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Recycling Tips for the Holidays, Carbon Monoxide Safety Tips, Holiday Childproofing Tips and more.

  • Transcript

    TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Standing by to take your home improvement questions, to solve your do-it-yourself dilemmas. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. What are you working on this weekend? Are you tackling a home fix-up? Getting ready for all of the visitors that are going to come see you over the holidays? Give us a call; we can help. The number is 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Are you planning a project for next year? We can help with that. 888-666-3974. Do you need to put together a home improvement resolution list, like a New Year’s resolution that will actually last past maybe the first week of the new year? Well, give us a call; we’ll talk you through it. 888-666-3974.

    Well, the holidays might be filled with the colors of red, gold and green, Leslie, but they do tend to generate more waste than just about any other time of the year which, I guess, makes the holiday season not very environmentally friendly at all.

    And that’s why we’ve put together a list of Earth-friendly ideas to help you truly go green for Christmas and beyond. We’ll have that, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: Alright. But I’m not ironing out the wrapping paper after we unwrap this year.

    TOM: Probably be a bad idea anyway.

    LESLIE: It’s not happening. It’s not happening.

    Also, this time of year presents a real danger of carbon-monoxide poisoning. We’re going to have some simple steps that you can take to keep your family safe from this very potential killer.

    TOM: And speaking of danger,  that beautifully decorated Christmas tree can pose a hazard if you’re not careful. This is a time of year where there are just so many more risks around your house for kids. So we’re going to talk about how you childproof your home, especially over the holidays, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And also this hour, you know, nothing can spoil your holiday faster than water leaking into your basement or pretty much any other place in your home that you don’t want it. Not your bathtub. Like a room, on the floor.

    Well, one caller this hour is going to be able to prevent that. We’re giving away the liquid rubber, Blue Max, by Ames Research Laboratories. Now, you can just paint it on a wall or any other surface and then it instantly becomes waterproof.

    TOM: We’ve got a 5-gallon container to give away. It’s worth $180. Going to go out to one caller drawn at random at the end of today’s program, so let’s get to it. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Joe in Georgia is on the line with a cooling situation. Tell us what’s going on at your Georgia home.

    JOE: I purchased a 1,700-square-foot ranch.

    TOM: OK.

    JOE: And it has a 3-ton air conditioner now. The owners put on an additional sunroom about 220 square feet but really didn’t upgrade the air-conditioning unit.

    TOM: OK. Hmm. Yeah.

    JOE: So in the summer, when it comes time to air-condition the whole house, that room never gets cool.

    TOM: I bet. Yeah, not surprising.

    JOE: It gets very warm out there.

    TOM: Yeah.

    JOE: There’s a lot of windows and our options are going to a bigger unit of 4½ tons to cool the whole house or some people have suggested to me that there is an individual unit that you can put out there with its own compressor.

    LESLIE: Joe, do you have an actual wall or is everything all glass?

    JOE: There’s a space on the bottom, under the window, and there’s a space above it. I’ve measured it and from what I can find online, I think the unit would just about fit on top of the window spot.

    TOM: Well, here’s what you would do, Joe. I would definitely recommend that you use a separate system for the sun room and here’s why. If you get a 4½-ton unit, you’re going to have to run that unit all the time, whether you need the extra cooling power or not, and that’s going to really run up your electrical cost.

    A 3-ton unit rule of thumb – and you’re in Georgia, so I would be on the extreme of this – is you would figure 600 to 800 square feet per ton. You’re in Georgia, so I would figure 600. That’s only 1,800 square feet. And believe me, there’s a lot of other things that calculate into this: how much insulation you have, how many windows you have facing south and so on.

    JOE: OK.

    TOM: So your system is right where it should be, at 3 tons.

    JOE: OK.

