TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Podcast.
And Happy Spring. It’s time to pick up the tools, dust them off, sharpen them up and get to work. Whether you’ve got a painting project, whether you’ve got a repair project, what are you thinking about getting done now that the weather is getting warm? Maybe it’s a deck, maybe it’s a patio. Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT because we are here to help.
LESLIE: That’s right. We want to help you get your yard in tip-top shape. I mean I know where I live we’ve had a pretty rough winter. And it feels like everybody across the U.S. kind of had the same. There was wind, there was rain, there was snow. Sometimes there was everything, sometimes there was snow thunder. Come on, it’s been a messy winter season.
So now that everything’s sort of thawed away, you really can see the damage that’s been done. So let us help you get it all in tip-top shape so that when this warm weather really comes around, we can actually just get out there and enjoy it.
TOM: Coming up on today’s show, mulch is an important element to any spring garden or landscape plans. But how much is too much mulch? And who knew there were several different types of mulch to choose from? We’re going to have some tips on how to mulch to make your garden grow, including an important caution about one type of mulch that can grow a fungus that’s almost impossible to get rid of. So it’s one you definitely need to stay away from.
LESLIE: Plus, are you just itching to get your garden growing but you’re wondering what you should start to plant now? We’ll have tips on a few plants that can handle the cold ground now and be ready just in time for a spring harvest, in just a bit.
TOM: But first, we’re here to talk to you. So pick up the phone, give us a call. We’d love to hear about your home improvement projects, your how-to dilemmas. Whatever is on your to-do list, be it planning a garden for the spring – are you interested in a greenhouse? You want to build a deck? How about a paver patio? Got a painting project that’s on? Maybe it’s time to fix a leak or a squeak that’s been bugging you all winter long. Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. We’re ready to help.
Leslie, let’s get going. Who’s first?
Tell us what is going on, Cindy.
CINDY: I have dual sinks in the master bathroom.
CINDY: And every once in a while, I get a strong sewer smell.
CINDY: I don’t know what’s causing it. It doesn’t matter if I run the water or flush the toilet but the left bowl connects the – underneath, the pipe connects to the right one and it goes down into the – you know, under the house.
TOM: OK. Well, assuming that they were plumbed correctly – and that you, in fact, have a plumbing trap there, which I’m going to presume you are – the odor is probably the result of something called “biogas,” which is – basically happens when you get a lot of debris over the years. And it lines the inside of the pipe and it lines the inside of the connections, the drain and so on. And then that material will start to produce a pretty strong odor.
So what you need to do is take the drain apart and use a bottle brush to scrub the inside of it. You can’t just run something down there. You physically have to scrub it – those pipes – out. And that usually will eliminate that material and therefore, the odor.
CINDY: OK. OK. Because I had used – tried vinegar and baking soda.
TOM: Yeah, that’s all good stuff but if it’s really building up like that, you’re going to have to remove the scum, so to speak, that’s containing all that bacteria that’s producing the odor.
CINDY: OK. Alright. Thank you very much.
TOM: You’re welcome. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Alright. Tom in Missouri is calling in with a pretty crazy question. His garage is pulling away from the house. Tell us what’s going on.
TOM IN MISSOURI: My garage is pulling away from the side of my house. And we determined it was a gutter-overflow problem and we got that rectified. And now I’m wondering how to get my garage back up where that it’s not pulling away from the house. It’s pulled away an inch or so.
TOM: OK. Once a building moves, because there is water that got under the foundation or whatever caused it to rotate, you can’t shove it back to kind of close that gap. So, you need to get used to it in its present position.
But tell me this: is the gap that’s opened up, is that a problem from a weather perspective? Is water getting into the building?
TOM IN MISSOURI: Yes.
TOM: Does the roof of the garage attach to the side of the building above it or next to it? Is that where the leakage issue is?
TOM IN MISSOURI: Yes.
