Summer Storm Repair Tips, Picking the Perfect Gardening Tools and 3 Free Ways to Cut Cooling Costs
TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Hey. We want to talk to you right now about your home improvement projects. So pick up the phone and call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT because we are here to help. Whether it’s a do-it-yourself dilemma that you want to solve or a new project that you want to build, give us a call, right now, at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, the summer storm season is well underway. And while a good summer thunder-bumper can clean up the humidity and water your lawn, those high winds and lightning can also potentially cause serious damage to your home. We’re going to tell you how to inspect your home for damage after the storm has passed.
LESLIE: And if you’re enjoying a summer of gardening projects, landscape expert Roger Cook from This Old House will be here with tips on how to select the best tools for all of your lawn-and-garden projects.
TOM: And if you’re sweating at home right now but are trying to avoid cranking up the A/C, we’re going to tell you three free things you can do to stay cool and keep your energy costs low.
LESLIE: And now that we’re in the heart of the summer, we have a fantastic product we’re giving away this hour. It’s the Haier Serenity Series Air Conditioner, which is America’s quietest window A/C.
TOM: Yep. It’s barely louder than gentle rain and very energy-efficient. One caller drawn at random will get to select either a 6,000- or 8,000-BTU unit for your home. Basically, whatever size you need you’re going to get, so isn’t that cool? Give us a call, right now, with your home improvement question. The number, again, is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Heading over to Delaware where Eve is trying to get rid of a smoke smell. What’s going on?
EVE: Right. We recently purchased a row home in Philadelphia and it has a third-floor studio apartment where the previous occupant was a heavy smoker. And we’re trying to get rid of the smell from the cigarettes. We’ve tried removing the floor tiles, replacing the drop-grid ceiling tiles and painting. But the odor is still pretty strong. So I’m wondering if you have any suggestions.
TOM: Hmm. So above the drop ceiling, did you paint that surface, as well?
EVE: No. We didn’t.
TOM: What did you paint with? Did you use any kind of a primer?
EVE: Going over paint, so we didn’t. We just used a regular latex paint.
TOM: Right. So the best thing to do in a situation like this is to use a very good-quality primer – either an alkyd primer or a solvent-based primer – because it tends to seal in all of those wall and ceiling surfaces, including the odors that are underneath.
The other issue, of course, is the floors. Now, you mentioned that there’s a tile floor there. So it was a hard-surface floor?
EVE: Yeah. Right now, we pulled up everything. We’re down to the plywood. And we were just going to put in a new flooring. So is there anything we should do before we do that?
TOM: Yeah. I would also prime the plywood.
TOM: I’d seal everything and I would use a good-quality oil-based primer, like a KILZ, for example. And I would prime the heck out of everything because that does a good job of sealing out those odors. That and some just normal ventilation ought to do it. But I think if you don’t prime those surfaces, you won’t be able to completely get rid of that odor.
Then, of course, it goes without saying that you’ve disposed of furniture and curtains and things like that?
EVE: Yes. The only other question is: what about kitchen cabinets?
TOM: You can’t do much with them. But what you can do is you can clean them with TSP – trisodium phosphate. It’s like a powdery soap mix that you buy in the paint aisle and you can mix up a solution and clean those.
Are these wooden cabinets or laminate cabinets?
TOM: If it’s wooden, you may not want to use the TSP on it. You could use Murphy’s Oil Soap instead.
TOM: But you’re going to have to clean them.
EVE: OK. Thank you very much.
TOM: You’re welcome, Eve. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
And thankly, fewer and fewer people are smoking today, so we’re getting fewer and fewer of those calls. But I tell you what, when you get a house that’s like that, what a mess. What a big mess. Hard to get rid of that smell.
LESLIE: Joe in Iowa wants to talk decking. How can we help you?
JOE: Well, I’ve got a small problem with my decks. They’re pressure-treated lumber, about 18-year-old decks. One faces north and one faces south. And I watched a neighbor – they’re getting – both are getting bad. And I watched a neighbor use one of those products where you paint it on and it’s supposed to renew or restore your deck. I watched them pressure-wash it twice and dry it and buy the special applicators with two coats. Over the winter, one winter, it started peeling off.
TOM: Yeah. I heard that time and time again. It looks good in the store but it doesn’t stick. It doesn’t stick. And you get this really thick coat of – I think they call it a “restorer.” It just peels right off. It’s like the worst peeling paint project you’ve ever seen.
