Fast Disposer Fix & Toilets that Clean Themselves #0115181

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    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 for you, to help you with your home improvement projects, your décor dilemmas. Whatever is on your to-do list – whatever you want to do to fix up, spruce up, make your money pit more energy-efficient – we would love to pitch in with some tips, advice and guidance to get those projects done quickly, efficiently and at the best possible price. Got to help yourself first, though, by picking up the phone and calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT or posting your question to The Money Pit Community page at

    Coming up on today’s show, now that we are well past the holidays and only a couple of months until spring, bathroom cleaning is a task I’m sure you’d like to put off until then, if you can get away with it. Well, you may just be able to if the toilet actually cleaned itself. We’re going to tell you about one that does just that.

    LESLIE: And also ahead, one appliance that you may own, and you’ll never want to be without again, is your garbage disposer. But when it gets jammed and stops working, there’s a super-easy way to get it back in action. We’ll share that tip, just ahead.

    TOM: Plus, the International Builders’ Show just wrapped up in Orlando. And this is like a local home show times, what, a thousand?

    LESLIE: Right. Times a million, really.

    TOM: I mean it’s like hundreds of thousands of square feet of the newest, coolest products for home improvement. And we really enjoy covering it.

    LESLIE: Yep. And it’s not open to the public. So we’re going to share highlights on the new products we saw, including a great way to insulate your home with a material that’s totally fire-resistant.

    TOM: So let’s get to it. Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Jason in Louisiana is on the line with a cracking issue in the walls. What’s going on?

    JASON: I’m doing crown molding – 5¼-inch crown molding – in my home. And so I installed it and then I caulked it and then it still keeps on cracking. I’ve had to caulk it two or three times. And I was wondering if there was any better – something better to do for that than keeping on doing this thing over and over again.

    TOM: So, the cracking is between the crown molding and the ceiling and walls? Is it on both sides – both top and bottom – of the molding or what?

    JASON: It happens mainly between the ceiling and the molding or the crown. (inaudible)

    TOM: And what are you caulking it with? Are you using acrylic/latex caulk? Water clean-up, right? Not silicone based?

    JASON: Yes, yeah. Water. Yes, yes.

    TOM: Yeah. OK. Well, what’s obviously happening is you have a lot of expansion and contraction – differential expansion and contraction – between the molding and the ceiling.

    One thing I could suggest, depending on how deep that upper edge of the crown molding is, you could add another piece of molding covering that edge and letting it float. So, in other words, the last piece of molding would be a very thin shoe molding or quarter round. And you attach that to the ceiling.

    And I would glue it as you do this. So I would glue it and tack it at the same time so that you’ll have, essentially, a seam between those two pieces of molding. And as it moves, as it expands and contracts, it just sort of slides and it doesn’t break free, if that makes sense to you.

    JASON: OK. Yeah. That makes sense, yep.

    TOM: But I do suspect, Jason, that you’re probably the only guy that sees that crack. So, you know, just put it in proper balance/perspective, OK? There’s probably other projects in your house that, if it’s like mine, that deserve more attention than the seam between the molding and the ceiling, OK?

    JASON: Sounds good.

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

    LESLIE: Rebecca in Tennessee is on the line with a question about a crack in a foundation. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.

    REBECCA: Well, let’s see. Where do I start? I have an external chimney. I believe they said it was limestone. There are cracks that are going from the bottom of it all the way to the top, on the front. And if you’re facing it, on the right side, as well. And on the inside, around the mantel, let me put it to you this way: there are paint chips that have shifted about an inch above from where they were originally on the wall. And there are cracks kind of coming from the vicinity of the chimney, down to the windowsill.

    TOM: Hmm. OK.

    REBECCA: I had someone take a look at it and he said the foundation under the chimney was cracked. And what it is – I’ve really been given two different opinions as to what I need to do to fix it.

    TOM: OK. Let me ask you a question, Rebecca: the person you had look at it, was this a chimney contractor or a mason?

    REBECCA: It was a – he’s actually a roofer, an external specialist. But he also works on chimneys. He …

    TOM: OK. So it’s a contractor. And who was the second opinion from? Another contractor?

    REBECCA: Yes, another contractor.

    TOM: OK.

