Cool Tips for a Hot Summer – #0814172

  • central air conditioner
  • Transcript

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And we are here to help you with your décor and home improvement projects. Help yourself first: post your question to The Money Pit’s Community page at or pick up the phone and call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Well, with the hottest days of summer upon us, you might be looking for every possible way to stay cool. We’re going to have three easy things you can do to make sure your air conditioners can keep up.

    LESLIE: And if you’d like to stay inside and take on just one project that can really step up a space, you might want to think about adding wainscoting. You know, there’s a number of ways to do this, including some that use recycled or even repurposed materials for a really beautiful result. And it doesn’t have to be such a difficult project. We’re going to have some tips, coming up.


    TOM: Plus, kitchen sinks aren’t replaced very often but when they are, you need to choose one that can really stand up. And they are not created equal, especially the stainless-steel sinks. We’re going to have tips on what sets out the best from the rest.

    LESLIE: And to keep you mosquito-bite free for these remaining days of summer, we’ve got the DynaTrap Mosquito and Insect Trap worth 129 bucks going out to one caller. And I swear you’ve probably already spent that much money on bug-bite medicine, so I’m telling you this really works. So we’re going to give one away. It’s a great product.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. Let’s get to it. Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Heading to Arizona with Yvonne on the line who has got a stinky bathroom sink.

    Gross, Yvonne. What’s going on?

    YVONNE: Yeah. So, it doesn’t happen all the time but every once in a while, I’ll be running the water in the bathroom sink and this foul odor comes out of the drain. So I’m wondering what could be causing that.

    TOM: Usually, it’s bacteria. You get bacteria that will decay in those drains and it will cause what’s called a “biogas.” And the best way to clean this is to really take the drain completely apart – that’s the trap that’s underneath that – and to really do a good job of scrubbing it clean. I would use some oxidized bleach for that, as well. If you can get that super clean, that will kill the bacteria. And if you can even plug the pipe and sort of fill it up with some of that bleach solution, that will also kill the bacteria that’s in there. And I think you’ll find that if you can deal with that biogas, it’ll start smelling a lot better.

    YVONNE: So I have to actually scrub it? I can’t just pour some bleach down there?

    TOM: No. No, you definitely need to scrub it. And that’s why you probably want to take it apart from underneath the sink cabinets. It’s probably going to have a trap, the U-shape pipe. If it doesn’t, by the way, that’s the source of your problem. But I’m sure it does. Take that trap apart and then really scrub the inside of that with some oxygenated bleach. And I think that that will kill that bacteria and then the biogas will go away.

    YVONNE: OK. Sounds like a lot of work but I’ll certainly give it a try.

    TOM: Hey, we never said it was going to be easy. But we will save you the work.

    YVONNE: No. Nothing ever is, it seems like.

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

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got David on the line who’s got a question about a patio.

    DAVID: I am putting a patio right at the foot of the steps.

    TOM: OK.

    DAVID: And is it all that important that I connect it to the house or not?

    TOM: The patio?

    DAVID: Yeah. It’s a concrete patio.

    TOM: No. The patio doesn’t get physically connected to the house. You want to make sure that the base that you prep for that patio is solidly tamped so you don’t get settlement. But it’s not going to physically connect to the house. I mean a deck would obviously connect to a house but a patio wouldn’t.

    DAVID: But the house was built in the 80s. So, the house has pretty much already settled. But there’s no need to put the rebar in? It’ll stay connected to it?

    TOM: It will stay against the house as long as A) the soil underneath is tamped and properly prepped before you pour that patio and B) you don’t have any kind of drainage problem that causes erosion. Sometimes, I’ll find downspouts shooting on top of patios or underneath patios so that the soil washes away. That’s how you get movement of those entire slabs or cracking. So as long as it’s stable, you shouldn’t have to worry about attaching it to the house. Does that make sense?

    DAVID: Alright. Yes, it does. Thank you so much.

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

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Gail on the line who has a question about her oven. What’s going on?

