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Take the Bite out of Backyard Fun with Screens, Planting an Edible Garden, and Bathroom Remodeling for Under $100

  • Transcript

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And we exist to help you with your home improvement projects. So, on this beautiful spring weekend – well, at least we hope it’s beautiful where you live. But heck, if it’s not, work inside. Whatever project is on your to-do list, give us a call right now. We’ll help you get it done. 888-666-3974 is the telephone number.

    Coming up this hour on the program, are you sick of paying an arm and a leg at the grocery store? Well, you could put those arms and legs to work in your garden, perhaps grow your own produce instead. We’re going to have some tips on how to do just that, later this hour.

    LESLIE: And as the weather is getting warmer, we like to head outside. Unfortunately, so do the bugs. So we’ve got advice on how you can enjoy outdoor spaces without insects. We’ll tell you how motorized screens are taking the bite out of backyard fun, a little later.

    TOM: And if you’d like to boost your home’s value without breaking the bank, we’ve got a few ways you can do that. Cheap bathroom-remodeling projects that you can do for less than 100 bucks, coming up in just a bit.

    LESLIE: And one caller this hour is going to win a Brillo Prize Pack. You can get rid of all of the mops and brooms you’ve got kicking around your house, because the new Brillo Sweep & Mop packs it all into one.

    TOM: It’s a prize pack worth 50 bucks. Going out to one lucky caller drawn at random. So, pick up the phone, give us a call, right now, with your home improvement, your home décor question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Let’s get right to it.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Carolyn in Arkansas is on the line with a septic-system question. How can we help you today?

    CAROLYN: OK. I have a septic system and we’ve had a lot of rain here. Oh, probably the last maybe three months or so it’s been a lot of rain. And I’m in the kind of the rice land of Arkansas. It’s very wet ground. OK.

    So, anyway, I was having trouble. When I would flush the commode, it – now, it never ran over, which I’m very grateful for. But the water wasn’t going down, OK? And I mean it would go down eventually but maybe take 20 minutes or more.

    TOM: OK. Does everything else in your house drain normally? Is it only the commode that you’re having a problem with?

    CAROLYN: It’s, well, the commode and the sink in the bathroom.

    TOM: But do we know that it’s the septic system? There could be an obstruction in the drain and that’s the first thing I’d look at.

    CAROLYN: OK. I did have some fellows out and – a reputable company – and they did pump out 120 gallons.

    TOM: Well, that’s – but you’re always going to have 120 gallons. The septic tank fills up with water, it overflows into the field. So, pumping out 120 gallons doesn’t really tell me anything. What I want you to do is to have the lines checked, because I suspect there’s nothing wrong with your septic, that you may have an obstruction.

    Let me tell you a story about a guy who had a toilet that was having a slow drain problem. This guy was having a party and was doing this big cleanup for – before all the relatives showed up the next day. And so the toilet backed up and so he figured out that he thought it was a root problem.

    And so he got up early the next morning and dug this huge hole in his ground to get down to this pipe and then snaked it one way, snaked it the other way, couldn’t find any roots in the way. Went back into the bathroom, decided that the obstruction had to be between the hole that he had dug in his ground and the bottom of the toilet. And so he took the toilet tank off of the floor and looked down into it and tried to snake that out and couldn’t find a problem. But in the process of taking the toilet off the floor, he happened to look into the bottom of the toilet and noticed that there was something blue there.

    Now, there’s nothing that’s really supposed to be blue that’s in a toilet. It turns out that his darling son had dropped a toy phone down the toilet and that’s what was slowing the whole thing down. So, this guy had dug up his whole yard, took his toilet apart, all to try to find out what was causing this problem and hurried to get it done before all the relatives showed up. And it turned out to be a toy that was stuck in the toilet itself.

    So, I’d say that guy was a real idiot and that guy was me.

    CAROLYN: Oh, OK.

    LESLIE: I’m like, “I’ve heard this story before.” I’m like, “Why do I think this was you, Tom?”

