Deck Check Ups #0430182

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Deck Check Ups #0430182
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    TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And what are you doing this beautiful spring weekend? If you’re working on your house, you’re in exactly the right place. Or even if you’re thinking about a home improvement project, you’re still in the right place. We would love to chat with you about what’s going on in your money pit. If you are fixing up your inside, your outside, building a deck, building a patio, painting a room, improving your kitchen, your bathroom, you name it, give us a call because we’re here to help you talk through those jobs, give you some tips and ideas to make them quicker, more effective. And if it’s a repair, we’ll tell you how to do it once, do it right and not have to do it again. But you must help yourself first by posting that question to the Community page at or by calling in, right now, to 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Coming up on this episode, buying green. It’s all the rage today, right? But did you ever wonder what makes a product truly green? I mean there are actually a lot of factors and unfortunately, just as many false claims of greenness. So we’re going to help sort out those environmental details for you, just ahead.

    LESLIE: And speaking of green, you know, there’s one kind of green that we all really want to avoid these days and that’s weeds. We’re going to tell you the one thing to do, right now, that will help you get a weed-free lawn all summer long.

    TOM: And when it comes to spring cleaning, one thing that often gets ignored are the shades. That’s because today’s cellular or pleated shades are really delicate. So we’re going to tell you how you can clean those without damaging them, in just a bit.

    But first, we want to hear about your next home improvement adventure. Give us a call right now. Tell us what you’re planning, 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Karen in Pennsylvania is dealing with some mold in the basement. Tell us what’s going on.

    KAREN: My mom has a house that the basement is – we put it up for sale and nobody noticed this. And one person came in and tore wallpaper off the wall and we noticed that it had mold from the floor to the ceiling and even in the inner walls. So I had a gentleman come and look at it and he said it would take $30,000-plus. And he would come in, remove all the interior walls – all the wood, the paneling, everything off the wall – down to the bare. He would have a chemical put on, clean it and then it would never come back.

    And then the second guy came in and he said he would rip everything out, as he said. He would coat it, clean it and guarantee it that if it did come back, he’d fix it for $10,000.

    TOM: Yeah, I don’t think you need either of these guys. You don’t have enough information yet and I don’t think you’re talking to the right people. I doubt either of them are professional mold mitigators. It sounds to me like they’re just trying to size you up for as much money as they can get from you.

    The first thing you want to do is test the mold to figure out what kind of mold it is. And that’s done – there’s a couple of easy ways to do that. Basically, you take a sample and you send it out to a lab and they tell you what you’ve got. And then you can kind of design a mitigation plan around that. I need to get a sense as to how much mold is there. But if it’s just a little bit of mold behind the wallpaper, you may not need to pull all this out; you might be able to treat it right in place. But it doesn’t sound right.

    KAREN: Where the bathroom is has an inner wall. And that is halfway down with mold.

    TOM: OK. I mean how much mold are we talking about here, square footage-wise? Is it like a 4×4-foot by 4-foot space or …?

    KAREN: We’re going to say all the outer walls. Because we’ve since went around and pulled off some wallpaper here and moved some paneling. And we also – the first guy that came in for $30,000 brought in a light and to me, it looked like a black light. But he brought the light in that was a special light and it can tell what type of mold it was and where the mold was.

    TOM: That is completely wrong. Do not call that guy back. It is completely wrong, OK? That guy was not giving you accurate information if he comes in with his magic light that supposedly tells mold.

    LESLIE: Yeah, they can’t actually tell you what kind of mold unless they do a chemical test on a physical sample.

    KAREN: OK.

    TOM: Well, it’s a mold test. They send it out to a lab and they read it, so that guy’s a snake-oil salesman.

    LESLIE: Right. Right. But it’s actually holding a piece of that mold and testing it with certain things. And that’s done by a lab.

    TOM: It sounds like you could use a basement renovation but I wouldn’t get too crazy over it. If it’s done by the right kind of company that can take that apart very carefully and dispose of all of that material – and maybe you don’t even want to put the walls back. Maybe you just want to leave it unfinished.

    KAREN: Oh, good.