TOM: Alright. So what you’re going to need to do is you’re going to need to reflash that: essentially take apart the roofing in that area and replace it, reroof that 1- to 2-foot strip between the garage roof and the adjoining building. Because that’s pulled apart, I can only imagine that all of the flashing is extended and there’s lots of places for water to get in there. If you don’t do that, during driving rain the water will get down between the garage roof and the second-floor side wall of your house. And that’s going to cause leaks and rot and all kinds of problems.
So you’re going to have to tear out the roof where it joins the building and replace it. But now that you’ve fixed the gutter problem, you’ve got the foundation stable again, that should really take care of it for the long run.
Tom, good project for you there. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
PHYLLIS: Yes. Their air conditioner is on the back wall of my patio and they run it, 24/7, during hot weather.
PHYLLIS: And my plants are beautiful until they turn the air conditioner on. And even though I’d water them three times a day, they turned into nothing but sticks. And I’m wondering if something could be built kind of around the – or the air conditioner so they can have their use of it but I can still enjoy my plants.
TOM: So, this is a wall air conditioner?
TOM: You can create an enclosure around that. So, for example, if you were to build something with lattice that was sort of walled and separated that area from your patio – as long as you – you need to leave about 12 inches of air space around the air conditioner for it to work correctly. So if they’ll let you, you could build something with lattice around it. And then perhaps on the lattice, you could add a vine or something like that that would fill in nicely and be nice and green and give you a bit more privacy from that space, as well.
I do question, though, why the air conditioner could be causing the plants to die, unless it’s the fact that there’s a new airflow that’s always pulling air through there or it’s hiding some of the sun from getting it or something like that. So I wouldn’t necessarily totally blame the air conditioner but if you’re asking me can you build some sort of a screening, yeah, you can do that with lattice, as long as you leave about 12 inches of space for the air to get around it. Because otherwise, the air conditioner is not going to work properly.
PHYLLIS: I appreciate your help.
TOM: You’re very welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: You are listening to The Money Pit on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Call in your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor.
TOM: Just ahead, are you looking for a great project for this weekend? Well, it’s a good time to spread some mulch around your yard. But if you add the wrong kind, you might be releasing a fungus that can do some pretty major damage to your house. We’ll tell you what to avoid, next.
Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And we would love to take your home improvement question. Call it in now at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor.com. They make it fast and easy to find a top-rated home pro you can trust. Plus, it’s 100-percent free to use.
LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got Edward in Western Pennsylvania who’s got a question about insulation. What can we do for you?
EDWARD: Yes. The roll-type insulation that’s like a thin film, they call it a “space-age product” that was made that you can’t actually even rip. And it’s supposed to hold the heat in the house, like in an attic. It’s installed in my parents’ house and now there seems to be a problem on the – actually, between the rafters. I noticed it on the sheathing. It’s got a white mold. Not a lot but just a tinge of a white mold that’s appearing. Does this cause a moisture problem in the attic of that house?
TOM: OK. So, first of all, what you’re talking about is called a “radiant barrier.” And I’ve personally not experienced them to be very effective. In fact, the Department of Energy says on their website that some studies – some studies – show that they can reduce cooling costs by 5 to 10 percent when used in a very warm climate.
So, for my money, it’s generally not worth it. So if this now is trapping moisture so that the insulation is getting damp – if that’s what’s happening, that’s a bad thing because insulation has to be dry to be effective. So, I wouldn’t be terribly upset if you took it down.
EDWARD: I see. They actually installed this on the floor. It’s a floored attic and they installed it on the floor.
TOM: What’s underneath it?
EDWARD: There is insulation under the – most of it. But where it was floored, I doubt whether there is. And nobody has ever taken that up to look.
TOM: So, you say this is on the floor. So, you can walk on it?
EDWARD: Yeah. You’re walking, actually, on it in the attic.
TOM: It’s like a foil, right?
EDWARD: Yes, it’s like a very heavy foil and you can’t rip it.
TOM: So, I – so your question is: should you leave it in place? Does it make a difference? Is that what you’re asking me? And you say it’s starting to tinge?
EDWARD: Right. And is this going to cause, do you think, a mold issue that could get worse in time?