    REBECCA: And one opinion is the chimney needs to be torn completely down. And the other one is it needs to be knocked down to the roof level and tied into the roof.

    TOM: Now, let me ask you a question here, Rebecca: what do both of these guys have in common?

    REBECCA: I don’t know.

    TOM: They both want your money. That’s what they have in common, OK?

    REBECCA: Yeah, that’s true. Yeah.

    TOM: So they have a conflict of interest.

    This is a significant project and a potentially serious one and one that may go deeper than what you’re seeing. What you’re telling me is concerning because of the number of cracks and the evidence of movement. So, I’m going to tell you that what you should do is find a professional home inspector. You can find one that’s certified by the American Society of Home Inspectors and have that inspector look at your chimney. Either a home inspector or a structural engineer but not a contractor.

    A home inspector does not do work on the house. They only inspect, so they don’t have that conflict of interest. If you go to the website for the American Society of Home Inspectors, which is ASHI – A-S-H-I ­– .org or I think it’s also, you can enter in your zip code. You’ll get a list of certified inspectors in your area. You can call a few, chat with them about what’s going on.

    They’ll charge you a small fee: maybe $100 or $200, I would guess, to do what’s called a “partial inspection.” It’s basically they come out and look at one item. But I really think you need a set of skilled eyes looking at that, where the guy is not trying to sell you a repair, to tell you what exactly is going on and what has to happen, before you start spending money with these contractors.

    They may be completely right but I’m uncomfortable whenever you have a contractor that says, “You’ve got a problem, lady, but I’m just the guy to fix it for you.” It’s just a big conflict of interest and you’ve got to guard against it, OK?

    REBECCA: OK. Thank you very much.

    TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: You are listening to The Money Pit presented by, where you can find top-rated home pros you can trust. Call in your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week right here at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: Up next, the solution to the most dreaded bathroom-cleaning job in any home: a toilet that actually cleans itself. We’ll have those details, next.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Give us a call, right now, with your home repair, home improvement or décor question, 24/7, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor.

    LESLIE: Buddy in Alabama is on the line and has a tiling question. How can we help you?

    BUDDY: Yes. I just put a shower in, in the master bathroom. I’m looking to change the floor out. I have tile on the floor. Now, I didn’t want to pull the tile up and put new tile down. I want to leave that tile there.

    TOM: So you want to know if you can go on top of the old tile, Buddy?

    BUDDY: Yeah.

    TOM: So, the new tile that you’re going to put on, what size is it and what …?

    BUDDY: Well, it’s not tile, actually. She was thinking of a vinyl something that’s coming out. They’re coming out …

    TOM: Well, there’s different types of vinyl products. If you’re talking about extruded vinyl plank – the EVP flooring – you know, look, if the bathroom floor is solid, it doesn’t have any unusual movement, it’s not rotted around where the toilet is mounted – sometimes you get softness there or at the edge of the tub. If it’s generally solid, there’s no reason you couldn’t put a floating floor on top of that. And if you’re thinking about vinyl, I’d take a look at the extruded vinyl plank. It’s called EVP flooring. It’s a plank floor that can look like wood or look like tile but it’s incredibly durable and 100-percent waterproof. It’s neat stuff.

    Go to a local Lumber Liquidators store; you can see it in person. Or check it out online and I think you’ll be …

    BUDDY: Home Depot or Lowe’s?

    TOM: Yeah. Or I think you’ll find it in most major retailers but EVP is the type of flooring.

    BUDDY: The grout underneath or anything?

    TOM: No, you may have to put a thin underlayment on top of that but then it can float, basically lay on top of the old floor.

    BUDDY: But I’ve got to cover the seams. In other words, put something there to level it out?

    TOM: Well, is the floor a flat-tile floor now?

    BUDDY: Oh, it’s – yeah, it’s solid.

    TOM: Yeah, you don’t have to worry about the grout lines, no. This is going to float. It’s just going to lay on top of the floor. It literally floats; it doesn’t get attached to the floor. It literally floats in place and you put trim around the outside edge to cover it.

    BUDDY: OK then. I really appreciate the comments.