    TOM: I was completely wrong on why I thought that – I figured I was smarter than the average homeowner and knew that it – thought it was the willow tree that had clogged the pipes. It had nothing to do with that.

    CAROLYN: Alright.

    TOM: It was just a simple toy that was stuck in the crux of the toilet that I couldn’t see and finally got that off, put the whole thing back together, threw the dirt back in the hole and then headed off to get ready for the party. So you never know why your toilet is clogging.

    CAROLYN: Well, that’s true.

    TOM: And I wouldn’t always think it’s the most expensive possible thing, which is your septic system. Have the lines checked.


    TOM: Who knows? And maybe you’ll find something that got stuck in there.

    CAROLYN: Alright. Thank you so much.

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

    LESLIE: Now moving on to Bean (sp) in Kansas with a flooring question. What can we do for you today?

    BEAN (sp): We’re purchasing a home – my wife and I are purchasing a home – and it has marble flooring on the staircase going down into the basement, as well as throughout the entire basement.

    TOM: That’s pretty nice.

    BEAN (sp): I like it but my wife doesn’t. And so we’re trying to figure out what to do. And I’ve thought about – you know, I’ve tried to get her convinced on throw rugs and everything else. But just trying to get my backup plan in place. If we were to resurface that somehow, what are my options as far as putting a product on top of that marble flooring or actually tearing it out? And what would that – go into that home project?

    TOM: Well, first of all, Bean (sp), let us say – and I think I speak for Leslie – that this would be a darn shame for you to cover up that marble flooring. That’s very expensive flooring. And if your wife doesn’t like the look of it, the color of it, I would say to decorate around it. And I’m sure there are lots of ways to do that with complementary colors that could make that blend very, very nicely.

    I would tell you to clean it, polish it, maintain it and enjoy it. Because it’s never going to wear out and it’s definitely going to add to the value of your house. And it would be terrible for you to go ahead and cover it with carpet or laminate flooring or even engineered hardwood, which would be some of the options to cover that over.

    In terms of the staircase, I don’t know exactly what you’d be able to put on that except for something that was, perhaps, glued down, which again would just be a sin. So we’d hate to see you change it.

    LESLIE: Here’s an idea, though. I mean I love the look of marble and I think it works in the right spot. However, I agree: it can feel cold and it doesn’t feel very comfy, at times. And if you want a space to have more of that feel, I wouldn’t go about permanently getting rid of it.

    Have you looked at FLOR carpet tiles – F-L-O-R?

    BEAN (sp): No, I have not.

    LESLIE: Now, they’re a carpet tile – exactly what they are – and they’re – I think they’re like 20 inches square. And they’re available in a variety of piles and loops and Berbers and colors and patterns. It’s really fun, all of the options that they have. So you can be a little wild or you can be totally traditional or you can mix. And you can place that right on top of the marble flooring. In the basement, you can go wall to wall. You can build it as a very large area rug.

    Their prices vary, depending on the type of carpet that you’re selecting for the tile. But that’s a great idea, because you’re not exactly then adhering anything to the marble or damaging that marble in any way.

    You can’t use them on the stairs because you’ll be slipping and sliding. But at least it gives you an option to cover up the large space that is your basement floor.

    BEAN (sp): Sure. Thank you very much. If we were actually to remove that flooring, are we not digging into the – are we going to have to resurface concrete and everything else?

    TOM: Yeah, it’s going to be difficult to get that flooring up. I would not take it up. I would leave it in place and cover it. Because who knows? The next person – especially if you use something like what Leslie is suggesting, you’re really preserving it. Because the next folks that buy your house might decide that you were nuts to cover it and they want to take all that flooring – that carpet tile – up and enjoy the marble again. So, why deny them that opportunity and why chance on your home’s value being reduced accordingly?

    BEAN (sp): Absolutely. I appreciate it. Thank you.

