TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: What are you working on? I am so psyched that spring is here and we’re all outside fixing up our homes and cleaning and really getting in and enjoying this warm weather. I mean for us, this is the time of year, you know? One project after another. I stack them up through the winter and now we start to get them done one at a time. So what are you working on? If it’s a project that we can help make easier for you, give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
And one of the most popular projects that folks are doing this time of year is working on that outside-living space. That is a great way to add some value to your house, so we’re going to help you get started with five easy ways for you to build out that perfect outdoor-living room.
LESLIE: It also adds value to your current life.
TOM: For sure.
LESLIE: It’s so fun to enjoy your outside space.
And you know what, guys? While there’s a lot of spring cleaning happening right now, we’re going to share some tips on a mission-critical appliance pair that needs some cleaning of its own: your washer and dryer. They need cleaning and maintenance to not only keep working but also to prevent floods and fires. So a super-important spring project.
TOM: And are you ready to see your grass grow bright and green? Well, that’s going to happen if the soil is set for the season. We’re going to tell you how to test and tweak your soil to make sure it delivers a lush, green lawn that’ll be the envy of the neighborhood.
LESLIE: And if you’re doing your share of spring cleaning, we’re going to give away a great tool that can help blast dirt and grime away. It’s the new Greenworks 1,800-PSI Electric Pressure Washer. It’s available at Lowe’s for $169 but we’ve got one to give away, right now, to one lucky listener who calls in with your home improvement question.
So, give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. We’re standing by.
TOM: 888-666-3974. Let’s get to it. Who’s up first?
LESLIE: Alright. We’re heading on out to Ohio where Kevin has been dealing with some tree roots at the money pit. What’s going on?
KEVIN: Well, I have a tree out front. It’s a quite large tree. I’m not really good at identifying them. But I have very large tree roots going through my front yard and it’s kind of hard to get around with my mower. And I’ve thought about putting in a flower bed or mulching over it. I’ve asked a few people I know and that’s what they suggested. But I’ve also heard putting something over them could rot out the roots. So, I don’t really know what a good solution would be.
TOM: Well, first of all, you want to keep the tree, right?
TOM: You should understand that the tree roots are a part of the fabric of that tree and you can’t cut them away.
TOM: In terms of covering them, I think any natural material – like mulch, for example, or additional soil – is going to have no effect – no damaging effect – on them. I think, though, when you get into situations where tree roots get covered by – sometimes people have concrete patios over them or that sort of thing or brick patios. And then, yeah, it can hold a little bit extra water there but I think that any type of a landscaping solution is your best course of action. You’re just going to have to deal with the issues of it sort of popping up through the lawn and just enjoy it for as long as you have it.
Yeah, we had a beautiful maple tree that I had to get rid of about two years ago. And it broke my heart because it was the tree covering the side of the house, with lots of nice shade. And we had a hammock that was permanently affixed to it and an adjoining tree. And we lost it because it was just kind of starting to die from the inside out and we couldn’t save it. So we had to take it down. So I say enjoy it as long as it is there and use a natural solution to try to avoid having to grow grass in a difficult spot like that.
You could also think about groundcover plants, like ivy or something of that nature. That would grow well in that shade. Just be mindful of the fact that it’s not going to respect any boundaries, so you’re probably always going to have to trim it back.
KEVIN: Right. Well, thanks, guys.
TOM: Alright. You’re welcome, Kevin. Good luck with that project. Thanks, again, for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Gwen in Virginia on the line who needs some help protecting her kitchen wall. How can we help you?
GWEN: I actually saw this product at a show: an invention – female inventors’ show that was being aired – was being taped in Chicago. And this lady, she had a product that you take it and it just sort of sticks to the wall. She had it in different colors, that it would blend in with your kitchen wall or if you wanted to have a stainless-steel look – but it was just a piece of material that went behind the trash can, that when you hit – when you would step on the flip tops, it would hit up against that area and would not damage the wall.
And then when you decided that you want to either move your trash can to another area in the house or you were tired of that particular pattern, you could just peel it off. It didn’t mess up the paint but it protected the wall.
LESLIE: So it was like a sticker.
TOM: That’s interesting. I’ve got a couple of ideas for you on that.
