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Stop Deer From Damaging Your Landscape, How to Install Motion Detector Lights and Tips for Picking the Best Grill

  • 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: Give us a call right now. What are you working on with your money pit? We’d love to help you make it better. If it’s a home improvement project, a décor project, a repair project or maybe you’re planning for a future project, we’d love to hear from you at 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Coming up this hour, if your yard’s become an all-you-can-eat buffet for deer and wildlife, we’ve got some humane ideas for stopping all the chomping.

    LESLIE: And do you have a motion detector in your yard? If not, why not? You know, guys, they’re super easy to install, they’re really affordable and a great deterrent to people and unwanted pests. This Old House master electrician Scott Caron will be by to explain.

    TOM: Plus, now that summer has all of a month or so left, it might be a good time to upgrade your grill. There’s lots of sales starting right now. So if you’d like to step up to a new BBQ, we’re going to have some tips on what to look for so you get the most bang for your buck.

    LESLIE: And if you call us with your home improvement question at 888-MONEY-PIT, you might just win the complete wardrobe you need to get those projects done, because we’ve got 120 bucks worth of Dickies Performance Workwear to give away.

    TOM: And that package includes the very durable Dickies Denim. So call us, right now, with your home improvement question for your chance to win at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Laurie in New York is on the line with a gardening situation. Tell us what’s going on.

    LAURIE: I have a tea-rose bush in my backyard, which attracts a lot of Japanese beetles. And I was wondering if there is something that I can do to get rid of the Japanese beetles, to save the tree.

    TOM: Well, yeah, I mean there’s traps for that. And the traps work very well. They’re usually scented or they have some sort of a chemical attractant for the beetles. And the beetles are essentially – will essentially walk into the trap, fall into a bag and that’s that.

    One company that makes them is called Rescue – R-e-s-c-u-e. You can go to Rescue.com and take a look at the Japanese and Oriental beetle trap. I’ve used the Rescue products on wasps and bees and always found that they worked really, really well.

    And we’ve seen these folks at many of the trade shows that we go to and they always seem to have a very good-quality product line and they’re very serious about making sure their products work well. And I think that you’ll – that would be a good place for you to start. The Rescue Japanese Beetle Trap, Rescue.com.

    LAURIE: Very good. Thank you very much. I’m going to try that as soon as I get off the phone. I will look at their website.

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

    LESLIE: John in Kentucky is on the line with a trim question. What’s going on?

    JOHN: Well, I have got a house that was built in the 70s and it had really dark, varnished trim on it. And the guy that sold me the house – I guess when he decided to put it up on the market, he just painted all the trim white. And I think he just put one coat of latex on it or something.

    The problem with it is if you brush up against it, the paint peels off of it. And I’m exaggerating a little bit but when we’re moving stuff from room to room or something like that, yeah, you just barely touch it with something and it …

    LESLIE: Probably didn’t sand it or anything.

    JOHN: Right. He just made – because real estate agents will tell you to paint everything white.

    TOM: Yeah. But it’s probably – it’s like trying to paint over Teflon, John. When you don’t – it’s too smooth and it didn’t – wasn’t going to really bite. So what you have to do is really strip it off completely. You have to take off the old paint, you have to sand down into that varnish coat a bit to rough it up. And then what you have to do is prime it.

    The primer is very important, because the primer is going to be the glue that sort of makes the paint stick. It will adhere well to the old varnish and as well to the paint and that’s going to make the difference on giving this new paint some durability.

    JOHN: Yeah. Well, see, that’s what I don’t want to do, because it’s all the trim in the house.

    TOM: Right, OK.

    JOHN: And I can’t go and sand and strip all that. So what I was hoping could be done is – if there’s like a heavy enamel paint or something that would be tougher and wouldn’t scratch off as much?

    TOM: No, because you have a layer in there that’s not adhering to the substrate which, in this case, is the original trim. So anything that you put over that is only going to be as strong as the first layer that was on it and that’s not sticking. So, I would not make the problem worse by putting another paint on top of that. It’s just not going to work.