So, Joe, have you thought about doing sort of a deck makeover where perhaps you keep the structure but you replace the deck boards with composite or something like that?
JOE: That’s what I was wondering. I’ve seen where they’ve got these thinner composites you just put over the top of your boards, where they don’t stand up, or just take all the deck boards off and put all new composite boards on.
TOM: First thing I would do is I would do a thorough inspection of the structure, because we don’t want you to put – do anything to this if it’s not structurally sound. It’s got to be well attached to the house. The floor joists have to be solid without major cracks or shifting, properly reinforced, properly braced. You know, if this thing is rock-solid and the structure is good, then you could proceed. I would remove the decking boards because there’s no structural integrity to the decking boards. I would pull the decking boards off and I would put simply composite right on top of that.
Lots of great choices out there in composite. You can take a look at the composite products made by Veranda at The Home Depot, for example. Really good stuff. Goes on very easily. And once that’s down, you’ll never have to worry about a split, a crack or picking up a paintbrush again.
JOE: Or getting a splinter in your foot when you go out to check the grill.
TOM: Nope. That’s right. Not at all. Yeah. And they have some composite components for the railing system, as well, if you want to go that far.
JOE: That’s what I was wondering: what’d be the best line to go with.
TOM: Yeah. There’s a lot of choices out there but I – it’s kind of personal preference but I’ve worked with the Veranda products, which are made by some of the same manufacturers that make the more name brands. And they work great. So take a look at those and go from there.
JOE: Alright. Thank you.
TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now I’ve got Nancy in Arkansas on the line with a painting question. How can we help you?
NANCY: Calling on behalf of my mom and she has an older home. And there – she has a lot of – she has a popcorn ceiling. And she has a lot of cobwebs and stuff. And I’m just wondering, what would be the best way of removing those to eliminate as much debris falling in the carpet and that sort of thing and to give it a fresh look?
LESLIE: Well, I think with a popcorn ceiling, number one, you’re fighting the texture. So everything kind of wants to get stuck up there.
So, first off is I would start with one of those Swiffers that look like a feather duster, just to get all of that dust and that – the cobwebs down so that you’ve got a clean surface. And if that looks OK, then you might want to stop there.
You can’t really clean a popcorn ceiling because the way you remove a popcorn ceiling is to spray it with water and then you scrape it off. So if you try to clean it with any sort of cleanser or moisture, you’re going to start to disintegrate the popcorn and make that come off, if it’s truly a popcorn ceiling and not a textured stucco or something like that. So I think once you get the spiderwebs and things off of it, you might be better off just painting it and giving it a fresh coat to just sort of freshen up the ceiling space a little bit.
But if you do decide to paint the popcorn ceiling, you have to get a very specialized roller. It looks like a – it’s a foam roller that has a spiral cut to it. And that will open up to sort of accommodate the popcorn-ceiling texture. If you use a regular roller, it’s going to paint it and then pull the texture off. So you have to be careful in your application. But that’ll do a great job of freshening it up.
NANCY: OK. Well, great. Well, thank you so much.
TOM: You’re very welcome. 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.
Hey, guys. We’re in mid-July. What are you working on? Are you enjoying the summer? Having a good time? Maybe things are falling apart? Or maybe you’re just relaxing so much, you’re not even noticing it. Well, when you’re ready to tackle your money pit, we’re here to give a hand, 888-MONEY-PIT.
Up next, tornadoes, hurricanes, thunder and lightning. Do you feel like sometimes you can’t get a break from storms this summer season? Well, neither can your house. We’ll have tips on how to check for signs of damage that could lead to big repair bills, 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. If you do, you’ll get the answer to your home improvement question. Plus, this hour, we’re giving away a Haier Serenity Series Quiet Air Conditioner.
Now, this is America’s quietest window A/C. It’s barely louder than a gentle rain. The Serenity Series offers world-class cooling and produces dramatically less noise than the average air conditioner. It’s ENERGY STAR-qualified, uses about 15 percent less energy than conventional models.
It’s worth $299 if you choose the 6,000-BTU unit. But wait. You could also choose the 8,000. It’s up to you. We’re basically going to give you whatever size unit you need. The 8,000 BTU goes for 399 but one’s going to go out free to one caller drawn at random from those that reach us for today’s show at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
You can learn more about this fantastic product at HaierAmerica.com. That’s H-a-i-e-r – America.com.
LESLIE: Brian, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
BRIAN: I’ve got a problem with our septic system. And our septic system zigzags back and forth in the backyard. And then where the end of it is, there’s a sinkhole developing.
