Earth-Friendly Home Improvements #0417171

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  • 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 Happy Earth Day Weekend. Yes, I don’t know how often this happens. Probably every seven years but Earth Day actually happens this weekend. Isn’t that cool? We get to talk about Earth Day and ways to save money in your house, ways to be more environmentally responsible all at the same time. We are so psyched that we are here to help you with projects just like that and whatever you’re doing in your money pit. Help yourself, first, though by giving us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    To celebrate Earth Day Weekend, we’re going to start with some Earth-friendly home improvement ideas this hour that can help save you energy, water and money.

    LESLIE: And also ahead, if you’ve ever had a roof leak, the first question is always: where? Well, Tom Silva from This Old House is joining us with tips to find and then fix those sneaky leaks.

    TOM: Plus, can’t wait for all those spring flowers to bloom? Well, we can help. We’ve got some tips on how to get a color-filled garden going quickly no matter where you live. So let’s get to it. Give us a call, right now, with your home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Tony in North Carolina is up with a decking question. What can we do for you?

    TONY: Great show. Appreciate your great advice. I just had a deck built and the – my builder used a Minwax Wood Finish stain.

    TOM: OK.

    TONY: And his instruction is that I would need to restain it every year because it was oil-based. And I just wanted to know – I don’t have a whole lot of time like that but when is – is there another – is there something on top of this product I could use where it won’t fade and wash away with the weather?

    TOM: Well, I mean it would be unusual for you to have to stain a deck every single year, especially a brand-new deck. But first of all, Tony, what I generally advise folks is to not stain their deck the first year because – is this made of pressure-treated lumber?

    TONY: No, it’s not. He used a different type lumber and I couldn’t tell you right off hand.

    TOM: Is it going to be cedar or redwood? It’s not composite, is it? It is wood and not …

    TONY: No, not composite. It may have been redwood.

    TOM: And you want to keep it clear? So you want to keep it with that red tone to it?

    TONY: Right.

    TOM: You typically need to restain or reseal on a regular basis but not on an annual basis. And when it comes to choosing that product, you’re going to use an exterior stain. There’s different porosities to them. If you use semi-transparent, you have sort of a little bit of colorant in there and sort of bring everything to the same tone. But it’s not going to completely cover it. Or if you have solid color, there’s more pigment in there and then it’s all very consistently the same tone. You don’t see the grain as much but it still looks like wood.

    But a very good-quality deck stain like that, applied probably every three to five years, is what I would expect for maintenance but certainly not one that you would do every single year.

    TONY: Right. That’s been my experience, as well: three to five years. And so I just wasn’t sure if I was actually being told completely the correct thing or if there was something else going on with that.

    TOM: That has been my experience, Tony, so – listen, at this point it’s brand new. You’ve got a coat of stain on there. I’d just live with it for a year or two and see how it looks.

    TONY: That sounds great. Great advice.

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

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

    SUZETTE: We have an issue that’s happening in quite a few of the houses in our area where there is a black fungus that is growing on the asphalt shingles. And we hired a company, had them come out and spray the shingles. Well, they damaged our shingles. So we were wondering if there’s something we could do preventively that would hinder this from growing and staining our roof.

    TOM: The black moss or mold or algae is usually because you don’t have enough sunlight hitting the roof. Sunlight itself is the best natural sort of mildicide to kill all that stuff. So if you live in a shady area, you get more of that. So, anything you can do to get a little more sunlight on your roof is going to stop that.

    Now, in terms of cleaning your roof, yeah, if you hire a company that’s going to be aggressive with those roof shingles, they can definitely damage it. So we’re talking about pressure-washing and things like that.

    SUZETTE: Right.

    TOM: That’s not good. Yeah, it’ll look great when it’s done but it actually takes some of the life of the shingles away. There’s a better approach. There’s a product called Spray & Forget and it’s a product that basically you do just that with. You apply it to the roof shingles and it starts to attack the moss, the mold, the algae and basically makes it disappear. It’ll stay – it has a residual quality, too, so it’ll stay on there for a while. And then you can repeat it from time to time. But that’s a much more effective way to maintain the quality and the appearance of that roof then having somebody scrub it or pressure-wash it.

