Easy Tips for Tackling Summer Clutter – #0717172

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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: Hey, what are you doing this weekend? Are you working on your house? If so, you’re in exactly the right place because we’re here to help. We’re your team. Give us a call if you’ve got a question about your home improvement project, your décor dilemma. Whether you’re doing it yourself or hiring a pro, we’re here to help you get it done right the first time out. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT or you can post your question to the Community page at MoneyPit.com.

    Coming up on today’s show, as we head into the heart of the summer season and keep spending more and more time outside, guess what? The ticks are doing the same. They’re really bad this year, so we’re going to have some steps that you can take to stay clear.

    LESLIE: And also ahead, are solar hot-water systems really worth the trouble and the cost? Richard Trethewey, the plumbing-and-heating expert for TV’s This Old House, has the facts and is stopping by later with them.

    TOM: Plus, do you know the easiest door to break into for any house? Well, it’s usually the garage door. We’re going to tell you why and share the surprisingly simple steps you can take to secure that entry.

    LESLIE: Plus, to help keep you mosquito bite-free all summer long, we’ve got a great, new product to give away. It’s the DynaTrap Mosquito and Insect Trap worth 129 bucks which, by the way, Tom and I are both using. And I will tell you, from being a person that’s normally just completely bitten by mosquitoes – and my children, as well – we’re all doing really great this summer. I’m going to knock on wood but I’m going to say it all is owed to DynaTrap.

    TOM: Yeah, we’ve had the same experience here. It’s my second season, actually, with this product and it works really, really well.

    So, if you want to win it, you’ve got to post your question online at MoneyPit.com to qualify or pick up the phone and call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Let’s get to it.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Shane in Illinois, you’ve got The Money Pit. You want us to help you with a decking project? What can we do?

    SHANE: As respect to footings on the deck, is it more common practice to have a one solid column that goes down for your footing or can you just dig 36 inches, throw a 6-inch footing at the bottom of that and put your post on top of that and just pack it around with dirt versus covering it with concrete?

    TOM: You mean covering the post, like around – pouring around the post with concrete? Is that what you’re saying?

    SHANE: Correct.

    TOM: Yeah. Well, that wouldn’t really help you because that’s not giving you any support. The idea of the footing is to get it down below the frost line. So yes, if you dug down to 36 inches and you set any kind of a small concrete pad down there, you would be fine by putting the footing – putting the post on top of that and going up.

    Now, the other thing that you could think about doing – and I like these – there are precast footings that are out there that are kind of like almost pyramid shape. They’re very tall. Not a pyramid, more like a tower. And they’re about 36 inches tall, maybe 40 inches tall. And they have a bolt that sticks out the top of them so you can put your post on right on that. And you can dig your hole and drop this right into the hole.

    What I like to do is put maybe a shovel full of stone at the bottom of the hole, make sure it’s tamped really well and then drop my footing on top of that. And this way, my post ends up above grade. I don’t like the idea, even though it’s pressure-treated, of sinking the wood in the ground.

    SHANE: Yeah, I agree.

    TOM: Because eventually, it’s going to rot. So, I like to keep it above ground. That’s why I use those types of posts.

    And then the third way you could do this is with something called a Sonotube. You know what that is?

    SHANE: Yeah.

    TOM: Yeah, it’s like – it looks like a paper-towel roll but it’s 12 inches in diameter. And yeah, you cut that to be about 40 inches, set that in the hole. You can go ahead and backfill around it, put a little stone in the bottom and then fill it up with concrete.

    Now, you could mix up – something like QUIKRETE in the red bag is good for this. You can mix it up and drop it into that Sonotube. It’ll be hard inside of an hour. And you could start building right away.

    SHANE: Well, great. Well, thank you for your help.

    TOM: Yeah, you’re welcome. Good luck with that project. Are you going to get it done and soon enough to enjoy it this summer?

    SHANE: Possibly. We’ll see.

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

    SHANE: Thank you.

    TOM: Darlene in New York, you’re next on The Money Pit. How can we help?

    DARLENE: Hi. I seem to be having a problem with a woodchuck. It goes from my neighbor’s shed in the backyard to the – to across our yard, into the other yard.