    TOM: If you were to make that bigger, it would be wasteful for the rest of the house. I would look at a product called a Mitsubishi Mr. Slim. This is a split-ductless system, so there’s no ducts to install. You put the compressor outside, the refrigerant lines get run to the inside. They hook up with an air handler that essentially hangs or is mounted right to the wall. I would put it on the exterior wall of your house facing into the sunroom.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And they’re like, what, 18 inches by – no, 12 inches by 30 inches?

    JOE: OK. OK.

    LESLIE: They’re not gigantic.

    TOM: I had to turn around and look at the one that’s hanging from my studio. That’s how quiet it is. Yeah, it’s probably 16 inches tall by maybe 2½ – yeah, 2½-foot wide.

    LESLIE: Two or three feet.

    TOM: And they’re great. They’re real efficient and …

    LESLIE: Super-quiet.

    TOM: You can get them in just the air-conditioning mode or you can get one in air conditioning and a heat pump. In case you want to use that space in the wintertime, you could just switch it into the heat mode.

    LESLIE: And they heat super-fast.

    JOE: That might be a good idea, because it does get – it does stay cooler and I guess that must be because of the large, expansive windows that are in that one room.

    TOM: Absolutely. Yep.

    JOE: So it probably stays cooler, so we do find that we don’t even use that space once it starts to drop. But the temperatures don’t get extremely cold in Savannah here but still …

    LESLIE: But it gets chilly.

    TOM: And it’s perfect for that, because it’ll really just sort of take the edge off. Go to the Mitsubishi Electric website and check out Mr. Slim.

    JOE: OK.

    TOM: That’s the product. It’s a good product; it works well. And I think it’s the perfect solution for your sunroom in Georgia.

    JOE: I’d been leaning towards what you just said. I actually looked at another brand but if the Mitsubishi is good, I’ll pull that up online and kind of look into that one, also.

    LESLIE: It’s the one that Tom and I both have personally in our homes and we’ve got one in the studio. And it just worked out that way, not for any reason sponsorship-wise or anything. And we both love them.

    JOE: OK. Alright. Well, I’m going to do my homework on it and I appreciate all your help.

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

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

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, the average family generates more waste during the holidays than just about any other time of the year. We’re going to help you cut down on that clutter with holiday-friendly recycling tips, 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: Hey, pick up the phone, give us a call. We are standing by to talk with you about your home improvement project. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. And if you do make that call, you might just win a 5-gallon container of Ames Research Laboratories’ Blue Max Liquid Rubber.

    This is a super-easy-to-use product. You just paint the Blue Max on practically any surface and it makes its way into the cracks and crevices. And when it dries, you are left with a totally waterproof surface. It’s worth $180. Going to go out to one caller drawn at random from those that reach us for today’s show. The number is 888-MONEY-PIT.

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

    RENEE: Yes, mine is kind of like a double question. I have about a 30-year-old, connected-on-both-sides townhome, two levels.

    TOM: OK. OK.

    RENEE: And I heard a crack a couple months back. Well, you know, it was one of the support beams had just – like a big, strong branch just cracked.

    TOM: Huh. Did you actually see the cracked beam somewhere?

    RENEE: No, I didn’t see that but I have begun to have cracks along on that same side of the house, in the corners of the wall?


    TOM: OK.

    RENEE: Down the corners where it’s breaking apart. But at the same time, I’ve noticed that the house has become unlevel. And that’s a little part because it’s old and it’s connected on both sides but I’m in Texas and we have big droughts and it kind of shifts a little bit.

    TOM: OK.

    RENEE: My concern is when I get the support beam fixed and the foundation fixed, I’ve seen on the DIY shows that suddenly they go back and they look and the house or the chimney has just been trashed. What can I do to prevent that?

    TOM: Why do you say it’s been trashed? Because it shifted?

