Shake the Cold Showers: Keep Your Water Heater Humming with these Tips – #0911172

  • 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 what are you working on on this beautiful September weekend? We would love to hear all about it. Give us a call, right now, at 888-MONEY-PIT or post your question to The Money Pit’s Community page at

    Coming up on today’s show, this is a really good time of year for a bit of water-heater maintenance. We’re going to have some step-by-step advice on how to drain your water heater to release all that built-up sediment and keep it running efficiently. Because there’s nothing worse on a cold morning than a cold shower.

    LESLIE: And also ahead, it might still be warm right now, you guys, but colder weather is not far off, which makes now the perfect time to check out your insulation. We’re going to tell you how much you really need.

    TOM: And wood fences are beautiful but one thing that bugs me about them is that most installers place them way too low to the ground, leading to rot and the need for a brand-new fence. We call that “job security.” Well, we’re going to give you some tips on how to protect that wood from rot and wear and tear, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: Plus, we’ve got a great reason for you to call us or write in your question. We’re giving a $50 Amazon gift card, courtesy of Speed Queen Washers and Dryers.

    TOM: That’s going out to one listener drawn at random from those who have posted a question to us anytime this week on Money Just click on the Community page. 888-666-3974 is also our phone number. So give a call, right now, because we would love to talk to you about the projects going on in your money pit.

    LESLIE: Jim in Pennsylvania is on the line with moisture. What’s going on over at your money pit?

    JIM: OK. I live in an old home. Has a wraparound porch. The only wall that’s exposed is – that goes out to the end of the porch – is our backyard. My backyard slopes very gently downhill. It’s been landscaped with several swales and I never have standing water in my yard. I have no drainage that goes out the back or anything. As a matter of fact, I’ve lived here for 30, 40 years and I’ve never had water in my basement until 5 years ago when we had a tropical storm come up the coast, come inland and dump almost 20 inches of rain right on us.

    But two years ago, I had the same thing happen. This one dumped about 10 inches of rain. OK, I – water both times that I had to get out of there, out of my basement. It would just finish. But anyhow, my walls – even during those storms, my exposed walls, the other walls are completely dry and the water is coming up through, it looks like, the back side starting towards the middle of the back wall through the floor. I’m thinking it’s groundwater.

    TOM: It’s not. It’s clearly not. And I know that with absolute certainty because it’s tied in with precipitation. Whenever you have heavy rain and you get any type of leakage, it’s always drainage. It starts from the top and works its way down. It just happens to be showing up under the floor. That can very easily happen because water can accumulate outside the foundation wall. Sometimes, it goes into the walls and leaks through the walls. Sometimes, it goes around the walls and pushes up through the floor. I’ve seen geysers show up in the middle of basement floors because somebody had a blocked gutter on the other side of the house. Water does strange things. But this is a drainage problem; that’s all it is. So you need to look at your drainage very, very carefully.

    Now, you mentioned that you had a swale and I hope that swale is still working for you. If that swale is not working, just by the swale itself, you may have to install what’s called a “curtain drain” at the bottom of that swale to collect the excess water and run it around your house and then dump it out to a place that’s lower on the lot.

    The other basic things that you could look at – the very easiest thing to look at is your gutters. You need to have at least one downspout for every 400 to 600 square feet of roof surface. And those downspouts need to be extended 4 to 6 feet from the house, minimum – minimum – not just out a foot into a splash block but 4 to 6 feet away. I say that because whenever you have a water problem, we’ve got to move that water away from that first 4 foot or so of soil that’s around the foundation perimeter.

    So, gutters are really important, downspout discharge is really important and then finally, the slope of the soil at the foundation perimeter is important. But if you manage and maintain and improve the drainage conditions around the foundation perimeter, you won’t have enough water to push up around those walls and into the floor.

    JIM: OK, OK. So a sump pump wouldn’t have worked?

    TOM: No, I mean a sump will take the water out once it gets there but it deal with stopping it from getting there in the first place.

    JIM: The initial problem.