    TOM: OK. Mm-hmm.

    DARLENE: And we’re getting all holes in our backyard. They’re destroying our yard.

    TOM: Now, you’re sure they’re woodchucks and not moles?

    DARLENE: No, they’re huge.

    TOM: OK.

    DARLENE: It’s a mother and maybe three babies.

    TOM: Alright. Well, there’s a couple of things that you can do to kind of discourage woodchucks. I mean one of them I’m not sure applies to you and that is just to make sure your yard is less attractive to woodchucks by removing any kinds of stumps or wood or brush piles. They do like to chew on wood to keep their teeth filed down. So if there’s some good stuff around your yard, they’re going to be gnawing at that.

    The other thing that you can do is to repel the woodchucks with something like hot-pepper spray. You know, if you have liquid-pepper spray or hot-pepper spray, you can spray it in the holes and they will not go in there. They do not like that. Or you can use one of their natural predators, which is fox or dog or raccoon. That’s available as a spray and it basically replicates their urine and kind of keeps them away.

    And then on your plants, if you were to apply something like a Deer Off type of a spray, which basically sits on the leaves of the plants or the bushes – and if the woodchuck was to eat it, it has a really nasty taste to it and that keeps them away, as well. So there’s a couple of things that you can try without calling in a pro, to see if we can try to minimize the woodchuck visit to your backyard.

    DARLENE: OK. So if I do use the hot-pepper spray then, I just spray it inside of the holes in our yard?

    TOM: Yeah, in that area, right, to kind of discourage them from using them. And maybe they will not create anymore. That’s what we hope, alright? Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Call now with your home improvement question to 888-MONEY-PIT, presented by HomeAdvisor. From small repairs to a major remodel, HomeAdvisor is the fast and easy way to find the right pro for any kind of home project.

    TOM: Just ahead, don’t get sick from ticks. We’ve got tips and tricks to help keep you from getting ticked off, 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.

    Give us a call now with your question at 888-MONEY-PIT, presented by HomeAdvisor. Ready for a new roof that can stop summer storms? HomeAdvisor can instantly match you with the right pro for your job, for free.

    TOM: And if you call, right now, at 888-MONEY-PIT or post your question to The Money Pit’s Community page at MoneyPit.com, you’ll get the answer to your home improvement question. Plus, this hour, we’re giving away the DynaTrap.

    It’s a mosquito-and-insect trap that protects up to a ½-acre, so you can guard your family and pets from nuisance insects that may bite and spread disease. It’s produces CO2, which is an attractant for mosquitoes. And it does so through a chemical reaction, so you don’t have to add lures or attractants. And it’s totally non-toxic. It can be used both indoors and out.

    You’ll find it at Bed Bath & Beyond or online at DynaTrap.com. The value is 129 bucks. And if you enter the promo code MONEYPIT, you’ll get a 15-percent discount.

    LESLIE: Casey in Texas is on the line and needs some help with a flooring project. What can we do for you today?

    CASEY: I have a special-needs son. He’s four years old and he crawls throughout our house. And unfortunately, he has a lot of falls. I’m looking to replace the flooring in my game room and kitchen, which is currently ceramic tile, with a softer option. And I was thinking of doing cork flooring. So, I wanted to know what your opinion on the cork flooring was, if there’s a better option. And can it be laid on top of the tile?

    TOM: Great question. I was actually just thinking of that cork flooring as a good, terrific, soft option for you.

    In terms of whether you can lay it on top of the tile, if the tile is really flat, you probably can. But if the tile has a bit of a rough surface or sort of curvy edges, I think that it could potentially be an issue. That said, there may be a cork flooring out there that has sort of more of a solid back that could give you some stability over that. I’d look into it. I’d check a place like Lumber Liquidators.

    But cork flooring is incredibly durable. It is soft and I think it is a good choice for you. Short of doing something with area rugs or something of that nature, I think that’s probably one of the best choices that you can make. If it’s an area that you would potentially want to carpet, just keep in mind that there’s a lot of differences in carpet padding.

    There’s a lot of chintzy carpet padding out there but if you look for it, you’ll find the good stuff that really does give you some cushion to that surface. And you don’t have to choose a thick carpet to put over it but you’ve got to have the right carpet padding under it. That’s really critical.

