Fantastic Fence Tips to Frame Your Yard – #0731171

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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 we are here so happy to be here to help you tackle your next home improvement project. Maybe it’s one to help you keep cooler at home, maybe it’s one to plan a project early for fall or maybe you’re just sitting around trying to figure out what you want to do when you get a few bucks together to fix up your house. Hey, whatever is on your to-do list – if it’s something that you know about, something you don’t know about, something that’s broken, something that you’re worried about being broken – whatever’s going on, we are here to help. The number is 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974 where the advice is always worth more than what you pay for it.

    Coming up on today’s show, whether you’re trying to keep pets and kids in or noise and traffic out, a fence around your yard can help. So we’re going to have some tips on how to build one that’ll do both and make your home more inviting in the process.

    LESLIE: Plus, if you’ve been thinking about replacing your windows, restoring your windows instead may be a less expensive option to breathe new life and a bit of energy efficiency into them. We’re going to review those options with you.

    TOM: And we’re going to have the how-to on a very fun garden project. We’re going to teach you how to build a raised landscaping wall that’s useful for creating a ring around a tree or a raised garden wall or anything of that nature to dress up the front of your home.

    LESLIE: And if you’re planning a flooring project, we have a fantastic giveaway going out to one lucky caller this hour. And that’s a $200 gift certificate to Lumber Liquidators.

    TOM: Yep. You can use it at any of their nationwide stores or online at Now, that’s going out to one person who posts their home improvement question to us at – just post it to the Community page – or calls us at 888-MONEY-PIT. And you can call or post anytime you hear this show. Everyone that posts or calls is eligible for the prize. The number again: 888-MONEY-PIT. Let’s get right to it.

    Leslie, who’s first?

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

    JIM: Yes. I have hard water in my house and every year, about, I have to clean out my water heater to get the calcium deposits out. So, my question is – first of all, is there a better tool than a shop vac with a piece of copper tubing taped to it to get into the – you know, I take the bottom element out and I shove that in there and try to clean that calcium out. Is there a way to liquefy that so that I could wash it out? Or is there a water heater on the market that provides access to that?

    TOM: So, how much calcium do you actually think you’re getting out of this when you open it up?

    JIM: Oh, my. It gets to the point where it’s almost to the bottom element.

    TOM: I wonder if you could put a filtration system in before the water heater that will take some of that away.


    Yeah, the problem with calcium is not so much that it shortens the life of the water heater, it just acts as an insulator. And so, if you have it – I’m sorry, you have a gas – you have an electric water heater?

    JIM: It’s electric, yeah.

    TOM: Yeah. So it’s probably not even affecting your efficiency much because it’s just taking up room.

    See, if you have a gas water heater and the flame is underneath it, then it acts as an insulator and the gas has to run longer to heat the water up. Because you have an electric water heater where the elements are embedded up higher in the unit, I don’t think it has any effect on the efficiency.

    JIM: Well, how I found out about this was the element went bad.

    TOM: Yeah.

    JIM: The bottom element. And I took it out to replace it and I could hardly get it out; it was actually above the element, at that point, the first time.

    TOM: Yeah. You know why? Because it probably – that might have shortened the life of the element, because it basically held the heat into it, didn’t allow it to cool like it normally does. So I could definitely see it shortening the life of it.

    Do you have any other type of filtration system on the well?

    JIM: Just an in-line filter that we put on. We had the water tested and an ultraviolet light and an in-line filter is all we have.

    TOM: There is an electronic device called EasyWater that basically will help suspend those water particles – those mineral salts – in the water and kind of let it flush right through, as opposed to collecting.

    JIM: OK.

    TOM: And I like it because it’s no salt involved. It basically doesn’t add to the salinity of the water. It does it electronically. It’s at

    Take a look at it. They also have an extraordinarily good warranty. If you install it and you don’t like it, they’ll send you your money back.

    JIM: Alright. Great. Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

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

    LESLIE: Judy in Missouri is on the line with a roofing question. How can we help you today?

    JUDY: Yes, I was wondering if you had ever heard of – had a roof repair a few years ago and it’s been leaking ever since. They used what they called Tam-Shield. It’s a synthetic underlayment.

