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Stepping up to a Stylish Garage Door, Picking the Best Concrete Mix for Posts, Patios and Steps, and Bleach-free ways to Kill Mold

  • 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 for one reason and one reason only: to help you with your home improvement, your home décor, your home fix-up projects. We are your in-house personal experts. Pick up the phone and call us with whatever project is on your mind, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Coming up on today’s program, when you look outside your home, does the garage door rank as perhaps one of the more boring surfaces you see? Well, there are lots of styles and colors and looks for garage doors to choose from these days. And we’re going to have some tips on a project that can be simple and affordable, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: Plus, projects like setting a post or building a patio or even repairing a step all involve concrete. But what kind is the best? Well, if you choose the right one, your project can be done in an afternoon. Choose the wrong one and your project may have to be repeated over and over again. We’re going to help you sort out exactly what you need to know.

    TOM: Plus, we’ve got a great way for you to keep cool during the hot summer days ahead without disturbing your peace and quiet.

    LESLIE: And if you call in your home improvement question, you might also win a copy of our book, My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure.

    TOM: We’ve got five copies to give away. So give us a call right now. We’re here to help at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

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

    DEAN: We bought our house about eight months ago. And the radon mitigation system’s working fine. The levels were low when it was tested and there’s no major issue with that. But there’s this annoying, high-frequency noise in our bedroom directly behind our bed. And there’s a 4-inch ADS pipe that runs from the basement, you know, through the first floor where our bedroom is, up to the second-floor attic and then out through the roof. It’s vented in a witch hat up there, yeah.

    TOM: Where’s the fan located? The physical fan.

    DEAN: Oh, yeah, it’s in the attic.

    TOM: OK. And your bedroom is on the second floor? So the fan is pretty close to you?

    DEAN: So it’s a Cape Cod but the – so the – it goes from the basement.

    TOM: OK.

    DEAN: And then the first floor, actually, is our bedroom. And then it goes – the second floor has the attic. And then it goes through the roof from there.

    TOM: OK. So, obviously, the whine is the fan. Generally, they don’t whine. It might be that the bearings on the fan are starting to wear out and that may be the source of this. I don’t have a good solution for you because getting to the pipe – it’s already, I would imagine, buried in the wall. And unless you have access to all sides of it, it wouldn’t make sense for you to add any soundproofing materials to it. But I would focus in on the fan itself.

    Now, if you go up in the attic, do you still hear that same fan?

    DEAN: Yeah. So, yeah, good point. I went in the attic. I thought the same thing: maybe it was a bearing or something in the – with the fan. I do actually hear the fan. I don’t – I’m not a – I don’t know if you can get quieter fans or whatever or if I’m just hearing airflow. But it’s got to be the fan, right? It’s got to be vibration.

    TOM: I would think it’s the fan.

    DEAN: I know that the noisy plumbing issues with water, it can really be exacerbated by plastic pipe. And sometimes, they can solve that by swapping out plastic pipe with cast iron. I’ve heard of that. I don’t know. Haven’t done it.

    TOM: Plastic pipe or even copper pipe can be noisy. But you wouldn’t want to go through all that trouble if you did have all those walls removed so you had exposure to that. You would simply wrap a soundproofing material around the pipe. But I do think that the source of the problem has got to be the fan, not just a whistling sound of the air. And I would reach out to the radon company that did the insulation and see if they could swap out that fan.

    And by the way, is there a pressure gauge on that pipe somewhere so that you can determine that it’s still working properly?

    DEAN: Yeah. There’s a – you can see the pressure differential in the basement.

    TOM: Right. There should be a liquid pressure gauge where you can see the difference in the levels of liquid in the tube.

    DEAN: Yep. Exactly.

    TOM: And that syndicates – it indicates it’s under pressure, yeah.

    OK. So I think that’s going to be the solution there, Dean. I think you’re going to have to replace that fan.

    DEAN: OK. Alright. Very good. Thanks a lot. I appreciate it.

    TOM: You’ve got it. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Sarah in Iowa needs some help with a carpeting project. Tell us what you’re working on.

    SARAH: I have a house built in 1975. And when it was built, they installed this carpet in the breakfast kitchen and unfortunately, bathroom areas. And it’s glued down. It’s really low pile, almost like linoleum.

