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Safety Tips for Using Space Heaters, Faux Stainless Appliance Makeovers, Grow Fresh Vegetables Indoors, 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: And it’s time to put on the tool belt and get to work. If you’ve got a project around your money pit that you’d like to knock out today, give us a call right now; we’ll help you get it done. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Are you planning a project for your future? Is it something that you want to do this winter, perhaps, to save some energy, make your home more comfortable? Give us a call; we’d love to help you out. The number is 888-666-3974.

    Hey, is it a job you can’t do yourself? You don’t need us to figure that out but you do need us to maybe help you – how to hire a contractor and what to ask when the contractor comes to your house with tales of glory about how great and how beautiful it’s going to be. How do you make sure it actually comes out that way? Give us a call; we’ll talk you through it, 888-666-3974.

    Well, now that you’ve wrapped up another year of busy holiday cooking, did you happen to notice, while all that was going on, that maybe your kitchen started to feel a bit smaller? Well, it’s only going to get worse as the winter drags on, so this hour, we’re going to give you some easy décor and remodeling ideas that will make your kitchen feel bigger without tearing down the walls.

    LESLIE: Also, does your heating system seem to have its own personality? All that noise coming from it might be sending you a signal that it needs some maintenance. A loud signal. Now, Richard Trethewey, the heating expert for This Old House is going to be along to tell us what all of those noises mean.

    TOM: And your appliances don’t ordinarily send you a breakdown-ahead warning; they just tend to die with very little upfront notice, which could potentially leave you with a big repair bill. So this hour, we’re going to tell you about a type of warranty coverage that actually can help you avoid those high-priced appliance repairs.

    LESLIE: And this hour, we’ve got a great prize up for grabs. We’re giving away pretty much a head start on any home improvement project. We’ve got up for grabs a $100 gift card from Lowe’s and it’s courtesy of our friends over at AirStone. And that’s a cool, new product that helps you create the look of stone without the grouting and even better, without the heavy lifting.

    TOM: And that’s going to go to one caller drawn at random from today’s callers. So, the first step doesn’t require any heavy lifting. Just pick up the phone and call us, 888-MONEY-PIT. Let’s get right to the phones.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Joe in Pennsylvania is on the line, dealing with some heating issues. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.

    JOE: We have a furnace; it’s a propane furnace. It’s about five or six years old. It’s pretty good for heating the house but it seems like some of the rooms are hotter than (inaudible at 0:03:00) and some of the rooms seem to be cooler. And what happens is there’s no consistency, so I have a hard time with getting everything fluctuated so that everything stays even. And I don’t know how to adjust that so that it would heat the house evenly.

    TOM: OK. So your furnace is kind of dumb in the sense that either it’s on or off, right? So that takes care of the furnace part of it. The problem here is with the duct system; it’s the distribution throughout the house.

    This is a forced-air system, Joe?

    JOE: Yes.

    TOM: So, the duct system is what has to be tweaked here to get the balance just right. Now, the way you adjust the duct system is first by designing it properly, which may be the issue here. And that’s kind of hard to fix without adding additional ductwork to it or rerouting things that you have.

    The second way you adjust it is by controlling the dampers – the duct dampers. Now, duct dampers are going to be mounted usually somewhere close to the furnace or at least at the very beginning of a duct line.

    JOE: OK.

    TOM: And it’s evidenced by a small handle on the side of the duct. And if you look at the nut and bolt that the handle is attached to, there’s going to be sort of a flat slot to it. If the flat is perpendicular to the duct system, it’s off. If it’s going with the duct system, it’s on. And you can adjust the flow with those duct dampers. And the third way you can control this is with the actual registers inside the room, whether they’re opened or closed.

    Now, if those adjustments don’t change anything, the other thing to look at is the return air: where the return is pulling from. The best HVAC-system design has returns in every room. If you don’t have both the supply and return in the same room, you’re going to have a central return, usually a bigger register in the hallway near a bunch of rooms. And if you improve the airflow back to the return, that can improve the balance, as well. How much you do that? Well, it could be something as simple as undercutting doors.

