Best Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Detectors | Direct Vent Fireplaces | Hardiest House Plants for Winter

  • Carbon monoxide alarm
  • Transcript

    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: And we are so glad you are here with us today. Here we are, just a week or so before the Thanksgiving holiday. And time to sort of really get to it, in terms of doing that holiday fix-up and the holiday shopping. If you’ve got some late projects on your to-do list that you’d like to get done before the end of this year or some planning for next year’s improvements, hey, great questions. Give us a call, right now, because we would love to help you do just that. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Coming up on this hour, now that we are in full-on heating season, smoke and carbon-monoxide alarms are really important for home safety. But many are just not properly installed or maintained, so we’re going to give you some tips to keep you safe, just ahead.

    LESLIE: And also ahead this hour, are you dreaming of a toasty, warm fire this holiday season but you don’t have a fireplace? Well, we’re going to share some options that can deliver the same warmth and comfort without the need for a big brick hearth.

    TOM: And do you love the colorful trees of fall but dread dragging piles of leaves to the curb? Hey, we’ve got a better idea. Why not compost those leaves instead so they can benefit next year’s garden? We’ll share tips on how to do just that.

    LESLIE: Plus, we’ve got a fun tool to give away. It’s the iconic, American-made Arrow T50 Heavy-Duty Staple Gun, along with a supply of staples, worth 25 bucks. Perfect for reupholstering those chairs before the guests show up.

    TOM: Going to one caller drawn at random. Make that you. Pick up the phone and give us a call right now. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Let’s get to it. Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Heading out to Illinois where Lester is on the line with a question about a roof. What’s going on?

    LESTER: Well, I found out what I did wrong when we built the house. We built the house and we put insulation in the eaves of the house, when we built it, so we could heat it so we could finish out the walls and all the plumbing and all the electrical and things like that.

    TOM: OK.

    LESTER: But then we didn’t take that insulation back out when we …

    TOM: Oh, so you blocked the vents?

    LESTER: So, on the end of the – on the eave of the house.

    TOM: Right. OK. So you obstructed – did you block the vents by doing that and you’re getting condensation now? What’s going on?

    LESTER: Exactly.

    TOM: Yeah.

    LESTER: We blocked the airflow, we blocked the vents and there was no airflow into the attic.

    TOM: Yeah. Huh.

    LESTER: And we took off the shingles, we took off the outside middle of plywood so we could get to that insulation to take it out.

    TOM: Oh, man. So there was no way that you could do that from inside the attic itself?

    LESTER: No.

    TOM: Oh, boy.

    LESTER: Not unless you could – I mean it’s a 4/12 pitch. You couldn’t get in there.

    TOM: They have a clip?

    LESTER: Plus, half the sheets of the plywood on the outside were – they had rotten spots in them.

    TOM: Oh, OK. Yeah.

    LESTER: So they had to come off anyway.

    TOM: Yep.

    LESTER: And that way, we could figure out what was going on, so …

    TOM: Yeah. Boy, that was a bit – that was an oversight you’ll never do again, huh?

    LESTER: That’s for sure.

    TOM: Yeah.

    LESTER: It lasted 27 years but with …

    TOM: Yeah. Well, I tell you a lot of houses that were built around that same timeframe have moisture issues like that. I feel like it’s something that we’ve learned a lot over those last 27 years. As when I was doing home inspections, I would find a lot of damaged plywood in those homes that were 25, 35 years old that were caused directly by having not enough ventilation. In your case, the ventilation was completely blocked off but it was not unusual for these houses to not have enough ventilation. As a result, the plywood got wet and it delaminated.

    So it sounds like you’re on your way to getting this completely resolved. Is that correct?

    LESTER: Yes. The only thing is I just wonder how that will help our heating and air-conditioning out, because it will have – the attic will have some air.

    TOM: Well, that actually, surprisingly, is a good thing. You want your attics to be drafty if you’re using fiberglass insulation. You want to keep the heat at the attic floor or the upper ceiling level of your home, so that’s why you insulate that. But everything above, if it’s ventilated properly, should be at ambient temperature. Because this way, in the summer, that heat vents out and in the winter, the moisture vents out.