TOM: How old is this septic system? Has it ever been inspected or cleaned?
BRIAN: We’ve cleaned it twice. It’s just my wife and I. This thing, I noticed, started developing kind of right after we moved into the house. Our house is about 20 years old.
TOM: Because I wonder if – if you say this is towards the end of the distribution field, I wonder if the field is not absorbing water like it should – absorbing the effluent as it should. And most of it is sort of running towards the end of the pipe like it’s a long drain. And as a result, it’s causing erosion in that area.
I think that probably the first thing I would do is have a septic inspection done with an examination of the field to check the percolation of it. Because if it’s not percolating, if it’s not draining properly, you could be spilling a lot of effluent into the ground unknowingly without it having a chance to really soak properly back into the soil. I think what we’re hearing here is a potential failure of your septic field, more than a problem with a sinkhole. I suspect that this is erosion that you’re seeing.
BRIAN: OK. It’s not just a matter of dumping a bunch of dirt in there and covering that up.
TOM: No. I mean that would fill it up again but I’m afraid it would probably wash out again. So, that’s kind of what I would lean to is having that field inspected and just getting a sense of – listen, you want to find out now. You don’t want this thing to fail at the least opportune time. And if you find out early, at least you can plan a replacement if you have to.
Brian, good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Michelle in Michigan is on the line with a question about moles. That’s a lot of Ms, Michelle. What’s going on?
MICHELLE: Well, I have about an acre-and-a-half of backyard. Well, actually an acre, not quite a half. But I have moles constantly coming from my neighbor’s yard and tearing up. And they’re living under my patio.
LESLIE: Well, you know why they’re coming to your yard is because your yard is serving up a tasty treat that they really like. So, the reason why moles show up is because your property probably has grubs. And you might not see them. They’re living in the dirt underneath the lawn. But that’s what the moles are eating. So the trick to getting rid of the moles is to get rid of the grubs.
MICHELLE: Now, how would I go about by doing that? Because I’ve done everything I could possibly think of – spraying, putting things down, even a few homeopathic things – but nothing seems to be working.
LESLIE: There’s a couple of different products that you can use that will, I guess, treat the grub situation. One of them that you can find at your local home center is GrubEx. And that’s an application that you’ll put on the lawn and that will get rid of the grubs. It won’t happen instantaneously but it’ll start to get rid of the grubs. And then the moles will figure out that you don’t have the tasty treats in the lawn anymore and they’ll start moving elsewhere.
Have you tried anything like that?
MICHELLE: No, I haven’t tried anything like that. My neighbor down the street told me to poke little holes in the ground and put bubblegum in there. And they might be confused thinking it might be a grub or a worm and they might not want to come back. I was trying to do something where I wouldn’t hurt them but they’re really hurting my yard.
TOM: That’s right. It’s really simple. If you eliminate their food source, they’re going to go try to find it somewhere else. So, the grubs are the food. If you eliminate the grubs, you’ll eliminate the moles.
MICHELLE: OK. Well, great. Then I’ll have to give that a try.
TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, even serious summer storms can cause damage, which is why it’s a pretty good idea to know what to look for after the storm rolls through. Now, it’s easy to spot things like broken windows but some easy-to-miss things could add up to big trouble down the road.
TOM: Definitely. So first, you want to examine all sides of your home, from the ground up, to check for wind damage. Look for loose siding, loose trim, loose soffits and so on.
Next, check for bulging walls and doors that won’t close or new cracks on interior walls. These could mean that your foundation could have been compromised and you may need to call in a pro for a professional assessment.
LESLIE: Alright. Now, let’s talk about your mechanical systems. If any of your electrical appliances or your HVAC components got wet, you’re going to need to replace them. Salt water conducts electricity and electrical circuits can fail or even catch on fire once they’ve come in contact with the salt.
TOM: Now, finally, you want to be sure to report your damage to your insurance company and document everything: pictures, video, you name it. We’ve got a complete checklist of what you need to include, at MoneyPit.com.
888-666-3974. Give us a call, right now, with home improvement or décor question.
LESLIE: Mary in Texas is on the line and has an issue with a tub. Tell us what’s going on.
MARY: We have a bathtub that we’ve had plumbers out and they can’t even seem to get it unstopped. They think that it – and it was – would slowly – if you took a shower in there, it would slowly go out that day. But then it stopped up and it was going so slowly.
