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  • Transcript

    (NOTE: Timestamps below correspond to the running time of the downloadable audio file of this show. Text represents a professional transcriptionist’s understanding of what was said. No guarantee of accuracy is expressed or implied. ‘Ph’ in parentheses indicates the phonetic or best guess of the actual spoken word.)


    (promo/theme song)

    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: Got a great show planned for you this hour but we want you to participate by picking up the phone and calling us with your home improvement question, your do-it-yourself dilemma. That number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    And if you’ve got a home improvement project to do and perhaps you want to hire a contractor, we’re going to have some tips this hour on how you can avoid scams; especially as we head into this prime home improvement season. We want to give you a few pointers to make sure that your contractor is on the level.

    LESLIE: And March is all about green here at The Money Pit; everything from your décor to your energy consumption. You know, bathroom design trends for 2010 include green ideas like sustainable materials. So we’re going to have some new, very eco-friendly ideas for bathroom improvements, coming up.

    TOM: And also ahead, spring is also associated with rain and lots of it. So, if you’ve suffered from a wet basement this year, the solution may or may not involve installing a sump pump. We’re going to talk about that with Tom Silva from This Old House, a little later this hour.

    LESLIE: Plus, this hour we’re giving away a set of bath hardware from Top Knobs and this is a simple way to update any bathroom in the house.

    TOM: It’s worth more than 230 bucks, so give us a call right now for your chance to win. You must have a home improvement question. The number, again, is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. Let’s get to it.

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

    RON: I have a bathroom that the previous owners had painted a number of times and you can see where it’s been painted on the ceiling with multiple coats.

    TOM: (overlapping voices) OK.

    RON: Now, there are little black dots of mold there. Is there a way that I can get rid of that somehow, without first tearing everything apart or …?

    TOM: Well, you probably can stop bathing. That would do it. (Leslie and Ron chuckle) You know, what’s happening here is you have a humidity issue and we’ve got to deal with the underlying problem, which is that you’re not pulling the hot, moist air out of the bathroom – small bathroom space – when you take showers.

    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) The moisture out of the air.

    TOM: So, tell me about the ventilation system. Do you have a fan there at all or …?

    RON: Yes. The shower is a single-stall shower and the fan is about a foot-and-a-half away from the shower.

    TOM: (overlapping voices) Right. Well, I suspect the fan is not strong enough or it’s not vented properly or something is going on there. You want to make sure that you have your vent fans, in a situation like this, on a timer so that they run for a good 10 or 20 minutes after you’re done with the bathing process, because that really pulls all of that wet air out of it.

    In terms of dealing with what you’ve got right now, you’re going to have to use a mildicide. You can use a product like JOMAX, which is actually a siding wash. But mix up a small amount of that; use it to treat these mold spots and scrub it and clean it really, really well. That will help the situation.

    And then you should prime it. I would use an oil-based primer like Kilz or Bin and then you could use a top sealing coat. And make sure that you use something that’s got a mildicide in it.

    RON: Alright. Thank you very much.

    TOM: You’re very welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Jane calling in from Center Sandwich, New Hampshire. So, Jane, does that make you guys the filling? Is there a Top and Bottom Sandwich, New Hampshire? (Jane laughs)

    JANE: No, we call it Sandwich now. (Tom chuckles) We’ve gotten modern.

    LESLIE: (chuckling) Oh.

    TOM: Alright.

    JANE: Well, my daughter has property in Vermont and it’s being devalued by her neighbor, who has a construction business and has always dumped stuff right on the border of her land. And what I was thinking of – I heard about your black fence, black iron fence, one time when I was listening to your show and I don’t know what that is but I wondered, “Gee, maybe that’s the answer.”

    TOM: (overlapping voices) Yes.

    JANE: Is there something we can put up there to help the situation? Because it’s really nasty.

    TOM: Well, actually, the iron fence idea is one where you want to see through the fence; you want the fence to be invisible. In this case, you want to have a complete visual barrier.

