Get Ready for the First Fire of the Season #1031161

  • Fireplace with birch firewood and flame.
  • Transcript


    Hosts: Tom Kraeutler & Leslie Segrete

    (NOTE: Timestamps below correspond to the running time of the downloadable audio file of this show. Text represents a professional transcriptionist’s understanding of what was said. No guarantee of accuracy is expressed or implied. ‘Ph’ in parentheses indicates the phonetic or best guess of the actual spoken word.)


    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: Here to help you with your home improvement questions. We want to solve those do-it-yourself dilemmas. If it’s a project you’d like to get done, you’ve got the source right here to help you take that first step. Just pick up the phone and help yourself, first, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    As you look around your home, what is the one project you’d like to tackle before it starts to get super chilly? Have you gotten a heating bill yet? Maybe that’s an early warning shot across the bow that you want to step up your insulation and your weather-stripping and your windows and your doors. We can talk about that. Whatever is on your to-do list, slide it right over to ours and pick up the phone and call us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Well, as the weather turns chilly, it might be time, soon enough, to light your fireplace for the first time. We’re going to have, this hour, the how-to that you need to know to make sure your chimney, your damper and your firebox are safe and good to go.

    LESLIE: And has your electric bill ever given you a sticker shock? Well, figuring out how to reverse that trend starts with a solid understanding of where all that power is going. We’re going to have the tips to do just that, in a bit.

    TOM: Plus, flooring is a very popular inside project this time of year. We’ve got advice on the best weather-resistant options on laminate.

    LESLIE: Plus, this hour, we will shed some light around your home because we’re giving away the brand-new Mr. Beams. It’s the Home Safety and Security Lighting Bundle.

    Now, that includes the new Mr. Beams Ultra-Bright Ceiling Light. It’s battery-powered and can light large areas of your home – like closets and showers, sheds or pantries – for up to a full year.

    TOM: That’s amazing on a single battery. The total package is worth over 169 bucks so call us, right now, and we will shed some light on your home improvement project and maybe send you that Mr. Beams Home Safety and Security Lighting Bundle. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Let’s get to it.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: J.J. in Michigan is on the line with a paint question. What can we do for you?

    J.J.: My father passed away in January and now I have his house. He and my mother were smokers for 20 years inside the house. And well, my father had washed the paint, I guess, inside and I know he had attempted to paint the bathroom more than once but it seemed to always keep bubbling and peeling. And I didn’t know if between the smoke, the nicotine – I was wondering how I’m going to – I am trying to renovate the house now. And so I was wondering, what is the best approach? Some of the walls are plaster drywall and maybe even right on concrete. I don’t know if the plaster’s over the concrete or not.

    TOM: So you really have two issues going on here. You have the issue of the cigarette odor in the house but then you also manage – you have some problem paint surfaces where it’s bubbling. I can tell you that if it’s bubbling, you’ve got to take that paint off down to the substrate, because you can’t put good paint over bad paint. But if it’s the odor that you’re dealing with, there are a bunch of things that you can do.

    LESLIE: Yeah. You know, first of all, J.J., let me say I’m very sorry about your father’s passing away. Let’s talk about what’s going on in the house, though.

    So you want to do some repairs, you want to try to get rid of the smoky smell. I think, first of all, you want to think about the places where the odor is. And if there’s any carpeting, you want to try to pull up that carpeting and the padding, because it really does saturate through that. And then the subfloor, you can go ahead and prime and I’d use a good – like a KILZ or a B-I-N or one of those Zinsser primers that will really seal in the odor. And then you can go ahead and refloor on top of that or new carpeting, whatever you like. But that’ll lock away the odors in there.

    And same for the walls. You want to clean them, wipe them down with a trisodium phosphate, some sort of a wall cleaner. And then go ahead and prime them the same way and then put a topcoat over them. And Tom is right about the bubbling paint: you’ve got to get as much of that off as you can, smooth all the surfaces and then go ahead and prime, as well. And that’ll do a good job.

    J.J.: OK. So you’re saying that a trisodium-phosphate wall cleaner would be …

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. You’ll find that in the paint aisle at the home center. It’s a powder. You mix it up with water. And then you can use that to wipe down your wall surfaces. It’s just a good prepping agent, especially if there’s a lot of stuff going on, you want to clean things.