    GAIL: Yes. I have a stove that – it’s an electric stove. And it’s about five to six years old. But it’s a self-cleaning oven. And right after I received it, it seems as though there’s – in between the glass on the door, it doesn’t clean that when I use the automatic cleaner. And I just wondered how I clean in between the glass on the oven door.

    TOM: That’s a tough space to clean. And I agree. I don’t think you can. I think what you have to do is take it apart. And that can be done. The door has to be disassembled. And so, it depends on how comfortable you feel about taking that project on. It’s not sealed glass, in the sense of a double-pane window. It’s really two pieces of glass. And sometimes, because of heat and humidity and steam, it gets in there and it discolors. But you have to disassemble that door if you really want to get it clean. So it’s obviously not the kind of thing you want to do every time you clean your oven.

    GAIL: No. And I noticed that it looks like they’re Phillips-head screws at the bottom part of the door. But the top part, it doesn’t look like – it’s not a regular screw. It’s just – it’s something that – it doesn’t fit in a screwdriver. So I don’t know if that bottom part – and I’m afraid that once I get that undone, I’m not going to be able to get it back.

    TOM: Yeah. Get it back together again. No, I hear you, I hear you. I know that there are some great videos online of people doing this. I’ve seen then. And so you could take a look at YouTube. But the process is going to be to disassemble that door.

    Now, it’s going to come apart one way or the other. The types of fasteners you’re describing may be the type of fastener that needs a specialized – not a screwdriver but like a nut-driver or something of that nature or like an Allen wrench or something like that. But it will eventually come apart. You’re just going to have to figure out how to do that. But if you’re not comfortable with that process, if you’re not really mechanical and are afraid to get into that because you might not be able to fix it, then I think you should just kind of learn to live with it, unfortunately.

    GAIL: Now, is this true of all brands? Does it matter which brand it is? Do they all have to be – does it happen to them all? Or have you heard …?

    TOM: Some may be better than others. But if it’s happened to you, then it doesn’t really matter if it’s happened to anybody else, because you don’t want to have to replace that oven. You really just want to make sure you can get it clean. So, that’s what you need to do.

    GAIL: Yes. OK. Alright. Well, thank you very much. I appreciate your help.

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

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at Now you can call in your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 888-MONEY-PIT, presented by HomeAdvisor. Are you ready for a new roof before the rough weather sets in? Well, HomeAdvisor can instantly match you with the right pro for the job, for free.

    TOM: Just ahead, with the hottest days of summer upon us, you may be looking for every possible way to keep cool. We’re going to have three easy things you can do to help your air conditioner keep up, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Post your question to The Money Pit’s Community page at or give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor, where it’s easy to find top-rated local home improvement pros for any home project. Go to

    LESLIE: Alright. Give us a call here, let us know what you are working on. But perhaps you’re dreaming up a new laundry room and maybe you could use a brand-new washer and dryer. Well, there’s a great sweepstakes going on right now: Speed Queen’s Lovin’ My Laundry Sweepstakes. You can check it out and enter at

    Up for grabs are two grand prizes and those grand-prize winners will receive a Speed Queen washer and dryer set, including the delivery and the hookup, worth over $2000. And these are machines that will not let you down.

    TOM: Absolutely. These things last for 25 years. They test them with 10,000 loads of laundry. And you know what? We’ve also got 50 other prizes going out. We’ve got 10 first-place winners that are going to get a $200 Amazon gift card, along with some laundry products. And 40 winners are going to get $50 Amazon gift cards. Those are the runner-ups. So, great products, great sweepstakes,

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

    SANDY: Well, we have ceramic floors and they’re ceramic tile. And they’re probably 20 years old. And they just don’t come clean anymore and they’re real porous. And we’ve scrubbed them with a scrub brush and they will come sort of clean but that’s a whole lot of work. And we’ve tried different cleaners – vinegar and water and Soft Scrub and Clorox-and-water and soda-and-water – and they just don’t come clean. And short of turning them up, what could we possibly do for …?

    TOM: Yeah, it sounds like the glaze has worn off the ceramic tile and as a result …

    SANDY: Well, I don’t even know if it ever had a glaze.

