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Smart Tips for Saving Electricity, Spring Cleaning in the Garage, Five Signs that Signal a Deck Collapse and more

  • Transcript

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And we are here to help you. So what are you working on on this fine spring weekend? Call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT because we would love to give you a hand.

    Got a great hour planned. Coming up, are you making dumb mistakes about charging your smart devices? We’ve got tips on how simple changes to how you charge all those devices – those iPhones and iPads and Macs and so on – well, it can actually save you some money.

    LESLIE: And warmer weather means you’ll soon be using your deck more often to entertain. But before you plan a crowd for a barbecue, it’s super important to make sure that you check your deck and make sure it can handle all of the people you’re expecting. We’ve got five signs you should be watching for that could signal your deck may be ready to collapse, coming up.

    TOM: And also ahead, are you ready to take on spring cleaning? Well, if you’re not sure where to start, we’ve got advice on an often overlooked area of your house: the garage.

    LESLIE: And this hour, we’re giving away a magnetic ceiling vent cover that enables you to replace your HVAC filter without ever leaving the ground. No ladder required.

    TOM: It’s worth $149. Going out to one caller drawn at random from those who reach us for today’s show. So call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Leslie, let’s get to it. Who’s first?

    LESLIE: Terry in Tennessee needs some help with a retaining-wall problem. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.

    TERRY: Yes. I have a leak problem from a drain on my back end of my house. I have a full basement and it’s heated and cool but I use it as a garage/work area, et cetera. From my garage, there’s a retainer wall that goes past the end of my drive. It’s about 20 yards long. I have two drainpipes at the bottom of that.

    And when it rains, well, mud is coming out, so undoubtedly it’s stopped up. And I’m hoping that you can give me the name of some apparatus without digging out the whole entire back of the retainer wall.

    TOM: So the mud gets from behind the retainer wall and then comes out the bottom of it on the low side and what? Runs down your driveway or something?

    TERRY: Yeah, the retainer wall is right at the end of my driveway, coming up from the street to the end of the house.

    TOM: So, the solution here would have been in the way the retaining wall was built to begin with. Because behind the retaining wall, it sounds like there’s a lot of dirt sort of pressed right up against it. The way to build this is dig down around the retaining wall, probably about 2 feet behind it. And then you’re going to have stone that is about 12 inches away from the retaining wall. Behind that, you’d have filter cloth and then behind that, you would have soil. I’m talking vertically now.

    So, up against the retaining wall, you have stone. Right behind the stone, you have filter cloth. Right behind that, you have the soil. And so, if you don’t have something like that and you’re getting a lot of dirt that’s just basically turning into mud and running through the wall, then that’s going to happen.

    Now, I guess your question is: is it really worth it to regrade the area behind the retaining wall to put in the proper type of drainage stone and so on? Or do you just put up with cleaning your driveway every once in a while? For me, if I bought into a house that was like that, I’d probably clean the driveway every once in a while.

    TERRY: Yeah. Well, you know, it’s almost a constant thing when it rains. But when the drainpipe – of course, it was put all the way around the house: the proper drainage factor, like the drainage pipe; the gravel over the pipe; the cover over that. So it was all done that way, as far as having that done.

    TOM: Right.

    TERRY: It’s just, over time, it’s – the house is 17 years old. Well, it started to leak and some way or another, it filtered down into the drainpipe, which drains past my driveway or it did at one time, anyway.

    TOM: Well, you could always rerun those downspouts so that they’re not discharging that close to the house and keep them well away. That could help you a bit, as well. But it really comes down to how that soil is put together behind the wall, if that makes sense to you.

    TERRY: OK. OK. Well, that was my question and I thank you so much for your help.

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

    LESLIE: Nadine in Iowa has an interesting question. Your countertop has gotten noisy? Tell us what’s going on.

    NADINE: Yes, it does. We had it installed, I would say, between three and five years ago. And right after we had this Corian counter installed, we started getting very sharp, loud bangs occasionally and I mean like somebody-just-shot-up-the-house bangs. And it has been going on since we had it installed, to varying degrees. Louder sometimes than others.