    TOM: Good luck. 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. Now you can call in your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, do you want to go green and keep more green in your wallet? Why not plant a vegetable garden? It’ll save you on produce all summer long. We’ll have tips on how to do just that when The Money Pit continues, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Pavestone’s easy-to-stack RumbleStone Rustic Building Blocks. Create any outdoor hardscape you can imagine, to instantly add old-world charm. Available at The Home Depot. For more information and product instructions, visit Pavestone.com.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And if you give us a call, right now, at 888-MONEY-PIT, you’ll get the answer to your home improvement question and a prize package that can help you with your spring cleaning. We’re giving away a package of Brillo products worth more than 50 bucks.

    LESLIE: Yeah. You know, it’s full of supplies that are going to do the job right, including the new Brillo Sweep & Mop. It’s got 3-in-1 technology that will change the way you clean your floors.

    TOM: Learn more at Brillo.com. And 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: Now we’ve got Dawn in Florida who appears to be a texture junkie looking to retexture a ceiling.

    Dawn, I think this a first. How can we help you?

    DAWN: My house is about a year-and-a-half old and when they textured the ceiling, it’s a light orange peel, same thing they did on the walls. And they said it would be easier and more economical to do that than to try to do a slick coat on my ceiling. I don’t think that’s true. Instead now, a year-and-a-half later into it, then I noticed that you can still see the mud marks.

    Well, I’ve been doing a lot of research on painting and they have all this Venetian plaster and all these different techniques. And I often got to wondering if I could do that on a ceiling ­- the same wall technique on a ceiling.

    TOM: What does the ceiling look like right now? Like how deep is the texture that you have?

    DAWN: Very light. It is a very light orange peel but you can still see the tape and the mudding. Late at night, I look up there and I’m like, “I can still see the lines where the drywall goes together.” So, you can definitely see it raised.

    TOM: I’m concerned that even if you do put the Venetian plaster kind of paint on that, that it might not be thick enough. Because if you can see the tape and the mud, it means that the ceiling was never properly spackled. And if it wasn’t properly spackled, you’re likely to see that through no matter what you do.

    DAWN: Well, what do you think I should do? You think I should hire somebody to come in and just redo my ceilings? It’s not a very big house. It’s actually an ICF-construction house. It’s got solid concrete walls with rebar. And so it’s very solidly built and I went through a lot of trouble to have it done so a hurricane couldn’t blow me away. But I want it to look good on the inside, as well.

    TOM: ICF stands for insulated concrete forms, for those in our audience that have never heard that term used. And it’s a tremendous way to build a house because it is hurricane-proof. Literally, all the things that get thrown around in a hurricane will not pierce the outside of the house. You’d be surprised how quick a 2×4 could be jammed right through a building that’s made with wood siding or even vinyl siding. Could be even worse.

    And the ceiling itself, if it wasn’t completely spackled, I’m concerned that if you put anything on top of that, it’s going to show through. So I would suggest then – what you might want to do is to sand – have somebody come in and sand those areas that are not properly spackled. Do a good job spackling them and then lightly sand the whole thing, put a good coat of primer over it and then – because this is a repair, it’s not going to be as smooth as if it wasn’t a repair. So then you could use a plaster paint – a Venetian plaster or a textured paint – as a final step. Does that make sense?

    DAWN: OK. Well, I think we’re on the same page and I appreciate it.

    TOM: Well, would you like a way to save money and be healthy at the same time? Why not plant a vegetable garden for produce all summer long? We’ve got some step-by-step advice, right now, in this week’s Lawn-and-Garden Tip, presented by Vigoro.

    LESLIE: Growing your own fruits and vegetables can actually save you a lot of money. And spring is really the right time to start getting your garden ready.

    First of all, you need to decide what and how much you want to plant. Now, if you know any home gardeners, you know that they’re always trying to give their extra crops away. So don’t overplant, especially if this is your first gardening project.

    TOM: Next, you want to decide how big. That’s important. Keep in mind that a well-tended 10×10-foot space will produce more than an overgrown, difficult-to-tend 25×50-foot bed. And if you’re pressed for space, you can even use containers on a deck or a balcony.