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

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

    JAMES: The other day, I was sitting in my living room when all of a sudden, this real loud whistle sound came out of my water-heater heater room. I opened it up. I’d just never heard this before and it did this for a few minutes. And then it just stopped.

    TOM: You didn’t see any water come out of the overflow, did you?

    JAMES: No. No. That’s what I can’t figure out.

    TOM: How old is the water heater, James?

    JAMES: About four or five years ago, I put in all electric – that was gas before – but all electric. I put a Trane heater in and there was another brand that they put in with the water heater. And it seems like now – I haven’t heard that since. Now, when I use the water – the faucet – in the kitchen, right after I turn it off, a couple minutes later I hear this noise that’s like a clicking noise or something in the water heater.

    TOM: So, that clicking noise is probably the pipes expanding and contracting as they heat up and cool down. It tends to amplify itself because of the nature of the copper pipes. But everything that you’re telling me doesn’t signal that I’m thinking you’re having any kind of problem. Just sometimes, as the water expands and contracts, it will make some odd noises to it.

    JAMES: Do I have to drain the heater at all or …?

    TOM: Do you have hard water there?

    JAMES: Oh, yeah.

    TOM: So if you have hard water, sometimes you get mineral deposits along the bottom of the water heater. But that wouldn’t really impact an electric water heater, because the coils are up in the middle of the water. They’re immersed right into the middle of the tank, so it’s not going to make them less efficient. So you could but I don’t think it’ll have any effect.

    If you have a gas water heater, the heating element’s at the bottom. And sometimes, if you get mineral deposits that sit over the bottom of the water tank, it’s kind of like an insulator and it makes it harder to heat the water. But in the case of electric water heater, the heating elements are embedded up in the water heater, usually a foot from the bottom and a foot down from the top. So that wouldn’t affect it.

    JAMES: Well, I thought there’s – isn’t there one at the top and the bottom?

    TOM: Yes. But it’s immersed in the middle of the tank. It sticks through the tank, kind of at a right angle. And there’s one about a foot down from the top and one that’s about a foot up from the bottom. So you’re not going to have any settling of mineral-salt deposits on it.

    JAMES: What’s the life expectancy of one of these things?

    TOM: About 10 years – 10 to 12 years.

    JAMES: Ten years and that’s it. And when can I guess the elements go, usually?

    TOM: Well, if the elements go, they can be replaced. But the tanks tend to leak after 10-plus years.

    JAMES: Wow. And where should I keep an eye – where does it – they leak in the bottom? They just leak water all over the place?

    TOM: The best thing to do is if you’re going away, right, you should always turn off your main water valve. And also, turn off the water heater, because it won’t waste a lot of electricity by heating up water in the house that you’re not using.

    JAMES: Listen, let me tell you something, I love you guys. You guys have a really very wholesome – a great show. Because there’s a lot of talk shows on and different things but you guys help a lot of people.

    TOM: We try. Thank you so much, James. We really appreciate that. Good luck with the project and thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit on air and online at Call in your home repair or home improvement question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Just ahead, buying green products is a smart thing to do but did you ever wonder what makes a product truly green? There’s actually a lot of factors and just as many false claims of greenness. We’ll help you sort it out, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Pick up the phone, give us call right now. We would love to talk with you. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by They make it fast and easy to find top-rated home pros. Plus, it’s 100-percent free to use.

    LESLIE: Alright. We’ve got Ted on the line who’s noticing a musty smell in the basement. What’s going on?

    TED: I have a finished basement that’s carpeted and I live in a townhome. And I just – it has a musty smell and I can’t get rid of it, no matter what I do.

    TOM: Is the basement heated and cooled?

    TED: It is, yes. Actually have the heat turned on down there now and I usually turn the air on in the summertime. And on nice days, I open the windows and let the windows stay open all day long.

    TOM: Do you have a dehumidifier?

    TED: I do not.

    TOM: Well, generally, when you get a musty smell, it’s because of moisture. And sometimes, the moisture settles into carpet and furnishings and can exacerbate it. But if you reduce the moisture and the humidity, that will sometimes improve it.