    SUZETTE: Now, would that damage the siding – the vinyl siding?

    TOM: Not at all. Nope. Not at all. If anything, it’ll make it cleaner, OK?

    SUZETTE: Fabulous. Well, good. That’s fabulous. I appreciate that. And we don’t get a lot of sun in Ohio, unfortunately.

    TOM: Yeah.

    SUZETTE: And where we live, there are no trees, so we get full sunlight.

    TOM: Yep.
    SUZETTE: But we still see this happening on our house and on our neighbors’ homes, as well.

    TOM: Yeah. Well, try it: Spray & Forget. That’s their website: It’s really a terrific product.

    SUZETTE: Fabulous. Thank you so much for the help. I greatly appreciate it.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at Give us a call on this Earth Day weekend with whatever it is you are working on. But extra points if you’re calling about some sort of eco-friendly, energy-efficient project, because they’re earning extra points on this Earth Day weekend.

    Give us a call. We’re here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Just ahead, we’ve got tips for Earth-friendly home improvements, presented by Greenworks Tools. We’re going to have ideas that can help save you time, water, energy and money, next.

    (theme song)

    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: Well, we’d love to talk with you at 888-MONEY-PIT but if you like to get advice, one on one, from a pro and get that advice for free, we recommend you download the very cool D-I-Y-Z app. That stands for DIYZ. It’s an app that lets you video-chat with a pro advisor that’s got years of experience in their field, one on one. Just you and the pro or you and your spouse and the pro. But the DIY advisor can basically answer questions about home repairs, home remodeling, craft projects or even give you some tips to help plan your next big home improvement.

    LESLIE: And the best part of that service is right now it’s free. While you’re on the app, you can browse a large library of how-to projects with step-by-step videos. And the videos are not only really well done, they’re designed so that you can watch them just one step at a time. So it makes them really easy to follow when you’re getting your project done.

    TOM: You’ll even find lists with the tools and materials that are recommended, by project. And you can even shop for them right through the app. Download the DIYZ mobile app today, for free, in the Apple App Store for iPhone and Google Play for Android. Or learn more at That’s

    LESLIE: David in Arizona is on the line looking to lay some flooring. How can we help with your project?

    DAVID: Oh, hi. I recently moved from New York to Arizona and we purchased a home. And there’s such a difference between New York and Arizona.

    TOM: Yeah, you can say that.

    LESLIE: That is true.

    DAVID: We’re looking to do some floors in the bedrooms with a wood look – hardwood or bamboo or whatever but there’s very few people out here that have the same answer to the question. So, we were wondering what would be the best application for the floors here. They’re all cement underneath.

    TOM: You know, if it’s a first floor, you can put solid, prefinished hardwood on top of that. That’s OK to do.

    DAVID: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: The other thing you could do is you could use engineered hardwood. So if you want a hardwood look, those are two ways that you could achieve it even if you have a slab-on-grade floor right now.

    DAVID: And they would be a glue-down or a nail-down or underlayment?

    TOM: No. Actually, it depends. They have locking boards, so they can be a floating floor. Especially the engineered, I know, comes as a floating floor.

    DAVID: OK.

    TOM: And I believe the solid does, as well. So, it all kind of snaps together and you lay it on top of the floor. It just sort of sits there and hangs there. And then you leave maybe a ¼-inch or so, where it runs up against the baseboard, and then you trim that with some shoe molding and that’s pretty much it; you’re good to go. You can use conventional saddles and transition pieces at the doorways.

    DAVID: Now, the ¼-inch is for expansion or movement, a little bit like (inaudible at 0:09:40)?

    TOM: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, you don’t want to put it too tight against the exterior wall, so you leave a little space there. And you could do the same thing with a laminate floor or one of these new EVP floors, too – the engineered vinyl plank – which is pretty brilliant stuff. Just gorgeous-looking product.

    LESLIE: Yeah, it looks great, too.

    TOM: Yeah.

    DAVID: Now, is there any problems with water on these kind of floors? We’d have to worry about moisture, either from below or above?

    TOM: Not when it’s a first floor like that and especially in Arizona.