    And once you’ve determined size, it’s time to choose the best location. Keep in mind that most vegetables need at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight to grow well.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you also want to make sure that the area is close to a water source. Now, most vegetables aren’t very drought-tolerant, so you’re going to need to water them during dry spells.

    And as with any kind of garden, success usually starts with the type of soil. Now, most vegetables do best in moist, well-drained soil that’s rich in organic matter.

    And that’s today’s Lawn-and-Garden Tip, presented by Vigoro.

    TOM: For truly organic fruits and vegetables, consider new soils from Vigoro. Vigoro’s organic garden soil and organic potting mix are made with organic and natural ingredients. And the new soil helps retain moisture and protect from over- and under-watering. Vigoro offers high-quality lawn-and-garden products at the ultimate value.

    Find the entire Vigoro line only at The Home Depot. Visit HomeDepot.com to learn more.

    LESLIE: Now I’ve got Andy in New Jersey on the line with an insulation question. How can we help you today?

    ANDY: I added on an addition – an enclosed porch – to the back of my rancher. It’s a 12×24 addition. And so, first, it was just a porch. And now, we’re closing it and trying to make it part of the house. So, the question I have was about insulating the ceiling. Because what it is – it has a gambreled (ph) roof on it. And it comes out of the house 14 feet to the back door and it’s 24 feet wide.

    And then there’s an A-frame, OK, that goes on top. So I call it a “great gambreled (ph) roof.” I don’t know if I’m using the right terminology but – so the insulation in the ceiling on the two sides, OK, it’s like a vaulted ceiling, I guess you might say. See, the rafters are 2×8 and then they drop into the eaves. So, I’m not sure about the ventilation of the roof.

    TOM: So that’s what we call a “cathedral ceiling.”

    ANDY: Right. But it only comes up that far for about 8 feet.

    TOM: Right. It’s like a partial cathedral, so part of it’s flat and part of it is cathedral. Is that correct?

    ANDY: Yes. It comes up – yeah, it comes up right along the rafters of the ceiling for about 8 feet and then it cuts right across.

    TOM: OK. So let me give you some suggestions.

    So, first of all, unrelated to your question, you just mentioned that you built this addition on a porch. Does the porch have a proper foundation?

    ANDY: Well, now, I’m sorry, we built the whole porch (inaudible at 0:16:54).

    TOM: Oh, it was all part of it. OK, fine. Because a lot of times, we see folks that take old porches and try to turn them into additions and they don’t have the right foundations. Because before we put money in this, we want to make sure you had a good foundation.

    Now, in terms of insulating the cathedral section, the way you do that is if you have a 2×8 cathedral, roof-rafter kind of span, you can only put 5½ inches of insulation in that. You need to leave the balance of the space for ventilation, as you’ve mentioned. And you are going to need to make sure that you have ventilation at the peak and also towards the bottom of that.

    Now, depending on how it’s configured and how it intersects with the lower slope or the flatter section, you need to figure out a way for air to move above that insulation and get up underneath between the insulation and the rafter and out.

    Now, another way to do this is to not use fiberglass at all. What you could do is use spray-foam insulation – Icynene spray-foam insulation. I did this in my house. In fact, I just got an assessment of how well the home was insulated compared – or how energy-efficient the home was compared to my neighborhood. And it went up to being in the top 19 percent of the neighborhood for insulation, which I thought was quite an accomplishment because my house was built 125 years ago. It’s not like we started with a house that was built in the year 2000. This is a 125-year-old house. It’s in the top 20 percent of the most insulated homes in the area because I used Icynene spray-foam insulation.

    And if you use the spray-foam insulation, you don’t need to ventilate. Basically, you’re changing that area from an unconditioned space to a conditioned space. You can spray up right against the underside of the roof sheathing and case the whole thing in foam and it’ll be far more insulated than you could ever get with the fiberglass. Because let’s face it: we like to see R-30, R-40 in terms of insulation ability. But all you can get is R-19 because you can only get 5½ inches of insulation in there.

    ANDY: Alright. Thank you very much for your help.

