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Storm Prep Checklist, How to Build a Fire Pit, Options for Refinishing or Replacing a Worn Bathtub and more

  • Transcript

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Here to help you with your home improvement project. Let’s solve the do-it-yourself dilemma that’s on your to-do list, slide it over to the done list. Pick up the phone, give us a call. We will help you get you get started, 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    It’s a great time of year for outdoor living. And if that’s a project on your to-do list, we can help you step up that space by creating a built-in fire pit or perhaps a grill surround or any other stone project. They’re very doable with the right product. We’ve got the step-by-step on how to get that done, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: And also ahead, when severe weather is forecast, you’ve only got a small window of time to get things in order. We’re going to tell you what you need to do to prepare for a weather emergency, a little later.

    TOM: And this hour, we’re giving away a great prize. We’ve got a Vivitar DVR 787HD Digital Video Recorder. It’s a great prize for the outdoor enthusiast and one of the most versatile digital recorders ever made.

    So give us a call right now with your home improvement question. We will draw one name out of The Money Pit hard hat and hand over that Vivitar DVR camera to you, if you’re the winner. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. You must have a home improvement question you’re willing to ask on the air to qualify, 888-666-3974.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Clyde in Missouri is on the line and needs some help with a water heater. What can we do for you?

    CLYDE: I’m adding a room on in my house and the water heater I’ve got, it’s electric, 30-gallon. And it’s taking up too much room I don’t have to spare. And my question is: is one of those in-line water heaters – would that be advisable for a resident?

    TOM: You mean an on-demand, tankless water heater?

    CLYDE: Yes.

    TOM: The problem is that you have electric. Do you have gas there – natural gas – or propane?

    CLYDE: No. I can get propane alright. I don’t have a tank.

    TOM: If you want to have an on-demand tankless water heater, you need to have that be fossil-fueled with either natural gas or propane. There are electric, on-demand systems but they’re very expensive to use and I don’t think there’s any efficiency in going with that. So, if you want to have propane added to the house, you can consider a tankless water heater.

    Now, if you want to go back with what you do have now, of course, you are going to need the room but you could save some costs if you put a timer on that water heater so that it only heats water when you need it. I mean technically, you only need it a few hours in the morning and a few hours in the evening. All day long, it’ll stay warm for hand-washing and that sort of thing and it can be off in the middle of the night. And that actually cuts the energy costs associated with heating the water.

    CLYDE: Uh-huh. Well, I’ve got a timer on it now but I haven’t been using it because I really couldn’t figure out the right time to be doing it.

    TOM: Well …

    CLYDE: It seemed like it was always cold when I needed hot and hot when I didn’t need it, so one of those kinds of deals.

    TOM: Yeah, I hear you. I hear you.

    CLYDE: So I thought, “Well, I’ll just leave it.” Is there anything …?

    TOM: You know, they only work – the timers only work well if your family is on a regular schedule where you can really rely on it for certain hours of the day. But if your schedule varies a bit, then maybe not so much.

    So, those are your options, though, alright? Good luck with that project.

    CLYDE: Alright, man. Thank you.

    LESLIE: Martha in Ohio is on the line with a leaky door and a leaky window. What is going on?

    MARTHA: We had some sliding-glass doors in our family room that’s paneled. And we had them taken out and we wanted just a picture window in there. So, when they came to do the picture window, they took the door out – the sliding doors out – and the foundation was like, oh, maybe a block or two up and the door had been left empty down lower.

    So, what they did was they took 2x4s – I think it was wood – and built up to the block level and then proceeded to put in the supports for the window. So, now, when it’s – I made a flower bed out there and now, when the ground gets real saturated and water tends to puddle there, collect, it runs under the wood, through the wood.

    TOM: Right. Not surprised and – well, so it sounds like instead of building the foundation up with concrete block, which is what they should have done, they sort of filled it in with wood framing. Is that correct?

    MARTHA: Yes, yes.

    TOM: Yeah. Probably wasn’t the best choice.

    MARTHA: Can we seal that or do we need to start over?