    For those that are not familiar with this trick, it’s a very good one if you’re trying to have a fence for safety purposes – say, for example, for like a pool – but you don’t want to be looking at a chain-link or a white-picket fence that’s really, really big, visually speaking. You can put a black, sort of iron fence in and you can put green bushes in front of it and it becomes somewhat invisible.

    But in your case, you want to block it so we want to talk about something else to do that. You’re going to want to use, probably, a board-on-board fence. And then, coming off of the fence, you’re going to want to alternate rows of landscaping. So you’re going to want to have bushes – like one row where it begins at the fence; another row about two feet out – and kind of alternate it.

    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Stagger them.

    TOM: You’re staggered, right. So you get a nice visual barrier there.

    But the other thing that comes to mind, I want to make sure that your daughter can go down to the local municipal authorities and make sure that this construction business is allowed to do the dumping on their property, because there are rules and regulations and laws about that. And I know that some towns, it’s sort of loosey-goosey but the least you should do is figure out whether or not this is something that she has to put up with.

    JANE: Yeah. Well, that might be the answer. But they’ve tried different things but it’s the mother, you know, getting involved here. (Leslie and Tom chuckle)

    LESLIE: Well, sometimes you have to.

    TOM: Jane, thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show, on air and online at MoneyPit.com.

    Well, spring is just a few weeks away, so pick up the phone and give us a call with your home repair or your home improvement question, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    And if one of your spring projects includes a bathroom makeover, we’ve got tips on the new trends, ideas and designs for your bathroom. And the keyword here is green, as in eco-friendly. But it can also help save some green, as in cash. Find out how, after this.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Therma-Tru Doors, the nation’s leading manufacturer of fiberglass entry and patio door systems. Therma-Tru doors are Energy Star-qualified and provide up to five times the insulation of a wood door. To learn more, visit ThermaTru.com. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.

    TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to 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: The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Call us right now with your home improvement question. Could win a hardware set from Top Knobs. This one is called Aqua. It’s a contemporary collection with soft, water-inspired waves of design. Top Knobs provides kitchen and bath hardware with a sealed finish that won’t reflect age or wear from frequent use; kind of make your bathroom look like you spent thousands when you didn’t. Call us right now if you’d like a chance to win. You must have a home improvement question to qualify and the number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you know what? Those knobs will come in very handy if you’re just about ready to take on a bathroom makeover project at your money pit. But don’t make any plans until you hear about the top trends for 2010.

    Now, these are from the National Kitchen and Bath Association. And first up, what’s old is new again, as traditional is going to be the most popular design style in bathrooms this year, with contemporary coming in at a far distant second. So traditional is clearly the top winner here.

    TOM: (overlapping voices) How about that?

    LESLIE: Natural stone – it’s a great way to go with your flooring and it’s still very popular. But a lot of people are thinking about sustainable flooring options, like cork. You just need to make sure that you seal it to prevent water damage but it’s totally usable in baths and it’s really gorgeous.

    TOM: And speaking of natural material, for vanity tops, granite is still going to remain king; followed by quartz and marble. Perhaps more than ever, though, white will be the most common color for fixtures. How about that? Brushed nickel leads the way in faucet finishes but also consider bronze and stainless steel. We’re seeing more of those, as well.

    And here, again, green is in with water-saving faucets gaining massive popularity. In fact, if you’re going to buy faucets right now, you want to make sure you look for the WaterSense certification. That’s the EPA’s program that certifies water efficiency in bathroom fixtures and faucets.

    888-666-3974. And if you are tackling a bathroom makeover or just about anything else in the house, give us a call right now because we’re here to help.

    LESLIE: Paul in Delaware is dealing with a gutter situation. Tell us about the problem.

    PAUL: I installed gutter guards on my roof and I never should have done it or else I put them up wrong, because I have trees close to my house and the pine needles – they collect on top of the gutter guards.

    TOM: Mmm. What kind of a gutter guard did you put down?

    LESLIE: Is it the meshy kind? Is it louvered? What does it look like?