    J.J.: OK. That sounds like the missing link that I was not aware of.

    TOM: Alright. Well, we’re glad we could help you, J.J. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Annalisa in North Carolina is on the line with a sprinkler question. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.

    ANNALISA: I have a front-yard sprinkler system. However, the heads and lines have been buried from years of, I guess, people just mowing and mulching. There’s a bunch of deciduous trees. And I have no idea how to find my sprinkler heads, short of tearing up the front yard.

    TOM: Well, you won’t have to tear up the front yard but I think this is the kind of thing that I might suggest you use a sprinkler pro for. Because they’re pretty good at finding those heads, because they very often get sort of grown over. And I would be shocked – shocked – if you didn’t have repairs after not using it for all those years. So I would tell you to use a sprinkler company for this. But it’s not the kind of thing that would require you to tear up your yard to find.

    You can sort of follow the lines out and get a general sense as to where they’re going and then put the sprinklers on and kind of watch. Even if they don’t come through, you’ll see where they’re trying to come through in terms of a little puddle. And then, a little bit of digging later – careful digging because you don’t want to break the line – you’ll find that head and determine whether or not it needs to be repaired. But if it has not been run for all that time, I think you’re going to need some professional help, just kind of get it back in shape, OK?

    ANNALISA: Got it. Thank you so much.

    TOM: You’re welcome. Good luck with that project, Annalisa. 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

    It’s November, guys. Have you started practicing cooking your turkeys just yet? I know I am. It’s my favorite, favorite …

    TOM: Do you actually practice cooking the turkey?

    LESLIE: Well, I make several turkeys leading up to Thanksgiving because I really like it.

    TOM: I see, I see. Yeah.

    LESLIE: And then I don’t get to enjoy it on Thanksgiving. So, you guys, what are you working on? Getting your home ready for the big turkey day and all the holidays that follow thereafter? We’re here to give you a hand, so give us a call, 888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974

    Up next, are you looking forward to that first crackling fire? Well, hold that match until you’re sure your fireplace and chimney are safe and secure. We’ll tell you what you need to know, after this.

    FEMALE ANNOUNCER: Date night is a big night for us. Just me, my husband, some candles and time alone, finally. And Sean added his own flair: he installed a Caseta Smart Lighting System by Lutron. He makes a big deal out of taking out his phone and the lights come down low. Very romantic. I think I married the right guy.

    MALE ANNOUNCER: Caseta by Lutron. Simple to use, simple to set up. Learn how you can win a $5,000 smart-home upgrade, at No purchase necessary. Ends 12/15/16.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by, the smarter way to a designer kitchen. Submit your measurements at and receive a free custom kitchen-cabinet design. That’s

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. You’ll get the answer to your home improvement question. Plus, this hour, we’re giving away the Home Safety and Security Lighting Bundle by Mr. Beams. And it includes the brand-new Mr. Beams Ultra-Bright Ceiling Light.

    This is very handy. If you need to light areas that – say, like a garage or a closet or a shower or a shed and you don’t want to run wiring to it, you don’t have to because this light is battery-powered. In fact, each set of alkaline batteries provides about 1 year worth of light with an average use of 8 to 10 activations a day. And remember, it’s wireless, so you can pretty much put it anywhere you need the light. Inside, outside, you’re good to go.

    It’s got a diffuser that spreads the light out for a coverage area of 300 square feet. And it’s worth 29.99 but the bundle includes several Mr. Beams products for a total value of 169 bucks. You can learn more at or pick up the phone, right now, and call us for the answer to your home improvement question and your chance to win that lighting bundle at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Greg in Texas is looking to do some construction. How can we help you?

    GREG: Moved in with my parents who are elderly and kind of needing some help.

    TOM: OK.

    GREG: And so they had a three-bedroom, one-bath house. And so it’s just a little bit kind of crowded. And what I was trying to figure out is would it be better to add a room on to the back of the house and go ahead – that would involve more construction and adding a bathroom, which would mean having to redo the septic system. We’re on a septic system, man. Or it’d be a lot more cost-effective, I think, to put in a 12×16 storage unit in the back and – but then insulate it and put an air conditioner where if I wanted to spend some time out there, I could, but not necessarily put a bathroom in.

