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Save Water and Money With Drought Resistant Grass, How to Tell if You Need a New Air Conditioner, Practical Tips on Lowering Your Cooling Costs, 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: Happy Father’s Day, everybody. Hope you guys are enjoying some quality family time this weekend or perhaps you are just taking the weekend to get something done around your house and you need a little help. One way or the other, we are here to get that done for you. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Go to the phone, call us. Help yourself first; ask us your home improvement question. Ask us your do-it-yourself dilemma. Try to challenge us. Let’s give us a really tough question. What the heck?

    We can live through it, Leslie. How bad could it be?

    Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT with that one problem that you have with your house that no one has been able to solve. We will get it done for you. The number is 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. Because we love doing just that.

    We’ve got a great show planned for you. Coming up this hour, this is usually about the time of year when you grow pretty tired of paying the water bill just to keep your lawn looking lush, right? Well, it doesn’t have to be that way if you have drought-resistant grass. It’s easy to add to your existing lawn and have it convert all kind of by itself. We’ll tell you how to do just that, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: And also, if you’ve noticed the temperature in your home getting hotter and hotter, even though you are turning the thermostat cooler and cooler, that’s a sign that you might need a new air conditioner. But there are other signs that point to an inefficient air-conditioning system that may not be as obvious. We’re going to tell you what to look for.

    TOM: Plus, staying cool this summer doesn’t always have to include replacing your A/C system. There are lots of low-cost to even no-cost ways to stay comfortable. And we’ll highlight those, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: It’s bring in washing and sitting on an ice cube.

    Also this hour, do you have trouble waking up in the morning? One lucky caller is going to get a Sonic Bomb Alarm Clock from Sonic Alert. Get this, guys: it’s going to shake you out of bed in the morning. It’s crazy. It’s great for all of you non-morning types out there and of course, for the hearing impaired. It’s worth 50 bucks and the scare of your life.

    TOM: Going to go out to one person that reaches us with their home improvement question. So pick up the phone; let’s get to it. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Jed in New York on the line who’s doing a tiling project and needs help with the process. How can we help you?

    JED: I’m building a house in Upstate New York and I just had a question about how or what you guys would suggest a way to adhere tile, like for a shower surround or in back of a tub. I’ve been to a couple of different stores and have gotten a couple of different answers. They have, basically, the cement backer board and then they have a composite material. And I didn’t know if you guys were familiar with either one of them or had a preference or a suggestion for me.

    LESLIE: You’re dealing with open bays? This is brand-new construction? Nothing is on that wall as of yet?

    JED: No. I haven’t got that far yet. Just starting to look at everything and I know that I want to put in tile in the bathroom and I’m just starting to piece everything together.

    LESLIE: When you do a tiling project, your tiles, yes, are water-resistant but the grout lines will suck water in and through. So you want to make sure that whatever is behind there will do its best to withstand from mold growth and any other issues that might happen as the water does seep through the grout lines.

    JED: OK. Do you guys have a suggestion of what you would recommend doing? Is there a certain barrier that I can put behind the tile or anything like that?

    TOM: So I would stick with a standard tile backer. When you’re doing – dealing with new construction, that’s the best way to do it. I mean in the old days, we used to put wire mesh and a mud wall and that’d last for a hundred or more years. But today, the tile backers do a pretty good job.

    So especially if you’re starting with studs, I would definitely build it up with a tile backer. I would not use a composite drywall because it just doesn’t last that long. It’s very popular with builders because it gives them an inexpensive way to be able to deliver a tiled shower but invariably, after about 10 years, it starts to soften and rot and you end up having to tear it all out anyway.

    JED: OK. Well, that’s great. That helps me out so much. I can’t even tell you guys. So at least I’ve got my step; now I’ve just got to pick out all the colors and all that wonderful stuff.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Mary from South Dakota on the line whose kitchen is just cracking up and running away. What’s going on with this granite?