TOM: The thing is, if it’s serving as a vapor barrier, it’s basically on the wrong side of the insulation.
EDWARD: I gotcha.
TOM: Because vapor barrier goes between the heated and the unheated space. So if it’s on top of the insulation, then it definitely could trap moisture. Because warm, moist air is going to come up from your house and get stuck in that insulation and not ventilate out. You follow me?
EDWARD: Right, right.
TOM: It doesn’t make a lot of sense, Ed.
EDWARD: OK. Thank you.
TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, mulch gives your lawn a clean and finished look. But did you know that mulch is actually very beneficial to your plants and your soil, as well?
LESLIE: That’s right. Mulch does a lot of things for your landscaping beds, including reducing that surface evaporation of moisture from the soil. Now, that’s going to protect the shallow-rooted plants and it discourages weed growth and it improves the water penetration. And again, it looks so great.
TOM: Now, you can mulch any time of the year. The areas to be mulched should be cleared of the weeds and the leaves and the grass. And you want to use at least 3 inches of mulch for a really effective covering.
LESLIE: Now, when it comes to materials, there are a lot of choices of mulch out there. And it comes down to appearance more than cost. You can find both natural and man-made mulch materials, from wood to stone to rubber. I’ve even seen cocoa seeds that are sort of crushed up and it kind of smells chocolatey and delicious.
TOM: Now, one mulch you don’t want to use is shredded mulch. Here’s why: because over the course of the year, we get a lot of calls from folks who are suffering from artillery fungus.
These are black spots that grow on siding, they grow on cars. And it’s caused by a fungus that sticks to the material and is virtually impossible to get rid of. And much of it happens because folks are using shredded mulch. Always use mulch pieces, bark mulch. Don’t use the shredded stuff because it tends to be a material that can grow this fungus and release it to the air. And believe us, it’s a real mess once that happens.
LESLIE: It can even get on your car.
TOM: I know and it damages the paint. It’s amazing. It’s like the toughest glue.
LESLIE: It’s amazing and it doesn’t go away.
TOM: Yeah, it’s like the toughest glue out there. If they could figure out what makes it stick, they’d have an alternative to …
LESLIE: Bob’s Artillery Fungus?
TOM: Yeah. They’d have an alternative to epoxy, I’m telling you. It’s amazing.
AUDREY: Well, in my children’s bathroom, we have a vinyl floor. And it is separating from the bathtub and it doesn’t look like there’s any caulking there, to begin with. And so I can see a small section of the subfloor.
LESLIE: OK. Which is not good.
AUDREY: Right. And so when I lay down the vinyl, it doesn’t reach to the tub. So I’m just trying to find the best way to fill that small space so as the children get in and out of the bathtub, the subfloor does not get wet.
LESLIE: Yeah. Probably because you get a lot of movement with the flooring, especially with the vinyl floor, your best bet is probably not going to be to use a filler or a caulk of some sort but to actually put another piece of flooring, perhaps like a shoe molding or a cove molding: something that’s small, that’s curved that could bridge that gap between the tub and the floor. And this way, it’ll cover over that opening. It’ll protect it from whatever water is spilling over. Because if your kids are like my kids, for some reason they just pour buckets of water right out of the tub, because it’s fun. And why not?
AUDREY: Right. And so I’m trying to preserve that. Because they’re only three, five and seven, so we have a long way to go.
LESLIE: So I think if you’re using some sort of a shoe molding that’s in the same material or the same look as the vinyl flooring or even a cove molding – you can get that in rubber. This way, it just sort of bridges the gap and will protect that from the water. And you want it, obviously, to be vinyl or rubber, yeah.
AUDREY: OK. Great. And that’s pretty easy to install?
TOM: Yeah, it’s basic carpentry skills, you know. It could be a little bit tricky because it’s going to bend. But if you get the PVC molding – the flexible molding – you should be able to work it in slowly but surely. I would predrill the nail holes. I would not try to nail right through without predrilling it first.
TOM: But once you get it set in place, you can fill those nail holes and you can caulk over the top and bottom lip of it and paint it and you’ll be good to go.