    TOM: It’s kind of hard to advise that you seal something that was never done right to begin with. I mean it really should have been a concrete block. But having said that, if you are going to trap that much water against the foundation, whether it’s a wood patch or a concrete block, it’s still going to leak. You just can’t hold that kind of water against the foundation. We advise against this all the time, Martha, because those sorts of planters and anything else that holds water against a house is just not a good idea, especially in an area like Ohio where you’ve got a pretty significant freeze/thaw cycle.

    MARTHA: Yes.

    TOM: Because of that water that saturates the soil – that soil freezes, it’s going to push inwards on that wall and weaken the basement wall. So, I would recommend, if you are going to have a planter, that you’ve got to have some drainage in there so that the water does not puddle up. Because if you do trap it against the wall, regardless of how that wall is built – even though it wasn’t repaired correctly – it’s going to leak and it’s going to cause damage. So I think the issue, really, is what you did after the fact more so than what they did to install the picture window. OK?

    MARTHA: Oh, OK, OK.

    TOM: Good luck.

    MARTHA: Well, thank you so much and have a nice day.

    TOM: You’re welcome. 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 call in your home repair or your home improvement question – guess what? – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We are always standing by to give you a hand with your home improvement dilemma, because that’s what tends to happen at those hours. Give us a call, 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, when a storm is forecast, do you know what you need to do? We’ve got advice on preparing a severe-weather to-do list, 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: 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 888-MONEY-PIT.

    One caller we talk to on the air this hour is going to win the Vivitar DVR 787 Action Camera, which is designed with a sports enthusiast in mind. It’s one of the most versatile digital video recorders ever made.

    LESLIE: Yeah. The HD Action Camera, it’s waterproof and it includes a bike or an ATV mount. Now, the DVR 787 will deliver high-definition video quality and features a touchscreen display, a waterproof case and a remote control. It’s a super-awesome prize and it’s worth $119. Think of all the fun stuff you can do: go down a water slide, slide in some mud. You can do a lot of fun things with this.

    TOM: So, I took the Vivitar camera and I strapped it to the top of my backpack and went hiking this past weekend with my son’s Boy Scout troop. And it was really cool because we were able to videotape all the hikers that were behind me, so to speak. I had the camera pointing in that direction, until it kind of slipped off my pack and then I got all the hikers at like a 45-degree angle, which is sort of interesting. But they’re in perfect quality.

    LESLIE: Off-air, you did mention how you fell down during this hiking trip. And I was like, “Oh, is there footage of that?”

    TOM: No, there’s no video of the fall. That’s exactly what my son said: “Oh, is that camera going?”

    LESLIE: Ah, great minds. Me and Tom Jr.

    TOM: Yeah. “And did it record audio, Dad? Because we would love to play back what you said.” Like no.

    LESLIE: Be a lot of bleeps.

    TOM: Exactly. But it’s a great product. And I tell you, I had no qualms about taking it on a trip like that, because it comes in a protective case. So you can use it even underwater and it’s not going to leak. It really is a great product.

    And we’re going to give one away. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. Give us a call with your home improvement question. And perhaps it will be your name we pull out of The Money Pit hard hat at the end of today’s program and send you the Vivitar camera, 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Mario in Iowa is on the line with a window question. What can we do for you?

    MARIO: I have a frame and obviously, it’s a rectangle. But the top side of that rectangle, on the existing frame of the masonry in the bedroom, it’s metal. It’s a metal bar. And I’m replacing my old window with a [Glass Works] (ph) preassembled window.

    TOM: OK.

    MARIO: And the mortar – the manufacturer of the mortar, I contacted them and they say that mortar does not adhere to metal. So, I am going to have a gap between the top side metal bar and the window at about a ½-inch. And I’m curious what your recommendation is: whether I should just seal it or actually try to find some material to bond it, not just seal it.

    TOM: So, the gap is going to be on the top or the bottom? What about the sides?

    MARIO: The sides are OK because they’re masonry; they’re cement. So that’s not a concern. It’s some sort of – there was some sort of reinforcing bar put into the top of the frame, I assume, for some structural reason. So that’s my only real concern. The other three sides are masonry and the mortar works fine there.