    TOM: Yeah, mm-hmm.

    JUDY: And it’s plastic and they used that instead of felt paper.

    TOM: Yeah, right. It’s synthetic. And it’s actually an upgrade to standard, 15-pound felt paper. And it’s actually better than using standard felt paper under a roof.

    The reason that your roof is leaking now is probably not because of the Tam-Shield; it’s probably because of something that went wrong with the repair. But I don’t think it would have been the underlayment, because that’s actually pretty good stuff.

    How is it leaking, Judy? Tell me about the leak.

    JUDY: Well, we really don’t know. It comes through in our bathroom and we get up in the attic and we can see drips. But they can’t seem to pinpoint it. They worked on it several times and they just can’t get it to go away.

    TOM: Alright. Usually, if your roof is leaking above your bathroom – there’s a pipe that goes through the ceiling right there and up through the roof and it’s the plumbing-vent pipe. And right around that vent pipe, there’s like a rubber boot that seals that pipe between the pipe and the roof itself. And then there’s flashing that goes around that. That’s the most common place for a roof leak when you have it leak right above a bathroom.

    Now, a lot of times, contractors will try to sort of tar that in place but that’s a bad idea. What I would recommend is to take out the plumbing-vent flashing. And you can do that easily by removing a few shingles in that area.

    Roof shingles are actually pretty easy to disassemble if you know kind of a trick of the trade. I like to do it with a flat bar that you can slip up under the roof shingle, find the nail and sort of pry it from side to side and it’ll pop right out. And then you replace that plumbing-vent flashing and put it back together again and make sure you put everything in the right order so it – the roofing lays on top of the flashing. That usually stops that leak.

    JUDY: But you – but leave the vent pipes there?

    TOM: Oh, yeah. The vent pipe is there for an important reason. You’re going to start having problems flushing your toilet and all your sinks are going to start to gurgle if you take that out. But replace the plumbing-vent flashing there, OK?

    JUDY: OK. Well, thank you very much.

    TOM: You’re welcome, Judy. 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. You can call in your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week right here at 888-MONEY-PIT, presented by HomeAdvisor.

    TOM: And hey, we’ve got a really exciting, new sweepstakes to tell you about. It’s the Speed Queen Lovin’ My Laundry Sweepstakes just for Money Pit listeners, at Two grand-prize winners are going to receive each a set of Speed Queen washers and dryers, including delivery and hookup, worth up to two grand. But if you’re saying to yourself, “I’m not that lucky,” well, hey, you might be. Plus, you could win 1 of the 10 first-place prizes, each of which is a $200 Amazon gift card along with a few laundry supplies thrown in, as well, or 40 runner-up prizes. Each of those winners are going to get a $50 Amazon gift card. And I’ve got to tell you, these Speed Queen machines are awesome.

    LESLIE: Yeah, they really are. You know, in your home, you’re probably going to do something like 10,000 loads of laundry over 25 years. I mean that is a lot of laundry. And Speed Queen machines, they’re not your average machine. They’re going to last and last. They’ve got over 100 years of commercial reliability. They test these machines so extremely in the factory settings. And they really come with the industry-best warranties.

    You’ll be so thrilled with your Speed Queen laundry machines. They’re going to last two or three times longer than any other brand and that’s a big load off your mind. So not a load of laundry, a load of worry.

    TOM: Exactly. Hey, you can enter, right now, at That’s Lovin – L-o-v-i-n –

    Just ahead, are you thinking about adding a new fence? We’re going to have tips to get it done the easy way, 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 on The Money Pit listener line at 888-MONEY-PIT, presented by HomeAdvisor. You can find top-rated home improvement pros that you can trust for any home project. And if you’re a service pro looking to grow your business and connect with project-ready homeowners, you should also be checking out

    TOM: You’re going to get the answer to your home improvement question. Plus, this hour, if you call or post your question to The Money Pit’s Community section, you might just win a $200 gift certificate from our friends at Lumber Liquidators.