    But they’ve been out to check and can’t figure it out and I don’t – the only unusual thing that happened when they put it in was that one corner didn’t want to go down, so the guy had to put his full weight on it to push it down and finally make it go down. And my feeling is – or something must be bound in there that every once in a while builds up enough energy to really snap.

    TOM: Well, that’s certainly an unusual situation, because countertops aren’t known for their noise.


    TOM: We get squeaky-floor questions, we get banging-pipe questions.

    I don’t think we’ve ever gotten any loud-countertop questions, huh, Leslie?

    NADINE: Well, I doubt that it’s the countertop. My feeling is something might be bound in there, having been caused by having the countertop put on.

    TOM: Well, you might be correct and what could be happening is that you could have expansion and contraction going on, either with the walls or even with the plumbing. Especially with the water being right there, when a pipe heats up, it tends to expand. And if it’s attached to the framing very, very tightly, it will rub across that framing and it can make a creaking sound or a banging sound.


    TOM: And I’ve heard that before in bathrooms and also in kitchens.


    TOM: The other thought is that if the countertop is bound, as you say, against part of the frame of the house and you’re getting expansion and contraction, that could be the source of the sound. Although, I tend to think that, even though it’s annoying, it probably isn’t really very damaging if it’s one of the other of those things.

    NADINE: No, I don’t think it is damaging at all. It’s just that when you have guests and their eyes get wide and they start to go for the floor, you think maybe – I mean it is quite loud when it does it. So you think it could possibly be plumbing?

    TOM: It could very well be, because plumbing really carries the sound. And especially if you’re running a dishwasher and the hot water comes on, that could cause a noise.

    NADINE: However, we’ve kind of checked that out – what’s on, what’s running and all of that – and that doesn’t seem to come into play. What would your suggestion be as to sleuthing this problem out?

    TOM: Well, I guess I would have to be sitting there staring at it, thinking about it for a long time. But reinstalling the countertop would probably be the best solution, although it’s a boatload of work and you can potentially damage the countertop in the process. If they had to really squeeze it in, I suspect that something is a little bit too tight in its intention and it’s really not designed to be pulled out.

    NADINE: Yeah. Alright. Thanks so much.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Give us a call, let us know what you are working on. We’re here to lend a hand all year long, every day of the year, holidays included. Even when the weather’s super nice and we should probably be out boating or something, we’re really working on home improvement projects. So we’re here to give you a hand 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Still to come, is all that charging of smart devices leading to a huge electric bill in your home? We’ve got tips to cut costs, when The Money Pit continues 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: And we’d love to hear from you at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. You’ll get the answer to your home improvement question. Plus, this hour, we’re giving away a pretty unique product. It’s called the REACHABLE Magnetic Ceiling Vent Cover.

    Here’s how this works: it basically enables you to replace your furnace and air-conditioning filters without ever leaving the ground. You don’t need a ladder. It works with your existing mounting bracket and it attaches right over the frame with sturdy magnets. Then you just thread a mop or broom handle up through the center hole and tug and you can change the filter, clean the grill and then raise it back up when done. Pretty unique product called the REACHABLE Ceiling Vent.

    You can learn more at REACHABLECeilingVent.com or call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. It’s going out to one lucky caller drawn at random and that REACHABLE Ceiling Vent is worth 149 bucks.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Robin in Oregon who’s dealing with some mold issues. Tell us what’s going on.

    ROBIN: In our bathroom, there just seems to be a lot of moisture. I don’t know if the exhaust fan is working properly or not. On one of your shows, you’d mentioned Concrobium, so I sprayed that in the shower and that seems to help stave it off. But we use a fan, we use the exhaust fan and we use a dehumidifier.

    And I noticed on the outside, I guess, outtake vents, there’s a whole bunch of black stuff. And then also in our sinks, underneath the faucet, there’s mold back in behind that hole. So I’m wondering, is this going to be a health concern or how do I stop some of this mold?