    TOM: OK, Buddy. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, we love highlighting new product here at The Money Pit and this one, I’ve got to say I am particularly stoked about, because it takes away one of the most dreaded jobs in every house. I’m talking about cleaning the toilet, you guys.

    Now, it’s called the VorMax Plus Toilet and it basically delivers the cleanest, freshest flush ever engineered.

    TOM: Yeah, it’s a self-cleaning toilet that both scrubs the bowl every time you flush it and it releases Lysol cleaner into the bowl, to keep it clean and smelling fresh every time you flush that handle.

    LESLIE: Yeah, it’s really amazing.

    Now, the VorMax Plus technology releases Lysol cleaner into the water with every single flush. And that’s going to freshen the bowl day after day. And it simply uses a cartridge called a FreshInfuser.

    Now, the Lysol infuser is hidden in a compartment and it’s really easy to get to. And unlike most of those toilet-bowl cleaners, there’s nothing hanging inside the bowl that looks really gross. It’s totally hidden right underneath the little flap under the seat.

    Now, each FreshInfuser lasts 30 days or 360 flushes. And it provides an ocean-fresh scent. I mean it really just smells so nice and so clean. And you get two when you purchase the toilet.

    TOM: This VorMax technology, I think, is really well done. It’s kind of unlike anything you might have seen before. It delivers one very powerful jet of water that scrubs the entire bowl completely clean. And it’s also got a design called a CleanCurve Rim. And basically, they figured out how to omit the rim cavity and all those little holes inside the bowl. Because what happens there, all the dirt gets trapped and it hides, right, and it builds up until it reaches the level of gross. And then you really have to scrub it to get rid of it.

    So, by eliminating that, there’s no place for the dirt to stick. And even the finish is really smart. It’s called Evergreen and it’s a patented finish by American Standard that inhibits the growth of stain- and odor-causing bacteria and mold and mildew. It helps the toilet actually stay cleaner longer.

    So this whole thing is designed so that you don’t have to clean it. And I just think that is so amazing. You can find this now at The Home Depot and at American Standard showrooms or at Leslie’s house if you stop by, because you were so impressed by this thing you put one in.

    LESLIE: Oh, my God. It’s awesome.

    TOM: And I’ve got to ask: what did the boys think when they say this thing?

    LESLIE: So, to them, they were excited because it’s a shiny, new toilet that I’m sure they were thinking, “How can I mess this up completely?” For me – truly, I don’t think the kids have noticed anything different other than it’s shiny and white and brand-spanking new. But for me, the bathroom smells so good all the time. And I have two young boys who – let’s just say their aim isn’t always the best. And the bathroom tends to suffer from odor issues at times.

    But we’ve had it about a month and I haven’t had any problems with it. The bathroom smells great. It’s really made my life a lot easier.

    TOM: Alright. Well, you guys should check this out. One of the smartest toilets ever invented, the VorMax Plus by American Standard.

    LESLIE: Denuza (sp) in Georgia is on the line with a heating question. Everybody is chilly this winter. What is going on down there?

    DENUZA (sp): It’s cold. It’s very cold. And I’m asking you – calling about a fireplace.

    We live in an Arts & Crafts house and there’s a fireplace smack in the middle that faces two ways: to the entrance and then opening to what would be the kitchen and dining area.

    TOM: OK.

    DENUZA (sp): The opening to the front door is a fireplace. The other one was, at one point, blocked. And I know we have two chimneys. My question is: is it possible, do you think, for me to integrate, to open it straight through to make it one fireplace that would go both ways? Or would I have to stick to the way it was built: one way and the other way?

    TOM: So, in other words, you would like the fire pit to go straight through from one side to the other.

    DENUZA (sp): Yes. But I have two chimneys that’s on top.

    TOM: Yeah, I don’t think so. I don’t think you can do that, because the structure of this is such that you probably have one physical chimney and then you have two liners or two flues.

    DENUZA (sp): OK.

    TOM: And one is on the fireplace side and one is on the other side – or one’s on the living-room side and one’s on the kitchen side.

    So, why would you want that to be opened up? Just for aesthetics?

    DENUZA (sp): Yes, exactly.

    TOM: OK. Yeah.

    DENUZA (sp): And my question would be – even if I did it using, you know, the gas kind of dealy – or do I still need a chimney for that?