    TOM: Right. And by the way, putting a sump pump in doesn’t do anything to improve the structural integrity of the foundation because, again, that water has to go around that foundation to get to where the pump is. So, deal with the drainage, keep that soil as dry as possible and you’ll make the whole thing go away.

    JIM: OK. Thank you.

    LESLIE: We’ve got Pam in Arkansas on the line who’s got a question about a concrete driveway. What’s going on at your money pit?

    PAM: My driveway is about 15 years old and the wood that divides my pavement slab is totally rotting out. And I want to know how to replace it, what to replace it with. And can I do something that will not rot?

    TOM: How big are the gaps between the seams of the concrete? Is it around a ½-inch or an inch that this wood is stuck into?

    PAM: No, they’re much bigger than that but it’s more like, I’d say, 2 inches.

    TOM: Oh, really? It’s quite wide.

    PAM: It’s probably too wide, yeah.

    TOM: It’s quite wide, hmm. Are they 2x4s stuck in? That’s a really big gap for spacing between different parts of a slab.

    PAM: Well, that’s the way they did it. My sidewalk, as well.

    TOM: Well, here’s your options. You can pull out the rotted wood and place ground-contact wood back into that space. That would be pressure-treated lumber. And you would find it the same width. If it’s 2×4, it’s about an inch-and-a-half. If it turns out that’s it’s a bit narrower than that, the other way to handle this is you could press a backer rod into those gaps. And that’s kind of like a foam tube. And you want to press it in there so that it’s at least about a ½-inch below the height of the – of what you want the finished surface to be.

    On top of that, you would pour a flowable urethane, which is sort of like a liquid caulk that would find its own level and create a seam that would prevent water from going in there. Either way, you would prevent moisture from getting into that space and that’s – in addition to, you know, not being unsightly like the mold, that can help preserve and protect the concrete. Because all that water in there will freeze and push up and then break and that’s just not a good thing. Does that make sense?

    PAM: Yes, that makes sense. Thank you.

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

    LESLIE: You are listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Call us now at 888-MONEY-PIT, presented by HomeAdvisor. Find top-rated home improvement pros you can trust for any project.

    TOM: And if you’re a service pro looking to grow your business and connect with project-ready homeowners, check out

    Well, as summer turns to fall, so begins the Goldilocks season for home improvement. It’s not too hot, it’s not too cold, it’s just right, which makes September the time to get lots of home improvement projects done around the house. Let’s talk about your to-do list, 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: Pick up the phone, give us a call, right now, at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor. It’s 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.

    And we’ve also got a $50 Amazon gift card to go out to one caller drawn at random. If you’d like to participate, pick up the phone and call in your home improvement question at 888-MONEY-PIT or post it online at And that comes to us courtesy of Speed Queen Washers and Dryers.

    They are built to last 25 years, come with the industry’s best warranty and built on over 100 years of commercial reliability. You’ll find Speed Queen washers and dryers at 2,800 dealers nationwide or visit Speed And we want to say thank you to Speed Queen for hooking us up with that $50 Amazon gift card that we can send out to you, 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Leonard in North Carolina on the line with a lighting question. How can we help you today?

    LEONARD: Yes, I have a hallway in my home that’s totally dark. And I want to know: what kind of options do you have available?

    TOM: So you don’t have outlets in the home, so you basically want to add some additional lighting.

    LEONARD: Yes.

    TOM: Alright. So, why don’t you simply run an extra circuit to feed a ceiling fixture?

    LEONARD: That might be an option.

    TOM: It’s not as hard as you might think. Electricians do this sort of thing all the time. They will look for the path of least resistance, both electrically and physically, to get the wiring where it needs to go and provide that additional lighting option. You don’t necessarily need an outlet to do that.

    If you had an outlet or even if you had an outlet, for example, on the opposite wall, say the – let’s say the hallway is between – the other side of the hallway is a bedroom and there’s an outlet on that same wall, they might go down that wall to grab power from that outlet, bring the wire up across the hallway, drop it back down again and put in a ceiling fixture.

    LEONARD: Never thought about that.