    TOM: So are you talking about building this storage unit? You mean like building a shed? Kind of like a man cave?

    GREG: Right. Yeah. When it comes time to sell, though, what would be the more – the better deal to do, you think?

    TOM: Yeah. I would tell you straight off you’re better off expanding the house, now, because that’s where your value is. You’re not going to get as much value from a standalone building like that. Plus, you may run up against some zoning issues. You’re talking about – you know, it’s like building a second house on the property, even if it’s really small. Doesn’t matter if it’s on a small space for storage. It’s still like having a second building on the property, so I think you’ll probably be better off improving the house itself.

    What you might want to do is speak to a realtor or two, a local real estate agent, and determine what the value of your home would be compared against. In your community, if most of the homes are two-bath and you have one bath, you could add a significant value to the house by putting that second bath in. And if you’re adding a bedroom and a bathroom, that’s how homes are valued. They’re compared against other houses that have the same number of beds or bathrooms.

    So I suspect that expanding the existing house is going to be – give you a far better return on investment than building an undetermined, at this point, sort of man cave out there. Even though I’m sure you’d love to go out there and get away from your parents once in a while, I don’t blame you. I think the best way to improve the value and maintain the value of the home you have is to work at that level, OK?

    GREG: Yeah. OK. Well, I appreciate it.

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

    LESLIE: Lee in Kansas on the line with a concrete question. Tell us what you are working on.

    LEE: I’m in an old house that I got in a survivorship and it’s got an old – probably was built in the 60s. I’m in the prairie of Kansas. It has an entryway concrete porch that just keeps cracking and cracking due to earthquakes. We had a pretty good one a week or so ago and now it’s really unlevel. Some of the cracks are small enough that I could fill and aren’t unlevel. And I was just wondering – because I don’t live near a Lowes or a Home Depot or anything like that. I think it’s like an hour-and-a-half drive away. There’s a local hardware store about 10 miles.

    Can you fill small cracks with QUIKRETE or do you need concrete or Sakrete? I don’t know what the differences are.

    TOM: OK. So, first of all, the type of repair material you use is different than the type of material you would use if you were, say, pouring a new concrete slab. And you mentioned QUIKRETE. That’s a great brand and they have a wide variety of repair products. You have the option to repair the cracks. You could also resurface that concrete. There’s a product for that. And in all cases, the difference between that type of a product – a repair product and the original sort of concrete product – is that the repair products are designed to adhere to the original concrete base. If anything is loose, of course, you’d have to pop that out and restore it.

    But short of that, they are plenty of concrete-repair products that are out there and you’re going to obviously have to get yourself to a hardware store or lumberyard to find it. You could do some research online at their website. But you want to make sure you choose a repair product, because it is designed specifically to adhere to those surfaces.

    LEE: OK. Thank you so much. Alright.

    TOM: Good luck.

    Well, fireplaces and chimneys have a big job to do and making sure they’re up for it is the key to your family’s safety. And the best thing to do is to have a seasonal inspection done once a year, that checks to make sure that the smoke and the fire and the embers and the ashes all stay where they’re supposed to be and don’t burn your house down.

    Now, there’s a bunch of stuff that you have to do with that. It has to be done by a pro. And it starts with checking for creosote.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Your chimney should be checked for creosote at least once a year or after about 80 fires. So now, you can head over to the website for the Chimney Safety Institute of America and find a certified chimney sweep there.

    TOM: Now, even if you got the inspection done and it’s good to go, there’s a couple other things you need to keep in mind to make sure it operates safely. First of all, whatever is in front of the fireplace, it’s important to make sure it’s not flammable. So, for example, a non-flammable rug would be a good thing to have in front of the fireplace, because those loose sparks will jump out and they could be damaging your floors or they could start a fire on their own.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And if you don’t already have them, you should have chimney caps. Get them installed. That’s going to keep wildlife from using your chimney as a passageway into your home.