    TOM: Well, the solution comes down to managing moisture and it sounds like you’re doing the right things. But one common mistake that people make with exhaust fans is that they don’t leave them on long enough after you take a bath or a shower. They really have to stay on, sometimes, 15 or 20 minutes to properly dry out the room.

    ROBIN: Well, I know – well, I can’t speak for my husband but I know that I do, just because I’ve got a fan running, I’ve got a dehumidifier and I’ve – we’ve also got the exhaust fan and it is the biggest one that you can have. And I’m wondering if just because of our moist area we need to get two of them so it’s directly over the shower? I don’t know. But I’m worried that through the whole pipe that leads to the outside, is that all filled with mold in there if the outside vent shows mold?

    TOM: Well, the vent that’s taking the air from the bathroom out, is that what you’re seeing on the outside wall?

    ROBIN: I’m not seeing on the wall, just on the vent itself, where the – I guess where the air goes out to the outside? That whole vent is all moldy looking.

    TOM: Well, a lot of people look at vents that are dirty and call it mold. I think it would be unusual for it to be moldy, because you would have to have a pretty strong food source there. And the only thing you’re going to have coming out that vent is a bit of dust, which could be a mold source but it’s very unusual for it to really develop. So I think you might just be seeing a dirty vent. It’s much more likely that what you’re seeing there is dirt and not mold.

    But I would say this: if you want to eliminate the possibility of moisture inside the bathroom, what you want to do is you want to make sure that the exhaust fan – the bathroom fan – is wired to a humidistat.

    And if you take a look at the fans that are made by Broan-NuTone, they actually have a new one coming out, I know, that has a humidistatic control. And I think they have some others, as well. We just saw one last week, though, at a major trade show called the International Builders’ Show that they were releasing for the first time.

    But if you get one of these fans that’s got a humidistatic control in it, then you don’t have to worry about whether or not somebody’s leaving it on or not. It just stays on until the moisture goes down and then automatically goes off. So, it kind of takes you out of the equation.

    ROBIN: OK.

    TOM: And your husband. Because he could be the problem.

    ROBIN: I don’t have to be a grouch and say, “Turn that back on.” OK.

    TOM: You do not. You do not.

    ROBIN: Alright. Well, I will try those. And the Concrobium is working great in the shower, so that was an excellent tip from before.

    TOM: Our pleasure. Glad it worked out for you. Robin, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Well, we all love our smart devices: our phones, our tablets, our laptops and more. But these days, there is one or maybe even two or three for every man, woman and child in the house. And what you might not love about that situation is what it’s doing to your electric bill.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Believe it or not, 40 percent of the electricity used to power mobile devices and other home electronics is consumed after those devices are switched off. So when you’ve charged up a device, don’t just unplug it from the charger. Unplug that charger from the wall socket, too.

    TOM: Now, if you have a hard time remembering, just try a power strip. Some of them will sense when power is flowing below 30 watts and shut off automatically the entire strip. Make a change to your electronics’ charging routine this season and you definitely will be seeing a nice change in your energy bill.

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

    BILL: I’m trying to clean some pressure-treated deck. This is on the second floor of my house and also on the ground is stone. What we have here in Tennessee is Crab Orchard stone; it’s a soft stone. And it’s turned black. The stone has turned black over time and it’s about 15 years old. And the pressure-treated wood has turned black, also, and I wanted to see what the best thing to clean both of them – I’ve tried cleaner on the end of a garden hose and it don’t – and I followed the instructions but it didn’t do much at all.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. I mean it sounds like a combination of the wood aging and also mold or algae.

    Now, you know, a pressure washer set to an aggressive but gentle setting, if that makes any sense, will probably do the best to kind of attack this growth on it. If you could use some bleach and water or Wet & Forget, a product like that that will do a good job of – I’m not going to say “attacking” but you know what I mean: really aggressively going at this growth. That will probably do a good job of getting to the base of it and removing it from it.

    If you can get more sunlight on the area to sort of beat this shady mold growth that’s happening, that will help tremendously. There’s some things that you can do there.