    TOM: So I would consider – yeah, I would consider just running a ceiling fixture and forget the idea of using any kind of plug-in device.

    LEONARD: You guys have been a big help. Thanks a lot.

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

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re going over to Michigan where Linda is on the line and wants to add onto a farmhouse. How can we help you with that?

    LINDA: Well, I have about a 100-year-old farmhouse and I – the only bathroom is upstairs. It’s a two-story farmhouse. And I want to age in place, so I want to add another bathroom downstairs. And also, I inherited a doll collection from my mother and it’s stored in all the storage in all the rooms, so I kind of want to bring it into one room and add another room for that and hobbies.

    People have been suggesting that I just – oh, just add a – break up one of the rooms in the house and just put a bathroom any old place. But the rooms are really well proportioned; it’s good cross-ventilation. I don’t want to have a mess. I want to have some style to the additions, so people have suggested that I go to either an architect or a drafter or interior designer. I don’t know – I’m not sure what that process involves and how many I should go to or …

    TOM: Well, I think that you hit the nail on the head and that is to hire an architect. Because, essentially, you want to make sure that whatever you do to this house flows and maintains its structural integrity, as well as its design integrity. So an architect can help you do just that.

    Selecting where to put that bathroom will be a balance of compromises trying to decide where it fits best in the design, where the plumbing is now, what it would take to get the plumbing where it needs to be for this particular bathroom and then how best to design those rooms for your collections and that sort of thing. The architect can handle with the structure and the mechanical systems. Once that’s done, then you could consider bringing in an interior designer to help lay it out and choose colors, choose furniture and make it work for you visually.

    LESLIE: And I think the other good thing about bringing in the architect is they may have an interior designer that they work with. You can bring in your own. They’ll be able to sort of work together to help you specify the right materials for the right areas. So it really is a strong partnership.

    LINDA: I see. Now, do I bring – do I talk or consult with two architects and get their ideas? Or do I just go with one and get the designs?

    TOM: What I would do is I would bring in one or two or maybe three architects to see the property, tell them what you want to accomplish, find out how they work. You get a feel for them, yeah, they get a feel for you and then you make a decision based on that.

    LESLIE: I think you meet with somebody – you meet with two or three architects, as Tom suggested. Just get a feel for them, because you’re going to know if you want to work with them, you’re going to know how well you communicate back and forth. You’ll sort of spitball ideas there during that meeting and get a really good sense of how much they’re understanding you. And whoever you feel the most comfortable with, I think, is what’s going to lead you to the right decision. And then you’ll start drawings.

    LINDA: OK. I did get a card from someone who used them but – used this person but he was – this card says he’s a drafting consultant.

    TOM: You don’t want a drafter, OK? You want an architect. You just want an architect – a good-quality architect. So focus on that first. You can take – usually, they’ll have books that show some of their past projects. You can see what kind of work they do.

    You know, it’s going to be – you’ll figure out, through a process of elimination, which one you’re most comfortable with and that’s the person that’s going to get the job. But they’re well worth the investment because they’re going to make this process easy and they’re going to be – you’re going to be assured that it comes out exactly as you plan.

    If you bring in some – if you go right to the contractor step, they’re just going to squeeze this bathroom in wherever they think it fits and you’re not going to be happy with it. So get the architect; they’re well worth their investment.

    LINDA: OK. Great.

    TOM: So, Leslie, this past week I hopped into the shower one morning only to get blasted by cold water, which is not the best way to start the day.

    LESLIE: Oh, it’s terrible.

    TOM: In my case, it turned out to be a bad sensor but that’s kind of unusual and it got me thinking that there are things that you can do to make sure your hot water keeps chugging along. And you can do those without major interruptions. So let’s talk about a few.

    LESLIE: Yeah, first up, regardless if you have gas or electric for your water heating, they develop a buildup of sediment at the bottom of the tank. That’s always going to happen. Now, that buildup can cause your water heater to operate inefficiently and that will shorten the lifespan of the water heater. It’s a good idea to drain a couple of gallons of water from the tank twice a year.