    TOM: Is this the kind of thing that maybe you could use pressure-treated lumber – a ½-inch piece of – a ½-inch-thick piece of, say, pressure-treated lumber/plywood or pressure-treated plywood as a shim?

    MARIO: Yes, I would think so, yes.

    TOM: Yeah, because I think that’s what I would probably use. Something like that. Because you want to basically close down the opening so that the window can be secured. And you could attach the pressure-treated lumber to the old masonry opening and then attach the window to that.

    MARIO: OK. That’s a very good suggestion. Thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Mary in North Dakota needs some help with a concrete floor. What can we do for you?

    MARY: We’ve got crumbling concrete on the basement floor after water problems this spring.

    TOM: OK. Alright.

    MARY: And it’s very crumbly and powdery. And there are places on it that I’d like to paint, if I could.

    TOM: Mm-hmm. Do you want to try to stabilize the deterioration of the concrete?

    MARY: Yeah. I was wondering if there was some kind of sealant that could be sprayed or poured on it.

    TOM: Yeah, absolutely. First of all, in terms of the water problem, is this a problem that happened after a heavy rainfall?

    MARY: Yeah.

    TOM: Alright. So if you’ve got water that comes in after a heavy rainfall, I want to make sure we try to slow this down so it doesn’t happen again. Adding sump pumps, things of that nature, is not going to stop this from happening again. What stops the heavy rainfall from getting in is outside, looking at your gutters and your grading, making sure the downspouts are discharging away from the house, making sure your gutters are clean, making sure soil slopes away from the house.

    We’ve got extensive articles – actually, several of them – on MoneyPit.com. Just search “how to stop a leaking basement” and it’s the same advice. And we talk about the proper drainage improvements. So, do that first.

    And then, in terms of the concrete itself, you can use a patching compound. QUIKRETE has a patching-compound product. You definitely want to use the patching compound because it’s designed to stick to the old concrete. If you try to put new concrete over it, it’s not going to stick. So, the ready-to-use patching compounds are trowel-applied. They’re latex formulas, so it’s easy to clean up. But that will seal the old concrete.

    Then, once that dries, then you can paint it. And what I would look for is an epoxy floor paint. The epoxy paints I like because they’re a chemical cure. When you buy the floor paint, you get the paint in a gallon can that’s about three-quarters filled and then a quart of hardener. You mix them together, stir them up and then you apply the paint. Sometimes, there is an additive that goes in after the fact that gives you some texture to the floor, helps kind of hide the dirt. But patching it first, then adding an epoxy paint will have that looking like new in no time.

    MARY: OK. But the name of the sealant was called what?

    TOM: QUIKRETE – Q-U-I-K-R-E-T-E. It’s QUIKRETE Concrete Patching Compound. Good stuff.

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

    Well, when the forecast calls for severe weather, the experts at KOHLER Generators suggest it’s important to create a storm to-do list. Now, this is a list of errands that you want to run and things to do before the storm hits.

    For example, you’re going to want to fill up your prescriptions, fill up propane tanks, get to the bank and fill up your cars with gas.

    LESLIE: Now, you may also want to stock up on canned food and include pet food on that list. You’ve got to make sure you’ve got every animal covered in the house – people and pet – all across the board.

    Now, if you have a portable generator, you want to stock up on gas for that, as well. And remember, unlike portable generators, an automatic standby generator is one that’s permanently installed. And that’s directly connected to your home’s electrical system, so you don’t have to do a darn thing there.

    TOM: Now, it runs on the same natural gas or propane that also fuels your home. And when you use it with an automatic transfer switch, the generator starts automatically when a disruption in power is detected. It only takes about 10 seconds.

    LESLIE: Now, depending on the home’s size, a standby generator can power just a few critical items that you select or it can power your entire home. And many manufacturers, including KOHLER, offer remote monitoring capabilities. So homeowners can manage their automatic standby generator from your laptop or a smartphone.

