Standby Energy for Summer Storms, the Lawnmower of the Future, and Summer Safety Tips for Kids
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: What are you working on today? If it’s your house, you’re in the right place because we’re here to help. The number is 888-MONEY-PIT. Help yourself by picking up the phone and calling us with your home improvement or home décor question, because we’re ready and we hope you are, as well.
Coming up this hour on The Money Pit, anyone that’s been through one knows power outages go from kind of fun, like for five minutes, to scary pretty fast.
LESLIE: They do.
TOM: Well, Kevin O’Connor is going to stop by. He’s with TV’s This Old House. And he’ll be giving us some tips to help keep your house up and running when the storms blow through and knock that power out.
LESLIE: Yeah. And speaking of summer, don’t get so focused on keeping your kids busy that you forget to keep them safe. We’re going to share some safety tips for this potentially dangerous season.
TOM: And have you heard about the mower that runs itself? No, you’re not dreaming. We’re going to tell you, this hour, about a company that’s behind a revolutionary, new lawn mower that does the job right, even when you’re not there. Very, very cool.
LESLIE: Yeah, that sounds like a win-win situation.
And speaking of win-win, one lucky caller this hour is going to get more clean in less time with a Hyde PivotPro Water Wand for Boat & Auto.
TOM: It attaches to any garden hose and has a body brush, wheel-well and buffing options for cleaning any kind of car, truck, boat, trailer or ATV. So give us a call, right now, with your home improvement question for your chance to win. The number, again, is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. Let’s get started.
Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Ben in Illinois is on the line and is having some issues with a water heater. Tell us what’s going on.
BEN: Over a period of time, my hot-water stream would keep getting smaller and smaller and smaller. And finally, it got to the point where I’d turn the hot water on, it would just barely trickle. I disconnected the discharge pipe on the discharge side of the hot-water heater and found that the lime had built up so bad in the pipe, coming out of the top of the hot-water heater, that there was just a very tiny hole there.
BEN: At that point in time, I didn’t know what else to do. I just took a very large screwdriver and tapped that limestone out of there. Of course, that fell to the bottom of the hot-water heater. It’s been fine for about four-and-a-half years. It’s getting to the point where I’m going to have to do it again.
And I’ve talked to retired plumbers in that and they told me that what’s causing that is a reaction between the copper pipe and the metal that is on top of the hot-water heater. And I was told that there was like a nipple that you screw on top of the hot-water heater and then connect your copper pipe.
My question is: what type of metal is that that goes between the copper pipe and the metal coupling on top of the hot-water heater?
TOM: Yeah, Ben, all you want to do is head to a plumbing supply house and ask for plastic-lined nipples. That actually is going to create the sort of the bi-metal protection or insulation between those two pipes. And that will stop that corrosive effect that you’re seeing and of course, they’ll stop the pipe from clogging as a result of that.
BEN: Alright. Well, I sure thank you for your time and your advice.
TOM: You’re very welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Jan in California is having a wallpaper-removal situation. Tell us what’s going on.
JAN: Hi. Been removing wallpaper and repapering for 50 years and never come across where you take the wallpaper off and it looks like there’s a paper lining behind it. I’ve had some people tell me that this is a filler for the texturing so the wallpaper looks smooth. And others tell me that it’s a liner and it fills the whole wall with pencil lines where the wallpaper goes. I don’t want to damage the sheetrock that’s underneath, so I’m a little leery about taking that off or leaving it on or what I should do with it.
TOM: So your end game is to get down to the drywall?
JAN: Well, it doesn’t have to be if I can texture over what’s there. But it’s almost like a paper and I don’t know if we can put the mud and everything on that.
TOM: If it’s adhered well, then I don’t see why you couldn’t texture over it. Do you want to use a textured paint?
JAN: No, I want to use the texture that I’ve had on the other walls.
TOM: The key here is whether or not the surface that you’ve exposed is well-adhered to the drywall underneath. If it’s well-adhered, then you can go ahead and put your texture over that. If it’s not, then your texture could be on there for a couple of months and it could start falling off in chunks when that backer paper pulls off. As long as it’s well-adhered, then I don’t see any reason you can’t go on top of it, Jan.