    TOM: So, most tile have a glaze unless it’s like a natural Mexican tile or something like that. I would be very surprised to find any tile out there that didn’t have a glaze finish to it.

    The surface will wear down after a really long, long time. It depends on the quality of the tile. So I don’t have a really good solution for you. It’s a fairly unusual problem. You can clean the grout, you can replace the grout, you can seal the grout but the tile surface itself, it’s not really possible to add an additional sort of glaze coat to that. So you might want to think about some other floor options.

    A really inexpensive one, by the way, would be laminate floor. It works really well in the bathroom because it’s very moisture-resistant. It kind of snaps together and it floats on top of the original floor. So, really, all you have to do is install it, put in a new saddle where the door comes across, maybe some shoe molding between that and the baseboard, cut it around the toilet and you’re good to go. So there are other floor choices.

    Or if you want to just maintain that ceramic tile, you could also put a second layer of tile over the top one – over the first one – without removing that original layer. As long as that original layer is solid – there’s no decay or softness or structural deficiency there – you could put a second layer of tile on top of the first tile – top of the first layer of tile – and still be good to go. Alright, Sandy?

    SANDY: Yes. Thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: David in Texas is on the line and is dealing with some unwanted issues from a dog. What’s going on?

    DAVID: It’s a mix between a terrier and a lab. And she tends to shed. And we’ve got wooden floors downstairs and carpet upstairs. And tried everything. I walk around the house with a shop vac trying to vacuum her fur that’s all over the place. And I’ve got her fur also embedded in the carpet. And sometimes, the vacuum cleaner doesn’t get it up. That’s when I go against the grain of the carpet and I drag the fur out of the carpet. So I’m just wondering if you guys have any secret recipes that I can utilize to help me with this – solve this problem.

    TOM: I don’t think I have a good solution for shedding dogs.

    LESLIE: I mean the only issue outside of vacuuming is: are you brushing your dog? They make certain brushes that help you get to the undercoat so that you’ll remove the hair before the dog actually has a chance to shed it. So if you’re actually on top of the brushing, that might cut down on the shedding.

    DAVID: Fortunately, she has – she’s a mix between a lab and terrier. So she’s got really short hair. But to your point, Leslie, I haven’t done that. I just assumed that it would take care of itself but apparently it hasn’t.

    LESLIE: Well, it is. It’s taking care of itself, just not in a way that you like. It’s a special brush that allows you to get to the undercoats.

    DAVID: OK.

    LESLIE: And certain times of year, a dog is going to shed more than other times of year. They get that second layer of fur in the winter months. So it’s – maybe you don’t have to brush every day. But I would start with that and see if you can make any progress that way.

    TOM: And also, if the only way you can get this dog hair up is with a shop vac, you might want to think about getting a better vacuum. I’ll share with you that I know both Leslie and I have the same vacuum, because she recommended it to me. And that’s a Miele.

    LESLIE: It’s amazing.

    TOM: It really works well. It’s very light but super powerful and it does a great job picking up the dog hair around our house. I’ll tell you that.

    DAVID: Well, that’s wonderful. Thank you. I should’ve thought about that but I just assumed – anyway, thank you so very much.

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

    LESLIE: Well, with the hottest days of summer upon us, you might be looking for every possible way to stay cool. And if you’ve got a window A/C unit and find that they’re just not keeping up, there are three things that you can check on.

    TOM: First, if you’ve installed the unit in a window that’s on a sunny side of the house, it has to work a lot harder to keep you cool. So, if it’s possible, think about moving that to a shadier side. So if the room is a corner room, you’re going to have windows on two sides of that house. If one side is shadier, slide it over there. Because the cooler the area the A/C is located in, the less work it has to do to cool that warm air in your house.

    LESLIE: Yeah. You’re also going to need to make sure that you close the storm windows on the remaining windows in the house. And you’re like, “Storm windows? It’s the summertime.” Yes, they do the same exact thing in the summer that they do in the winter. They’re going to help keep those warm drafts from adding to that heat load on the house in the summer, just like they do by blocking that cold air in the winter. So use them year-round.