First of all, you don’t need an invention; you could simply put a small piece of clear Plexiglas on the wall using double-sided tape. Or the second thing you could do, which is even easier, is you could add a bumper to the top of the garbage can so that when it comes up, it doesn’t scuff the wall. You could use a felt-tip bumper on it.
LESLIE: Or even if you go to childproofing – in the childproofing section of any baby store, you’ll find that rubber edging that you can put on coffee tables and things. And you could put a piece like that right on the edge of the garbage can.
GWEN: OK. Thank you.
TOM: Gwen, 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. Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor, the fast and easy way to find the best home service pros in your area. You can read reviews, book appointments online, all for free.
TOM: And up next, are you ready to spend more time outside? We’ve got five easy ways for you to create the perfect outdoor-living space, all coming up after this.
Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And we are here to help you enjoy your spring with some advice for your home improvement and remodeling and décor projects. Just give us a call right now. We’d love to talk about what’s going on in your neck of the woods. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT and that’s presented by HomeAdvisor, where you can find top-rated home service pros and book appointments online, all for free.
LESLIE: Next up, we’ve got David on the line who’s got a question about a water heater. How can we help?
DAVID: Yes, Leslie. I’ve got a hot-water heater that apparently reached its age limit and is starting to leak out the bottom. Probably rusted out. And so I was thinking about putting in a tankless water heater but I live in Tennessee. And for me, you know, the ground temperature is really cool and I’ve heard that it’s – if you’re in Florida, maybe it’s a little better situation. But in the winter months, I was thinking maybe it would be too expensive to operate.
TOM: First of all, what kind of fuel do you have? Are you on natural gas?
DAVID: I have access to natural gas but actually, the hot-water heater I have now is electric.
TOM: Well, first of all, an electric water heater is – an electric tankless water heater is not going to be cost-effective. How is your house heated, David?
DAVID: It’s central heat and air. An electric.
TOM: Is it a heat pump?
DAVID: Yes, sir.
TOM: OK. So, you’re talking about using a ground-source heat pump. That’s a whole, new deal. I mean that certainly – it’s good technology if you don’t have access to gas. But I would say that my very first choice would be – if I was going to upgrade my HVAC system and had access to gas, I would get that gas at my house because it’s going to be less expensive for you to put that type of system in. Because as you started to say, if you were to use a heat pump, you’re going to have to bear the cost of drilling a ground coil deep into the earth, which is not inexpensive. So it’s very costly to do it that way.
Now, in terms of just the water heater itself, if your project is of a limited nature and you just want to replace that water heater because it is old, I would say either use a standard electric water heater but put it on a 240-volt timer so that it doesn’t run 24/7. Water heaters are kind of dumb in the sense that they – you set whatever temperature you want your water and it’s going to be that way whether it’s 7:00 a.m. in the morning and you’re just taking your morning shower or 1:00 a.m. in the overnight when you don’t really need it heated up to 120 degrees or whatever it’s set for. So, if you put a timer on it, you’ll cut back on the number of hours it actually has to run. That will save you some money.
And if you want to make something that’s just more efficient, you could use a heat-pump water heater. There’s a – like you have a heat pump for your heating system right now. Well, there’s a heat-pump technology that applies only to water heaters. Again, those heat-pumps are – water heaters are pretty expensive but there are also often rebates on them. And tax credits would also apply, as well. So those are your two options for electric: you can either use a heat-pump water heater or you can use a standard electric water heater but put it on that 240-volt timer to save some money. OK?
DAVID: Gotcha, gotcha. Well, I appreciate your time.
TOM: You’re welcome, sir. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, it’s officially the spring-cleaning season and it’s time to blast away all that dirt and grime that has found its way to build up on pretty much everything out of doors in the winter season. So we’re giving away a great tool to do just that. It’s the new Greenworks 1,800-PSI Electric Pressure Washer. It’s available at Lowe’s and it’s 169 bucks. But it could be yours for free.
TOM: Yep. It’s super convenient to use. It’s got a lot of very helpful features, a lot of cleaning power. It has a 13-amp motor that delivers 1.1 gallons of water a minute and it comes with five quick-connect nozzles that store on board so you will never, ever lose them, which is so easy to do.