    But this is a balance issue; it has nothing to do with the fact that you have a furnace that’s a propane furnace. You know, it’s going to supply heat as it’s designed to do but the distribution is the issue. And it’s possible, also, that there could be fan adjustments to the fan speed that could impact this. But I think it’s over and above what you can do when we get into the fan work and the multi speeds and that sort of thing. That’s really a job for a service professional. But you could take a look for those duct dampers and see if they exist and see if you can tweak the airflow to make it a bit more comfortable.

    JOE: Alright. I would be happy to do that.

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

    LESLIE: Marcia in Illinois needs some help getting a window unstuck. Tell us about it.

    MARCIA: I have a window over my sink in my kitchen, so I have to lean over the sink to raise this window. And it’s always been extremely hard to get up or down and I just don’t know what to do with it. I think I’ve tried WD-40.

    TOM: Is this a wood window, Marcia?

    MARCIA: Yes, it’s a wood window.

    TOM: So, probably over the years, it’s gotten bigger, swollen in its place. And it’s gotten tighter in the jambs. And I’ll presume with paint, too, over the years that that didn’t make it any better. So, why don’t you think about a replacement window? I mean look, we can talk to you about taking this whole window apart and sanding down the jambs and sanding down the sashes and making it easier to use and replacing the cords and the balance and all that work, but I think this would be a good time to treat yourself to a replacement window.

    You don’t have to do all the windows in the house. You can buy a double-hung replacement window at a home center today for a couple hundred bucks and it’s a pretty good-quality window. So, you may want to think about replacing just this one window or in the alternative, you can pull the trim off, you can take the sashes apart and you could sand them and sand them well. And that will make them a little bit smaller all the way around and make them easier to operate. And of course, also make sure that the balances are working.

    Now, if it’s an old, wood window, you may have cords or chains that go up and you want to make sure that they’re still attached, because that gives you a little bit of assistance as you open and close the window.

    MARCIA: OK. Well, I appreciate your advice. I guess I’ll have to invest in a new window.

    TOM: I think it’s going to be easier than all the work it would take to get the old window working. And I’m all for easy and that’s why I suggest that. OK, Marcia? Good luck. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    And look, if you’ve got these old windows, you can work on them and put 8, 10 hours into a window and sure, it’ll be just as good as new. But why? It’s still going to be an old, drafty, wood window when you can go buy a double-pane, vinyl-clad window – a replacement window – that slips inside the existing opening and just have better energy efficiency and a window that really works, tilts in to clean, the works. Just doesn’t make any sense.

    LESLIE: You’re still going to have to reach over that sink. It’s just going to be easier to work.

    TOM: Exactly.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Well, we are into the new year. Have you started your home improvement resolutions? We’re here to give you a hand 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with all your money pit problems. Give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, does the busiest room in your house feel a bit cramped? We’re going to have tips on making your kitchen feel bigger, 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: Give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. This hour, we’re giving away a prize to one lucky caller that can help you achieve the look and feel of a real stone wall without having to hire a pro to do the job. AirStone is an ultralight wall-covering system that can transform a drab fireplace, a wall or even a shelf into something that really pops. The stone pieces fit together so perfectly, so there’s no grouting ever needed.

    LESLIE: And you know what? You can actually find AirStone at most Lowe’s locations. So if you wanted to check it out in person and see what you might be winning or get some inspiration ideas, you can also check out their website. It’s AirStone.com and you can learn all about the product.

    Now, one caller that we talk to on the air this hour is going to win a $100 gift card from Lowe’s to get you started on your next project with AirStone. Give us a call right now for help on any project that you might be working on. The number here is 888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Mary in North Carolina is on the line with a mossy roof. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.

    MARY: Well, we have a 10-year-old roof – asphalt shingles, I believe they are – and the sections between shingles are beginning to be filled up with moss.

    LESLIE: It’s like a mossy grout line.

    MARY: Yeah, that’s right. I’d like to know how to get it safely clean and keep it from growing back again. It isn’t the entire roof. We are in an A-frame house, so it’s very sharp, very steep roof. And it’s just about the 8 or 10 feet closest to the edge.