    Now, you can use this to choose from over 400 varieties of first-quality flooring, including prefinished hardwood, bamboo, laminate, vinyl plank and wood-look tile. Or you could use the gift card for finishing touches, like moldings and grills. And if you’re not a do-it-yourselfer, you can even use it for installation.

    You can redeem this at or at any one of Lumber Liquidators’ stores nationwide, 1-800-HARDWOOD.

    That’s going out to one caller drawn at random. Make that you. The number, again, here is 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now I’ve got Clyde in Oregon on the line who’s dealing with sparrows that are taking over. What’s going on at your money pit?

    CLYDE: Well, this happens to be my daughter and son-in-law’s cabin. And they came up and there were hundreds of sparrows nesting in the eaves.

    TOM: Oh, boy.

    CLYDE: And they blew them all out with water and stuff and they came right back.

    TOM: Huh. OK.

    CLYDE: They have sort of been told, I think, to put up netting but I want to get an owl there and have him eat them up.

    TOM: Well, that would be one fat owl, I think, with all those birds around. Well, a couple of things. Whenever you have perfect landing spots, like the eaves that you’re describing, it is rather difficult to stop the sparrows from doing what they like to do, which is nest. There are different types of bird spikes that are available that you basically can staple up and attach them to the spaces that are not very obvious. But it makes it impossible for them to get in and out of there and set these nests up.

    I don’t know if you’ve seen these but they look like pieces of wire that are sort of bent up at a 90-degree angle that kind of look very bushy. And when they’re sticking up there – you’ll see them on top of lots of building, especially commercial buildings. The birds can’t land there. And so I think something like that might be a better option than putting up the netting and perhaps a little more attractive.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And it’s usually sold by the foot. It’s like either sold in 3-foot pieces – I know I used it for an episode of Hotel Impossible in North Carolina that was just getting all these birds sort of sitting on the eaves in there and they were pooping all over the front doors. It was horrible. But it works.

    CLYDE: That’s nice and easy.

    TOM: If you go to a website called Bird-X – B-i-r-d-X – you’ll see a wide variety of products there, one of which is just simply called Bird Spikes and it’s just really simple. It’s not very expensive. And you can attach it in those spaces and that ought to keep them from coming back.

    CLYDE: That sounds great. I really appreciate it. And I’m probably the one that (audio gap) put it up.

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

    LESLIE: Well, whether you’re trying to keep pets and kids in or noise from traffic out, a fence around your yard can help. So here’s a few ideas to actually help you plan out this project.

    First of all, let’s plan ahead. Think about why you’re getting this fence, because the reason that you need the fence is going to change the materials, the placement, et cetera. So, first, let’s talk about it. Is it noise reduction? Do you have pets that you don’t want running out into the street? Do you want a fence because you want it to look pretty? There are different designs to meet those different needs, so let’s start thinking about that first.

    TOM: Then you also want to keep in mind your neighbors and local regulations. You need to know if the fence is going to meet zoning requirements and if building permits are required. So if there’s any doubt, make sure you check with the construction department of your municipality.

    You also want to maybe touch base with your neighbors just to avoid any bad blood. You know, setting out a fence, that’s kind of a dramatic mark. You’re kind of establishing your property lines and …

    LESLIE: It’s definitely making a statement.

    TOM: Yeah, it’s making a statement. Yeah, sure, all those lines are on paper but who ever looks at those surveys unless you’re doing a project like this? So, just let them know; it’s the nice thing to do.

    And remember, speaking of the nice things to do, in most cases your fences have to be installed good side out. So if you are using a fence like, say, a picket fence where the pickets look good from one side but on the backside you see the crossbeams, guess what? You need to look at those crossbeams from the inside of your yard. It’s required that you put the good side out because it’s the nice thing to do. Make sure you follow these steps, especially minding your property line. Because remember, you want to build the fence once, not over.

    888-666-3974. If you want to do a project once and not over, give us a call right now. We are here to help.

    LESLIE: Chris in Pennsylvania is having a problem with a dishwasher. What’s going on?

