How to Choose Smoke Detectors that Alert You the Fastest #0101181

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And Happy New Year. This is the first show of the brand-new year for us. And we hope that your holiday season was fantastic. We’re excited because now is your chance to plan projects for the year ahead. If you’ve got a project in mind, we would love to be your first stop for help. Pick up the phone and call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or post your question to us online at

    And now that we’re in the midst of winter, fire season has peaked. So, today we’re going to talk about a way to keep your family safe. We all know smoke detectors can save lives but it turns out making sure your family has enough time to escape has a lot to do with the type of detector you have. So we’ll explain what you need to know, just ahead.

    LESLIE: Plus, as the old incandescent light bulbs quickly become a part of history as we move more and more into the energy-efficient LEDs – but not all LEDs deliver the same kind of light. Kevin O’Connor from This Old House will be by later to explain all the differences. And there are quite a lot of differences.

    TOM: And if holiday season has totally wore you out with all the housecleaning you did, now is a pretty good time to think about hiring some help. We’re going to tell you how to do that, to save the cleaning hassle and save money at the same time.

    But first, let’s get to your calls and your questions. Post them to The Money Pit’s Community page at or pick up the phone and call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Nancy in Massachusetts is dealing with a garage that’s got other plans than closing. What’s going on there?

    NANCY: I have a dilemma about what to do about the door. It’s just not closing properly and sometimes, it doesn’t even want to go up and down, never mind when it comes down it wiggles left to right, left to right until it gets to the bottom.

    TOM: This is on a garage-door opener?

    NANCY: Oh, oh, yes, yes.

    TOM: So when it goes up and down, it shimmies in the opening?

    NANCY: Yes. And the closing.

    TOM: So, generally, the rollers on the side of the garage door are failing when that occurs. They’re ball-bearing rollers and when they get stuck, then they get sort of hung up on the way down and that’s what makes the door sort of vibrate and puts a lot of resistance on it, too. And that may be the reason it’s not closing all the way or closing evenly.

    It sounds like the door is pretty old. And your options are to replace all the hardware and try to realign the door to get it working right or just replace the door and the door opener. If it’s that old and that sort of rickety, I might lean towards just a replacement. The new doors today are actually a lot lighter than the old doors and they work really smoothly.

    I just put two on in the garage, I guess, about 8, 9 months ago now and I’m really happy with them. And I used to have really heavy, hardboard doors on this garage and now I have nice, factory-painted steel doors that look really good, really sharp and just close flawlessly every single time.

    NANCY: Well, this is one of those metal doors.

    TOM: It is? OK. But it’s an older metal door?

    NANCY: Yeah. And I put Boeshield on the tracks to try to get it to roll down properly.

    TOM: Yeah. But if the hardware has failed – even if you’re lubricating the tracks, if the hardware has failed, it’s not going to work right.

    NANCY: So what would you recommend? A new door or just get somebody over to do the hardware?

    TOM: I’d get a new door and a new opener.

    NANCY: Yeah, OK. I don’t want to put good money after bad.

    TOM: Exactly. I think – who knows if you could find the old hardware to match and everything? I’d just get a new door and a new opener. I think it’d be worth it.

    NANCY: OK. Very good advice. I appreciate it very much.

    TOM: Thank you, Nancy. Good luck with that project.

    LESLIE: Richard in Florida is on the line with a question about a driveway. What’s going on?

    RICHARD: Well, I had a golf cart parked in the driveway and it must have been leaking something. And I’ve got a rust stain and I – it looks like some oil stains. And it’s a brand-new driveway. I was wondering if there was anything I can use to remove those stains.

    LESLIE: Well, it’s a brand-new driveway with a brand-new stain. That’s terrible.

    TOM: That’s funny.

    LESLIE: That always happens. You start off with something brand new and then it just gets ruined right off the bat.

    TOM: Yeah, the first one hurts the worst, too. It’s like the first dent you get in a new car.

    LESLIE: Ugh. Terrible.

    RICHARD: That’s exactly …

    LESLIE: You know what you could try is something called “trisodium phosphate.” Goes by TSP.