    LESLIE: OK. Do you see it all the way around or do you just see it on, say, the north-facing side or in the area …?

    MARY: It’s just on this north-facing part.

    LESLIE: OK. So that’s the area that gets the least amount of sunlight.

    MARY: Right.

    LESLIE: Do you have a large tree that’s adding more shade to this area?

    MARY: We have a lot of trees, yeah.

    LESLIE: A lot of trees.

    TOM: Yeah, therein lies the problem.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Now, I mean the best solution here is – can you trim out or thin out those trees in any way to get more sunlight onto that portion of the roof? Because if you can do that, sunlight really is your best weapon in getting rid of this moss and keeping it away. Now, you’ll have to do some work to get it to be gone in the first place but if you can add more sunlight, you’re going to help it stay away.

    MARY: Alright. Very good. Thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Chad in Florida is on the line and having a really hard time getting that perfect shower. Tell us what’s going on.

    CHAD: Oh, I’ve got an issue. The house was built in the late 50s, early 60s. And you go to take a shower and you turn the hot water – you think it would be up and then you turn the cold water on and it just seems like that the – you go to adjust the cold there and it makes a kind of a creaking noise. And it’s either scalding hot or freezing cold and you always kind of got to sit there and adjust the cold side on the shower there. And it seems to do it more when it starts to get colder out.

    TOM: What you might want to do is think about replacing this with a pressure-balanced valve. A pressure-balance valve maintains the mix between hot and cold, regardless of the pressure in the pipe. So, as you pull more water or less water out of one side, because either the valve is doing that or somebody is using the water somewhere in the house, the flow of water can change but the mix, the balance between the hot and the cold will not change. And that just makes it a lot more comfortable and frankly, a lot safer for you to use that water.

    And if you’re still using two valves like that, it might be time to upgrade to pressure-balance, because I think you’ll find that that’s going to solve this problem.

    CHAD: Alrighty. Yeah, that’s what I was – that was my next project. I just got finished doing – enclosing my carport. I’m doing an addition and the bathroom is coming next, so …

    TOM: Wow. Well, we’re happy to help you select the next project, Chad.

    CHAD: Hey, I appreciate it.

    TOM: I’m sure your list – you were just wondering what were you going to put on that list and now you’re all set.

    CHAD: That’s right, that’s right. It’s never-ending when you’re a homeowner, right?

    TOM: Yep, absolutely. Chad, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Hey, do you have a small kitchen? Well, you can make it seem larger without doing a major construction project, like knocking down the walls.

    For example, you might choose to add a skylight. Now, a skylight can open up the ceiling to more light and it’ll sort of visually expand the space. But an even better option might be to consider installing a Solatube.

    Have you seen these? The Solatube is really neat. It’s a tube that goes from the roof down to the ceiling. The roof has a traditional sort of skylight-like opening on top of the tube; the inside of the tube is all mirrored and all shiny.

    LESLIE: Oh, so it just bounces around that sunlight.

    TOM: That’s right. It takes all that sunlight and shoots it down this tube. You can go kind of on an angle a little bit if you have to, down to what looks like a ceiling fixture? And it just totally brightens up the room without having to do any of the construction hassle associated with a skylight. So, no major roof reframing, no sheetrock, no spackle, no prime, no paint.

    You can – if you know what you’re doing, you can install one of these things in like an hour and it’s just beautiful. So, there’s an easy way to add some more light to the kitchen.

    LESLIE: Now, another idea is to actually remove the soffits, if you’ve got them, above any cabinets in your kitchen space. Because sometimes the soffits can make the room seem shorter or more crowded. And if you do that, that’s really going to open up your kitchen. And then go ahead and even add some lighting above that soffit area – you know, the area above the cabinets – and that’s really going to open up the four corners of the room.

    Now, you can also consider open shelving and replace solid doors with glass-fronted cabinet doors. And that’s really going to help give your room some depth and it’ll give you a whole new look for that space. It’s a new year, new look; go for it. You don’t have to spend a ton of money to get the kitchen really looking bigger than it actually is.