    TOM: And this Severe Weather Tip is presented by KOHLER Generators. Running on clean propane or natural gas, a KOHLER standby generator is permanently installed outside your home and comes on automatically within seconds of a power outage. To learn more, visit KOHLERGenerators.com. KOHLER – K-O-H-L-E-R – Generators.com.

    LESLIE: Mike in Pennsylvania is dealing with some stains on the roof. Tell us what’s going on there.

    MIKE: Yeah, I have – on the kind of the northern parts of the roof on my house, myself and – as well as my neighbors have these black streaks. And it seems to be a part of the roof that doesn’t get a lot of sun. And my question was – you know, I guess, first of all, what is it? And then, secondly, is there a way that I can clean that myself, as a homeowner, or do I have to hire somebody to do some – be it clean that type of streak off?

    TOM: Well, generally, those streaks are made up of algae or moss. And they happen more frequently on the north side of the roof because it’s a cooler side of the roof and there’s more shade there. And a product that you could use to address that is called Wet & Forget. It’s a concentrate and you mix it up, you spray it on the roof. And then slowly but surely, it kills the algae, it kills the moss, it kills any mold that’s there and cleans the roof. And so, within a very short period of time, you’ll find that the roof looks bright and shiny again.

    MIKE: Oh, OK. Does that product come in an applicator where you can hook it up to a hose or you actually do have to get up on the roof?

    TOM: Don’t believe it does. I think you have to mix it up and put it in a pump sprayer.

    MIKE: OK.

    TOM: And so you may have to get up there and just spray it down and let it sit. Follow the instructions. Their website is WetAndForget.com.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And it is a product that once you get it on the surface, over time it continues to work, so it’s not something that you’re going to have to reapply very often. So it is worth it if you can get up there to carefully spray it.

    MIKE: Oh, OK. Would that also – I have the same problem with the siding on the northern part of my house; it gets a lot of that.

    TOM: Yep. Absolutely. You could use it for siding, for sidewalks and for roofs. And the nice thing about Wet & Forget is it doesn’t damage your landscaping.

    MIKE: Oh, OK, OK. Great, great. OK. Well, I greatly appreciate the advice. Thank you very much.

    LESLIE: Kim in Nebraska is working on a bathroom-flooring project. How can we help you?

    KIM: We had a leaky stool and so we are needing to replace our stool. But as we lifted it up, we could see that there was rotted subfloor and we replaced that.

    TOM: Hey, Kim, you said that you had a leaky what?

    KIM: The stool. The toilet?

    TOM: Oh, the stool. Oh, is that what you call a toilet? A stool? Yeah, that must be a Nebraska thing. I never heard that before.

    KIM: I know. It sounds a little bit nicer than “toilet.”

    TOM: Alright. So, we’ve established that your toilet is leaking and it apparently has rotted out your bathroom floor.

    KIM: And so we replaced the subflooring that was rotted. But websites were suggesting that if I’m going to replace the floor, just go ahead and take the rest of that one – the old vinyl linoleum off. And it’s original to the house, so it’s 27 years old.

    And so, I’ve been slowly doing that. I’ve just been scoring it and using a 4-inch scraping blade to get it off. But I’m really gouging that particle board underneath.

    TOM: What are you going to use for underlayment?

    KIM: It suggested the underlayment – wood?

    TOM: So, what I would suggest you do is get all the rest of that linoleum off. And if the floor is really gouged up and you want to put something that’s got a little bit of strength to it, I would use 3/8-inch plywood. Just make sure it’s like AC plywood so you have one really smooth side, like A-grade on one side, maybe C on the other. Or ½-inch.

    But 3/8- or ½-inch should be fine for the underlayment. And that will take up any depressions in the floor caused by the scratches or the gouging, OK? And then, on top of that, you can add the tile and go from there.

    KIM: OK. That sounds great.

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

    LESLIE: Still ahead, a good bathtub can last a lifetime. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for its finish. We’re going to tell you what options there are when it comes to a worn bathtub, after this.

    TOM: And today’s This Old House segment is brought to you by the Stanley Click ‘N Connect Storage System, the customizable solution for easy access to your hand and power tools.