    CASEY: OK.

    TOM: And if you went with something like a laminate floor, there is an underlayment that goes under laminate floor. Now, a laminate floor, obviously, is not soft on top but if the underlayment – I know that one of the brands that I used to work with had sort of an 1/8-inch foam kind of sheet that would go under it that would give it some give, too. But I think pretty much any floor you choose is going to be softer than ceramic tile.

    CASEY: OK.

    TOM: Right, Leslie?

    LESLIE: That really is true. The only concern I would have with putting a cork over the ceramic tile is that some of the cork floorings are on the thinner side. So, like Tom mentioned, you want to make sure the cork floor is thick enough to hide the imperfections that are there in that tile. But cork really is a great and forgiving surface and it looks gorgeous, too.

    CASEY: Good. Is it pretty moisture-tolerant? I’m just concerned in the kitchen. Is there anything to worry about?

    LESLIE: The cork tends to be water-resistant. I wouldn’t put in it a place, like a bathroom, where you’ve got potential for tubs overflowing and things of that nature. But the occasional spill and the water that tends to happen in a kitchen space is perfect for it.

    CASEY: Mm-hmm. OK. Excellent. Well, thank you very much. I appreciate the help.

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

    LESLIE: Sharon in Ohio is on the line with a sump-pump question. How can we help you?

    SHARON: We have an issue with our furnace. It seems to be pulling sewer gas from our sump pump, because that’s where it drains into. And we can’t figure out how to solve the issue. Temporary solution is to pour water in the sump pump. But then about three or four days later, we turn the furnace on and it draws the sewage-gas/air again.

    TOM: Well, let’s talk about this. So, first of all, what water from the furnace is being drained into the sump pump? Are you talking about the condensate line from the air-conditioning system?

    SHARON: Yes, sir.

    TOM: Is there a return duct in the basement area where this is or in the room where this is? Or do you think it’s coming in through the drainpipe?

    SHARON: We think it’s coming in from the sump pump. And it’s a wintertime issue, because it happens when we turn the furnace on.

    TOM: Well, if you think it’s because it’s reversing – it’s pulling whatever soil gas is causing this unpleasant odor – if you think it’s coming in because of the drain line, there’s a really simple solution: put a trap in it. So, if the drain line has a P-trap, kind of the same kind of that sort of U-shape pipe that’s underneath a bathroom sink, then that pipe will stay filled with water and will not allow any gases, any air to back up through it and get into the furnace.

    SHARON: That’s not built into the furnace already?

    TOM: Not always. I mean it depends on the workmanship of the installer. But no, you would see it on the outside. If you don’t see a P-trap, it doesn’t have one.

    The other thing that could be causing this – and sometimes this happens – is occasionally – and I don’t want to freak you out but occasionally, you’ll get a rodent that will die inside of a return duct. And if that happens, yeah, the stink can go on for quite a while. But I would take a look at that drain line and if it doesn’t have a trap in it, do that. And make sure it’s filled with water when you start, if it’s the winter, because it won’t be. And I think you won’t find any more air gets through that pipe.

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

    Well, here’s something to think about: according to the CDC, there are as many as nine different types of ticks you can be exposed to when you’re outside this summer. And they can carry a dozen or more diseases, some of which can be serious. So, to keep those ticks away from you, there are a few simple precautions you can take.

    And the first one starts with this: use repellant but not just any repellant. You’ve got to use a repellant that contains 20 percent or more of DEET, picaridin or IR3535, which is the only 3 types of repellants that the CDC recommends. These will all give you protection that can last several hours. But you’ve got to read the label to make sure it contains at least 20 percent of the active ingredient.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Now, here’s another way: you can actually use products that have been treated with permethrin. So, you can buy products pretreated or treat your clothing and gear, such as your boots or pants, your socks. Use your tent. Treat the tent with repellants containing at least 0.5-percent permethrin. That’s one half of one percent.

    Now, the permethrin actually remains protective through several washings, so you don’t have to go on and repeat it for every single one of your outdoor adventures.