    LESTER: Correct.

    TOM: So I don’t think you’re going to see an increase. I think you might see, if anything, a decrease.

    LESTER: Whoa.

    TOM: Now, I will mention if you were to not have fiberglass insulation and you were to use spray foam instead, which is an upgrade that many people have made – and myself included – in that case, then you have no ventilation because that’s an unvented system of insulation that doesn’t require the venting.

    LESTER: OK. Well, we did – we put 6-inch fiberglass. Then we add 6-inch blown-in on top of that.

    TOM: OK. So, yeah, you do need to have it vented. So, now, do you have soffit vents and ridge vents so you have plenty of air up in that attic?

    LESTER: We have – we had the square – the six – we had six square vents on the roof the first time.

    TOM: OK.

    LESTER: And then, after we shingled it the first time, 12 years ago, then we put a ridge vent in.

    TOM: OK. Well, that sounds like you’re on the road to recovery now. So, I’m sorry that happened to you but I think you did the right thing.

    LESTER: Well, it took 27 years to find out that we screwed it up when we built the house, so …

    TOM: Lesson learned. Now you’ve shared your tale with the world here, so no one will make that mistake that’s listening to the show.

    LESTER: There you go.

    TOM: Well, good luck, Lester. Thank you.

    LESTER: Yep.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Christy in Pennsylvania who’s got a question about some painted paneling. That’s a lot of Ps. Let’s see what we can do. What’s going on?

    CHRISTY: I have a painted paneling behind my stove. And it has started to peel off. It is the old-style wallboard that used to have some type of a wallpaper on it and (inaudible). Obviously, at some point, painted over it but now it’s all peeling off. I’m in a rented place. I just want to figure out how to glue it back or put it on with what epoxy or what glue would actually take care of it.

    TOM: Man, I don’t know, Leslie. I mean if that wallpaper is peeling away, especially being behind a stove where it’s subjected to a lot of steam and that sort of thing, I think this is going to be very, very difficult to get that to readhere. I think we’re looking at sort of normal wear and tear here and perhaps a different type of a wall material would be beneficial.

    Is your landlord the least bit interested in making a repair like that? Or are they just trying to do the minimum?

    CHRISTY: No, they’re just saying it’s up to me and it’s just – it’s falling over – it keeps falling over the stove. And so now I’m thinking of a fire risk. Which now I’m trying to figure out – how do I repair it in some way to – besides me paying for all new paneling for the kitchen?

    TOM: Yeah, definitely, yeah. Mm-hmm.

    Yeah, well, you certainly shouldn’t do that. But you are going to need some other type of covering for that. You could do something as simple as mosaic tile just over the countertop. Would that be something you might be interested in doing?

    CHRISTY: No. Now you’re making me think. What support would that need?

    TOM: You could glue it directly to the drywall. I would pull off all the loose paper and then you could glue the tile right over the drywall with mastic, a tile adhesive. And then you’d simply have to grout it.

    I think that there’s probably no solution that we’re going to be able to give you that will, you know, for sure seal that loose paper back. Even if you use new wallpaper adhesive, it might work for a little while but I just think in an area like that, it’s unrealistic to expect the wallpaper to be able to stand up.

    CHRISTY: OK. Well, I thank you so much for your input then.

    TOM: Alright. Well, good luck with that project and thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Show on air and online at Give us a call, 24/7, at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    888-MONEY-PIT is presented by HomeAdvisor. Get instantly matched with top-rated pros for any home project and book appointments online for free.

    TOM: And just ahead, smoke and carbon-monoxide alarms are important for home safety but they do need to be properly installed and maintained throughout the life of the alarm. We’re going to have some tips to help you do just that, after this.

    Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Pick up the phone and give us a call right now. We’d love to hear from you. We’d love to talk about your next home improvement project. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. And that’s presented by HomeAdvisor, the fast and easy way to find the right pro for any kind of home project, whether it’s a small repair or a major remodel.