    BILL: OK. That’s good. Thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’re heading out to Arizona where Rich has a foundation question. What can we do for you today? 

    RICH: We pulled up some carpet in a back room and upon pulling up the carpet, we discovered that we have about a 1-inch crack that runs full width of the room. And it’s about a 15×15 room. And we were wondering why that one door that we have that goes off into a spare bathroom – why it stops shutting so clean. So when we pulled up the carpet, we discovered that, yes, we’ve got a crack problem. And it’s about 1-inch wide and I want to know – and it’s as deep as far as the foundation, I think, the slab goes. I want to know how I should fill that in or what would be the proper thing to do.

    TOM: Well, first of all, we want to determine if it’s an active crack or not. And the fact that you had a door that seemed to work properly and then stopped working properly could indicate that it’s active. Do you get the sense that this crack is fresh or do you think it’s something that’s been there for a really long time?

    RICH: I think that it started out small and I think over the last 10 years, it’s maybe – because I’ve been there just over 10 years and I believe that just within about the last, oh, maybe 3 years that the door started shutting kind of stiff.

    But anyway, I don’t think it has been all that active but I do think that it’s definitely progressed a little bit since I’ve moved in.

    TOM: So what you’re going to do is clean it out and then you’re going to repair it with – a flowable urethane material is good. And with the urethane, what you’ll put in there first is a material called “backer rod,” which is like a 1-inch – you would get like a 1- to 1½-inch-diameter foam tube. It’s called “backer rod.” And you press it in there to that crack and then you leave it about an inch below – not an inch – about a ¼-inch below the surface. Then you fill the top of it with a flowable urethane and that will expand and contract with the crack.

    RICH: OK. That’s exactly what I was kind of hoping. Because I don’t think it’s going to be something I’ll be able to do from the outside of the house to maybe – to push the foundation up. Because on the outside, the house looks good.

    TOM: No, it’s a one-way street with cracks.

    RICH: Yeah. So we …

    TOM: And you can’t patch it with more concrete, because it would just crack.

    RICH: Yeah. So, now, when I do that, of course that’ll take care of the visibility of the crack. What can I do to relevel the floor? Because it is quite evident. When you’re off in the hallway and you look into this room, you can definitely see there is a – the floor isn’t level, from the crack over to the wall.

    TOM: Well, you could – there’s a product called “leveling compound” that you can pour on top of the old floor. And you can work it and level the whole thing out. We use it a lot under tile, where you can’t have a tile floor that bends or twists or anything. But it’s a pretty big job and if you’re going to put carpet down, are you really going to see it?

    RICH: Well, no. I’m thinking maybe I’ll put a different kind of flooring down.

    TOM: Alright. Well, then maybe you’ll want to consider it. It’s just called “leveling compound” and you’ll find it in home centers, you’ll find it online. And it takes a little practice to get it to flow out properly. But follow the label directions, start in a small area until you’re good at it and you’ll find it should be able to level it out quite nicely.

    RICH: Boy, I think I’ve got it. I sure appreciate you. Thank you for the advice.

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

    LESLIE: Well, are you ready to host that first spring barbecue? If your plans include hosting a big crowd on your deck, you better check it out first. We’re going to tell you what to look for, with advice from This Old House general contractor Tom Silva, up next.

    TOM: And today’s This Old House segment is brought by Lumber Liquidators, with over 400 varieties of bamboo, laminate, wood-like tile, vinyl plank and hardwood floors for less.

    KEVIN: I’m Kevin O’Connor, host of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. When I’m not working on old houses, I’m making sure my house doesn’t turn into a money pit, with help from Tom and Leslie.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Lutron’s new Maestro Occupancy-Sensing Switch. Never ask “Who left the lights on?” again. Starting at around $20, this motion-sensing light switch turns the lights on automatically when you walk into a room and off when you leave and works with all types of light bulbs. Learn more at LutronSensors.com.

    TOM: 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 for a behind-the-scenes look at what we’re up to when we’re not on the air, follow us @MoneyPit on Twitter and at Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit.