    MARY: Well, I thought it was a pretty sturdy stone but I noticed – we’ve been living in this house – we built it in 2006 – April 2006. And I noticed the other day when I went to clean off the countertop, I thought, “There’s a crack there.” And the granite piece is probably about 2 feet by 6 feet and this is at the right-hand side. It’s about 10 inches from the corner.

    LESLIE: OK.

    MARY: And the crack is probably about 20 inches – 10 inches long. It’s a crooked crack and there’s just a very, very slight elevation on one side of it. And I didn’t think – I didn’t know granite really cracked, you know? I’m confused. So I’m calling you guys.

    TOM: A crooked crack. That’s the worst kind.

    MARY: It is the worst kind?

    TOM: Well, the thing is, granite is going to crack if it’s not supported well. So, there may be, for some …

    LESLIE: Yeah, I wonder if there’s been some movement with a lower cabinet.

    TOM: Right. It could be structural movement in the floor, it could be movement in the cabinet. It may be it wasn’t set right to begin with. But if it’s not held solidly, it doesn’t bend and so, what you’re seeing is the result of that.

    I’m wondering if – is it open enough where you want to seal it with something or you just want to live with it?

    MARY: Well, we’re not really sure. I thought I’d check with you and see what you think is the best thing is to replace it or if there’s any way to conceal it. I don’t think the house has really settled at all because I don’t see any cracks in the walls or anyplace. I haven’t really checked the level on the piece of granite, so I don’t know if it’s uneven or not but …

    TOM: If you could seal it, you probably would use a silicone for that. But you have to do it very carefully or it’s going to spill out all over the surface. So, what you’re going to do is have a very, very small opening to the caulk tube and squirt just enough to flow into the crack and then let it dry really, really well. Walk away, let it dry. Don’t touch it, don’t try to wipe it. And if there’s anything extra that gets on top, you can use a razorblade and cut it away.

    LESLIE: Just slice it off.

    TOM: It’ll become – it’ll be rubbery.

    MARY: OK. Do you ever hear that happening very often?

    TOM: No, not really. Because usually, if it’s going to crack, it happens when it’s first installed. But if you get past the installation – I’ve never heard of it cracking after the fact. So, I suspect something moved and that’s what happens.

    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. Just dial 888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, making sure your lawn is nice and green and healthy doesn’t have to mean a high water bill. We’re going to tell you about drought-resistant grass that needs a lot less water, after this.

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    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 the number here at Team Money Pit is 888-MONEY-PIT. Now, one caller this hour is really going to get a surefire way to wake up in the morning, especially if you are not a morning person. It’s the super-loud Sonic Boom Alarm Clock from Sonic Alert.

    Now, besides having a super-loud alarm on it, it will actually shake your bed until it shakes you off of the bed, practically, and onto the floor, thus waking you up. So, really, no more excuses, guys. Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT for help with your home improvement project and your chance to win.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Bill in Florida needs some help with a new home. How can we help you with that?

    BILL: My brother-in-law purchased a home lived in by a smoker of 13 years: a heavy smoker. Inundated the home with – considerably with the smoke. And we had mentioned some options to him, which was KILZ, take out the rug and sanitize his ductwork. Well, he’s done two of those three things, except for the sanitation of the ductwork and the vent system, and there’s still a preponderance of smell in there. And I was just wondering, are there any other mitigating things that we haven’t considered that we could provide to him to help him out?

    LESLIE: Did you do anything to the subfloor that was underneath the padding?

    BILL: He did nothing to the subfloor. I know that for a fact.

    TOM: OK. It would be a very good idea to prime that.

    BILL: He’s not a man of means, so to pull the rug up and put it back down is probably not going to be an option for him.

    LESLIE: Are you sure that filters have been changed in the ductwork and in the cooling system itself?

    BILL: OK, I know the filters have been changed, because I changed them myself when I showed them to him. He has not had the ductwork cleaned and one of the recommendations we’re making is that he hire someone to get in there and clean it. And when you take out the big intake vent, there’s just yellow corrosion all around that foam as it leads up into the roof of the property. So I’ve recommended that he might want to have that foam pulled out.