    So, in a basement, you could do that with something called a “whole house dehumidifier,” which is actually something that can be added onto the HVAC system. And it will take out – these whole-house dehumidifiers can take out 100 pints of water a day. They work really, really efficiently. And it’s not the kind of thing where you have to dump it or anything like that; it just goes to a pump and gets pumped right outside.

    The other thing that you can do is to improve the drainage conditions outside your house. Because believe it or not, if you extend gutters away from the house and if you slope soil away from the house, there’s a lot less water that collects at the foundation perimeter and ends up getting into your house and raising that humidity level. If you manage the moisture at the foundation perimeter and add a dehumidifier, you’ll find that it goes a long way towards reducing that amount of humidity.

    Then, finally, I would check the HVAC system to make sure you have a good-quality return vent in the basement. Because you don’t just want supplies, you want returns, too, so it pulls that moist air back into the system. And as it goes through the system, it heats up or it goes across the air-conditioning coil and condenses. You’ll be pulling more moisture out that way, as well, OK?

    TED: OK. Great. I’ll give it a shot.

    TOM: Alright, Ted. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Janet in South Carolina is working on a kitchen makeover. How can we help you?

    JANET: I have a kitchen. It’s not a very large kitchen but the walls have been painted numerous times and not the best paint jobs. So, I have decided to possibly add some type of wood to kind of give it a rustic feel, because I really like that, on the entire walls of the kitchen. And I was wondering, could you suggest to me something I could use? I’ve had people suggest beadboard, the wainscot-type board. Could you suggest to me something to use on my walls to give it that rustic look?

    LESLIE: Let’s talk about your style of rustic, because there’s so many different ways to interpret that. And beadboard’s a great way to do a really classic, more country look, especially if you paint it a white gloss. That just tends to be really clean. But if you’re looking for more something – you know, something more natural or an age-y piece of wood, there’s ways to do that, too.

    JANET: That’s it. I want to go with a light, natural-looking wood. Not too light because my cabinets are the lighter color of wood.

    LESLIE: Well, what you can do is you can actually get – and this would have a nice finish to it. You can look at flooring – wood-plank flooring. And you can get one that has sort of a white, rustic, beachy wash to it. And you can even go with a vinyl flooring, because that’s going to be super easy to install. And you can install the planks directly to your wall. And you can do that with an adhesive, you can do that with a double-sided tape. There’s so many different ways you can attach it to the wall, depending on the weight of the product itself. And that – if you put that on with the planks running vertically or horizontally, that can give a different kind of rustic look in comparison to the beadboard.

    Now, it seems to me like you want to go floor to ceiling with this. Is this correct?

    JANET: That’s right. I do. Now, I do have cabinets that do not go all the way up to the ceiling.

    LESLIE: Well, I think that’s OK, because you’re generally dealing with maybe a foot to 18 inches of space up there. And that’s really not terrible. You can keep that as a painted surface and just decorate up there with some very clean baskets or something just to give you a little bit of extra storage, plus to mask that space a little bit. But I think the beadboard is an excellent idea and that’s a very easy do-it-yourself project.

    Using a wood-flooring product, whether it’s vinyl or actual wood, there’s a company – Tom, is it Timberchic, I think, is the name?

    TOM: Yes. Mm-hmm. That’s right.

    LESLIE: And they do actual pieces of reclaimed lumber, almost like a veneer. And that you can attach to the walls. But I’ve done it with that VCR: that vinyl tile that looks like a wood plank. I’ve done that for an HGTV show in a variety of different finishes, horizontally on the wall. And that gives a great, rustic look. So it depends on what your interpretation of rustic is.

    JANET: OK, OK. Would you suggest now – would you suggest to put it over the cabinets, also? Or you stated to possibly leave it just painted? Or could I cover that, also?

    LESLIE: You can. If you feel confident – if you’re using a wood-flooring planking product, you’re probably going to get two or three pieces in there without having to do any cuts. If you’re doing a beadboard, that’s something you’re going to have to cut down to that exact height and put up there. It depends on how much of it you see from the floor and what you feel comfortable with. I think if you’re going to do it, do it full out. But if you’re not confident in your abilities or it’s too high or you don’t really see it, then I think there’s other ways to mask it with some decorative accessories.