    TOM: Next, you want to make sure that the gap between the lower and upper windows is filled in with a foam gasket and that the gasket has not slipped down. If it’s like my house – we have one window unit that we use to supplement one space in the house and the gasket kind of wears out. That foam shrinks and deteriorates from UV radiation that gets to it and just the warmth that gets to it over the years.

    So, replace that foam gasket – it’s like a square piece of foam that fits in between the window, when it’s sort of half-opened, so that the window unit can fit in and the upper sash – and replace that. Because if you don’t replace it, it’s going to be a place where not only insects can get in but more importantly, it’s like leaving your window open, in some sense, and the warm air is just going to go right in there. So it’ll make it much more efficient to have that sealed off properly.

    So a couple of slight adjustments like that can really help the air conditioners perform, especially during these dog days of summer. So give it a try.

    LESLIE: Randy in Ohio is on the line with a decking question. How can we help you today?

    RANDY: I just built a deck. And it’s got that new-wood look, you know? What kind of stain can I put on it?

    TOM: So you have a number of options. You said you just built it, so you might want to let it dry out. Sometimes we don’t recommend staining until about the second year, because the pressure-treated lumber is going to have a lot of moisture in it. But when you are ready to treat it, what I would recommend that you use is a solid-color deck stain. Deck stains come in solid color and semi-transparent. And if you use solid color, it basically has more pigment in it, so it tends to last a lot longer. So, go for a good brand – a good-quality brand – of a solid-color deck stain. And I think that’s something that you’ll hope to get maybe two or three seasons out, depending on the use of your deck.

    RANDY: Alright. Yes it does. Thank you so much.

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

    LESLIE: Beverly in Ohio is on the line. How can we help you today?

    BEVERLY: I have a problem with my white vinyl fence. And I’m trying to see if you have any ideas as to what I can use to clean it. It’s got black marks all over it from a youth that used to mail my – used to mow my grass. And I’ve had it power-cleaned twice. I’ve tried Mr. Clean it. Now I’m at a loss as to what I can do, because it’s an expensive …

    TOM: Have you tried to use one of those green Scotch pads on it? That has just a minor amount of abrasion. I’m trying to think what actually could be making these black marks. If it’s something that’s on top of the vinyl, then you should be able to remove it.

    The other thing is if it happens to be something that is solvent-based, like tar or rubber or something of that nature, another thing that you could try to do is you could try to spray that with some WD-40. That has a pretty good ability of breaking down those types of substances. Just a little bit, perhaps, on that green scrubby pad. Rub it over that surface and see if that lifts it off. I think the key is to try to figure out what that black mark is and then what’s going to take it off from there. But I would try it in those – in that order. See how you make out, Beverly.

    BEVERLY: Yeah, yeah. Some of it’s from the road and some of it is from them taking their lawn mower and trying to mow the grass right up against it.

    TOM: Well, I mean that would throw dirt and stones of it – against it. But that should be clean. As long as the whatever – as long as this vinyl fence is white all the way through, it’s got to be something that’s on top of it. And that’s why I say you have to find the right cleaner and the right tool to remove that.

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

    LESLIE: Ron in Oregon is on the line with a floor-cleaning question. How can we help you?

    RON: Yeah. I’ve got a Brazilian cherry floor. And I’m wondering what would be the best thing to clean it with, because I don’t know who’s cleaned it and with what.

    TOM: Is it an older floor or is this a newer floor?

    RON: It’s seven years old.

    TOM: So, what I would recommend you do is kind of a two-step process. I would definitely use Murphy’s Oil Soap on the floor and follow the instructions. You don’t want to use a lot of water. But it works pretty well as a cleaner. It’s very neutral and it’s going to do a good job pulling out whatever that floor has.

    And then in terms of the polish, there are a lot of liquid floor polishes out there. But I don’t like them because they tend to not have the same sheen and the same sort of natural shine that a paste-wax floor would be. I love when you do a hardwood wax – a hardwood-floor wax – that has to be buffed on. And so I would encourage you to use a floor wax with a buffer.