    LESLIE: You’ll find it mostly in the painting aisle at home centers. And it’s a powder and you can mix it into a paste, you know. And I would sort of put that onto the oil stain and the rust stain and let it sit there as a thicker paste. And then, as it seems to start to be drying up a little bit, you can take a brush and kind of scrub it, just gently, to see. And that should pull everything out: the rust and the oil. That oil is probably going to have to be done a couple of times, just because it is so porous and the oil does just want to get into every nook and cranny.

    RICHARD: OK. Yep.

    LESLIE: But that should do the trick.

    RICHARD: OK. I’ll try it.

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

    RICHARD: Thank you.

    LESLIE: You are listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show presented by, where you can find top-rated home pros you can trust.

    Call in your home repair or your home improvement question, 24 hours a day, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Still ahead, smoke detectors can help your family survive a fire but only one type alerts the fastest. We’ll tell you what to look for, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Standing by for your calls, your questions. You can reach us at 888-MONEY-PIT or posting your question to The Money Pit’s Community page at presented by HomeAdvisor.

    LESLIE: Hey, did you get one of those smart speakers over the holidays? Let’s see if Alexa can find The Money Pit for you.

    Hey, Alexa, play The Money Pit podcast.

    ALEXA: Playing Money Pit podcast.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Margie in Delaware on the line with a flooring question. What can we do for you today?

    MARGIE: Well, we had carpeting down here from the 70s, in this home that we moved into. So, we pulled up the carpeting and there’s beautiful hardwood floors underneath. Except wherever the wood strips with the nails were that were holding the carpet down, there’s a bunch of black holes where the nails were. So how can we clean that up?

    TOM: Yeah. The strips are called “tackless” and what’s happened is the nails have oxidized, so you get some rust and other types of corrosion that form on the metal and react with the wood. And it leaves that sort of black stain. So what you have to do is sand the wood floors.

    You sand the wood floors, you’ll get rid of most of that black stain that’s showing around the top of the hole. And then you can fill in the holes with a wood putty that matches the floor. Sand it again and you’ll just about cover them. You’re still going to see a little bit of them but they will not be obvious.

    Right now, they’re painfully obvious, I know. But if you sand the floors and then fill them in and sand it again and finish it, it will blend in.

    MARGIE: That’s great. It’s got to be better than what it looks like now.

    TOM: No, it’s nice. Think of that carpet as a beautiful drop cloth that protected those floors for all those years.

    MARGIE: Yeah.

    TOM: And now you get a chance to enjoy them again.

    MARGIE: OK. Thank you so very much.

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

    LESLIE: Joe in Maryland is on the line and wants some help with outdoor lighting, which really can transform a space.

    How can we help you, Joe?

    JOE: Tom was mentioning a product favorably that would, of course, through the outside – he said it was a double floodlight and he mentioned that it had 500 lumens.

    LESLIE: Oh, the Mr Beams, right, Tom?

    TOM: The Mr Beams Spotlight, yeah. It’s one of the Mr Beams products. They have floodlights, security lights. And I’ve got some of the indoor lights. In fact, I’ve got one, two, three of them in three different closets in our house. And now, every time when we get dressed in the morning, the clothes match. It’s amazing.

    JOE: LED 500 lumens for the outside, Tom?

    TOM: Yeah. I mean you’ll be surprised with how much light that is.

    JOE: Oh, I know it’s tremendously strong but I want to have the exact description or model of it that you gave at that time. Was 3000 preceded by two letters. I think they were MZ or MR, something of that nature.

    TOM: Yeah, it’s simply called the High Performance Security Light. And you’re correct: it’s 500 lumens of light. And it’s battery-powered, which I think is the best part. Because if you use it 8 to 10 times a day, the batteries will last a full year, which is amazing.

    JOE: You did say there were no electrical wires needed and that is what struck my interest, also, especially that factor. And what was the 3000 prefix? Can you tell me that?

    TOM: Yeah, the model number is MB3000. MB3000. But it’s known as the High Performance LED Security light. So M as in Mary, B as in Boy, 3000.

    And those two lights that are part of that – it’s got dual lights – they’ll cover about 800 square feet. So that’s a pretty big space. And it’ll cover your walkway, your driveway and that sort of thing. And look, these things are only 40 bucks or so, so you can get a couple of them.