    JANET: OK. I understand. OK, great. Well, thank you for your ideas.

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

    Well, green home improvement, let’s talk about that. The options seem to be multiplying by the day. But the problem is it’s not always clear how much you’re actually helping the planet and yourself with the choices you make.

    LESLIE: True. And just as the terms organic and healthy are finding their way into every corner of your supermarket, building products and fixtures can easily be greenwashed with their true value really hidden behind big prices and those even bigger claims.

    Now, if you’re planning to purchase a home improvement-related product and want to ensure that it is environmentally friendly, there are a few things to look at beyond those advertising claims to determine if that product is actually green.

    So, you want to start by considering the basics. Now, the raw materials that go into that product and where they come from, remember that anything that has to be transported a long, long way brings other precious resources into the equation. Then take a look at the adhesives, the coatings and the finishes that are used to make that product viable and whether or not the manufacturing process leads to a release of harmful substances.

    TOM: Now, next, you want to consider the product’s packaging and the likelihood that it will release VOCs – those volatile organic compounds – into your home environment during and after the installation.

    Now, another factor is the product’s afterlife in determining greenness. Just as there are benefits to selecting a product that’s made from sustainable materials, you need to know that those ingredients can be recycled, reclaimed or repurposed when the product’s time with you is over.

    So, I mean the bottom line is that all good things come to an end. And when that happens, a green one is much preferred. So a few things to think about if you’re interested in purchasing environmentally-friendly green products for your home.

    LESLIE: Heading on over to Clint in Texas. How can we help you today?

    CLINT: Would like some recommendations on a good waterproofing for the capstones on my roof. My house is a commercial-style building with a flat roof and the parapet is crowned with capstone. And I need to waterproof that. And I have an exterior that is EIFS and it needs a good waterproofing. And then part of the home’s exterior is also terracotta block. I think the concrete is letting water soak down into it and then when it freezes, it shatters.

    TOM: Alright. Well, starting with the capstone, OK, at the parapet wall, what you want to use is simply a silicone-based sealer for that, since it’s a masonry product. So a silicone waterproofing sealer for masonry is what you would use there.

    Now, the more difficult matter is when you mentioned that you have EIFS. And EIFS is exterior insulated foam siding. This is that siding that looks like stucco but it’s not; it’s foam. Now, do you happen to live in a home that’s masonry or is it a wood structure?

    CLINT: No, it is built all out of these huge concrete blocks that you would normally see in commercial …

    TOM: Alright. Good. Because if you were living in a wood structure that had that same type of siding, I would say you had a serious problem on your hand, because the stuff leaks like a sieve.

    I am not sure what the appropriate coating would be for EIFS over a masonry surface but I know that there’s not as much concern about leakage. Because even if it does get in, it typically gets into the joints. It’s going to strike the masonry underneath and not cause rot. The problem with that stuff is when you put it on a wood house, the moisture gets into the sheathing and studs and it causes decay, which is serious trouble. So I can’t help you about that.

    Now, what was the third part of your question, about the cracks?

    CLINT: I have some terracotta – some decorative terracotta – in the walls, around mostly the pool. And that terracotta has a concrete capstone, also. But water is seen to getting – it’s getting into some of the terracotta. And then when it freezes in the wintertime, it breaks the terracotta apart.

    TOM: I wonder if there’s ever been a sealer put on that. Because if you put the wrong sealer on it, that very condition happens. If you put a sealer on that’s not vapor-permeable, which is a type of sealer, the water gets in but it doesn’t evaporate out. You’re never going to completely 100-percent waterproof your terracotta block but if you put the type of sealer on that’s vapor-permeable, then that allows moisture to evaporate out. So I think that’s what you’re going to need to do.

    CLINT: Alright.

    TOM: OK, Clint?

    CLINT: Well, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

    LESLIE: Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit.