    TOM: And lastly, make sure you’re wearing light-colored, long-sleeved clothes if you hike in bushy and grassy areas, because it’s easy to spot ticks on those light colors. And then, of course, be sure to shower and then check yourself for ticks so you can stay tick-free all summer long.

    This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Hey, don’t get ticked off if you don’t know how to do a home improvement project. Call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Jim in South Dakota, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    JIM: Well, I’ve got a couple of exterior doors in the garage I’ve added onto my house. And I’m getting water coming inside the doors. And two of them are coming through the latch side bottom corner. I’ve tried siliconing the threshold up to where it meets the jamb. Tried running a little bead of silicone in there to seal that up but I can’t seem to find where it’s coming in at. But every time it rains and if there’s a breeze and pushing the rain against the latch side of the door, it’s running down and coming to the inside.

    TOM: I’ve seen that kind of thing before. It’s very frustrating. You’re talking about a standard exterior door, not an overhead door, right? You’re talking about one that has hinges?

    JIM: Right. Yeah. An exterior walk-through door. Yep.

    TOM: The first thing I would check is to make sure the door is perfectly hung. And by that, I mean it has an even reveal top, side, bottom. And then looking under the door, sometimes with a flashlight you can see gaps. So if you use a flashlight at the saddle, you could shine it on one side and look underneath and see if there’s any gaps there.

    The type of weather-stripping you have is the kind that kind of looks like what’s on a refrigerator door?

    JIM: Yeah, yeah. It’s that – the style or old style, whatever you want to call it, yeah.

    TOM: That’s actually pretty durable.

    Now, does this door open into the garage or does it open out to the backyard?

    JIM: Inward.

    TOM: So pretty much like a standard door.

    Well, listen, if you don’t find anything there, I think you’re going to have to go with a storm door, because it’s definitely breaking down with the weather-stripping.

    JIM: I’m going to have to give that a try.

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

    LESLIE: Mary in Texas is on the line and has an issue with a tub. Tell us what’s going on.

    MARY: We have a bathtub that we’ve had plumbers out and they can’t even seem to get it unstopped. They think that it – and it was – would slowly – if you took a shower in there, it would slowly go out that day. But then it stopped up and it was going so slowly.

    We called up a big company here – plumbing company – and the guy came out and checked it. And he couldn’t get it unstopped. He thinks it’s in the P-trap. But he checks, he lined the hat – the tub is on the back of the house. About 2 feet from that is the clean-out. And he took a picture in the clean-out, all the wall to the alley and told us to get the city to come. And they needed to clean it out, the alley. They did that.

    TOM: So wait a minute. You’re telling me that the plumber was able to clear the drain from the house to the street but he thinks that the restriction is beyond that?

    MARY: Yeah. He thinks – and it’s just about 2 feet from the drain. The tub that’s on the back wall of the house, it’s about 2 feet to the clean-out where he worked. And all the other lines are back farther. I mean the utility line is farther. It’s on that same line. It’s farther. The sink in the vanity area and the commode where it’s just fine – it’s right by the tub. It’s just – it’s past them.

    TOM: I can tell you right now that he missed something in the tub, because all of those plumbing lines come together in that same general area. And if you’ve got flow from the toilet and the sinks and everything else but not the tub, it’s going to be the tub itself.

    You know, when it comes to clearing drains, my experience has been that plumbers are not the best ones to do that. Generally, you’re better off to go with a specialty plumber that does drain cleaning. They have the tools, the equipment and the knowledge to get that done. And sometimes, the day-to-day plumbers – if it’s a simple clog, they can clear it but they don’t necessarily have the tools. For example, drain cleaners have cameras that can go down those pipes and see exactly what the obstruction is.

    So, my recommendation would be to call a different kind of professional: not a plumber but someone that specializes in drain cleaning and has a good reputation for being able to make that particular type of repair. I think that’s going to be the easiest way for you to get to the bottom of it. I would not recommend any type of additive to that drain to try to clear it and these liquid products that clear drains, because they can be very, very corrosive.

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

    LESLIE: Hey, solar water heating, it can cut your energy bills fast. We’re going to tell you what you need to know to go solar, with tips from Richard Trethewey from This Old House, next.