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

    LESLIE: Still to come this hour, we’ve got advice on enjoying the warm weather without the bugs. We’re going to tell you how to use screens for outdoor spaces to make your backyard entertaining a bug-free zone, so stick around.

    ANNOUNCER: When you’re ready to search for a home, start at Realtor.com. Realtor.com is the most accurate home search site. And be sure to work with a realtor to help you through the process. Realtor.com and realtors. Together, we make home happen.

    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 very soon, Leslie and I will be packing our bags and heading to one of our biggest annual events here at The Money Pit. It’s the National Hardware Show in Las Vegas, where we’ll bring you the inside scoop on the very best new products from inside our Top Products Pavilion, right on the show floor.

    Now, the National Hardware Show is not open to the public, so it gives us the opportunity to kind of see what’s going to be new in the coming year and tell you about it first. We’ll be reporting through the entire show on our Twitter feed, using the hashtag #TopProductsNHS.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And the benefit of following along is really going to give you the first look at the hottest new products that are being rolled out for the season, like Krylon’s SUPERMAXX. And it’s a new spray paint. It’s going to work inside or outside your home and it features best-in-class adhesion, as well as built-in rust protection, which is really what you’re looking for in a spray paint. You don’t have to sand, you don’t have to prime. Krylon’s SUPERMAXX is everything that you expect from a premium paint.

    TOM: Check it out online in our Top Products Gallery and follow us @MoneyPit on Twitter.

    Well, as the weather warms up, many homeowners like to head outside to enjoy their yards. Unfortunately, insects enjoy being there just as much as you do. There is a solution: screening-in outdoor spaces can allow you to enjoy those spaces more comfortably.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And Phantom Screens has been helping homeowners to do this for more than two decades.

    Now, recently, Tom talked to Ross Tripp at the International Builders’ Show about the latest advances in screen products.

    ROSS: What we’ve seen is a – the people are admitting the outdoors or their backyards become an extension of the homes. We see a great opportunity to open that up to the outdoors but keeping protection from the insects, from the bugs and – but having the ventilation and the solar penetration.

    TOM: And the screens that you make are beautiful and I love the motorized screens.

    Now, you’re introducing a new technology here at the 2015 International Builders’ Show, which has a safety application with these screens. Let’s talk about that.

    ROSS: Yes, it’s called SMART STOP. Man, SMART STOP is – been introduced by our motor manufacturer, Somfy. And the great application for this is that – as a safety precaution, if the screen is coming down and now detects a chair, a bicycle – it could be a human, for that matter – it will automatically stop and will not continue to retract down. So it stops, preventing any further damage or any injury. So it’s a great addition to our offering to our consumers.

    TOM: And you can hear my entire interview with Ross Tripp at MoneyPit.com’s Top Products Podcast.

    LESLIE: Bill in Florida needs some help with a garage floor.

    Bill, what’s going on?

    BILL: We have stains from acid spills in various places. The floor is about – the building is about seven years old. There are a lot of various stains from the traffic and normal automobile dirt.

    LESLIE: Yeah, regular wear and tear.

    BILL: I wondered if there’s some company that specializes in – or where I can find out how to clean the concrete floor first and then some – possibly some coating that would withstand the acid and normal battery – or normal automobile stains.

    LESLIE: So this is a big project. Is this something you want to hire out or do you have a maintenance team in the building that would take care of this?

    BILL: No, we would have to hire someone. But the first challenge is to find out – satisfy ourselves that it can be done.

    TOM: Well, it absolutely can be done and you don’t have to have a professional do this. It’s really just a big painting project. And there are products that are used to clean the concrete first and then there are different products that are used to paint it.

    BILL: Is there any problem in cleaning the spill – the battery acid?

    TOM: No. All of the painting products are going to have a recommended prep procedure. And one of the ones that works very, very well is QUIKRETE.

    They have an epoxy system, right, Leslie?

    LESLIE: Right. They’ve got a two-part, epoxy, garage-floor coating system. A lot of people make them. I happen to really like the QUIKRETE because I like that they offer 40 different colors. I mean I’ve never tackled a space larger than my own garage and the neighbor’s garage and this is a pretty massive space we’re talking about. But your first step is going to be a product that they have called BOND-LOK.