We called up a big company here – plumbing company – and the guy came out and checked it. And he couldn’t get it unstopped. He thinks it’s in the P-trap. But he checks, he lined the hat – the tub is on the back of the house. About 2 feet from that is the clean-out. And he took a picture in the clean-out, all the wall to the alley, and told us to get the city to come. And they needed to clean it out, the alley. They did that.
TOM: So wait a minute. You’re telling me that the plumber was able to clear the drain from the house to the street but he thinks that the restriction is beyond that?
MARY: Yeah. He thinks – and it’s just about 2 feet from the drain. The tub that’s on the back wall of the house, it’s about 2 feet to the clean-out where he worked. And all the other lines are back farther. I mean the utility line is farther. It’s on that same line. It’s farther. The sink in the vanity area and the commode where it’s just fine – it’s right by the tub. It’s just – it’s past them.
TOM: I can tell you right now that he missed something in the tub, because all of those plumbing lines come together in that same general area. And if you’ve got flow from the toilet and the sinks and everything else but not the tub, it’s going to be the tub itself.
You know, when it comes to clearing drains, my experience has been that plumbers are not the best ones to do that. Generally, you’re better off to go with a specialty plumber that does drain cleaning. They have the tools, the equipment and the knowledge to get that done. And sometimes, the day-to-day plumbers – if it’s a simple clog, they can clear it but they don’t necessarily have the tools. For example, drain cleaners have cameras that can go down those pipes and see exactly what the obstruction is.
So my recommendation would be to call a different kind of professional: not a plumber but someone that specializes in drain cleaning and has a good reputation for being able to make that particular type of repair. I think that’s going to be the easiest way for you to get to the bottom of it. I would not recommend any type of additive to that drain to try to clear it in these liquid products that clear drains, because they can be very, very corrosive.
Mary, good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Steve in Pennsylvania, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
STEVE: I was listening to the program, I guess, about a week ago. And you were talking about a caller that was having trouble with her patio door. And Tom had recommended using white lithium grease to loosen it up and make it slide easier. An old carpenter’s trick – I’m a master carpenter – Pledge, not lithium grease or silicon or any of that. The downside of lithium grease and silicon is they attract dirt. Pledge does not. And the trick on it – and it’ll work on sticky windows, as well – is you overspray it. Spray it heavily. Either slide the door back and forth or move the window up and down a few times, wipe the excess off and you have a patio door or a window that will move freely like it’s sliding on butter.
TOM: That’s a great suggestion, Steve. We appreciate you calling that in.
Now, I wonder how long that will stay around, especially with a patio door, given its exposure to the elements. Any experience on that?
STEVE: Six months, easily.
TOM: Really? Alright. Well, that’s fantastic.
TOM: Good advice. Thanks so much for calling in, Steve. We appreciate it.
STEVE: No problem. You guys do a great job. I listen to you all the time. And (inaudible at 0:18:03) what you do out there.
TOM: And you see? He’s a carpenter, so that’s a professional opinion.
Thank you so much. Have a great day.
LESLIE: Sage in New York is on the line with an outdoor-watering question. Tell us what’s going on.
SAGE: How are you doing? I have an outdoor faucet, which I use to connect my hose in the front. And I believe it’s called a “frost-free sillcock.”
TOM: Right. Mm-hmm.
SAGE: And the problem I have is that when I open the faucet, I can open it full but the water takes, sometimes, up to a minute to come out, if it comes out at all.
TOM: Now, inside your house, there’s going to be another valve that is designed to shut off that line for the winter. Did you check to make sure that valve was fully open?
SAGE: It is fully open, yes.
TOM: So the valve is fully open on the inside of the house, the valve – the hose bib – on the outside of the house – that you open it up and it takes a minute to come out. And when it comes out, is it coming out fast or slow or what?
SAGE: It comes out slow and I also wondered if the fact that the pressure was lower on this faucet, as compared to the faucet at the back of the house, was part of the problem?
TOM: And how old is the house?
SAGE: Oh, the house is only about three years old.
TOM: Three years old? Alright. So the plumbing should be fine.
What you’re describing is simply a valve that’s not fully open. And so, if the valve inside is open and the valve outside is open, then somewhere we’ve got a bad valve. Because that shouldn’t be happening; it should be very simple. The valve opens, the water flies out. Three-year-old house, there’s no reason for any corrosion to be inside the pipe or anything of that nature. And so you’ve got a bad valve somewhere; that’s what has to be looked into.