    JOHN: OK. Thank you for your help.

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

    LESLIE: Catherine in Rhode Island is on the line with a leaky roof. Tell us about the problem, Catherine.

    CATHERINE: I have a small hole in the ceiling, in the corner of the back end of the house. And I was just wondering if when I go to have it replaced, how much of the plaster they’re going to have to take down.

    TOM: So you say it’s a small hole. So this is a hole that was caused by water damage?

    CATHERINE: Yes. It’s coming from the roof. I’m going to have to have a new roof, also.

    TOM: How old is the roof that you have now?

    CATHERINE: The roof is about 20 years old.

    TOM: OK. Well, it might be at the end of a normal life cycle.

    In terms of that ceiling space, you don’t have to take a lot down. How big is the hole that you have right now?

    CATHERINE: I would say it’s about 8 inches across.

    TOM: Eight by what?

    CATHERINE: It’s just like a slit.

    LESLIE: So there’s nothing open; it’s just like a crack.

    CATHERINE: Yes, it’s like a crack. And water drips but just from one area; it’s just like a little drip.

    TOM: If it’s not swollen or deformed in any way, then what you can do is you can add drywall tape across that crack, which would be perforated. You use – it looks kind of like a mesh; it’s a little sticky and it’s like a mesh. And then you spackle over the tape. And so you can basically spackle this crack closed and then prime it and paint it without having to replace any of the drywall.

    CATHERINE: Oh, really? Oh. Well, thank you very much. I thought I’d have to replace the whole ceiling.

    TOM: Nah, don’t let the contractors tell you it’s any more than that. It’s a real simple repair. If it’s just a crack, it can be spackled, primed, painted and you’re good to go.

    CATHERINE: Well, thank you very much. And I just want to add I love listening to your show. I learn so much. I listen to it every Saturday night.

    TOM: Well, thank you very much, Catherine. We really appreciate it. Thanks again 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. Want to give you a hand with whatever you are working on this weekend.

    Guys, it’s only two weeks left of August. I can’t even believe it that there’s going to be school. Some of you guys are even back at school. Summer’s going to be over, you’re going to need a sweater. Alright. I’m jumping ahead of things. With whatever you are working on this weekend, let us give you a hand.

    TOM: 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Up next, are deer munching on your mums and devouring your dogwood? We’ve got advice for keeping deer out of your garden, when The Money Pit continues after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. We would love to talk with you about what’s going on in your money pit. Whether it’s a home improvement project, a repair project, a décor project or planning for a future project, give us a call at 888-666-3974. And you might just win a supply of Dickies products.

    We’re giving away 120 bucks worth of Dickies. They are the world’s leading performance-workwear brand. And they have outfitted Americans with durable, functional and comfortable workwear since 1922. We’ve got three wardrobe packages to give away. And this product is synonymous with durability, functionality and comfort. The Dickies name has definitely endured the test of time. And we’re including the Dickies Denim, which is one of their fantastic, popular products.

    If you’d like to learn more, you can go to Dickies.com. But that value, again, is 120 bucks going out to one caller drawn at random. Make that you. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now we’re heading on over to Michigan where Roger has got a door problem. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.

    ROGER: Yeah, I have a mid-70s, ranch-style house. It has all maple doors on the interior. And we’re just putting paint on here for the first time. It’s been white all along and I’m putting color into it and these doors just don’t look right. And I wondered what kind of alternative I have to making them look different, besides swapping them out for six panels or whatever and exchanging it all out. But I don’t want to go to that expense.

    TOM: OK. So the doors are wood doors. And have they ever been painted before or are they finished clear?

    ROGER: No, they’re finished, though, with maple – they’re maple-pressed doors or whatever or – I don’t know what they called them back then but …

    TOM: And so you say they don’t look right against the painted walls? Is that your concern?

    ROGER: They might to somebody but I just – I’m doing the trim in bright white and it just doesn’t look right with the colors on the walls and everything.

    TOM: Typically, you would not do the trim; the trim would be natural, as well.