    And that really etches and preps the surface. It cleans it, it prepares it so that the paint and the epoxy coating system is going to adhere really well. So once you’ve done the BOND-LOK step, the floor is prepped, ready to go, let it dry, whatever the manufacturer’s directions say. Then you mix up this two-part epoxy floor coating and that goes on and it’s going to protect it against gasoline, oil, scuffs, normal wear and tear. There’s an additional coating that you can put on top that’s premium that will – probably because it’s a commercial space, you’ll want to go for.

    But there are products out there. You don’t have to worry about what’s already on the floor as long as you do that cleaning step.

    BILL: And so all I have to do is contact the QUIKRETE people.

    TOM: That’s right. QUIKRETE 2-Part Epoxy is the best way to go.

    LESLIE: Hey, improving your bathroom can be expensive but it doesn’t have to be. We’re going to have bathroom-remodeling projects for $100 or less, when The Money Pit continues.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Well, the weather is warming up and if you haven’t already, you probably want to finish up your spring cleaning so you can head outdoors.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Why not let the new Brillo Sweep & Mop help? It’s got 3-in-1 technology, which not only eliminates the need for a separate broom and mop, it means no more getting on your hands and knees just to get your floors sparkly clean.

    Now, we’re giving one away in this week’s Brillo Prize Pack, which also comes with three Sweep & Mop refills.

    TOM: It’s a prize pack worth $50 and it can be yours if we answer your question on the air. Learn more at Brillo.com. Give us a call, right now, though for the answer to your home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Darlene in South Carolina on the line who’s dealing with a dishwasher situation. What’s going on over there?

    DARLENE: Whenever you turn it on, turn it on pots and pans, it fills up and then it stops. Does nothing. And you can turn the knob around to the different cycles and everything and it does nothing.

    TOM: Have you checked the float, which is in the bottom of the dishwasher, to see if maybe it’s become clogged?

    DARLENE: No, I didn’t know there was …

    TOM: Yeah. Because if it’s clogged, it might think it’s – it might think that it’s about to overflow and it might shut the machine off. So in the bottom of the dishwasher, take a look at the float. And it’ll move kind of up and down – it’ll pop up and down a little bit – and a lot of times, it gets filled with food and grime and stuff. And if you clean it out, that might just be the thing to do it.

    And here’s a little trick of the trade: if you’re trying to clean out food from places you really can’t get to, you can use a wet/dry vacuum for that. It’ll sort of draw it right out.

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

    JEFF: Hi. I’m calling because I have a house that’s about 16 years old.

    TOM: OK.

    JEFF: And where the brick front matches up to the vinyl siding, the sealant is starting to crack. And I’m not sure if it’s caulk that’s drying out or mortar that’s just cracked. So, I guess the question is: what’s the right kind of sealant to put between that brick front and the vinyl siding?

    TOM: Yeah, I’m sure it’s caulk, because the caulk’s not going to last 16 years.

    JEFF: Right.

    TOM: So, what you need to do is to scrape out the old stuff and then recaulk it. And to do that, you’re just going to use a good-quality exterior caulk. I might suggest that you consider using silicone for this because that’s going to give you the best, probably, long-term durability. A little bit harder to use, Jeff, but it will last the longest.

    JEFF: Now, I notice that the gap, in some places, is somewhere between half and a full inch. Do I need to put something behind it once I clean that?

    TOM: Ooh, that’s huge. That’s really big. That’s not caulkable. You can only caulk with maybe a ¼- to 3/8-inch. Is that entire space filled up with some material now?

    JEFF: Yes. And that’s – and it’s hard as a rock. That’s why I wondered if it was mortar behind the brick going into that.

    TOM: Oh, it might not be caulk. There are different types of urethane sealants and I can’t really be sure. Here’s what I suggest you do, Jeff. Would you take a photograph of this and post it in the Community section at MoneyPit.com? We’ll take a look at it and then get back to you with a recommendation. Does that make sense?