    But again, depending on the expense, I don’t know if he can do that. Is that something you guys would recommend?

    TOM: Well, here’s another step that you could take in the meanwhile and that is that 3M has a filter that just came out on the market that is a carbon-based filter. So it’s designed to not only filter the air in terms of dust particles but it’s also designed to remove odors from the air. So you might want to think about replacing the HVAC filters with the 3M Filtrete Odor-Reduction Filters. The carbon in there is pretty significant; it’s about five or six times more than what the nearest competitor has. It really is quite a lot and I think it might help a little bit in this case.

    Cleaning the ducts when they’re that dirty and that gross is going to be probably a good move. But you might just want to replace the filter with one that’s designed to absorb odor in the meantime.

    BILL: Well, I appreciate the assistance. We’ll try the filters and we’ll just go from there.

    TOM: Try the filter. It’s not very expensive. You know, it’s probably $25, $30 and it’d be worth a shot.

    BILL: OK. Hey, thanks for your time, guys. Good show. Appreciate it.

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

    Well, using tons of water on your lawn to keep it green can really take its toll on your wallet and on the water supply. In fact, it’s been estimated the demand for water has increased more than three times in just the last 50 years. And it’s going to keep increasing in the decades ahead.

    Now, the good news is that researchers are working on new types of grass that can survive on reduced or limited water, while still maintaining its health. It’s called drought-resistant grass and it is literally growing in popularity.

    LESLIE: I like that growing in popularity.

    Now, the Turfgrass Water Conservation Alliance, or the TWCA, they’re an organization that’s aimed at saving billions of gallons of water each year. And one key way that the TWCA serves homeowners is by actually testing plants, grasses and shrubs and really anything in your yard that claim to save on watering and then give their stamp of approval to products that actually meet their stringent criteria.

    Now, by using TWCA-endorsed products, you can actually save time and money while also helping to conserve resources. If you want to learn more, just Google “money pit drought-resistant grass” and you’ll find out a ton of information there. And you can start helping the planet today.

    TOM: And if you’ve got a landscaping project planned, pick up the phone and call us. We would be happy to help you take that first step. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Nancy in Arizona is on the line with a roofing question. How can we help you today?

    NANCY: We just got a new roof put on our house and it’s a two-ply, peel-and-stick, modified bitumen roof?

    TOM: OK. Yes.

    NANCY: And the guys came in and laid the sheets down and then rolled a big, heavy, 100-pound roller over it to adhese (ph) the two sides.

    TOM: Mm-hmm. Yep.

    NANCY: But we earlier – what they took off our roof was a five-ply tar and – a five-ply roof.

    TOM: Gravel?

    NANCY: And I understand it was an industrial roof, almost, on our house.

    TOM: Right, right. Yeah.

    NANCY: And my husband and I are wondering if we’re looking at half of the roof that we used to have or if it’s a good one, because they keep bragging about the new technology and how good everything is. But we get up there and we look at it and we’re looking at this teeny, tiny, little, almost immeasurable amount of roofing product on our roof and we’re just wondering.

    TOM: Yeah. Yeah, well, it is kind of the lightweight version. Now, the reason you had to have five plies is because you needed five plies for it to be waterproof. I mean five-ply roof is five plies of tar paper with tar in between.

    But a modified bitumen roof is a combination roof that actually has sort of a rubberized quality to it that makes it very, very durable and very UV-resistant. So you just don’t need to put multiple plies of that. You would never take that and put multiple layers; you would install it just the way you described.

    So I think it was probably a good choice but of course, only time will tell. As long as the workmanship was done well, then you should have no worries about that.

    NANCY: And that’s kind of under question at this point. But let me throw this in: they came back over because we were a little unhappy and they sprayed on two coats of that snow-roof kind of stuff on there?

