren’t aware that Trex is the largest recycler of plastic bags in the United States. So those bags that you get at merchant retailers or you get at grocery stores, a lot of those bags come through Trex. So we mix those bags with the wood, which is reclaimed wood that you would get from manufacturers that have scraps. We mix those together and we extrude to make Trex Enhance.

    The other thing is Enhance comes with a 25-year fade-and-stain warranty. It is scratch-resistant. It comes in two colors and the color that’s stocked at The Home Depot is Beach Dune, which is a warm, honey-brown color that’s engineered right into the board.

    TOM: Now, let’s talk about the fastening systems for the composite decking. You guys have a hidden system, which I think is interesting, because no one really likes to see the fasteners. They’re kind of like a necessary evil but you guys now have a system that enables the fasteners themselves to be hidden. How does it work?

    ADAM: Yeah. It’s called Trex Hideaway. And what it is, it kind of looks like a T that has a screw going right through the center of the T. It’s a nylon, glass-filled fastener. And so nylon – it’s an engineered type of resin. And what you do is you put your deck board down and then in between each deck board, there’s a groove built within the deck board. And you put that hidden fastener in there and you screw it down so it holds the lip of the deck board on the groove and fastens to your joist.

    So, very, very easy for a do-it-yourselfer to use. You just slide – once you get the one row of the decking done with a hidden fastener, you slide the next row of decking in and continue on. The beauty of that is your gapping is already built right into it, so you don’t have to worry about what your spacing needs to be in between each one of your deck boards.

    LESLIE: Alright. We are talking to Adam Zambanini from Trex about a really beautiful, low-maintenance, super-durable decking material, which is a composite from Trex in their new line called Trex Enhance.

    Now, Adam, what do you do when it comes to railings? Certain heights, deckings do need railings around the entire side. If you’ve got steps, you need railings. Are they available in composites, as well? Are they kind of easy to install? What’s the process there?

    ADAM: Yeah, the Trex railing is available and it’s stocked at The Home Depot. And you can also, if you want to – at The Home Depot, you can get other colors that are via special order. We find that a lot of consumers like to mix and match the components on railing. And actually, Trex has 1,203 different options of railing that the consumer can use and build their own customized deck.

    But in terms of how you would install the railing, a lot of people will use our posts. They come in 6 foot from center post to center post. And then you have a bracket system that holds the top and bottom rails and in between there that holds the balusters.

    And the one thing unique about the Trex system is it has a baluster strip, which conceals all the hidden fasteners. So, the nice thing about Trex railing is you don’t have to see all the different fasteners exposed on the rail.

    TOM: Twelve-hundred-and-three different railing options. I wouldn’t be able to make up my mind.

    Speaking of which, Adam, let me ask you this question: do you guys have any design tools that can help consumers figure out what their deck’s going to look like?

    ADAM: Yeah. So on Trex.com, there’s a Trex visualizer or deck-design center you can go and get and you can actually design your deck. So that’s one tool that we have on the desktop. And then on apps, there’s actually a Trex visualizer. So if you want to download a type of deck, you can kind of change it up in terms of what it looks like with the different color options in that that are available.

    And we’re actually expanding that in the next 30 days. We’re actually adding our railing app to show those 1,203 different design options. So, you’ll be able to mix and match your decking with your railing and kind of visualize what it’s going to look like.

    LESLIE: Alright. Up next, you don’t have to put up with dirty outdoor furniture. We’re going to tell you how to keep it clean, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Trex, the world’s number-one, wood-alternative decking brand. Just in time to give your outdoor living space a summer upgrade, Trex Enhance Decking is available, in stock, at your local Home Depot. To learn more about the long-lasting beauty, hassle-free maintenance and industry-leading warranty of Trex Enhance, visit HomeDepot.Trex.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. Pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. One caller who makes it on the air with us this hour is going to get a really great Father’s Day gift, courtesy of our friends at DeWALT. We’ve got up for grabs a 204-Piece Mechanics Tool Set.

    Now, pros really love these tools and you are going to, as well. Each one has a deep, laser-etched marking so that you can actually easily identify the socket size without just sort of blindly testing every single one to see if it fits. You’ll actually know which one you’re grabbing.

    And you can check out all of the DeWALT mechanics tool sets, right now, at DeWALT.com.