    DAVID: OK. Yeah.

    TOM: If you were back in New York, you couldn’t put that – you couldn’t put solid materials in a basement. But if you’re out West like that, I don’t see any issue with that, no.

    DAVID: Right. OK. It’s been a change. It really has. It’s beautiful out here but what a change.

    TOM: I bet.

    DAVID: All the things I’ve learned in New York no longer apply for some of this stuff.

    LESLIE: It’s so different. And you’ve got to look everywhere for scorpions. That’s one of the things, every time I’m there for business. Freaks me out.

    DAVID: I found a little watering hole that’s got a cougar that – or a mountain lion that visits often. I’m looking forward to running into him.

    TOM: Well, there you go.

    LESLIE: Well, you’re certainly not finding that in New York.

    TOM: OK? Good luck. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Well, it’s Earth Day weekend and we thought that makes it a perfect time to talk about some of our favorite tricks of the trade when it comes to saving water, energy and money at the same time. So we’ve got a few of those, presented by Greenworks Tools.

    LESLIE: That’s right. Let’s start with a few water-saving ideas for your lawn and garden.

    Now, for your gardens, you guys, you want to water deeply. And that’s really making sure that you’re soaking the root zone rather than the whole yard. You want to put the water where they need it. Now, native plants, when you’re picking all your landscaping, choose the plants that are native to your area, because they’re going to require little or no water beyond what nature is already providing for them.

    Mulch. You want to mulch your garden regularly and that mulch really does lock in the moisture right into the soil. And that’s what you want. Another thing to consider is drip irrigation. You can use watering methods, such as this drip irrigation or even soaker hoses. And that’s going to reduce evaporation by directing water to the plant roots directly. I think that’s really key. Get the water where it needs it.

    TOM: Absolutely. Now, if you want to save energy, there are a few things that you can do outside, as well. First off, shade your air-conditioning compressor. You know, the hotter it gets where that A/C compressor is located, the harder it has to work and the more it costs. Just be sure you plant those bushes or trees or whatever you’re going to use at least 12 inches away so you don’t sort of choke off the compressor from the air that it needs to work.
    Hey, here’s another thing you could do is to plant shade trees. The Department of Energy says you can actually save 15 to 50 percent on cooling costs or anywhere from 35 bucks to 119 bucks. Plus, you get a beautiful, new tree in the process.

    And then let’s talk about storm windows. Not something we usually mention this time of year but if you’ve got these and you’ve got air conditioning, you need to keep your storm windows down. Why? Well, because those same drafts that are really uncomfortable in the winter sneak in in the summer. But instead of robbing your house of heat, guess what? They’re robbing your house of A/C. So storm windows down.

    LESLIE: And today’s tips have been presented by Greenworks Tools.

    If you love taking care of your lawn and garden, you’ll love the new Greenworks Pro 60-Volt Cordless String Trimmer because it provides the power you need without the hassles of gas. You can get up to 40 minutes of runtime on a fully-charged lithium battery. That’s a variable-speed trigger start, so no cords to pull, which I love. High-efficiency brushless motors engineered to provide more power, torque, quiet operation and a longer motor life. And it’s got a 16-inch cut path, with high visibility guard for those larger yard projects.

    TOM: Greenworks Pro 60-Volt products are available exclusively at Lowe’s and That 60-volt trimmer is 199 bucks and it includes both the battery and the charger.

    LESLIE: Diane in North Carolina is looking to redo the kitchen. How can we help you?

    DIANE: I would like to give my kitchen cabinets a facelift, if you might say that. I have cabinets that are older. I mean they’re in good shape. It’s some nice wood, not the upper – not really fancy, high-grade wood, I don’t guess, because these cabinets – I’ve had these cabinets probably 30 years. But they’re not dented or defaced or anything like that. But I just – and they’re dark wood.

    So I was thinking – I didn’t know which would be the most cost-wise to – for today’s prices, with new cabinets versus having them refaced and how well those refaced cabinets would hold up as opposed to tearing out and just replacing the cabinets.