    TOM: Also, make sure you keep an eye on that firebox. That’s the area where the logs burn. It needs to be cleaned at least once a week during the months that you use your fireplace. And always leave about an inch of ash there. It acts as insulation.

    And remember, when you take ashes out of your fireplace, you need to put them in a metal container, you need to make sure they’re out and you need to store it out of your house, not in your house anywhere near anything that can burn. You’ve got to get those out of the house to make sure they don’t reignite and cause a big problem.

    And finally, if you have the chimney inspection done and the chimney sweep does recommend any expensive repairs, get a second opinion. Because I found, from time to time, that the guys that are in that business, well, they’re not always the best in terms of giving independent expert advice. So we want to make sure you’re getting just that so you do the right thing to keep yourself and your wallet safe and secure.

    888-666-3974. Let’s get back to those phones.

    Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: Mike in Rhode Island is on the line with water in the basement. What is going on?

    MIKE: Well, it’s not water but it sweats is what I’m told. And I own a two-story apartment and I’ve come to find out that it was built on a swamp. And after doing my research – or not my research. My son has done most of the research; he’s a geek on the internet. And I have COPD and I was referred to a couple of plumbers. And then I got a referral from this – I mean I got a couple of quotes from a couple of plumbers. And then I got a quote from a company called Pioneer Basements, who said they could solve the problem with a dehumidifier. Have you ever heard of them?

    TOM: Alright. So, let me stop you right there, Mike. So, the moisture that you’re reporting in the basement is not likely sourcing from anything underground. This is a very common question we get on this show. In fact, if you go to, one of our most read articles is right there. It’s about solving damp and leaky basements. And waterproofers don’t have the market cornered on this.

    Generally, the reason you have dampness and leaking and condensation in the basement is because the grading and the drainage at the foundation perimeter is off. And by that, I mean the downspouts are blocked, they’re not discharging far enough away from the house or the soil is flat or the soil slopes into the house. So, the place you want to look for the solution here is not necessarily inside the house but outside.

    After you get all of that done, certainly, if you wanted to add a dehumidifier to that space to kind of finish it off, that’s fine. But you need to stop by cutting back on the sources of the water, which will be outside. And it could be as simple as a downspout that’s blocked or just discharging water right near the corner of the foundation. We see that all the time. And it’s an easy fix to get them extended and you’ll be amazed at the immediate result of a far, far, far drier basement.

    MIKE: Hey, do you know I listen to you guys every weekend? I’ve got an old house. When I get a problem, I say, “Oh good. Yeah.” When you say from sticky windows, I said, “Knock the window down instead of up.” And damn it, it worked.

    TOM: How about that, huh? I’m so glad to hear that.

    MIKE: You guys are extremely helpful. Thank you very, very much.

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

    LESLIE: Cindy in Illinois is on the line with a basement question. What’s going on?

    CINDY: I lived in my home for over 40 years and had no trouble with water in the basement. And then, about 3 years ago, we had a terrible drought here and it seems like ever since then, if we get a hard rain, I end up with water coming up through the floor of the basement.

    TOM: So, the reason you’re getting water that comes up through the floor of the basement in a hard rain is because there’s some defect in your drainage conditions outside the house. So, you need to start by looking at the roof and making sure your gutter system is clean and making sure the downspouts are extended away from the house. It should be out 3 or 4 feet.

    If that’s all in good shape, then I would take a look at the angle of the dirt around the house, the grade. If it’s really flat or if there’s an area where it’s tilting in or you’re getting neighboring water from runoff from a different lot or something of that nature, you’ve got to regrade to keep the water away from the house.

    The only way it’s getting down there is it’s coming from the top and pushing under. It’s not a rising water table, because that takes months to happen. If it’s reactive to the rain, then it’s a problem with drainage, Cindy. So you need to look carefully in that area and I’m certain you’ll find the cause of it and be able to stop it.

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

    LESLIE: Hey, are you wondering where all of your electrical dollars are going? Well, we’ll tell you how to find out, after this.

    KEVIN: This is Kevin O’Connor from TV’s This Old House, the longest-running home improvement show. And I want to send out a big congrats to Tom and Leslie for the most downloaded home improvement podcast on iTunes. Well done, guys.