    NORM: I’m Norm Abram from This Old House. Need a little help making your old house look like the ones we make-over on TV? Call Tom and Leslie right now.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Hey, give us a call, right now, on The Money Pit’s listener line at 888-MONEY-PIT, presented by HomeAdvisor.

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

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

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

    STEVE: I was listening to the program, I guess, about a week ago. And you were talking about a caller that was having trouble with her patio door. And Tom had recommended using white-lithium grease to loosen it up and make it slide easier. An old carpenter’s trick – I’m a master carpenter – Pledge, not lithium grease or silicon or any of that. The downside of lithium grease and silicon is they attract dirt. Pledge does not. And the trick on it – and it’ll work on sticky windows, as well – is you overspray it. Spray it heavily. Either slide the door back and forth or move the window up and down a few times, wipe the excess off and you have a patio door or a window that will move freely like it’s sliding on butter.

    TOM: That’s a great suggestion, Steve. We appreciate you calling that in.

    Now, I wonder how long that will stay around, especially with a patio door, given its exposure to the elements. Any experience on that?

    STEVE: Six months, easily.

    TOM: Really? Alright. Well, that’s fantastic.
    STEVE: Yep.

    TOM: Good advice. Thanks so much for calling in, Steve. We appreciate it.

    STEVE: No problem. You guys do a great job. I listen to you all the time. And (inaudible at 0:21:22) what you do out there.

    TOM: And you see? He’s a carpenter, so that’s a professional opinion.

    Thank you so much. Have a great day.

    LESLIE: Well, if you’ve ever felt warm water flowing from a garden hose that’s been stretched across your sunny lawn, you already kind of understand how solar water heating works.

    TOM: And if you’ve ever paid a fuel or electric bill, you can understand why using the sun’s rays to warm water is a really good idea. Joining us now with some details about solar hot-water heating systems is Richard Trethewey, the plumbing-and-heating expert for TV’s This Old House.

    Hi, Richard.

    RICHARD: Hi, guys.

    TOM: And solar heat has been an option for a lot of years but I’m happy to see that lately, everyone has become so much more interested in being more green; it’s really taken on some new life. So, how does a basic system work?

    RICHARD: Well, the basic setup consists of a heat-trapping solar collector. That’s either going to be these flat panels or the special tubes that sit outdoors, facing south, usually up on the roof.

    TOM: OK.

    RICHARD: And there’ll be some sort of water-storage tank down inside the house.

    TOM: So, essentially, there’s a circulating pump that moves the water across the collector and then down to the storage unit.

    RICHARD: Now, in cold climates, there’s going to be a circulator pump that doesn’t pump water through the collectors; it’s actually going to be glycol – a non-toxic propylene glycol – that is an anti-freeze, really.

    TOM: OK.

    RICHARD: And it goes up through those collectors, absorbs energy from the sun, brings that down to the tank and transfers that energy into the water that’s inside the tank.

    TOM: OK.

    LESLIE: Now, are there certain areas of the country that really this is a better opportunity for or are there ways to make this work, regardless of your climate?

    RICHARD: I think people don’t understand. The sun is out in most parts of this country enough that solar thermal – and that’s the solar to make domestic hot water – makes a lot of sense. You can always get 65 to 70 percent of your domestic hot-water production using the sun, even in the northern climates like we are up here in New England, where I live.

    TOM: Now, on some days, I would imagine you are heating far more hot water than you really need to. Do you store that? Is there a way to save it until the cloudy days?

    RICHARD: Well, that’s the challenge. There are days you actually have more energy than you know what to do with and sometimes, you have to do a heat dump; you have to get rid of some heat. That’s where it’s often good to have a pool; if you want to heat a pool or something like that, it’s terrific.

    We’ve even seen people that have solar systems on vacation houses where they’re not there, where there’s a little device that can actually run the solar backwards during the night to take the super-heated water in the tank and dump it to outside because you actually have too much energy.

    TOM: Interesting, interesting.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. We actually vacationed once in St. Lucia and the entire hotel had the same solar water-heating systems. And every night, we would hear it draining from all the different rooms and the first night, we were like, “What is that?”