    So, to do this, it’s really important to make sure the water heater is off for at least an hour before you even begin to do this. You have to reduce the temperature of the water in the tank. Otherwise, you can get burned, so you have to protect yourself for burns, wear thick gloves, long sleeves, safety glasses. I mean you have to be careful because that water is hot.

    TOM: Absolutely. Now, there are two valves on the water heater. The one near the top is a safety valve that releases pressure, so don’t touch it. But the one near the bottom is for draining and that’s the only one that should be open for that purpose. So you want to connect a hose to the water-heater drain valve – and it uses the standard threads that you would have on any garden hose – and then extend that hose to a drain, into a sink or to outside.

    After a short time that water will start to run clear as the sediment washes out. Then you can close the valve by turning it clockwise and don’t forget to turn the water heater back on so that it refills properly.

    So, just a few steps to clear out that sediment and your water heater will be much more efficient and reliable as a result.

    LESLIE: Brent in West Virginia is on the line with an HVAC question. What’s going on? You guys are freezing over there?

    BRENT: So, I’ve got this two-level house that’s been cut in half. And then each level has been raised a half of a level, so it’s a four-level house.

    TOM: So it’s a split-level house?

    BRENT: Yes.

    TOM: OK. And where’s the heating system located?

    BRENT: Second floor.

    TOM: Second floor, OK. And it’s hot air, so there’s ducts that’s supply the air to the lower levels?

    BRENT: It’s forced air, correct.

    TOM: Forced air, OK. Got it. Alright. So your problem is that your lower level is staying cold. And what about your upper level? Does that overheat in the summer?

    BRENT: It does but the issue is that in the summertime, I can close the vents downstairs and I can cool the upstairs. And the downstairs stays cool because it’s underground. But the reverse does not happen in the wintertime.

    TOM: Right. I’ll tell you that the split-level house is one of the most difficult homes to get even heating and cooling. So, one thing that you could do is add an additional – well, first of all, you want to make sure that’s what there is working properly so you have good air flow coming out of the registers and you have good return of the air in the room going back to the HVAC system. So, we take a look at the return and the supply.

    But I will say that probably the easiest thing to do is to add supplemental heat to cover you on the coldest days. That would probably be less expensive than running all the ductwork that you’d have to run to get it to work properly off just the forced air.

    You could put electric-baseboard radiators in there as supplements. You could even put a through-the-wall heat pump which is something, actually, that Leslie did to bring some additional temperature consistency to her lower room of her house. And I’ve got one in a room in my house that had some inconsistent issues.

    And it just provides additional supplemental heat to be able to even out that space. Because otherwise, what you probably find yourself doing is you overheat the rest of the house when it’s really cold downstairs. You turn the heat up to try to get – make that downstairs warmer and then the upstairs gets very hot and you’re wasting a lot of energy on that heat. So trying to get that balanced out is the right thing to do.

    I would tell you electric baseboards only because they’re the least expensive way to go. Even though they’re expensive to run, they’re the least expensive to install and you’re probably not going to use them 24/7. You’ll use them selectively, so that’s a situation where I would do that. And I would also make sure they’re hooked up to a central thermostat that could be operated by a clock-setback mechanism.

    BRENT: How about that? OK. I will certainly give that a try.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Jenise (sp) in Kansas on the line who’s got a question about grout. What can we do for you today?

    JENISE (sp): I had installed a porcelain tile. It’s a heavy-duty tile. So I used epoxy grout on the floor and all throughout the shower, the floors, the ceiling, the walls. And what I’m wondering is, do I need to seal it? If I need to seal it, what kind of sealer should I use on an epoxy grout?

    TOM: I don’t think you need to seal epoxy grout, because the epoxy is going to prevent things from soaking into it. It’s really the sand grouts that we want to seal.

    JENISE (sp): Well, I’ve already noticed some discoloration. It was white grout and it’s already sort of a brownish tint.

    TOM: Oh, is that right? That’s probably water stains.

    JENISE (sp): Oh, OK.