    CHRIS: Bought a new house and I’m a first-time homeowner. And my house was built in 1957. And so, I was wondering if I would have to hire separate people to work on the carpentry, the electric and the plumbing? Or is there somebody, like a regular contractor, that would put a dishwasher in?

    TOM: Do you have a space for a dishwasher right now, Chris? Or has one never been installed?

    CHRIS: One’s never been installed.

    TOM: OK. So you’ve got to figure out where you’re going to put this and it’s going to take away from some cabinet space.

    Now, typically, the dishwasher is next to the kitchen sink. And if you happen to have, say, a 24-inch cabinet next to your kitchen sink, that will be the perfect place to do that. But this is going to take a bit of work. You’re going to have to do carpentry and I think you’ll need a carpenter and probably a plumber to do this. And you may need an electrician, depending on whether or not the plumber could do the wiring for you or if there’s wiring right there you can pull from.

    Because what has to happen is you’d remove the cabinet to create that 24-inch space, then the dishwasher would slip in there. And it needs to be plumbed, so you need to have the supply line and the drain go basically through the side cabinet wall, where the sink is, and tap into the plumbing there. Then, of course, it needs to have electricity, so you’ll need to have an outlet installed. So it is a bit of a project, I’ll tell you that.

    LESLIE: Yeah. But if she were to hire somebody like a general contractor – who may have those subs in his arsenal, if you will, or at least access to those people – they would better supervise the entire project and sort of take all of that worry out of your hands.

    TOM: Or just a really good handyman. The trouble is that, theoretically, or at least technically speaking, you need a licensed plumber to do the plumbing work and you need a licensed electrician to do the electrical work.

    CHRIS: OK.

    TOM: Alright, Chris?

    CHRIS: Alright. I appreciate your advice.

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

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

    JEFF: I want to add some insulation into the attic of my old, old house that I just bought last year and I don’t know which way I should go with either the loose fill or the batt. I want to do it myself to save money but the loose fill – I’m kind of uncomfortable with all the weird conduits and outlet boxes and stuff that are up there in the attic. It’s a walk-up attic and we have a little bit of storage area up there. I don’t know if stapling the rolls up against the roof is – I don’t know what’s going to give me the best R-value and time value and money value, obviously, for …

    TOM: Alright. So first of all, let’s talk about where the insulation goes. This attic is unfinished, correct? It’s not a sleeping space, is it?

    JEFF: Yes. Correct.

    TOM: So the attic is not – the insulation, in this case, does not go up against the rafters? The attic – the insulation goes on the floor, what you would call the “floor of the attic” when you’re standing in it.

    JEFF: OK.

    TOM: Now, is there a wood floor across the entire attic surface now?

    JEFF: Not the entire attic, no.

    TOM: There’s not? So it’s open beams there, right? You can look down into the – see the ceiling below?

    JEFF: No. It’s got the rolls in between there. But like I said, we have a storage area, which is the center of it that has plywood down on top.

    TOM: OK. That’s actually perfect. So, here’s what I think you should do: I would buy unfaced fiberglass batts and just like the word says, unfaced means no paper face, no vapor-barrier face. It’s just plain, old fiberglass batts.

    Now, you lay these down perpendicular to the floor joist, so not parallel to but perpendicular. And you would lay these across the entire attic floor except for the area that you want to reserve for storage.

    So this is an easy way to kind of, say, double or more than double the amount of insulation that’s there but still saving that storage space. Because once you put this down, it’s actually going to be higher than the thickness of the floor joist and you can’t crush insulation. If you crush it, it doesn’t work. So that’s why it has to sit on top. So if you were to put like 10 or 12-inch batts down like that, you would have a dramatic increase in energy efficiency.

    JEFF: Woah. That’s not a bad idea. I like that. OK. Great. Thanks so much for your help.

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

    LESLIE: Are you thinking about replacement windows? Well, not so fast. You know, restoring your windows can help reclaim some improvement in energy efficiency. They can also preserve the charm of your old house and save you some money in the process. Tommy Silva from This Old House is here with tips, after this.

    JOE: Hi, this is Joe Namath. And if you want to move the ball on your home improvement projects, listen to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show.