LESLIE: It’s really easy to lose them but not here. And it also has an onboard soap tank, too, so it makes it really easy to add the detergent. It’s useful for so many cleaning projects, like your driveway and the deck, patios, walkways, siding, even washing your car if you’re super careful.
Now, you’ll find the Greenworks 1,800-PSI Electric Pressure Washer, for the everyday price of just $169, at your local Lowe’s home improvement store. But we’re giving one away, right now, to one listener drawn at random. Let’s make that you, guys. You!
TOM: Give us a call, right now, with your home improvement question, your décor question, your remodeling question, your outdoor-living space question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Jeff in Nebraska is working on a vegetable garden. How can we help you?
JEFF: I want to make a raised garden bed and use wood logs. But I don’t know what kind of – what the best wood is to use, so I’m not having to – so it doesn’t get eaten away and I have to reuse or redo it every couple of years.
LESLIE: So when you’re saying wood logs, you want something that looks more natural?
JEFF: Yeah. What I want to do is raise the bed up and use it kind of as a border.
LESLIE: Right, I’ve got that. But you want something more decorative rather than just pressure-treated lumber: boards that really do serve the purpose of containing the wood and raising the bed?
JEFF: Something a little decorative.
TOM: First of all, you want treated wood. Because if you have untreated wood, it’s going to rot. In terms of your options on treated wood, the most common option would be to use a pressure-treated tie.
Now, ties are available in either 4×4 or 6×6 and they look pretty rustic. And when you put them down, they’re going to be kind of greenish and they’ll look unnatural. But give it a few months, it’ll start to gray out and blend in.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And dry out, even.
TOM: And dry out, yeah, and blend in with the surrounding area. That’s going to be the easiest, most cost-effective way to go. And you can pick up those ties at home centers and they’re really not very expensive, because they’re designed to be decorative and sit in the ground. They’re not – it’s not the same kind of pressure-treated lumber you might use if you’re building a retaining wall or something of that nature. It’s basically just designed to be a border surround for a garden or a pool or something like that.
JEFF: OK. When I put it down, am I going to have to – say, if I’ve got two or three stacked up, am I going to have to drill through them and spike something into the ground?
TOM: Good question. Now, if you’re going to have two or three of them stacked up, you’re going to – what you’re going to want to do is obviously alternate the joints so that you have one long one go across two smaller ones, you know what I mean?
TOM: And then once it’s all done, you can predrill and put in some long – they have 12-inch spikes that you drill through those. So you get a long drill bit, predrill it and then put a couple of spikes and that will hold it all together nice and neat. But you will also find that the weight of them – the sheer weight and the strength of them – is pretty sturdy by itself. But if you want to really tack it together, you can do that with long spikes. Or you could toe-nail it on an angle with Number 12 common nails towards the base, just to kind of keep everything in place.
JEFF: OK. So, if I just nail them together and then add the dirt up against them, they shouldn’t go anywhere?
TOM: That’s right. They’re pretty sturdy.
JEFF: OK. Well, that answers all my questions. Thank you very much.
TOM: Well, are you ready to spend more time outside? You want to create a space for relaxing and enjoying all the warm weather ahead? Well, outdoor spaces are quickly becoming one of the most coveted home features and they add value to your house. To carve one out, it’s not a very difficult home project. We’ve got five tips to help get you started.
First, you want to declutter and clean. That is really the first step to sprucing up that outside space. You want to store the lawn equipment, the children’s toys, the pet playthings. Get them out of sight in a shed or garage and give the entire area a good scrub-down, sweeping away the dust and debris to create a very sort of clean canvas upon which you can work.
Next, think about utilizing what we call “living landscapes.” I mean nothing says welcome home quite like a beautiful living landscape, complete with flowering shrubs and trees and flowers and other vegetation. You can freshen up the family yard, as well, by weeding and mulching and planting flower beds and even pots with colorful flowers and very beautiful plants. So, spruce up, clean up and then plant some beautiful vegetation.
LESLIE: Next, you want to create cozy sitting areas. Now, the goal here is to create easy traffic flow throughout that outdoor-living room, while offering a number of places for people to sit at a table, around a fire pit, in a cozy chair configuration. Also, think about offering some shade. You can use umbrellas, outdoor curtains. You want to minimize that sun glare and maximize the visions of enjoyment in that outdoor space by giving people a lot of little conversation spots to stop and visit.