    TOM: Yeah, that – usually, that’s mineral salts that dry out. So, try to wipe it down with a white-vinegar solution – white vinegar and water. That might clear it up.

    JENISE (sp): Was that a good choice to use epoxy, do you think, or …?

    TOM: I think so, yeah. Absolutely. For a bathroom? Perfect location for that.

    JENISE (sp): Thank you so much. I appreciate it. You have a good day now.

    LESLIE: Well, it might still be warm out right now but that colder weather isn’t far behind, which makes now the perfect time to check out your home’s insulation. We’re going to tell you how much you really need, 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.

    TOM: Give us a call, right now, at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor. You need new flooring for your kitchen or bathroom? Or do you need a new roof or maybe you’re ready to get that deck done before winter’s winds pile on in? Well, HomeAdvisor will instantly match you with the right pro for that job, for free.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now I’ve got James in Massachusetts on the line who is having an issue with an unruly couch.

    What’s going on, James?

    JAMES: About 20 years ago, I bought a beautiful, wooden couch stained a nice, dark walnut color. And where you sit on it were cushions that were covered in a fabric.

    LESLIE: Were they loose cushions or were they attached to the frame?

    JAMES: They were not attached to the frame; they were loose. The frame is quite beautiful. You’d walk all the way around the couches. It’s probably best seen from behind, where you can see the structure of the wood. It’s a very nice couch. But after about 16 years, the cushion fabric wore out so I had this brilliant idea that I was going to cover the cushions in a faux leather.

    And now, four years on, I find that the cushions stick to the wood. Somehow, the faux leather – Naugahyde, whatever it might be – is leaching the stain right out of the wood. The rest of the wood, where the cushions don’t touch it, is still as beautiful as it ever was. But where the cushions touch it, now it is all tacky. It does not transfer onto the cushions themselves. I can touch the cushions and they do not feel sticky. Is there a solution besides taking this thing down to bare wood?

    LESLIE: It’s possible. And that’s probably because of the same reason you’d see it in the kitchen, which is moisture. Not saying that the cushions are wet but because the cushions have a texture to them that is also smooth – if that makes sense? You know how leather or even artificial leather, when you sit on it, it gets warmed up and then you kind of stick to it? I feel like you’re probably getting the same thing, just in the area where you’re getting the contact from the finish to the actual fabric itself.

    Now, what you could do, if you are committing to a specific side of the cushion that will always be the top, you could sew something almost like a canvas or a moleskin or something on the bottom that gives it more movement but is also more of a breathable fabric. The only issue is it might come sliding off. But it won’t stick.

    JAMES: Oh, that’s an excellent idea. So, half the cushion would be fabric and the part that’s touching the wood?

    LESLIE: Right. The bottom side would be a fabric that’s more of a backer or a base, like a canvas or a duck cloth.

    JAMES: Now, these are – not only is the bottom cushion but also the back that touches wood, as well. So, fabric all the way where it touches the wood. Is there anything that can salvage the finish of the wood without just taking it down to bare wood?

    LESLIE: Do you find that when you have the cushions off for some time that it sort of re-solidifies or re-cures or no?

    JAMES: No, it doesn’t. It remains tacky, although I have to admit I’ve not tested that out for a great length of time. I mean like a month or something.

    LESLIE: It might be worth it just to do – not to take it all the way down to bare wood but to get something like a liquid sander. It comes in a bottle. You’ll find it in any home center in that paint-and-stain aisle.

    And then just put that on. You sort of brush it on or wipe it on in the area and just let it have a little bit of tack to it. And maybe just then hand-sand it a little bit with a sanding sponge and then just apply your stain or your finish to that exact spot or do that whole railing. It sounds to me like you have a slatted back and a slatted seat, perhaps. So I would just do the boards that have the issues to it, not the rest of the frame.

    JAMES: Sounds like an excellent idea. So, liquid sander and fabric on the back of the cushion.

    LESLIE: It’s worth a shot.

    JAMES: Thank you very much. I appreciate your help.

    TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Well, if you avoided going up in your attic all summer long because it’s a bit too toasty up there, you do need to head up there now, because it’s a good time to add attic insulation. It’s going to help you save some money throughout the fall and winter because, just like your body loses heat through your head, your home is going to lose heat and it’s going to lose it right through that attic.

    LESLIE: Well, the EPA’s ENERGY STAR program recommends at least 12 inches of insulation for most homes. But if you live in a colder climate, you really need around 16 to 20 inches. Now, when it comes to shopping for insulation, you’re going to see a number with an R in front of it. And that stands for resistance to heat loss or R-value. The higher the R-value, the better the insulation’s ability to keep heated air from escaping. That’s going to keep you warmer in your home and keep your energy bills down.

    TOM: Now, to find out exactly how much insulation you should have in your attic, check out By answering a couple of questions about your home’s heating system and climate where you live, ENERGY STAR can help you calculate the right level of insulation for your part of the country. So check it out. The tool is online, it’s free to use at

    LESLIE: Trudy in Delaware needs some help jazzing up her brick home. What can we do for you?

    TRUDY: I have a single-family house and the base of it is not finished, from the dirt up to where the siding starts. And I’m wanting to know what I could use on that so I have a more finished look.

    TOM: So is it a brick foundation, Trudy?

    TRUDY: No, no. It’s a brick front and then the sides and the back is siding. But from the dirt – from the ground up to where the siding starts is about maybe 2 feet. It’s just basic cement, unfinished look. And I wanted to know what I (inaudible).

    TOM: Right. There’s a couple things you can do. You can do something really simple, like paint it. You would use a masonry paint for that exterior. Masonry paint.

    The other thing that you could do is you could stucco that. Now, that’s a little bit more work but there are premixed stucco mixes that you can buy at a home center. And with a few tools, you could apply a stucco to that, maybe put a bit of a pattern on it. And you need to do that, though, by following all the right steps for prep. Because if you don’t get it right, it’ll freeze and break off.

    But those would be the two easiest ways to clean that up.

    TRUDY: OK. So, yeah, I didn’t want something to start chipping off or the paint to start slinking (ph).

    TOM: Right. Well, that’s why you’ve got to use the right products with the paint. You’ve got to prime it and you’ve got to use an exterior-quality masonry paint. And kind of the same thing with the stucco. You’ve got to use the right tools and the right application methods and make sure it’s nice and clean and dry when you start and it’ll hold up nicely. Alright, Trudy?

    TRUDY: OK. Thank you so much.

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

    LESLIE: Well, your beautiful wooden fence or deck isn’t going to be beautiful for very long if you don’t protect it from the elements. We’re going to have some tips on how to protect that wood from rot, wear and tear and all the other things Mother Nature dishes out, coming up.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. Give us a call now at 888-MONEY-PIT, presented by HomeAdvisor. They make it fast and easy to find top-rated home improvement pros that you can trust for any home project. And if you’re a service pro looking to grow your business and connect with project-ready homeowners, check out

    Well, guys, we’ve got another great reason for you to call in or write us, thanks to our friends at Speed Queen. We’ve got up for grabs, this hour, a $50 Amazon gift card. Speed Queen – those washers and dryers, they are fantastic.

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    TOM: 888-666-3974. Give us a call right now. We are here to help you with any home improvement project.

    LESLIE: Steve in Massachusetts is on the line with a leak in the ceiling. What’s going on?

    STEVE: I have a two-story Colonial and I have a number of water leaks, especially down in my first floor, in a foyer, a living room, a kitchen and a first-floor bathroom and also on a second-room bathroom. And they’re not big leaks but they are noticeable.

    And I want to kind of correct the problem and I know – and paint over it but I want to correct the problem first. So I had a roofer tell me that maybe I should put a ridge vent and I know what – a lot of the ice dams we had last year. I’m just wondering – I’m kind of dumbfounded why all on the first floor and none other than the bathroom on the second floor, you know?

    TOM: So these seem to be from condensation?