    JEFF: OK. That’s great. I appreciate it.

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

    LESLIE: So, improving your bathroom is really one of the best ways that you can add value and appeal to your home. But if you think that those improvements have to be costly, think again. There are plenty of ways that you can give your bathroom a lift without breaking the bank.

    TOM: Well, start with one improvement that can actually save you money on medical bills and those are safety grab bars. You place those around tubs and toilets. That’ll keep people of any age from taking a spill. Go with safety bars that are about an inch to an inch-and-a-quarter in diameter. And if you’re nervous that they’re going to make your bathroom look like it came straight out of a hospital, just shop in the specialty collections. They have very beautiful, customized looks that are available.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Now, you can also change out your bathroom’s lighting. I mean we all know how important lighting is and the right fixture is equally important, if not more so. And we know that it is key to have the right amount of light and the right type of light if you have a powder room with no windows.

    You can amp up existing wattage in your fixtures if they allow for it and replace older light fixtures with new ones for, really, just a better look all around.

    TOM: Finally, help your monthly budget and Mother Nature by choosing faucets and accessories that are marked with a WaterSense label. They can save you more than 500 gallons of water every year. And when you think about the fact that your shower accounts for almost 20 percent of your household water use, you can see how a high-efficiency showerhead can pay off big.

    LESLIE: Andrew in North Carolina is dealing with a plumbing issue. How can we help you today?

    ANDREW: Bought a house about three years ago. It was built in the 1950s.

    TOM: OK.

    ANDREW: And two-and-a-half baths. We bought it – I had it replumbed with all modern PVCs, CPVCs, the whole bit. And after that, the one bathroom – whether you use the toilet, the sink or the shower – on occasion, it’ll have a hum in the pipes. Not consistent. No rhyme or rhythm. Then we had a new septic tank put in and I was thinking maybe if they redid that, it would – something would change and it did not change. And we still have this problem. I was wondering what can be done to stop that.

    TOM: Well, the humming noise in the pipe is probably caused by a valve that’s not completely closing. So this could be the toilet fill valve, for example. As the toilet goes to refill, sometimes the valve doesn’t fully close. You get sort of vibration as the water continues to move over it and that can cause that sort of what you’re describing as a humming noise. It might just be a vibration or it could be something else somewhere down the line from that where you’re running a sink or a faucet or something else that’s just running water through the pipe. It has a bad valve associated with it and that’s causing that vibration, which is leading to the noise.

    Does that make sense as a possibility?

    ANDREW: I would understand that in the toilet but what about the sink? If you draw a cup of water, just that little bit it’ll cause it. That water …

    TOM: Yeah, well, that makes perfect sense because there are valves inside the sink faucets that this happens to, as well. So, if it’s happening when you’re letting water out or when the toilet’s refilling, I would simple replace those valves. A toilet fill valve is very easy to replace, very inexpensive. Probably about $10. Easy do-it-yourself project. Sink faucet, a little bit more money and not quite as easy but it can be a do-it-yourself project if you can fit under the cabinet to get to all the fittings and the fixtures and the faucets and so on.

    But generally, it’s a noise in the valve and it’s a simple fix. And the good news is that it will have no ill effects on the plumbing system whatsoever. So it’s just more of an annoyance that you can make go away, Andrew, if you replace those valves that are affected. OK?

    ANDREW: OK, so we replace the toilet valve and the sink valve, that should stop it.

    TOM: That should do it.

    ANDREW: OK. Well, we’ll give that a try.

    LESLIE: Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit.

    So, birds and bunnies and other small animals, you know, they’re perfect for the springtime and they’re usually hanging around places, not just on greeting cards and decorations for the springtime. There’s probably a good chance that they’re in your yard or even your house. We’re going to give you some tips to control the animal population on your property, when The Money Pit continues, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Vigoro. The Vigoro brand offers quality products for your lawn and garden at the ultimate value. Available exclusively at The Home Depot. Visit your local store today.