Next, you want to invite those outdoors inside. Now, you can blend the interior and outdoor-living spaces. That really does help the exterior area feel more like an extension of your home and not an afterthought. You can leave the blinds and curtains open to that yard, so you can highlight the fact that you have this beautiful outdoor space. You can make the outdoor and indoor décor complement one another and use similar colors, materials, styles – both inside and out – so it really becomes one cohesive design plan.
And finally, soften up that space. You can bring some soft design features, like outdoor rugs, throw pillows, upholstered furniture. Really create that cozy feel. Just make sure that everything is rated for outdoor use so it wears really well. Think about a fire pit, maybe even a water feature, candles, plants, fresh-cut flowers. All of these things truly create that outdoor space that you’ve been dreaming of the entire winter season. So make it a reality.
TOM: For us, outdoor living starts when we drag out the fire pit. That’s all we need.
LESLIE: That should be out all year round, Tom.
TOM: Fire pit comes first. Well, we have a portable fire pit. So we don’t have one that’s built in; we have one that we sort of put out for the warmer weather. And once that hits, man, it’s outdoor-living season. It doesn’t matter.
In fact, I’ve got to tell you, we actually took it out over the holidays – over the Christmas holidays – this year because my son had some friends home from college. And they all just wanted to sit around that fire. So you can literally do it year-round. But that’s the key for us. Once that fire pit’s out, we’re good to go.
888-666-3974. Give us a call, right now, with your home improvement question.
LESLIE: Twyla in Nebraska is on the line with a carpeting question. How can we help you today?
TWYLA: Well, I have a cement-slab house and I need to replace the carpet in it that is – currently, I have carpet in all the bedrooms and the hallway. And I was wondering whether I should go with laminate or whether I should go ahead and remain with carpet.
TOM: Well, if you like the comfort of the carpet underfoot, you know, the hard thing to deal with when it comes to those concrete slabs is that they’re super cold. So while you could replace them with laminate floor, the problem with the laminate is that it might be a bit chillier. You’d have to probably use area rugs. So if you’re comfortable with the carpet, there’s no reason not to replace it with new carpet.
There is a trade-off, though because, of course, carpet needs a little bit more maintenance than laminate. But it certainly is a lot warmer underfoot. Does that make sense, Twyla?
TWYLA: But you have to put something underneath the laminate, right?
LESLIE: You’ll see. Depending on the brand of laminate flooring that you select, there’s a different kind of underlayment that that manufacturer will recommend. And by underlayment, usually it’s a thin roll of foam. Sometimes the underlayment is attached directly to the backside of the laminate flooring. It really varies per manufacturer. But there is something that you’ll put in between the concrete and the flooring itself.
TWYLA: OK. Do you have a recommendation on brand of laminate?
TOM: There are lots of great brands out there. I would look for a name brand. You could look at Lumber Liquidators, you could look at Armstrong. Those are all good places to start. And just check out their websites. Get a sense as to the options and you can narrow it down from there. OK, Twyla?
TWYLA: OK. I thank you very, very much.
TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Coming up, don’t let the smell of clean laundry turn into the smell of smoke. It’s a scary thought but it does happen more often than you might think. We’re going to have some important washer/dryer safety tips, when The Money Pit continues.
TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Give us a call right now. We’d love to talk about your next home improvement project. We’ll give you some tips, some advice to make it easier, perhaps cost a bit less and come out better. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT and that’s presented by HomeAdvisor. You can find out what it costs to do your home improvement project before you hire a pro and instantly book one of HomeAdvisor’s top-rated pros for free.
LESLIE: Well, two of the hardest-working appliances in your home also have the ability to cause significant damage if they’re not properly maintained.
TOM: That’s right. Your washer and dryer may clean your clothes but they can also be the source of major leaks and even fires if they’re not operating safely. Here with tips to keep them humming happily along is This Old House plumbing-and-heating contractor Richard Trethewey.
RICHARD: Nice to be here again, guys.
TOM: So, we’re not talking about the kind of washing-machine disasters that occur when you, say, shrink a sweater or add bleach to your colors.