    TOM: Ah, I don’t …

    NANCY: And they told us that it was going to help seal it and help bond it and help reflect the sun because as you might or might not know, it gets really hot here in Phoenix?

    TOM: I’ve heard that. You know, I heard that. Yeah.

    NANCY: And it’s a rumor but it’s true. And …

    TOM: Did they put a – was it sort of like a gray-like, silver-like kind of color?

    NANCY: Yes. It’s almost polar-white, actually, up there now. Blinding.

    TOM: Yeah, yeah.

    NANCY: And we’re really hoping that that hangs in, so …

    TOM: Well, that – there used to be a product called fibrous aluminum that they would paint on roofs, that did the same thing. So those white coatings are not a bad idea as long as the coating is designed to work with the modified bitumen roof, as long as they’re comparable and compatible.

    So what they did does not sound like it’s the wrong thing to do, as long as they use products that are designed to work together and secondly, again, as long as the workmanship was done well. That means that it’s sealed properly around the flashing where the pipes come through the roof, if you’ve got any types of curb walls or knee walls or anything like that. As long as that was installed correctly, those – all of those joints, that’s where the rubber hits the road. If that’s not really done well, when you do eventually get some rain there in Phoenix, Arizona, you’ll find out about it.

    NANCY: Well, usually, when we get it, we get a lot of it. So, we’ll find out soon enough.

    TOM: Yeah. You know what? You can always go up there with a hose and test it out.

    NANCY: Well, we could. That’s a good idea. I hadn’t thought of that.

    TOM: Yeah, give it a shot. Yeah, it’s not a very green thing to do but before the roofers get sort of too far out of mind, you could go up there and give it a shot.

    NANCY: Right, right. Yeah, give it a try.

    TOM: OK?

    NANCY: Well, thanks. Thanks so much.

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

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Lynn from New Jersey on the line who’s dealing with a rust stain. Tell us about it.

    LYNN: Hi. I have a marble window sill in my bathroom, in the tub shower. And I had a razor on it and it rusted. It made a spot about the size of a quarter.

    TOM: Oh, well, wasn’t your husband shaving or what?

    LYNN: That was me.

    LESLIE: It was her. Girls shave in the shower; boys do not.

    TOM: Oh, OK. Alright.

    LESLIE: Lynn, let me guess. It’s like a white, Carrera marble, too.

    LYNN: Yes. The house was built in the early 50s so it’s the kind that they would use as saddles, too, for the doorway and the window sill.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And how old is this rust stain? Is it fairly new?

    LYNN: Yes, it’s just a few weeks.

    LESLIE: OK. Because the newer the better. The longer it sits there, the more chance it gets to sort of permeate into the marble since it’s so porous.

    LYNN: Oh. Right.

    LESLIE: And generally, with marble, because it’s a hard, natural surface – but it’s softer than, say, a granite and it leaves it a little bit more vulnerable, so you have to be really careful. And here’s a tip with your can of shaving cream: take clear nail polish and paint the bottom of it when you first get it.

    LYNN: OK.

    LESLIE: This way, when the bottom of the shaving-cream can gets wet and it sits on the marble, it won’t form a rust ring because it’ll be sealed with the nail polish.

    LYNN: OK.

    LESLIE: So just …

    TOM: See, these are things that guys would just never think of because, first of all, we wouldn’t have the nail polish.

    LESLIE: It’s a girl thing. Exactly. Well, you might but that’s a pantyhose thing. Never mind.

    TOM: We’d just let it rust.

    LESLIE: But, Lynn, what you really need to do is you need sort of – not something that’s super-abrasive but you need a rougher, liquid type of cleanser that you kind of have to create. And when you’re dealing with marble, it’s called a poultice or poultice? I can never say it. But you can make it out of a variety of things and you want it to be kind of thick and you can use something called kaolin or fuller’s earth or diatomaceous earth.