    RENEE: Right. When they did the – when they put in – when I’ve watched the DIY shows, they go and they fix the foundation and the foundation’s fine. And of course, they shift everything up and now there is …

    TOM: Yeah. That’s why you have to be very, very careful when you do anything that changes the angle that the house has sort of settled into. Because if you don’t, once you bring a foundation up, everything else moves. In a wood house, if you try to straighten a slopy floor, for example, all the wires and the plumbing get stretched and twisted and so on. So it’s not just foundations that are of concern.

    I’m concerned, though, about this crack that you say that you’ve heard. But you’ve seen cracks in your walls but you’ve not physically seen the structural crack, correct?

    RENEE: Correct.

    TOM: Alright. Now, you said it’s a townhouse. Is there an association that …?

    RENEE: Yes.

    TOM: OK. So in an association form of ownership, typically you don’t own the structure. So the structure – if the structure was to fail, that’s typically the responsibility of the association to address. Is that your understanding?

    RENEE: I can double-check on that.

    TOM: But in a typical condominium form of ownership, what you own is inside wall to inside wall. In some cases, you own the …

    LESLIE: And then what’s beyond that wall is not yours.

    TOM: Right. In some cases, you own the drywall; in some cases, you don’t. So, for example, if there was a fire, God forbid, and the whole place burned down, you would be paying for the drywall, the kitchen cabinets, the appliances, stuff like that. And the association would be rebuilding everything else, including the related infrastructure.

    So you need to figure out if there’s a structural problem, who’s responsible for it. I suspect you’re going to find it’s the association that’s responsible for it, which is good news for you. And then I would bring that to their attention and ask them to address it.

    Now, as far as the cracks in the corners of the wall are concerned, I have to tell you that that’s pretty typical and that by itself doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a structural problem. The way to fix that, though, is important and that is that you want to sand down the drywall in that area. And then you want to add some additional tape and the type of drywall tape you use would be the perforated type. It looks like a netting; it’s like a sticky netting. You put that on and then you spackle through that three coats: one, two, three coats; each one thin but three coats. And that type …

    LESLIE: And allowing each one to dry and be sanded in between.

    TOM: Yeah. And that type of repair typically will last.

    Now, after you do the spackle repair, you’ll have to prime the wall. You can’t just paint on top of it; you’ll have to prime it and then paint it.

    RENEE: OK.

    TOM: So I would address the structure with the association, I would fix the cracks on your own and then see what happens.

    RENEE: OK. So just one more question. Let’s say that if it’s not in the association, that I do have to go into it, not only am I concerned about my roof but how much of a problem will I have with my neighbors on both sides of me?

    TOM: Depends on where the crack is, if it exists at all. If that’s the case, then I would suggest you hire a professional home inspector and have the inspector do what’s called a partial inspection, which is usually a single-item inspection, and investigate this crack and see what’s going on in the structure. And then we’ll know how far it’s gone and what needs to be done about it.

    RENEE: Yeah, that’s cool. Thank you, guys. I appreciate your time.

    LESLIE: Well, with all the festivities that occur this time of year, there is a downside: waste. In fact, between the Thanksgiving holiday and the new year, the average household’s use of waste or the amount of waste, rather, increases by 25 percent. And that’s why it’s important to make recycling a big part of your holiday tradition.

    For example, if you’re getting new electronics this season, recycle the old ones, please. This could include your laptops, your e-readers and any game systems. Now, you can find a local recycling center for those electronics that will accept them at Earth911.com. Also, Best Buy stores will take electronics to recycle no matter where you bought them.

    TOM: And if you plan ahead with your holiday decorations, you can also cut down on waste there, as well. So, think about using natural decorations that could be composted, like poinsettias and evergreens. And don’t forget to recycle the wrapping paper. It takes no time for a family of four to really fill several garbage bags with all of that gift wrapping. You can save it, you can reuse it.

    And if you want some more tips on how to do just that, just search “holiday recycling tips” at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Virginia on the line who needs some help with a basement-flooring project. Tell us what’s going on.

    VIRGINIA: We want to finish the basement floor.

    TOM: OK.