    If you want to just do this once a year, move the furniture out of the way while you’re doing this. But apply a good paste wax designed for a floor, because it’s not slippery that way. It’ll give you a beautiful, deep shine. And it’ll do a great job of keeping that floor clean because it’s much easier to sweep when you have good floor wax on it. And also, it will keep it looking really, really nice with a very soft and warm and natural glow. So I would use a floor wax and then I would use the Murphy’s Oil Soap as my prep and make sure it’s really, really dry.

    RON: OK. Thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Hey, do you want to dress up a room with just one simple project? We’re going to have an easy update to share, after this.

    TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Give us a call, right now, on The Money Pit’s listener line at 888-MONEY-PIT, presented by HomeAdvisor.

    LESLIE: You can get matched with background-checked home service pros in your area, compare prices, read verified reviews and book appointments all online, for free.

    TOM: No matter the type of job, HomeAdvisor makes it fast and easy to hire a pro you can trust.

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

    MARGARET: Yes. I’d like to know what I can do about my popcorn ceilings. They’re getting dirty. They’re 20 years old.

    LESLIE: Well, there’s a couple of solutions. Do you like them and want to keep them? Or you just want them to not look so dingy?

    MARGARET: I would not rather – I would not like to keep them no more.

    LESLIE: Alright. Well, generally, with popcorn ceiling, if it’s truly a popcorn ceiling and not a texturized stucco, what you can do to remove it is you can get one of those garden sprayers or those light-duty paint sprayers. Put water in it and you spray the ceiling to sort of saturate the popcorn. And then you take a wide spackle blade – as wide as the one you can find – and you sort of gently start peeling away at the popcorn ceiling – at the popcorn texture, I should say, from the ceiling.

    And that generally does a pretty good job. Because if you’ve ever tried to paint it, if you don’t have the right roller, when it gets wet, it starts to peel away from the ceiling. So by getting it wet, you’re being able to remove it. You just want to make sure, with your blade or your scraper, that you’re not digging into the drywall below it. Because keep in mind whatever’s left underneath there is what you’re going to paint and then see.

    MARGARET: OK. How do I go about cleaning if I decide to just go ahead and keep this?

    LESLIE: Well, you wouldn’t clean it. You would paint over it.

    MARGARET: Oh, no. No.

    TOM: Yeah, there’s actually a special roller for that. It’s like a slitted roller. It’s a very thick roller that’s got slits in it and it’s designed to squeeze the paint into that popcorn area. And that’s exactly why I would do it. I would paint it. It’s going to look a lot better than cleaning it. You just can’t clean that stuff. There’s nothing cleanable about a popcorn ceiling. You’ve got to paint over it.

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

    LESLIE: Well, if your dining room is more of a space that you kind of just pass through to get to your kitchen than a showplace, you can change that pretty easily with a simple home improvement project. And that’s adding wainscoting.

    Now, wainscoting, it’s that paneling that runs halfway up the wall with the trim pieces on top. You can do it as a little ledger or just a decorative piece. And this project really doesn’t take a lot of DIY skills and it can be done in a weekend. And I promise, if you’re doing it with your spouse or partner or whatever it is, you will not kill each other in the process. It’s actually an enjoyable project.

    TOM: Yeah. And the easiest way to do it is actually to buy precut panels of wainscoting. Now, they’re kind of ready to go right up on your walls and there are even some options in PVC. Now, the PVC products look like real wood – they cut like real wood, they paint like real wood – but they don’t warp and twist like wood, so it’s another way to kind of get this done. Now, if you do choose the real wood, though, it is a good idea to let it sit in your house for about two days before you install it. This is going to allow it to acclimate and not shrink up or expand after its installed.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And that’s really a good rule of thumb with any building material that you’re using in your house, especially flooring. Let it sort of acclimate to the conditions in your home before you put it up.

    Now, besides PVC, there are really some interesting recycled or repurposed materials that can work almost as well, like old doors, which I’ve done. I’ve done it with new doors, I’ve done it with old doors on projects for some of the makeover shows I’ve worked on. And the old doors, if you can find them with interesting layers of paint or sort of that shabby-chic look that still works so well, especially when transposed with sort of a more modern look against it, I mean it’s a really fun way to add some just interesting detail to a space that you weren’t using before. Either way, you can get this done in one weekend and it will really make a big impact in your home.