    TOM: I kind of think, Leslie, that there’s so many options in new cabinets today that I wouldn’t really be comfortable recommending refacing, because it’s a lot of work. And secondly, I don’t know about the durability of it. And you end up having to replace the door and the drawer fronts anyway. And I think the expense is not going to be hugely different than just replacing the cabinets. Plus, if you want to make any changes, you can’t really do that because you’ve got to kind of stick with what you’ve got, so …

    LESLIE: You really have to stick with what you have because you’re just going over what’s already there.

    Now, with new cabinetry, you’re finding so many places that are manufacturing larger quantities of cabinetry – custom cabinetry – so you’re finding them at a lower price point. The finishes are already on it. They can be very, very durable and beautifully made. So you might want to think about that, as well. There’s so many options.

    DIANE: I don’t know how that’s going to work. I already have granite countertop, so how would that work if you put in new cabinets and you have the granite already.

    TOM: Well, you could remove those granite countertops. The same way they went in, they can come out. And if it’s done carefully, you can preserve them and put them back in. But again, in that same circumstance, you can’t change the layout. You’re pretty much stuck because the sink has got to end up where it is and that sort of stuff. You can change the layout as long as it adds up being the same overall length. If you had wanted to go with a wider drawer base or thinner cabinet or whatever, as long as it ends up being about the same length, you can go with it.

    LESLIE: If you end up doing new cabinetry, you can keep that same configuration. However, you can change what’s going on inside of the cabinets, sort of the purpose of what those cabinets are or how they’re used. The other thing is if you end up with or perhaps your kitchen already has the space to do an island – which could even be as simple as a couple of new cabinets, a piece of furniture. You can then go ahead and pick either the same granite or a complimentary granite in a different color palette to just create this sort of focal piece or the centerpiece for the kitchen itself.

    DIANE: Right. OK. Well, that sounds good. I really appreciate your advice and I enjoy listening to you on WPTF in Raleigh.

    LESLIE: Tim in Illinois is on the line and looking to tile a bathroom. How can we help you with your project?

    TIM: Redoing a bathroom in a 100-year-old house. And we’re looking at putting floor tile down, possibly with heat under the tile. And I was wondering what – the best way to do it. By putting the tile on, do you need to go right to the subfloor or do you have to have some kind of concrete board underneath the tile with doing heat under the floor?

    TOM: Well, sometimes the heat is actually put underneath the subfloor itself, so that’s another way to do it from the back side of it. Depends on your access issues. But there’s a special type of subfloor that’s designed for radiant heat or sub-slab heat where, especially if it’s PEX-based, the piping runs through a channel in the subfloor itself. So there’s no chance it could get crushed or anything like that. It’s sort of a channeled-out piece of underlayment.

    And then once that’s done, you can put your tile adhesive right on top of that and glue the tile to that underlayment.

    TIM: OK. This is in an upstairs bathroom, so we won’t have access to the bottom side.

    TOM: What kind of a heating system are you thinking about putting in? Is it going to be electric?

    TIM: It’ll be electric. We have geothermal in the house itself, so we’ve got forced-air heat. So it would have to be – I think they have some kind of electric under-mat or something like that. And also, I was wondering, is it best to just do the areas where – the main traffic areas? You don’t need to do the whole floor. Is that correct?

    TOM: No, you don’t have to. It certainly is nice. You don’t have to go around the toilet, for example. So, yeah, if you went in front of the sink, in front of the toilet and wherever you step out in the shower, then that should be fine.

    And yes, some of those electric heating systems are really nice. They don’t use as much electricity as they used to. You can set them up on timers so they heat up right before you go in the bathroom and then time-out after that.

    TIM: OK. So if I get this correct, you can just put a thinset concrete and then put tile right down onto the subfloor? Is that right? With the heating mat underneath?

    TOM: Right. If it’s nice and smooth, you can do that. If it’s uneven, then there’s a number of ways to smooth that out, either through an additional subflooring material or by setting mud underneath it.

    TIM: I appreciate your show. Thank you.

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

    LESLIE: Hey, if you’re seeing water signs on your ceiling, that can signal a leaky roof. But pinpointing the exact source of that leak can be harder than it seems. Tom Silva from This Old House is up next with tips that can help.