    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: You know what’s surprising? The amount of water that a leaking toilet can waste. We’re talking thousands of gallons of water over the year. And the culprit is almost always the flush valve at the bottom of the tank. And it’s actually really easy to test that and it’s really easy to replace it.

    Now, if you want to test it …

    LESLIE: And super affordable.

    TOM: Very affordable, too. Yeah, it’s one of the least-expensive plumbing products I can think of. So to test it, all you need to do is place a few drops of food coloring in the toilet tank. Not the bowl. In the tank. Do this at night and then in the morning, check the bowl for dye. If any of that food coloring leaked into the bowl, the flush valve is leaking.

    Now, the good news is it costs only about five bucks and replacing it is definitely an easy do-it-yourself project.

    LESLIE: Well, while we all know that older homes are often built to last, they can actually be energy hogs, especially when it comes to old, drafty windows. So what’s the best way to deal with them?

    TOM: Well, replacing windows may be the most tempting option but it’s also possible to restore them and reclaim at least some improvement to the energy efficiency. Here to tell us just how to do that is a guy who knows a lot about restoring old homes: general contractor Tom Silva from TV’s This Old House.

    Welcome, Tom.

    TOM SILVA: Well, thank you. It’s nice to be here.

    TOM: And Tommy, the old windows may be drafty but they sure do look great. Any tips on how to restore them so the energy bills don’t totally break the bank?

    TOM SILVA: Well, you’re right. They do look beautiful and I love old windows but there’s a lot of advantages and disadvantages to windows. I mean if you take a window – an old window – and you’re going to want to replace it, let’s start with the weights and pulleys, for example.

    TOM: OK.

    TOM SILVA: Lots of times, they’ll break, one of them may be gone. You’ll have to take the window apart. If you’re going to take one out, you might as well replace them both; get them new. Now, when you start to put that window back together, you want to make sure that the window is going to be efficient, so you want to see if there’s ways to put weather-stripping on the window. Make sure that the meeting rail between the two windows is clean and it’ll go together nice so that when you lock it, it’ll tighten itself up.

    TOM: Now, when you say “meeting rail,” that’s where the upper sash and the lower sash sort of cross each other, correct?

    TOM SILVA: Yeah. If it’s a double-hung window.

    TOM: OK.

    TOM SILVA: Now, the other thing is is where the window is held into the opening, there are these stop beads that go on each side of the window. You want to make sure that they’re adjusted properly and against the sash so it keeps the bottom sash pushed up against the meeting rail between the two sashes, which cuts down on the draft.

    TOM: So, basically, we’ve got to try to tighten it up anywhere we possibly can.

    Now, can you get modern weather-stripping that works well in older windows?

    TOM SILVA: You can. You can get – there’s all kinds of stripping that you can get at the home center that stick onto the window. There’s types of weather-stripping that you can cut a groove into the windows at the meeting rail, at the bottom and the top sash. So when you close them and lock them, the lock will do a couple of things: the lock will pull the two meeting rails together; it will also push the bottom sash down and the top sash up into that weather-stripping, tightening up the window.

    LESLIE: Now, Tommy, how difficult is it to find a contractor willing to work on such a historic window and how difficult is it to get parts?

    TOM SILVA: Well, it can be difficult to find someone that wants to work on them, because it’s time-consuming and a lot of guys just don’t know how to price that kind of a thing because of that.

    As far as the parts, the parts are pretty easy. You can get them in the home center. You can get chains to replace the rope, so you can get just the old kind of ropes if you like that look. And locks, you can get those at the home center, too.

    TOM: So bottom line, if you value the architectural beauty that’s offered by an original window, you want to work to preserve it but keep in mind it’s probably going to cost you a little bit more energy efficiency than if you were to replace it.

    TOM SILVA: Right. But again, you can tighten that up with weather-stripping and you can tighten it up with a storm window.

    TOM: And that could go inside or outside the house, right?

    TOM SILVA: That’s right. Inside windows, you don’t see them from the street. Outside windows protect the window from the weather.

    LESLIE: And I guess if you put them on the inside, it doesn’t really compromise the historical aspect of the home.