    LESLIE: Cindy in Delaware is on the line with some plumbing odors.

    Tell us what is going on, Cindy.

    CINDY: I have dual sinks in the master bathroom.

    TOM: Right.

    CINDY: And every once in a while, I get a strong sewer smell.

    TOM: OK.

    CINDY: I don’t know what’s causing it. It doesn’t matter if I run the water or flush the toilet but the left bowl connects the – underneath, the pipe connects to the right one and it goes down into the – you know, under the house.

    TOM: OK. Well, assuming that they were plumbed correctly – and that you, in fact, have a plumbing trap there, which I’m going to presume you are – the odor is probably the result of something called “biogas,” which is – basically happens when you get a lot of debris over the years. And it lines the inside of the pipe and it lines the inside of the connections, the drain and so on. And then that material will start to produce a pretty strong odor.

    So what you need to do is take the drain apart and use a bottle brush to scrub the inside of it. You can’t just run something down there. You physically have to scrub it – those pipes – out. And that usually will eliminate that material and therefore, the odor.

    CINDY: OK. OK. Because I had used – tried vinegar and baking soda.

    TOM: Yeah, that’s all good stuff but if it’s really building up like that, you’re going to have to remove the scum, so to speak, that’s containing all that bacteria that’s producing the odor.

    CINDY: OK. Alright. Thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Well, just last summer, a deck collapsed, injured two dozen people at a beachfront home in North Carolina. That collapse made national headlines but unfortunately, deck collapses seem to be not all that uncommon.

    TOM: Yeah. And especially in warm weather when you have a hundred of your closest, personal friends gathered on your second-story deck having a great party, right? Well, the truth is that decks are only as strong as their fasteners and foundations, which is why checking them out ahead of said party – and really, all year long – is an important preventative-maintenance step.

    Here to tell us how to do just that is This Old House general contractor Tom Silva.

    Welcome, Tommy.

    TOM SILVA: Oh, thanks, guys. Nice to be here.

    TOM: Now, in this case, they had fasteners that were deteriorated by years of exposure to sand and salt that just couldn’t take the weight of the group. But at the root problem, why are decks failing and with such frequency at places like this?

    TOM SILVA: I think the real reason is some of the connections are loose, they’re not paying – using the right fasteners to fasten the hangers to the ledgers, they’re not using the correct fasteners to attach the joist to the ledgers. People don’t think about the way that the deck can lean and pull away from the house and that’s usually what happens. But it also happens where the base of some of the posts – the support posts – are rotting. They may not be connected correctly to the footing or the footing may not be the right size for the deck.

    TOM: So, dozens of ways that this can happen. Let’s talk about some you just mentioned. Loose connections. We’re talking about railings, for example?

    TOM SILVA: Railings. If you walk up to the railing and you can wiggle it, you’ve got to get that really tightened up.

    TOM: Good sign.

    TOM SILVA: That’s a bad sign right there.

    TOM: Yeah.

    TOM SILVA: The other thing is if you walk on a deck and it has a lot of bounce to it and it’s just you and you have somebody standing there, say, “Can you feel this bounce?” If you could feel that bounce, something’s got to get stiffened up.

    LESLIE: Well, I think it’s important. I think decks really seem like a do-it-yourself project. It’s outside your house, it’s recreational, so I think a lot of people might overconfidently tackle a project like this.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah.

    LESLIE: And I bet there’s opportunities where people aren’t putting in the right connections where there should be some. I mean how do you know if you have the right amount of support?

    TOM SILVA: Well, the building code specifies there are certain connections from the base of the footing to the post, from the post to the beam, to the beam to the joist, to the joist to the headers, from the headers to the ledger and from the joist through into the sill. And if you go online and build up your – get your building-code book out, it’ll actually tell you what kind of connecters you need. And Simpson Strong-Ties makes a tie for just about anything that you need.

    LESLIE: Oh, for sure. That’s the best book to look at and it’s the funnest aisle at the home center.