RICHARD: No, that’s true. Really, it’s about leaks and fires and that’s a lot more serious.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, almost 17,000 washer-and-dryer fires occur every single year. And that causes about $200 million worth of damage. It’s not a small item.
TOM: And most of that happens because of dryer fires on that side. Washing-machine motors can burn up but, I guess, the dryer fires are really an issue, mostly because of venting?
RICHARD: Absolutely. The dryer fires occur mostly because the dryer exhaust duct is dirty. Cleaning your dryer’s lint trap is not nearly enough to protect against a fire. The lint has to be removed from the dryer’s exhaust line and the vent that goes to the outside of the house, as well.
LESLIE: Yeah. But I can’t understand. I’m constantly cleaning the dryer vent: the little basket in there, if you will. How does the lint get underneath that, behind it and then into the main vent itself when you, essentially, have that catcher there?
TOM: You’re just cleaning the lint trap.
RICHARD: Right, right.
LESLIE: Correct. I’m cleaning the trap. But it’s still getting underneath it.
RICHARD: But the lint is airborne. The lint is airborne and that exhaust has to leave, so not all of it’s going to be picked up by the trap. And so now – in the old days, when you always had the dryer just on the outside wall, there was a relatively short run. That lint that got through might stay airborne and just go right outside.
But now, as we’ve moved the washer and dryer inside the building a little more, now you’ve got longer runs. Now you go out, you turn to an elbow, you turn up, you turn over – each one of these places act like a separator.
RICHARD: And now the lint is going to settle down onto any horizontal duct and it starts to build up. And finally, it’s enough to cause an issue and it can cause a very bad fire.
TOM: Now, when …
LESLIE: So you’ve got to clean that whole run.
RICHARD: Right. Well, if the run is short, I’m not really worried about it. It’s just when you get into longer runs.
Now, you can also help yourself with the type of ductwork that you use.
TOM: Yeah, I wanted to ask you about that. Because, for many years, you bought a dryer, you got one of those vinyl exhaust ducts, which seems like it’d be impossible to clean.
RICHARD: That’s right. The best ducts are made out of metal because it doesn’t want to stick as readily as it does to the vinyl.
RICHARD: The vinyl is not a slippery surface. It sort of wants to absorb it and keep that lint there. So I always opt for metal. Even for the safety aspect of it, I like metal for a flexible dryer vent.
TOM: And probably a good idea, if you’ve got an older dryer, is to peek behind it and make sure you do have a metal dryer exhaust duct.
RICHARD: Right. And the place where it’s going to be most prone to stopping is right at that discharge at the back of the dryer. You look behind it, you tip the dryer out, you’ll see this one big band that holds that metal or vinyl flex on there. You loosen it, pull it off, you’re going to often find a big mound of lint. You’ve got to get that out of there and then bring it back.
What you don’t realize is that just inside of the discharge is a gas flame.
RICHARD: And if you ever saw it, it’s a long, gas flame that if that tail continues to go out through the back, you can light up that lint on the backside.
TOM: Now, in terms of cleaning the rest of the duct, I know that there’s different brushes that are available. I bought one some years ago that was like a brush on a flexible fiberglass rod, where you added sections to it over time. And I’ve got to tell you, Richard, I was amazed with how much lint came out of what I thought was a relatively clean exhaust duct.
RICHARD: That’s right. It also cakes on, hardens in there. And so it’s building up like plaque inside of a vein. There will be a time that you will look at that duct and say, “It’s much more prudent for me to replace it with brand-new metal than to try and clean it.” By the time you try and clean it, sometimes it’s just simpler unless it’s built into a wall.
LESLIE: OK. Now, with your washing machines, obviously, your big danger there is leaking.
LESLIE: I feel like so much can go wrong, so quickly, with a washer.
RICHARD: Well, the prime culprit there are those two supply hoses. You know, every washing machine has flexible supplies. They’re about 6 foot long. The ones that always were the standard were rubber.
Now, rubber can degrade over time and start to become brittle. And you just don’t know when it’s going to leak and so I always like to see these stainless-steel, braided washing-machine hoses. If you’re going to stay with the rubber ones, you should really inspect them. I don’t want to be crazy about it but every year, you should look at it and just see if it’s cracked or crazed. Because if it’s starting to crack or craze, it can just pop like an aneurysm. And all of a sudden, now you have full city-water pressure and you’re going to fill up your basement.