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

    ANNOUNCER: Starting an outdoor wood-staining project? Get it done the simple way with Flood Wood Care. With products like Flood CWF-UV, you get long-lasting quality at a great value, plus guidance to help make the whole process easier. Get started at Flood.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 you can follow The Money Pit on Twitter using the handle @MoneyPit. We treat our followers to firsthand info on giveaways, sweepstakes and the newest content on MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Alright. Anthony, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    ANTHONY: We have a three-burner gas range: you know, one in the oven and then two on top. And we have an odor emitting from one of the pilots that seems to be a little bit higher than the other one. And it’s building up like an ashy, creosote, real fine, black mess. If you touch it, it goes everywhere. And it smells in the mornings when you wake up. Is it not vented properly?

    TOM: Here’s what I think is happening: the burner is somewhat partially blocked and so the gas is not fully combusting. And when you get a gas flame that doesn’t fully combust, it has sort of a sickeningly sweet smell to it, which actually contains a pretty high level of carbon monoxide.

    So what you should do is take those burners apart and clean them thoroughly and get them operating properly again. There’s something obstructing the burner and that’s why it’s not fully combusting. It also accounts for the fact that it’s building up an additional carbon deposit. If the gas is not fully combusting, this is what happens.

    ANTHONY: Alright. Thank you so much.

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

    LESLIE: Well, bathtubs can last a lifetime but their finishes won’t. The good news is you don’t have to get rid of the whole tub just because it’s got a worn finish.

    TOM: Well, that’s right. And there are a couple of options and both much less expensive than ripping out and replacing your bathtub. Here with details is This Old House plumbing-and-heating contractor Richard Trethewey.

    Welcome, Richard.

    RICHARD: Hey, guys. How are you?

    TOM: We’re well. So, replacing a perfectly good bathtub because of a worn finish is a pretty costly proposition, isn’t it?

    RICHARD: Yeah. I mean possibly. It can be a very big project and it can be two, three, four grand. It sort of could be well on the way to a full bath remodel. Most tubs are set right into the corner of the room, in an alcove or a corner, and they’re lapped. The flooring comes right up to it, the wall finishes come right down over the top of it.

    TOM: Right.

    RICHARD: Because you really want to have a nice, watertight seal. And then you’ve got to tie it in with the plumbing. And if you’re going to change that tub, it is not for the faint of heart. You have to rip out the floors, the walls. And you’re really on the way to a full-scale remodel. And that’s big bucks.

    TOM: Yeah, it’s pretty much a gut-job bathroom remodel, which is very expensive.

    RICHARD: Yeah. Yeah.

    TOM: So if we don’t want to go that route, tell us about …

    RICHARD: You want to go cheaper, don’t you?

    TOM: Yeah, we do want to go cheaper.

    RICHARD: There you go.

    TOM: See, you know that about me.

    RICHARD: Everybody does.

    So, there are a couple of good options available for price-conscious homeowners that are just looking for a simple facelift. One is a tub liner and the other is tub refinishing.

    TOM: OK.

    RICHARD: They’re both going to add some years of life to the tub, at a fraction of the cost and a fraction of the time. It’s pretty interesting in how some of it happens.

    The tub liners – somebody comes; they have a molded ABS cover sheet which fits exactly the tub you have in place. And it’s made out of the same material that football helmets are made of, airplane windshields. It’s very reminiscent of – you can go out to the home center or hardware store and get a liner for your paint roller to be able to put it down into the existing paint receiver, so you can put your roller in and then throw it out.

    TOM: Right. The tray. Mm-hmm.

    RICHARD: It’s really the same idea. And you just put it down, so – interesting. And it’s …

    TOM: Now, does that make the bathtub any smaller, Richard?

    RICHARD: No. It’s literally just molded right over the existing bathtub so you avoid breaking the plumbing connections and everything else to install it. The local rep comes out and he cleans the old tub with denatured alcohol, removes that chrome drain cover that you see and the overflow that you see inside the tub. And that’s just a couple of screws to undo that and you unscrew the drain. And then trims the liner so it fits perfectly against the wall. Because the walls won’t always be true, so he’s got to sort of scribe it in to make it fit.