    TOM: Is it on a wood floor or is it concrete?

    SARAH: It’s on – just on the wood subfloor. And I did try to scrape it out of the little bathroom area that we had and it took hours and hours of hand-scraping. And I probably did some damage to the subfloor in doing it.

    TOM: Well, the subfloor is not a finished floor, right? It’s a 1974 house. It’s probably plywood. Is that correct?

    SARAH: Yes, it’s plywood.

    TOM: So, can you pull up the carpet part itself, obviously leaving the glue behind? But will the carpet part peel off?

    SARAH: If I pull up the carpet part itself, what gets left behind is this black, spongy gunk that I can kind of scrape off. And then the bottom part of the black is glued onto the floor.

    TOM: What I want you to do is to pull the carpet up and then I want you to put a new piece of subfloor down on top of that using ¼-inch luan plywood. It’s very inexpensive and it’s the easiest way to get back to a surface that you can work with.

    I would not try to remove the glue from the subfloor. It’s just not worth it; it’s a rather impossible job. So, I would just, you know, opt for a smooth surface by adding another layer of subfloor on top of that. And then whatever you want to put on top of that, you can, whether it’s more carpet or whether it’s laminate or tile or whatever.

    But just pull up the carpet so – because you don’t want to sandwich carpet in between this. Pull the carpet up, then you’ll just be sandwiching the old glue and that’ll be fine, OK?

    SARAH: OK. Fantastic.

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

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

    Still to come, getting a return on your home improvement investment is one of the most important measures of a project these days. And installing a new garage door does just that. We’ll tell you about the options, just ahead.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Call us now at 888-MONEY-PIT. You will get the answer to your home improvement question. Plus, this hour, we’re giving away five copies of our book, My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure. It is filled to the brim with the same kind of tips and advice that you hear from us on the radio.

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

    LESLIE: Bob in Texas is on the line and has a question about a roof. What’s going on?

    BOB: Well, we’ve had a long drought out here in West Texas. And we finally got some rain and lo and behold, I have a leak. And I remember tuning into your show some time ago where you guys mentioned a product that was clear that could be applied with a paintbrush that would penetrate through the roof and then seal it. And I could not or I did – I couldn’t remember the name of the product. And I’ve been trying to find it here in Lubbock, Texas and having no luck at all. And I just thought, “Well, I need to call you guys and see if you can remember that and tell me what it is.”

    TOM: Well, Bob, that’s going to be a bit of a mystery to me because it doesn’t sound like the kind of thing that we would recommend for roof leaks. But let me just ask you more about this leak. Do you know where it’s occurring? Do you know if it’s coming through, say, a cracked shingle or is it coming around a chimney? Is it coming around a pipe? What do you know about it?

    BOB: Where the slope of my roof joins my patio. And the patio roof is flat. So, I’m thinking probably what’s happening is it’s backing into the den past the wall but …

    TOM: Right. Yeah. That’s a tough spot to flash. And it’s also a tough spot to do a sort of an easy patch repair to it. You know, all these types of roof products that you apply after the fact, they’re usually asphalt roof cement. And they’ll work for a while but they tend to dry up pretty quickly. When you have an intersection like that where you have a pitched roof that comes into a low-slope or a flat roof, you’re right: the water can back up there and do the force of kind of against gravity and due to that force can actually sort of work its way up into the roof surface.

    The right way to flash that – and you’re not going to want to hear this – but the right way to flash that is to have the flat roof basically go right up and under the roof shingles. So the flat-roof material would go to that intersection and then up and under the roof shingles and probably up maybe 3 feet under them. And then the roof shingles would continue over that, creating a big overlap there where it would be virtually impossible for any water to back into it. And I would start that project with a product called “ice-and-water shield,” which is sort of a tacky, 3-foot-wide, roll-on sheet that literally glues itself to the deck surface and will stop all water from getting through. So that’s the best way to do a permanent repair to that.

    Short of that, it’s OK for you to use an asphalt cement product to try to patch it. But I’m just concerned that it’s something you may have to do time and time again. If it does develop that way, then maybe you could choose to make the bigger repair later.

    BOB: And you say that that is ice-and-water shield?