    STEVE: Could be, I guess. All the yellowish and that. I do have a little overhang in my kitchen area and that came about four years ago. I painted over it, I used Kilt and that but then it came back again a year later. So I don’t know whether it’s an insulation problem or a roof problem. I did put a second roof on back about five years ago. Up to that point, I never had any problems, so …

    TOM: Because it doesn’t sound like a roof leak or a plumbing leak. It’s just showing up in the oddest of places.

    STEVE: You know what? I’m dumbfounded where to go, I mean.

    TOM: Now, how much water do you see when you say you see a leak? Well, how much water are you seeing?

    STEVE: I just see the stains. I don’t really see the leak.

    TOM: Have you ever confirmed that it’s actually wet?

    STEVE: Not really.

    TOM: There’s a moisture meter that you can use. We used to use them in the 20 years I spent as a home inspector. And there’s a kind that you can just basically wave over the spot and it will read what the moisture level is. It’d be interesting. If I saw those stains, I would take a reading at the stain and I would take a reading at the ceiling somewhere else. And if it’s the same number, then it’s not really wet. It may have been wet but it’s no longer wet.

    If the stain is wetter than the other areas, then that would tell you something different; it would tell you it was an active leak. But what we have to do is get to the bottom of the moisture source and then get these leak stains eliminated. And I think you’re on the right step with the right process with that. You want to basically paint them over with a primer – an oil-based primer – and then put a finish topcoat of paint on top of that.

    But if it’s actively leaking, we have to deal with that. So, I would say that the first thing we need to do is – and since you have so many of these – is it might make sense for you to have a professional home inspector come by, take a look at these up close and personal. Home inspectors always carry moisture meters with them. Try to figure out what’s going on and then get it resolved. I wouldn’t do anything in terms of repair until I got some independent, expert advice from somebody who doesn’t want to sell you anything.

    That’s the problem with getting the advice from the roofer there. You ask them how to solve the problem and they’re always going to give you a solution where they’re a part of it. Part of it includes hiring them. So, just avoid that conflict of interest in a situation where you have so many areas that you’re seeing leaks. I would get some independent, expert advice in person.

    STEVE: Alright. Very good. Thanks a lot.

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

    Well, there’s nothing like the beauty of real wood around the outside of your home. But with that beauty, there’s a bit of work required to make sure your fence or your siding, your patio furniture or even your playsets can stand up to the elements, especially as it turns cold and wet outside.

    LESLIE: Yeah, first of all, all of your exterior wood needs to be protected with a good waterproof finish. But before you pull out that brush, you’re really going to need to prep that wood first. And that can mean ridding the surface of any dirt, grime, contaminants or old finishes that could interfere with the sealer.

    TOM: And you’re also going to need to decide if you want to stain or paint the wood. Now, the difference between stain and paint is really significant. If you use stain, you can see the grain defined and you may get some differences in the color and some folks find it more attractive. If you use paint, you’re going to kind of have a covering over that surface and that covering is going to completely cover the grain and you won’t see any of that color differential behind. You can kind of get the best of both worlds, though, if you use solid-color stain.

    Now, solid color stain is going to allow you to see that grain. It’s not going to leave the coating on but it’s got enough pigment in it so it really does last a long time. But whatever way you go, remember this: preparation and priming are really the two key steps to make sure that that paint job lasts as long as possible. And if you’re working on something like a fence, always, always, always get the bottom and the top edges of those boards, because that’s sort of the sponge part. That’s where the moisture gets sort of drawn right up and it causes rapid rot and deterioration of that wood.

    LESLIE: Now we’re heading to South Dakota where David is on the line. What can we do for you today?

    DAVID: Yes, thanks for taking my call. I just had my 120-year-old house sided with new vinyl siding. I got relatively new vinyl windows. And I’m curious, do I caulk between the J-channel and the window frame on the outside?

    TOM: No, you don’t have to.

    DAVID: OK. That’s not necessary?

    TOM: Nah, it’s not necessary. It should be watertight the way – if the installers put it in correctly, it should be watertight as it is. If they need – if it needed to be caulked, they would have done that. I know it looks like there’s a big gap there but that’s pretty typical. And you generally don’t have to caulk between the back of the J-channel and the side of the window.