    And then, using a combination of two-sided tape – it’s actually made out of butyl – and some silicone adhesive, he pushes and attaches that liner right onto that old tub. Now he’s got to reverse the – what he did before. He’s got to put the new drain on, he’s got to put the overflow and then caulk the seams in. So you really – when you look at it, now you’ve got a nice, clean, beautiful finish.

    And he’s going to get that done – probably four to eight weeks to get the liner. But then a single worker can put this in, what, six to eight hours. And it looks pretty cool.

    TOM: Wow.

    LESLIE: And Richard, can it just be the tub? I’ve always seen these commercials where it’s the tub and the walls. You know, it’s almost like a whole new surround is overlaid. But you’re just talking about the tub here.

    RICHARD: Yeah. There’s all sorts of products been around for years that can be replacement tub walls. I think the new sort of idea for people is that this is the tub liner so you avoid having to rip out that tub. But for years, they’ve had premade fiberglass or ABS tub walls that come in two pieces, come in five pieces or come in three pieces so that you can put them in and cover up the old tile and really get a nice, clean look when you’re done.

    TOM: We’re talking to Richard Trethewey – he’s the plumbing-and-heating contractor on TV’s This Old House – about how to replace or perhaps not replace a worn-out bathtub.

    So, besides tub liners, you mentioned tub refinishing. Now, the quality on refinishing projects seems to be pretty much all over the map.

    RICHARD: Oh, yeah.

    TOM: We’ve seen some do-it-yourself projects and products that seem to be more like glorified paint.

    RICHARD: Yeah.

    TOM: And then we’ve seen some professional products that seem to take an awful lot of work to get done. What’s your take on refinishing?

    RICHARD: Well, refinishing is hit or miss, as you mentioned. Reglazing or refinishing a worn-out bathtub is much more sight-intensive. My goodness, these guys come in in hazmat suits and they have to clean the whole thing. And then now you’re hoping that the guy has a good eye and a good hand to spray that glazing.

    You ever see me spray-paint anything? I always have drips.

    TOM: No.

    LESLIE: You, personally? I imagine it’s a disaster.

    TOM: Is it not …?

    RICHARD: So, this is the same idea. First, you’ve got to – like any painter will tell you, you have to get the surfaces perfect before you start. So he’s got to come in and remove all the old caulk. You’ve got to wash the tub in hydrofluoric acid, a highly toxic agent.

    TOM: Wow.

    RICHARD: And then he etches the surface so that the new spray will adhere. And then he’s going to spray two coats of this fast-drying epoxy and he just goes back and forth, back and forth. Cleans it with a tack cloth, makes sure he doesn’t breathe during the entire process. And then, finally, finally, he polishes out the tub. And that can take 4 to 6 hours and you could be back in 24 hours later. So, it’s interesting.

    TOM: Wow. I mean it sounds like refinishing is an awful lot of work with certainly an uncertain result. The tub lining, though, is much more attractive and reliable and predictable, in terms of what you’re going to be at when you finish. Would you agree?

    RICHARD: Yeah. The refinishing can be beautiful but I don’t think it’s going to last as long as the tub liner, as well. Because, again, when you’re refinishing it, you’re only as good as the combination of the installation itself and the prep that went underneath it. If you’ve got an old 100-year-old tub that’s got pits on it, it might not last forever.

    TOM: Great advice. Richard Trethewey, the plumbing-and-heating contractor on TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    RICHARD: Glad to be here.

    LESLIE: 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 by Lumber Liquidators. Lumber Liquidators, hardwood floors for less.

    Still to come, we’ve got step-by-step tips on building a fire pit in your own backyard. Can you say “s’mores”? The Money Pit continues, after this.

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

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. And we would love to hear from you, so give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Now, one caller we talk to this hour is going to win Vivitar’s DVR 787HD Action Camera. Now, it’s designed with the sports enthusiast in mind but I can’t see why you wouldn’t be able to attach it to, say, I don’t know, something over your shoulder when you’re working on a cool home improvement project.