    Just ahead, speaking of green, there’s one kind of green that we all really want to avoid these days and that is weeds. We’re going to tell you the one thing that you should be doing, right now, that will keep your lawn weed-free all summer, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Well, have you ever noticed weeds popping up seemingly overnight, from cracks in driveways to sidewalks or between bricks and patios? Or maybe it’s not even weeds but just some unwanted grass that’s ruining the look of your walks and driveways and patios. There’s an easy and all-natural way to deal with that unwanted greenery. And no, we’re not talking about pulling them out by hand. Bonide’s BurnOut Weed and Grass Killer is an all-natural product that’s safe for use around people and pets and it quickly controls unwanted weeds and grasses.

    With us to talk about how it works is Jim Wood, an expert with Bonide.

    Welcome, Jim.

    JIM: Thank you, Tom. Glad to be on your show again.

    TOM: This is one of those things that’s pretty annoying to people, you know. They do everything to get their outdoor-living spaces looking just right and after a nice rainfall, we go out and all of a sudden, you see some new greenery sprouting up between the cracks in the sidewalk or between the brick pavers. Why does that happen? Do the seeds blow around and get stuck in those seams and then just sort of take root?

    JIM: Well, that they do. They get exposed to the light from the sun and then they’ll germinate. And that’s when the homeowner will see this new growth growing in between the spaces of their brick walkway, sidewalk, whatever the case might be. But yes, they can be also dropped by birds, as well, as they fly over. So there’s a variety of ways that these seeds find themselves in those cracks and crevices. And the right conditions occur, Tom, and all of a sudden you’ve got yourself a new plant growing where you don’t want it.

    TOM: If you think about it, the masonry surfaces – the concrete and all that – that’s pretty hydroscopic. It’s going to hold water and it’ll keep them fed. So I’ve pretty much got all the conditions that they need to grow there. It’s just the wrong spot.

    So that’s why you guys developed BurnOut. It’s a weed-and-grass killer. So, with this product, can you target then just those weeds or those grass – areas of grass that you don’t want to grow and basically kill it down to the root?

    JIM: Yes, you can. It’s an all-natural weed-and-grass killer that works very quickly. It works down to cool temperatures, such as 40 degrees. And it’ll eliminate the weed very quickly. The warmer the weather, the faster it works.

    TOM: OK.

    JIM: There’s times when temperatures are in the 80s. You could apply it on your sidewalk. In a few hours, the weed’s dead. It works that quick.

    TOM: Now, once it’s dead, is it actually dead through down to the root? Will it regerminate? Or if it does, it’s not the original weed; it’s something else that dropped in its place.

    JIM: Well, in most cases, the particular weed that they apply the product to will not come back. However, if it is a fairly well-established weed that they’re trying to get rid of, they may need to make two applications. So, the first application, Tom, would burn down the top foliage. And if they see new foliage coming, they might want to wait for that just to get a little bit bigger – maybe a couple inches tall – and then make another application. And that usually will knock that weed out.

    And they can also – if they use the concentrate, they can mix it a little bit stronger in their tank sprayer, so they can take care of that weed in one or two applications.

    TOM: And that’s a good trick of the trade. You can always alter the mix just a little bit, like you say.

    JIM: Yeah.

    TOM: Now, if it’s a windy day, you have to be careful because you want this weed killer where you want it but you don’t want it to get over in the parts of the lawn where you don’t want it, right?

    JIM: That’s very true. I would highly recommend anytime you use a weed-and-grass killer, such as BurnOut, make sure you try and do it on a non-windy day.

    TOM: I’ve got a trick of the trade for that. I’ll just give it to you and give me your professional opinion, see if it works. What I’ve done is I’ve taken a 1-gallon milk jug and cut the bottom out of it. And then I put it on top of the weed to kind of isolate it and then spray down through the top of what used to be the opening of the milk. And this way, you don’t have any that blows off to the side.

    JIM: That’s an excellent way of controlling the spray drift. There’s no doubt. I would highly recommend that. If there are desirable plants around, that’s an excellent way to do that to minimize any chance of wind drift.

    TOM: Now, you mentioned that this is all-natural. So is it a safe product for pets, for example?