    FEMALE ANNOUNCER: Date night is a big night for us. Just me, my husband, some candles and time alone, finally. And Sean added his own flair: he installed a Caseta Smart Lighting System by Lutron. He makes a big deal out of taking out his phone and the lights come down low. Very romantic. I think I married the right guy.

    MALE ANNOUNCER: Caseta by Lutron. Simple to use, simple to set up. Learn how you can win a $5,000 smart-home upgrade, at No purchase necessary. Ends 12/15/16.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: Today’s Money Pit is presented by Mr. Beams. Lighting solutions that can be installed in five minutes. No wires, no electrician, no kidding. Find Mr. Beams lights at major retailers and learn more at

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Hey, here’s a quick way to check for drafts around your house: close your windows and run the back of your hand along the edge of the windows all the way up one side, down the other and in between. If you feel those drafts, think about the options for sealing them up. It could include caulking the windows from the inside or the outside, it could include weather-stripping or it could include an application of temporary weather-stripping, which looks like a caulk and can be easily peeled off in the spring.

    LESLIE: Murray in Illinois is on the line and he needs some advice on buying a new water heater. What can we help you with?

    MURRAY: Well, my issue is I have a house full of females and myself and we are having an issue with keeping up with hot water.


    MURRAY: I presently have a 40-gallon, natural-gas water heater and I was wondering if I could get you guys’ opinion. The bathroom they shower in is upstairs and we also have a washing machine up there.

    And I was wondering what you guys thought of the instantaneous water heaters. I’ve seen some small ones that it said would put out 3.3 gallons per minute and I had no idea what an actual shower takes. And I just wondered what you guys thought about that supplement, maybe, to the hot-water heater.

    TOM: OK. So, first of all, we are fans of tankless water-heating technology. And so, we do believe that if your water heater was failing, then that would be an appropriate thing to replace it with.

    In your case, you’re talking about supplementing, which is a bit different because you really have to have your water-heating needs zoned into two separate loops if you want to supplement. Because then you have half on the tank water heater and half on the tankless.

    The issue of your water heater being located a distance from the plumbing fixtures that you want to use most frequently is not going to be solved, regardless of what kind of water heater you have, because the water still has to travel the same distance. But if you’re concerned about running out of hot water, that’s not going to happen with a tankless; it just won’t. And you buy the tankless based on how many bathrooms you have in your house and there’ll be plenty of hot water to keep everybody in those bathrooms showered for as long as they want to stay in there.

    MURRAY: So you’re saying just – it’s best just to replace the natural-gas one I have and get a whole-house tankless?

    TOM: Yeah, exactly. How old is that one you have now?

    MURRAY: It’s probably, I’m guessing, five or six years, maybe.

    TOM: Yeah. So it’s still pretty new. I mean they usually last about 10. So you’ve got a decision to make, you know? If you’re running out of hot water, then maybe it’s worth doing.

    MURRAY: OK. I appreciate your help very much. Thank you.

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

    LESLIE: Is your electrical bill giving you sticker shock? Well, figuring out how to reverse that trend starts with a solid understanding of where all that power is going.

    TOM: That’s right. And a good portion of that juice might be going to places you’re not even aware of. So how do you find out where those electrical dollars are actually going? Scott Caron from TV’s This Old House is here to tell us. He’s the electrical contractor on the program.

    Welcome, Scott.

    SCOTT: Hey, Tom. Hi, Leslie. Good to be back.

    TOM: So, these electric bills can add up quickly and when that happens, it’s almost always a big surprise, right?

    SCOTT: It certainly is. Boy, do I not look forward to getting that electric bill. But a lot of it is easily correctable if you know where it’s coming from.

    LESLIE: Alright. So we’ve narrowed this down to five areas to check. So, where do we begin?

    SCOTT: Those vampire devices: basically, any of those devices that have that black or white square that plugs into the outlet. It’s a transformer.

    TOM: OK.

    SCOTT: Even if the device is off, it is still using electricity.

    TOM: So what’s the solution? You can’t plug it into the wall. What do you do? Use maybe a power strip with a shut-off switch on it or something?