    TOM: There you go.

    LESLIE: Because it’s one of the most versatile digital video recorders ever made.

    TOM: The HD Action Camera is waterproof and includes a bike/ATV mount. The DVR 787 delivers high-definition video quality and features a touchscreen display, a waterproof case and remote control.

    The prize is worth $119. Visit Vivitar.com for more information. And give us a call, right now, for your chance to win at 1-888-MONEY-PIT with your home improvement question.

    Well, I’m a big backpacker and after a long day on the trail, there is nothing like relaxing around a campfire. You can have that campfire feeling all year long in your own backyard, though, when you build your own fire pit.

    LESLIE: Yeah. It’s not a very difficult project and you can actually make it an even easier one when you use RumbleStone from Pavestone.

    Now, this is a new sponsor of our program and it’s actually a fantastic product. RumbleStone is an outdoor building block, basically. They fit together easily and quickly and are limited only by your imagination. Can you say “outdoor Legos”? This sounds awesome.

    TOM: That’s what they’re like.

    Now, for a round fire pit that’s about 10 inches high and 45 inches across, you only need two sizes of RumbleStone. There’s mini blocks and trapezoidal-shaped blocks. You need a stable, level project area. And all you need to do is lay out the trapezoidal and the mini blocks in a circle. You alternate each one. They can even be secured with construction adhesive, so you don’t need mortar. And that’s really convenient.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And three layers of the RumbleStone is all you need. For the second and the third level, you want to offset the blocks from the layer beneath it. Then just line the bottom with sand and you’ll be ready to fire up the s’mores in no time.

    TOM: And for a complete materials list, instructions and more info, visit Pavestone.com and look for the RumbleStone videos under the How-To Guide tab.

    888-666-3974. Call us right now with your how-to projects.

    LESLIE: Gary in Virginia is on the line and is dealing with some odor coming from the sink. Tell us what’s going on.

    GARY: We do have a problem in the bathroom. I’m not sure where it’s coming from. I don’t know whether it could be trapped gases or whether it could be – I don’t think it’s anything in the water, because it’s just in the bathroom. But a lot of times when we take a shower, get out and – now, if we get dried off and everything and leave the bathroom or come back in, it’s a terrible odor in there. It smells like you – kind of like a sewer, I guess, maybe.

    TOM: Right.

    GARY: But we’ve had our septic pump (inaudible at 0:30:59) last year and it’s not that. And it not only happens in the shower. It can happen if we use the tub or sometimes if we’re at the sink, you know, like we shave – or if I shave or something like that and finish up, it’s like it comes up through the pipe. But it doesn’t happen every time. It could happen twice a week, it could happen no time.

    TOM: It sounds like something we call “biogas.” You get bacteria that will form in the drains and in the traps and in the fittings around there. And the bacteria itself has an awful odor to it.

    GARY: Yeah.

    TOM: So what I would do is I would take the trap apart for the bathroom sink, because you can get to that. I would use a bottle brush and scrub the heck out of all of that. I would put it back together and fill the entire trap with oxygenated bleach and let it sit.

    I would do the same thing for the bathtub. I would take the drain cover off and I would use a bottle brush to get down there and scrub the insides of those pipes. And I would fill those with oxygenated bleach and let them sit. Because the bleach is going to kill those microbes, kill that bacteria.

    GARY: OK.

    TOM: And that should make a difference. If it is biogas, it smells terrible and …

    GARY: Then why wouldn’t it do that at every time?

    TOM: Well, sometimes it’s more active than others is all I could say. But it depends on a lot of things, including the air pressure in the room. If the room happens to have a lower pressure because of other things going on in the house, it may draw out or not. So, it’s probably there all the time; it’s just that you don’t smell it because of the airflow.

    GARY: Yeah. Well, we’ve had a plumber look at it and he’s just – he can’t find the answer, either, so I had …

    TOM: I think if you Google biogas, you’ll see that there are a lot of folks that have the same issue. And this is how you solve it.

    GARY: Right.

    TOM: OK?

    GARY: OK. Alright. I appreciate your help.