    ROGER: Well, it would have been, yeah but that’s not how the house was originated. Yeah, that would be a way to do it is just change out the trim but that’s not …

    TOM: Well, that’s a lot less work than changing out the doors. And you would have a lot of options if you were to change out the trim.

    So, it may not look right to you because you have painted trim and you have a clear-finish door. But if the trim is really the missing perimeter to this that’s going to frame it all in there nicely, why don’t – you could do this. Why don’t you go pick up a couple of pieces of trim and lightly tack them around the door, without even taking off the old stuff. Just kind of stick it up there, step back, take a look at it and see if it starts to make more sense to you visually.

    ROGER: That’s a good idea.

    TOM: Alright? Take small steps that way.

    And the other thing to keep in mind when you’re doing a project like this, Gene, is just remember once you paint, it’s going to look different. So that’s going to take a certain amount of getting used to.

    ROGER: You’re right about that, also.

    TOM: Alright? So, I would go out and pick up some trim, tack it up there, see how it looks. Maybe try a complimentary color? You could do a two-tone, something like that. And see if that does the trick for you, OK?

    ROGER: That’s a good idea.

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

    Whether it’s the best-looking flower bed on the block or needs a little work, deer look at your yard and garden and they think pretty much one thing: lunch.

    LESLIE: Yeah. That’s right. You know, guys, keeping deer away from your plants and flowers can feel like a losing battle. But there are plenty of humane, chemical-free ways to keep them moving on to the next green field, like your neighbors’.

    TOM: Yeah. Now, there are some commercially available deer-repellants that are out there that are effective about making your garden a little less tasty. Usually have an odor kind of similar to rotten eggs. And deer will find plenty of other available greenery that’s much more appetizing.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And if you’re looking for a fresher-smelling approach, soap is another deer deterrent. If you buy a few fragrant, strong bars and then hang them from the branches of plants and the trees that you’re trying to protect, they’re not going to like it. And it’ll keep them from cursing, also.

    TOM: That’s right.

    Now, if – another option is fine mesh, nylon netting. If you drape it over the hedges and the gardens, this will keep the wildlife from munching. We actually do this to keep the birds away from our blueberry bushes and it works really, really well. Or you can take the high-tech route: you can install a motion-detector sprinkler. And the way this works is when the deer move into the plants, the water turns on and that sends them running. And that’s going to discourage them, again, from munching on your garden and heading off to greener pastures somewhere else.

    888-666-3974. We are trying to create the green pastures for you to take on your next home improvement project. Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

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

    NAOMI: What I have is my backyard, over the past several years we’ve taken down a couple of major trees. They’ve died. And now, whenever it rains, pretty much I have standing water for a long period of time and it’s really nasty.

    So, I’ve been looking online for ideas. I’ve gone to garden centers looking for plants to do well in standing water. And in the Northeast, we don’t have a long growing season, so a lot of the plants that I’m looking up don’t seem to be doing well.

    So, other ideas my husband and I have kicked around are putting a floating deck, I see, that you can build out there?

    TOM: Floating deck? That’s called a “raft.”

    NAOMI: Yeah. Spring …

    TOM: I don’t think you have to become Tom Sawyer here, Naomi, OK and build a raft to float down the river.

    NAOMI: Well, my husband’s idea was to put stone all over.

    TOM: How about this idea? How about if we drain the backyard of water? You like that idea?

    NAOMI: Well, how do you go about doing that? We were not sure …

    TOM: So, first of all, it sounds like the backyard is sloped in such a way that the water runs into it but doesn’t run out of it. Is that fair to say?

    NAOMI: That’s pretty – yes, pretty fair to say. My neighbor’s yard is slightly higher.

    TOM: And then is an area below your house that’s slightly lower than the backyard?

    NAOMI: After we bought the house, we found out it was built on a swamp, so everybody has drainage problems.

    TOM: I’m pretty sure that you’re not looking at the water table there; you’re looking at some water that’s staying around. So here’s the solution: it’s called a “curtain drain.”