    TOM: And today’s This Old House segment on The Money Pit is brought to you by Lumber Liquidators where you’ll find bamboo, laminate, wood-look tile, vinyl plank and hardwood floors for less. This plus more of your calls to 888-MONEY-PIT, after this.

    ADAM: Hey, this is Adam Carolla. And when I’m not swinging a hammer, I’m catching up on The Money Pit with Tom and Leslie.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Happy Earth Day, everybody. Hey, are you thinking about improving the look of the earth around your home with a flower garden? We’ve got some tips, coming up.

    TOM: And roof leaks are, unfortunately, another sign of spring. Tom Silva from This Old House is just ahead with tips on stopping those. And today’s This Old House Tip on The Money Pit is brought to you by Proudly Propane. Clean American energy.

    But first, let’s get back to your calls at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Mary in Massachusetts is on the line with a ridge-vent question. How can we help you today?

    MARY: My house is 70 years old. In time, it needed to be re-shingled. So the roofer explained now they use ridge vent and they opened the center of the roof. And it (audio gap) great and I was happy with the shingles but I do not like that ridge vent. It’s like having an open window. Is there a way I can close that?

    TOM: No. That is doing exactly what it’s intended to do and exactly what it has to do, Mary. You know, we all grew up with homes that were grossly under-ventilated. But if your attic is ventilated perfectly, it should be the same temperature as the outside. It is not a conditioned space; it is unconditioned. So the heat is trapped at the floor level where you have insulation but the ridge vent is designed to let air out of the attic where it’s most likely to exit.

    So, for example, if your house is ventilated perfectly, the wind is going to blow over the roof, it’s going to depressurize the ridge and pull air out of the attic from that space. It pulls out moisture in the wintertime; it pulls out heat in the summertime.

    And the other half of that are soffit vents at the overhang. These work together to properly ventilate a roof. So you’ve just never experienced a properly ventilated attic but that is exactly what ridge vents are supposed to do. And I would not change them because if you do, you’re going to have a number of issues to crop up.

    Number one, you’ll have moisture that will build up in the attic. And what that will do is make the insulation far less effective. If you add just 2-percent moisture to fiberglass insulation, it loses about a third of its resistance to heat loss. Secondly, in the summertime, you’ll have excessive heat, which will make cooling the house that much more expensive. So, I wouldn’t do a thing.

    MARY: Hmm. OK. I was curious. I’m not thrilled with it but I guess I have to live with it.

    TOM: Yep. Get used to it. It’s doing its job, Mary, OK?

    MARY: Thank you.

    LESLIE: Well, water stains on your ceiling can signal a leaky roof. But pinpointing the exact source of that leak can be harder than it seems.

    TOM: True. But with a few simple tips, you can find roof leaks and get them fixed before the roof leaks get worse and worse and cause yourself a major roof leak and all the damage that could ensue. For that, we turn now to general contractor Tom Silva from TV’s This Old House.

    Thanks, Tommy, for stopping by The Money Pit.

    TOM SILVA: It’s my pleasure. It’s nice to be here.

    TOM: Now, when you spot a roof leak, it would seem that the source should be right on top. But that’s just way too easy, isn’t it?

    TOM SILVA: Yeah. Way too – don’t I wish that? No, it’s never right above. Well, I shouldn’t say never but 99 percent of the time, it’s somewhere else.

    TOM: Rarely.
    TOM SILVA: You can have a roof leak on the opposite side of the roof and it works its way down around the shingles and leaks right over your head in your bedroom.

    TOM: So if you’ve got one of those tricky roof leaks and you really need to figure out where it’s coming in so you know what to do to fix it, where do you begin?

    TOM SILVA: Well, I begin if you can get in the attic, first of all, and look up there, see if you can see the water stains.

    TOM: OK.

    TOM SILVA: The other way is then you have to climb up on the roof and see if you can see any shingles missing or anything like that. It’s good if you have a good pair of binoculars. You can really inspect the roof from the ground. You don’t even have to get up there. So you can look at the roof, you can look at the shingles, you can look at the flashing around the chimney, any penetrations, like the vents.