    TOM: Need more tips? Head on over to MoneyPit.com and just search “small kitchens.”

    LESLIE: Liam in Iowa has a flooring question. What can we help you with?

    LIAM: I was wondering if I could get away with putting some snap-together flooring, like Pergo, over carpeting in the dining room. Because I don’t want to cover the carpeting up but the dining room is carpeted. And we’d like to have a hard surface underneath the dining-room table so it doesn’t get food and stains and stuff in the carpeting.

    LESLIE: So you’re talking about an area just for the table?

    LIAM: Yeah, just like underneath the dining-room table. Rather than tear up a hole in the carpeting or tear up the carpeting in the dining room, you think I could just snap together flooring over the carpet, under the dining-room table and chairs?

    TOM: I don’t think so, because that type of flooring needs a certain level of consistent support. And there’s special underlayments that are designed to go underneath it and those underlayments have just enough cushion but it gives the flooring material the support it needs.

    LIAM: Mm-hmm. Sure.

    TOM: So putting it on top of carpet, it’s going to be too mushy and the floor joints are going to start to break apart. So, that’s just not going to work. You’re going to have to decide one or the other.

    LIAM: OK. So if I want a hard floor, I’m going to have to tear up the carpeting.

    TOM: Correct.

    LESLIE: Well, yeah, if you’re looking for a hard floor like a Pergo or a laminate type, you would take up the carpeting, which isn’t a huge project. And depending on what’s under there, you could probably use whatever plywood or base as your subfloor and make it work really well and go together quite easily.

    The other option – if you like that carpeting that’s in there, you’re just concerned about the table and the usage and dirt, you could get an inexpensive sisal or seagrass rug, which is really in style, and layer your carpeting. I’ve seen this done many times. It looks great in rooms like this and you can do a carpet – like an area rug underneath the table and chairs. And if you go with a sisal or seagrass, it’s very stylish. I don’t know what your décor is but it could work and be really awesome.

    LIAM: A friend of mine has an indoor/outdoor rug that looks like black-and-white tile, at their campsite, outside of their Airstream trailer. So maybe something like that, like an indoor/outdoor type of carpet?

    TOM: Yeah, it doesn’t have to be indoor/outdoor. If I had an Airstream trailer, I’d probably have indoor/outdoor carpet for that, too. But in your situation, it’s inside your house.

    LESLIE: Right. In my dining room, I don’t know I would do that.

    TOM: Exactly.

    LESLIE: But you can get a sisal rug or a seagrass rug for 100 or 200 bucks, depending on the size of it. And those clean really well, they’re reversible. So if one side gets super-dirty, you just flip it over and use the other side. And then when that one gets trashed, you chuck it and get a new one.

    LIAM: OK, cool. Appreciate it.

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

    LESLIE: David in Missouri needs some help with a tankless water heater. What can we do for you?

    DAVID: Yes. I was wanting to find out where I could buy a tankless and what size I would need.

    TOM: Well, the answer depends on the number of bathrooms in the house, David. And all of the manufacturers of tankless offer sizing guides. For example, if you go to Rheem.com – R-h-e-e-m – .com, they have a section of their website – they call it “Easy As 1-2-3 Tankless Selection for Homeowners.”

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. It’s under their Best Fit Guide.

    TOM: How many bathrooms do you have?

    DAVID: It’d be two.

    TOM: Two? Alright. So that’s the smallest one. They call that the RTG-64 Series. And that should supply plenty of hot water for your house. And the nice thing about tankless is it essentially supplies an unlimited amount of hot water, so you’ll never run out.

    DAVID: If it makes any difference between well water or city water.

    TOM: No, it shouldn’t make any difference whatsoever, whether you’re heating well water or city water. The tankless water heater will work just as well with both.

    DAVID: OK. Thank you.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Is your forced-air heating system talking to you? That’s right. Are you hearing voices around the house? Hey, it’s your heating system. “I’m talking to you.” Well, those noises could actually be saying, “Hey, it’s your system. Pay some attention to me.” We’re going to tell you what you need to know to quiet your heating system, after this.

    NORM: Hi. I’m Norm Abram from This Old House and when we’re working on our projects, we listen to The Money Pit.