    JIM: Yes, it is. It’s safe for pets and also for people to enter the place where they’ve sprayed it once the liquid is dry.

    TOM: Alright. The product is called BurnOut Weed and Grass Killer. It’s made by Bonide.

    Jim Wood, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    JIM: Thank you, Tom. Talk to you soon.

    TOM: You can learn more about BurnOut on Bonide’s website, which is –

    LESLIE: Jim Wood from Bonide, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    Well, when it comes to spring cleaning, one thing that often gets ignored are the shades. Because today’s cellular or pleated shades, they’re pretty delicate. We’re going to have some tips on how to keep those shades clean without damaging them, next.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Post your home improvement question to us at or call, right now, at 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974 presented by HomeAdvisor. They make it fast and easy to find top-rated home pros you can trust for any home project.

    LESLIE: Beverly in Missouri, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?

    BEVERLY: Well, I have a house that’s just been built a year-and-a-half ago but I have a covered patio. And my builder put cedar posts out there. The rest of my trim is all white. So I wanted to cover or paint the cedar but he’s telling me I can’t do it because I’ll rot them out. And I – that doesn’t sound right to me but I’m not sure.

    TOM: So, what would you – in a perfect world, Beverly, what would you like to see on those cedar posts? Would you like them to be white and match the rest of the house?

    BEVERLY: Yeah. All of my trim is white and so I would rather them be white. They’re a year-and-a-half old now, so they’re starting to turn this cedar look and get all dark.

    TOM: Right. Are they kind of decorative?

    BEVERLY: No.

    TOM: OK. See, here’s what I would do. The first thing I would – I’m going to recommend a staining process. So, the first thing you’re going to do is prime them with an oil-based primer or a solvent-based primer. And then you’re going to stain them and I would use a solid-color stain. And the solid-color stain is not going to look like paint, so it won’t tend to peel; it’ll fade over time. But it’ll soak in really nicely. And you can get a white stain – a solid-white stain – and it’ll look quite attractive.

    Painting wood does not cause it to rot; it prevents it from rotting.

    LESLIE: It just requires a lot of repainting.

    BEVERLY: Yeah. He said if I covered it or painted them, that it causes the moisture to pull to the base and then they rot.

    TOM: I would disagree with that. I think if you stain them, you’ll find that they’re quite attractive and that the moisture will wick in and out just fine.

    BEVERLY: Good. Thank you so much.

    TOM: Well, when it comes to spring cleaning, one thing that often gets ignored are the shades. And that’s because today’s cellular or pleated shades are really delicate. But there is a way to clean them without causing any damage.

    LESLIE: Yeah. First of all, a good dusting with a vacuum cleaner is usually all those pleated or cellular shades need. Now, it’s easier to remove the shades and lay them fully extended on a clean bedsheet spread out on the floor or on a table. Now, if you do leave them up, use your vacuum’s extension wand. Either way, lower that vacuum suction, if possible. Most vacuums have a port on the extension that can be opened up. And that’s going to reduce the suction at the end of the brush. You want to be super careful with these shades.

    TOM: I’m so glad you just explained that, because I’ve seen those ports on vacuums before and I’m like, “Why would you ever want to have less suction with your vacuum?” Now I know what it’s for. It’s for shades.

    LESLIE: And there’s other things, too, like delicate fabrics if you’re doing an upholstered piece. Sometimes you just have to be careful with the vacuum.

    Now, for the pleated shades, you want to use that soft dusting brush and go side to side along the honeycomb channels. For Roman shades with the soft folds, you want to pop on the upholstery tool and clean from the top to the bottom, then flip the shade over and repeat. Don’t ignore the fabric stuff in the house, guys.

    TOM: And for blinds, to keep them working smoothly, you want to just vacuum away the dust that’s inside that open-top head rail, because that’s where all the operation happens. That’s where the gears are. And then just spot-clean stains by dabbing the smudges with a cloth – maybe dipped in some mild, soapy water – and rinse them and then blot them. And there you go. You’ve got all of your window coverings clean and fresh for the spring season.

    LESLIE: Mark in Illinois is on the line with a foundation question. What’s going on at your money pit?