    SCOTT: Yeah, that’s good. Certainly, you can unplug it if you remember to. But that’s asking the impossible. They have plug strips that are somewhat intelligent, that if it’s not being used for a certain amount of time, meaning it’s not drawing enough electricity to keep that power strip on, it will shut it off and basically eliminate all that vampire electricity being used.

    TOM: And I guess if you think about all the small electronics in our house, that can really add up.

    Let’s talk about some of the big electronics. How about the energy hogs out there, like appliances and things like that?

    SCOTT: Yeah. What a great terminology. Well, certainly, the dishwashers and the clothes washers and if you have an electric dryer, that’s a big one. The water heater. People don’t see the water heater, so they forget about it. But if you’re heating up that 40 gallons of water all the time, that’s a lot of electricity.

    So, I’ve got a small solution for you. Run everything at full capacity. Wait a few minutes. If you have a half a load of dishes, wait. Wait overnight. Wait two nights. Just get it once so that you’re really efficient. Same thing with the clothes dryer.

    TOM: And I guess setting some of those appliances to run when perhaps electricity costs are lower – a lot of times you have different electricity rates at night than during the day – can be a smart approach, too.

    SCOTT: Absolutely. A lot of electrical companies at night, when their power-producing costs are lower for the user and for them to make it, is when they give you the best rates.

    TOM: Now, I guess the way you use your lighting inside your house can also have an impact. We tend to want to light the entire room but if we were to be a little more strategic with our lighting and just light the areas that we need, we can actually make an effort on cutting back on costs, too, correct?

    SCOTT: Now, wait a minute, Tom. That’s where I draw the line. I love light and I want it on in every room when I come into that room. However, you are right. It’s expensive. LED lighting has certainly made it better so that we can leave the lights on longer. And dimmers are good. You can lower the light even more. But you’ve got to shut it off when you’re not using it. That’s the best thing.

    TOM: Now, I recently saw a smart ceiling fan. That’s another source of electricity that’s run on, essentially, an occupancy sensor.

    SCOTT: That’s fantastic. If you have the ability to say that a room is occupied, leave the lights on. But as soon as someone leaves or within minutes after they leave to shut that off, there’s no better thing. Now, they don’t work really well in hallways because of your staircases. You want those illuminated. It’s a safety thing. But certainly, in a bedroom or a bathroom they’re fantastic.

    TOM: So those occupancy sensors are not going to work for both appliances, like ceiling fans and lights.

    SCOTT: That’s right.

    TOM: Now, if we do have old appliances, it’s always a good idea to go as efficient as possible when it comes time to replace them, right?

    SCOTT: Yeah. I mean old appliances, they do work. They have less technology in them. You know, the old washing machine with a turn dial has less technology than something with a computer on board. But they do work. It’s always a good idea, though, to get something that’s ENERGY STAR-compliant. They’ve really – it’s a good organization and they’ve really drilled it down to some of the best things that will save electricity.

    TOM: I always think of ENERGY STAR as a government program that works. Fairly rare but it works really, really well. And they have manufacturers that compete against each other to make sure all of their appliances are as efficient as possible.

    SCOTT: Yeah. When you’re buying appliances, there’s really no reason to go outside their parameters. They’re watching it and they know what’s best. In the end, we’re all about saving electricity. It’s less power being produced and it saves the grid, saves everything.

    TOM: We’re talking to Scott Caron. He’s the electrician on TV’s This Old House.

    So, Scott, aren’t there ways to measure exactly where electricity use is highest?

    SCOTT: There is. So, in my home, I have a watt meter that goes – ties into the electrical panel. Very simple, little device that goes up on the first floor in the kitchen. And what happens when you turn the lights on, you can see how much electricity that you’re using. It’s not that complicated. It’s not that you have to get an engineering degree to read this thing. If you have 1,000 watts of lights on, it shows you that. And then once you shut the switch off, it shuts them off. It tells you how much it costs, too, per minute.

    TOM: Knowledge is power. Scott Caron, the electrical contractor on TV’s This Old House, great advice. Thank you so much for being a part of The Money Pit.

    SCOTT: Good to be here.