SAGE: OK. Alright. Thank you.
LESLIE: Alright. Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit.
Hey. If you love gardening and landscaping, you might not think that there’s much new to know about one of the most common landscaping tools. Talking about the shovel. Well, all shovels are not created equal. We’ll explain why, after this.
ADAM: Hey, this is Adam Carolla. And when I’m not swinging a hammer, I’m catching up on The Money Pit with Tom and Leslie.
TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And what are you working on this fine summer weekend? We’d like to help. Give us a call, right now, with your how-to question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Jason in Iowa is dealing with some asbestos removal, a topic I’m very familiar with these days.
Jason, what’s going on at your money pit?
JASON: Well, we bought a house. And in the basement, the ductwork has crumbling asbestos tape around all the seams. And I didn’t know it was asbestos at first. A gentleman – a friend of mine kind of told me that it was, which was good to know because I would have just started tearing it off there.
But I know that it can be dangerous. And I’ve been told to put on a good HEPA-filter mask and wet the filters and such and you can take it off and wear gloves and be careful. But is that really the case? I mean do I have to legally hire a professional to come in and remove something like that?
TOM: It’s definitely the smart thing to do, Jason. Because the problem with asbestos is it’s very, very fine. It’s finer than smoke. If you were to release asbestos particles and assuming there was no wind, it would take eight hours for them to hit the floor; that’s how fine they are.
So what you are seeing is only part of the problem. What you’re physically seeing, those chunks, is only part of it. This is a situation where you really can’t do it yourself.
LESLIE: Yeah. And the other part of the equation is the disposal. It’s like you can’t just take it and put it in a trash bag and stick it outside.
LESLIE: I’m in the process of having asbestos shingles removed from my home, on the exterior. And they have to be not only properly taken down and packed up in a certain manner but they have to be completely driven off to another state and certified that they’ve been disposed of in a proper manner. Now, I’m sure with just the tape wrapping the piping, that’s not going to be the extreme case there but you do have to make sure that it’s disposed of properly. You don’t want to get in any trouble.
TOM: And by the way, Jason, you know, can’t visually identify asbestos. So the very first thing you should do is to have some – a sample of the material tested to confirm that it is, in fact, asbestos.
JASON: And who would do that?
TOM: An asbestos lab.
Leslie, you just had asbestos testing done. Who did you use for that? Was it a local lab?
LESLIE: It was a local company that also does the removal. But there are several companies. I would just look locally at asbestos removal. And it was fairly simple and the test took about two days. And it gives you a percentage of asbestos found in the item and it’s interesting.
JASON: Well, thanks so much for your time and hopefully it won’t be too costly that I have to call it a “money pit.”
TOM: OK, Jason. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: So, what could be more simple than digging a hole? You just pick up your shovel and get right to it, right?
TOM: Well, as it turns out, Leslie, all shovels are not created equal. And having the right shovel will make the job much quicker and easier. Here to tell us what to look for is a guy who’s used a lot of shovels in his career: This Old House landscaping expert Roger Cook.
ROGER: Hey, thanks. Yeah, I’ve done a lot of shoveling, people tell me.
TOM: Yeah, you sure have.
ROGER: Yep, yep.
TOM: So let’s start with the classic sort of wooden-handled shovel that everyone probably has in their garage. Is that a good digging tool?
ROGER: To a point.
ROGER: There’s nothing like the classic wood shovel and the feel of it in your hands. But it can be really limited in what you can use it to do.
TOM: Well, you, as a professional landscaping contractor, will use your shovel for more than just digging. You might use it, for example, to pry out a boulder or a stone or a rock or a root that’s below grade. A wood shovel could crack pretty easily.
ROGER: Right, right. The homeowner will do the same thing. Rather than put down a shovel and go get a bar or another tool, we figure we can just pop it out, right?
ROGER: Well, with a wood shovel, sometimes you’re left with two pieces of shovel and the rock’s still in the ground. That’s why we switch over to tools with fiberglass handles.
ROGER: Really, really strong. The guys can pry pretty much anything out of the ground. And I don’t run out of shovels breaking, so …
TOM: Hard to break the fiberglass handle.
ROGER: Hard to break.
LESLIE: Yeah. But I feel like that’s just an option for a handle. There’s got to be a lot of options for when it comes to actually the business end of the shovel, true?