    TOM: Now, that’s a good point because roofs seldom start leaking right in the middle of a perfectly flat, good shingle. I mean it’s almost always where something comes through the roof, like a pipe or an intersection between sections of a roof.

    TOM SILVA: Exactly. Yep, yep. So you’ve got to get up there and find out. And believe it or not, you’d be amazed what you can see from the ground, like I say, with a good pair of binoculars. You can see a crack in that gasket that goes around that vent pipe.

    LESLIE: So if all else fails and I really just cannot find where this leak is coming from, is it smart to sort of get up there with a friend and spray some water out of a hose to try to recreate a rainy condition and see where it’s happening?

    TOM SILVA: Not that smart. I would say stand on the ladder, on the edge of the roof, and then spray it with a hose.


    TOM SILVA: Don’t get up on the roof. It can become slippery.

    TOM: Now, let’s say that we’ve actually found the leak and we know what’s going on. I think folks are almost always looking for the easy solution here. And by the way, sometimes roofers look for the easy solution, too, because it’s a guarantee of repeat business. And they want to put some sort of a roof sealant or a tar-like substance on the roof but that never seems to last very long.

    TOM SILVA: No, the tar will break down, crack over time. Your leak is going to get right back again.

    TOM: So what’s the best approach?

    TOM SILVA: You can basically remove the shingles in the area or the roofing that’s in the area around the chimney and you may have to reflash. Usually, that’s the best way around a chimney.

    TOM: So, essentially, don’t look for the shortcut. Take the roof apart in that particular area and then rebuild it the way it was always supposed to be done.

    TOM SILVA: Exactly. Around a vent, there are actually repair kits that you can place right over the pipe and set it right down on top of that vent flashing. You seal around it and push the vent seal right over it and that problem will be solved right there.

    LESLIE: Is it like a rubberized gasket that has a flange?

    TOM SILVA: Yeah. It’s a rubberized gasket. So if you have the rubberized gasket, you have the metal ones and the plastic ones, there’s actually a gasket at the top. You can actually take that gasket out of a new one and slide that gasket right on top of the existing gasket. But I like to seal underneath that with a tripolymer caulking, push it right in there and it’ll seal it right up. But don’t use silicone and don’t use tar.

    TOM: Now, why not use silicone? That, I think, would surprise a lot of people because they think that that’s one of the most durable sealants out there.

    TOM SILVA: No, silicone is a fantastic sealer for anything that is non-porous. Anything that is porous, the silicone will break away from it over time. And once it starts to break away, you can’t recaulk it without removing all of the silicone. So you want a type of material that’s flexible, pliable and will stick to different types of material and can be resealed if needed.

    TOM: And that’s why he’s the expert general contractor on TV’s This Old House.

    Tom Silva, great advice as always. Thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    TOM SILVA: My pleasure. Great to be here.

    TOM: And This Old House and Ask This Old House are brought to you on PBS by GMC. GMC, we are professional grade.

    Just ahead, are you ready to see some signs of spring? Well, so are we. We’re going to have tips to jump-start your garden and get those flowers blooming quick, after this.

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    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: So I’ve decided my first big project for spring will be replacing a fence.

    LESLIE: That’s a good project.

    TOM: Yeah, it needs it. It’s been there a long time. Actually way longer than it should’ve been because – you know why? I put so many coats of preservative and stain on that. I used solid-color stain when I first put it in. I mean we’re talking 15-plus years here.

    But the most important key to make these fences last as long as they can is to put space under them. You know, a lot of times, these fence manufacturers, especially with the wooden fences, they set them 2 to 3 inches off the grade and guess what happens? The posts settle and the fences go down and then they become in direct contact with the grade.

    LESLIE: I think some of those installers call that “job insurance.”

    TOM: Yeah, exactly. Because it makes the termites and the carpenter ants very, very happy. So, yes, put some space under that fence. Hopefully, it’ll last as long as mine will. That’s my project this spring, so I’ll let you know how it goes.

    LESLIE: Alright, that’s a good project for the spring. Enjoy it.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. We want to hear about your projects. Give us a call right now.