    And what a curtain drain is is a trench that you construct from the part where the water is ponding to somewhere lower than that in the elevation. Now, the curtain drain is a trench that’s about 12 inches wide and 12 inches deep. You put in a couple of inches of stone, then you put in a perforated PVC pipe. And then you put more stone and some filter cloth and you cover it with soil so it’s completely invisible when it’s done.

    But here’s what happens: as the water runs down to that area where it’s ponding now, it falls into the trench, it comes up into the pipe and then it runs down through the pipe and discharges at a lower area of your property. So you are essentially collecting the water, shooting it around the house and then discharging it somewhere at a lower elevation.

    NAOMI: Does this require a backhoe or is this something that we can do with shovel and …?

    TOM: No, you can do it with a shovel. And you don’t need much pitch either: you need about a ¼-inch a foot – per foot – on the pipe. So just as long as you get a nice, clean trench dug, you get the stone in there, you get the perforated pipe in there, it’ll work very well. And it’ll drain that yard whenever it fills up.

    NAOMI: And I look for the wettest part of the yard to start it in and then I go to a – you said a ¼-inch per foot?

    TOM: Foot, yeah. And you want to bring it down to someplace lower on the yard where you can discharge it. And the best thing to do is to discharge it to daylight; in other words, have the pipe actually pop out somewhere so the water can run out.

    NAOMI: OK, great. Terrific. Thank you so much.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Michael in California on the line who wants to start an A/C debate. Let’s hear it.

    MICHAEL: I had a question with regards to a window unit changing out to a split system and what your feelings are in regards to cost-saving.

    TOM: Yeah, Leslie and I both have split-ductless systems in our homes. Now, I have one in my office and I actually have a central air-conditioning system but on this side of the house, in the west side of the house, it gets so much sun that the central A/C can’t keep up with it. And so, as a result, it gets really hot, especially on the super warm, summer days.

    So I use split-ductless there. It can handle a bigger area than a window unit. It’s going to be quieter than a window unit and it’s actually more energy-efficient than a window unit.

    LESLIE: I mean, Michael, they truly do kick butt. We have one in our basement at home because, apparently, we’re the only house in the Northeast of the United States that has a super-hot basement in the summer. Every other person I know, you go down in their basement it’s freezing; ours, it’s like a sauna. So we put a split system down there and it cools fantastically. And to be honest, ours sort of works as an air conditioner, a dehumidifier and we also have the optional heat pump so that we could have supplementary heat in the basement in the winter months.

    And in the summertime, I practically never even put it on air condition, just because the dehumidification option cools the space fantastically. It’s super quiet; you would never even know it’s on. The condensing unit, which will go outside, is slim and small; it does not occupy a large footprint. I thought it was an affordable option and it works fantastic.

    MICHAEL: And do you have a recommendation for any particular brand?

    TOM: Yeah, take a look at Mitsubishi Electric’s Cooling & Heating System. They are one of the leaders in the split-ductless category. Their systems are very energy-efficient and they have a technology that works like a cruise control in a car and then it ramps up to the cooling temperature that you want very quickly. And then it maintains there without turning on and off and on and off; it kind of slows down and speeds up. It actually feeds that cool temperature, leaves it nice and steady. Super-quiet system and also has a couple of cool features.

    For example, it has a smartphone app that you can use to run it. So, if you like gadgets, like me, you like good-quality, energy-efficient equipment, take a look at that Mitsubishi system.

    MICHAEL: Alright. Well, thank you. I appreciate the info.

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

    LESLIE: Hey. Motion-detecting lights, they’re really great anywhere outside of your home. They’re a great deterrent to anybody, like a burglar or even pests or just trespassers.

    TOM: And that’s why we’ve invited Scott Caron from TV’s This Old House to join us with tips for installing motion detectors in your home.

    And today’s This Old House segment on The Money Pit is brought to you by Proudly Propane. Clean American energy.