JAN: OK. I appreciate you and enjoy your program all the time.
TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Bill in Hawaii has got a squeaky faucet.
Bill, tell us what’s going on.
BILL: When I turn a faucet on anywhere in the house or I flush the toilet, I hear – there’s a high-pitched whine. And it doesn’t seem to make any difference where and which faucet, whether it’s hot or cold or upstairs or downstairs. I get this quite high-pitched whine or high tone in the plumbing.
LESLIE: Does it go away after it’s been running awhile or does it stay on?
BILL: No. As long as I have a faucet on, it continues.
Now, I went on the internet and one of the suggestions was that there was a pressure regulator on the input water to the house. So, a month ago, I was pulling and adjusted that one way and it got worse. So just yesterday, I went and turned it the other way and now it seems to get better. Now it just has a high-pitched whine when you turn it on or shut it off but not during. Is that a possible – something wrong there?
TOM: Yeah. I mean it’s probably the pressure regulator or even the main water valve. And the reason that you have such a loud noise is because plumbing makes a really good transmitter of sound, you know? So, if you get a little bit of noise down one end of it, it will transmit through the entire house. And the fact that this is consistent no matter where you are in the house and what you turn on means that it should be at the main, coming into the house, because that’s the only pipe that’s on all the time.
So, I think you’re onto something there with the pressure regulator and I would consider having that replaced and/or the main valve replaced, because I think that’s where the sound is coming from, based on what you’ve just described.
BILL: Alright. Well, hey, very good. I appreciate it.
TOM: 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. You can give us a call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to help you with your home improvement project. We are into the summer season, so what are you working on? Let us give you a hand, 888-MONEY-PIT.
Up next, have you ever dreamed of a lawn that mows itself? We’re going to have details on a mower that actually does that for you, with no manpower required, when The Money Pit continues after this.
ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Pavestone’s easy-to-stack RumbleStone Rustic Building Blocks. Create any outdoor hardscape you can imagine, to instantly add old-world charm. Available at The Home Depot. For more information and product instructions, visit Pavestone.com.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Hey, forget the car wash. Just do it yourself with the new PivotPro Boat & Auto from Hyde Tools.
This is a great product. It attaches right to your garden hose. You add liquid soap to the reservoir, you point, you shoot, you pivot the nozzle. You can wash and rinse your boat, your car, your truck, your bed, get the wheels, get the undercarriage, get it super-clean really easy.
LESLIE: Yeah. There’s no need to bend or reach or stretch to get the job done. You simply just clean and it comes out amazing. We’re giving away the Hyde PivotPro Boat & Auto to one caller this hour.
TOM: It’s a prize worth almost 50 bucks. Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT for the answer to your home improvement question and your chance to win. And check out the Hyde PivotPro Boat & Auto at TheHydeWay.com and Hyde is spelled H-y-d-e. TheHydeWay.com.
LESLIE: Alright. Now I’ve got Trish in New Jersey on the line who’s got a remodeling question. What are you working on?
TRISH: I have a wall that goes between the kitchen and there’s a set of steps that go down to the basement.
TRISH: My question is that’s – it’s also a bearing wall. Is it worth it for me to go through the expense of taking this wall out? And then what do I do about the – when you take the wall out, it’s going to drop down to the basement steps right there.
TOM: Right. So, OK, it’s a big project, Trish. Really big project. Because when you take a wall out like that, you have to reinforce all the structure above it first. And you build the reinforcement, then you take the wall out. You reassemble it with different types of structural members – like laminated beams, for example – that run that span and allow you to have that sort of open space.
Now, you raise another good question, like, “OK, what happens to the basement stair?” Well, obviously, you’re going to need a railing there. So, it’s a really big project. I don’t know if that’s going to be worth it for you in terms of what you’re going to get out of this. What are you trying to achieve, from a design perspective?
TRISH: To have an open concept. And here’s another idea. There’s another wall that goes between the kitchen and the dining room and that’s just a small wall, because there’s a doorway there.