    TOM: Yes, ice-and-water shield. Yep. That’s the right first step for that and that goes underneath the roof shingles. Nice thing about that, too, is if you ever have roof shingles that blow off, your roof still won’t leak because it remains watertight.

    BOB: Well, I certainly appreciate your help with that.

    TOM: Alright, Bob. Well, thanks so much for calling.

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

    CYNTHIA: I have white dust on my shoes – my leather shoes – and my purses inside my closet. And my shoes can be inside of a shoebox and I don’t understand what it is.

    TOM: Do you have a heating duct inside that closet?

    CYNTHIA: No. But right outside the closet, I do.

    TOM: Well, generally, if you get a lot of dust in the air, then you don’t have good filtration in your heating system. And so, if you have a forced-air system, you ought to have a good-quality filter on the return duct. And unfortunately, a lot of folks use those fiberglass filters, which don’t filter very much. I always call them “rock-stoppers” because everything else goes right through.

    But if you improve the quality of the filtration on your heating system, that will go a long way to cleaning the air in your home and reducing the amount of dust that’s laying not only on your shoes, in this case, but on your tables and chairs and everything else in the house.

    CYNTHIA: OK, great. Thank you. Have a great day.

    TOM: Well, without looking, can you describe the style of your garage door? What? Your garage door doesn’t have a style? Well, if that’s the case, it might be time to think about a new one.

    LESLIE: That’s right, you guys. If your garage door is plain and white and paneled and boring, you’re missing a huge opportunity to bring some major curb appeal to your house. Think about it: your garage really is a big part of what people see when they take in your home’s front façade. Sometimes it can be up to 60 percent of what they see.

    TOM: Now, you can completely transform the look of your home simply by replacing that garage door. And there are lots of options to consider, from a carriage house-styled door to the barn look and even the ones with sleek, modern lines. Plus, remember that garage doors today, they’re not only steel. More importantly, there are fiberglass versions that are available. And that’s a great choice because they can look like wood but without any of the maintenance hassles. So think about it. Replacing your garage door is a great project and one that you can knock off in just a weekend.

    888-666-3974. What’s on your to-do list? Move it over to ours and call us, right now, at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: David in Texas is on the line and is dealing with some unwanted issues from a dog. What’s going on?

    DAVID: It’s a mix between a terrier and a lab. And she tends to shed. And we’ve got wooden floors downstairs and carpet upstairs. And tried everything. I walk around the house with a shop vac trying to vacuum her fur that’s all over the place. And I’ve got her fur also embedded in the carpet. And sometimes, the vacuum cleaner doesn’t get it up. That’s when I go against the grain of the carpet and I drag the fur out of the carpet. So I’m just wondering if you guys have any secret recipes that I can utilize to help me with this – solve this problem.

    TOM: I don’t think I have a good solution for shedding dogs.

    LESLIE: I mean the only issue outside of vacuuming is are you brushing your dog? They make certain brushes that help you get to the undercoat so that you’ll remove the hair before the dog actually has a chance to shed it. So if you’re actually on top of the brushing, that might cut down on the shedding.

    DAVID: Fortunately, she has – she’s a mix between a lab and terrier. So she’s got really short hair. But to your point, Leslie, I haven’t done that. I just assumed that it would take care of itself but apparently it hasn’t.

    LESLIE: Well, it is. It’s taking care of itself, just not in a way that you like. It’s a special brush that allows you to get to the undercoats.

    DAVID: OK.

    LESLIE: And certain times of year, a dog is going to shed more than other times of year. They get that second layer of fur in the winter months. So it’s – maybe you don’t have to brush every day. But I would start with that and see if you can make any progress that way.

    TOM: And also, if the only way you can get this dog hair up is with a shop vac, you might want to think about getting a better vacuum. I’ll share with you that I know both Leslie and I have the same vacuum, because she recommended it to me. And that’s a Miele.

    LESLIE: It’s amazing.

    TOM: It really works well. It’s very light but super powerful and it does a great job picking up the dog hair around our house. I’ll tell you that.

    DAVID: Well, that’s wonderful. Thank you. I should’ve thought about that but I just assumed – anyway, thank you so very much.

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

    LESLIE: Pam in Florida has a porch question. How can we help you today?