    TOM SILVA: Exactly. But you have to make sure that if you live in an area – let’s say you live by the ocean, I would recommend the stainless-steel fasteners with stainless-steel hangers.

    TOM: Yeah. And that’s a good point because corrosion is another thing to check for. If you’ve got rusty fasteners, rusty hangers, rusty hardware anywhere, that’s just an accident waiting to happen.

    TOM SILVA: I have seen deck hangers installed with roofing nails to hold the hangers into the system and it’s just not correct. You have to use the right nail, the right screw.

    TOM: So we talked about loose connections, missing connections and corrosion. How about just good, old-fashioned rot?

    TOM SILVA: Yeah, rot. We actually did a segment on Ask This Old House on how to replace a rotted post on the deck. The base was rotted and the reason it was rotted – because, again, the tie that made the connection from the top of the masonry to the underside of the post was incorrect. You have to get that base up off of the masonry so that the air can get under it and keep it dry.

    TOM: Now one of my favorite tools for finding rot, as well as wood-destroying insects in an inspection, is simply a screwdriver. Good idea to sort of tap around in all that lumber and make sure it’s still solid?

    TOM SILVA: Absolutely. You can feel it. I’ve taken – I use a – I have a 5-in-1 tool that I keep with me all the time on my belt. And the knife I use to probe – and many times, I’ve taken that 3-inch-long knife and stuck it right through the side of a 4×4 post or a 6×6 post. And that’s not a good sign.

    LESLIE: So while you’re, I guess, underneath your deck looking at things, should you be also looking for cracks? Would a simple crack in a piece of lumber be enough to make things deteriorate?

    TOM SILVA: Not always. Sometimes, the crack is called a “check” and a check doesn’t weaken it; it’s just the way that the lumber reacts. But you’ve got to watch out for a crack that really runs the wrong way. If it’s near a knot – if there’s a lot of knots in the lumber, you cut cost by – on the quality of the material, you’re trying to save a few bucks. But I look for the connections, I look for the span, the size of the joist and the lack of bridging or bracing between the joist to cut the span. Because all of those things add to the structural integrity of the deck.

    TOM: So the key here is if you’re building a new deck, you’ve got to do it right. If you own a house that has a deck, perhaps you did not build it. But even if you’re renting it, heck, it’s a good idea to do at least a cursory inspection to make sure everything looks strong before you have that big summer party.

    Tom Silva from This Old House, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit. Great advice.

    TOM SILVA: Thanks, guys. Always my pleasure.

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

    TOM: And This Old House and Ask This Old House are brought to you on PBS by The Home Depot. More saving, more doing.

    And still to come, are you ready for spring cleaning but just not sure where to start? Why not start in the garage? It’s a space that’s probably one of the most cluttered in your house. We’ll tell you exactly how to get going, next.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Pick up the phone and give us a call. We’re going to help you with whatever you are working on at your money pit. Plus, we’ve got a super user-friendly prize to give away this hour. We’ve got a REACHABLE Magnetic Ceiling Vent Cover.

    Now, this is going to enable you to replace your HVAC filter without ever getting on a ladder, which I think might be the reason why some people forget to change their air filters. Because it’s kind of difficult, you’ve got to get the ladder. Is it really necessary? It is necessary. So with this REACHABLE Magnetic Ceiling Vent Cover, all you have to do is – right from the ground, you take a broom handle or something like that, you put it through a little hole and it allows you to just pull down the filter frame so you can clean things off, change out the filter and then just pop it right back up, all right there from the floor.

    If you want to check it out, go to their website. It’s REACHABLECeilingVents.com. It’s a prize worth 150 bucks and it could change the air quality in your home today.

    TOM: Going out to one caller drawn at random. Make that you. The number, again, is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Well, after an entire season of being mostly inside, there’s nothing more satisfying than being able to throw open the windows, take a breath of fresh air and take on the annual rite of passage that heralds in spring: cleaning, of course.

    LESLIE: Ah, yes. But where do you start? Because if you’re like me, your house has kind of gotten out of hand over the winter season. So it’s time now for this week’s Spring Cleaning Tip, presented by The Home Depot.