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

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: You’ve probably invested in a portable generator and are very glad you did. But do you wonder what the best way is to store it and maintain it so that it’s always at the ready?

    We’ve got some tips. We just put a great article up on MoneyPit.com to explain that process, including a system where you’ll always have fresh fuel available. We’re going to teach you how to rotate a small fuel supply so that you’ll always have it at the ready when you need it. When the power goes out, all you have to do is head on out to your garage or your shed or pull it out of your basement, add fuel and you’ll be good to go. And that article is online at MoneyPit.com. Just search “generator storage.”

    LESLIE: Well, bangs, whistles and shrieks may sound much like a fireworks celebration but when those sounds are streaming from your heating system, not so much.

    TOM: That’s right. And especially when your system is the type known as forced hot air. For repair advice to help quiet a quirky system, we’re now joined by Richard Trethewey, the plumbing and heating expert for TV’s This Old House.

    Hi, Richard.

    RICHARD: Hello, guys. Nice to be back in the pit.

    TOM: So tell us a little bit about how a forced-air system works so that we can understand where those noises are emanating from.

    RICHARD: Well, it starts with a furnace somewhere, maybe one or more furnaces in the house. And it sits and it has a burner in it and it has a fan to push the air across the heat exchange or the place where you burn that fuel. And now, the heater there now goes up through ductwork. And the ductwork starts big, down at the unit, and it gets smaller and smaller as it goes through the building.

    Now, that ductwork, it’s sitting there, it’s cool when you first turn the thermostat on in the winter and it’s sort of relaxed. And now you turn – put a bunch of hot air in and that fan is sort of filling the balloon, which is the ductwork.

    TOM: Right.

    RICHARD: So you can get a series of noise. One, you’ll start maybe hearing noises out of the ducts, the connections, the joints, because they might not be tight together. So you’ll hear a little whistle there. But you also can get this thing, this oil-canning, this sort of boomp-woop (ph) where the whole thing bubbles up and you can hear the metal almost expanding as if somebody has popped a can, so to speak. You know, it’s a weird, metallic sound that people know – people that have it know and …

    TOM: Yep. Like a clanging sound.

    RICHARD: Yeah. And it comes every single time that the thermostat calls and it can be really annoying, sort of – it sometimes is reassuring to people. I mean they know (inaudible at 0:21:57).

    TOM: They know the heat’s on.

    LESLIE: They know it’s working.

    RICHARD: That’s right. They feel warmer already.

    TOM: And because they’re metal ducts, it resonates throughout the entire building.

    RICHARD: That’s right. That’s right. Yeah.

    TOM: Let’s go back to that whistling sound you mentioned before. I have had houses in the past where that’s how we knew the system was on, because you could hear that whistling everywhere.

    RICHARD: Yeah.

    TOM: Is that really a workmanship issue in terms of how those were put together?

    RICHARD: Well, a properly sized and installed ducted system should be gentle; you shouldn’t hear it. It should be – it should come in with a low, sort of in-rush and just sort of put the right temperature up. And that’s not the case all the time. Oftentimes, we see ducts that are undersized, we see register grilles that are closed down and so they’re going to whistle against the register grille.

    We also see so few systems in hot air zoned. And zoning is a very viable way that you can – people think of zoning all the time with hot-water heating systems but a lot of contractors stay away from zoning, because they’re afraid that they can’t get it right and stuff like that. But it’s a very viable way to put comfort in the right places. It’s not going to fix the noise issue but we can do better as far as putting the heating where it belongs.

    LESLIE: Now, when it comes to the oil-canning sound that you had mentioned, generally this is caused by longer runs of exposed duct that just don’t have any rigidity to them?

    RICHARD: Yeah. That’s the prime culprit, Leslie. If you’ve got a nice, long, straight duct system, that metal will sort of fall down. Gravity wants to pull the top part of it down and now you push air in it, it wants to pop back out and fill up like a balloon.

    But there are ways to get around it. If the duct’s available to be worked on, you can add metal strips to the outside of it to add a little bit of a structure, like adding a 2×4 across a wall, kind of …

    LESLIE: Right. Just to sort of brace it.