RICHARD: In my own family’s house, I remember my dad really wanted to have the washer upstairs for my mother. So, we moved it up there and then we had the worst thing happen: the hose lets go. That water came down through the house. It literally – we had water damage in that building that showed up, probably, over the course of two more years by the time …
LESLIE: Oh, wow.
RICHARD: And so water is an insidious thing now if you get it in the wrong place.
LESLIE: Well, to that point, should you have a shut-off valve from the wall to those braided hoses? On/off every time?
RICHARD: There is some – yes, there are some really, really cool devices now. And once people know the sort of potential disaster that this water damage can cause, they fall in love with this device.
One is electric. And so you put it right where the shut-offs are that are coming out of the wall, before the hoses. And now, you plug your washing machine into this device and then you plug the device into the wall. Now what happens is when the washing machine is not calling, it stops the pressure on the hoses. So during that long period you’re not doing the wash, you don’t have to worry about that city-water pressure. Brilliant.
TOM: Oh, what a great idea.
RICHARD: Yeah. And there’s another one that is more manual where you come up to it and there’s a little striker and you just push the striker from left to right. And it’s a timer – a countdown timer – that goes tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick. And that will keep water pressure on for a fixed interval – 45 minutes or an hour-and-a-half, depending which one …
LESLIE: Whatever your cycle is.
RICHARD: Yeah, yeah. So it – both of those are terrific, because many people have a washing-machine valve that has a lever that it could turn it from on to off.
RICHARD: No one does that.
RICHARD: No one does.
LESLIE: See, I always do.
RICHARD: No. No one.
TOM: They forget to.
RICHARD: You are incredibly unique, Leslie, as you know.
LESLIE: Bah. Thank you.
TOM: As we know.
LESLIE: No. But I always do.
LESLIE: I mean so much so that I’ve even – think I’ve turned it on when I go to run a load of the wash.
RICHARD: Yeah, yeah.
LESLIE: And I’ll press the button to start the fill and it’s like click, click, click, click, so I know I have it.
RICHARD: Yeah, yeah. You had to have had a water leak in your past to figure …
LESLIE: I just have always had one.
TOM: Well, that’s right.
RICHARD: Right, yeah. Yeah.
TOM: Those are the people that always remember to turn off their – use the shut-off valve.
RICHARD: That’s right.
TOM: Somebody’s had that hose-bust happen.
RICHARD: Yeah, yeah, yeah, absolutely.
TOM: Yeah. Now what about high-efficiency washers or dryers? Anything unique about them? They operate a lot more quickly than the standard washer.
RICHARD: Well, I’ll tell you, this came from the European market where energy is more expensive. So all of those units that many of the Americans here have copied have this incredibly high-speed turbo rotation on the dryer spin cycle, so you really wring out much more water out of the load. And so those are terrific. But the one thing you’ve got to be sure to do is to level that unit perfectly. If it’s out of level, it becomes a bad wheel on a car.
TOM: Yeah. Wobbles along.
RICHARD: So you’ve got to do it. And then you might need rubber feet. But the key is to get it level because it – when it starts spinning, it – the whole house will shake if you don’t get it level.
LESLIE: They go.
TOM: Good advice. Richard Trethewey, the plumbing-and-heating contractor on TV’s This Old House, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit. I’m sure you’ve saved a disaster or two out there with that advice.
RICHARD: I hope so.
LESLIE: Alright. You can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS.
TOM: And This Old House is brought to you on PBS by American Standard.
Just ahead, are you ready to grow a lush lawn this spring? Well, it all starts with a soil test. We’ll tell you what you need to know, after this.
Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Give us a call, right now, with your home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. If you do, we’re going to give you a very cool tool that could definitely help with your outdoor spring cleaning.
LESLIE: That’s right. It really is the spring-cleaning time of year. Hence the name spring cleaning. And we’ve got a great tool that’s going to help you blast away the dirt and grime that has built up the entire winter season. Up for grabs is the new Greenworks 1,800-PSI Electric Pressure Washer. You can find it at Lowe’s for $169.