    MARK: I have a 10-year-old house that, as with a lot of houses, the ground around the foundation is settling. And I need to put some fill-in to keep the rain from – or to drain the rain away from the house.

    TOM: OK.

    MARK: And I was wondering if there is a particular type of mixture of soil to use to do that.

    TOM: Yeah, it’s called “clean fill dirt.” Basically, it’s not rich, like topsoil, with a lot of organic material in it. It’s very compactable. I always think it looks kind of like the pitcher’s mound. It has that sort of medium-brown color to it and you can really pack it down well.

    So, what you want to do is to sort of rig back some of the topsoil that’s there, add the clean fill dirt, establish slope with that. And if you want to prevent moisture problems, then I would slope it about 10 percent or about 6 inches over 4 feet – a 6-inch drop over 4 feet. Then on top of that, you can add topsoil and replant the grass or add mulch or whatever other groundcover. But clean fill dirt is all you need, Mark.

    And I would be careful when buying this from the gravel yard, whoever is selling it, to make sure it doesn’t have glass in it. Ask about that. Make sure it’s really clean. Because sometimes, when you buy fill dirt, it has broken glass in it and you don’t want that to happen.

    MARK: Alright. And how far out from the foundation should you fill?

    TOM: Well, you want to have that first 4 to 6 feet be sloping away. And then after that, it can have a gentle slope after that.

    MARK: OK.

    TOM: And just as important, since we’re talking about drainage issues, is to make sure your gutters are clean and your downspouts are significantly extended away. A lot of times, these gutter installers like to just turn them out about 2 feet at the bottom. You want it to go out 4 to 6 feet.

    MARK: Oh, OK. Alright, alright. Well, thank you. I appreciate it.

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

    LESLIE: Lisa from Delaware is on the line with a chimney question.

    Lisa, what can we do for you today?

    LISA: I have two chimneys. One is a brick chimney and the other was a stucco chimney. I recently had them both repaired. The brick chimney needed to be repointed and above the brick chimney, underneath the stainless-steel cap, I guess – I don’t know if it’s cement or mortar but that was all cracked. And in the winter, the ice would form between the cracks.

    So, anyway, I had that repaired. The other chimney that was stucco had a hairline crack in it and they suggested re-stuccoing the chimney and stippling it, which is like a popcorn-ceiling type of an effect.

    TOM: Right. Mm-hmm.

    LISA: So all that was done. Now, they told me – us – wait about six months and then I should have it sealed to protect it. Now, it’s $75 a chimney to get it sealed.

    TOM: So, what they’re talking about is a masonry sealer. And you probably don’t need this; it’s not like you need it to protect it. Usually, you put sealers on if you’re concerned about leaks. But if you are going to put a sealer on it, they’re silicone-based and you have to make sure that you use one that’s vapor-permeable. Some of the older sealers – sealer products – out there are not vapor-permeable and that means that moisture gets in, it gets trapped under the surface of the concrete and then it’ll freeze and spall or crack. And that could actually accelerate the deterioration of the chimney itself.

    So, if you use a good-quality silicone sealer that’s vapor-permeable, it can slow the absorption of moisture into the chimney. But I’m just not sure you need it. The kinds of things that you’re talking about doing – except for the total re-stuccoing of the chimney; I don’t know if I would have gone that far just to repair a crack. But the other things that you’re talking about are all entirely expected: having to repoint some mortar, having to repair a cracked chimney cap – a concrete cap around the chimney. Those are all normal. I don’t necessarily think that putting a sealer on is going to have that much of a major effect of slowing down any further deterioration. I think it’s just sort of wear and tear.

    LISA: OK. And if – so if it’s not vapor-permeable, it could even harm it.

    TOM: That’s correct. Exactly right, Lisa.

    LISA: So I should ask the mason then if it’s – but he could tell me anything. He could say, “Yeah, it is.”

    TOM: Well, it’s very easy. Find out what product he’s using and go look up the product online and read about it.

    LISA: But you’re saying, really, it’s probably not worth it.