    Just go to their website. You can – I think you can order it right online, because it says that their shipping is free.

    JOE: Oh, OK.

    TOM: And I think they come in white and brown.

    JOE: Would it be

    TOM: That’s correct.

    JOE: Oh, you gave me all the information I was looking for, Tom and Leslie, so I appreciate your help very much.

    TOM: You’re very welcome. Good luck with that project. Let us know how you make out with that, OK, Joe?

    JOE: Yes, sir. Thank you.

    LESLIE: Thanks, Joe.

    TOM: Well, about a quarter of all home fires start and half of all deaths happen in the overnight hours. We all know that smoke detectors can save lives, which is why it’s so important to have working ones on every level of your home. But it turns out that not all smoke detectors are created equal. A study by Texas A&M found that traditional smoke detectors, which use ionization sensors, take a lot longer to detect those slow, smoldering fires.

    LESLIE: Well, the good news is the technology does exist to better detect those types of fires. Smoke-detector models that include photoelectric sensors are more sensitive to slow, smoldering fires. If you do have ionization detectors, you might want to consider backing them up with a photoelectric detector, as well. Or better yet, you can invest in detectors that are labeled “dual-technology detectors.” And they incorporate both types of detection technology in one unit, which will really keep you the safest because it’s looking out for all different types of fires.

    TOM: And if you’ve not replaced your smoke detectors lately, please go out and do so. They really need to be replaced about every five years.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Cheryl in Texas on the line who’s looking to redo a bathroom and make it more modern with just a shower. How can we help you?

    CHERYL: Well, I am the mother of four sons and as they get bigger, they no longer like to get in the bathtub.

    LESLIE: Right.

    TOM: OK.

    CHERYL: And we find that they are always in my room, in my shower. We’re wanting to take out the tub that’s in their bathroom and turn it into a shower. My issue is I don’t have a lot of space. It’s a Hollywood bath and then the tub and toilet are in a separate little room that you can close off. And the door facing – of that little room sits right next to the tub itself.

    So, my question is – when I pull that tub out, the plan was to put a shower pan down and tile the area and then put a glass door – either a sliding door on there. Will that be a wide-enough space if it’s only the width of a standard tub?

    TOM: Cheryl, I think you definitely can find a shower pan that can fit the width of that tub, sort of elbow to elbow if you’re standing in it. I mean think about it: if you’re in the tub, you’re taking a shower, right? You’ve got room on – to the right and to the left of you. So we want a shower pan, essentially, that’s the same size.

    Now, when it comes to residential, prefabricated shower pans, they start at around 24×24, so that’s 2-foot-square. You know, that would be probably the smallest that you would need but you might be able to go up even bigger.

    But a little trick of the trade: if you were to find, for example, that for whatever reason – the way this room is configured – a 24×24 would not work, then you should shop for a smaller shower pan, which you will find, sold for RVs – recreational vehicles. Because they have tiny showers in them, right? And there’s a whole host of RV shower pans that are smaller than 24×24. I don’t think you’re going to need it. I think you’ll be fine starting there, maybe even going up.
    But the size of the shower pan is what you want to figure out first. Then you can basically build around that, OK? Does that make sense?

    CHERYL: Sure, sure. That’s what I want to do. OK.

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

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Mike in Iowa on the line who needs some help insulating a garage. Tell us about it.

    MIKE: Hi. I have a three-and-a-half or four – basically, a four-car garage underneath a house that’s a ranch. The trusses – the floor, it has trusses in it and it’s cold in there. And it gets cold here in Iowa and it stays 35, 45 degrees during the winter, even in the coldest day.

    And it has batting insulation in it but it’s still cold. And our bedroom is above it, so I was thinking about putting some insulation in it, either in the – blowing some – drilling the holes and blowing it in or just doing it around the outside, the outer walls. Or am I just wasting my time trying to do any better?

    TOM: Alright. So, the garage ceiling – the walls between the garage and the house – should already be insulated. So what you’re asking is: can you add additional insulation to the exterior garage walls? Is that correct? Because that would be, theoretically, the only part of this garage that was not insulated.