AUDREY: OK. Great. Thank you so much.
TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
MIKE: Yes, ma’am, I had a question about my water heater. Number one, I try to drain it periodically and it takes forever to drain that thing. And I thought I’d heard, a year or so ago on the show, there is a way that you can pour something through your water heater – it’s electric – to help clean that stuff out. I’ve got really hard water where we live out here in West Texas. And it – I mean extremely hard.
MIKE: Just about five years old. And I’ve already – twice now I’ve had to replace the lower heating – the element.
TOM: The coil? Yeah.
MIKE: Yeah. And I always replace both of them.
TOM: Do you have a water softener?
MIKE: No. Uh-uh.
TOM: Well, look, that’s your first step right there.
MIKE: Money-wise, this is not an option right at this time, so …
TOM: Yeah. There’s a couple of different kinds of water softeners. The salt-based solutions where you have to keep feeding them with salt is one type. But there’s also an electronic water softener which – what it does is it’s sort of electronically is a coil that wraps around your main water pipe. And it charges the hard-water particles.
And by charging them, it kind of – think of them – it’s not really magnetizing but it’s like when you have magnets and they’re all the same polarity and they repel each other? So when it charges these particles, it does – it forces them to not stick together; they bounce off each other. And because they don’t stick together, they don’t clump. So, it’s a less expensive way of getting a water softener. So that’s an option.
In terms of the water heater itself, you said it takes a long time to drain. When you do drain it, do you open up the pressure-relief valve or do you just open the bottom up?
MIKE: Well, I didn’t at first but then I said, “Well, I need to go ahead and release this valve up.”
TOM: Because you’ve got to let air in is what I’m saying.
MIKE: Right. Yes.
TOM: You’ve got to let air in. That’s going to speed it up.
TOM: So, once the water gets past the height of the valve – and of course, you’ve got the power off and it’s cooled down, I hope.
TOM: And you open that pressure-relieve valve up, then the water will come out faster. But the problem with some of those valves is once you open them, sometimes they don’t completely shut and you end up having to replace them.
TOM: The hard-water material gets kind of jammed up in the mechanism. I’ve had those where I’ve had to pop them open and closed a few times to get them to kind of reseat properly. But I would say that the best thing for you to do is to try to – even if you have to save up for it – is use one of the – even the electronic water softener. Try to get some of those water particles to not stick together. And then just continue to empty the water heater out now and again to try to release some of the buildup – sediment buildup – that’s at the bottom.
It shouldn’t really affect the efficiency, because that sediment is going to be at the bottom. When it – when you have a gas water heater and the sediment’s at the bottom, it actually acts like an insulator because the heat’s underneath it. But because your coils are embedded up higher in the water heater, it probably won’t affect the efficiency.
MIKE: I switched over to electric. I’m on propane down here and I had a gas heater and I was just having more trouble and …
TOM: Yeah. Well, I think you know what the solution is and it’s trying to get to the bottom of the hard water. And unfortunately, your appliances are going to continue to misbehave until that’s taken care of.
TOM: They just don’t work well with all that sediment in the water.
TOM: So I wish I had better news for you, Mike, but that’s what you’re up against. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Heading to Tennessee and apparently, so are the moles to Kim’s yard. What’s going on?
KIM: Yes. I’m trying to get rid of these moles in my yard. Please help me.
TOM: Well, one of the ways to get rid of moles in your yard is to not make your yard quite so attractive, by getting rid of the grubs that are in your lawn. Moles are usually there because there’s plenty of food.
And so, if you used a product like GrubEx to get rid of the grub – that’s the grubs. These are little, white, juicy insects that moles just love. And if you get rid of the grubs, then the moles will find a new place to eat. But if there’s plenty of grubs, there’s plenty of food, they’re going to stay in your yard. Does that make sense?
KIM: Alright. Well, good. Thank you so much. I’ll try the GrubEx.
LESLIE: Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit.
There are dozens of new waterproof and water-resistant flooring choices available that can work very well in every room of your house. We’ll have a review of the best flooring products, next.