    Plus, if you give us a call, right now, at 888-MONEY-PIT, we will toss your name in The Money Pit hard hat because we’ve got a great tool to give away to one lucky caller drawn at random. It’s Arrow Fastener’s T50 Heavy-Duty Staple Gun, along with a supply of the T50 Staples.

    You know what? Arrow Fastener is celebrating 90 years right now. That’s crazy.

    LESLIE: That’s amazing.

    TOM: They are a great American company and this is a great American tool. It is definitely the most popular staple gun on the market. It’s all chrome-steel housing. It’s got a jam-resistant mechanism. It’s got a very powerful coil spring, a nice viewing window. You can get lots of projects done with this tool.

    If you’d like to win it, pick up the phone and give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now I’ve got David in Texas on the line who needs some help with a shelter. What’s going on?

    DAVID: I have a storm cellar and it’s an old storm cellar. And it’s probably 1930s concrete if not earlier.

    TOM: OK.

    DAVID: And it has no cracks or anything in it and the door is a slant. You enter it (inaudible) stairway. It goes down. It’s all concrete. And there’s no cracks, evidence of cracks. It’s amazing. But it’s leaking. It has moisture in the bottom of it and the door, to me – it’s a metal door with ridges around it to where water is not running in there. So it’s got to be coming in from the ground, through the concrete.

    TOM: OK.

    DAVID: What could I put on the old concrete, on the inside of the storm – so I don’t want to dig out below it and do behind it.

    TOM: The answer is this: nothing. Not a single thing. You don’t need to paint the inside. Because no matter what you put on the inside, if water wants to get in there, it’s going to get in there. Your water is coming in from the outside. So what you need to do is take a look at the drainage conditions right around the outside of that house.

    So, for example, if you’ve got – if you don’t have gutters on the roof, you’ve got to have gutters. If you don’t have downspouts that are extended several feet from the house – very often, when downspouts and gutters are put on, they drop right at the edge of the foundation. That water does a U-turn and goes right back in.

    You need to manage the water on the outside of the perimeter of that space, because that is the only way to stop water from getting in. If you do that, you’re going to find that you have good success.

    Now, that doesn’t include the possibility that if this door on the outside – and I’m not quite sure what kind of door you’re talking about. Are you talking about an angled basement door, like a BILCO door? Or are you talking …?

    DAVID: Yeah. It’s a metal – heavy metal door.

    TOM: Right.

    DAVID: You open it at an angle. It’s slanted.

    TOM: Right, yeah. That’s like a – yeah, I know exactly what you mean.

    LESLIE: Yeah, it’s a BILCO door.

    TOM: That’s a – it’s a BILCO door, yeah.

    DAVID: Yeah.

    TOM: So as long as that’s not leaking – but you could easily figure that out. Just take a hose and run it right over the door, over the edges, see if you get any water through. But if that’s not leaking, that water’s definitely coming in at the foundation perimeter.

    So what happens is you get a lot of settlement, usually, right around the house. You know, when the house is built, the slope is pretty good but over the years, it sinks down. So, sometimes, you need to add some soil to slope – improve that slope away. But the most common cause of this is just not maintaining the gutters or not having gutters or not having gutters that are discharging far enough away from the building, OK?

    DAVID: Sounds great. Hey, thank you all. I enjoy your show so much. And you all are a great team together.

    LESLIE: Thanks.

    DAVID: I mean the boss lady – she is on top of it with you. She keeps you – yeah, she keeps you straightened out, doesn’t she?

    TOM: She does, man.

    DAVID: Thank you.

    TOM: She absolutely does. Couldn’t do it without her.

    DAVID: We all know who the boss is in the family.

    LESLIE: Thank you so much.

    DAVID: OK. Thank you so much.

    TOM: Alright. Thank you.

    LESLIE: Well, smoke and carbon-monoxide alarms are crucial for home safety but they need to be properly installed and maintained throughout the life of the alarm.