    MARILU: Hi. This is Marilu Henner from The Marilu Henner Show. And I’m obsessed with these guys. You’re listening to The Money Pit, my buddies Tom Kraeutler and Leslie Segrete.

    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, are your gutters in good condition? Take a look at them. Make sure they’re clean, make sure they’re free-flowing and make sure those downspouts are extended at least 4 feet from the foundation and your home will stay leak-free below grade.

    LESLIE: Don in Wisconsin is dealing with a window-well retaining wall that’s coming apart. Tell us what’s going on.

    DON: We have a window-well retaining wall that has – have railroad ties in there. Been there for quite a few years. Has started to deteriorate and I’m just now – I’ve been trying to check on what to do and been told to try to use retaining blocks and put blocks on there. And then you have to put some kind of a pea gravel in front of the block to hold the sand back, because we have sand here; it’s a sand country.

    And I’m not sure. I never did this before. And I was just wondering if it’s something that a person – because I’m handy – be able to do myself or is it something that you should actually have a professional landscaper do?

    TOM: At the highest part of the wall, from the distance between the ground and the top of the wall, how high is that?

    DON: Thirty-two inches.

    TOM: OK. So it’s fairly low to the ground. Alright. I think this is project you can do yourself. Concrete blocks – the interlocking, retaining-wall blocks – are a terrific option because they’re very easy to install. Because it’s only 32 inches off the ground, it’s not a lot of soil for you to deal with. You’re going to take the wall apart one sort of area at a time and build the blocks as you go.

    The thing that’s going to be different about the concrete blocks, though, is you’re going to have to have them on a bit of a solid footing. Now, that’s one that you might want to create yourself. You could probably create that out of stone that’s well-tamped down. But you’ve got to get them sat nice and level; you can’t just put them right on the dirt, OK?

    And then as – after you assemble them, then you can add the pea gravel behind it and the sand behind that. But I do think that that’s a good option and it’s going to be – literally, if you do it right, you’re going to get a lifetime’s worth of satisfaction out of that because, of course, the blocks are not going to rot.

    DON: Oh, OK. It sounds great.

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

    LESLIE: Well, if you have a motion-detecting light anywhere outside your home, you know it’s a great deterrent to both people and critters you might not want skulking around outside your house.

    TOM: And if you don’t have them, well, why not? They’re very easy to install, they’re very affordable and they add a sense of security and peace of mind. Here to tell us about motion-detector lights is This Old House master electrician Scott Caron.

    Welcome, Scott.

    SCOTT: Hello, hello. Good to be here.

    TOM: So, what’s your opinion on these things? I imagine you put a lot of them in.

    SCOTT: I love them. I think this light has changed the way that we live outside. Basically, Tom, you walk outside in front of this sensor, that light turns on. It is the coolest thing. I have them all over my house.

    TOM: Now is it a do-it-yourself project to install one?

    SCOTT: Certainly. I mean if you have a fixture, maybe a floodlight that gets turned on by a light switch or a sconce by your backdoor, yeah. Shut the power off, check it – even though you think it’s off, you’ve got to check it – and put it in. It’s just a nice project. They usually come prewired altogether. You have a white wire, a black wire and a green wire, which is the ground.

    LESLIE: Yeah. What are some of the settings on motion-sensor lights, Scott? They won’t just stay on indefinitely, right?

    SCOTT: They have a time setting anywhere from 1 minute to 20 minutes. They also have an override feature on the good ones. You can shut the switch off and on real quick. It’ll keep it on indefinitely.

    TOM: That’s helpful if you’re having, say, a gathering or a party outside and you actually do want the light on.

    SCOTT: Yeah. Or if you’re outside snow-blowing or raking leaves and you don’t want to have to worry about walking too far away from the sensor. Because they also have a sensitivity level. You can pick up anything from a small animal, like a cat. I’ve picked up skunks with mine, I’ve picked up raccoons. And then you can set that a little higher if you’re near a street or you don’t want to pick up those small animals, you can bring the sensitivity up.

    TOM: Now, can you actually adjust these in terms of sort of the field of view so you’re only covering, say, strategic parts of your yard like, say, your driveway so that when you drive it at night, the lights come on?