TOM: Where home solutions live, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
Well, if you’ve ever had to clean up a spill off a floor, you know that it’s really important to clean up those spills quickly. You want to make sure that that floor is not getting damaged. Plus, floors that were meant for damp areas, like bathrooms and basements, were not always available in the same range of styles as floors that are designed for the rest of your home.
TOM: Well, today that’s changing and it’s changing very quickly. There are dozens of new waterproof and water-resistant flooring choices available that can work well in, really, every room in the house. With us to talk about the options is Todd Clark. Todd is with Lumber Liquidators.
TODD: Thank you for having me.
TOM: Now, in your role, you’re a buyer for Lumber Liquidators. You get to see a lot of these products before they get to the store. There’s a lot of changes now in the waterproof and water-resistant space. We used to be fairly limited in terms of the vinyls, for example, that really looked almost nothing like wood. But now, frankly, they’re so well made it’s kind of hard to tell the difference. Talk to me about some of the new technology in vinyl flooring and how it’s changed.
TODD: I think the term that we like to use is “Grandma’s vinyl.”
TODD: And we’ve had a big change from that. And once again, our job is to develop these things with the vendors and kind of evolve it. So, not only is it waterproof but it’s going to be durable. It can stand up to the traffic, whether it’s a multi-family or single-family unit, pets, children, everything. So, it’s becoming more and more important today. And not only the water-resistance but we’re also working with a new, high-density EVP.
So, EVP – which a lot of people probably won’t understand is engineered vinyl plank. So, it’s an evolution of the plank and it’s more rigid and it’s easier to install. So, on top of that, we’ve actually engineered a new core, which is highly dent-resistant. So, women with high heels, if you want to put treadmills, pianos on it, it’s not going to dent it whereas old vinyl would have.
TOM: And because it’s vinyl, it’s complete waterproof? I mean you can soak this stuff in a tub and it’s not going to be affected?
LESLIE: Now, you guys are talking about some pretty technical sides of how this flooring is made, how it functions, how it stands up. But let’s talk about how it looks. Because I think when it comes down to it, you’re ultimately looking at the style of the floor and then how it functions is secondary, when it really should be vice-versa.
TODD: Oh, you’re absolutely correct. You know, one of the things that laminate used to have over vinyl was the strength of décor and how authentic it looked versus vinyl, because plastic looked fake. With the new print technologies and the textures that we’re able to get out of vinyl, you really can’t tell the difference anymore. And I’ve actually had people think that some of my products in the vinyl category are real hardwood.
TOM: Now, when you talk about vinyl, you typically think that it has to be glued down because that’s the way we put Grandma’s vinyl floor down. But you have planks now that are quick-click, so they kind of snap together. Is that correct?
TODD: Yes, that is correct. So, if somebody wants to get something done over the weekend, without the mess of glue that a normal installer would use, yes, you can come in and you can lay it right over, most times, your normal flooring. And it just clicks together very easily.
TOM: Now, what about the widths of these products? Is there a lot of flexibility in terms of it’s not just narrow strips? Could you have wide planks, for example, and mixed widths where you can kind of get that mixed-materials look, so to speak?
TODD: Yes. So, one of the big trends that we’re seeing in the industry now is wider and longer. And on top of that is a combination of different lengths and widths. So, a lot of the times you’re going to see certain retailers showing random length or random width. We actually have products that are random width and length. And then we also have – in my top category in engineered vinyl plank, I have a longer board that’s much wider. So it’s 9½-inches wide versus your normal 5 inches. And it’s 60 inches long versus your normal 36 to 48 inches.
LESLIE: That’s really great because it gives you so many opportunities to create special areas or borders or insets on your flooring, all in the same quality and the same durability, where you couldn’t do that before.
TOM: Now, we were talking about vinyl but I also want to ask you about a different type of flooring that we’re seeing a lot now. It’s the porcelain wood-look tile.
Now, from what I’ve seen, this porcelain tile is really, really durable. And you can use it inside your house or even outside. It’s unbelievable. But you – if you want the look of a wood deck without a wood deck, just put porcelain tile down on your patio.