    TOM: Now, the problem is that a lot of them are not. Too many people either don’t have carbon-monoxide and smoke detectors installed or if they do, they don’t update them. And some even forget to change the batteries.

    LESLIE: Well, First Alert has a new solution: it’s the 10-Year-Battery Combination Smoke and Carbon-Monoxide Alarm. And it has voice and location alerts to keep everyone safe.

    Now, with the voice and location alerts, this alarm alerts you and your family to the threat of smoke or carbon monoxide, as well as the specific location of the hazard within the home, to help facilitate a safe exit. So, it could say, “Evacuate. There’s smoke in the basement.” This way, you know not to go that way or go through that egress. It’s trying to keep you and your family safe and give you the quickest way out of the house.

    TOM: It’s also slim and has an easy-to-install design that’s about half as thick as a standard smoke alarm. And it has a 10-year sealed battery, which is fantastic because it eliminates the need for battery replacement or for you to have to remember to replace the battery. And it’s good for the life of the alarm.

    It retails nationwide for 59.99. You can learn more at

    LESLIE: Theodora in Hawaii is on the line with a leaky ceiling. What’s going on?

    THEODORA: We got a leak. We don’t know where it came from. We don’t know if it’s from an outside frame on a window or if it’s from vines that were crawling up the outside, which we pulled out, and loosened the frame.

    Anyway, we’ve got a leak. It’s a two-story house. I live on the main floor and it’s my ceiling that’s leaking. And it’s left – it barely leaks and it rarely leaks unless we get water from that side.

    TOM: So kind of like a driving rainstorm?

    THEODORA: That’ll do it.

    TOM: Yeah, OK.

    THEODORA: And the thing is that we cleaned it with bleach and we put KILZ on there. And then about a month later, we put latex on there.

    TOM: OK.

    THEODORA: And I was told that ought to work but the stain came back. It’s kind of a rusty color and pretty ugly.

    TOM: So the question is: do we think it’s still leaking, Theodora? Or do you think it’s just a stain you’re having difficulty with?

    THEODORA: It leaks only when we get those Kona storms. And otherwise, it doesn’t leak. Storms come and go and it does not leak.

    TOM: So, if the leak is active no matter what you put on there for paint, obviously, it’s going to keep coming through again. So we have to deal with the active leak.

    Now, you mentioned that you live on the first floor of this home. Is it a two-family house or – who’s upstairs?

    THEODORA: My daughter lives up; I live down. I rent from her; she’s my landlord.

    TOM: Oh, I see. OK. Well, you’re going to have to complain to the landlord here, I think. Obviously, you’ve got a leak that’s caused by driving rain, which means it’s coming in generally through flashing. What kind of siding is on this house?

    THEODORA: I guess I would have to say that the walls are hollow tile? That brick that has a hole in the side? And there is no flashing I – there is on the second story, on the ceiling – on the roof. But in my area, it’s just kind of – if you put adobe on there, you’d have kind of a brick house.

    TOM: Well, what you’re going to have to do is basically have a contractor look at the side of this house, because you’re getting water up and under somewhere. And if you don’t deal with it, the mold could get worse.

    Now, because it’s a driving rainstorm, it’s going to be probably flashing-based, like I said. And so, that may involve you taking apart some of the trim around windows, for example, or where roofs intersect or where plumbing pipes come through and trying to get to the source of this.

    One thing that you could try to do is you could have a contractor run water down the house, starting at the top and working down, to see if we can recreate the leak. That might help you narrow down where it’s happening.

    THEODORA: The second-story roof has vaulted ceilings. It’s way up to heaven. They won’t get up there with water. I know that.

    TOM: Well, look, you can get as high as you need to get, with the right tools, Theodora. But the problem is you’ve got to deal – this is not – you called a question about how to deal with the stain. It’s not a stain issue; it’s a leak issue. The leak has got to be addressed. I can’t tell you where it’s happening on that side of the house but I can tell you it does exist and you’ve got to identify that. And you could try caulking obvious areas and things like that to see if it makes it go away. But I would recommend a more comprehensive approach. And unfortunately, you’re going to need a pro to get that done.