    TOM: Making good homes better, 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: And Brian writes on MoneyPit.com: “I have a 100-year-old house in the Midwest and I take good care of it. I’ve spent some money on improvements but my basement-foundation walls are really old terracotta block and they are bowing about an inch-and-a-half in. The foundation contractors have had a look at it, gave me their opinions. They vary quite a bit. What should I do?”

    What you should do is stop calling contractors. When you have a foundation issue that’s serious like this, you want to call a structural engineer who will analyze the problem and prepare a detailed report for fixing it. And you could submit that report to the contractors and have them bid on that project. It should not be done by a contractor without the advice of a licensed structural engineer.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Because they’re going to tell you how to fix the problem and not how much they’re going to charge for their idea to fix it.

    TOM: Well, Leslie had a very special type of an uninvited houseguest recently and has tips to keep you from dealing with the same situation, in this week’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    LESLIE: Yeah. I learned a very valuable lesson. So, I was putting the kids to bed and the garbage pail in my kitchen was full with dinner scraps and everything. It didn’t smell so great, so I just tied it up, opened the door to my screened-in porch, sat it in there, literally, for an hour to get the kids to bed. Came back down an hour later, was closing up. Went outside, grabbed the trash bag, noticed that there was a small hole in it but I assumed that maybe I just pushed something down too hard and it poked through. I didn’t even think about this.

    And I took it and I put it outside in the bin, covered it up, closed up for the night, went to bed. The next day, I’m cooking lunch for the kids and I hear a crazy ruckus coming from my screened-in porch. And I look out the doors from the dining room and there are two squirrels not just like hanging out in my screened-in porch; they were completely freaking out. You know when you see two squirrels chasing each other up a tree and they’re running in zig-zags?

    TOM: Right.

    LESLIE: This is what they were doing in my porch.

    TOM: Oh, no.

    LESLIE: And they were also pooping on things and ripping stuff up and sitting on my couch. And I was absolutely losing my mind. My kids heard me cursing. I was thinking like, “How do I get them out of here?”

    So, eventually, I got the courage to go – I mean they had already ripped the screen to the door. They chewed through the screen in a couple of places. So I went around from the outside and pulled the rest of the screen down from the door so I could reach in and unlock it and open it and then run the hell out of there super-fast. And they eventually found their way out.

    But let me tell you, before they found their way out, they chewed holes and ripped holes in probably 5 out of the 10 screens that I have in my porch. So, I have a lot of repair work to do out there and I also have a lot of cleaning to do afterward.

    So if you want to avoid animals making their way into your house and patio, learn from my mistake: don’t leave trash in any screened-in areas; close up any passageway, like broken screens. Even if the spot is small, I’m telling you rodents, birds, even a stray cat can get in there.

    And if it’s a yard that you’d like to keep for yourself, you can actually keep rabbits and groundhogs, even other nesting animals, out with a simple barricade that they can’t move or get over. Now, small decorative fences and walls will work well and so do decorative ways of closing up animal tunnels.

    Now, a deer can be a bigger problem, literally. But your local extension service or a local university can tell you which native plants are the most deer-resistant. So, it was definitely a lesson learned for me. And it was a good laugh. The kids thought it was hysterical watching me freak out but I, on the other hand, didn’t think it was that funny.

    TOM: So, do as we say but not as Leslie did.

    LESLIE: It was an hour. Who knew that the squirrel would come for an hour of garbage?

    TOM: And they did a lot of damage inside that hour.

    LESLIE: Oh, my God.

    TOM: Well, thanks for sharing your experience and now we’re all smarter as a result.

    Coming up next time on The Money Pit, those arbors and pergolas in the pages of home-and-garden magazines can be yours. We’ll have do-it-yourself tips for building wooden structures in your yard, on the next edition of The Money Pit.

    I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …

    LESLIE: But you can ask two squirrels to help. You don’t have to do it alone.


    (Copyright 2015 Squeaky Door Productions, Inc. No portion of this transcript or audio file may be reproduced in any format without the express written permission of Squeaky Door Productions, Inc.)

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