TODD: Absolutely. And this has been revolutionary. When wood-look tile first came out years ago, nobody really wanted to buy it because it looked so fake. And we’ve had inkjets – so, originally, that was what they called “roto-print.” And that was kind of like it goes underneath the cylinder and it kind of just puts the image on and it repeats and repeats. Now, when you’re using inkjet technology, it’s just like your normal printer except it puts it on a tile. And you can have as many patterns as you want without repeat, which obviously makes it look more authentic.
One of the things that we try to key on is Bellawood, which is our number-one wood brand. We take those styles that are best-selling and we actually put it on a porcelain tile so it matches it. And it looks exactly the same.
TOM: You guys have a spring sale going on right now. You’ve got the spring flooring-season catalog that’s out. So you can pick up that catalog and check it out.
And they’ve also got a new contest: the Spring Style Sweepstakes, where you can win up to $5,000 in free flooring. Grab the catalog, find out about the sweepstakes. Enter at LumberLiquidators.com. LumberLiquidators.com.
And if you’ve got more questions about flooring and maybe what the best flooring is for your situation, you can also call them at 800-HARDWOOD. They’re always standing by with the answers to your question.
Todd, thanks so much for filling us in. Pretty exciting stuff coming out in the flooring industry right now. And it’s going to make a lot of houses very attractive.
TODD: Absolutely. And I appreciate you having me on. Make sure you guys look forward to our March events. We’ve got a lot of new things coming out.
LESLIE: Todd Clark from Lumber Liquidators, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
Hey, just ahead, are you itching to get your garden growing but really you’re wondering what you should start to plant now? We’re going to have some tips on a few plants that can handle the cold ground and be ready just in time for a spring harvest, when The Money Pit continues.
TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Post your home improvement question to us at MoneyPit.com or call it in, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor. They make it fast and easy to find top-rated home pros you can trust for any home project.
ROSEMARY: Well, about a little over a year now, we’ve been noticing a smell that just wafts in through to nowhere, I don’t know. Might come up from the basement; we don’t know. It’s out in our family room and kind of stays that way, which is attached – I mean it’s directly over the – next to the kitchen, et cetera.
It smells a little bit like burning rubber but it’s a very short-lived scent. And it comes and it goes quite rapidly. And we can just, all of a sudden – “Whoop, there it is.”
TOM: What kind of a heating system do you have, Rosemary?
ROSEMARY: We have natural gas, forced air.
TOM: How old is the furnace?
ROSEMARY: Oh, boy. I’d say 12 to 15 years.
TOM: Twelve to fifteen? That’s not terribly old. And you have a natural-gas dryer, as well?
ROSEMARY: No, I have an electric dryer.
TOM: Electric dryer? OK. Is the dryer anywhere near where the smells are originating?
ROSEMARY: No. Uh-uh. When we added on the family room, we added on a laundry room, which is on the other side from when we’re – where we’re smelling it.
TOM: So, when you say sort of a burnt-rubber smell, I think of what appliances in the house might cause that, one of which is the dryer because – or the washer, frankly. Because those are somewhat belt-driven and if the bearings go bad, the belts can disintegrate and it can cause that smell to waft through the house.
Also, the blower unit on the heating system, if that’s potentially going bad that could cause a burnt-rubber smell, which would be circulated through the house via the heating-and-air-conditioning duct systems.
So those would be the first two things that I might think about.
ROSEMARY: We’ve got – the washer and dryer are only two years old and they’re in the other …
TOM: Yeah, I had a washer bearing go on a drum where it was about four-and-a-half years old and I was not happy about it. But unfortunately, it is possible and it’s not obvious until it completely fails. By the time I took that washer apart when it completely failed, it was obvious it was going on for a long time. There were all sorts of shredded pieces of rubber belts, not only in the cabinet itself but the smoke had sort of come out of the cabinet and stained the wall.
ROSEMARY: Oh, my.