    So, complain to that landlord. Get somebody in that can fix that. I’m sure your daughter will understand.

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

    LESLIE: Call in your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week right here at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Well, the warm glow of a fire really is a welcome addition on a chilly winter’s night. But a wood-burning fireplace isn’t the only way to get the heat and ambiance that a fire can bring. We’ve got tips on how to track down the right product and contractor, in today’s Pro Project presented by, next.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: What are you working on today? If it’s your house, you are in exactly the right place. Are you fixing up for the holidays ahead? Are you planning a project for after the new year? Do you have a New Year’s resolution to-do list that you’d like to get done before you have to come up with a new one for 2020? Well, all of those are great topics that we can help with. If you’ve got questions – if they have to do with home improvement, repair, décor, maintenance – we’re here to help. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor.

    Do you need new flooring in your kitchen or your bathroom? Is that one of the projects you’re taking on? Well, HomeAdvisor can instantly match you with the right pro for the job for free.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Daniel in Washington on the line.

    Daniel, welcome to The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?

    DANIEL: Well, you can help me figure out why my wife takes a cold shower and I take a hot shower.

    TOM: I bet she’s not too happy about that, either.

    DANIEL: She’s very unhappy and she seems to think it’s my fault.

    TOM: So, who goes in the shower first? She goes in first?

    DANIEL: She does.

    TOM: And then what? It takes a long time for the water to get hot?

    DANIEL: Well, she turns it on. Our bathroom shower is about, I guess, when I added up all the pipes, maybe 30 feet from the water heater. So it’s not very far. We’ve lived in the house for 12 years, so we can usually count on hot water coming about 4 seconds after we turn on the water. And it’s not happening this time. She’ll leave it on for a minute or so, it’s still cold. And she says, “What the heck, I need to get going.” So she takes a shower and then she screams and yells at me.

    LESLIE: And then it’s all your fault.

    DANIEL: Twenty minutes later, after she clears out of there, I get in there and the shower is nice and warm.

    TOM: Well, that’s an odd problem because certainly, it’s not the distance; that’s very, very short.

    Now, as far as you know, is your water heater working normally? So if you go to your kitchen sink, does it deliver hot water pretty quickly?

    DANIEL: When we turn it to the left, it’s hot and when we turn it to the right, it’s cold.

    TOM: Right. So the kitchen sink is fine.

    DANIEL: And the kids’ bathroom is fine.

    TOM: OK. So, it’s not the water heater, it’s not the pipes. What’s left here? The shower valve. You’ve got a bad shower valve.

    DANIEL: You came to the conclusion pretty quickly that it’s not the hot-water heater. Somebody suggested that it’s some deely-bobber inside the hot-water heater that has to kick over.

    TOM: By virtue of the fact that your water heater delivers hot water to your kitchen sink and delivers hot water to your kids’ sink – it’s only not delivering hot water to your master-bath sink or shower, right?

    DANIEL: It does deliver hot water to the master bathroom and the master-bathroom shower but it takes, I don’t know, 10 minutes or so after my wife goes in there. So, one theory is that we’re – by her taking a cold shower but having the nozzle turned to the right – to the left – where it would give hot water, it activates something.

    TOM: OK. So, let me ask you one more question. In your master bathroom, you have a sink, correct?

    DANIEL: Yep.

    TOM: And does that sink get hot quickly?

    DANIEL: Sure. But maybe not first thing in the morning.

    TOM: Well, does it take as long as the shower to get hot?

    DANIEL: I haven’t tested that.

    TOM: Alright. So test that. If the sink gets hot quickly and the only plumbing fixture in the house that’s not getting hot quickly is that shower, then you’ve got a problem with the shower valve. And that could happen. Something could break down inside the shower valve. And it might be that it takes so long to run before it finally lets some of that hot water in, because maybe you’re waiting for one of the pipes to – one of the valve parts to expand and just something to jam shut and it’s just not letting the hot water out.