    RICHARD: Absolutely. Just like – to sort of hold it a little bit. People have used strapping or plywood or different things. I’d prefer to use metal on a system, if I could.

    TOM: (inaudible at 0:23:43).

    RICHARD: And just to give it a little bit of rigidity.

    And then you can also insulate that. Sometimes you can put a beautiful wrap of insulation all the way around it and that additional wrap – sort of wrapping it like a nice, toasty sweater – can also hold that oil-canning to a minimum.

    TOM: Now, other noises we hear, sometimes you get sort of a vibration noise out of the blower.

    RICHARD: Yeah. Yeah.

    TOM: Is that because it gets out of balance somehow?

    RICHARD: It can, yeah. A blower motor is a motor that has bearings in it and it has a little pulley that can often drive the fan motor. And if that gets out of whack a little bit, it’s just like any fan or motor that’s just not quite in tune. And so you have to change either the fan blade or the motor itself and you’ll get quiet again.

    LESLIE: And if you get a whooshing sound, that’s a really bad sign, huh?

    RICHARD: Well, we’re whooshing that you didn’t but – sorry.

    You’re going to get some whoosh. With most of these systems, there’s an in-rush fan. You’re trying to fill this plenum. The plenum is the big duct in all the ductwork. And so when it first comes on, it’ll be a whooo (ph) – and so you can’t escape that too much, unless you go to – but I will tell you nowadays, the modern furnace is, aside from being really efficient, many of them have variable-speed blower motors. And they have ECM, they call – Electronically Commutated Motors.

    TOM: So much quieter.

    RICHARD: Oh, they come in gently and they just sort of gently start to fill the duct and you really don’t notice as much as the old ones. The old ones were one speed: on, hot and then shut off and do it again. And so, the modern ones are much better.

    TOM: Now, finally, one more type of whoosh sound that I’ve seen in the field is when you get a dirty burner, right? And the gas tends to build up and then you get sort of the little afterburn.

    RICHARD: Little afterburn. If you have anything that sounds like a little secondary burn on a gas appliance, do not hesitate. Call a professional to come in; get that thing cleaned.

    TOM: Right.

    RICHARD: That is a safety condition that shouldn’t be left. You want that to ignite perfectly every time it comes on. And it’s even more graphic with propane. Propane is a gas which is heavier than air. And so what can happen is if it doesn’t completely burn, that propane can fall to the floor and you could have a little dangerous condition there, so …

    TOM: Yeah, that’s a really important point, because I think that folks don’t recognize that these fuels – like any other type of fossil fuel, like your car – you would never imagine to never have to tune up your car.

    RICHARD: Yep.

    TOM: Yet people go way too long without tuning up their gas furnaces or oil furnaces and so on.

    RICHARD: Yeah, absolutely. That’s right. Yeah.

    TOM: Any fossil fuel needs to be cleaned so that it burns cleanly and efficiently.

    RICHARD: Yeah. That’s right. That’s right.

    TOM: So maintenance really is important with these systems.

    RICHARD: Yeah. You go to the doctor once in a while, you get your car checked once in a while. You should really think about getting it serviced, I think, annually. But to the point about noise, if you hear a funky noise you haven’t heard before, call somebody right away. You want to get that thing serviced and you want to be safe.

    TOM: Absolutely. Richard Trethewey, the plumbing and heating expert on TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    RICHARD: Great to be here.

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

    TOM: And This Old House is proudly brought to you by Lumber Liquidators. Lumber Liquidators, hardwood floors for less.

    Coming up next, if you have homeowners insurance, your home is probably covered for catastrophic damage. But what about those expensive repairs to the mechanical systems and appliances that seem to happen far more often?

    LESLIE: We’re going to share some tips on comprehensive coverage for all of your appliances and those repairs, next.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by TotalProtect Home Warranty. Get total protection against unexpected home repair or replacement costs. Choose from a full line of plans as low as 19.95 a month. For a free quote and to find out if you qualify for a $25 gift card with purchase, call 800-737-1010. That’s 800-737-1010.