    TOM: The set’s worth $240. It’s just one of the many great ideas that you’ll find on the Father’s Day Gift Guide, which is presented by DeWALT, on MoneyPit.com. So check it out if you’re having some trouble figuring out what to get the DIY dad in your life or maybe if you want to just treat yourself to a little something this season. And give us a call right now for the answer to your home improvement question at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got Ladonna in Colorado who’s got a gardening question. Welcome to The Money Pit.

    LADONNA: Yeah, I have a sod issue. I laid some brand-new sod in my backyard and I’m watering several times a day to keep it so it catches and stuff but I have lots and lots of mushrooms. I’m picking mushrooms in the morning, picking mushrooms at night and they’re not even edible. I have dogs, cats and grandkids who are on the yard, so I don’t want to use anything that would be bad for them. So I need something organic to get rid of mushrooms. Any ideas?

    TOM: Great question. Now, if you don’t want to use a commercially-available fungicide – because that’s what will take care of the mushrooms – you can also sort of make your own by mixing baking soda and water. If you put about a ¼-cup of baking soda per gallon of water and spray that whenever you see the new mushroom growth, that will help to deter it.

    And the other thing that you could do is add lime, because mushrooms love acidic soil and lime can make that soil less acidic so that the mushrooms will tend to not grow. So there’s two ways to help limit or reduce the amount of mushroom growth on your lawn without turning to chemicals.

    LADONNA: OK, great. Well, I will go ahead and try that.

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

    LESLIE: So, did you pull out your outdoor furniture this year only to find that it’s covered with a layer of last year’s grime? Well, I hope you’re not actually sitting on that dirty furniture. Cleaning it is simple with these steps.

    First, if you’ve got plastic furniture, you want to mix a little dish soap, Borax, and a ½-cup of peroxide into one gallon of water. Let it sit for about 10 to 15 minutes. Make sure you test it on a small area first, just to make sure it doesn’t discolor anything, and then go ahead and use a nylon brush to scrub it on. It really works wonders.

    TOM: Now, for wood furniture, you want to clean the surface with an oil soap; do that once or twice a month. Then you can oil the surface with a sealant or a preservative. For metal, you need soapy water and good, old elbow grease. To remove any rust or stains, you can use sandpaper. And you can also plan to repaint the entire piece next season with a rust-prohibiting paint or a metal varnish.

    And if you’ve missed any of those tips, no problem. We’ve got those and much more on the home page, at MoneyPit.com, right now.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Eric in Hawaii on the line who needs help with a roofing question and Tom and I to come there and help in person.

    Welcome, Eric.

    ERIC: How are you guys doing?

    TOM: We’re doing great. How can we help you with your cedar roof?

    ERIC: Well, it is past its life, so I will need to replace it. It’s very expensive out here so I’m wondering, are there any other new products that I can put over – I’ve got skip-sheeted base.

    TOM: Right. You have space sheathing.

    ERIC: Yes, yes. So, are there any other products besides the cedar shake that I can go with that style? Or would I have to sheet it or – I’m looking for affordability.

    TOM: Alright. Maybe is my answer. Is that definite enough for you? I’m thinking about a product that’s a composite roofing shingle that’s called DaVinci Roofscapes.

    Now, these look more like a stone roof, like a slate roof, than they do a cedar roof. But they’re a tile product. So because they’re a tile-like product, I don’t know if you need to put a solid plywood sheathing underneath. I suspect that you will not have to. So you may be able to put them on in much the same way that you have with your spaced sheathing on the cedar.

    How old is that cedar roof, by the way?

    ERIC: Unbelievably, 30 years old.

    TOM: You know, it’s not unbelievable to me and here’s why. The fact that you have it on spaced sheathing means that it was able to dry out from the top and the bottom. Cedar is not waterproof so you wonder, “Well, why does it actually keep the water out of my house?” Well, because it absorbs that water and allows the – most of it to run off. But the way it lasts as long as it does is it has to be able to dry very easily. And so many people that put cedar roofs on today nail them against tar paper on top of plywood sheathing and you really can’t get any air underneath it, so that’s why those roofs last a very short timeframe.

    So, I think your options are either to consider a composite roof, like the DaVinci product – you can look online, find them at DaVinciRoofscapes.com – or you consider replacing the cedar or you could go with plywood and a new asphalt-shingle roof that looks like cedar. I would price it out all three ways, do a little more homework and then make the best choice for you.