    MIKE: Correct. Well, the outer walls are concrete.

    TOM: Oh, OK.

    MIKE: So it’s basically the ceiling I’m after. Would it be – because the cold air goes up the rooms above the garage.

    TOM: So, do you have any – the way the ceiling is configured, it’s drywall right now?

    MIKE: Correct.

    TOM: So there may not be any additional room above that to add additional insulation. You mentioned blown-in. If that ceiling was built correctly, there’s already insulation there, so you may not be able to add more to that.

    This might be a situation where you need to improve the heat more than add to the ceiling insulation. Because short of building it downward so that you have more depth, I don’t see how you’re going to add additional insulation if it’s already insulated.

    MIKE: Well, there’s batting up there. I didn’t know if it would do any good to have them blow it in and pack it as tight as they can get it with that blown-in insulation.

    TOM: No, because insulation doesn’t work on being packed as tight as possible. Insulation works on the principle of trapped air. And so if you overpack the insulation, it becomes less effective, not more effective.

    MIKE: Right. Alright. Well, that tells me I would’ve wasted my money if I’d have – went and had somebody come out and blow it in.

    TOM: I know it might not be the answer you want but at least we didn’t have you spending money on something that wasn’t going to work, Mike. I hope that does help.

    Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Heading over to Florida, where Peter has lost power in the bathroom.

    Peter, what’s going on and can you see what you’re doing?

    PETER: Yeah, I had a GFI go bad. And when I went to change it over, for some reason I couldn’t get any juice to the receptacle underneath the sink. So, I got juice to where I put the new one in but – so I went down to Home Depot – I listen to you folks all the time – and I got a new one. And the gentleman over there told me to find the hot wires go and put them on the receptacle where it says “line.” And then the other two hook up on the bottom of it.

    TOM: Peter, do you know that the ground-fault circuit worked properly and then it stopped working?

    PETER: Yes, sir.

    TOM: So it worked properly and then stopped working. Have you considered the fact that the ground-fault circuit interrupter could be doing its job and then there could be a problem elsewhere in the circuit?

    PETER: Yeah, I didn’t give a thought about that. No, I didn’t.

    TOM: So, I think that when ground-fault circuit interrupters start to trip, people say, “Oh, it must be a bad circuit breaker,” and they don’t consider the fact that the circuit breaker is, in fact, doing its job detecting a diversion of current to a ground source and tripping to prevent you from getting a shock.

    So, the solution wouldn’t be necessarily first to replace the ground fault. I would investigate further to see what exactly is happening and causing that to trip. I think, based on your description of what you’ve done thus far, that this might be just a little bit above your skill set. And while we can respect the fact that you’re doing this on your own, when it comes to electricity you want to get it right. And if you were to miswire that and in fact, perhaps, you – there are different ways to hook up ground faults. And if you do it one way, you can get it to trip and not protect the rest of the circuit. So, it would appear to be working correctly when, in fact, it wouldn’t.

    So this is not the kind of thing I would recommend that you do yourself, Peter, with all due respect. I would definitely have an electrician look at this because I suspect that the ground fault is doing its thing. They rarely go bad. And if it’s tripping, it’s probably tripping because something is going on elsewhere in the circuit.

    The ground faults will cover everything that’s on that circuit. So if you had, for example, a loose wire somewhere down the line and that was causing some sort of an arcing condition, that could trigger the ground fault to go off.

    So, contact an electrician. This is the kind of job that you should not do yourself, because I want to make sure that the problem is what you think it is and it gets properly fixed.

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

    LESLIE: Hey, those old incandescent light bulbs, well, they are quickly becoming a part of history as we are all moving more and more into energy-efficient LEDs. But not all of those LEDs out there will deliver the same kind of light. We’re going to tell you how to find the best bulbs for your space, next.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And what’s your how-to or décor question? Call it in, right now, to 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.

    LESLIE: Alright. Let’s head out to Arkansas where Ann has got a question about a hot-water tank.

    What’s going on, Ann?

    ANN: I have an unoccupied house and the hot-water heater is on a screened-in porch. It is partially protected on two sides. And the temperature is going to be down in the low teens for a couple of nights. And for 48 hours or so, the temperature will not be above freezing.