LESLIE: Trish, there are some other ways that you can actually make the rooms feel larger. Considering I don’t know the exact floor plan or the situation of the space – but if you’ve got some windows in, say, your dining room, on the wall opposite it, why not put a really large mirror over, perhaps, a service area or some sort of great storage cabinet? Because the mirror will sort of help bounce the light around and open up the space and make it feel larger. Using paint-color tricks, where you slightly change one wall color to a lighter hue in the same family, can make the space feel larger, as well.
Mirrors really are a huge help. I’m not talking about mirroring an entire wall but I am talking about – perhaps some strategically placed, really decorative mirrors will do the trick, as well.
These are all ways – furniture layout. If you can sort of keep the flow more open to encourage a good pass-through, that can help make the space feel larger, as well. So there are ways without taking on major construction projects.
TOM: Well, imagine this. It’s a super-hot day. You’d rather be doing something else when you look at your lawn and see what an overgrown mess it is and just think, “I wish that lawn could just mow itself.”
LESLIE: Ah, well, your wish is one company’s mission. WORX – that’s W-O-R-X – is the manufacturer behind the new unmanned – that’s right, unmanned – mower that, wait for it, mows the lawn for you. What? That’s right. Whether you’re on the other side of the house or out for the day or completely on the other side of the world.
TOM: We got the scoop from Craig Taylor of WORX at the National Hardware Show last month. Here’s the details.
CRAIG: The Landroid is a robot, basically, that mows your grass. So, just like you have robots that can vacuum inside your house, now you can turn one loose on your yard, program it. You can program it to mow any time of the day or all day, if you want.
CRAIG: And it’ll – it knows when it’s running out of battery and it’ll find its way back to the charging station, charge itself back up.
LESLIE: Battery is lithium ion?
CRAIG: Lithium-ion battery. It’ll come back, charge itself back up and go back out to mow whenever you tell it to.
TOM: Very cool.
CRAIG: So, it’s completely hands-off kind of system.
TOM: And it’s very small. We think of mowers as always being a very large device but this is very small.
CRAIG: Yeah, the WORX Landroid …
TOM: It’s maybe, what, 12 inches by 18 inches or something?
CRAIG: It can mow up to a ¼-acre.
TOM: And you can listen to the entire interview in our Top Products Podcast at MoneyPit.com.
To learn more about the Landroid Unmanned Mowing Vehicle, visit WORXLandroid – that’s W-O-R-X-Landroid.com.
LESLIE: Peter in Maryland, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
PETER: When we had first moved in, everything was cosmetically perfect. And now, all of a sudden, we’ve got cracks everywhere in our hardwood flooring and our crown molding. Now, certainly, we could live with a little cosmetic shifting but it’s so drastic, I’m wondering if there is a greater, underlying problem here.
TOM: So the cracks in the molding, where are you seeing those cracks? Corners? Is the top and the bottom of the molding separating from the wall? What are you seeing?
PETER: All in the bottom of the molding.
PETER: However, it could be anywhere: corners, middle, anywhere.
TOM: OK. And so you have cracks up at the crown molding, which is between the ceiling and the wall, but you also mentioned you had cracks at the floor. What are we seeing at the floor?
PETER: Yeah, it’s more drastic. On the first floor is all hardwood flooring.
PETER: And like I said, it was seamless when we had moved in. Now, over the past two months, I’d say every third board has a gap in it. And the gap may be very slight but some are as large as an 1/8-inch now.
TOM: OK. So you’ve got some shrinkage in the floor and you’ve got some gaps in the wall. The entire house could be shrinking. What kind of heating system do you have, Peter?
PETER: It’s electric heat.
TOM: OK. Electric heat. Forced air or radiators? What do you have?
PETER: Oh, it’s forced air.
TOM: It’s a very dry heating system.
Well, I will say this: gaps around molding and gaps around floor and gaps in the crown molding, especially along the walls, that’s generally not the kind of crack that indicates structural movement. When you see walls – that looks like – that sounds like shrinkage. When you see walls that are cracking at the corners or cracking above doorways, physically cracking inside the drywall itself, that’s usually more of a concern. What you’re describing to me sounds a lot more like shrinkage.