    So, I suspect if you’ve eliminated – everything else is normal, it’s just that shower that’s not, I’d replace the water valve. It’ll probably save your marriage. Think about it.

    DANIEL: Well, at least my hearing.

    TOM: There you go. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Well, if you’d like to have a warm, glowing fire to keep warm this winter but you find you are a bit short in the fireplace department, well, one option is to install a direct-vent gas fireplace. We’re going to have tips on how to take on that project, in today’s Pro Project presented by

    LESLIE: Now, this really is a great solution for people who want a fireplace without the work and expense of building one brick by brick. It’s, essentially, a gas-burning appliance that can be installed without a chimney. Instead, it’s got a vent that goes through an exterior wall, just like your furnace, where it safely sends that exhaust gas to the outside.

    TOM: Now, there are a number of advantages, too. One of which is that they’re actually pretty efficient. Direct-vent fireplaces burn natural gas or propane, just like traditional fireplaces can. However, they convert most of the fuel to usable heat. They are completely sealed off from the interior rooms by a glass door and that really prevents a lot of heat loss. Because with a fireplace, it draws a lot of that room air up through the chimney and that wastes a lot of energy. It’s not going to happen with a direct-vent fireplace.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And also, this kind of fireplace gives you a lot of design flexibility and here’s why: because direct-vent fireplaces can be installed through the wall. That means they can be placed anywhere in a home. If you don’t have a wall space, these fireplaces can also be vented upward through your roof. So it gives you a lot of location options.

    TOM: Now, you do need a pretty strong skill set to handle this project yourself and get it done safely, because it involves a lot. We’re talking carpentry, plumbing and electrical work. So it is probably one that you’re going to need the help of a qualified pro to get it done.

    LESLIE: And that’s today’s Pro Project presented by With HomeAdvisor, you can get matched with top-rated home service pros in your area and 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 the best local pros.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re going to Tennessee where Jean has a stucco question. What’s going on? How can we help you?

    JEAN: Well, the house was built in 1914. And the outside exterior walls are covered with stucco that has the kind of swirly bumps where they throw the trowels on it. And it looks like it’s in good condition, so I was thinking we could probably just spray it a nice color. It’s still kind of golden like it used to be. But wherever the branches of the shrubs went against it, it’s kind of yucky and gray-looking.

    But I know that when we painted our patio slab, we had to do some treatment to it before we could paint it. Does stucco need some preconditioning besides just hosing it off with soap and water?

    TOM: Well, the first thing you need to do is to make sure that there’s no algae attached to it. And so I would probably do a very light pressure-washing and cleaning of the outside of the house and let it dry for a good couple of days in warm weather. And then I would prime it with an oil-based primer and then I would use a good-quality, exterior topcoat paint over that.

    You can’t cut any corners here; you can’t take any shortcuts. But if you do it once and you do it right, it’s going to last you a long time, because that siding is not organic. You may find very well that paint can last you 10 to 12 years, as opposed to maybe 5 to 8 if it was wood.

    JEAN: Alright. Well, thank you.

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

    LESLIE: You can reach us with your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week right here at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Up next, do you love the colorful trees of fall but dread dragging piles of leaves to the curb? We’ve got a better idea. Why not compost all those leaves so that they can benefit next year’s garden? We’ll share some tips, next.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: What are you working on? If it’s your home, we’re glad you’re here with us to do that job. If you’ve got questions, you can give us a call, 24/7, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by

    Hey, never worry about overpaying for a job. Just use the HomeAdvisor True Cost Guide to see what others paid for a similar project. It’s all for free at

    LESLIE: Yeah, pick up the phone, though, and give us a call because we’ve got a great prize to give away this hour. And it’s perfect for this time of year but quite frankly, perfect for all year long. We’ve got, up for grabs, the Arrow Fastener T50 Heavy-Duty Staple Gun and a staples multipack.

    Now, what’s so great about the stapler – first of all, Arrow makes a fantastic stapler. They’ve been doing it for 90 years. They are super durable, they won’t jam and you can use them pretty much for any project around your house.