    PAM: We live on the water and in Florida, there’s a lot of wind on the water. We’re close to the Gulf of Mexico. And we have a screened porch with aluminum railings and the wind keeps blowing the screen sections out. We’ve tried all different types of screens and double-screening them and all different types of splines. And I wondered if you had any better ideas for us.

    TOM: Are we talking about on doors or windows?

    PAM: We’re talking about screen sections on a screened porch.

    TOM: Screened porch. OK. And so, how big are these sections?

    PAM: Probably 4×6.

    TOM: Pretty big. Are you using vinyl screening or are you using metal screening?

    PAM: Vinyl.

    TOM: Yeah, I think that’s the issue. The vinyl screening is pretty soft and pretty flexible. Not very sturdy. I think you’re going to need to use a heavier-gauge screening in order to make this more permanent. And you’re also going to need to consider not only the attachment points – I’m not quite sure how you’re doing that – but it’s got to be super secure. And you might want to add grilles to divide that up into a bit smaller space. It could be a thin grille but it could – but a grille would give it some additional strength.

    So I think you’re going to need to use much heavier screening and not vinyl screening, OK? Because I think putting on a double layer of the vinyl is going to really not get you where you need to be. It really should be heavy metal screening when it’s that – when it’s a 4×6-foot area.

    PAM: Right. Do you know if metal screening comes in a fine enough mesh to keep no-see-ums out?

    TOM: Oh, yeah. It comes in different mesh densities and different gauge metals. You’ve just got to find a good source or supply down there for it.

    PAM: Thank you very much. Appreciate the help.

    TOM: You’re very welcome.

    LESLIE: Tim in Maine is on the line with a flooring question. What are you working on?

    TIM: Oh, I bought an old house and I ripped up the carpet in one of the rooms to find really old pine board. So I paid to have them professionally finished and they look amazing. And my question for you is – there are gaps around the – under the trim around the entire room, upwards of ½-inch. It’s pretty noticeable and there’s a lot of them. And I was wondering what my options were for taking care of those gaps.

    LESLIE: So this is between that first board and your baseboard piece, correct?

    TIM: Yeah.

    LESLIE: So what you can do – and of course, I don’t know what the style of your baseboard is. And perhaps, at the bottom of your baseboard, is it just flat/straight? You’ve got a clean edge?

    TIM: Yeah. It’s your standard, white sort of baseboard.

    LESLIE: You know what you can do is you can do either a quarter-round or a shoe molding. And they come in a variety of sizes and those can be painted to match your baseboard or stained to match your baseboard.

    TOM: Or even they could be natural oak and match the floor.

    LESLIE: Yeah. That’s another way to go. And then you’d use that to sort of bridge the gap between the baseboard and the floor so it sort of just covers over that.

    And you can get it in a ½-inch depth, which isn’t terribly gigantic. But that’ll cover your whole area. So it sort of acts as an application onto the baseboard. It attaches one side on the baseboard and the other side sort of rests on the floor, so it’s L-shaped with that quarter-round in between.

    Or you can do a different type of molding. I mean there’s a ton of different kinds of moldings – whether it’s a shoe molding, either a square or a quarter-round – depending on the look and the style of the home. And then you can use that to bridge the gap.

    TIM: OK. Is there any – so there’s no type of putty or filler or caulk or anything that I could put.

    LESLIE: You’re going to have too much movement in the floor and it’s going to – whatever you put in is just going to break out and bounce out and it’s going to be a disaster that you’re constantly fixing.

    TIM: Oh, that’s right.

    LESLIE: And this is going to be such a minimal addition that’s truly going to cover up this opening that’s bothering you. And you won’t even notice it.

    TIM: OK.

    LESLIE: Alright. Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit.

    Up next, if you have a project to tackle that needs concrete – like, you know, setting a post or building a patio – it’s important to select the right concrete mix for your job. We’re going to tell you about some new formulations that can take the guesswork out of it, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: Today’s Money Pit is presented by Haier, the world’s number-one appliance brand. Stay cool this summer with a Haier Serenity Series Air Conditioner. Quieter than the average window air conditioners, yet cool your home effectively and efficiently. Learn more at HaierAmerica.com.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    So if you’ve got a project to tackle that needs concrete, like a post to set or a patio to build, it’s important to select the right concrete project for the job.