    And these are things that you would find if you ever went for a facial, because they absorb oil or in this case, stains out of a porous surface like your skin.

    LYNN: Oh, OK.

    LESLIE: And if you Google-search them, you can – they’re not expensive; you can buy them at a bunch of different places because they’re sort of meant for the beauty industry. Most of them are all-natural.

    And then what you want to do is sort of mix it with water until it gets to the consistency of peanut butter?

    LYNN: Right.

    LESLIE: And then you want to spread it on the stain to about a thickness of a ¼- to a ½-inch, with a wood or a plastic spatula. And then you cover it with white paper towel or in this case, a gauze pad: something that would absorb the stain up through this poultice and then into that piece of fabric or whatever it might be?

    LYNN: OK.

    LESLIE: And then let it sit there covered for a day or two.

    LYNN: OK.

    LESLIE: And it should draw out the stain. Of course, if it’s a rust stain and it’s been there a while, it could just be permanent. But because you’re dealing with a light marble and a lot of these are skin-lightening products, as well, you’re not going to have – you should not, I should say, have a discoloration. But that should do the trick.

    LYNN: OK.

    LESLIE: And next time, just be careful.

    LYNN: OK. Thank you.

    LESLIE: You’re welcome.

    TOM: 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, if the inside of your house is as muggy and warm and just plain yucky as it is outside, even if you’ve got your A/C cranking, it might be time to invest in a new air conditioner. We’re going to have an expert from the government’s Energy Star program joining us to explain what you should look for, next.

    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.

    TOM: Hey, have you noticed that your home may be getting hotter and hotter, even though you’re turning the thermostat down lower and lower? That’s one huge clue that you might need a new air-conditioning system or perhaps some other energy-efficiency tweaks in your house. The other clues, however, may not be quite that obvious.

    LESLIE: That’s right. And if you do need a new system, do you know how to get one that can get the job done but not set you back an arm and a leg in the process? We are joined today by Abigail Daken, the product manager for Energy Star.

    Welcome, Abigail.

    ABIGAIL: Hi. Glad to be here.

    TOM: It is the season when we’re cranking up those air conditioners and then, of course, about a month later, we start to get the unfortunate energy bills that result. How can we keep those costs in line but still not give up our creature comforts?

    ABIGAIL: The first thing you can do is make sure that your home is holding the heat out. And you can do that by looking at sealing and insulating your home. A lot of utilities have programs, like your electric company may have a program where you can get an energy audit. And an auditor can come to your house, free or for a reduced cost, to find out where your home is leaking energy and then that’s your money, of course.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And that really is helpful because you know exactly then where to put the money so that you’ll get the biggest bang for your buck.

    ABIGAIL: Right.

    TOM: One of the things that I think homeowners can become victims of is every contractor that sometimes walks in the door wants to sell you their own personal solution. So, I guess if you’re in the air-conditioning business, you’re going to sell folks new air conditioners. And if you’re in the insulation business, you’re going to sell folks insulation.

    The nice thing about the energy audit, though, is you really get to narrow down where the energy loss truly exists. And then you can address that and have some priorities in terms of what you do first, second and third, right?

    ABIGAIL: Right. And those auditors actually will usually set up a list of things you can do, how much it will cost and how much it’s likely to save you. So you get a sense of the capital outlay and also what it will show up on your electric bill as a result.

    TOM: Now, let’s talk about air-conditioning systems. As we kick them on, perhaps if we’re thinking about getting a new one this season, aside from looking for the Energy Star label, what else should consumers be mindful of as they shop for new cooling systems for their homes?

    ABIGAIL: Well, the first thing you should do is find an excellent contractor in your area. And the best resource for that are going to be your friends and neighbors. And so get some recommendations; find people who you feel like you can trust. Because heating-and-cooling systems are not simple and as they get more efficient, you get the best efficiency by getting one that’s just right for your home. And it’s the contractor who really knows how to do that.