    SCOTT: Yes. So, it’s more of aiming it and bringing the sensitivity in. Some of them have a 360-degree field of view. Other ones have 180. But it’s basically where you point it and how far and sensitive that sensor is cranked up, more or less.

    TOM: Now, is this, like most electrical products, a situation where quality does count? You can see – you can find really inexpensive ones and you can find really good ones. I guess, maybe, a key difference is durability.

    SCOTT: Yes. We only install one type of sensor. And it’s sold at the electrical supply houses. And the reason why is because it’s proven. If you look at nine electrical supply houses, they pretty much all sell the same one. It’s proven, it’s safe and it works well. I’ve had one in my house now for 20 years. It …

    TOM: Really? One 20 years and it’s still working, huh?

    SCOTT: Yes.

    TOM: That’s fantastic. So, well, it pays to do it once, do it right and you won’t have to do it again. Scott Caron, the master electrician on TV’s This Old House, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    SCOTT: Yep. You’ve got it.

    TOM: And This Old House is brought to you on PBS by Lumber Liquidators. Hardwood floors for less.

    Still to come, is your barbecue grill looking a little worse for wear? Well, guess what? There’s lots of sales right now as we move towards the end of summer. We’re going to tell you how to pick the best one for your home, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by QUIKRETE. It’s what America is made of. For project help from start to finish, download the new QUIKRETE mobile app.

    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.

    Pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. We will help you with whatever it is you are working on around your house. Plus, we’re giving away a great prize this hour. We’ve got up for grabs a prize pack from Dickies.

    Now, they are the world’s leading performance-workwear brand. And they’ve outfitted Americans with durable, functional and comfortable workwear since 1922. We’ve got up for grabs three wardrobe packages. It’s a really great brand, you guys. They’re durable, they’re functional and they’re super comfortable. And all of Dickies – really, the product has endured the test of time.

    You can check out their website at Dickies.com. And the prize package is worth $120.

    TOM: Give us a call, right now, for the answer to your home improvement question and your chance to win at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Annette in North Carolina on the line who’s working on a boathouse project. Tell us about it.

    ANNETTE: The deck on top of the boathouse – flat roof, has a bladder. I have removed the carpet that was originally on there 10 years. Want to know what I can put back on there, on the bladder, that will do better than carpet.

    LESLIE: And this is on the roof, so it’s exposed to the elements 24/7?

    ANNETTE: It is a flat roof.

    LESLIE: Now, a carpet – exterior carpet – is probably not the best choice, just because it does tend to wear and tear quite quickly, even though you got 10 years out of it.

    TOM: Rapidly, yeah. Mm-hmm.

    LESLIE: You know, it’s probably not the best choice.

    Now, Tom, would you consider a composite-decking material or can that not really sit directly on top of that bladder, to get that water away?

    TOM: Well, actually, what I was thinking was to create a deck-like surface on top of that bladder.

    LESLIE: Like a platform.

    TOM: Right, a platform where the deck – you really wouldn’t have the traditional floor joists or even 2x4s. You might have a, say, 2×6 on the flat that lays flat on top of that deck. And then the deck boards sort of lay on top of that on – with 16 inches on center. So, it’s kind of like just making the top surface of the deck as the wear-and-tear surface on top of that bladder.

    Is there some sort of a railing system here, as well, Annette?

    ANNETTE: Yes. It’s all railed. Mm-hmm.

    TOM: OK. So then I would just create a composite deck that lays flat on top of that.

    Now, you can’t just lay the composite decking boards on the bladder; you’ll need some way to keep them together. That’s why I said that what I might do is take a pressure-treated 2×6, lay it on the flat and use that sort of, in essence, as if it was a floor joist that you were attaching these decking boards to. And then lay the decking down on top of that.

    Now, there’s also interlocking wood and I think it’s made out of teak.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. I’ve used, actually, teak tiles like that.