    TOM: That’s right. But while there are many different formulations to choose from, QUIKRETE has developed two, as well as an app that can handle a wide variety of those projects. With us to talk about that is Mike Major. Mike’s a regional sales manager for QUIKRETE.

    Welcome, Mike.

    MIKE: Good to see you guys. How are you today?

    TOM: Excellent.

    So, when you are faced with a project, I think a lot of our audience wants to know: what are the key elements to consider when choosing the best concrete product to use? Because it’s kind of like you’re on information overload when you research this stuff, when you read the bags. I would imagine there’s considerations like strength, how long it takes to dry, what weather conditions you can work with it in, is this a winter project or a summer project. How do you kind of break it down and decide what product is best for your particular project?

    MIKE: Yeah. That’s a great question. A lot of people – when they start out, they’ll try to figure out exactly what they’re trying to accomplish with a project, whether it be setting a post – and the setting a post, the situation is absolutely wonderful for our fast-setting concrete. That’s something that’s going to set in about 20 minutes so you’re not going to have to worry about the leveling of the post after a few minutes. It’s set. You don’t have to worry about anything bumping up against it and ruining the level that you have. So that’s really a good opportunity to use our red-bag concrete.

    TOM: And that particular red-bag product has another advantage that I like, because I have used it personally. And that is that you can pour the dry mix into the hole and really do all the leveling work of your post. And then once it’s just right, then you pour the water in as a last step and it kind of hardens magically. You don’t have to mix it up outside the hole, then put wet concrete in the hole and have your post kind of move around while that’s happening, right?

    MIKE: Yeah. That’s right, Tom. As a matter of fact, we do refer to that as a self-mixing product, which is a great opportunity for that. We use that product an awful lot during the wintertime when we’re trying to really make sure that the concrete sets before it has a chance to freeze. But in addition to that, in the summertime, when it’s hot outside and people are not wanting to stay outside and worry about leveling a post for half an hour, they can use this product and like you say, pour the dry mix into the hole, then pour a gallon of water on top of that dry mix. And in 20 minutes, you get your initial set.

    LESLIE: Now, I think there’s still a lot of mystery about working with concrete. There’s so many different formulas, there’s so many different ways to use it, apply it. Has QUIKRETE really come up with a way to help the end user, the DIY-er, know exactly what to use and how to use it?

    MIKE: Absolutely. What we’ve come up with – we’ve got several different helping hints for your listeners. One would be our mobile app. We have come out with a great mobile app that has actually links to about 30 different YouTube videos that’ll walk you, step by step, through projects. It’ll also give you spec data sheets on all of our products so that you can read about the product and see exactly what you’re looking for, in addition to calculators to tell you how many bags you’re going to need to purchase when you do come upon your project.

    TOM: Mike, what if we need a product that is really strong, perhaps one that’s reinforced for building steps or a patio? What type of product would you recommend for that?

    MIKE: Well, one of the things that QUIKRETE has just recently come out with is a new product called Q-MAX PRO. And we talked about the fast-setting concrete and how fast it does set. Sometimes, that set is a little bit too fast for what you’re trying to work with. So the Q-MAX gives you one-hour workability time. So where – the fast-setting concrete does a great job if you’re setting a post and you’re wanting to pour concrete into a hole. If you’re wanting to pour a slab, you need a little more work time. So the Q-MAX PRO gives you the opportunity to get a stronger slab than our regular concrete.

    Now, our regular concrete is a 4,000 PSI mix, which is pretty strong for anything that you’re doing around the house. But if you’re in a situation where you want something a little bit stronger than that, our Q-MAX PRO gets to a 6,500 PSI in 28 days. And it gives you one-hour workability time. And it’s just a really strong product. It’s also got some fiber reinforcement into it, which keeps you from having shrinkage cracks or any little spider cracks that you see on the surface of concrete.

    TOM: I read a story about that product. If I recall correctly, it also has corrosion inhibitors – so if you have, say, a reinforcing rod in it, it’s not likely to rust – as well as air that mixes in with it. I think you call it “air-entrained.” So that actually prevents some of the freeze/thaw kind of damage that can occur, which is very typical with concrete. Is that right?