    PAUL: No, it’s a piece of white plastic with holes in it.

    TOM: Oh, yeah. That’s not going to work. (Tom and Leslie chuckle)

    PAUL: Well, yeah, I know. (chuckles)

    TOM: But you didn’t need me to tell you that.

    PAUL: No.

    TOM: Well, listen, there are a whole bunch of different types of gutter cover products out there. Some work better than others; some work better on steep roofs. Others work better on low-pitch roofs.

    There’s a system called the Waterfall Gutter Guard System that looks kind of louvers, that I’ve used on my dad’s roof and I also use it on my own roof; I kind of like that one. It’s made by Crane Plastics. Or you could use one of the commercially available systems that is professionally installed, that works on the principal of surface tension, holding the water against the top of it. There’s Gutter Helmet and there’s – I don’t know – a number of others that kind of work in the same way: the water hugs the top, rolls over the top of this gutter guard and then falls into the gutter and all the other stuff washes off the top.

    But those really inexpensive, plastic ones with the holes in it or the kinds that are screens, they’re definitely not going to stop the pine needles.

    LESLIE: Paul in Indiana needs some help with insulation. What can we do for you?

    PAUL: Oh, I’ve got an older, ranch-style house and it had no insulation in the walls, so I needed to put siding on. I ripped the old siding off and the black Celotex and put insulation in and then put the OSB back on it and my siding. I’m about half done but where I put the insulation in, I turned it on backwards.

    TOM: (overlapping voices) OK. Oh, so you have the vapor barrier on the outside of the house.

    PAUL: Yes.

    TOM: (chuckling) Ruh-roh.

    PAUL: Not much I can do about it now but I thought about it and I know what that’s for and all that but I thought it’d be better that way than no insulation.

    TOM: And I bet you did a really good job attaching that vapor barrier; you made it nice and smooth and tight so that there were no gaps or cracks, right?

    PAUL: Yeah, I did. (Tom laughs)

    TOM: Hey, if you’re going to go – if you’re going to do it, you might as well do it right, even if it’s wrong.

    PAUL: Yeah. That’s what I thought, maybe.

    TOM: Well, did you put anything else over it? Did you put any – did you put Tyvek or anything of that nature?

    PAUL: Oh, yeah. I put house wrap on top of the OSB.

    TOM: (overlapping voices) House wrap on it? Hmm. Well, you know, it may not be terrible. What’s going to happen here is your insulation is going to be damper than it should be, which means it’s not going to insulate as well as it could. But if you have a relatively dry house, then I don’t think it’s going to cause any type of long-term problem; it’s just going to basically result in inefficiency of the insulation.

    Because what happens is, insulation is measured in r-factor – r-value. And when you add two percent moisture to insulation, the r-value goes down by a third. So, for example, if you add six inches of insulation, which is r-19, you add some moisture to it, it’s kind of down to r-12 really quick. So the insulation will probably be not as effective had it been – that it would have been if you had done it correct from the get-go. But I don’t think that it’s going to be so bad that you’re going to have moisture buildup inside the walls and rot and that sort of thing.

    LESLIE: Mary in Missouri needs some help repairing a ceiling. Tell us about the problem.

    MARY: Well, I have an old, kitchen ceiling that had popcorn texture to it and I’ve had a dropped ceiling with fluorescent lights installed. I want to upgrade and take the dropped ceiling away and the fluorescent lights away and I wanted to know whether or not I could get by with patching that – the holes in the ceiling where the fluorescent lights were installed or if I might be better off putting new drywall up.

    TOM: (overlapping voices) Right. I don’t see why not. You certainly could patch it if you did a good job. It’s a little tricky. You’re going to have some seams. When you’re all said and done, though, you’re going to want to prime the entire ceiling and paint it with ceiling paint. And make sure you use a flat paint, because if you use something with a sheen, you may see the patch underneath it.

    MARY: Alright.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. You’ll see all unevenness.