TOM: It’s super convenient to use. It’s got a lot of very helpful features. It’s got a lot of cleaning power. It’s got 1.1 gallons of water a minute. It delivers that. You can pretty much do all sorts of cleaning projects around your house. It’s got five quick-connect nozzles. They store on board so you also never lose them.
LESLIE: Yeah. Also on board is a soap tank so it really makes it easy to add the detergent, which is really helpful when you’re cleaning things like the driveway and the deck, the patio, the walkways, the siding, even washing your car.
Now, you’re going to find the Greenworks 1,800-PSI Electric Pressure Washer, for the everyday price of just $169, at your local Lowe’s home improvement store. But we are giving away one, right now, to one listener drawn at random. Let’s make that you.
TOM: Yep. All you’ve got to do is pick up the phone and call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
And I want to say that it doesn’t matter when you’re hearing this program. We are always giving away prizes just like this. So if you’re hearing this by podcast, if you’re hearing this a week or two delayed or six months delayed, you can still pick up the phone and call us. If we take your question on the air, we will toss your name in that Money Pit hard hat for the product that we’re giving away on that particular program.
But this time, we’re giving away the very impressive Greenworks 1,800-PSI Electric Pressure Washer. So give us a call, right now, and we’ll toss your name into that hard hat, 888-666-3974.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Jackie in Colorado on the line with a wood-paneling question. How can we help you today?
JACKIE: Well, I’ve got this old, medium-colored, wood paneling, which is really light, that was put over concrete walls. It’s one that’s got the black stripe in it.
JACKIE: I just want to know how the best way to clean it. Years ago, I used Murphen (ph) Oil.
TOM: You mean Murphy’s Oil?
TOM: Yeah, Murphy’s Oil Soap is the best way to clean wood. Have you used that again?
JACKIE: Well, I just used maybe a tablespoon with a bucket of warm water. Would that be OK?
TOM: Yeah, I think you can actually use a little more than that. Follow the label directions. But when you’re trying to clean old, wood paneling like that, Murphy’s Oil Soap is really the best way to go because it’s not going to dry out the wood and damage it. It’s very, very gentle. Just follow the instructions but I think that’s the best product to use for that situation.
JACKIE: OK. I really enjoy your program. It’s just very enlightening for me and I’m not – you know, if I need to find something else, I’ll just call you guys.
TOM: Alright, Jackie. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, if you’ve been trying to create a lush lawn around your home but feel like you’re constantly losing the battle to bald spots and weeds, you might be wondering what you should do to get your lawn back in shape. Well, here are four keys to bringing on that green lawn.
TOM: Now, first, you want to get a soil test. It’s really the best place to start. This’ll determine if the soil pH or acidity needs adjusting. It’s important to know because the soil pH tells you the level of nutrients that are available for the plants, as well as the activity of soil microorganisms. You’re essentially measuring the acidity or on the opposite end, the alkalinity of the soil.
Now, the scale is going to run from 0 to 14 but the ideal pH for most lawns is around 6½ to 7. So, if the test reveals that the acidity is too high, then you’d simply add lime to reduce it. But if your soil test indicates there’s too much alkalinity, then you’d add sulfur to increase the soil acidity to reach that target. So, a little bit of lawn chemistry there but it’s not hard to do.
LESLIE: Alright. It’s an easy science experiment that’s definitely worth taking on.
Now, if your lawn is looking a little thin, it could be time to reseed, so it’s best to rototill the soil. Now, this is going to mix in any fertilizer that you might have applied. And it usually kills off most annual weeds, which is why it’s best to do this before the weeds go to seed.
Now, perennial weeds, on the other hand, have roots that remain in the soil year-round. So tilling the soil is only going to break the root into pieces, which could result in more weeds. The quick way to control those weeds is by applying a post-emergent herbicide, so you’ve got to wait until it’s already starting to bloom.
Now timing, however, is important. The best time to plant grass seed is late April through May and then late August to early September. So, any weekend now, you can get out there and start planting that seed. You also want to use a fertilizer spread. Apply about half the amount in one direction and then half at the other direction, sort of at right angles. This’ll make sure you get complete coverage on your lawn.
And most important: water. It is critical. If you’re going to plant a lawn, you’ve got to have it watered. You want to sprinkle it lightly several times a day to keep that soil moist and cool. And as the grass begins to grow, you can water less often. But let it soak into the soil more every single time.