    TOM: Yeah. And the best part is, especially in a kitchen, if you put that up on your walls, you done get those chair marks, right, when people slide back against the wall?

    LESLIE: It’s true.

    TOM: Because you hit the wainscoting. That’s one of the reasons it’s there.

    LESLIE: Well, that’s why chair rail is called “chair rail.”

    TOM: There you go. 888-666-3974. We’d love to talk about the next project you’re working on. Give us a call right now.

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

    RICHARD: Oh, my question is – well, what happened is I had an under-the-sink water filter burst. Flooded my house. And I’ve had two people say that – one person said that I need to replace all the drywall that got wet. Another person says that it’s fine – the drywall is fine. My question is: what do I need to do? What is the proper thing to do?

    LESLIE: Well, Richard, what does the drywall look like? Did it dry out or does it look all sponge-y and gross?

    RICHARD: It looks like it just dried out.

    TOM: Right. If it dried out, then there wasn’t enough water to form it. There’s no reason to replace it. Sometimes, when you get a bad leak and especially with a ceiling leak, water will sit above a drywall and it will cause it to kind of swell and buckle downward. And when it deforms like that, there’s no fix for it. You have to cut it out and replace it.

    But if it just got wet because of the leak and then dried out and it’s still flat, then I wouldn’t worry about it. You may have – if there’s any joints in the drywall that have to – that have separated and have to retaped or repaired, certainly, you could do all that. But otherwise, I think you’re fine just the way it is.

    Now, I would recommend that you prime it first with a solvent-based primer or an oil-based primer to make sure that you’ve sealed in any staining. But once you do that, I think that you’re pretty much good to go and you’re done. I don’t see a reason to replace it.

    RICHARD: Saves a lot of work.

    TOM: Alright. Well, that’s what we try to do, Rich. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Still ahead, stainless-steel sinks, they are not one-size-fits-all. So we’re going to have some tips to help you choose the best-quality sink for your kitchen, next.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Hey, have you ever struggled to get rid of moles in your yard? Quickly, before I share the tip, I took my boys to a water park a couple weeks ago with my mom.

    TOM: Yes, yep.

    LESLIE: And we got one of those little cabanas that, you know, they’ll bring your lunch to you, just because my mom is old – don’t tell her I said that – and she doesn’t like to beep around so much, so I give her a home base.

    TOM: Right.

    LESLIE: And she heard something rustling and turned around and there was a mole in the garbage. She said it was the ugliest thing ever saw.

    TOM: Oh, my gosh. She must have totally freaked out. Yeah, they’re pretty homely-looking animals. And they rip – they really rip the heck out of lawns. They really can tear it up.

    LESLIE: And apparently garbage cans, so who knew?

    TOM: Who knew?

    LESLIE: But you’re right: they can dig holes and tunnels and will just destroy your lawn super quick, so the best way to get rid of the moles in your yard is to not make your yard quite so attractive. Get rid of those grubs. They’re in your lawn and that’s what the moles like to eat.

    TOM: Yep. And if there’s plenty of food, they’re going to love to stay there. So, the product that we usually recommend for this, which works really well, is a product called GrubEx. And you can apply that and the grubs will disappear. And then the moles will find a new place to eat. But be prepared to give the same advice to your neighbors, because guess where they’re going if you don’t have food in your house?

    LESLIE: That’s true.

    TOM: We used to have a terrible problem with them here and that GrubEx really did the job and now the lawn just looks fantastic.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Or apparently, they’ll go to the water park. So, either way – but at least it’s not your house.

    TOM: Oh, that’s right, although it could go to – well, that’s probably because your mom was serving Italian food or something.

    LESLIE: It is possible.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. Let’s get back to it.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re going to Mel in Arkansas who’s got a question about a shower. What can we do for you today?