    MARY: OK. I appreciate it.

    TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Ed in Oregon is calling in about a wood stove. What can we help you with?

    ED: Hi. I’ve been heating my house for 35 years or more with wood in a wood stove and I’m getting old and tired. (Tom laughs) And I wondered if there’s any kind of conversion kit, in order to make it light faster with propane.

    TOM: Ed, we have a simpler solution for you that will get that fire going quickly in the morning.

    ED: Alright.

    TOM: It’s something I picked up years ago and I use it on my own fireplace. It’s actually called a Cape Cod Fire Starter. And what it is is a torch that’s made from pumice stone. The pumice is mounted on the end of a metal handle and you soak …

    LESLIE: And it’s a long-enough rod, so you don’t have to worry about your hand.

    TOM: (overlapping voices) Right. And you soak this pumice in a container that contains lamp oil. And so, what you do is you soak it and then you pull the torch out, you light the stone on the end of it and that’ll burn for about 10 or 15 minutes; plenty of time to get the fire going in the morning without kindling, without newspaper and without a big mess. So …

    ED: Right. My wife, though, is kind of sensitive to the smell of cold oil or barbeque starter, so … (chuckles)

    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Well, this is actually lamp oil.

    TOM: (overlapping voices) Well, it’s – but it’s lamp oil. It’s lamp oil.

    ED: Yeah. Does it smell at all?

    TOM: (overlapping voices) And you shouldn’t really have much odor at all; it should go right up the flue. You might want to give it a try. I would get online and simply search for a Cape Cod Fire Starter. You’ll see lots of pictures of this and it’ll come to life for you.

    ED: Yeah. I’ll have to look for that. Well, thank you very much for your time.

    TOM: You’re very welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Connie in Tennessee is calling in with a heating question. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.

    CONNIE: Well, I am having problems with my heat and from one end to the other, it – they’re cooler in one end and warmer in the other end. And sometimes – I’ve got one vent in my king-size bedroom. It’s on the far end and then the one in the middle is not blowing out as much air as the other one.

    TOM: (overlapping voices) Mm-hmm. Alright. A couple of things to check here, Connie. First of all, heating systems sometimes have dampers in them; these are like doors that open or close the ducts. You need to make sure that all the dampers are open and that means that the little handles on, they’ll be parallel to the ductwork.

    Secondly, there is a device called a duct booster. I’m assuming that the heating system – the rooms that are farthest away from the heating systems are probably the ones where you have the most problem with flow. There’s a device called a duct booster which is basically like a fan that goes on the room side of the end of the duct and it pulls more air through it and helps improve the airflow and speed it up. It’s pretty inexpensive; you know, maybe $50 or $75. It plugs into a wall outlet and it sits flush in with the duct and that can actually make a pretty big difference.

    And thirdly, you need to check where your return register is inside the home and make sure that there is airflow that comes under the doors of the house, especially when the doors are closed. You need about a one-inch gap underneath. Those three things all together will solve this problem.

    Connie, thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Dez in New York, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?

    DEZ: We have a problem with our dishwasher.

    TOM: OK.

    DEZ: It is a Bosch. Ever since we bought it, we’ve had trouble getting all our dishware clean. We have spots on our glasses and silverware, for example. And we’ve had the company that installed it here to service it several times and they’ve been unable to solve the problem. We’ve tried monkeying around with the rinse aid dispenser and cleaning the dishwasher and a variety of things; none of which have worked.

    TOM: Do you know if you have hard water?

    DEZ: I don’t know for sure.

    TOM: OK.

    DEZ: We had a previous dishwasher in this location – which was an ugly, old Whirlpool that made a lot of noise – but we didn’t have this problem with it; dishes came out very clean. So, we tend to think it’s not the hardness of the water, although …

    LESLIE: But the problem with the appliance.

    TOM: Yeah. Dez, there are a couple of things that could be causing this.

    DEZ: OK.