    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.

    This hour, we’ve got up for grabs a great prize. We’re giving away something that’s going to help you achieve the look and the feel of real stone but of course, you don’t have the big expense of using stone and you don’t even have to hire a pro to use it. AirStone is an ultralight wall covering and you can use it to get that sort of mid-century modern look that’s really in right now. Or you can even create a traditional look with it. There’s a lot of options out there.

    TOM: Yeah. You know, this is the only stone veneer that attaches directly to a wall and it gives you that look and feel of real stone without having to hire a mason.

    Now, you’ll expect to pay about 80-percent less than you would for a real stone project with this product. And one caller this hour is going to win a head start, because we’re giving away a $100 Lowe’s gift card that you could apply towards the purchase of AirStone. Check it out at AirStone.com and give us a call right now for your chance to win that $100 gift card from Lowe’s, 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

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

    CLAIRE: Hi. I want to build a sauna at my home.

    TOM: OK.

    CLAIRE: And I’ve been to the home shows where they sell these very expensive $7,000 packages and they – we can’t afford that. So, might there be a problem with using several of the clear or red infrared bulbs that are sold at the hardware stores? And how can we tell what wattage is enough for our sauna space?

    TOM: Yeah, I don’t think that you’re going to get enough heat with those infrared bulbs. It certainly would make it warm but it’s no sauna. You have to have a sauna heater, at least. If you’re going to build the room yourself – and that’s fine but I think you have to start by selecting a proper sauna heater.

    For me, I want to just look for a good, electric heating coil and that has sort of rocks that surround it, because I love to throw the hot water on the hot coils and have it steam up.

    CLAIRE: OK, thank you very much. I appreciate your help.

    LESLIE: Well, if you’re a homeowner – and most of us are – you most likely have homeowners insurance and you know what? If you’re a renter, you should have renters insurance, as well, but that’s a whole ‘nother point.

    Now, with homeowners insurance, there is some extremely important coverages that you should have and there are some things that even a good homeowners policy won’t cover. And that includes repairs to your appliances or even major home systems, like your heating and cooling. And when those systems do break down, you could be looking at really expensive repair bills.

    TOM: Sure. But while insurance doesn’t cover those bills, a good home warranty plan can do just that. TotalProtect is a home warranty company that we are proud to have as a sponsor of The Money Pit. TotalProtect coverage includes repairs and replacement of appliances, home systems and a lot more.

    LESLIE: And I think it’s really important to know that these plans are affordable, as well. They start at around less than 20 bucks. TotalProtect also offers a network of qualified repair technicians for total protection and then, of course, total peace of mind.

    Give them a call at 800-737-1010 for a free quote. Plus, you can find out if you qualify for a $25 gift card with your purchase.

    TOM: Protect your home and your budget against unexpected repair and replacement costs. Call them now, 800-737-1010. That’s 800-737-1010 or visit BuyTotalProtect.com.

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

    PATRICK: We’ve got probably a 20 or – nah, 15,000- or 20,000-gallon pool above ground, OK?

    TOM: OK.

    PATRICK: So that’s a lot of weight. Since, I have put in three shallow wells and with a 1-horsepower pump that draws for my sprinkler system.

    TOM: OK.

    PATRICK: We have a standard lot. It’s probably 80×125. And I’m getting some sagging or – not some sagging. I’m getting a decent amount of sagging on the pool fence. So am I sucking too much water out and then the weight is pushing it down or what do you think?

    TOM: The water shouldn’t impact the fence. If the fence is settling, I don’t think it’s because you’re pulling water out from under it. Usually, if you get a lot of settlement, it’s because of the grade of the land. If there’s a lot of water sitting in there, like from rainfall, and then you have weight on top of that, then that will disturb the soil, it makes the soil weaker and then things shift.


    TOM: So I don’t know if you can connect the well with the movement of the fence. Just the fence that’s moving?

    PATRICK: Yeah, it’s pulling away from the main post. It …

    TOM: Yeah, it’s probably just a little bit of settlement in that area. Pulling away from a post like that is not that terribly unusual and so I wouldn’t attribute that to some shifting of ground underneath.