    TOM: Yeah, there’s teak tiles that interlock, right? Then I know – I’ve seen them; people can put them down on top of patios. I suppose you could probably also put that down on top of the roof as long as it wasn’t too soft. So any type of wood decking surface like that would be a good choice.

    LESLIE: And those are interesting: the teak tiles that snap together. Do you have a Christmas tree store near you? You know those stores: it’s not really a holiday store, it’s like …

    ANNETTE: No. Lowe’s is the closest to – I’m 18 miles from any town. I’m way out in the woods.

    LESLIE: OK. Because there’s several different companies, actually, that sell them online. Locally, for me, I found them at one of those discount home decorating stores. But they’re 12×12 teak tiles that almost look like a parquet tile, like a floor tile? And they’re set on a plastic base and they snap together. And you can also get an edging tile to sort of complete the border and that could sit directly on top of the bladder, because it’s got the little plastic base that creates that platform.

    TOM: A good website to take a look at is SwiftDeck. SwiftDeck.com is a company that sells patio deck tiles. They have Ipe tiles. It looks like they also have a composite version. So a couple of options there. Great photos. You can see exactly what this looks like, at SwiftDeck.com.

    ANNETTE: Beautiful. Thank you for your help.

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

    Well, if the grill you’ve been using all summer long is starting to look a little worse for wear, now is a really good time to think about replacing it because we’re starting to see all of those famous end-of-summer sales cropping up. And it’s not really hard to get a good deal.

    LESLIE: Yeah. But what makes it really confusing is that there are so many, many options that are available to you. So to help you sort out the best, we’ve really boiled this down to three issues.

    TOM: Now, the first is you need solid hardware. You want to look for stainless-steel hardware and a solid-aluminum body. Now, these grills are most durable and they can take the heat super well.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Next, you want to check for the burner design. You want to look for an H-style burner. That design provides an even distribution of heat. And you want to make sure that the burner is made from stainless steel. If it’s not, you’ve got to expect to replace it in a couple of years. I mean that’s just the nature of it.

    TOM: And last, check the warranties. You want to shop for a warranty that covers all the parts of the grill, including the burner and the valves. Some so-called lifetime warranties are only going to cover the grill body. So, of course, that’s got no moving parts. That almost never breaks down, which is why it’s got a lifetime warranty on it. Make sure you check so that warranty’s going to cover those burners and those valves. Those are the things that really take the wear and the tear.

    888-666-3974. If you’re feeling the wear and the tear because there’s a project around your house you can’t get done, give us a call right now. We would love to help at 888-MONEY-PIT.

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

    BEN: I have a really old house, kind of like what you guys have, and it’s built in the early – probably early 1900s. Don’t know exactly. But it’s got a rock foundation and we’re in southwest Minnesota, so the ground does freeze pretty deep.

    And basically, the mortar between all of the rocks has pretty much turned to sand. Some places, they worked on re-tuckpointing it here and there. But it’s all kind of coming apart again and some of the rocks, especially on the corners, are even tipping out a little bit. So I’m trying to figure out what I need to do to fix that, if I need to dig down. I have access to equipment. I work in the HVAC business, so we have lots of equipment and I do lots of stuff on my own. So, just seeing if you guys had any pointers for me.

    TOM: So, the foundation is damaged or you’re just concerned about the rocks that are sticking out?

    BEN: Yeah, well, the foundation isn’t particular damaged; it’s actually pretty solid. It’s just that the mortar – since it’s so old, the mortar between all of the rocks has deteriorated to the point where it’s almost like sand. You know what I mean? And it just falls out from between the rocks.

    TOM: So what you need to do is simply to repoint or replace that mortar. Pointing is the act of mixing up new mortar and pulling out the old stuff and then pressing new mortar into place.

    And the type of mortar that you use for repointing is a little stickier than the mortar that would have been done originally. Usually, it has a bit more lime in it, which tends to make it a bit gooier and it sticks to the old stuff pretty well.