    TOM: High-priced dishwashers often have a part called a drying fan. If the drying fan isn’t kicking on, then the dishes are going to take a lot longer to dry and they’re more likely to have spots.

    The other thing that could cause it is a lack of water flow from within the dishwasher itself and that would be the water fill valve that’s not functioning properly. And finally, it could be a hard water issue, which is the most common cause of those spots.

    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Of the spots.

    DEZ: OK. I appreciate your help.

    TOM: You’re welcome, Dez. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show, on air and online at MoneyPit.com.

    Up next, have you got the wet basement blues? Wuh-wuh-wuh. Well, the solution is not underground but actually above it. So we’re going to tell you why your basement is leaky and we’re going to help you figure out the solution, next.

    (theme song)

    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: Do basement waterproofing systems really work? That’s a question we get asked a lot on this show.

    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Especially this time of year.

    TOM: Yeah, exactly, with all the rain. But in our opinion, they are usually totally unnecessary and extremely expensive; and frankly, they don’t always solve the problem. We’re going to hear about that in just a few minutes, when we speak with Tom Silva, the general contractor at This Old House. You can also read about the easy ways to fix a basement, right now, at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Jane in California is dealing with some walls that are cracking up. Tell us about it.

    JANE: I have tried a couple things where, often, the cracks are in the ceiling and they’re just hairline cracks. But then, when you first walk in the front door, there are two arched openings to two rooms and parallel to the floor are bigger cracks. And whatever I’ve tried hasn’t worked; they open up.

    TOM: Well, what have you tried, Jane? Have you simply tried to spackle over those cracks?

    JANE: Yes, I’ve – somebody suggested Fixall and then drywall compound on top.

    TOM: OK.

    JANE: And they opened and …

    TOM: Have you tried to retape them?

    JANE: Pardon?

    TOM: Have you tried any type of drywall tape over them?

    JANE: No, because this is all plaster.

    TOM: Right. Well, I understand that. Plaster does form a lot of cracks because of the expansion and the contraction in the wall but a solution is to use a fiberglass drywall tape. You want to sand the wall first. You’re going to apply a fiberglass drywall tape; it’s perforated, sticks to the crack.

    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Mm-hmm. It’s the one that looks like a mesh netting.

    JANE: Oh, OK.

    TOM: And then you’re going to apply spackle on top of that. You want to use two to three coats, build it up and that will bridge the gap across the crack and hopefully, stop it from opening up again.

    When you simply plaster or spackle on top of a crack, it’s not going to hold because the wall is moving; it’s always expanding and contracting and the crack is going to show right back up again. So you have to tape over it with a drywall tape first and that should fix it once and for all. OK, Jane?

    JANE: Thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Well, a wet basement certainly can be a frustrating problem but there is really only one tried-and-true way to fix it.

    TOM: That’s right. But if all else fails, there is one other option: a sump pump. And here to tell us all about that is This Old House host, Kevin O’Connor, along with the show’s general contractor, Tom Silva.

    And Kevin, this is important because a wet basement can be very, very costly.

    KEVIN: That’s right. Wet basements cause millions of dollars of damage each year. It’s important to keep your gutters operating properly and if possible, the area around your house should be sloped away from the foundation.

    Sometimes, though, you run up against a rising water table and in that case, a sump pump is your last line of defense.

    TOM SILVA: Well, you’re right. A sump pump can be essential at keeping your basement dry. It simply collects the water in your basement and it pushes it outside. The sump pump should be located in the lowest point of the basement so that the water can run to it. You can even connect the sump pump up to a French drain that runs around the perimeter of your basement. But again, that water must be pumped to the outside.

    Now, most municipalities do not allow you to hook up to the sewer line. Drain that water into the sewer line, they have to treat that water; it costs more money. So just get it outside to a drywell.

    KEVIN: OK. So, a lot of times when it’s flooding in the basement, it’s because there’s a storm outside and that storm can knock out the power. If the power goes out, what do you do then?