    TOM: How long is the house going to be unoccupied, Ann?

    ANN: Oh, I don’t know.

    TOM: Is this the kind of thing where it could be this way for months?

    ANN: Yes.

    TOM: Well, if it’s going to be that way for months, I would drain the water. I would drain the water heater, I would drain the plumbing system. And I would leave the heat on a low setting because we don’t want the building to swell, we don’t want the doors to swell and that sort of thing. So I’d leave the heat on like around 55, 60 degrees.

    But I would definitely drain the plumbing system because there’s really no point in leaving it on. And if you do, you could get a pipe freeze and a break. Does that make sense?

    ANN: OK. I appreciate it.

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

    LESLIE: Well, the old incandescent light bulb is quickly becoming a part of history. Now, this technological marvel of the 19th century is being replaced by the more energy-efficient bulbs of today.

    TOM: Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House, joins us now to talk about the pros and the cons of a brand-new generation of light bulb.

    Kevin, everyone’s talking today about LED as the holy grail of light bulbs. So let’s start right there. What do you think of those?

    KEVIN: Well, let’s start with what it stands for. LED is Light-Emitting Diode. And unlike incandescents, the LEDs, they don’t have filaments to burn out and they don’t waste a majority of their energy output on useless heat, so they are super-efficient.

    TOM: I’ve also found them to be awfully bright, so I like them.

    KEVIN: You know what? I do actually believe that these are the future of lighting. Between their efficiency and the fact that they can last so long – I mean up to 50,000 hours for one of these devices – I think we’re eventually going to gravitate all of our lighting to LEDs.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you know what? The LEDs do come with a higher price tag but I think it’s because of that longer lifespan, so you’re sort of paying for that.

    KEVIN: Yeah, I think you’re paying for that and I think you’re paying for early adoption. I think that price tag comes down over time as more and more of these end up in our homes.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you know what? It was similar when we first saw that launch of CFLs: the compact fluorescents. They were very expensive; now the price is coming down. And of course, they’re becoming more commonplace as they’re really securing their own stake in the market.

    But I still feel a little uncomfortable with the light that they emit; I’m kind of leaning towards those LEDs. But CFLs, they’re extremely popular and affordable and will last forever.

    KEVIN: Well, I think they’re popular because they are affordable and they are efficient. And they can be up to two-thirds more efficient than incandescent and they can last 10 times as long, so you can save a lot of money.

    They won’t last forever; they’re not going to last as long as LEDs. And I’ve actually found that if you don’t put them in the right fixture, they can burn out because they have a ballast, so you do have to be aware of that. But it is a great alternative to incandescents.

    TOM: Now, one of the concerns about CFLs, though, is that they do contain mercury, albeit a very small amount. It does seem that there’s a little bit of overreaction about how to clean these up. Some say there’s a concern; some say there’s not a concern. Your thoughts?

    KEVIN: Well, they definitely contain a trace amount of mercury and I think everyone has to be comfortable with it on their own level, as to whether they want it in the house and how they handle the disposal or when it breaks. I’ve got small kids, so when one of these light bulbs breaks, they’re nowhere near the cleanup. But it doesn’t prevent me from using these light bulbs all throughout my house. I’m very comfortable with them.

    TOM: Good advice.

    Now, let’s talk about halogens, which is basically an incandescent light bulb that’s infused with halogen gas.

    KEVIN: It is and it can actually burn twice as long and use 10 percent less energy than the old incandescents. And the reason people like these is because it gives a really clean, bright, white light. And so we use them in a lot of key spaces: oftentimes in kitchens or maybe over a bookshelf where we really want to highlight a picture or a painting.

    TOM: But they do burn a lot hotter, so you have to be very careful.

    KEVIN: Yeah, don’t touch these things when you’re changing them until they’ve had time to turn down.

    LESLIE: Right.

    KEVIN: And generally speaking, heat is waste and so they’re not going to be as efficient as the compact fluorescents or the LEDs.

    LESLIE: And now there’s a new bulb to the market, which is known as the high-efficiency incandescent. And now that’s brand-spanking new. Can you speak a little bit about that?