    TOM SILVA: Exactly.

    TOM: You know, Tommy, there’s a product out. It’s been out for a while but a lot of folks don’t know about it. It’s sort of a removable caulk. Have you seen this?

    TOM SILVA: I have.

    TOM: Where you can actually caulk a window shut for the off-season. That’s kind of a cool way to weather-strip it in the winter. You don’t need to open it.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah, you – no, you don’t need to open it. It goes right around any of the gaps and voids around the window stool, where it meets the sash around the meeting rails. All those kind of things, you can just put it in, you can roll it up, save it and use it again for another year.

    LESLIE: Now, if you do decide to sort of scrap the restoration of the window, if you will, is there a way to replace that window with a quality insert? And if I go that route, what should be my top priority?

    TOM SILVA: Well, first of all, my top priority is always trying to make it look good, to look like it belonged. Because when you do a replacement window, lots of times it’s going to look like a replacement window.

    LESLIE: New, yeah.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah. So there are different types of replacement windows. If the unit or the jamb of the window and the sill of the window is in good shape, you can replace it with two different types. There’s a type that’s just the sash, where it goes into the unit – a sash and balancing system separately – or a box unit that would fit right in between the sash. And a couple of hours, you get a new window.

    LESLIE: And should energy efficiency of the glass itself be my top priority?

    TOM SILVA: Yeah, you’re going to get insulated glass but lots of times, you want to make sure that you order the right muntin size, so the window looks pretty good. Lots of times I see a lot of the insulated glass going in and the muntins are much too big for the house.

    TOM: It really is a system and it all has to fit together perfectly, doesn’t it?

    TOM SILVA: Absolutely.

    TOM: Tommy Silva, the general contractor from TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    TOM SILVA: My pleasure.

    TOM: For more great tips, you can visit

    LESLIE: And you can tune into Tommy and the entire This Old House team on This Old House and Ask This Old House on your local PBS station.


    is brought to you on PBS by Lumber Liquidators. Hardwood floors for less.

    Just ahead, would you like to dress up your yard with a raised landscape bed? Well, it’s actually an easy do-it-yourself project. We’ll tell you how, after this.


    live, 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. They make it fast and easy to find top-rated pros you can trust for any home project. And if you’re a service pro looking to grow your business and connect with project-ready homeowners, you also need to check out

    LESLIE: And you should go online and check out because we’re going to help you right now with whatever it is you are working on. And in addition to helping you get that project done right, we’re going to help you get that project done in the first place with a great prize. We’ve got up for grabs a $200 gift certificate to Lumber Liquidators.

    Now, the prices there are amazing and you can really go far with that $200 gift certificate. You can choose from over 400 varieties of first-quality flooring, including prefinished hardwoods, bamboos, laminates, vinyl planking and even wood-look tile. And you can also use your gift card for those finishing touches, likes moldings and grills. And if you’re not a DIYer, check this out: you can use it for the installation. I mean they are making it super easy for you to use your Lumber Liquidators gift card, am I right?

    TOM: Absolutely. Love that. It’s going out to one caller drawn at random. Make that you. The number, again, is 888-MONEY-PIT or you can post your question to The Money Pit’s Community page at

    LESLIE: Well, if you’d like to build a raised garden wall to highlight your landscaping, there’s a product out right now that can make that project super easy. It’s by Pavestone and it’s called SplitRock Retaining-Wall Blocks.

    Now, these are modular and they’re going to allow you to simply stack them to create a retaining wall and that’s going to easily highlight a tree, create a raised garden bed or even build out a larger wall to help you level a sloping yard, which is so problematic for so many people across this country. They’ve got a great yard but it’s all different levels and weird spaces and you can’t actually get any usable space. But with a retaining wall, you sure can.

    TOM: Absolutely. Now, there are really just four steps to the project. First, you want to prepare the site. A little trick on that is to mark the ground with spray paint right where you’re going to start building the wall. Then you can add some wood stakes and use kind of a string to lay out the shape of your wall.