    MIKE: Right. And the air-entrained cement also makes the concrete more workable, makes it – it’s a little bit easier to smooth the surface. And the surface that you can put on this product – because you do have a longer workability time, you can do different things, like a brush surface to make sure that you don’t have a slipping surface. So that you don’t want it to be real shiny on the top of it to where you’d have to worry about somebody stepping out onto your concrete in the rain and slipping. It gives you the opportunity to put a broom finish to it.

    TOM: The one thing I like about you guys is you really develop solutions. You focus on the solutions and you come up with the product to make it work. Q-MAX PRO Concrete Mix and the Fast-Setting Concrete in the red bag, both great problem-solvers, great products to get those projects done around your house.

    And as Mike said, if you have questions on your project, you can turn to the QUIKRETE mobile app for answers.

    Mike Major, Regional Sales Manager with QUIKRETE, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    MIKE: It’s always great to talk with you guys. Have a great day.

    TOM: And if you’d like more information, you can go to the QUIKRETE website at QUIKRETE.com. That’s Q-U-I-K-R-E-T-E.com.

    LESLIE: Alright. If the inside of your house is as muggy and warm as outside, even if you’ve got your A/C running, it might be time to invest in a new air conditioner. We’re going to have tips on one that’s been touted as the quietest in America, next.

    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.

    Give us a call now at 888-MONEY-PIT. You will get the answer to your home improvement question. Plus, this hour, we’re giving away five copies of our book, My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure.

    It’s really a great book, guys. You’re going to find a ton of tips and advice that you hear from us every week on the radio.

    TOM: It’s chock-full of that advice, except it’s got pictures. So call us, right now, at 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Robert in Washington is on the line and needs some help building a retaining wall. Tell us about your project.

    ROBERT: Fifty feet of retaining wall. It’s tapered. It’s 8 feet on one end and 4 feet on the other. And I’m comparing – trying to compare the engineer blocks – the 1,000-pound blocks in price to cast in place. And I really haven’t found any place to give me a good idea.

    TOM: So, Robert, I think that trying to decide between those very, very heavy retaining-wall block structures and poured concrete is going to kind of be a wash. I think that the blocks, actually, can be more attractive and probably a little bit less work to install. But also, there are other options. You could build wood retaining walls that can be, structurally, very, very sound if they’re done right. And you could use smaller, lighter-weight blocks – landscaping bricks – that again, they’re not 1,000 pounds but they’re probably 75. And you can stack those up in the right way.

    The most important thing is really the structure of this wall and how you grade to it. Because you have to make sure that you have stone behind it for drainage. You have to make sure that the soil at the top slopes away from it. Most retaining walls fall – fail – not because the material is wrong but because the installation was bad. So as long as it’s installed well, following the best building practices for retaining walls, you’re going to have success with this.

    For example, with wood walls, there’s a technique called a “dead man,” which is basically when you put pieces of railroad tie or 6×6 or 8×8 timber that go back into the retaining wall, into the dirt itself, to kind of tie the wall together. So, sometimes, we don’t see enough of those installed and that makes the walls fail.

    With block or brick, sometimes we see people build them absolutely vertical instead of tilting back into the wall. So that whenever there’s a frost heave, because there’s not enough drainage behind it, it will push the wall, you know, and cause it to buckle. So, the techniques that you use to build this wall are even more important than the selection of the material itself.

    So I hope we’ve given you some options, Robert. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Well, about this time of year, you probably have had just about enough of all the sweltering summer heat that you can stand. And if you’d like to invest in a new room air conditioner, it might be nice to find one that is super quiet. There is one out there, right now, and it’s made by a company called Haier. It’s known as the Haier Serenity Series Quiet Air Conditioner. And it’s touted as America’s quietest window A/C. In fact, they compare it to a gentle rain. It actually offers excellent cooling but it produces dramatically less noise than your average air conditioner. So that can give you peace and quiet, as well as comfort.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you know what? The Haier Serenity Series also is ENERGY STAR-qualified, so it uses far less energy than your traditional window units. About 15 percent less energy. And that could work out to about a savings of $85 over the lifetime of the unit and that’s on average.