    In addition, a contractor can help you keep the air-conditioning system – your existing one – running well and efficiently, keeping you comfortable and also saving you money. And they can also keep your new system running well.

    If you think about it, when you get a new system, it’s a substantial chunk of change. And you wouldn’t consider not getting maintenance on something else that expensive. It’s not as expensive as a car but it’s a similar idea: that you’re putting in a lot of money, it makes a big difference to your comfort and like a car, you give it maintenance, even if it’s not broken. And our heating-and-cooling systems should be the same way.

    LESLIE: Are there any clues that – other than a diagnostic report from a maintenance technician? But how do you actually know when you need to get a new system and when pouring more money into repairs not an option anymore?

    ABIGAIL: Yeah, there’s no hard and fast rule but there are some things you can think about. The first is how old your system is. After your system is – if it’s air conditioning, 10 years old or so, it’s probably a good idea to have it evaluated. And you might want to give a little more credence to a contractor who’s saying you need a new system.

    First of all, older systems tend to be less efficient, because the regulations and the technology have changed in the last 10 years. And that means that when you put in a new one, you’re going to start saving immediately and you’ll save more.

    Also, it’s closer to failing. And the last thing you want to do is replace your system after it’s failed. The reason I say that is twofold. First of all, it’s no fun to not have air conditioning in the middle of summer. But secondly, when you need to get air conditioning replaced in a day or two days, you’re going to end up with a system that the contractor has. And that may not be the best system for your home and it’s not likely to be the most efficient system.

    TOM: Yeah, it’s just what’s on the truck, right?

    ABIGAIL: That’s right. If your cooling bill goes up, it could be a clue that your system is in need of repair or replacement. But it could be several other things instead.

    First of all, if you’ve had any work done in your attic recently – even an electrician, a pest control, anything like that – the folks walking around may have kicked or stepped on some of your ducts that deliver air to the different areas in your home. And that can really make a big difference to how well your system works. So that’s the first thing to check and you may want to have a contractor come out and check that. They’re good at duct systems, as well as the air conditioners that attach to them.

    LESLIE: So, Abigail, does it make sense, for efficiency and money-saving, to leave your thermostat at one consistent temperature per the whole entire day and night? Or is it better to adjust it as demands needs during the day? What’s really the best approach?

    ABIGAIL: For most systems, the best approach is to adjust it as demands and needs change during the day. And that’s because when nobody is there to keep cool, you don’t want to use a lot of energy and put wear and tear on your system working hard to keep an unoccupied home cool.

    Now, there are a few systems – if you’ve got a heat pump, you might need to have a kind of a thermostat that knows how to use it intelligently. But if you have a good thermostat, then your best bet, particularly in the cooling season, is to set back your thermostat so your system doesn’t have to work as hard while you’re gone. And we recommend 4 to 8 degrees of setback. The more you set back, the more you’ll save. And you can buy thermostats that will start cooling your house off before you get home so that you will not be walking into a hot home that’s just starting to cool off.

    TOM: Makes sense. Abigail Daken, the product manager for Energy Star, great advice.

    And that’s just a small sampling, folks, of the excellent advice that you will find on the Energy Star website, which is chock full with lots and lots of ways that you can be more energy-efficient, more sustainable and save money and be comfortable in your own home. And that website is EnergyStar.gov. That’s EnergyStar.gov.

    Abigail Daken, the product manager for Energy Star, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    LESLIE: Alright. You know, there are more things that you can do to keep cool this summer than just replacing your air-conditioning system and some are even free. We’re going to give you tips and advice on how to stay cool, after this.

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    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. If you do, you may just win an alarm clock that would wake up Rip Van Winkle. It’s the Sonic Boom from Sonic Alert. It can be as loud as 113 decibels and it can also make your bed vibrate to make sure there’s no sleeping-in in the morning, especially if you’ve got something to do like go to work or start your home improvement project. If you’d like to win it, it’s worth 50 bucks. Going to go out to one caller that reaches us with their home improvement question. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Joyce in Minnesota on the line who’s got some unwanted houseguests, you could call them. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.