    What I used to do, Leslie, in projects like this – before I even got to that string stage, because I wanted to kind of get the real feel for how it looked and maybe move things around a little bit – I would roll out the garden hose. And I’d use that to kind of create sort of a line.

    LESLIE: Lay everything out.

    TOM: Sort of a line where I want to – there’s sort of curves and stuff.

    LESLIE: That’s true.

    TOM: And if it didn’t look quite, quite right, you can kind of adjust it very easily. But then once you’re ready, then you can go ahead and spray-paint the line right on the lawn.

    Next, you’re going to dig. You’re going to dig out that border you painted, to create a trench about a foot wide.

    Now, in terms of depth, for walls that are three layers or more, that first stone should be set completely below grade. But if it’s just two layers, you can set the first stone in about 2 inches. So you want to make it about a foot wider than you need it and then tamp that trench when done.

    Then there’s just two more things to do. You prepare the base for a small wall. You want to add about an inch of sand, level it out for a larger one. You can use a paver-base mix and then you can use a 2×4 to kind of grade it out but make sure it’s nice and level. So use that level because it’ll save you some aggravation later. Then you’re basically ready to start stacking up your blocks.

    You want to start at the lowest point and level each one, stagger the joints. And then if you need to cut those stones, it’s actually easier than you think. You want to use a minimum sledgehammer, like the small handheld sledge, a sledgehammer – like the mini one – and a chisel. You kind of tap a line to score it first, then just go back and forth and work that line and miraculously, that stone will cut right in half right on that line that you started to score.

    LESLIE: Yeah, the blocks are really easy to work with and they have a natural-looking, split-face design that works very well in any sort of yard design. And their design itself is made to be modular. So they’re going to come in six different sizes, so you can create the design and the look that you want and you can even work with a curve or a straight line. I mean the choices, really, are open to you depending on what your imagination, what the design of your yard and space will need. But you’ve got that option with SplitRock.

    TOM: You’ll find Pavestone products at home improvement retailers nationwide. You can check them out at

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

    WENDY: I have a mobile home. So there’s no attic space. And recently, I had a leak in my roof, in my bedroom, and it started out just a water stain on the ceiling. It’s approximately 12 inches wide, 24 inches long.

    But here, recently, in the past few weeks, it looks like it’s growing mold. It’s a spot about the size of a dinner plate that – it’s real dark, black mold. So I’m concerned that it may be black mold and I don’t know if – is there something that I can do to fix this with primer or paint and maybe bleach or something to kill the mold? Or is it something – am I going to have to replace the sheetrock in the ceiling?

    TOM: Well, first of all, do you think that you’ve dealt with the leak? That there’s no longer a leak there?

    WENDY: Well, I have a metal roof and I think what has happened is the rain became a really, really bad storm and it was blowing all different directions. And I think the water actually blew under – it blew up under the metal on the roof. I don’t think it’s actually a leak, because I haven’t ever had any more problems.

    TOM: Alright. So here’s what you need to know: if your ceiling gets stained like that from a leak, you can’t just paint over it because the stain will come through. So what you have to do first is you have to prime it. So get an alkyd-based primer or an oil-based primer – water- or oil-based, it doesn’t matter – and paint over that spot. Then once you’ve painted over with the primer, then you can paint – put the finish coat on top of that. But the primer has to be done first.

    If you’re concerned that it’s mold and you want to make sure it’s not, then I would take about a 15- to 20-percent bleach solution – so maybe 1 part bleach, 3 parts water, something like that; you can make it a bit stronger – spray it down in that moldy area, let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes and then clean it off. And then proceed with the primer and the paint.

    WENDY: OK. Like I said, I’m concerned I can’t see the other side of the sheetrock because there is no attic space.

    TOM: Well, right now, it’s a fairly small spot, so let’s just deal with that and then move on. I wouldn’t make a bigger problem out of it just yet. We think the leak was a one-time situation, so now we just have to deal with this. It’s most likely a leak stain that you’re looking at and not mold.