    TOM: And This Old House and Ask This Old House are brought to you on PBS by The Home Depot. More saving, more doing.

    Just ahead, if you’re planning a flooring project this fall, one of the most important considerations is water resistance. We’ll tell you what kinds of floors are best for damp versus dry areas, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. You will get the answer to your home improvement question. Plus, this hour, we’re giving away the Home and Safety Security Lighting Bundle by Mr. Beams.

    Now, that’s going to include the Mr. Beams Ultra-Bright Ceiling Light. It’s got a way super-duper bright light that’s 300 lumens, so you can really light up large areas. And it’s wonderful because you can use it for your shed, your pantries, anything. It’s battery-powered, so all you have to do is put in a pair of batteries and you’ll get a year’s worth of light. Features a unique diffuser and that’s going to spread the light to give you a super-wide coverage area of about 300 square feet.

    You can check out the Ultra-Bright Ceiling Light, which is worth 29 bucks, at But the whole package is worth $169. Check it out now or give us a call for your chance to win.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Well, if you’re planning a flooring project this fall, one of the most important considerations is water resistance. Some floors do better in damp locations than others and only a very select number of floors should even be considered where things like spills and splashes and even the occasional flood could occur.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Carpets, it’s a fine choice for first floors and above but for basements, it’s really not a good idea. Your basements are damp and when combined with all of that organic nature of carpeting and padding, that can create the perfect breeding ground for mold and dust mites and a ton of other allergens.

    TOM: Good point. And likewise, while solid hardwood is a beautiful choice for almost any room, if you use it in a room that can get wet, you are asking for trouble. Hardwood can swell when it’s saturated and it doesn’t go back to its original shape when it dries, meaning you’ll be looking at a pretty expensive replacement project.

    LESLIE: Now, one great choice for almost any location is laminate and especially the new water-resistant laminates like the new Pergo Outlast+ with SpillProtect24, which you’re going to find at The Home Depot for $2.79 a square foot. This is a water-resistant laminate flooring and it can protect against spills that you might miss, for up to 24 hours. Now, that makes it a perfect choice for any active household.

    TOM: And here’s one important installation tip that can improve the water resistance. The Pergo floor uses a unique locking joint called a Uniclic joint, which seals out those spills for up to 24 hours. But to make sure the water can’t seep around the perimeter of the floor, it’s always recommended that the perimeter be caulked once the installation is complete. And there you’ll have it: a very water-resistant floor.

    888-666-3974. We’d love to hear about your flooring projects or your roofing projects or pretty much anything in between. Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Olin (sp) is on the line with a wainscoting question. How can we help you today?

    OLIN (sp): Yes. I was wanting to do some wainscoting in my living room. And I’d seen some people do it with pallets, actually taking the pieces off and using the slats for the wainscoting. And I know they do treat them with some chemicals and stuff. And as long as I run it through a planer and everything, would that pretty much treat it, as long as its sealed up with polyurethane and all that to keep it from being toxic from – for the children and stuff?

    TOM: Well, I can’t really answer that question because I’m not sure how they treat the pallets. And frankly, I’ve torn a lot of pallets apart in my day, as things have been delivered, and I never really had a concern about treatment and never actually can recall smelling an odor from the treatment.

    OLIN (sp): Well, I never would have thought about it but I looked at some pallet ideas online and I saw where some people had done wood floors with them and the wainscoting and it just – it looks stunning, really. It was totally different-looking from what you’d think a pallet would usually be, you know. And so that’s what gave me the idea and I thought, “Well, that would be a cheap idea to use.”

    TOM: Yeah. And hey, it’s an upcycling, too, Leslie. I mean you’re taking something and reusing it in a new and creative way. Better than sending it to ground to a dump.

    OLIN (sp): Yes.

    TOM: Well, I wouldn’t be, personally, too concerned about treatment, because I’m not sure that they are treated. But I would say that if you detect any odors and you think that they’re treated, then by virtue of the fact that you’re going to seal them will probably minimize that.

    So I – for me, I don’t think it would be a concern.

    OLIN (sp): OK. Well, that sounds good then. I appreciate it, guys.