    JOYCE: Well, we have squirrels in our house. They came in during the winter when we were gone for three months and so we heard one running around in between the first and second floors, about in March. And then a little later, we heard lots of running around.

    LESLIE: Oh, God.

    TOM: Wow.

    JOYCE: So evidently, Mom (audio gap) babies.

    LESLIE: You got a whole family of squirrels.

    JOYCE: Yeah.

    TOM: Yeah. Now, do you know where they’re getting in, Joyce?

    JOYCE: We thought we found a place yesterday, down near the foundation, but I didn’t want to block it while they’re still in, so …

    TOM: Well, OK. So if you’ve got an open area by the foundation, what you want to do there is sort of create a one-way door so it only works on the way out and not on the way in.

    If it’s a hole in the foundation, you can cover, for example, with a piece of rubber like a flapper. That would be one way to do it so that they can get through it, they can push it out of the way but then it sort of flops closed after that. Or a piece of screening would do it, as well: like a piece of woven wire mesh, so that they can get out but they can’t get back in. I would do that because we want to get them out first.

    And then, when you have a pretty good idea that they’re out, then just start repairing those holes one at a time.

    JOYCE: Bright idea.

    TOM: Well, let’s say you already have a very efficient air conditioner. If you do, you can still make it even more productive by following some simple cooling advice.

    First, we say it all the time: upgrade your insulation. How much do you need? About 18 inches and very few of us have that. So if you don’t, add more insulation. A lot of people who live in warmer climates have ignored their insulation, thinking that it’s just a shield from the cold. That’s not so. Think about it: the same insulation that keeps the cold out in the winter keeps the heat from getting in in the summer. So bulk up on the insulation before the real heat arrives.

    Same applies to storm windows: keep them closed in the summertime. Same cold air that comes in in the winter, hot air comes in in the summer. You keep them closed, you will be more energy-efficient, because they’re not just for cold weather and snowstorms.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you know what else you should do is draw your drapes or pull down your shades during the sunniest part of the day. It really does make a difference in temperature and can save your interior furnishings, floor, I mean fabrics, everything from sun damage.

    Also, you want to make sure that your ceiling fan is spinning in the right direction. Your fan blades should turn counterclockwise for cooling and you should also limit the use of heat-generating appliances, like your clothes dryer and even your dishwasher, to evening hours. All of that will absolutely help keep things cool.

    If you want to learn more, visit MoneyPit.com and search “how to lower home cooling costs” and you’ll get a ton of info there.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. Pick up the phone and give us a call right now with your home improvement question.

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

    LARRY: Yes. My question is – I have a rolled linoleum floor in my bathroom and the wife doesn’t like it much. And it’s been in there about 8 or 10 years, I guess. And I heard from a friend of mine that there is a product on the market that is a 12-inch square, self-adhesive tile that has a beveled edge on it that can be grouted? Is that a true thing, where I wouldn’t have to put down the cement-board base and all that?

    TOM: Yes, they do have prefabricated tile that comes in sort of somewhat pre-assembled. But you know what? Why don’t you think about doing a laminate floor? This would be a perfect scenario for that and the laminate can look like stone or it could look like tile or it could look like hardwood. It could look like whatever you want and it’s very water-resistant. And you could lay it down right on top of that linoleum.

    LARRY: OK. And I wouldn’t have to put down the cement-board base?

    TOM: No, no. It floats on top of the floor, just like that.

    LESLIE: It’s available in so many different looks, as Tom said. So just search them out online. Armstrong is a great brand. If you go to Lumber Liquidators, they have a ton of different manufacturers that they sell online. Just to get an idea of what’s available and it’s at a variety of price points.

    LARRY: OK. And Lumber Liquidators handles that?

    TOM: Lumber Liquidators, Armstrong, Bruce. You know, there is a whole bunch of manufacturers that make laminate today.