ROGER: That’s true. You know, we have trenching shovels, we have transplanting shovels, we have square shovels, which we use for cleaning up. Every little bit of landscaping has its own personal type of shovel. And the thing to do is to find one that can be a multitasker, rather than go out and buy six or eight different shovels.
TOM: Now, it would seem to me that the most important part of shovel construction is the connection point between the handle and the business end of the shovel itself, right?
ROGER: Right. And with a lot of them, especially the wood ones, there’s a single dowel going through, which holds the steel to the handle. And a lot of times, that fails. The ones – the fiberglass ones seem to have a really great connection and we have not had a problem with the heads coming off a handle.
LESLIE: Alright. So you’ve got the right shovel. How do you use them correctly? I feel like I don’t hold them right. I feel like I end up hurting myself more than actually successfully digging a hole.
ROGER: The whole thing of using a shovel is to sink straight. You want to have the back straight, you want to have the handle straight and then you want to use your foot to drive that shovel into the ground. Don’t try taking the shovel in two hands and trying to get it down into the ground. It just won’t work. Use your foot.
TOM: Yeah, yeah. You very often see people trying to jam that shovel in or they’ll lift it up high and almost strike the soil with it. And then they miss.
ROGER: Mm-hmm. It’s not an aggressive move. In the real world, it’s like a dance and you’re moving around with the shovel. You’re not beating it against the ground.
TOM: And if you miss, it’s not pretty.
ROGER: There you go.
TOM: So use the – use your foot to actually apply the pressure to get that shovel in the ground.
ROGER: Right. And again, you’ll get a feel for what you’re digging and how you have to maneuver around certain areas. Sometimes, a rock isn’t accessible from one side but when you clear the other side, it just pops right out of the ground.
TOM: Well, speaking of rocks, what if it doesn’t pop out of the ground? How would you tackle a project like that? When do you put the shovel down and get, say, a more serious digging or prying tool?
ROGER: I drive right in back on my Bobcat and pop that puppy out.
TOM: For those of us that don’t …
ROGER: We don’t all have Bobcats.
TOM: Exactly. They don’t own Bobcats.
ROGER: Yeah. But that’s where a steel bar comes into play that you can really use them to dig around it, to wedge it, to move it without injuring the shovel or injuring yourself.
LESLIE: So now you’ve probably gone and spent a good amount of money on the right tool for the job. You’ve got a great shovel. You’ve used it all spring and summer but now we’re getting into the fall season and winter. What do you have to do to make sure that you’re maintaining them or caring for them so that they’ll be ready again come the next spring season?
ROGER: Well, the biggest thing is to clean them up. Get everything off the business end of the shovel and maybe spray it down with a lubricant, like WD-40 or something. And then hang them up someplace where you can find them when you need them in the spring and not behind nine million other things. Because you know you’re going to need those and have them ready to go.
TOM: And when you see that empty hook in your shed, you have to remember who you loaned that shovel to.
ROGER: Yeah. Go over to your neighbor’s house and borrow it back because …
TOM: Exactly. Roger Cook, great advice as always. Thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
ROGER: My pleasure.
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 and Ask This Old House are brought to you on PBS by GMC. GMC, we are professional grade.
Up next, are you feeling the heat of summer and your rising energy bill? We’ve got three free things you can do to cool off and lower your bill, 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: Where home solutions live, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. We will help you with whatever it is you are working on at your money pit. Plus, we’re giving away a super-cool prize this hour. We’ve got up for grabs the Haier Serenity Series Quiet Air Conditioner.
Now, this is America’s quietest window unit. It’s barely louder than a gentle rain. And the Serenity Series offers world-class cooling. And really, it produces dramatically less noise than your average window unit. It’s ENERGY STAR-qualified, so it uses about 15 percent less energy than your conventional models. And that could mean a savings of about $85 over the lifetime of the unit, on average. Comes with an LCD remote, so you can just relax and stay cool from the comfort of your bed or chair.
It’s a prize worth either $299 for the 6K unit or 399 for the 8K unit. You get to pick. So whatever you need, you get to choose.
Check it out at HaierAmerica.com. That’s Haier – H-a-i-e-r – America.com.
TOM: 888-666-3974. Give us a call, right now, with your home improvement question.
LESLIE: Mary in Virginia, welcome to The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?
MARY: I’m looking to purchase a home that has a slab foundation. And when I went in, I kind of smelled a musty, mildew-y odor. And I’m just wondering, how would you know that water is coming up from the ground and saturating that slab? And how do you protect a home that has just – that’s built just on a slab. There’s nothing under for water to drain under or anything.