    LESLIE: Mike in North Carolina is on the line and has a question about a garage door. How can we help you today?

    MIKE: I’ve got a two-car garage and it’s got three utility rooms on the side of it. One of them is for the hot-water heater and the electrical panel and all that. And then it’s got another one that’s for storage. And then one of them is set up kind of a small workshop. These are oversized doors. They’re probably 6-foot-8 by 48 inches or 44 inches, something like that. Well, they had stuff hanging on them and all. They’ve got holes on the outside of them. And I was just wondering if I couldn’t just take the doorknobs off of them, put some construction glue on them and put some 4×8 sheets of lura (ph) on the outside of them and stain them – trim them off and stain them – and then put my door handles back on.

    TOM: Yeah. So, basically, what you want to do is skin those doors with some luan plywood or some paneling. Is that what you’re saying?

    MIKE: Yeah, yeah.

    TOM: That would be on the inside, correct? So you’re still under roof here?

    MIKE: That’s on the inside of the garage. Yes, sir. That’s the inside of the garage.

    TOM: Oh, I see no reason you can’t do that. Just keep in mind that when you put that additional layer on the door, it’s going to be thicker than the trim around the door, if you have trim. So you may have to pull the trim off and sort of shim that out the same distance. You might have to put a second layer of trim underneath it so that if the plywood is – for example, the skin’s a ¼-inch, you need to have another ¼-inch space for underneath the trim. Otherwise, it’ll sit on top of the trim and that won’t look right.

    MIKE: Certainly do appreciate it (inaudible at 0:29:17) and you have a blessed day.

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

    Well, nothing says spring like colorful, flowering plants in your yard. And now that we’re well into spring, it’s time to plant the seeds that will become those beautiful blooms of summer.

    LESLIE: Now, if you can’t wait for those seeds to sprout, you can plant live blooms for an instant pop of color. The key here, though, is selecting the right type of flowers for your region. And this is actually a pretty specific science.

    TOM: Yeah. The country is divided into 11 different plant-hardiness zones. Now, those are determined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They have something called the Plant Hardiness Zone Map.

    Now, you can Google that. You’ll find it. It’s cool, it’s interactive, it’s online and it pretty much lays out the standard by which gardeners and growers can determine which plants are most likely to thrive at a specific location.

    LESLIE: The other trick, really, though is preparing your soil for those flowers. That’s really, really important. You’ve got to have healthy soil and the correct pH level for the types of flowers that you’re planting. So go ahead, test your soil with a kit and then add whatever organic matter is needed, if it tells you to do so. You can also add peat moss, sawdust, sand, manure, ground bark, homemade compost, anything to enrich that soil. That truly is the key to success.

    TOM: And of course, make sure to water as directed. Keep that soil moist and your flowers will be beautiful and healthy.

    888-666-3974. Give us a call, right now, with your home improvement question.

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

    RENEE: My question is concerning my sump pump. Obviously, a sump pump in the basement. And for a long time – for several months, I had not heard the sump pump going on. A few weeks – a few months ago, when it was raining very hard, I went down to the basement to see why the sump pump wasn’t kicking on and it was the well was filled with water. So, I went ahead and I drained the water out by bucketing – taking buckets of this, pouring buckets of water out until I got down to see where the ball was. And it still wouldn’t come on. So I tapped the ball and eventually, when the water rose, it did kick on again.

    But then now I’m hearing this gurgling sound in my kitchen-sink piping. And I want to know why.

    TOM: Where is the sump pump discharging? Is it discharging into this basement sink?

    RENEE: The sump pump discharges – it’s connected to the outside sewer line. And that’s – I guess that sewer – the line is connected to the basement – the kitchen sink.

    TOM: OK. So first of all, it has to go through a trap. If it doesn’t go through a trap, you may get sewage gas that comes back into the basement. So that’s the first thing.

    Secondly, the gurgling might just – because it doesn’t have enough water in the sump itself. You’re probably pulling a lot of air in there.