    LARRY: Alright. Is this a floating floor or does it have to be glued or …?

    TOM: Yes. Nope. It’s a floating floor. And the tiles will lock together.

    LARRY: Oh, OK. Alright. OK. I think you’ve answered my question. Thanks for all the help.

    TOM: 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.

    Hey, are you new to the fantastic world of home ownership? Well, we have got some great tips to get you started on your very first project. But there’s going to be a lot more. We’re going to share how-tos, after this.

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

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Hey, you like us on the radio, right? So make sure that you “like” us on Facebook. You’re going to get a ton of great home improvement advice there. You’re going to learn about our weekly prizes, you’ll get links to shows and articles and videos and also priority access to asking your question right here on the radio. Just log on to Facebook, find Money Pit and “like” it.

    TOM: And while you are online, post a question in our Community section, which is what Blake did who says, “What’s the safest way to test to see if my house has lead paint?”

    Well, first off, Blake, if your house was built before 1978, chances are it could have lead paint. Secondly, there is a type of test called X-Ray Fluorescence that’s done by a lead-testing company, where they use a device – it looks like a ray gun, if you can imagine that. They hold it up against the wall, squeeze the trigger, turn on the switch and it actually shoots through the walls, into the number of different layers of paint there and can come back with a reading.

    Let’s say that you do have lead in those walls. That’s good information to have, because you don’t want to do any major renovation when you have lead that could be easily released and exposed to children. So, if that’s the case, you need to be very, very careful about the projects you do and you need to use remodeling contracts that are certified in lead safety before they start a project.

    And by the way, the standard for determining lead poisoning with kids has just gone from 10 micrograms down to 5, so you want to be really, really cautious to make sure your kids are not exposed to this.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And we all know that lead poisoning in young children leads to all sorts of learning disabilities and behavioral issues. So it’s super-important that you keep everybody in your home nice and safe.

    TOM: Well, this is the traditional time of year that homes are bought and sold. And for millions of Americans, that means being a first-time homeowner. So what do you need to know that seasoned money pitters already do? Leslie has got the low-down in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    LESLIE: That’s right. Congratulations. Let me be the first to say congrats on your new home. Now you guys are the proud owner of your very first home. Now what?

    Well, like a baby, a home has to be cared for and loved. And as a first-time homeowner, it’s your job – that’s right, your job, nobody else’s – to maintain your home year-round. So the first thing you’ve got to do is invest in the tools that you’re going to need to do that.

    Now, a basic tool box, which is pretty much what you’ve got to start with, should include a hammer, some screwdrivers, a pry bar, a level and an adjustable wrench. If you want, you can add some power tools later. Good way to go would be a drill and a circ saw.

    Now, you’ve got to understand the basics of your home’s mechanical system. So you need to make sure that you know where your water-main line is and how to turn it off in an emergency. And once you know where that water-main line is, put a big tag on it, label it. Make sure everybody in the house knows, just in case.

    You also want to get acquainted with your fuse box or your breaker box, whatever you want to call it. And remember that home ownership puts you in charge of covering all the utilities. Bills are going to come, you’ve got to pay them.

    Now, if the initial months in your new home really have given you sticker shock over power and water costs, you can take some steps to manage your energy dollars. And finally, even if you’re in a brand-new home that’s under warranty, it is wise to have a contingency fund to cushion those curve balls that life can throw at you as a homeowner. They happen, believe me. I stepped downstairs to my basement one day, water was dripping out of the walls. Not fun. Save some money because as a homeowner, you are going to need it.

    If you want some more tips, just Google “money pit first-time homeowner tips” and you will get a list of things that you can tackle on your new home today.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Coming up next week on the program, this might be your favorite time of year. It’s time to kick back and enjoy your deck, if you’re lucky enough to have one. But if you do, is your deck a safe place for your family to really be gathering? We’re going to tell you how to check your deck for those danger signs, 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.

    END HOUR 2 TEXT

    (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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