    RICHARD: That’s right.

    LESLIE: And when we called the front desk, they explained to us the whole system.

    RICHARD: That’s right. Right.

    LESLIE: Now, with solar water-heating systems, I imagine they’re kind of expensive to put in. Do you recoup that kind of quickly or does it really take a long time to get that back?

    RICHARD: Well, as is so often the case, you’ve got to spend money to make money. And so, it really depends, I think, also on the local utility rates. For a family of four, you’re going to do a system – typical system – with an 80-gallon tank. It’s probably 5,000 for the materials, another 2,000 or so for installation. And the payback periods could be relatively quick – five, six, seven years – and it really depends on how much hot water you use.

    TOM: Now, comparing that to, say, active solar where you have photovoltaics, though, it’s probably a lot less expensive.

    RICHARD: Well, it’s got a high efficiency. The thing about photovoltaics is they have some unbelievable incentives that make it – and that – and the cost of that technology is coming down in price every day. You know, it’s often – it’s like what’s happened with computers; there was a time that computers were much more expensive. As more people bought it, the premium came down. We’re seeing that with solar thermal and with solar photovoltaics.

    LESLIE: And I think for the pedigree of a home, when you go to sell down the road, to say, “We have solar water heating,” it ultimately makes the house more valuable.

    RICHARD: That’s right.

    The other metric that’s not in this discussion is the cost of fuel. In August of ‘08, fuel prices got to almost $4. Fuel oil was $4.10 around where I live. We couldn’t keep enough solar in stock; everybody wanted to do solar. And then as the price came down, people got a little more complacent. And so, all that stuff is going to be driven a lot by that fossil-fuel cost.

    TOM: And there’s really an opportunity issue here, too. You mentioned it briefly before but the rebates, the incentives, the tax credits, they’re always changing. Keep an eye on that, because there could be a golden opportunity to get a system like this installed if you meet those requirements.

    RICHARD: That’s right. The government and the local utility can be your friend in that case.

    TOM: Great tip. Richard Trethewey from TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    For more great tips just like that, you can visit ThisOldHouse.com.

    LESLIE: And you can watch Richard and the entire This Old House team on This Old House and Ask This Old House on your local PBS station.

    TOM: And This Old House is brought to you on PBS by State Farm. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.

    Just ahead, do you know the easiest door to break into for any house? Well, it’s the garage. We’ll tell you why and share the surprisingly simple step you can take to secure that entry, 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: And summer storms are rolling. Hurricane season is on the way, which is why Leslie got her generator serviced this week, right?

    LESLIE: I sure did. And you know what? I ended up signing up for a service contract, which I think is super important, probably very smart when I think the risk of servicing your own generator is death or explosion. So, I choose to have those serviced by the pros. But it’s interesting. It needed a battery replacement, which apparently KOHLER recommends every three years or so. So, we went ahead and changed the battery, which is unusual because a car battery, you’re getting 10 years, 5 years out of them?

    TOM: Right.

    LESLIE: So I thought it was interesting that there was that issue. Also, there needed some computer software and firmware updates so that I could monitor everything going on with the generator on my phone and keep track of everything. It just definitely gave me the security of feeling like should something happen – the power goes out, I need the generator – at least it’s all there and I can get to it. So, I felt really happy about having the guys by. And now they’ll come twice a year.

    TOM: Perfect. And if you don’t have a standby generator or a whole-house generator for your house, you might really want to think about picking one up. Because I tell you, there’s nothing better than when you get a power failure and you’re down for all of 10, 15 seconds before your entire house gets repowered instantly by your backup generator.

    LESLIE: Now I’ve got Nancy in Arkansas on the line with a painting question. How can we help you?

    NANCY: Calling on behalf of my mom and she has an older home. And there – she has a lot of – she has a popcorn ceiling. And she has a lot of cobwebs and stuff. And I’m just wondering, what would be the best way of removing those to eliminate as much debris falling in the carpet and that sort of thing and to give it a fresh look?

    LESLIE: Well, I think with a popcorn ceiling, number one, you’re fighting the texture. So everything kind of wants to get stuck up there.