    Now, my favorite place to start, personally, is the garage for spring cleaning. This is the space in my house that gets the most clutter over the winter. I mean think about it: you’ve got a ton of items in there that you can’t use when it’s cold, like bicycles, balls, toys. Plus, then you’ve got all your winter gear on top of it to sort through.

    TOM: And this is the only space in your house where you probably store more things like antifreeze, chemical deicers, skateboards and baseball bats.

    LESLIE: I store them on top of the skateboards. Is that wrong?

    TOM: Which is a really bad idea. So to start, get rid of empty containers of the chemicals that you may have used over the winter. Now, if you’ve got gas containers, say, for maybe your lawn equipment or a portable generator, they need to be empty because you can’t store gas long-term unless you treat it. Then even if you do that, it’s still not as good as it was when it was really fresh gas. So, don’t save it. Empty it properly and just buy more gas next season.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Now, next, you’re going to want to sweep up all of that salt and sand that’s been tracked in during the winter months. And you may want to move your sleds and shovels and scrapers to the back of the garage and then bring the sporting and the lawn equipment towards the front. Now, this is really a good time to get rid of things that you’re not using any longer or anything that’s just not in the best condition.

    TOM: And that’s your Spring Cleaning Tip, presented by The Home Depot. For your cleaning needs and more, check out the HDX brand at The Home Depot. HDX offers a line of quality trash bags for both indoor and outdoor use, perfect for tossing stuff while you’re cleaning up. You know, when a trash bag breaks on you, it’s not only a new mess to clean up, it can cause you to avoid that bag in the future. These HDX trash bags provide a great value without sacrificing good quality.

    LESLIE: They’re available in many sizes and even odor-control types. Check out the HDX line, exclusively at The Home Depot and HomeDepot.com.

    TOM: Give us a call, right now, with your spring-cleaning question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: John in Wisconsin is on the line with a washer/dryer question. Tell us what you’re thinking about there.

    JOHN: We were thinking of putting a washer and dryer in our spare bedroom. And where we want to is next to an inner wall. And I was wondering, if we vented it up through into the attic, through the insulation so it’d come out on top, would that be damaging to the – it’d be too much moisture in there or not?

    LESLIE: Now, would this still remain a guest room or would this become a new, snazzy laundry room?

    JOHN: Yeah, it’d be a laundry room, yeah.

    LESLIE: Generally, when you talk about resale value, the amount that you could possible resell your house for directly correlates to the amount of bedrooms and bathrooms that you have. So, you may want to start by talking with a local realtor who’s familiar with home values in your neighborhood, as to what the effect might be to removing a bedroom.

    Now, if you have no intention to sell and you’ve got this dream to have just a kick-butt, gigantic laundry room with perhaps a sewing area and enough ironing space, then this could be awesome for you guys.

    TOM: Now, in terms of your technical questions, obviously, you’re going to have to get hot and cold water there and you’re going to have to get electricity there for your washer and your dryer and 240-volt if it’s electric dryer. Venting was the one question you had and can you go up through the wall into the attic? Yes. But you can’t stop there. You have to continue with that vent, John, until it gets outside. You cannot dump the warm, moist, lint-ladened dryer exhaust up into the attic; you’ve got to take it outside.

    So, what you should do is only use solid-metal piping, not flex ducting. Get it up in the attic and turn it 90 degrees and then run it across the floor, so to speak, above the joists and then out the side wall of the house, with a proper dryer-vent termination on the outside of it. And the test is when you turn the dryer on, you look outside, you should see the flap open up. You really don’t want to have any restriction. It’s very important you get that lint out, because there’s a lot of dryer fires that happen because people collect too much lint inside those pipes.

    JOHN: Oh, I see. Mm-hmm. 

    TOM: Alright?

    JOHN: Yeah. Very good.