    VIRGINIA: And in the – it’ll be like a kitchen area. And we want to put in – it’s kind of like a laminate wood-type flooring that you put in sections. Is that a problem? Like somebody said something about – you need a moisture barrier? Is there an issue with that?

    TOM: Well, first of all, it’s a good choice for a basement, because it is very moisture-resistant. The way you install it is going to depend specifically on the manufacturer’s recommended instructions for it, Virginia. So, it’s really critical that wherever you buy this, you follow their specs because each one’s a little bit different.

    But conceptually, it’s not hard to do. I mean in some cases, they’re going to want you to put down a vapor barrier first. In other cases, the vapor barrier could be attached to the bottom of the laminate. The underlayment could be pre-attached to the bottom of the laminate and so on.

    So, I would follow the manufacturer’s instructions but it is a perfect choice for a basement. It’s real durable stuff and gosh, today it could look like anything. It could look like hardwood, stone, tile, you name it. It’s a good product and it’s a good application for it.

    VIRGINIA: Oh, thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Dave in Ohio who’s dealing with some seams in the drywall. Tell us what’s going on.

    DAVE: Well, my garage – my attached garage – is finished but I’ve noticed that in the wintertime, the seams will pop and crack. And then over the summer, I retaped and respackled and repainted and that was in May. And then by December, they had popped again and it’s getting really frustrating. It’s also uninsulated. It’s unheated and uninsulated, so I’m trying to figure out what I can do to fix this permanently.

    LESLIE: Well, the issue that you’re dealing with, primarily, is that you’ve got drywall in an unconditioned space. So you’re getting a lot of movement throughout the seasons, which is causing those seams to sort of open up and become visible for you.

    Now, when you’re repairing them, are you using traditional drywall tape or are you using that mesh tape?

    DAVE: I’ve been using – I used the mesh tape this last time.

    LESLIE: OK. And still it popped open again?

    DAVE: It still popped, yes.

    TOM: Did you remove the old tape before you put the mesh tape down?

    DAVE: Yes, yes.

    TOM: How many layers of spackle did you put down?

    DAVE: After the tape, I believe it was one.

    TOM: OK.

    LESLIE: OK. You’re supposed to do three.

    You want to start with one that’s approximately the size of the tape, smooth it out, let it dry, sand it down. Put another layer, get a little bit wider, feather out, let it dry, sand it down and go with your widest, let that dry, sand it. And that really seals the tape in and allows for a smooth transition. You’re dealing with a finished garage but it’s still a garage space. You want it to look good but you’re putting an awful lot of work into it.

    TOM: Yeah.

    DAVE: Yes.

    TOM: This is like Groundhog Day Home Improvement: every day you wake up, you’ve got to do it all over again.

    The thing is that when builders construct these spaces, they’re not required to put more than one coat of spackle on, because it’s just for fire resistance. So we end up getting stuck with these houses that have tape that fall off over the years because it just wasn’t finished/spackled. So, the key here is to remove the old, loose tape; sand the area so you have good adhesion. Not aggressively but just lightly sand. Use the perforated tape that’s like the sticky-backed perforated tape, kind of looks like netting. Three coats of spackle, prime, paint and that should be permanent.

    DAVE: OK. That sounds great.

    LESLIE: Mark in South Carolina is on the line with a showerhead question. What can we do for you?

    MARK: Yes. My wife has been after me for several years. She said that the pressure coming out of our shower nozzle just can’t get the shampoo out of her hair. And I put four different shower nozzles on there. I had a plumber that actually went out to the line out at the street, where we tapped into the line, and they’re all saying there’s nothing I can do. Do you have any suggestions for me?

    TOM: Mark, do you have hard water?

    MARK: I don’t know. How do you know if you have hard water?

    TOM: Because you have hard water, that’s exactly what it would feel like: it would feel like you can’t get your …

    LESLIE: It makes it feel like you can’t get the shampoo or the soap off.