    So, first off is I would start with one of those Swiffers that look like a feather duster, just to get all of that dust and that – the cobwebs down so that you’ve got a clean surface. And if that looks OK, then you might want to stop there.

    You can’t really clean a popcorn ceiling because the way you remove a popcorn ceiling is to spray it with water and then you scrape it off. So if you try to clean it with any sort of cleanser or moisture, you’re going to start to disintegrate the popcorn and make that come off, if it’s truly a popcorn ceiling and not a textured stucco or something like that. So I think once you get the spiderwebs and things off of it, you might be better off just painting it and giving it a fresh coat to just sort of freshen up the ceiling space a little bit.

    But if you do decide to paint the popcorn ceiling, you have to get a very specialized roller. It looks like a – it’s a foam roller that has a spiral cut to it. And that will open up to sort of accommodate the popcorn-ceiling texture. If you use a regular roller, it’s going to paint it and then pull the texture off. So you have to be careful in your application. But that’ll do a great job of freshening it up.

    NANCY: OK. Well, great. Well, thank you so much.

    TOM: Well, did you know that the easiest door to break into for any house is usually the garage door? We’ve got a trick to help you avoid becoming a victim in today’s Home Security Tip, presented by Iris Smart Home Security.

    LESLIE: Yeah. If you’d like to protect your home from intruders, it’s important to identify vulnerable areas of your house. You know, I’m talking about hiding spots that are caused by tall bushes or trees, as well as any easy points of entry, especially if you’re going to be out of town. For example, your garage door might be easier to open than you think. But you can secure it by simply installing a bolt through one of the extra holes in the garage door tracks.

    Now, with that bolt in place, the door’s not going to be able to roll upwards and your door will be secure.

    TOM: Now, for everyday use, you could integrate a smart garage controller. So it’s a great way to keep tabs on whether the garage door is open or closed and it works off your smartphone. The controllers will not only alert you when the door is open or closed, but they can even remind you if you drove off and forgot to close the garage door and even allow you to open or close the door from miles away.

    LESLIE: Today’s Home Security Tip has been presented by Iris Smart Home Security, a DIY system that connects an entire range of compatible smart devices in your home through a single app. It lets homeowners create a do-it-yourself, tailored system that’s not only convenient but effective, with 24/7 monitored protection for as little as $15 a month.

    TOM: You’ll find Iris at Lowe’s, Lowes.com and Amazon. The Iris Smart Hub retails for just 69.99 and the Security Starter Pack is just 99.99.

    LESLIE: Steve in Delaware needs some electrical help. What’s going on at your money pit?

    STEVE: I have an outlet that died on me. I changed the outlet but it still doesn’t work or the breakers. None of the breakers went and all the GFIs are all good. It just doesn’t work.

    TOM: So it’s just one outlet?

    STEVE: That’s correct.

    TOM: And you have no ground faults that tripped it and you have no breakers that tripped it. Do you know if the wiring is hot in the outlet?

    STEVE: Right. I put a tester on it and it says it’s not hot. Now, all of a sudden, it just died.

    TOM: Well, it says the outlet’s not hot but I wonder if the wiring feeding the outlet is hot. That’s my question. So, you – first of all, you probably shouldn’t be doing this repair, Steve, unless you’re very, very competent with electrical work, because it’s potentially dangerous. But if I were you and I was faced with this problem, what I would do is I would take the cover plate off of the electrical outlet, I would use one of my electrical testers that detects current – not the outlet but current – and I would stick it in there and see if I actually have hot wires. If I have hot wires, then I know I’ve got a bad outlet. And if that’s the case, we need to turn the power off completely, make absolutely, positively sure that the power is off and then switch out that outlet with a new one.

    STEVE: Well, I checked the wires when I went to switch the outlet out, because there was a crack on the outlet.

    TOM: OK.

    STEVE: I switched the outlet out and I checked the wires when I did that. And I’m not getting any electric to the wires.

    TOM: So, Steve, this is now beyond the scope of what I think you probably should be doing yourself, because outlets can be wired in series. And so, the actual failure can be somewhere else done the line. And I think you ought to turn to an electrician and have them investigate it and repair it, just to make sure it’s safe, OK?

    STEVE: Alright. Thank you very much.