    KEVIN: Well, so a lot of people think incandescents are going away for good because they’re going to be outlawed by the government. It’s not true; they’re just going to have to be more efficient. And these new incandescents are going to be 30-percent more efficient; they’re going to use less energy. And so they’re going to provide a good-quality light. You’re going to be able to dim them just like the incandescent bulbs and they’re going to last longer than a traditional incandescent. So I think this is forward progress.

    TOM: Now, one of the concerns that most folks have about changing out light bulbs is that they’re not going to fit their existing fixtures.

    KEVIN: I think that was the case originally but they are starting to make these bulbs in all different sizes and shapes so they can fit pretty much any fixture. You can put them in recessed, you can put them in tabletop lamps, you can put them in directionals. There are a lot of options out there.

    LESLIE: The bulbs themselves – before you had a bulb for, say, a chandelier – a candelabra bulb that had a very odd look to it – and now you’re seeing an energy-efficient candelabra bulb that actually has the same traditional shape.

    KEVIN: Looks just like a – I’ve seen an LED candelabra bulb and you can’t tell the difference when you look at it from its shape.

    TOM: You know what’s interesting? I think the investment in the light fixtures, where we’ve always concentrated in the past, now we have to think about both the fixture and the bulb we’re going to put in it.

    KEVIN: True.

    TOM: But you’d say there’s a bright future for light bulbs?

    KEVIN: I think it’s a very bright future.

    TOM: Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House, great advice. Thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    KEVIN: My pleasure.

    LESLIE: Alright. You can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For your local listings and some great step-by-step videos on projects you can do and other great articles, visit

    TOM: And This Old House is brought to you on PBS by American Standard.

    Just ahead, if the holiday season has totally wore you out with all the housecleaning that you had to do, now is a pretty good time to think about hiring some help. We’re going to tell you how to save the cleaning hassle and save some money at the same time, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Whether you’re buying, selling or just enjoying your home, we are here for you every step of the way. But help yourself first: just call in your home improvement question, right now, to 1-888-MONEY-PIT 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.

    LESLIE: Alright. Going out to Tennessee where Jack is dealing with some rust on a toilet. What is going on, dude?

    JACK: Well, I’ve got a toilet-bowl problem with a stain that I’m unable to do anything with.

    TOM: OK. What have you tried so far?

    JACK: I’ve only tried the normal thing with Ajax or Comet, one of the scrubbing powders.

    TOM: What kind of stain is this? Is it like a rust stain?

    JACK: I think it is sort of – the plumber said it was a rust stain. I had the tank – all the works in the tank.

    TOM: Replaced? Mm-hmm.

    JACK: I was talking with him about it and he said it’s a rust stain and says, “Never use Brillo or any of the other scrubbing wires,” and suggested a sanding pad. It’s a soft pad. And I did use one of those and got a tiny bit of result but not what I’m looking for.

    TOM: Alright. Well, here’s a suggestion. First of all, you’ve got commercial products, like CLR or Lime-A-Way, that can work. Or you’ve got some sort of do-it-yourself products or mix-it-yourself products that you could put together. But the most important thing is to start with a dry bowl. So you want to turn the water off at the toilet and flush it and dry out that bowl, because you’re going to be able to get more of the cleaning product onto the surface.

    You can use lemon juice. That’s an acidic-based rust remover. White vinegar also works well. Borax works well. You can mix Borax with hot water and that works pretty well. And here, right from The Money Pit Engineering Department, my crack engineering team tells me that they’ve had good success with Coca-Cola. And I’m sure they wouldn’t be making that up. So, again, any of these acid-based products can do a pretty good job of pulling that rust out of the toilet bowl. But you want to flush it and dry it first so that it really has a chance to get to work.

    And in terms of the scrubbing pad you mentioned, something like the Scotch-Brite pad is a good thing to use on that. It’s not going to destroy the surface.

    JACK: Thank you so much for taking my call. And I’ll get on it this afternoon.

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

    Well, if the holiday season completely wore you out with all the housecleaning you had to do, now is a pretty good time to think about hiring some help. Hiring a cleaning service can save you time, energy and headaches but you need to be really smart about how you got about doing that so you can save some money.