    TOM: Yeah, exactly. Do you have well water or do you have city water?

    MARK: City water.

    TOM: Are there any other showers in the house that she uses and seems to work fine?

    MARK: No. She went to the other shower and said that didn’t work either. So I kept changing out the shower nozzles. Nothing seems to work.

    TOM: Yeah, you might want to get a water test done, because that’s exactly the symptom of a hard-water problem that you described.

    MARK: Hard water. OK.

    TOM: Yeah. And then you could – there’s a number of ways that you could put water softeners in and that will make that go away.

    Now, in terms of the showerhead itself, yeah, the newer, water-efficient showerheads, there are some folks that complain about not having enough water in there.

    MARK: Yeah.

    TOM: But I will say that the better ones seem to have engineered that out.

    Like, for example, I know Moen has a couple of different ones that are available, that have multiple settings. And they’ve engineered these so that you get a good spread of water across the showerhead but you still have the water savings.

    MARK: OK. Moen. Got that.

    TOM: Yeah. Check the hardware out. Then take a look at the better showerheads, like the ones by Moen. Those are really terrific. And I’ve got one, actually, in a shower upstairs that’s like a rain shower, kind of wide head. And it works great.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Well, unfortunately, deaths from carbon monoxide go up a lot this time of year. We’re going to tell you how to keep your family safe from this very dangerous and undetectable gas, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Roxul, manufacturer of fire-resistant, water-repellent and sound-absorbent home insulation products. Keep your home efficient and comfortable this winter and all year long with Roxul ComfortBatt and Roxul Safe’n’Sound insulations. www.DIYWithRoxul.com. Roxul. That’s R-o-x-u-l.

    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 with your home improvement project. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Cecily in Iowa is on the line with a wallpaper conundrum. What’s going on at your money pit?

    CECILY: Well, I have a probably 24-year-old townhome that I think the paper has been on the wall since – for that long.

    TOM: It was popular back then.

    CECILY: Yeah, yeah. Back then.

    I’m just wondering – person I had in here tried to, where the wallpaper butts up against the ceiling, there’s – it looks like a bad job and there’s some marks. And he thought he could wipe it down and everywhere he wiped it down, there’s like a watermark all along where he – looks like icicles: an uneven line of watermark.

    And I don’t know if it can – I’ve been told you can paint over it. I mean we have vaulted ceilings; it’s a lot of paper. And I don’t know how you would – if what – they took it off. There’s actually some posts papered with it and I don’t know what’s underneath.

    TOM: I think the answer is you can remove it. It’s a lot of work, like any type of wallpaper.

    CECILY: Right.

    TOM: If you want to paint over it, it’s going to look like the wallpaper underneath.

    LESLIE: Textured paint.

    TOM: It’s going to look textured underneath. So, if you want to do like a really inexpensive, short-term fix, you could paint over it. I would recommend that you use a very thick roller on that because otherwise, it’s going to be very hard to get the paint in where it has to go. And maybe you might even need to use a slitted roller: the kind of roller that we use on textured ceilings where it has actually sort of slots in it. Because it really gets in and around and thick and will sort of fill out that whole surface with paint.

    CECILY: Mm-hmm. Is it terribly difficult to remove?

    LESLIE: It depends on how long it’s been there, what the prep process was to the wall below the paper. All of those can add up to an easy job or a tremendously difficult job. And it’s one of those things that you don’t know until you try. And there are ways to do it.

    Now, with a textured wall covering like this, whether it’s grass cloth or the string cloth, you can try to use a store-bought wallpaper remover, you can use a steamer, you can do homemade concoctions. One is white vinegar and hot water, another is fabric softener and hot water. Both situations, you super-saturate the walls and just sort of let it sit there for a few minutes. I’ve even heard of clothing starch with hot water and making a paste onto the wallpaper.