That said, I would keep an eye on it. We’re coming off of cold months. If you had the heating system on, you’re going to get a lot of shrinkage then and you’ll get more swelling in the summer as it gets more moist and humid out.
So, you can either keep an eye on it, see what happens or if you want to get a structural opinion, what I would do is I would suggest that you go to the website for the American Society of Home Inspectors. That’s ASHI – A-S-H-I.o-r-g. And look for a certified professional home inspector – an ASHI-certified inspector – in your area. These guys don’t work on houses, so they’d have nothing to gain by finding things that need to be fixed. They’re just there to diagnose. And I would say an ASHI-certified inspector, because they are clearly the best.
In fact, my nephew was buying a house last week and he’s in the Air Force in Florida. And I helped him find an ASHI-certified inspector there and I saw the report and I’ve got to tell you, I said to him – I said, “You know what the name of my show is?” He goes, “Money Pit?” I said, “You got one,” because there was so much wrong with it.
PETER: Mm-hmm. Right.
TOM: So, I would definitely suggest monitoring it and if you wanted to get an opinion on the structural aspects, bring in a professional home inspector and see what they have to say, OK?
PETER: Alright. Great. I appreciate your time, Tom and Leslie. Enjoy the show all the time.
TOM: Thanks very much, Peter. Have a great day.
LESLIE: Luke in Illinois is on the line with a roofing question. What can we do for you?
LUKE: So I have gotten a few people to – estimates. I want to put steel roofing on my house. And one guy will tell me that I need to sheet it and the next guy will say that I can put it over the shingles. And I didn’t know what the standard process for that is. And now, I was also told by the same contractor, “Well, every few years, you have to replace the screws.” And that – I had never heard that before.
LESLIE: Yeah, that’s something we’ve never heard.
Now, when it comes to whether or not to remove the existing roof or shingles, I should say, before you go ahead and put on a metal roof – I mean in this instance, a metal roof is expensive. They’re very long-lasting, up to 50 years, and they’re beautiful. And I think the situation would be that you would want to remove the existing shingles, just to give yourself nice, smooth sheathing to go on top of – less weight on the roof, less heat being trapped and best usage of your money and use of the metal roof.
TOM: Luke, what kind of a roof do you have now? Under the asphalt shingles, do you have solid sheathing?
LUKE: Only on part. I have a house that’s over, probably, 200 years old. And it has – what they did – I’d say a shifty contractor put tar paper over the – where the slats were for the shake.
TOM: Did you have original, wood cedar shakes underneath that?
LUKE: No, it’s just – they just tore all the shake off and just put tar paper over it.
TOM: OK, look, the best thing for you to do here, as Leslie said, is to strip down to those rafters, re-sheathe the roof, then put the metal roof on top of that. Yeah, it’ll be less expensive to put the metal roof over the asphalt but you’re not going to get as clean or neat of a job.
And there’s really no point in adding to the way it’s been assembled right now, in kind of the inappropriate way it’s been assembled now, by sandwiching those shingles forever underneath that metal roof. I would take it completely down. And the guy that’s telling you to do that is, I think, giving you the best advice.
LUKE: Alright. Well, thank you very much for answering my questions.
TOM: You’re welcome, Luke. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, summer storms, they are on their way, which means power outages, of course, are right behind. Kevin O’Connor from This Old House is stopping by to tell us how to keep your house lit when the rest of the neighborhood goes dark. We’ll tell you all about it when The Money Pit continues.
TOM: And today’s This Old House segment is brought to you by the new Stanley FatMax Tape Rule, the efficient tape rule with a versatile, interchangeable hook and 13 feet of standout.
JOHN: Hi, this is John Ratzenberger. Played the bar know-it-all on Cheers. And here’s something I really do know about: you’re listening to the best home improvement radio show made in America, the Money Pit with Tom Kraeutler and Leslie Segrete.
Hey, buongiorno. Tu parlo italiano, Leslie. Mi chiamo Giovanni. No parlo italiano bene.
ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Leviton, the smart solution for all your electrical needs. Learn how to help improve your home’s electrical safety at GetSafeToday.com. And be sure to enter their June Safety Products Giveaway. That’s GetSafeToday.com.
TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And The Money Pit family keeps growing. We want to welcome our newest member, KEEL-AM in Shreveport, Louisiana, our brand-new Money Pit affiliate. They’re at 710 on the dial.
Don’t be shy, Shreveport. Give us a call with your home improvement headaches. We can help. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Louise in Texas is on the line and needs some help cleaning up after a gardening project gone awry. Tell us what happened.
LOUISE: Oh, yes. We have these insidious vines. One found its way in a crack – I guess my windows weren’t very good – and it grew into a back bedroom that I had closed off this winter. And it grew across my wall and onto the ceiling. So I pulled it down and cut it off and I went outside and now it has left behind hard stuff on there that I can’t get off. I don’t know how to get it off without damaging the wall.
TOM: I know exactly what you’re talking about. And whenever you have a vine attached to a house, those attachment points are really insidious. They’re very hard to get off and it really takes nothing more than elbow grease.
And so, if you’re talking about a drywall surface here, you’re literally going to have to sand that surface, lightly abrade that surface, because you don’t want to cut through the paper to get off anything that the vine left behind.
Then once you’re done sanding it, then you have to prime it. And you need to use a good-quality primer here and prime the entire surface, if not the entire room, and then repaint the room. But there’s no way to clean what’s left behind with that vine debris. You have to actually physically abrade it off. Scrape it, prime it, sand it to get rid of it.
And if you want to slow down those vines from growing on the outside of your house, think about spraying Roundup on them. Roundup, you spray it on the leaves and it goes down through the plant’s infrastructure and kills them at the roots. And that might help get it under control.
LESLIE: Well, automatic standby generators were once a rare thing. But more and more homeowners are installing these to make certain their families are covered in the event of a sustained power loss. It also adds a tremendous value to their home.
TOM: And with extreme weather seeming more and more common in a power grid that is decades old, power outages are also much less rare than they used to be. You want to make sure you don’t get stuck in the dark. We’ve got advice now from This Old House host Kevin O’Connor.
KEVIN: Hi, guys. Great to be here.
TOM: You know, it seemed that even just 10 years ago, this would’ve felt like a less critical investment than it is today, huh?
KEVIN: Well, it is certainly nice to have the peace of mind that you can actually keep the power on. Because when it goes out, you’ve got a whole host of problems, right? I mean you could lose your heat in the winter, your air conditioning in the summer. You can lose the food in the refrigerator. You can drop down the communications, because so much of us rely on the internet and stuff. So knowing that that power can stay on or come back on in an emergency is great peace of mind.
TOM: So let’s clarify the differences between the different generator options that are out there.
KEVIN: Well, the way I think about them is like this: you either have a standby generator or a portable generator. A standby generator is installed by a professional. It is hooked up into the circuit – the electrical panel of your house.
LESLIE: It’s a permanent application.
KEVIN: It is a permanent application with a permanent fuel source: either natural gas piped to it directly or propane, if that’s what you’re burning. Whereas a portable is something that probably sits in the garage and you can pull it out. You’re often pouring gasoline into it and then you’re plugging in just the critical circuits.
TOM: And then the issue there, of course, is that portable generators need gasoline. Gasoline has to come from gas stations, who also don’t have power to pump the gas.
KEVIN: And they’re generally smaller, so you can’t just run it for an entire day or two days.
KEVIN: You have to kind of continually feed it with gasoline. And it is giving off emissions. They all give off emissions but it is giving off emissions and you could put it in the wrong place.
KEVIN: And that is critical to be thinking about with a portable generator. Do not ever run it indoors or anywhere near the indoors where the combustion gases can get into the house.
TOM: And that includes an open garage.
TOM: So within the standby category, there are some options within that, as well.
KEVIN: There are. And these are great for the reasons we just discussed. They are permanently installed, they’re ready to go. They have a fuel source. They’re placed appropriately so that they know they can operate safely.