    TOM: I think, if you’re asking me, “Can I put a gas fireplace in there where – without venting it?” And I would say, “No.”

    DENUZA (sp): No. OK. Yeah, I …

    TOM: Well, because there are non-vented gas fireplaces. I’ve never liked them at all. They’ve always made me very uncomfortable. They do dump a lot of moisture into the house. And they’re allowed here in the States but I think, last time I checked, they were illegal in Canada who is much more conservative about things like this.

    DENUZA (sp): OK.

    TOM: So I would never use an unvented gas fireplace. I also would not convert those existing wood fireplaces to gas fireplaces, because they’re going to burn a lot of gas. Be really expensive to run.

    What you might want to do is think about seeing if there was an insert that might be available for the fireplace side. Because that can have some built-in circulation with a vent fan that could improve the heating distribution of that one side.

    And then you mentioned that one side’s blocked. I’d like to know why it was blocked, if the chimney is still – the flue is still functional, if it’s deteriorated. Maybe it’s not lined. I don’t know. But you ought to find out why it’s in the condition it’s in. So I think you need to talk to a good home inspector or a very good chimney contractor. Not a sweep, OK? And I want you to be cautious not to find somebody that just wants to sell you a big repair but somebody that can give you some true, independent, expert advice as to what it’s going to take to get this working again, OK?

    DENUZA (sp): OK. Thank you very much. That was very helpful, because I think the thing that most helped me was about the non-venting thing.

    TOM: Yeah.

    DENUZA (sp): I didn’t realize how dangerous that could get. But thank you. I really appreciate it.

    TOM: Yeah. Yeah, take that out of consideration.

    Alright, Denuza (sp). Good luck. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re heading over to Iowa where Chad has a question about condensation on a bay window. What’s going on, Chad?

    CHAD: Hi. I have a – well, it’s a bay window that’s got the three windows. The center one is larger than the other two on the outside. And on the center one, I get a condensation problem in the – it’s kind of an oval shape directly in the center of that window. Can’t seem to figure out why it’s doing that.

    TOM: So, Chad, is this window a thermal-pane window or a double- or triple-pane window?

    CHAD: It is double-pane.

    TOM: And the condensation, of course, is in between the panes of glass?

    CHAD: Correct.

    TOM: Yep. So what’s happened here is the seal between those panes of glass has failed and it’s allowed warm, moist air to get in there. So as – especially as it gets cold outside, you have that warm, moist air striking the cold glass on the exterior. And then as the air chills, it releases its moisture and it condenses, much as what would happen, say, in the summer if you were outside with a glass of iced tea or soda and you got moisture on the outside of the glass. That’s the condensation that you’re seeing.

    Now, there’s not really a great solution here because once the window panes fail like that, you have to pretty much replace the entire window pane. Now, it’s possible that you could have a pro take this window apart and replace just that one section but it’s just not easy. If there is good news, it’s this: it’ll have a minor impact on your energy efficiency, so it’s mostly a cosmetic problem that you’re experiencing. So if you can live with the look, just live with it. It may get a little bit worse, it may get a little bit better depending on the temperature difference between outside and inside. But it’s not going to affect the window in any other way.

    CHAD: Yeah. OK. I appreciate it.

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

    LESLIE: Well, one of those appliances that once you own it, you’re never going to be without it again is your disposer. But when it gets jammed and stops working, there’s really a super-easy way to get it back in action. Richard Trethewey of This Old House will be by with an easy solution, 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: What’s your how-to or décor question? We want to hear it, right now, at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor. They make it fast and easy to find top-rated home pros you can trust for any home project.

    LESLIE: Zelda in North Carolina is looking for some help with a renovation. What can we do for you?

    ZELDA: Yes. I’ve done a lot with my floors but I put some laminate in everywhere, because I have a little Chihuahua dog and didn’t want to get scratches on real wood. But there is a bathroom upstairs and a small hallway in front and I didn’t want laminate there, because you don’t want it in a bathroom. So, what else would be good? Because I didn’t want the grout issues of tile or – and I didn’t know what else to go to. I thought about bamboo or is there some tile that doesn’t have the grout-y stuff or …?