    And I’ve used the fabric softener and that does work. That was a traditional vinyl, which I had to score first. But I’ve also heard with grass cloths, that you can take a paint scraper and scrape the actual string cloth or the grass cloth off of the backing, so that might make it easier to remove. Either way, it’s going to be a lot of work and you never know what’s behind it. You could get everything off and the wall could be so textured and dinged up that you end up having to put a layer of drywall over it anyway.

    CECILY: Ah, OK. Alright. Well, thank you very much. That’s very helpful and I’m glad I called.

    TOM: Well, you can’t see it or smell it but according to the EPA, hundreds of people die every year from carbon-monoxide poisoning, which is caused by malfunctioning or improperly used fuel-burning appliances like your furnace or your space heater or something like that. And that number does go up around the holidays, so we want you to think about the simple steps that you can take now to make sure you keep your family safe from CO poisoning.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. First of all, you really need to make sure that your family has your heating system tuned up every single year. Now, that needs to include a combustion analysis, which is really important because that’s how you’re going to detect a leak.

    Another source: portable generators. You never ever want to run a portable generator inside your home or even in an open garage. It’s super-dangerous. And also, this time of year, some people tend to warm up their car inside the garage. Don’t do it. Even with an open garage door, that carbon monoxide can leak right back into your home. So be smart, guys.

    TOM: For 24-7 protection, the best thing to do is to make sure that you have carbon-monoxide detectors installed on every floor of your home. You can pick them up at any home improvement store.

    For more tips on carbon-monoxide detectors, including a list of the different types and which makes the most sense for your particular situation, just search “detectors” on MoneyPit.com.

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

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

    TOM: OK.

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

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

    Do you have gas?

    VICTOR: Yes.

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

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

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

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

    TOM: Sure.

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

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

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

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

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Well, we all love a well-decorated Christmas tree but do you know who else does? Every toddler and their very curious hands. We’re going to give you some tips on keeping the holiday safe, with childproofing tips for kids, 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 to find the perfect holiday gift, 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. Pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT, because we are answering your home improvement questions but we are also giving away a great way to waterproof. Now, one caller is going to get a 5-gallon container of Blue Max. It’s from Ames Research Laboratories and it’s their liquid rubber. It’s non-toxic, it’s super-adhesive and it’s non-permeable. That means that anything you paint it on is going to become waterproof. It’s worth $180, so pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT for your chance to win.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Well, whether you have children at your own home or you’re expecting children to visit you over the holidays, it’s really important that you take the time now to childproof for this time of year.

    TOM: That’s right. And pediatricians say that this is a really busy time of year for injuries. And one big hazard is the holiday tree. It’s gorgeous, it’s sparkly and there’s a lot of fun stuff on it.

    LESLIE: Are you kidding? It’s everything they want.

    TOM: So it’s everything that a kid wants and it’s a big tip-over risk. So, don’t forget to secure it to the wall with an eye hook or some twine so you can keep it kind of tied off. Or just block it off with a child gate. I mean good luck with that; they could knock it right over. But really, get that thing secure any way that you have to. Just make sure it can’t fall over on kids.

    And also, with trees, you want to remember that the ornaments are super-attractive and very inviting to toddlers. And every year, there are dozens of emergency-room visits because these kids actually try to eat the ornaments off of the tree. So, hang them up higher on the tree. Make sure you use the not-so-tasty-looking ones for the lower portion of the tree. And better yet, make sure you have some break-proof ones that they really can’t harm and they can’t get in their mouths and don’t look like food.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Yeah, that’s what we do even now. Henry is four. It’s like everything on the lower part of the tree is non-breakable. And of course, with Charlie’s new arrival, next year we’re going to have to do this all over again.

    Now, it’s also really important, guys, to avoid wrapping paper, ribbons and bows, because they can be a choking hazard to kids and of course, a trip hazard for you. So, it’s best to throw them out immediately after you open your gifts. You know, keep your recycling bag right next to you as you’re unwrapping. Put it right in there.