    MEL: Well, we need to change a tub into a shower. And it is for a handicapped person that uses a shower chair. And everything that we are finding so far is a fiberglass-type stuff that is not rated for the person’s weight that’s going to have to be using it. And they use a shower chair. Any suggestions on how to stabilize it so that it’s not going to break through when the shower chair goes in it?

    TOM: You’re looking at zero-threshold showers that basically are flush with the floor?

    MEL: Not necessarily. It doesn’t have to be the zero-threshold but it needs to be a shower, not a tub.

    TOM: Right. OK. So, when you put in a fiberglass shower pan, you’re right: sometimes there’s flex underneath of it. But there’s an easy trick of the trade to deal with that. And that is that you can mix up a concrete mix or a cement mix or mortar mix and basically, you put it underneath the pan while it’s wet and then you press the pan down into it. And what that does is it takes out all of the space between the pan itself and the floor. It provides a rock-solid base to that fiberglass shower stall. Does that make sense?

    MEL: OK.

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

    LESLIE: Well, if it’s time for a new sink, stainless steel is an obvious choice for a kitchen, because it’s going to clean up quickly and it can be very affordable, depending on the gauge that you choose. But once you get past the key design questions – one bowl or two, under-mount or over-mount – you want to base your buying decision on other less obvious factors that affect the quality and the value.

    TOM: That’s right. Now, first thing you need to consider is the gauge of the metal. The gauge is the thickness of the metal. You want it to be both strong and silent and that’s determined by that thickness. Now, the way gauge numbers work, the lower the number, the thicker it is. So, a 16-gauge or an 18-gauge is good but if you go to 22-gauge, it’s going to be more prone to denting and vibrating and less able to handle, say, a garbage disposer being installed into it.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. The other thing to think about is the depth of the sink. Now, that’s really going to depend on the cabinet that you have and all those things, as well. But think about this: a 6-inch deep basin, they’re really inexpensive to make but they’re going to splash and they really don’t hold much. A 10-inch-deep sink, on the other hand, can hold a lot and a big plus when counter space is limited in that kitchen. And the shape is going to matter, also.

    You’re going to get more volume with square corners, straight sides and a flat bottom but softer angles will allow for easier cleaning and better drainage.

    TOM: And finally, you’ve got to do the thump test – this is a technical term, Leslie. But stainless steel can be really loud, so if you look for those with a rubbery undercoating and pads, that’s going to deaden the sound of the water and the clattering silverware and the vibration from the disposers. It’s also going to reduce condensation in the base cabinet itself. So, if you can thump it and you don’t get that vibration, you are good to go.

    And if you need some help to be good to go with your next home improvement or décor project, post that question to The Money Pit’s Community page at or call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Robert in Washington is on the line and needs some help building a retaining wall. Tell us about your project.

    ROBERT: Fifty feet of retaining wall. It’s tapered. It’s 8 feet on one end and 4 feet on the other. And I’m comparing – trying to compare the engineer blocks – the 1,000-pound blocks in price to cast in place. And I really haven’t found any place to give me a good idea.

    TOM: So, Robert, I think that trying to decide between those very, very heavy retaining-wall block structures and poured concrete is going to kind of be a wash. I think that the blocks, actually, can be more attractive and probably a little bit less work to install. But also, there are other options. You could build wood retaining walls that can be, structurally, very, very sound if they’re done right. And you could use smaller, lighter-weight blocks – landscaping bricks – that again, they’re not 1,000 pounds but they’re probably 75. And you can stack those up in the right way.

    The most important thing is really the structure of this wall and how you grade to it. Because you have to make sure that you have stone behind it for drainage. You have to make sure that the soil at the top slopes away from it. Most retaining walls fall – fail – not because the material is wrong but because the installation was bad. So as long as it’s installed well, following the best building practices for retaining walls, you’re going to have success with this.

    For example, with wood walls, there’s a technique called a “dead man,” which is basically when you put pieces of railroad tie or 6×6 or 8×8 timber that go back into the retaining wall, into the dirt itself, to kind of tie the wall together. So, sometimes, we don’t see enough of those installed and that makes the walls fail.