And then when you’re in the standby category, it’s about size. Are you going to try to run the entire house when there is an outage or you’re just going to pick some critical circuits? In either case, these things are going to be hooked up to a transfer switch so that when the power from the grid goes out, the transfer switch says, “OK, I don’t sense power there. Let me go to the generator for power.” And then it’s a question of how many circuits are attached to it. If you have it for the entire house, it’s a no-brainer. Everything goes on and you can operate everything.
Now, they’re more expensive. They’re bigger, obviously, so you can choose to have that transfer switch just linking to a couple critical circuits. Keep the refrigerator on, the heating, the power plant on and a couple critical lights so that you could be in the house safely. That’s a question of size and convenience. You have to make that trade-off and obviously cost, as well.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Well, it’s funny. I think, being from the Northeast, we all suffer from “Sandy shock,” which is what I like to call it. I had a baby and then we had no power for 18 days, which was just mind-boggling. I will never, ever be in that situation again. So when I was meeting with the KOHLER team to talk about getting a standby generator for the house, I started at first looking at something in the 7 to 11k range and was like, “Well, maybe this’ll be good.” And then you sort of get power-greedy when you start thinking about it and the prices aren’t that different when you get to that level. And suddenly, you’re like, “Yes, 20kW for the entire house.”
KEVIN: And what peace of mind you have there, that the entire house will be operational in a power outage. That is nice.
TOM: And that’s a good point. And there are actually estimators on the websites of these major manufacturers, where you can figure out how many kilowatt hours do I need in terms of power. And you can buy these standbys, perhaps, as small as 7kW?
TOM: And that’s good if you have a really small house, perhaps a retirement house, a cabin, something of that nature. Small lot. And they go all the way up to 22,000 watts. So, yeah, you really have a wide range of choices.
I think the other thing interesting is that they’re now remotely monitored, so you can know what’s going on at any time.
KEVIN: Well, you guys know this from your own experience. These things are very intelligent.
They’re doing a couple things. They’re turning themselves on, so that they’re running a test cycle to make sure that they’re in good stead. They’re doing that on a regular basis. They’re sending a report to a service technician saying everything’s OK or it’s not. And they’re also sending a notification to you saying, “Hey, I’m doing OK. Don’t worry about it,” or, “Hey, we’ve got a problem. Check into it now.” Because you want that thing to work when you need it.
LESLIE: When you need it.
Now, what about maintenance? This is an appliance that you’re putting in your home. Do you need to do an annual maintenance check on a whole-house standby generator?
KEVIN: Somebody does.
LESLIE: Not me.
KEVIN: Not you, necessarily. But yes, absolutely. And oftentimes, the installer will actually give you that plan where they will make sure that they come out and give it a checkup, just like with your car: make sure all the fluids – everything’s working properly, make sure that circuitry is working and that we know that it will come on when you need it. Because if it doesn’t do that, it’s of no value to you.
TOM: And now is a great time to think about an automatic standby generator because the prices have come down a lot over the last several years.
KEVIN: I’m curious to know, Leslie, how it is that when you gave a baby, you took out the entire grid.
LESLIE: It’s amazing.
TOM: How’d that happen?
KEVIN: That’s quite a child.
LESLIE: It’s amazing. And I didn’t even name the baby Sandy or anything. It’s crazy.
KEVIN: No, just in time, absolutely. The affordability and the variability – the fact that you can get different sizes for different applications. I think they are more common and people are leaning towards using them and installing them more now than in the past.
TOM: Kevin O’Connor from TV’s This Old House, thank you so much for powering up this edition of The Money Pit.
KEVIN: My pleasure. Thank you, guys.
LESLIE: Alright. Catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For local listings and step-by-step videos of many common home improvement projects, visit ThisOldHouse.com.
TOM: And This Old House is brought to you on PBS by State Farm. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.
Well, it’s scary but true: as temperatures rise, so do the number of children injured or even killed in summertime accidents. We’ve got tips on keeping your kids and teens safe from common summer dangers when The Money Pit continues, next.
ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Grayne Engineered Shake and Shingle Siding from The Tapco Group. Contractors can now offer homeowners the charm of natural cedar with none of the maintenance. Visit Grayne.com or ask your pro today.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
Hey, are you heading to the car wash? Then you know it’s expensive and it’s time-consuming. Well, you can just do it yourself with the PivotPro Boat & Auto from Hyde Tools. Now, this is going to attach right to your garden hose. If you add some liquid soap to the reservoir, then you point, you shoot and you pivot the nozzle and you are washing and rinsing your car or your boat or your truck bed, your wheels, your undercarriage. I mean you can get things sparkly clean.
TOM: No need to bend, reach or stretch to get the job done. We’re giving away the Hyde PivotPro Boat & Auto to one caller this hour. It’s a prize worth almost 50 bucks.
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LESLIE: Now we’ve got Ann on The Money Pit who’s got a question about a porch. How can we help you today?
ANN: Our front porch, I guess, has settled. And there’s a huge crack and it goes completely through the whole slab of concrete. How would we go about economically fixing that or is it possible without having to repour the whole thing? And it’s like a slab on top of bricks, so there is a hollow spot underneath the slab.
TOM: OK. So it’s broken in two? And can you see through the crack into the sort of the void below?
ANN: You can’t exactly see through but it is a wide crack. It’s wide enough to see. Not all the way through, though.
TOM: What you would do is if it’s wide enough where it’s not going to hold a patching material, you would put something in there first called “backer rod,” which is like a foam road. And it comes in different diameters. And that would sit just below the surface of the crack, maybe a ¼- to ½-inch below the surface of the crack. And then you would repair that crack with a flowable caulk, like a flowable urethane? Or I know that QUIKRETE has some patching materials that will also work.
And that backer rod keeps that seal up towards the surface – does that make sense? – and doesn’t fall down in. So it’s not like you’ve got to put coat after coat after coat. And that flowable urethane will expand and contract with the concrete slab. So you don’t have to tear it out and replace it; you just have to fix it correctly.
ANN: Alright. Thanks.
TOM: Well, school might be out for the summer where you live but before you and your family dive headfirst into fun, listen to this startling statistic: a whopping 45 percent of deaths among children, ages 10 to 14, occur during the summer months.
LESLIE: Geez, that’s right. You know, guys, sun, surf and sand, they make summer the most dangerous season for children and for teens. And when it comes to keeping them safe, you have to start with the most obvious place: water.
Now, whether your kids live there or not, any home with a pool should have multiple layers of protection devices. I’m talking about fences, door alarms, pool alarms and pool covers. Now, they’re all somewhat effective in preventing emergencies but are far more effective when they’re used in combination with each other.
TOM: And from hanging out on decks and patios to keeping windows open for fresh air, it’s no surprise that more falls from high places happen in the summer than any other time of the year.
LESLIE: Yeah. You want to keep your kids safe, so you have to install window guards on your windows higher than the first floor. Gates at the top of staircases can also keep roughhousing and just running around from taking a really tragic turn.
TOM: And finally, maybe you did it when you were young but that doesn’t mean your kids should pile into cars or cargo areas of SUVs, station wagons, vans or pickups, even if it’s just for a quick trip to the ice-cream store. Keep kids under age 12 in the backseat and buckled up. Those front-seat air bags can seriously injure those small bodies.
LESLIE: Mary Lee in Washington has a call about radiant heat for the floor. Tell us what’s going on.
MARY LEE: I’m going to remodel my bathroom. It’ll have a tile floor. Some of my neighbors in my condominium have put under their floors and say they love it. But I wonder if there’s any efficiency to it or if it’s just an expensive comfort.
TOM: I think it’s more of a luxury item, because your condominium probably has enough heat with the core heating system.
That said, it is kind of nice to have that toasty floor in the bathroom. And if you don’t mind the expense to install it, you can control the expense to run it because you’re always going to – you’re only going to operate it when you need it. You can put it on a timer, you could heat the floor up just for one particular bath/shower experience. You can really control that usage.
But it is awfully nice to have. There’s nothing efficient about it; it’s definitely going to cost you some money to run because it’s electric. And it’s the most expensive form of heat.
MARY LEE: OK. Thank you.
LESLIE: Alright. Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit.