    And also, this is a great time of year to make sure that your TV is secure and can’t tip over. Now, if you don’t have kids in the house, you might not be thinking about this but you don’t want to put TVs on anything other than furniture that was specifically designed to hold it. And if you’ve got a flat-screen TV, you want to make sure that it’s mounted to the wall with kits that were especially designed for the size and the weight of your specific TV.

    TOM: Finally, be careful with toxic plants that are all about the house this holiday season, like poinsettias and mistletoes. Make sure your holiday is safe and emergency room-free. And as always, you can check on MoneyPit.com for more specific holiday childproofing advice.

    LESLIE: Kathy in South Carolina, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    KATHY: I have a problem with the squirrels chewing into my roof.

    TOM: OK.

    KATHY: And I was wondering, how can I – what can I repair this with and what can I put in there to keep them out?

    TOM: Now, where are they chewing? Are they chewing through the trim or the soffits trying to get into the attic space? What’s the story?

    KATHY: Well, they have gotten into the attic space.

    TOM: The holes. Are you repairing those holes or what are you doing?

    KATHY: No. I was calling you to see how you could help me, because I listen to your show all the time and you give such good advice.

    TOM: Well, if they get into your attic, you can trap them and release them. You can use something called a Havahart trap. And this is a trap that is a wire cage with a trap door. And the way to bait it is to take an apple and put it in the far end of the cage and wire the apple to the cage; don’t just put it in there. But usually, I’ll take a hanger or a piece of picture-frame wire or something like that and I’ll thread it through the apple and wire it off so that it can’t bounce around.

    And if they’re in the attic, they’ll come looking for that food. They’ll get trapped in there. Then you can pick the whole cage up and take it far away from your house and then release them. And believe me, as soon as you lift the door up, they’re like out like a light.

    LESLIE: They’re gone.

    TOM: They just fly right out there and they’ll take off. They want nothing to do with you, so it’s completely safe.

    Now, in terms of those holes, you have to repair them. Now, you can put – if it’s a small hole, you can put steel wool in it or something like that. But if it’s a bigger hole, you really should simply rebuild it or repair it, whatever it takes. So if it’s wood or if it’s vinyl or if it’s metal soffit material, you really just need to completely rebuild that.

    And then, the other thing I’ll mention that seems to have been pretty effective over the years and that is if you were to put moth balls down in your attic, that does seem to have a deterring effect on the squirrels, as well. So if you spread them …

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. It will, though – that odor does seep into the house, so don’t go crazy with it.

    TOM: Yeah, right. You sprinkle them in there, yeah. Especially along the eaves.

    KATHY: But is there anything else I can put up there to keep more from coming in?

    TOM: Well, we want to identify the holes and get those fixed. It’s really an entry issue. You’ve got to basically close the door on them here. And so, if we can identify those holes and those entry points and seal them up, then you shouldn’t have a problem with squirrels. They don’t naturally live in the attic but they’re obviously finding a way into your house.

    If you’re not quite sure where they’re getting in, you obviously can’t get in there – up there – to kind of look that closely, then work from the street level, walking around the outside of the house and looking up. Try to get a pair of binoculars or borrow one and see if you can spot the holes where they’re getting in. But that’s what has to be closed up.

    KATHY: OK. Thank you so much. I’m so grateful.

    TOM: You’re very welcome.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Well, if you feel stressed over the holidays, imagine how your fridge feels. We’re going to give you some tips on refrigerator maintenance, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by TotalProtect Home Warranty. Get total protection against unexpected home repair or replacement costs for appliances, air conditioning, heating, plumbing and electrical. Visit BuyTotalProtect.com to see if you qualify for a special offer. That’s BuyTotalProtect.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 hey, you guys, Tom and I get lonely when we’re not with you every weekend. Why not take us to go with you everywhere and then we’ll always be there saying, “Hey. Here’s a project. Do this. Let me help you.”