TOM: So, that possibly can happen. I’m not saying that’s what’s going on here but I would take a look at that plus your blower for your furnace. Have you had the system serviced yet for the summer, for the air conditioning?
ROSEMARY: No, we haven’t.
TOM: Next time you have a serviceman come in the house, have him check the blower unit very carefully to see if it’s possible that any of this odor is coming from there.
TOM: OK. He can manually operate it and check the bearings to see if they’re in good condition or not.
TOM: Well, are you itching to get your garden growing but wondering what you can start planting this early in the season? Now is actually the best time to plant those cool-season crops. And in fact, if you don’t start growing them to maturity in cooler weather, you’re not going to see the best results and you’ll notice they could also have kind of a bitter taste.
LESLIE: Now, there are a lot of cool-season veggies that you can choose from, like turnips, beets, radishes, carrots and onions. The secret is getting the seeds in the garden early enough.
Now, if getting the crops in the ground this early isn’t an option, you can get small seedlings. Or for those with short growing seasons, you can just sprout them yourself indoors.
Now, some of these root crops need 90 days for maturity but others, such as those winter varieties of radishes, are ready to begin harvesting in 22 days from seeding. And radishes are so good.
TOM: They definitely are. And now that you’ve got a bunch of fresh veggies, what are you going to do with them? Well, you can add them to leafy salad greens that are also perfect for cool-weather growing. We’re talking about Swiss chard, arugula and leafless.
LESLIE: And if you like snow peas and want to add them to your salad, go right ahead. They love to grow in this weather, as well. Yeah, snow peas. They love snow.
TOM: Who knew?
LESLIE: Who knew?
TOM: Hey, for more details, you can check out “Green Goodness: 12 Veggies You Can Plant Right Now.” That’s our latest post on MoneyPit.com.
JIM: We live in Central Pennsylvania but my wife and I just bought a house out in Arizona for our retirement. And the house has all travertine tile in it, except for the living room and a couple – in the master bedroom. So, we don’t really know anything about how to care for it.
But my – when we were there the last time, this past time to set things up, my wife commented on how the tile looks so dull and everything. So, we were wondering if you folks would have a recommendation, as far as whether we should have it resurfaced or just have it cleaned and if so, what we should use on travertine tile. Because I’m pretty sure you can’t just – specific products you shouldn’t use. So, we just needed some recommendations.
TOM: Jim, you’re right: you do need to use products that are specifically designed for the material that you’re cleaning which, in this case, is travertine. There’s a good website that has a number of these products all together and it’s called StoneCare.com. And the product there that I’ve used is called Marbalex – M-a-r-b-a-l-e-x. And Marbalex is designed specifically for travertine and it’s basically a streak-free product that is going to do a good job of cleaning it without staining it further.
LESLIE: Yeah. Or damaging it. Some of the products can pit it, so you have to be really careful.
JIM: Yeah, like you said, we – my wife noticed it just kind of looked dull. So this – the house was built in 2005, so it’s not an older – you know, it’s a relatively newer house. But the tile does look dull, even to me. So we’re not exactly sure how it’s supposed to look because, like I said, this is our first experience with travertine tile. But the floors do look somewhat dull, so we didn’t know whether we should have it refurbished with that – with those buffing compounds and stuff or whether it just needs a good cleaning.
TOM: Well, I would give it a good cleaning and do as much yourself as you can. There are cleaners and polishers that you can apply yourself. Of course, if you have a professional come in, it could – they could really do a great job and it’ll stay with you a little bit longer. I don’t see any reason why you might not want to try it yourself.
JIM: Yeah, well, we’ll give it a shot. Like I said, I was looking for a product and you gave me one. Marbalex, you said? Is that what …?
TOM: Marbalex, yeah. It’s on StoneCare.com. It might be elsewhere but I know it exists on that website.
JIM: Very cool, very cool. By the way, I listen to your show every Saturday morning on my long walks. So not only am I getting great advice but I’m getting in shape to your show, too, so …
TOM: Great. Glad you’re taking us with you.
JIM: So, yeah, kudos to you guys. But you’ve got a really great show.