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

    LESLIE: Are you looking to redo some floors in your home and you’re not sure whether to go with hardwood or vinyl? We’ll give you some options, when The Money Pit continues after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Glisten. Glisten makes it easy to clean, freshen and maintain your dishwasher, disposer, microwave and washing machine. So improve the performance of your appliances with cleaning solutions from Glisten, the machine-cleaning experts. Visit GlistenCleaners.com.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Time to turn now to your posts on our Facebook and Twitter pages. First up from Irma in New Hampshire.

    LESLIE: That’s right. Irma writes: “First, we love your show.” Thank you very much, Irma.

    She then writes: “We would like your opinion on floor replacements. Our house is 30 years old. We have oak flooring and it’s awful. There are watermarks and dirt that can’t be cleaned. The grooves catch everything and we get expansion and buckling during the summer. We’re considering vinyl. Would we consider ourselves handy? Maybe. Can we do this?”

    TOM: Well, I think you would be one of the first families in the history of humanity to ever replace hardwood flooring with vinyl flooring.

    LESLIE: It’s a little bit of a weird choice.

    TOM: It’s kind of a strange choice. We get that you’re frustrated. So before you go and do something really dramatic, let me just make sure you’re covering the basics.

    Now, if the hardwood flooring is in good structural condition, what you should do is you should hire a professional floor-refinishing company to sand that floor. They can get pretty deep. If it hasn’t been sanded a lot in the past, they can get down to 1/16- to even an 1/8-inch on that floor to get out any of that ground-in dirt stains and that sort of thing. Get you down to some nice, fresh wood and then you could stain it and refinish it.

    In terms of the grooves, sometimes if the floor shrinks, they can open up. You can use jute – j-u-t-e. It’s like a cord to press in there in between those boards, take up some of that space and then refinish over the top of that. And that will actually make it look a heck of a lot better. Maybe add some throw rugs over that. And I think you’ll have a very beautiful, classic floor.

    I’d hate to see you replace that with vinyl. But if you do and if the floor is structurally in good shape below it, you might want to turn to Lumber Liquidators. They have some beautiful, wood-look vinyl tile that is high-quality and very easy to maintain and a lot other great choices. Check them out online at LumberLiquidators.com.

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we have a post from George who writes: “I’m looking to update and consolidate my home’s electric service. Are there any breaker boxes with built-in computer chips and Ethernet ports that allow me to monitor power usage on each circuit?”

    TOM: You know, there’s a number of systems that are out there. And when Leslie and I were out covering the Consumer Electronics Show, there was literally a whole convention center filled with companies promoting smart-home devices just like this.

    One that I would recommend is Nexia. Now, they’ve been in this business of smart homes a long time. Perhaps longer than most others that are out there. And they’ve got some cool monitoring systems that can help track your electrical use across, really, the entire platform: lighting, appliances and so on. And once you get started with a Nexia system, it’s easy to add on different devices to that, depending on how smart you really want to make your home become.

    But I really like what they’re doing, so check out Nexia. Their website is NexiaHome.com.

    LESLIE: You know what I think is interesting, Tom, is that so many appliances actually will allow you to monitor when their best usage of power would be. Say a washing machine or a dishwasher. Those use a lot of energy, so they’ll tell you when the best time to use them is when your, I guess, your power prices are less expensive. I think it’s really interesting that the appliances themselves are becoming smarter so that you, as the consumer, can make these educated decisions.

    TOM: Yeah. They work with the smart meters that basically have sort of demand-based pricing so that when the demand is high, the cost is higher and when the demand is low, the cost is lower. So you’re right. They can schedule to come on, for example, in the middle of the night to dry your clothes when demand is low and prices are low and save you a lot of money in the process. So, there’s a lot of technology out there that can make your electrical usage a lot more affordable.

    LESLIE: Yeah. I think George is being really smart here. He’s looking for ways to save money in a super-smart way.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Thank you so much for spending this hour of your spring weekend with us. We hope we’ve given you some great ideas on how to tackle those spring home improvement projects around your money pit.

    And we would love to hear how those projects are going. So post your updates to our Facebook page at Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit or follow us @MoneyPit on Twitter.

    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 2016 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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