    TOM: I don’t know that it’s totally necessary. Unless the chimneys are leaking, I probably wouldn’t do it.

    LISA: OK. Thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Coming up, learn the one thing that you should do after you buy a house but before you move anything in. We’ll tell you what that is, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Give us a call with your next home improvement adventure at The Money Pit’s Listener Line at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor.

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

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

    LESLIE: Alright. And speaking of pros, post your question in the Community section and two pros, right now, will answer them.

    Jim writes: “Hi, Tom and Leslie. What kind of floor-wax sealer should I use on the new stick-on vinyl floor tiles I laid down recently?”

    Do you have to wax a vinyl floor? I’ve never heard of this.

    TOM: I don’t think the new ones you really have to wax them. And I’m not sure it would even work well. It’s not like the old ones where you had to wax it. And I remember growing up with the wax and the machine – the buffing machine – and all that kind of stuff. No, I don’t think so.

    Listen, I would just tell you since it’s new, Jim, to make sure you check what the manufacturer’s recommendations are for maintenance. Because if you use the wrong product, it can remove that vinyl shine or it could actually make your floor look cloudy and nasty and you won’t be happy. So, since it’s new, make sure you always go with the manufacturer’s instructions for maintenance. And wax may not be needed.

    LESLIE: And you know what? It could also get rid of any sort of warranty or guarantee on the floor if you put the wrong thing on.

    TOM: Yeah, good point.

    LESLIE: So make sure you do the right thing.

    TOM: Yep.

    LESLIE: Alright. Laurie writes: “What’s the best DIY way to remove an iron railing from cement and reinstall it?”

    TOM: Well, you’ve got two options but neither is real DIY-friendly. They both require some skills and experience to accomplish. I mean the best way to remove and replace that railing is to do so in a way that was initially installed. And generally, those railings are not welded in place. So if the post is set in concrete, you’ll have to drill around that with a masonry drill to clear out some of that setting material. That’ll loosen the rail and you can pull it out. But then that masonry needs to be repaired by a pro. And if that’s not possible, you may need to sort of strategically cut that railing itself and then weld a repair piece on again.

    So, again, it’s kind of a job for a pro with those old iron railings.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And if you’re going to replace it with a new one, it’s got to be made to those exact dimensions. So, a lot to think about there.

    TOM: Well, spring and summer are peak season for real-estate sales. And if you’re the owner of a home that’s new or new to you, it’s tempting to move in now and paint later. But painting before you move in, well, that’s definitely the best bet. Leslie tells you why, in this week’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.


    LESLIE: Yeah, yeah, yeah, I get it. You know, after months of dreaming about your new home, it’s finally yours and you want nothing more than to move your things inside. But before you schedule those movers, consider these reasons to start with a few coats of paint instead.

    Now, the simplest reason? Interior painting is a lot simpler when you can move freely in an empty space. Painting first is also going to save time. Your painting project truly is just going to take a lot longer. You’ve got to cover or uncover furniture and remove and rehang artwork. It also saves a lot of money.

    Now, if you’re working with a professional painting contractor, they’re going to finish much faster in an empty space, which will keep dollars in your pocket. And let’s face it, guys, you just bought a house. You want to keep those dollars in your pocket.

    Now, painting first also simplifies your interior decorating. If you’re designing a space from scratch, starting with a fresh color scheme is going to help drive other decisions and then you’ll end up with a picture-perfect result.

    And finally, it just feels good. There’s nothing like a new coat of paint to make a home seem cleaner, fresher, more welcoming and most importantly, more yours. Use a top-quality, 100-percent acrylic latex paint and you will get a stain-resistant finish that’ll look new for years to come.

    And if you’ve got the budget while you’re at it, when nothing’s in there, refinish the floors if they need it. Just saying.

    TOM: Yeah.

    LESLIE: Another tip.

    TOM: Absolutely. Smart to do it now.

    Well, coming up next time on The Money Pit, we have all heard the horror stories of deck collapses. But a good deck checkup is going to tell you if you’ve got anything to worry about. We’ll have those tips, on the very next edition of The Money Pit.

    I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …

    LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.


    (Copyright 2018 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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