    Now, you can upholster dining chairs, you can make a headboard. You can do all sorts of fun, decorative things with fabric. Of course, I’m going all the fabric route. Tom is like, “There’s lots of other things you can do with them, Leslie.”

    TOM: Yep, there certainly is. What about, let’s say, repairing screens, installing insulation? That’s a topic that folks are tackling this time of year. Making sure we’re getting our homes nice and cozy before it gets super, super cold out.

    If you’d like to win the T50 Heavy-Duty Staple Gun and the T50 Staples, worth 25 bucks, give us a call right now. You might just be the winner of this lucky tool from Arrow. Been in business for 90 years and they make the most popular staple gun in America.

    Well, do you love the colorful trees of fall but you dread dragging piles of leaves to the curb? We’ve got a better idea. Why not compost those leaves so they can benefit next year’s garden?

    LESLIE: Yeah. You know, leaves make great compost because the trees pull nutrients from deep beneath the surface. And by adding those leaves to your compost pile, the compost is going to contain nutrients that garden plants can’t typically reach on their own.

    Now, chopped-up leaves tend to stay put better than whole leaves, since there’s less surface area for that wind to catch. And it’s a good idea to store bags of dry leaves in a shed or other covered areas until springtime, as long as they’re dry and crackly before you bag them and that they’ll stay dry in storage. They’ll be really ready for mulching for your flower bed and gardens come springtime. So you’ve got a lot of good things you can actually do with those leaves.

    TOM: Now, another thing they’re great for is insulating plants. It will protect them from those big temperature changes in winter. Plus, the leaves will also attract earthworms. And they can help break the leaves down into beneficial leaf mold and compost. And that creates sort of the perfect garden soil. It’s very nutrient-rich, it’s loose, it’s friable and it’s very well drained.

    So if you’re thinking about composting those gorgeous autumn leaves, know that they will be very beneficial to you when things turn green again.

    LESLIE: Rob in Washington is on the line and is dealing with some flooding. Tell us what’s going on.

    ROB: Well, I own a 1-acre lot and I’m surrounded by 58 acres of green belt. And my house sits up in the front of the lot and I have a cement driveway that runs down into a 1,200-square-foot shop. And every time it rains here in Seattle, which is every other day …

    TOM: Yeah, frequently.

    ROB: And at daylight savings, we get an extra hour of rain. But I get – my shop floods and I need to know what kind of drain system I can put in in front of my shop. The cement is maybe 14, 16 feet wide.

    TOM: So basically, Rob, what is happening is the water is running down the cement driveway and into the shop. Is that the main source of the water? What you need to do is to put a culvert across the driveway.

    So the way that works is you, essentially, cut the driveway in half; you slice out a gap in the driveway. And it might be 8 or 12 inches wide.

    ROB: How close to the shop, though?

    TOM: I would go probably a few feet in front of it. I wouldn’t go too far away.

    ROB: OK.

    TOM: Because that just gives you more water – more sidewalk to collect sort of in front of it. So I would go fairly close to it. And then you basically cut the driveway in half and you drop this culvert in, which is sort of like a U-shaped channel. And then on the opposite end of it, it’s attached to a drain line, which would go to a curtain drain.

    So the water would go down the garage, it would fall into this culvert. And you can buy these or order these at building-material supply centers that service, you know, masons. And people that do more commercial-type work can be able to find these premade. And the drain tile – the drainpipe – will connect to the culvert so the water would go out to this drain line and then you go into a curtain drain.

    So the curtain drain you’d make yourself. And again, on the downside of the property, you’d carve out an area about 12 to 18 inches wide and deep, fill it with stone, lay the drainpipe in there, cover it with more stone, put some filter cloth and then some topsoil or whatever you’re going to cover it with.

    So, essentially, the drainage for this is invisible once it’s done but you’re intercepting that runoff down the driveway and running it around the building and into the drain tile. And that pipe that you install there must be perforated. And I would recommend using solid-PVC perforated pipe, not the flexible, black, landscaping perforated pipe.

    ROB: OK. Thank you, guys.