TOM: Was this a home that was vacant or did it have a family living in it?
MARY: It has been vacant for a while.
TOM: And that makes sense. Because when you don’t run the HVAC system as frequently as you would if it was occupied, sometimes you’re going to get high humidity inside the homes. But because it’s a slab doesn’t make it any more or less susceptible to water infiltration. But of course, because it’s above grade, you don’t get floods. What you do get is the power of the concrete basically drawing water up from the ground – it’s called “capillarity” – and then letting it evaporate into the air.
The correction for that is the same thing you would do even if you did have a basement, which is to improve your drainage on the outside: extend the downspouts, the gutters; improve the soil slope so that water is sort of shunted away from the foundation perimeter. But I think that once you move into the house and use the HVAC system, you’re going to find that that moisture is not nearly as detectable as it is right now. And if it does become more detectable, you could always add a dehumidifier.
MARY: OK. So it’s the – that smell I’m getting is not coming from the carpeting that’s on top of the – laying on top of the slab?
TOM: Ooh. Carpet on top of slab? That’s a bad thing.
MARY: Well, I mean I don’t know what’s under the carpet and I’m assuming that there’s some kind of subfloor there. But yeah, it’s wall-to-wall carpeting and I know underneath it is basically a …
TOM: Yeah. We don’t like carpet on concrete, for a whole bunch of reasons. So I would be recommending that you find another type of flooring for that. Because when you put carpet, which is largely an organic material, against those damp, moist, concrete slabs, bad things happen. You get mold and mildew growth, you get allergens that form, you’re going to get dust mites, things like that. So, we really don’t like carpet on concrete slabs. If you can choose a different type of flooring, if you’re going to do some remodeling, that would really help out a lot.
MARY: OK. Thank you so much.
TOM: You’re very welcome, Mary. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, the mercury is climbing but your energy bill doesn’t have to skyrocket with it. Now, there are easy things that you can do to stay cool in the summer while keeping your costs down. And the best part, guys: they’re simple and they’re free.
TOM: That’s right. So first, an easy step – always run heat-generating appliances – like your clothes dryer, your oven and your dishwasher – at night when it’s cooler.
LESLIE: Yeah. Next, you want to close your storm windows when you run the air conditioner. That same air that’s leaking during the cold winter months also leaks in the summer and that can drive up your cooling costs.
TOM: And finally, don’t forget to reverse your ceiling fans. If you’ve got them, take advantage of their one energy-efficient feature: reversible motors. By controlling the direction of the blades, you can use the fan to pull cold air up in the summer and push warm air back down in the winter.
LESLIE: Michael in North Carolina, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
MICHAEL: We have a hot-water heater in our garage, on an elevated plateau. And we noticed the other day, there was a slight leak underneath it but it looked like it might have been coming from a PVC-type tube coming from the top of our water heater. And it’s the length of the water heater. It’s a tube. And we’ve never seen water under that area before and we now notice some of that. So I wasn’t sure why – if it was a sweating situation or what – some type of relief valve, maybe, or something like that. But I’m not sure why water would have been there.
TOM: Yeah, that’s exactly what it is. It’s a temperature-and-pressure relief valve. It’s mounted on the side of the water heater. It’s designed to open up if the water heater develops too much pressure, as a safety mechanism.
However, they frequently wear and leak. So, I’m going to tell you what you can try to do but I’m also going to warn you. There’s a lever on the side of that and sometimes you get a little bit of a debris that’s stuck inside that temperature-and-pressure valve. When you pull the lever, it’ll shoot some water out that tube. You want to make sure you have a bucket under it. Just two or three times; it’ll kind of blast some hot water out of there.
However, the warning is that sometimes, once you do that, the valve never sits back properly and it ends up leaking worse. So it’s possible you could make it worse by doing this but that’s worth trying. If you just want to leave a bucket under it and monitor it for a little while – how old is this water heater?
MICHAEL: About 1990, 1998.
TOM: Oh. Oh, well, you know what? You’re due for a new one. So, 1998 – I wouldn’t wait too much longer before I replace that because let’s face it, it’s about, what, 15 years old now? And so a water heater that gets past 10 is well on its way to needing – to the end of its useful life.
So, I would – you could monitor it, stick a bucket under there, keep an eye on it. But I think it’s about time to think about replacing. It’s not an emergency replacement, so you’ve got some time to shop around. One of the problems with water heaters is once they do leak, they usually have to be done immediately and people get taken advantage of because they need it today. But you’re not in that situation, Michael, so you could take some time and shop around and find the one – the contractor – that you want. But 15-year-old water heater, you might want to think about replacing it.