    But literally, guys, we’ve got a great iPhone app. It’s The Money Pit iPhone app. You can download it for free. Head on over to MoneyPit.com. And also, while you’re online, you can get connected with so many other Money Pit fans when you visit our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter. So much great home improvement information, great contests that are exclusive to the online community, so head on over there today.

    And if you want, you can post us a question, like Bradley in South Dakota did who wrote: “Can I use ceramic floor tiles for my kitchen counter? The tiles are sealed. I know I” – oh, wait, these sounds like they’re used. “I know I can disinfect the tiles but what about the grout?”

    Gross. I don’t …

    TOM: Well, I think he’s saying they’re sealed tiles as opposed to unsealed tiles, like a terracotta tile. So as long as it’s a glazed tile – I think that’s the word you’re searching for, Bradley.

    LESLIE: So you don’t think he’s taking dirty floor tiles and putting them on the counter?

    TOM: I know. I’m hoping not, I’m hoping not. But even if, you know – even if he is, I don’t necessarily think that ceramic floor tiles are a good idea for a countertop, for a number of reasons.

    First of all, you’re not going to find the matching pieces that you need to do the edges and that sort of thing. If you use wall tile, you’re going to find corner pieces that you can use over the front edge and it’s just going to be a lot nicer and neater job. If you use big floor tiles or even ones that are maybe as small as 9×9, you’re going to have to really press them tightly together. Because you don’t want a wide gap, you don’t want a wide grout line, because it’s going to be that much more work to maintain.

    LESLIE: And it’s not going to be very interesting; it’s going to take up so much space, each tile.

    TOM: Yeah.

    LESLIE: And it’s just going to be like one big tile and then a half-a-tile.

    TOM: Yeah. And the difference would be that you wouldn’t be using sand grout, which is what you’d normally use on a floor; you’d be using regular grout. And you would want to use grout that has a mildicide in it.

    So I think you’re going to end up with a project that doesn’t look quite right and when people see it, they’re going to be like, “That’s odd,” and they won’t know exactly why it’s odd. But an experienced eye will see that you don’t have the right components to be able to do this and have it look good.

    So I would recommend against it. There are a lot of other options for building a nice counter than using floor tile. If you want to do it, use the proper type of tile and have it come out good the first time.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you don’t have to spend a ton of money. You can get creative. You can use simple ones to cover a large portion of the field and then add in some decorative ones and really create a striking countertop.

    TOM: Well, with all the cooking, the baking and the guests that have been coming in and out of your house this time of year, you might be building up quite a few leftovers. Leslie has got some refrigerator maintenance tips that’ll help you keep it all fresh, on today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    LESLIE: Yeah. This time of year really can put a great strain on your refrigerator. Leftovers, drinks and all of those goodies might mean that your fridge is working double-time. So this is a good time to make sure that it’s up to the task.

    First of all, you want to clean the coils. Now, most people don’t even realize that dust collects on the coils on the back of the fridge and they really need to be vacuumed. If you’ve got an older refrigerator that has a drain pan underneath, you want to make sure that you take it out and clean it so that you avoid mold growth. And if you’ve got a fridge that’s got a water or an ice dispenser, that pan should also be cleaned to avoid mold. Now, many of those dispensers also have a filter that needs to be changed. This could be the perfect time of year to do so.

    If you want some more tips, head on over to MoneyPit.com, search “refrigerator maintenance tips.” Because you want to make sure it’s running in tip-top shape, because you’re going to have lots of little storage containers in there with tasty goodies and raw food and things that need to be cooked. And it’s going to be stuffed to the gills, so you want it to work, especially this time of year when you’ve got a big dinner prepared for the next day. So, head on over to MoneyPit.com and search “fridge maintenance tips.”

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up next week on the program, it’s green and it grows and it can make you really sick. We’re going to have tips to help you mold-proof your home, 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 2012 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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