    TOM SILVA: Well, if you’re fortunate enough to have a generator, the generator will kick in and run the pump. But if you’re not, they have battery backup units and they even have a pump that actually works from the city water. So when the city water pressure comes through that pump, it actually pumps the water out of your basement. Again, it doesn’t use any electricity.

    KEVIN: And of course, I guess the best idea is just keep your gutters clean.

    TOM SILVA: Absolutely. That’s the easiest way to avoid a wet basement, so keep your gutters clean.

    KEVIN: Alright. Well, for more information, we have several videos on sump pumps on our website, which is ThisOldHouse.com.

    TOM: Tom Silva, Kevin O’Connor, thanks for stopping by The Money Pit. I’m now flush with excitement on keeping my basement dry. (Tom Silva and Kevin chuckle)

    TOM SILVA: Thanks, Tom. Good to be here.

    LESLIE: Well, you should be excited. You know, fixing a wet basement, it’s actually an easy do-it-yourself project that doesn’t have to cost you a dime. So go ahead and check those gutters; that’s truly where the problem lies.

    TOM: Well, for more great tips from the team at This Old House, watch them on TV. This Old House is brought to you by Cub Cadet. Cub Cadet – you can’t do any better.

    Up next, spring home improvement and repair season means that you may be looking for a contractor to help you with a project. But not all of them are honest. Wondering how to spot a con? We’re going to tell you, after this.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Generac and the Generac automatic standby generator. Be protected and never worry about power outages again. Visit your favorite home improvement center or call 888-GENERAC or visit Generac.com. Your home will stay on the next time the power goes out. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.

    TOM: Where home solutions live, welcome back The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show, on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. And you should pick up the phone and give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, because one caller that we talk to on the air this hour is going to win a pretty great prize which will absolutely transform the look of your bath in just a few simple steps.

    We’re giving away a set of knobs from Top Knobs. And they’ve got a great finish, so you’re not going to see the wear and tear; they’ll really stand up. It’s a great prize. It’s worth 230 bucks, so give us a call for your chance to win at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Well, spring home improvement season is just about ready to get into full swing but that also means that you could be seeing some hucksters out there. And you’ve got to be careful because there are a lot of unscrupulous contractors who want to con you out of your hard-earned cash and not get your job done, at the same time.

    Now, while most contractors are honest, there are a few bad apples out there. And here are a few tips on how you can spot them. The first thing you want to be aware of is anything that is free. We see a lot of advertising now for free, no-obligation inspections; for example, where a contractor, out of the goodness of his own heart, stops by your house, proceeds to do an inspection and then, shock of all shocks, finds a terrible thing wrong but, this being your lucky day (Leslie chuckles), is just the guy to fix it for you. So, watch out for guys like that; that is never, never a good thing.

    The other thing to watch out for is the limited-time offers. If you do have a contractor come in – comes in and offers you something that has to be done right now or the – you know, before midnight tonight, forget it.

    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Immediately.

    TOM: You know, a good deal today is always going to be a good deal tomorrow, especially when you’re talking about repair projects.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. “Hey, I’ve got the solution for you and I’m the guy who’s going to fix it. Sign right here on the dotted line.” It’s like that’s what I always imagine these con artists are like. But you know, truly they’re just like any regular person knocking on the door, so you have to be careful.

    TOM: (overlapping voices) Exactly.

    LESLIE: Now, when you’re shopping for any home repair product or service, you want to be careful to always compare apples to apples. Now, some contractors will offer a cheaper price and then switch to an inferior product to actually save the money, so you’re not actually getting the same thing, even though it might look the same on paper.

    Now, if you plan to install new windows, decide which brand that you’d like to buy and then have all of those potential installation contractors bid on that same product. This way, you can truly see what the price differences are between each person that you’re interviewing.

    Now, you can learn more about what to look for in our article “Avoiding Home Repair Scams.” And that’s online right now at MoneyPit.com.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. Who’s next?

    LESLIE: Cindy in Ohio needs some help with a bathroom vent fan. What can we do for you?
    CINDY: Hi. We have a pretty good-sized bathroom; I think it’s about 9×10 and we have an exhaust fan in the ceiling and we just got a little ceramic heater.