    PATRICK: OK. OK. So you don’t think I’m sucking too much water out of the water table and then now it needs to go somewhere?

    TOM: I don’t know what you’re taking out of the water table, Patrick, but I know it’s not likely to cause the fence to move.

    PATRICK: Oh, got it. OK.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Coming up next, we’re going to turn up the volume on how to quiet a noisy plumbing system, including toilets that groan after every single flush.

    TOM: Where home solutions live, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    And hey, all you computer geniuses out there, you guys are on Facebook; we all are. Everybody is kind of addicted to it, actually. Have you had a chance to “like” The Money Pit on Facebook yet? Well, if you haven’t, you’re missing out on some really great stuff, because if you are “liking” us on Facebook, it’s going to open the door to the best home improvement advice out there. You’re also going to learn about our exclusive weekly prize giveaways; you’re going to get instant access to the newest Money Pit shows, articles, videos; and you’re going to get priority access to ask your question right here on the radio show. Just go to MoneyPit.com, find that Facebook logo and start clicking away.

    And while you’re online, you can head on over to the Community section and post your question, just like Jamie in New Hampshire did. And Jamie wrote: “What’s causing my household plumbing to groan when the toilet is flushed?”

    TOM: That’s an interesting observation: a groaning plumbing system. Well, you know, plumbing systems being what they are – big pipes filled with metal – they tend to resonate sound quite effectively. So, if you have something, for example, like a bad valve somewhere in the house – and when you have a bad valve, you can have a situation where the water doesn’t smoothly run in and out of the valve; it kind of skips as it does. And that can cause a vibration in the pipes that could, in fact, be called a groan; that’s a fair description of the way it sounds, because the piping system amplifies it.

    So, if this is a sound that only happens when you flush the toilet, the most obvious solution would be to replace the guts of the toilet. That would be the fill valve and the flush valve. Now, the flush valve’s probably OK but you know what? If you’re going to turn the water off and take the fill valve out, there’s no sense leaving the flush valve in place. It’s an additional $3, $4, $5 to replace that.

    So I would replace both the flush valve and the fill valve in your toilet, Jamie. Very easy to do. You can find them at home centers. Fluidmaster is really the industry leader when it comes to toilet valves; they make more than anybody else. They’ve got some great videos and other instructional elements on their website at Fluidmaster.com. So take a look right there; it’ll walk you right through it. It’s very easy. Step by step, you’ll have it done in no time.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And they’ve got a really cheeky video of a father and son. It’s very 50s-style Leave It to Beaver, so you’ll enjoy that while you’re working on it.

    Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post from Chrissie in Montana who wrote: “How do I calculate how much caulk I need to buy to do my bathtub?”

    I can’t imagine that you need more than one tube, right?

    TOM: I’ve never gotten that question ever: “How do I calculate the amount of caulk for a bathtub?” That’s because it can easily be done in a single tube. But since you asked the question or doing the project, let me just remind you of the steps involved in caulking a bathtub. It starts with removing the old caulk and then filling the tub with water and recaulking it with the tub filled with water. Then once the caulk dries, you can let the water out. And the reason we say that is because the tub comes up and compresses the caulk and it doesn’t pull out as readily the next time you climb into the tub, so that’s kind of how you do that project.

    It’s really an easy one to tackle. Make sure, though, you use caulk that’s designed for kitchen or bath, because that type of caulk has a mildicide in it that will stop that stuff from turning green and gunky once again.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And that’s really the trick and that’s what makes you want to recaulk. So if you get one with a mildicide built in, it’s really going to do a good job of looking white and clean for as long as it possibly can, given the fact that it’s in your bathtub.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Thank you so much for spending this winter hour with us. We hope we’ve given you some great ideas, some tips, some suggestions, some innovation that you can apply to your money pit, to make it the home that you want it to be.

    Remember, if you’ve got questions 24-7, you can always reach out to Leslie and I by calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. If we’re not in the studio when you dial, we will call you back the next time we are. Plus, you can get us, as well, on the website by posting a question in the Community section.

    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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