Coming up on our program, small cracks in your bathtub? Are they just an eyesore or are they a sign of a bigger problem? We’ll tell you how to find out, when The Money Pit continues.
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TOM: You are listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
Well, summer is heating up, which is when your curtains start to come in really handy because they block the sun, they keep your cooling costs down and also they, of course, look really nice in whatever room you’ve got them. But if your plaster walls have kept you from hanging them, here’s some good news: there are ways to get your curtains up without all of that plaster crumbling down or at least hearing it crumble down behind the plasterboard and wondering what’s exactly going on there. Check out MoneyPit.com, search “curtain rods hang without drilling” and we’ll tell you how.
And while you’re online, post your question. I’ve got one here from Nina in South Carolina who writes: “What can I do to repair spider vein-looking cracks around my ceramic bathtub? And what is causing them?”
TOM: Spider veins. Can’t you cure that with surgery?
LESLIE: Yeah, I’m like, “Geez, we’ve got to worry about them on our legs. Now we have to worry about them on our bathtubs. Will it ever end?”
TOM: It’s probably just as hard to cure them in your bathtub as it is in your legs. I hate to tell you.
You know, those little, tiny cracks in the porcelain basically mean that the finish is breaking down. So you have, really, only a couple of options. You could replace the entire tub which, of course, is a major renovation. You could reglaze the tub, which could be either a do-it-yourself project or one done professionally. But I think, in either case, it’s not a long-term solution. Or the third option would be to install a tub insert.
Have you seen these? There’s manufacturers that make these inserts that drop into the existing tub. They’re custom-made. They don’t really take up as much room as what you might think and they basically reline the entire surface. And I think it’s a good option.
But I think the way they’re priced, Leslie, they’re slightly less expensive than gut-job renovations, which I’m sure is on purpose.
LESLIE: Oh, yeah.
TOM: Then, of course, there’s always option four: just learn to live with it, chalk it up to charm and move on. I mean who’s coming into your house and looking at your bathtub anyway, huh?
LESLIE: Probably more people than you think. Don’t you know everybody loves to snoop in other people’s bathrooms? That’s like a favorite pastime.
TOM: Well, listen, if they look at my bathtub and they go, “Oh, Tom has got the gross bathtub. I’m not coming back,” good.
LESLIE: Then stop looking in my bathtub in the first place.
TOM: That was my plan. Yeah.
LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post from Laura in Arizona who writes: “We bought a propane grill a year before selling our home and only used it once. When we moved into our new home, we found a natural-gas line was available for the grill. Is there a way of getting this propane grill to work with natural gas? We paid almost $400 for this and I’d hate to throw it out.” Don’t throw it out. Give it away if you’re going to get rid of it. “Then find out there was a solution.”
TOM: Why don’t you try to sell it on eBay or something and maybe make a few bucks back? But you cannot – you cannot – use natural gas in a propane grill.
TOM: Why? Well, because the burners are different. It’s a completely different size, as is the flow of the gas. So, considering the cost and hassle of converting it not worth it. Even if you bought a new burner, I don’t think it will be worth it. I would give it away. I would donate it. I would buy a new grill. But you cannot mix fuels on any fuel-burning appliance. It’s either designed for propane or for natural gas. You need to use what it’s designed for.
When it comes to more expensive appliances like, say, furnaces and water heaters, it might be, in that case, worth buying the new grill – the new valve – that it would take to use the different fuel. But in your case, I’d say just buy a new grill.
LESLIE: Yeah. And you know what? There are so many options that you can easily create an outdoor kitchen without spending a lot of money. And because you have the natural-gas hookup, it’s going to be really easy to get that amazing outdoor space you dream of.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Thank you so much for spending this part of your beginning of summer with us. We hope we’ve given you some tips, some ideas, some suggestions, some thoughts, some inspiration so that you can cut back on the perspiration when you tackle your next home improvement project.
Remember, we are around, 24-7 – we never leave; we’re so boring – at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. You can call, really, at any time and leave your question. If we’re not in the studio, we will call you back the next time we are.
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.
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(Copyright 2015 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.)