    And thirdly, because your sump pump was filling up when you had heavy rain, the source of that water is easily within your ability to repair and stop. Generally, when your sump pump fills up after a heavy rain, it’s because your gutters are clogged or overflowing or your downspouts are not discharging away from the foundation. Or the soil around your house is not sloping away from the outside walls. That’s what causes problems with water filling up in basements and floods in a sort – because that outside surface drainage is just not set up right.

    So I would focus on improving your exterior drainage. There’s a great article on about how to solve wet basements. A lot of that advice applies to this. And then you’ll find that the sump pump will have to run that much less.

    RENEE: OK. That’s great news.

    LESLIE: Alright. Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit.

    We’re going to have some tips on the steps to take when installing a ceiling fan, when The Money Pit continues after this.vents

    (theme song)

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Hey, you guys, we’ve got a ton of activity on the Money Pit Community. People are posting and we love to hear what you are working on. Check it out. It’s all brand new and it’s really awesome at

    I’m going to jump right in here to a post from that Community section. Julie in Wisconsin writes: “I want to replace a ceiling fan with a light fixture. Will I have to install all new wiring?”

    TOM: Good question. You ought to think of this as an even exchange, though. If the wiring is exactly the same, the swap is pretty simple. So you can potentially do this yourself, Julie, if you feel comfortable working with electricity. So, what you’ve first got to do is figure out how to turn the power off. That’s critical. And then you’re really just matching wire colors. So, white to white, black to black, green to the grounding wire and so on.

    Now, if there are more wires than you need coming from the electrical box after you connect the new light, don’t panic. Just cap those wires with wire nuts.

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post here from Stephanie who writes: “The product I use for my self-cleaning oven spilled into my white Corian sink and left yellow stains.” That does not sound good. “Is there any way to get rid of them?”

    TOM: Well, Corian is solid all the way through, Stephanie, so it’s easy to renew to the original surface if the damage is minor. You want to first try an abrasive cleaner or a product like a scrub pad. If that’s unsuccessful, you could hand-sand that countertop. Now, that’s something you might not have considered but if you use 400-grit paper – it’s called “wet-and-dry paper”; it’s this black paper that has a very, very fine grit on it – and you sand it very, very carefully, you may be able to kind of sand that stain right off.

    If it’s worse than that, I would go to a Corian dealer or supplier or someone that maintains countertops and – because it might require a slightly bigger fix. But you don’t have to worry about damaging the countertop permanently. It’s all repairable with the right tools and a little bit of time.

    LESLIE: Alright. That is a good project. And it really is doable. Hopefully, it’s just not all the way through a lot of that surface.

    Next up, we’ve got a post here from Juan in Texas who writes: “I offset and reconstructed a retaining wall against my house recently, which exposed more of the basement’s exterior cinder-block wall. The previously underground cinder block has tar coating on it for waterproofing and I hate the way it looks. Any suggestions on what might look nicer? I was hoping something like a white-tar coating exists, just so it looks nice.”

    TOM: You know, there are different types of foundation coatings that have color to them. I mean they’re designed so that you can basically start below grade and paint, so to speak, right up to above grade. There is one brand called Tanner Tuff. It’s available in several colors, like concrete-gray and white. It’s sold at The Home Depot.

    But with all coatings, you need to make sure that you’re applying it when that foundation is clean and dry. So if you have moisture, if you have dampness, if you have mineral deposits – that white, crusty stuff that’s on there – if you’ve got moss, if you’ve got mildew, that’s all got to be cleaned. And it’s got to be super dry because that dampness will work against you, Juan.

    Most importantly, you don’t want to remove the existing coating. It was there for a reason. So, scraping it off is not going to have positive results. But there is a product out there designed just for this and I’m sure it’ll make your foundation look a heck of a lot better.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And you know what? Shouldn’t be a terribly difficult project. Just follow the manufacturer’s directions and you’ll do a great job.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on this Earth Day weekend. We hope that you’ve enjoyed the show, that you’ve gotten some good, Earth-friendly home improvement tips that can save you time, save you money, save you energy, save you water, make your home more pleasant. If you’ve got questions, remember, we’re available through the Money Pit Community at You can post your question right there. We would love to hop on that and give you an answer. Or of course, you can always call us, 24 hours a day, at 1-888-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.

    (theme song)


    (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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