    Now, it comes with a really great LCD remote control. And you can actually see all the settings right there in the palm of your hand. So you can turn it up or down, really make it work however you need your cooling to be happening, whether you’re laying in bed or chilling out on the couch. I mean it really is a great air-conditioning unit.

    TOM: There’s two sizes available: a 6,000- and an 8,000-BTU unit for 299 or 399 respectively. They’re available at Walmart, Amazon and other fine retailers. You can learn more at HaierAmerica.com. There’s Haier – H-a-i-e-r – America.com.

    LESLIE: Trudy in Delaware needs some help jazzing up her brick home. What can we do for you?

    TRUDY: I have a single-family house and the base of it is not finished, from the dirt up to where the siding starts. And I’m wanting to know what I could use on that so I have a more finished look.

    TOM: So is it a brick foundation, Trudy?

    TRUDY: No, no. It’s a brick front and then the sides and the back is siding. But from the dirt – from the ground up to where the siding starts is about maybe 2 feet. It’s just basic cement, unfinished look. And I wanted to know what I (inaudible at 0:30:24).

    TOM: Right. There’s a couple things you can do. You can do something really simple, like paint it. You would use a masonry paint for that exterior. Masonry paint.

    The other thing that you could do is you could stucco that. Now, that’s a little bit more work but there are premixed stucco mixes that you can buy at a home center. And with a few tools, you could apply a stucco to that, maybe put a bit of a pattern on it. And you need to do that, though, by following all the right steps for prep. Because if you don’t get it right, it’ll freeze and break off.

    But those would be the two easiest ways to clean that up.

    TRUDY: OK. So, yeah, I didn’t want something to start chipping off or the paint to start slinking (ph).

    TOM: Right. Well, that’s why you’ve got to use the right products with the paint. You’ve got to prime it and then you’ve got to use an exterior-quality masonry paint. And kind of the same thing with the stucco. You’ve got to use the right tools and the right application methods to make sure it’s nice and clean and dry when you start and it’ll hold up nicely. Alright, Trudy?

    TRUDY: OK. Thank you so much.

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

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

    JEFF: I want to add some insulation into the attic of my old, old house that I just bought last year and I don’t know which way I should go with either the loose fill or the batt. I want to do it myself to save money but the loose fill – I’m kind of uncomfortable with all the weird conduits and outlet boxes and stuff that are up there in the attic. It’s a walk-up attic and we have a little bit of storage area up there. I don’t know if stapling the rolls up against the roof is – I don’t know what’s going to give me the best R-value and time value and money value, obviously, for …

    TOM: Alright. So first of all, let’s talk about where the insulation goes. This attic is unfinished, correct? It’s not a sleeping space, is it?

    JEFF: Yes. Correct.

    TOM: So the attic is not – the insulation, in this case, does not go up against the rafters? The attic – the insulation goes on the floor, what you would call the “floor of the attic” when you’re standing in it.

    JEFF: OK.

    TOM: Now, is there a wood floor across the entire attic surface now?

    JEFF: Not the entire attic, no.

    TOM: There’s not? So it’s open beams there, right? You can look down into the – see the ceiling below?

    JEFF: No. It’s got the rolls in between there. But like I said, we have a storage area, which is the center of it that has plywood down on top.

    TOM: OK. That’s actually perfect. So here’s what I think you should do: I would buy unfaced fiberglass batts and just like the word says, unfaced means no paper face, no vapor-barrier face. It’s just plain, old fiberglass batts.

    Now, you lay these down perpendicular to the floor joist, so not parallel to but perpendicular. And you would lay these across the entire attic floor except for the area that you want to reserve for storage.

    So this is an easy way to kind of, say, double or more than double the amount of insulation that’s there but still saving that storage space. Because once you put this down, it’s actually going to be higher than the thickness of the floor joist and you can’t crush insulation. If you crush it, it doesn’t work. So that’s why it has to sit on top. So if you were to put like 10 or 12-inch batts down like that, you would have a dramatic increase in energy efficiency.

    JEFF: Woah. That’s not a bad idea. I like that. OK. Great. Thanks so much for your help.