    TOM: Well, there’s a wide variety of choices. Now, you mentioned that you didn’t want to put laminate there. Do you want something that gives you a wood look?

    ZELDA: Not necessarily.

    TOM: Alright. Well, one of the options that I was thinking would be a bamboo floor. Bamboo is very, very durable and it’s also very good in moist, damp areas. It doesn’t swell. And you can pick up bamboo as an engineered product, which means it’s made in multiple layers, which gives it dimensional stability. But of course, that is going to give you sort of that wood look.

    There are also luxury vinyl products that are out today that are very, very thick and heavy vinyl tile that are not very expensive.

    LESLIE: Yeah, it’s like a rubberized vinyl, even. They’re fairly thick. They’re available in a plank style, so it actually looks like wood. Some of those will – some will snap together as the rubberized vinyl. Some will sort of overlap and stick to one another. It depends on the quality of the product, to be honest with you. But they’re both – however much money you do spend on a rubberized vinyl, it goes together very easily and it looks fantastic. And it’s a little bit softer, so it’s more forgiving on your legs, knees, back when you’re standing in the room for a long time.

    ZELDA: Well, yeah, because my first choice, when I went to look, was the bamboo. But I wasn’t sure if that could go in a bathroom. So that really is what I kind of liked the best. Yeah, great.

    Thank you so much. That’s very helpful.

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

    LESLIE: Well, an easy way to cut down on food waste at home is to install a garbage disposer. You can send leftover fruit and potato peels, veggie stubs and all kinds of other waste right down your drain.

    TOM: And this is one of those appliances that once you own it, you never want to be without one again. To help us understand the options and what it takes to install a garbage disposer, we welcome Richard Trethewey, the plumbing-and-heating contractor from TV’s This Old House.

    Welcome, Richard.

    RICHARD: Hi, guys. Nice to be in The Money Pit.

    TOM: It’s a pleasure to have you.

    Now, manufacturers call these “food-waste disposers.” What should homeowners be asking themselves when shopping for one?

    RICHARD: Well, there’s four basic questions, I think. One is what type of garbage disposer do you want to get, what size, any special features you want to get and do you have a septic tank or a septic field?

    TOM: So let’s start with type. How many types are there?

    RICHARD: There are two. One is called “batch feed” and the other is called “continuous feed.” Batch feed, as its name suggests, you put food down into the disposer and then you put a stopper, that is also the active switch for the disposer, down into the drain. You turn it and there’s a little magnet there that brings that disposer on. The batch feed is perceived to be much safer because there’s no chance of spoons or unwanted things going down the drain and no chance of hands going down there.

    TOM: Right.

    RICHARD: The other is continuous and that is there’s a switch somewhere, either under the sink or on the wall. You turn it on and most pro chefs would want to have that because you can move food down while you’re doing food prep and it’s …

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And that’s really like a volume thing.

    RICHARD: That’s right. That would be for the bigger use, yeah.

    LESLIE: Now, what about noise? I mean I don’t have one. I imagine that they’re quite a noisy appliance to have in your home.

    RICHARD: Well, there are choices in terms of the size and with that comes the amount of insulation. The basic builder model, the one that we call the “builder model,” is the cheapest thing. It has almost no insulation. It sounds like a freight train underneath the sink. It usually makes the sink jump up and down.

    And then as you go higher, you get more horsepower and you also get more insulation to really make it quiet.

    TOM: Now, what about a septic system? If you have a septic system, can you actually have a disposer?

    RICHARD: There are some disposers that are made specifically for septic systems, if you have a disposer – a modern disposer – that can really grind that food to a fine puree, really, to get it into the septic field. But many of these disposers also have a feature that can add a little container on the side of the disposer that adds an enzyme to help break down those foodstuffs when they go down to the septic system. So the answer is yes.

    TOM: That’s good advice.

    Now, what about installation? Is it difficult to install a disposer? Are there any common pitfalls that people – mistakes that people make?

    RICHARD: Well, an installation of a disposer is two-part. One is you have to install the flange up onto a sink. And that’s the big 4-inch hole that you can see from the sink side. And then you have to attach the disposer to that flange and that can become tricky to try and hold that disposer up and then lock this ring in to hold it in.

    TOM: OK.