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

    LESLIE: Are you looking for ways to save money on heating this season but you’re a renter? Well, we’ve got some cost-effective solutions, coming right up.

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    ANNOUNCER 2: Caseta by Lutron. Simple to use, simple to set up. Learn how you can win a $5,000 smart-home upgrade, at No purchase necessary. Ends 12/15/16.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Well, once it turns cold, lots of us start to think about how we might save on heating costs. Now, replacing windows, always a good idea but what if you can’t afford that or maybe you live in an apartment? You’ve got options.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Well, one of the best solutions is also one of the simplest. It’s cellular shades. Now, these are the window shades that kind of look like honeycombs, you know what I’m saying? They’re little pockets. And as it gets colder, those little pocketed shades will help insulate your home by trapping that frosty air at the window.

    Now, you can choose between a single, double or triple cell. That’s the number of pockets that are sort of layered next to one another. And that’ll let you pick the right level of insulation for you. And in the summer, those same shades can cut back on the heat in your home by almost half.

    TOM: Make a huge difference. And you can combine the cellular shades with drapes or curtains for even a stronger barrier against those drafts. And remember, the warm suns shines in from the south and the west, so when it comes to adding layers, the windows facing north and east should be your first priority. This way you can tackle those windows almost one at a time, in terms of the ones that are going to give you the best comfort and reduce the energy bills the most. And then work your way around the rest of the room as the budget and the time allow.

    LESLIE: Alright. And while you’re online, post your question, just like Ronnie did from New York City who writes: “My home is 50 years old. Central air and heating were installed 15 years ago, which included 5 vents in the basement. An energy-conservation expert suggested sealing off those basement vents since we don’t use it as living space. But an HVAC expert says closing the vents is going to build pressure and strain the HVAC system. I want to save money each month but not if it will cost me in the long run. What’s the right move?”

    TOM: So, I think that both conservation expert and the HVAC technician have good points here and it really comes down to how the system is designed. If it turns out that your blower is so strong that we think it’s going to be strained by the closing off of those vents though, Ronnie, one thing that you can do is the blowers actually have multiple speeds. It might be that you could adjust the speed on the blower – the tech could do this, not you because it’s a wiring change – and run that blower at a slower speed. And this way, you may kind of be able to have your cake and eat it, too.

    But if you are going to seal them off, it’s not just a matter of closing them. I would actually take the old supplies out and cover or repair the holes in the ducts so you really have a solid connection there. Otherwise, you’re just going to have turbulence and leakage and that’s not going to get you where you want to go.

    Alright. Up next, we’ve got a question here from Megan about kitchen cabinets. And Megan says, “I have oak kitchen cabinets that are in good shape but rather them be painted white. Can you paint oak cabinets? I’ve been told that the grain from the oak always bleeds through.”

    Leslie, you’ve done a lot of kitchen-cabinet painting haven’t you over the years? Have you ever run across that problem?

    LESLIE: I have. Now, oak cabinets have a very deep, very intense grain. So, I actually have a friend who is an amazing cabinet refinisher. He uses a spray technique that really is almost like a laminate spray or a lacquered spray, I should say, on top of the cabinet that creates a very solid painted surface.

    However, sometimes with the oak, you’re still going to see the grain through, even though that paint is so thickly put on in that lacquered sort of phase. So what he does sometimes – and it depends – I don’t mind the look of the grain sticking through but a lot of people that are trying to get away from that with the oak and that’s why they’re going for – towards that painted finish. He will fill in that grain very smoothly to give it a smooth appearance.

    Now, it does take time and you can do it as a do-it-yourselfer. It just does take the effort to prep the cabinets, fill in all of the graining, sand it down to a smooth surface and then apply the painted finish. Or you can bring in a cabinet refinisher who will take the doors and drawer fronts away, spray those off-site and then do the boxes at home. Totally up to you. Both are great, amazing finished products. It just depends on how much you love or hate, I should say, the grain.

    TOM: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at Hey, thank you so much for spending this hour with us. If you’ve got questions about your home improvement projects as the days tick by, you can reach us, 24/7, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or you can always post your questions to The Money Pit’s website at


    Happy home improving. 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.

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    (Copyright 2016 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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