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

    LESLIE: Up next, microwave ovens can be handy for quick meals but did you know that they can help disinfect your cutting boards? We’ve got some handy microwaving hacks, coming up.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Hey, we’re going to jump right into a post here from Tiffany who posted on our Facebook page. And she writes: “We have a slow-running drain in our bathtub. I bought a bottle of chemical drain cleaner from the local store and followed the directions. The water now drains faster than before but when the tub starts to drain, I hear loud gurgling sounds. What could cause this noise? The house is about 25 years old.”

    TOM: So if it didn’t make that sound before, I think you still have a partial obstruction in there. I’ll give you a little trick of the trade: if you happen to have a wet/dry vacuum around the house, you can actually try to vacuum out that drain. What I hope it’s going to do is pull out the water that’s in the trap and maybe pull down whatever the remaining obstruction is, because that’s what you’re hearing there. You’re hearing that gurgling because part of the venting system has been choked off. And if we can clear that drain the rest of the way, hopefully that will go right away, Tiffany.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now, I’ve got a post here from John who writes: “I’m considering having two whirlybird turbine vents mounted on my roof to help remove some of the heat in the attic, as the temperature averages 110 to 115 degrees. Is this the best way to cool the attic and hopefully reduce my air-conditioning costs?”

    TOM: Hmm. Those whirlybird-style turbine vents, they look like they should be very effective – they’re kind of propeller-shaped – but they’re really not.

    What I would recommend, John, is a type of vent called a “continuous ridge vent.” Goes down all the way down the peak of the roof. And then you match that with soffit vents at the underside of the overhang. And that kind of venting systems works together to let air in the soffit ride up underneath the sheathing and then out at the ridge vent. That’s going to do a much more effective job of keeping that attic cool. What you want it to be is the same temperature as the outside. You want it to be at an ambient temperature. Anything warmer than that means you’re wasting energy.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And John, the same thing kind of goes for an attic fan. I mean they really aren’t worth the same thing as putting in a passive system. A passive system is just going to do the best to properly ventilate and get that air moving through your whole home structure.

    TOM: Well, if you’re only using your microwave to heat up leftovers, you might be missing out on some other very handy uses. Leslie has some great microwave hacks, in this week’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.


    LESLIE: Yeah. We’re all familiar with heating things up fast, especially if you’ve got small kids and that sometimes is the only way you’re making a lot of your meals in your house. But a microwave really can come in super handy for a lot of other things. Did you know that you can disinfect your kitchen sponge and get rid of that funky smell with a microwave? Here’s what you have to do. You need to soak the sponge in a water-and-vinegar mix and then zap it for about a minute.

    Now, you can also do the same with a cutting board. What you want to do there is rub a little bit of lemon on it, heat it for a minute and then you can totally say goodbye to last night’s raw-chicken germs. I will say with the sponge, guys, when you heat that sponge in the microwave to disinfect it, it gets crazy hot. So just be really careful taking it out.

    Now, here’s another thing: if you like honey and you’ve ever opened up your cupboard and found that the honey jar has turned into a crystallized, just solid mess, you can bring it back to life on a medium setting for about 30 seconds.

    You can also cut grilling time by heating your potatoes for two minutes and bell peppers for one before you actually put them on the grill. Again, things get crazy hot in the microwave, guys, so make sure you use oven mitts when you’re removing all of these vegetables from the microwave. Otherwise, you will get a nasty burn.

    Now, here’s another great tip: you can actually use your microwave to warm up citrus fruits. Not only will this help release the juice when you’re using them in recipes but it also helps release the oils in the skin. So if you’re using them for zesting or if you’re just trying to get out a pleasant scent when you’re really even just displaying your citrus fruit in a pretty bowl, it really does help get that beautiful fragrance out of the citrus fruits. And that becomes a wonderful, all-natural air freshener. So now you know more ways to use your microwave than just heating things up.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up next time on The Money Pit, one of the biggest, happy surprises in home improvement is when you pull up carpet to reveal hardwood floors. You know, for some reason, homes that were built in the 60s and 70s and even into the 80s were constructed with hardwood floors that were quickly covered up with wall-to-wall carpeting. And actually, they did a pretty good job of protecting them over all those years. So, coming up next time on The Money Pit, we’ll have tips on how to give those old floors a new life.

    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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