    The nice thing about your roof is that it rarely is an emergency. I think you’re starting to identify the fact that it’s worn. I don’t know if you’ve had any kind of major damage. But generally, you can nurse a roof along for a year or two if you absolutely have to. But now is definitely the time to start looking into the options.

    ERIC: Alright. Thank you so much.

    TOM: You’re welcome, Eric. 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, are you looking to get the most bang out of your remodeling buck? Who isn’t? Well, there is one remodel, though, you need to be aware of because it’s one that you’re going to want to skip. We’ll tell you what it is, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Trex, the world’s number-one, wood-alternative decking brand. Just in time to give your outdoor living space a summer upgrade, Trex Enhance Decking is available, in stock, at your local Home Depot. To learn more about the long-lasting beauty, hassle-free maintenance and industry-leading warranty of Trex Enhance, visit HomeDepot.Trex.com.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Deer and rabbits, they are kind of a welcome sign of warmer weather, except when they’re eating all of your landscaping. We’ve got tips on how to keep the local wildlife away from your gardens, on MoneyPit.com. Check it out. It’s on the home page right now.

    LESLIE: And while you’re online, you can head on over to the Community section and post a question that we answer every hour. And I’ve got one here from Anthony in New York who writes: “I’ve heard the pattern of a crack in a building’s wall can hint to whether it’s from normal shifting or a serious structural damage. I have a crack in my ceiling that’s been growing in a straight step pattern. Should I be concerned?”

    TOM: That’s interesting. So, the crack is in the ceiling in a step pattern. I think it’s probably shrinkage across, maybe, trusses. I don’t know what kind of structure you have but if it’s trusses, that kind of crack pattern would not be that unusual because sometimes, you’ll get uplift in trusses where they’ll dry out and they’ll pull up. And they basically start to pull apart the drywall at the seams.

    To the bigger question, though, as to whether or not the pattern indicates what’s going on, yeah, it clearly does many times. For example, if you see a horizontal crack, like in a foundation wall, and that crack is open like the wall is pushing in towards the basement, that’s almost always caused by frost heave. And that means you have a poor drainage condition outside where the soil is getting wet, it’s expanding, it’s getting pushed in towards the house. And that’s an issue that, in its worst-case scenario, can cause a wall to collapse. But generally, it means that you need to fix the grading on the outside.

    If you’ve got step cracks, that could mean you have too much water collecting under that foundation and part of the house is sort of dropping. Again, it’s something that can be stabilized.

    Almost all homes have cracks of one sort or another. If they appear to be active – in other words, they’re getting worse over time – that’s a good time to call in a professional home inspector or a structural engineer for further assessment.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now I’ve got one from Ben in Texas who writes: “I have a six-year-old central air-conditioning system and it always leaves the front room of my house about 5 degrees hotter. How do I fix this?”

    TOM: The system is not balanced, Ben. You probably need more supply or more return air into that front room, which I’ll be willing to bet is on the south or west sides of the home. That side of the house always needs more cooling power than the rest. Hope that helps you out.

    LESLIE: Yeah, Ben. Keep in mind that side of the house just gets beaten on by the sun all day. So even if you can do additional things like closing your drapes, just to sort of hinder the amount of sun that gets into the rooms, that could help, as well.

    TOM: Well, getting the best value for your home improvement dollar is key to every successful remodeling project. Leslie has got info on one investment, though, you might want to skip, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    LESLIE: You know, each year, more and more people are working away from the office. But apparently, one place they aren’t working in is a home office.

    Now, with all of the mobile technology that we’ve got at our hands these days, working from home can actually mean working on a park bench or your lounge chair or your deck. Now, an average home office remodel can cost around $30,000 and that’s money you probably won’t recoup.

    So, go ahead and create a dedicated workspace in your home if you need one. But make sure that that room can easily be used as an additional bedroom or a multi-purpose space, especially if you’re thinking of putting your house on the market. You don’t want to create a space that’s going to sort of pigeonhole that buyer into using that space or spending money to turn it back into the extra bedroom.

    So, think about it. There’s some great pieces of furniture that work double-duty as a home office but closes up to look like an armoire, so it could still be a guest room. Think creatively, work from home, work outside. But there’s some great ways to do it without spending a ton of money.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up next week on the program, are you spending a fortune on heating oil but afraid that converting to natural gas might cost even more? We’ll talk about heating-oil conversion and how to do it effectively, on the next edition of The 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.


    (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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