    DAVID: Yeah, I was just worried about if it rains from a certain angle it’s going to wick down through that gap and then run behind the siding?

    TOM: Usually, that’s pretty tight and it won’t happen. I mean there’s no reason you can’t caulk it but I don’t necessarily think you have to do it.

    DAVID: OK. That’s all I wanted to know.

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

    LESLIE: Stick around. We’ve got Leslie’s Last Word coming up, with a fun edition on how you can create an unusual floor feature, 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: As we move through September and into fall, fire season begins. And I see that Mike from Texas wants to make sure his smoke detectors are good to go.

    LESLIE: That’s right. Mike writes: “My smoke detectors are a few decades old.”

    TOM: Decades?

    LESLIE: “They still work when I push the test button but do they need to be upgraded? Is there newer or better technology?”

    Holy moly. That’s a long time to have them.

    TOM: Uh, yeah. You know, smoke detectors – what folks don’t recognize is they’re on all the time, so they’re always sampling the air. So, those should have been probably replaced decades ago themselves.

    Our rule of thumb is every five years. The technology is constantly changing. There’s photoelectric detectors and ionic detectors. You ought to have both or one that employs dual-detection technology so that you do get coverage from both. And together, they’re going to protect you from flash fires, as well as those slow, smoldering fires.

    You need to have one on every floor of the house and at least one outside every bedroom of the house. And the key today is to look for interconnected technology. That’s the better technology. So if one detector goes off, they all go off. And that’s the big differentiator between old smoke detectors and new ones – is the interconnectedness of it. They even have smart smoke detectors that will not only go off interconnected-wise but they’ll trigger an app. So if you’re not home, you’ll get an alert on your phone, as well.

    LESLIE: It’s so important to keep yourself safe. So this truly is your first warning system, so having an updated smoke detector can mean the difference between life and death.

    TOM: Well, when it comes to designing a new floor for your home, there are more options that you can imagine. And Leslie has got some ideas on how you can combine some of those flooring styles for a totally new look, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word presented by Pergo Outlast+.

    LESLIE: A great flooring project really can enhance any room, whether it’s a brand-new room or a room that you’re just redesigning. So when it comes to flooring, I like to use a quality product that’s going to last and be super durable for the space. But I like to take it one step further. Once I pick my flooring material, I like to make sure that the planks of wood are available in different widths. Now, why I do that is because I like to create a focal point within that space.

    It works in a foyer, in a hallway, anywhere where you do have a little bit of open floor space that you’re not going to cover with an area rug. Because, essentially, I make what looks to be a rug in the middle of the room. Now, what I like to do is use a wider plank throughout and then I choose an inset area. And using even the same exact flooring, finish, material, just a different width, I create an inset border. Maybe it’s a space that’s three by five and then do one plank that’s a thinner width. And then on the interior of that three by five, maybe I put the flooring down in a herringbone pattern or in a diamond pattern.

    Do something a little bit different that really makes that space feel unusual. And thanks to Pergo, with all their amazing finishes and laminate choices, you really can create a beautiful focal point to any space.

    TOM: Great ideas. And that is today’s Flooring Design Tip, presented by Pergo Outlast+, the only water-resistant laminate that prevents water from seeping into the joints. Now, unlike other water-resistant laminates that let water pass through the joints and cause edges to swell, Pergo’s SpillProtect24 technology creates a watertight surface. So that means that spills can be wiped up or simply evaporate over time. Plus, Pergo’s superior design, with deep textures and high-definition printing, create an incredibly realistic wood look.

    Outlast+ resists water and ends worries. It’s available in 19 different colors for 2.79 a square foot at The Home Depot and Home

    LESLIE: Coming up next time on The Money Pit, basements can make terrific living areas but only if they’re properly finished. We’re going to have tips for beautiful basement makeovers, including the how-to on adding a below-grade bath, on the next edition of The Money Pit.

    TOM: 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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