    TOM: (overlapping voices) OK.

    CINDY: And when we run the exhaust fan alone, it doesn’t defog the window or the mirror.
    TOM: Right.
    CINDY: But when we run the heater, it defogs everything and I wanted to know if we should run both of them – because it’s wallpapered – or if we should just run the heater or just the exhaust fan. I don’t know which one to use.
    TOM: Well, basic physics going on here, Cindy. When you warm air, it absorbs more moisture. So the warmer that room is with that ceramic heater, the less moisture there is in the air and the less condensation – otherwise known as fog – on your mirrors. So that’s why it’s doing what it’s doing.
    Generally, you want to have a good-quality ventilation system that pulls out enough air so that doesn’t happen. I see no reason why you can’t run both together, if you want a little bit of extra heat. So long as you’re not blowing breakers, you could certainly go ahead and do that.
    CINDY: OK. And then my wallpaper will be safe?
    TOM: I think your wallpaper will be safe either way.
    CINDY: Alright. Thank you very much.
    TOM: Alright, Cindy. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Ben in Illinois has a roofing question. What can we do for you?

    BEN: Hey. I’ve got a situation over here I thought maybe you guys could help me with.

    TOM: Alrighty.

    BEN: I bought a home about five years ago and it’s got a new roof on it and was real pleased with it. Well, last fall, the roof started leaking and when I looked at the roof to take a look at it, what had happened – whoever roofed it put new shingles on but they didn’t patch or – I guess they put some sort of metal or something in the valleys.

    TOM: Right.

    BEN: And the valleys are leaking real bad and I wondered if there’s some way to repair that without having to tear the whole roof off again.

    TOM: (overlapping voices) Yeah. So, the valleys – which is where the two planes of the roof come together in the V-like shape, for those that have no clue as to what we’re talking about – these valleys have – are lined with metal flashing?

    BEN: They’re – I don’t believe so, Tom.

    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) I think they are not flashed.

    BEN: I got up. It looks to me like it’s just tar paper.

    TOM: Alright. So then, mmm. Well …

    LESLIE: There’s no flashing, there’s no membrane, nothing.

    TOM: (overlapping voices) Yeah. It’s not tar paper; I know exactly what you’re looking at, OK? I’ve seen – I’ve not been on your roof but I’ve seen many, many roofs that look just like this. What happens is it is a very heavy roofing material; it’s like a roll roofing material that is used to create this valley. And if they put a second layer of shingles on – they brought it up the valley but they didn’t replace the valley – it’s probably leaking and cracking and split.

    And you can tar it but it’s a real stop-gap, Band-Aid-like measure. The right thing to do here is to pull a valley – basically, pull a valley apart and rebuild it. I mean, there’s no easy way to do this because you’ve got to start with the valley and put the shingles on top of that. But a good roofer can sort of almost disassemble the shingles and take it apart at the valley and then rebuild that one piece of it. Or perhaps, you may be able to work some copper flashing under that, on both sides, without taking the whole thing apart.

    Now, the key here is if you go with a metal flashing, a mistake most roofers make is they use one continuous piece. Huge mistake because it expands and contracts like crazy and you’ll get stress fractures. If you use sections that are like three or four feet long and stack them up one on top of the next, it’ll last a long time; you’ll get 20 years out of it.

    But it’s definitely a roof repair that has to be done. You could, you know, tar it for a temporary fix but it might get you through a season. But at some point, you’re going to have to bite the bullet here and tear that valley apart and rebuild it the way it’s supposed to be.

    BEN: Right. OK. Well, Tom, I always – I will listen to your show every week. I always appreciate your advice. Thank you, sir.

    TOM: You’re very welcome, Ben. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Happy to help you out.

    This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Up next, do you have noisy kids like us? (Leslie chuckles) Well, sorry, we can’t help you. But if those noises are coming from the outside of your house, we’ve got some tips to deliver nothing but the sounds of silence, after this.