TOM: Thanks, Jim. Appreciate it.
LESLIE: Hey, it doesn’t sound like an extreme sport but yardwork is surprisingly ripe for accidents. Are you taking the right precautions? Find out, after this.
TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor.
LESLIE: You can get matched with background-checked home service pros in your area, compare prices, read verified reviews and book appointments online, all for free.
TOM: No matter the type of job, HomeAdvisor makes it fast and easy to hire a pro you can trust.
And trust is something that came up in the Community section this week, Leslie, because we got a woman named Kay who is having an issue with trusting a contractor.
LESLIE: That’s right. Kay writes here: “Our basement is pretty humid and has moisture coming up through the concrete floors. From listening to The Money Pit, I know proper grading and gutter maintenance outside the home should prevent this. We had a basement expert come by and he said grading was not enough. A total overhaul was necessary and he wanted to install drain systems, a new sump pump, et cetera to address the moisture. Now, our ultimate goal is to finish the basement. Is he right or is he just trying to sell us his services?”
TOM: He’s trying to pay for his kids’ education is what he’s trying to do. It’s nuts. These guys, these wet-basement contractors, they drive me crazy because they really take advantage of people’s fears. As we’ve said before, wet basements are easy to fix, especially when they leak after rainfall or snow melt, because that’s how you know it’s grading and drainage.
If it’s seasonal and it comes up – usually in the colder weather – comes up over months, that’s a rising water table. And that’s five percent of the time. The 95 percent of the time that basements leak is because there’s an issue with drainage. So, I think your wet-basement so-called expert is completely wrong.
And I love the fact that they call themselves “mold experts” now, too, Leslie. Because why not? Throw in another word that scares people, right?
LESLIE: That’s true.
TOM: What I want you to do is this: clean your gutters and downspouts, make sure there are enough of those. You need no more than 600 to 800 square feet of roof surface for each drain. And you want to extend those downspouts to discharge at least 6 feet from the house. You’ve got to keep the water away from the foundation. Not just 6 inches. Six feet. And after all that’s done, you can improve the angle of the foundation soil by adding a bit and sloping it away from the house.
That is the way you stop a wet basement, folks. You don’t need to dig out foundations. You don’t need to dig up basement floors. You just need to fix your grading and your drainage.
LESLIE: I mean listen: it’s going to make a huge difference. So give it a try and in all of the cases, if he’s right, you’ll know you tried everything first. And I promise you, we’re right.
TOM: Well, if you’re planning a trip this spring or summer, great. We want to help you make sure, though, it’s not a trip to the emergency room. Leslie has got advice for keeping safe while you tackle that spring yardwork, in this week’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.
LESLIE: You know, yardwork, it’s a great way to combine exercise with fresh air. And you get a sense of accomplishment but it also requires a few extra steps and layers to make sure that you don’t get hurt.
First of all, sturdy work gloves, they are a great investment for any outdoor project. They’re going to give you a better grip, protect your hands from painful blisters, which you can get with all that shoveling and raking.
Now, if you’re pushing a lawn mower, you want to make sure that you wear work boots, long pants, gloves. And here’s something that a lot of people tend to overlook: eye and ear protection. Now, all that noise from the motor can take its toll on your hearing. And even the smallest pebble from an edger or a trimmer is enough to damage an eye pretty severely.
Now, if you’re using pesticides or other chemicals, you want to protect your skin with long pants, long sleeves and rubber gloves, as well as breathing apparatuses and safety glasses. You’ve got to protect everything.
Finally, I know this one sounds a little silly but try to add in a few good stretches to your mix of the day projects, you guys. You’re not only going to have avoided those day-of injuries but you’ll also cut down on soreness tomorrow, especially if it’s been a long time since you’ve picked up that shovel or the trimmer or the saw. Whatever it is, just be safe out there, guys.
TOM: Good advice. And now that you know how to be safe, we’re going to give you some tips on how to improve your curb appeal with some shrubbery. That’s coming up on the very 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 don’t have to do it alone.
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