So, there you have it: some tips to help you bring out that bright, green lawn which is lying just below that rather dull, green sort of dirt color that you’re looking at right now.
888-666-3974 is our phone number. If you’ve got a question about your home improvement project, inside or out, give us a call right now.
LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. When we come back, we’re going to help a listener who’s done all the right things by going with energy-efficient bulbs but the trouble is they don’t seem to turn on. So stick around. We’re going to get to the bottom of that.
TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Give us a call, right now, with your spring home improvement project. We’ll take it from your to-do list and slide it on over to ours. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. And that’s presented by HomeAdvisor, where it’s easy to find top-rated, local home improvement pros for any home project. Go to HomeAdvisor.com.
LESLIE: Alright. But while you’re online, be sure to post your questions on The Money Pit website, in the Community section, just like Kathy did. Now, Kathy writes: “We installed LED bulbs throughout our house to save energy. It all went well until we got to our chandeliers. For those, we installed the smaller, candelabra-styled LED bulbs but noticed that the bulbs glow slightly, even when the power is turned off. It’s a little scary and we’re wondering what may be causing this.”
TOM: That was a really good question that you posted, Kathy. And I suspect that it was being caused by some sort of current leakage but I wasn’t exactly sure how that would happen. So I reached out to our friend, Jay Sherman. He’s an electrical expert with lighting manufacturer Leviton in Long Island, New York. And he had a very good explanation. He says the condition that we’re describing is not uncommon with LED bulbs. And it is, in fact, caused by current leakage.
But where it comes from, I think, is most interesting. He suspects that the switches that control your chandelier are illuminated switches: the kind that glow when they’re off. Because for those switches, power flows to make that illumination happen to the switch’s neon bulb when the switch is in the off position. So if that’s the case, the easy fix is to replace those illuminated switches with the standard variety – the not-illuminated ones – and that will solve the problem.
But if those switches controlling the LED are not illuminated, then you’ve got a more serious issue. Then there’s current leakage somewhere else in the circuit and you’re going to have to have a licensed electrical contractor check that out. So, that, I thought, was a very interesting question and those illuminated light switches are actually releasing a trickle of power.
And since LEDs need such little power, Leslie, it was just enough to make them glow and totally freak out Kathy. So …
LESLIE: I mean I can understand why. It seems a little off-putting, you know?
TOM: Yeah. And I just want to say, too, that hopefully this is a very simple switch-replacement solution. But with any electrical project, you should not be doing this yourself, Kathy, unless you know exactly what you’re doing. Which, of course, includes turning that power off before you get started.
LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got a question here from Lisa who writes: “We have a two-story tall exterior natural-rock fireplace. Every rainy season, water comes inside the house. It’s been checked by different contractors, roofer, painter, concrete, et cetera over the years and none of the recommendations have worked. Is there a product out there that could put a strong seal on it?”
TOM: Well, yeah. I don’t know what the painter is going to do for you there but the solution is most likely – it’s mostly being caused in one of two places. First of all, at the very top of this masonry chimney, there’s going to be a concrete cap that goes from the outside of that stone to the flue liner. So, the first thing to check is that cap and make sure that there are no cracks in it. There almost always are, by the way. They’re going to need to be sealed up.
Second is you need to check that flashing, which is between the roof and the chimney itself. Because, typically, in more recent years, roofers have failed to learn how exactly to do flashing and counterflashing against a masonry structure. And so they tend to use a lot of sealants, which pull away.
And finally, for just the entire surface, I would apply a masonry sealer. Sealers today are breathable, so they don’t hold water into the rock and cause it to crack and break like it used to. And that’s going to stop a lot of the absorption that’s happening in that stone chimney right now.
LESLIE: Hopefully that helps. It sounds like such a gorgeous fireplace, so let’s get everything working right.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Hey, thank you so much for spending this part of your spring day with us. We hope we’ve given you some tips, some ideas, some inspiration to avoid the perspiration as you take on projects around your house.
Remember, we’re available, 24/7, at 888-MONEY-PIT. You can also subscribe to our podcast and get this episode delivered to you personally every single week.
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 2019 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.)