MICHAEL: Alright, sir. I appreciate that very much.
TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Hey, roof leaks, they can be tough to fix. But leaks around your chimney, they can be even worse, especially since they’re usually repaired in all the wrong ways. We’re going to walk you through the step-by-step to fix chimneys the right way, after this.
TOM: You are tuned 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: We’d love to talk with you at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or you can post your question at MoneyPit.com, just like Jen did in Oregon who has some issues resulting from a rainstorm?
LESLIE: Yeah. Jen writes: “After an especially bad rainstorm, water started leaking into the ceiling and the walls around my chimney. I called a contractor out who suggested sealing the chimney area with silicone. My roof’s in good shape and only five years old. Does this sound right?”
TOM: Nope. Only if you think a Band-Aid will fix a broken bone.
LESLIE: This is like a flashing issue.
TOM: It is. You’re right. You’re absolutely right, Leslie. And contractors too often will take the easy route, which just means putting some sort of a sealant, like roof cement or silicone, around that chimney base. But really, when you have a leak like this, you have to kind of rebuild the flashing. That’s the best way to do it.
Now, if this is a brick chimney, there’s really two pieces of flashing involved here: there’s the base flashing and the counter-flashing. The base flashing goes underneath the roof shingles and up against the side of the chimney and the counter-flashing is actually notched into the mortar joint of the chimney and then folds over the base flashing. Those two pieces work together. They’re not connected for a reason, because the movement of the chimney, the expansion and contraction will be different than the movement of the roof. And frankly, that’s why you get leaks in that space. You need to kind of provide the joint where it can slide. And that’s exactly what that assembly does.
So my recommendation would be to – if you do have a contractor come out, take a look at the original flashing. See if, for example, it’s something simple like maybe the counter-flashing fell off or broke away. But if not, you may have to rebuild that flashing. And that’s the best way to do it. It’s going to give you the best long-term results. If you just seal it, you’re just starting an endless course of action where you’re going to have to seal and reseal and reseal. Because, generally, those types of applications only last a year at most, anyway.
LESLIE: Alright. Good point. So you better do it right, you know, this time so you’re not constantly working on it.
Now we’ve got a post from Barb in Maine who writes: “I’m redoing my basement and putting a shower in the basement. Do I need to put a trap in the shower or will a straight drain be OK?”
Now, the trap isn’t about water movement. It’s about gases, right, Tom?
TOM: Well, that’s right because the trap does just that: it traps the sewage gas. It stops it for backing up.
Now, if you’re going to put a shower in your basement, you’ve got to have proper drainage. And really, the answer has to do with where your main waste drain is in relation to the shower drain. If the main waste drain is above that – well, then, you’re going to have to have some sort of a lift pump that the shower drains into. And then that water gets lifted up – that waste water gets lifted up – and then dropped into the main drain. But the most important thing is that before it hits the main drain, it has to go through a trap. So the trap will always hold some water.
And you’ve seen these. This is the U-shaped piece that if you just look under any kitchen sink, you’ll see it. That’s supposed to always hold water in it and it stops the gases from backing up from the sewage drain. But it lets water pass through. So you do need to have a trap in that scenario.
LESLIE: Alright. Now, Pete posted on MoneyPit.com: “I’m considering replacing my asphalt-shingle roof with a metal roof. I know from listening to the show that it’s not a good idea to cover the asphalt shingles with new asphalt shingles. Can I cover the old asphalt with the metal roof?”
TOM: You can but I think it’s kind of a sloppy way to go. I mean the metal roof is going to be a lifetime roof. It’s a really permanent roof that’s going to last you 50, 75 years. I wouldn’t put that on top of old asphalt shingles. Why do that? It’s not going to take that much more work and expense to remove those old shingles. I would go right down to the wood sheathing and start the metal roof right from there and build up. It’s just not worth cutting that corner. Yes, the metal roof’s going to be more expensive than an asphalt-shingle roof anyway, so if you’re going to go, let’s go all the way.
LESLIE: Yeah. That really makes a lot of sense. And the metal roof is going to last a long, long time.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Hey, thank you so much for spending this summer weekend with us. If you’ve got questions, remember, you can reach out to us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT literally any time of the day or night. Or you’re welcome to post your question to our 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.
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(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.)