    With block or brick, sometimes we see people build them absolutely vertical instead of tilting back into the wall. So that whenever there’s a frost heave, because there’s not enough drainage behind it, it will push the wall and cause it to buckle. So, the techniques that you use to build this wall are even more important than the selection of the material itself.

    So I hope we’ve given you some options, Robert. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, what do you do with your indoor fireplace during the off-season? You know, you can’t always be burning fires, especially in August. So, the obvious choice is to dress it up. You want to make it look beautiful, at least when that fire isn’t warm. We’re going to tell you how to do that, 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: Post your question, right now, to the Community page at or call us at 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: And you can post those questions right in the Community section at And I’ve got one here from Jill in Rhode Island who writes: “I installed an energy blanket in the attic about three years ago. Can I add insulation on top of the blanket?”

    Oh, is the blanket almost like a Visqueen or something that you put on …?

    TOM: I’m not really sure if she’s talking about a radiant barrier.

    LESLIE: Yeah.

    TOM: Because if that’s the case, I would say no. You should take it up and put more insulation down. In fact, you should’ve done that at that time. If you have bad insulation – you should have 15 or 20 or 25 inches of that insulation in the attic in Rhode Island where you live, Jill. And if you don’t, I would take up that energy blanket. I would put in that level in insulation. I might improve my ventilation at the same time. Add a ridge vent if you don’t have one. Make sure your soffit vents are existing and are wide open and that will really make a big difference in your energy bills, both in summer and in winter.

    LESLIE: I mean it is true. The insulation does act like the hat on top of your head, which we all know you can really get away with just a hat sometimes in the cooler temperatures, because it keeps your heat in. So the same thing with your home. And depending on where you live in the United States, there is a different amount of insulation that you need.

    Tom, what is the website that folks should go to that tells them exactly what that measurement of insulation is?

    TOM: Yeah, that’s actually part of the ENERGY STAR site, so go to and search “insulation levels” and it’ll tell you exactly what you need in your part of the country.

    Well, if you’ve been staring at that big, black hole that is your fireplace all summer long and you just can’t figure out how to make it more appealing to look at without a fire in it, well, just because you’re not using it doesn’t mean it can’t look great. Leslie has some fun ideas to dress up your hearth, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    LESLIE: Yeah, a fireplace that’s not in use can really sometimes be an eyesore but that depends on how you dress it up in these summer months. And you can really find ways to incorporate it into your décor scheme.

    Now, we did an episode of Hotel Impossible once up in the Woodstock area in New York. And I happened to find this amazing fireplace screen online. It was actually from Pier 1 but I imagine you can find a similar one if they don’t make it anymore. And the screen had little hooks on it that you would put little votive candles in, on the screen itself. So that was awesome because it put candles right there in the front.

    But I didn’t put candles in it. I put a little bit of soil and I put a really tiny fern inside, because I just love incorporating greenery into a space. And that was, for me, a great way to kind of dress up the fireplace, bring in the greenery. So start there. If you can find a screen that’ll help you dress it up but even more, bring in some of the outside indoors for the summer months and the time when you’re not using the fireplace, go for it.

    Another great thing is take out the logs and put pillar candles in, in a bunch of different heights and sizes and really make it sort of this candled, beautiful sanctuary where it’s really kind of a candle fire instead of a fireplace fire and not with logs. And even when they’re not lit, those candles just add such a warming touch.

    You can also make your own fireplace screen. You can do this with interesting different panels out of plywood or luan, because it doesn’t have to function as a fireplace screen; it’s just covering the front. You can paint it, you can cover it with fabric, you can cover it with wallpaper, you can decoupage family photos. There’s so many different ways to do it. And you can do interesting shapes.

    You know, think about it. Use your imagination, go online, source some ideas, have some fun with it because it’s a big space in a room that you’re in a lot with your family. And so make it something that you enjoy looking at.

    TOM: Good advice. This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up next time on the program, there are options for getting a new look without breaking the bank when it comes to kitchen remodeling. Kitchen cabinets can be replaced, refaced or just refinished. We’re going to have tips from Tom Silva, the general contractor of This Old House, on the next edition of The Money Pit.

    I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …

    LESLIE: But you 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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