    LESLIE: Yeah. First, you’ve got to figure out exactly what you want a cleaning service to tackle. You need to decide whether you’re in the market for a maid service – which involves your basic vacuuming, dusting, scrubbing, all of that kind of stuff – or a housekeeper. Now, a housekeeper is also going to pick up your clutter, do the dishes, do the laundry, change the sheets, all of that stuff.

    So, once you figure that out, then you’ve got to make a list of the rooms that you want to have cleaned, along with any special tasks that you want them to complete, such as scrubbing your fridge or cleaning your windows. Is cleaning the windows every time they come or every other time or once a season? And then go over that list with the cleaning service before they come to your house. Because being choosy about what gets cleaned is key to racking up on those savings.

    Now, many cleaning services charge an hourly rate. Some bill by the square footage or the number of rooms. And some of them will charge you more on the first visit and then sort of figure out a weekly or bi-weekly rate or whatever it is, twice a month, whatever you do.

    TOM: Now, some cleaning services will lower the rates if you commit to a regular schedule. So, if you book multiple visits, you may actually save some money: about $5 to $10 less per cleaning. And that adds up to a couple hundred bucks per year.

    Another way to save some money is to switch from a weekly cleaning to bi-weekly. Now, in our case, once the kids flew the coop and we had an empty nest, we only need the house cleaned about twice a month by the service. And that’s saved us about 50 percent of the money we were spending.

    LESLIE: Yeah, seriously, Tom.

    Now, one important cost-saving tip is to buy your own supplies. You’re likely going to want them around the house anyway, so why pay for the service to bring its own? This way, you’re going to get the products you like, whether they’re environmentally-friendly, lemon-scented, whatever the pleasure is. And you’re going to save a few bucks. I’ve had the same cleaning girls come – they come once a month – for 14 years. It just helps me out. And I always have them use my own vacuum, because I always – it just bothers me a little bit if they’re using the vacuum that they go clean everybody else’s house. That’s just my thing.

    TOM: Yeah, well, especially if they don’t have a great filter on it. That means they’re spewing other people’s dust into your house.

    LESLIE: Gross.

    TOM: Thank you very much. I have enough already.

    LESLIE: Exactly.

    TOM: Now, even if you’re making regular appointments, there are little things you can do around the house to cut down cleaning time and therefore, cleaning costs.

    For example, take some time to clear away shoes, toys, knickknacks and so on to make those surfaces more accessible. So, I guess it’s sort of like you’re cleaning for the cleaning service. And that might sound a little crazy but if you keep up with the small stuff, think about this: they’re going to have more time to concentrate on the nasty tasks that you really just don’t want to tackle yourself.

    LESLIE: Now, we’ve got Joan in Illinois on the line who’s dealing with a mold issue.

    Tell us about it, Joan.

    JOAN: Well, I’m wondering what causes dry rot and how you can tell if you have it.

    TOM: OK. Well, what are you seeing, Joan?

    JOAN: Coming down to the floor, there’s about an inch below the molding. And I took the carpet up and I saw sawdust down there. And I wondered if it was dry rot.

    TOM: Alright. So, first of all, there’s no such thing as dry rot; there’s only wet rot. Wood that gets wet – it gets over 25-percent moist – can start to decay. Then, if that wood also dries out, that’s what people call “dry rot” but it’s really sort of a misnomer because it’s not really dry rot; it’s wet rot that has dried out.

    JOAN: Oh. So we can’t cause it by overheating or under-humidifying a house.

    TOM: No. Well, not overheating but if you over-humidify, I guess it’s technically possible because you’d put a lot of water in there. But no, you’re not going to cause it by overheating.

    In terms of what you’re seeing under this molding, I think that would bear some further investigation. When you mentioned sawdust, I think about carpenter ants, for example. And so, I would make sure that I know exactly what’s causing this.

    One of the things that you could do is you could take a picture of it and you could post it to our Facebook page at We’ll take a look at it and give you an opinion. Or you could post it to the Community section at How about that?

    JOAN: That sounds great.