    TOM: You’re welcome, Steve. Sometimes it’s a do-it-yourself project and sometimes it’s not.

    LESLIE: Hey, do you love your pet but not so much the messy stains they can leave behind? We’re going to help a listener tackle the pesky pet problem, next.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And 888-MONEY-PIT is presented by HomeAdvisor. Do you need new flooring in your kitchen or your bath? HomeAdvisor will instantly match you with the right pro for the job, for free.

    LESLIE: Hey, have you ever noticed that things you cook in the microwave never seem to come out exactly as you plan them?

    TOM: Oh, like popcorn?

    LESLIE: Well, the reason might be – is it two minutes? Is it 30 seconds?

    TOM: I don’t know.

    LESLIE: Is it five minutes? Which one?

    TOM: You get a lot of the uncooked kernels at the end and I always feel like it’s such a waste.

    LESLIE: I know. Don’t repop them. The other thing I always find interesting is I cook bacon in the microwave. I’ll put it on sheets of paper towel. And that’s a way to sort of – it absorbs all the fat and they’re not so greasy. The first batch is always 2 minutes 30 seconds. The next batch is 2 minutes 30 seconds, plus another 2 minutes, plus 3 minutes. I’m like what is the difference? Well, exactly. It’s watt. It’s the wattage. That could be the blame.

    Now, most recipes are developed for microwaves that have a wattage of about 800 to 1,200. The higher the wattage, the faster things will cook. So if your microwave is super powerful, it’s going to cook your food significantly faster.

    TOM: Now, of course, you’re wondering, “Well, how do I know what I’ve got?” Well, you can look for your microwave’s wattage on the outside or inside of the door or check the back tag, which is near where the cord connects to the machine. The wattage is almost always listed right there. And once you know what you’ve got, you can start making adjustments as you tackle those new recipes.

    LESLIE: Alright, you guys. We love to answer all your questions. So post your question in the Community section, call us, whatever you like. But let’s jump into the posts right now.

    I’ve got one here from Frank in Kentucky and he writes: “I have hardwood floors with an area rug in my living room. A friend’s cat visited a few months back and I’m just realizing it wet on the rug. There’s a blackish stain on the wood. Can I remove that without stripping the floors?”

    TOM: I’ll tell you what, if it’s a few months old, it’s tough.

    LESLIE: Gosh, I’m telling you if you’ve got a blackish stain, yeah.

    TOM: Yeah. You know, there’s a lot of salts and other chemicals in the pet’s droppings, so to speak, and it does tend to really get very dark and nasty marks on the floor.

    Now, there are a couple of things that you can try, Frank, one of which is hydrogen peroxide. But we’re not talking about the kind you buy at the drugstore. You have to go to a beauty-supply store for this and get the really strong hydrogen peroxide. It’s about 40 percent in terms of the strength.

    What you can do is, obviously, pull the rug away, block off the area that surrounds it and try to apply the hydrogen peroxide right over the stain and then watch it. You may have to do it over a number of days, because it will start to bleach out the floor in that area. But sometimes it works too strongly and instead of having a black stain, you end up with a white stain. So you’ve got to kind of watch it.

    Now, if all else fails, what you can also do is simply refinish the floor but we’d like to try to prevent you from having to do that or stop you from having to do that. So you can try the hydrogen peroxide first. You might even want to mask off the area that’s around the stain, just to kind of keep that hydrogen peroxide from getting beyond the stain itself. Try to keep it right to the area that’s damaged. And again, as I said, in the worst case you’re going to have to sand and refinish it.

    LESLIE: Yeah, seriously. Invite the friend minus the pet. And you know what? Get a new area rug because something about cat pee just is awful, I’m telling you. That’s why you never have a cat in my family. But my sisters love them. But truly, get a new area rug. Your floor is going to be back to normal. And no cats allowed in your home from now on.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. If you’ve got questions that remain, you’re welcome to post them to The Money Pit’s Community section at MoneyPit.com where we love to jump in and answer these questions. And you also might get some answers from your fellow listener experts that are out there. So that’s online at MoneyPit.com. And of course, you can always call us 24/7, as well, 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.


    (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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