    So, what you do is you work one section at a time. You do remove all that loose stuff and then you repoint it up with new mortar. And that’s pretty much normal maintenance with a 1900 foundation. You do have to eventually repoint a foundation like that; it’s not unusual. You can slow it down with proper drainage and things like that but essentially, that’s what we would expect, OK?

    BEN: Right, OK. Perfect. Hey, thanks so much for your time and the advice.

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

    LESLIE: Hey. Have you ever pulled the clothes out of your laundry only to find that they’ve got white spots all over them? Well, there’s a simple cause and an equally simple solution. We’re going to share those details, 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.

    TOM: Well, are your otherwise clean clothes sporting a mysterious white residue after they’re washed? Well, don’t get agitated. Get it? We’re going to help you solve this problem. That white residue is probably the result of washing clothes in hard water with low-quality detergent containing only sodium carbonate.

    So, to keep things clean, you want to use a detergent that contains aluminum silicates and sodium carbonate, which work together to soften the wash water. And also, always use the hottest water possible and consider installing, of course, a water softener.

    LESLIE: Alright. Good tips there, Tom.

    Hey. If you guys are looking for some more tips and advice, you can always e-mail us or post your questions online, just like Tony writes. Tony says here, “Every year or two I take the time to remove the bottom element on my water heater and suck out the calcium deposits. The first challenge I have is to rig up a piece of copper pipe on my shop vac and tape it to the heater to accomplish this. Is there a better tool out there to complete the task? I love your show.”

    TOM: Well, thanks, Tony. It seems to me like you’re working way too hard here. The internal drain valve should be more than sufficient for removing those calcium deposits from your water heater without your custom-made sort of calcium-sucking shop-vac tool. In fact, the only thing you gain by removing calcium, though, is a bit more efficiency. Calcium can act as an insulator between the flame and the water but it really has no effect on corrosion.

    The valve in your water heater has some threads on it for a garden hose for a really good reason. Just hook up that hose, run it somewhere where the water can run off and open the valve occasionally. I think that’s all you really need to do to keep that water running cleanly.

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post here from Andrew who writes: “I’ve seen several ads for DIY solar power for homes. They claim to be able to show you how to build your own power supply and panels to reduce your utility bills by 75 percent or more. Are these claims legitimate and is this something that might be worth pursuing?”

    TOM: I mean there are way too many variables to back up a blanket promise like that and it really makes me very, very skeptical.

    Alright. We’ve got one now from Gloria who says, “Can I finish white cabinets?” Gloria writes: “We’d like to paint our oak kitchen cabinets. Your article on this topic was really helpful but I have one follow-up question. I’m concerned that the paint will chip off or scrub off, so I want to finish it once it’s dry. However, my past experience with polyurethane or varnish resulted in yellowing since the color I want is crisp white. Yellowing would be a bad thing. Is a clear finish necessary? If so, what would we use that would not yellow?”

    Well, I wouldn’t be too concerned about yellowing if you’re using a urethane-based or oil-based finished paint. And there is another option. You could use exterior-grade paint. Exterior paints have more UV additives built into them and they don’t require a clear finish. It may be that if some of those cabinets were sort of in direct view of the window, just the UV that came through the glass could make them – could’ve made them yellow. So just be sure, though, to very carefully follow the prep steps because the adhesion here is super, super important.

    I would make sure that you use a good-quality oil-based primer, because it’s far less likely than latex-based paint to chip off. If you stick with the oil family or the solvent family, I think you’ll be better off.

    Leslie, you’ve painted a lot of cabinets. What do you think?

    LESLIE: I have. The interesting thing is that she mentioned she had oak cabinets. Now, oak has a very specific grain pattern to it and it’s kind of deep and very noticeable. So make sure that you’re going to like it, because you’re going to probably see some of that grain through the paint. So I’m just saying maybe paint a back side or something as a test.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. We hope that you have been having a fantastic weekend around your money pit taking on some of these fun projects we’ve been talking about. If you’ve got questions, didn’t get to them today, we apologize for that. But remember, you can reach us, 24/7, at 888-MONEY-PIT or always online at MoneyPit.com.

    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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