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

    LESLIE: Up next, don’t get into hot water when it comes to protecting your family from scalding in the bath or the shower. We’re going to give you an important safety step to take, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Hey, here’s an important tip that can protect kids from scalding: bath or shower water that’s too hot can easily scald a child. So, to stop that from happening, you might want to think about installing universal-design faucets. These have a high-temperature cutoff that stops the water flow when the temperature just gets too high.

    Plus, always check the temperature that’s coming out of your water heater. That thermostat should be set down to around 110 or no more than 120 degrees and you’ll be sure to keep everyone safe.

    LESLIE: I would need a default switch so that I could take the hottest shower in my house. It truly is. My kids are always like, “How do you do that?” I’m like, “You don’t want to.” But it’s really the best, just a super-hot shower.

    TOM: You know, the tankless water heaters have that capability, because they’re all digital now and there’s a control panel in your house. So you can walk over, just like you’re walking up the thermostat, dial one setting for you and then set it back down for the kids.

    LESLIE: So smart, Tom. All of these great things that really help us keep your house safe and your family safe and of course, super comfy.

    Let us help you achieve that at your money pit. Post your question in the Community section. I’ve got one here from Susan who writes: “I have a ranch house on a cement slab. The heating ducts are under the house. We closed them off with cement and installed electric baseboard heat instead but the ducts leaked water. The question is: should drainage be added to the house or does it matter now that the ducts are sealed off?”

    TOM: The thing is that water has probably always been there, Susan. You’re just seeing it because you have access to these duct spaces. And that water under the slab is not a good thing, because that could make the foundation unstable. So I would tell you to regrade the foundation perimeter so the soil slopes away. And also, clean the gutters, extend the downspouts. Try to keep that perimeter area as dry as possible and that will reduce the water under your house.

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post here from Trevor who writes: “Mice and rats are coming into my home via the street sewer system.”

    TOM: Yuck.

    LESLIE: “I thought I had fixed the problem eight years ago by cementing a certain area. But there seems to be another opening somewhere. What do you suggest?”

    That sounds disgusting and I’ve very sad for him.

    TOM: Yeah. And I’ll tell you what, if you ever thought you could totally mouse-proof or rat-proof your house by sealing up, you cannot.

    LESLIE: You cannot.

    TOM: They’re much smarter than we are. They’re going to find a way in; it’s just the way they are. The mice can leap 12 inches and the rats can leap 36, so it’s kind of crazy.

    LESLIE: Ugh. Why do you have to say those things?

    TOM: Well, yeah, sorry but it’s the truth.

    What you can do is to make your house less attractive. And to do that, you want to avoid nesting sites, like stacks of newspaper or cardboard boxes or firewood or other things that are piled around the outside of the house. You want to secure any storage. Those mice can really squeeze through some small spaces. So make sure that if you’ve got any kind of openings around your house, you seal it up with steel or steel wool or flashing, something that they cannot chew through. And make sure you have any food items kept in containers that they can’t chew through, that are, say, for example, metal.

    You always want to try to keep a clean house because the dirty dishes and things like that will attract them. And then use rodenticides. These are poisons that are designed to eliminate the mice and the rat infestations. They’re safe, they’re highly effective if they’re used in accordance with the label instructions. And if you’ve got pets, make sure you put them in bait stations. Bait stations let the mice and the rats get in but keep your pets out and therefore safe.

    LESLIE: Ugh. That just makes me feel so sick to my stomach, Tom.

    TOM: Well, sick but hopefully …

    LESLIE: I know everybody’s got them.

    TOM: Yeah, hopefully a dose of common sense. Because you can manage these populations and certainly keep them to a minimum or eliminate them completely, showing them that there are better places to stay for the winter than your house.

    LESLIE: And not my house or your house.

    TOM: I know your house.

    LESLIE: Nobody’s house.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at

    Happy New Year once again. This is our first show of 2018 and we promise that we will be here every single week, chock full of tips and advice to help you with projects you’re planning to get done this year. Remember, you can always reach out to us, even if we’re off the air, by calling 888-MONEY-PIT or post your question to the Community page at

    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 2017 Squeaky Door Productions, Inc. No portion of this transcript or audio file may be reproduced in any format without the express written permission of Squeaky Door Productions, Inc.)

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