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

    LESLIE: Remember, you can call us anytime 24 hours a day, 7 days a week right here at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    What are you tackling, guys? Perhaps skylights are one of those projects that you think you can do. You start it and it seems like a great idea at the time and then it leaks. Well, if you’re ready to say goodbye to your skylights, don’t make a move until we tell you where to start. That’s coming up.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Remember, you can write us with your home improvement question by posting your question to our Facebook page at, which is what Joann did from Ohio. Sounds like she’s got some leaks.

    LESLIE: It sounds like she’s got a lot of them. She writes: “My house has skylights – seven of them – that constantly leak. The added light isn’t necessary, so I’d like to get rid of them but I have no idea where to start. Can I do it myself? Do I have to hire a contractor? What exactly are my first steps?”

    TOM: Well, first of all, she says the added light isn’t necessary. I am sensing – I am reading through this, Leslie, and thinking that she is so sick and tired of leaking skylights, she thinks that any skylight she replaced it with is just going to leak again.

    And I am here to tell you, Joann, that is not the case. If you put the right kind of skylight in, if it’s correctly installed, it can be just as durable as the solid-roof surface that would be there if you didn’t have any skylights.

    Now, most of the time when we hear about leaking skylights, they happen because you have a very cheap-type plastic skylight with no curb. That means it sits flat with the roof shingle. You can forget those. Those are leaking in the store before you put them on in the first place. Or you have the kind that’s boxed but not properly flashed. Boxed means it sits up on top of the roof. Now, that can be the best type of skylight to use but only if the flashing is done right.

    And I think there’s two brands, that I’m really happy with, that do flash it well. One is VELUX – V-E-L-U-X – and the other is Andersen. Because they have a similar approach. Basically, they build in a flashing system around that box, that seals to the roof, and then they have a counterflashing system that goes on top of that.

    So, I wouldn’t necessarily totally give up on those skylights because, look, no matter what you do, if you decide not to have them, you’re going to have all sorts of drywall work to do, all sorts of roof work to do to kind of close that in. And I just hate seeing you do that when most of the work to put skylights in in the first place is already done.

    Now, if you do not want any skylights but you still do want some light, there’s a type of skylight called a “sun tunnel,” which is basically sort of a tube and a reflector that fits on top of the roof. And then this tube or this tunnel brings the light right down. So that’s another option for you.

    But either way you go, I think that you’re going to find that those skylights, when properly installed, can really be beneficial. They’re going to add to your home’s value and they won’t leak if they’re done right.

    LESLIE: Alright. Hopefully, that gives you a hand and keeps your house just flooded with light and not water.

    Alright. Next up, Sue in Illinois writes: “One of our countertops is about 2 feet of butcher block. We put in new countertops and sanded down the existing butcher block to fresh wood. Should I apply anything to that? Someone suggested mineral oil.”

    TOM: Yes. You can put mineral oil on that. In fact, some would say that that is really the only thing to put on. There are also non-toxic finishes that are available but the thing is, butcher block can be very porous, right? So you do need to keep it sealed up. You need to keep it very, very clean because you don’t want any E. coli to form there. But mineral oil is definitely an option.

    A nice thing about butcher block is that when it starts to get a little rough, you can just sand it down to a smoother finish, right? And then just reapply the oil and be totally good to go. So that’s completely an option.

    And I think those butcher-block tops are really gorgeous, Leslie, right?

    LESLIE: I mean they really are quite lovely. You do just need to take care of them. Remember that they need to be cleaned properly. They need to be maintained properly. You have to be sure, when you’re cutting on them, that you don’t cross-contaminate with raw foods and bacteria. It’s just a little extra step but they’re really beautiful.

    TOM: You are listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Show on air and online at You can also catch our podcast on virtually every major podcast platform out there. And if you’ve got questions – perhaps you’re just driving around during the week and something pops to mind – remember, you can reach us, 24/7, by calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT. If we are not in the studio, we will actually call you back the next time we are, because we really do want to help.

    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.


    (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.)