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

    LESLIE: So, when an appliance stops working, right, you might think that the only thing to do is call for a repair person to come out and take care of it. But there are some appliance issues that you could be able to troubleshoot and solve on your own. We’re going to tell you how you can do that, after this.

    TOM: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on this beautiful, almost-summer day. Hey, what are you working on? If the project continues and you have a question, remember you can reach out to us by calling 888-MONEY-PIT 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We are always standing by and willing to take your call. We’ll call you back the next time we are in the studio.

    But meanwhile, you could probably get more instant information on our website at MoneyPit.com or even by posting your question on our Facebook page, which is exactly what John in Virginia did.

    LESLIE: Alright. And John wrote: “We are in the process of moving into our new home and found a musty odor. We had an inspection done at purchase but found no obvious causes. But I wonder where it might be coming from. Do you think there’s a hidden leak?”

    TOM: Probably not. When you live in a house, you have much more airflow, so you’re using your HVAC system. So you’re returning potentially damp, moist air back to the HVAC system. And in the summertime, your air conditioner will pull some of that moisture out in the wintertime. The temperature is raised, the air uses more moisture – absorbs more moisture.

    So, musty smells and musty odors in seldom-used rooms or a new home that has not had a lot of action in it is not an unusual situation. So I wouldn’t panic on that, John, until you get in there and see real evidence of leak. I wouldn’t necessarily expect a leak to be there. I think it’s probably just because no one’s been in the house for a while.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And it’s more likely just a moisture thing, so just take care of the moisture on the exterior – you know, your downspouts, your gutters and anything sort of around the foundation – and you should be fine.

    TOM: Alright. Brian is writing about his garage floor. He says, “I have crumbly – I have a crumbly cement slab in my garage and also a patio slab that’s cracked and potentially leaking where I converted it to a sunroom. What’s the best way to repair concrete?”

    Concrete, although it’s very indestructible, does occasionally need repair. And both of those repairs can be successfully completed. So let’s talk about the crumbly cement slab first.

    What you don’t want to do is put more mortar on top of that or more concrete on top of that. It won’t stick. You need to use a product that’s specifically designed for patching. Usually it’s epoxy-based. And the difference is that it will adhere properly. So if you use an epoxy-based patching compound, such as those that are available from QUIKRETE, you will be able to successfully repair that loose, deteriorated concrete in the garage and have it actually stay on there for a while and not fall off.

    Now, as for the cracks in a finished patio slab, if you’re concerned about the appearance of the crack, you want to find something that matches the color of the concrete, I’ll give you a little trick of the trade about that. What you want to do is caulk those cracks with silicone caulk. But before you do, find an area of the slab that’s not visible, perhaps from the outside or the side of a step, and drill into that with a masonry bit. Then collect the bits of concrete dust that come off of that.

    And then once you caulk the slab crack, you can take that concrete dust and actually sort of sprinkle it over the silicone. And guess what? It’ll look just like the concrete that surrounds it. It’ll make it almost completely invisible – including no texture, no shine – so it won’t stick out. And you’ll be totally good to go.

    LESLIE: Alright. Steph in New York writes: “We are expanding our home to include a family room. We’d love to put air conditioning in here but how can we do it without expanding our central-air system?”

    TOM: One option, of course, is a window unit but that’s somewhat unsightly. But a better option is called “split ductless.” Now, I have a system in my office. And in fact, we also have a system in the studio. They’re so quiet that you don’t really hear them because here’s the thing: the compressor is outside but the air handler is inside. So they’re very, very quiet and they’re very, very energy-efficient.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you know what? I have a Mitsubishi Mr. Slim in my home, actually, in the basement. I have the only basement in the Northeast that’s 8,000 degrees. And it’s great because it gets mounted high up on the wall, it’s super-quiet. You can use it as a heat pump, a dehumidifier and an air conditioner. It really is an affordable, great solution.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. Remember, you can call in your home improvement question, 24-7, at 888-MONEY-PIT or post your question to The Money Pit’s Facebook page at Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit.

    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.

    END HOUR 1 TEXT

    (Copyright 2014 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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