    WENDY: I’m pretty sure it’s mold. It’s one spot. It does look fuzzy-like. It’s a white …

    LESLIE: There is a product called a 5-Minute Mold Test and it’s actually a swab within almost like a little tube-y thing and you just swab the area that you think is mold and pop it in there. And you’ll actually get a reading within five minutes telling you if it’s mold.

    And I think – does it also tell you the type of mold, Tom?

    TOM: I think it might and they have a consulting service, too, that they’ll follow up with you on the result and tell you what they recommend you do about it.

    WENDY: OK. Well, great.

    LESLIE: Hey, do you need to hire a pro for a small repair job around your house? Well, just ahead, we’re going to share a trick of the trade that can cut repair costs and help you get a number of projects done at the same time, when The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show returns.

    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: Call us, right now, on The Money Pit’s listener line at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor. These guys really have the best local pros for any home service.

    LESLIE: Yeah, that’s right. And you know what? It doesn’t matter what that project is. They make it fast and they really make it easy to find top-rated pros.

    TOM: And I like the fact that there are no membership fees. It’s 100-percent free to use. Take a look at

    LESLIE: Well, if you need a pro for a small job around your house, like installing an outlet or fixing a small leak, one way to save money is to group those small jobs together. So, for example, if your project is to fix a leak, think about what else you’ve got at your house that you might want that plumber to do at the same time. Do you need a new faucet? Is there something else that might be leaking? Is there something in any of those bathrooms or kitchen-sink areas that you need to get done? And then have that plumber come in and do all of those at the same time.

    So it really is the type of thing that will help bring the costs down. And the pros will usually only charge a base fee for the trip. So getting those additional projects done at the same time is going to cost you less than paying for them individually. Think about it, guys: it’s a lot less expensive to group those small projects together. Don’t pay for them individually. Plus, you’re going to feel so happy that you got a lot of stuff done at once.

    TOM: Very productive trip.

    LESLIE: That’s right.

    TOM: Exactly.

    LESLIE: And speaking of feeling happy, let’s help someone get a project done at their money pit.

    TOM: That’ll make them happy.

    LESLIE: It always makes them happy until sometimes they hear the quantity of work that needs to be done. But let’s check it out here. We’ve got a post from Christy in Pennsylvania and she writes: “I’m in the market for a new home. Can you tell me if there are any telltale signs that there has been water in a basement? I know it’s supposed to be disclosed but I just want to make sure.”

    Are they? Are they supposed to disclose that there’s been water in a basement?

    TOM: Absolutely. You’re supposed to disclose any problems that your house has had and a lot of folks just won’t do that. And it’s wrong and it’s one of the reasons that I was so busy as a professional home inspector some years ago, because we would figure this stuff out.

    So, there’s a few things that you can do. First of all, your home will be a candidate for a wet basement if you have lousy drainage conditions outside. So if the soil is really flat against the wall – against the outside wall – if it’s sloped in, if the gutters are clogged, if the downspouts are not extended away from the house, say, at least 4 or 5 feet, that house is definitely a candidate for a wet basement.

    Now, if you get down to the basement, if it’s unfinished, you might see grayish/whitish stains that are on the walls, especially in the corners right above where those downspouts are. That’s mineral salts that are left behind after the water evaporates. If it’s finished, you want to look at the base of the wall to see if there are any water stains or molding or deforming of paneling or drywall or anything of that nature. Those are all signs.

    And obviously, get a professional home inspector, OK? Because these guys are really good at finding stuff like this. And you may miss it because you don’t look for it every day but a home inspector definitely will not miss it. You can find a great home inspector at That’s the American Society of Home Inspectors’ website at

    LESLIE: And then, once you make sure you’ve got your basement nice and dry, control the humidity or the moisture down there, remember to put flooring in that’s meant for below-grade situations. And if you want a rug, use an area rug. That really is the best way to get that warmth.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. So glad you could spend a little time with us today. We hope that we’ve been able to help you out with your home improvement projects. If you didn’t get through on the phone lines, remember, you can reach us, 24/7, at that same number at 888-MONEY-PIT. If you call anytime during the next week, you will actually be eligible for whatever prize we’re giving away on the next program. And you can also post your question online at

    That’s all our time. 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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