    (theme song)

    TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to 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: Hey, do you want to follow us on Facebook? We’d love if you would join our fan club. Simply text Fan The Money Pit to Fbook at 32665 from your cell phone and you’ll be instantly added to our fan page.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And while you’re snooping around online and checking out everything we’ve got to offer at MoneyPit.com, you can actually e-mail us your home improvement question. And we jump into the e-mail bag every hour of the show and here we’ve got one from Youssef in Houston who writes: “I have a room in the basement that is just below the A/C fan outside. Whenever the fan is on, I get a really loud, annoying noise in the bedroom. Since the walls are already up, is there a way to block the sound or soundproof the room from the outside sounds?”

    TOM: You know, if it’s the air conditioning unit that’s causing the problem, there …

    LESLIE: And he’s talking about the condensing unit?

    TOM: Yeah, the condensing unit outside is what I’m thinking about and it might be out of balance; it may not be level. Sometimes, because of the rain, it gets underneath the pad; it shifts a little bit. And you might find that if you level that out, that the amount of noise will go down dramatically.

    And then the second thing you could think about doing is replacing your windows. If you have very good-quality, thermal-pane windows – windows that qualify for tax credits – those are much, much quieter than the typical, average, double-hung that most homes have.

    If you want some tips on purchasing replacement windows, we’ve got a guide on our website right now; it’s a complete window-replacement guide. Actually, it’s a free chapter that’s available for download from our book, My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide To Every Home Improvement Adventure. It’s on the home page at MoneyPit.com. So, check it out and good luck with that project.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got one from Joe in Alexandria, Virginia who writes: “The water pipe between my townhouse and the county service has a leak or break in it and needs to be replaced. The first plumber I got an estimate from wants to replace the entire pipe, both outside the house and inside, which would require some drywall and some concrete work. Is it necessary to replace the entire pipe or is it sufficient to just replace the water pipe from the county service to my house?”

    TOM: Well, first Joe, some bad news: yes, you are responsible to replace that pipe. Typically, you have to take it from the street into your house. As for your plumber wanting to continue into the house and throughout the house, that may simply be an extension of his need to earn extra cash from you; assuming, for a moment, that there’s nothing wrong with the plumbing inside your house.

    Now, if the plumbing inside your house happens to be very, very old plumbing – we’re talking about 50, 60, 70 years; maybe you’re talking about a really super-old, Washington D.C.-styled townhouse here – if that’s the case, then perhaps you want to replace that plumbing. But for the most part, you only should replace the pipe from the street into the house and you should be good to go because, after all, that’s where the leak is.

    LESLIE: Alright. I hope that helps Joe. Now we’ve got one here from Pan in Illinois who writes: “How do you fasten a railing through a rubber, flat roof? And is caulking adequate to seal the holes that I’m going to make?”

    TOM: Very, very carefully, Pan. (chuckles)

    LESLIE: Yeah.

    TOM: Well, there are a number of ways to do it but there are fasteners that are designed to adhere the rubber roofing down. These fasteners typically have a washer-type element to them and a sealant-type element to them, like caulk.

    But this is not a DIY project. I don’t recommend that the average homeowner do their own flat roof; it is one of the most leak-prone installations imaginable. And if you get it wrong at any level, you’re going to be up a creek without a paddle. Or more accurately, you’ll be in the creek (Leslie chuckles) without a paddle.

    LESLIE: And then the creek will shortly be in your apartment. (Tom chuckles) So, you really do need to be careful with flat roofs.

    Alright, Pan. I hope that helps you very much in solving this roofing problem and good luck in your search for a contractor to help you with that.

    TOM: You’ve been listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. We’ve had a great show. We hope you’ve enjoyed the tips, the advice, the suggestions that we’ve made. If it works out, tell your friends; if it doesn’t, keep it to yourself. (Leslie chuckles)

    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.

    (theme song)


    (Copyright 2010 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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