    RICHARD: So sometimes you have to put a cardboard box under it or some sort of lever, because it …

    TOM: Because it’s pretty heavy.

    RICHARD: Really, the high-quality ones are heavy, so you’ve really got to muscle it up there.

    LESLIE: Now, Richard, I imagine these things jam quite often. What can you do in the event of something getting stuck in your disposer?

    RICHARD: Well, you certainly hope they don’t get jammed often.

    LESLIE: Well, if you’re cramming everything you’ve got down the sink …

    RICHARD: And actually, I’ve got to tell you, the highest-end disposers actually have a feature where each time it comes on or if it did jam, the motor would automatically reverse and go the other way.

    TOM: Oh, interesting.

    RICHARD: So it’s an anti-jamming feature. In some of the basic ones, though, they are going to jam and so in that case, there’s a couple things to look for. Underneath every disposer is a little red button. It’s a little reset button. It’s much like a circuit breaker on your electrical panel. And so if it overheated because it was jammed, that button would pop out. You have to get underneath there and just reset that button.

    Now, that may not be enough. Because if the grinding wheel – that thing that is going to grind up the food that’s inside the disposer – is jammed, then you may have to mechanically clear that jam. And so, many of these disposers come with a little Allen-style wrench; it’s a little offset wrench. Usually comes in a package that hangs near the disposer, we hope. And from directly underneath the disposer, underneath the kitchen sink, you put it into that center spot; there’s a little opening there. And you can just clear back and forth, back and forth to try and clear that chicken bone or whatever’s in there.

    TOM: Now, what’s the best way to care for your new garbage disposer? Any special maintenance associated with them?

    RICHARD: Never put any drain chemicals down there. It’ll eat up the seals.

    TOM: Yeah, good point.

    RICHARD: Don’t do that. I think – I will tell you that a lot of people put a little lemon down there or something to keep it fresh down in there. There’s not a lot of maintenance you have to do but you do have to be sure you run water whenever you’re running the disposer.

    TOM: Because otherwise, you’re not going to move the food. You need some water …

    RICHARD: That’s right. And it wants to keep it cool and lubricated, as well.

    TOM: Yeah, good point. Richard Trethewey, the plumbing-and-heating contractor from TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    RICHARD: Great to be here.

    LESLIE: Alright. You can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For your local listings and step-by-step videos on many projects and some information on how you can choose a garbage disposer, visit

    TOM: And This Old House and Ask This Old House are brought to you on PBS by The Home Depot.

    Just ahead, the International Builders’ Show, which is kind of like the largest home show in America, just wrapped up in Orlando. It’s not open to the public but we are there looking for the latest innovations for your home.

    LESLIE: Yep. And one of those was an insulation that’s naturally fire-resistant and can actually provide more time for you and your family to get to safety in the event you do have a fire. We’ll share those details, 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: Whether you’re buying, selling or just enjoying your home, we are here for you every step of the way. Call in your home improvement or décor question, right now, to 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor, the fast and easy way to find the right pro for any kind of home project, whether it’s a small repair or a major remodel.

    LESLIE: Scott in North Dakota is on the line with a water-heater question. What’s going on?

    SCOTT: I’ve got a cabin that we’re going to remodel and I was wondering if it’s better to go with a tankless water heater or a tank one, because we’ve got – well, we’ve got to drain everything in the winter. But I was kind of looking online and stuff and what the difference between them. And the tankless ones only raise at a certain amount of temperature. And up here, the groundwater is usually about 40 degrees, so …

    TOM: So, first of all, we’re talking about an electric water heater versus an electric tankless?

    SCOTT: Correct. Yep, yep.

    TOM: Yep. I would definitely go with an electric water heater. And I would install that water heater on a timer so that you can control when it comes on and off. Because especially being a vacation property, you’re not going to want that on in the middle of the day. You’re probably going to want to have it come on for a few hours in the morning and a few hours in the evening. And that will save you a lot of cost.

    SCOTT: Well, great. That answered a lot of questions.

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

    Well, Leslie and I are just back from a road trip to the International Builders’ Show in Orlando, Florida. And we love attending these shows because it’s where we get to meet the product experts and learn about products that can really make a difference in your home.

    LESLIE: Yep. And one product we learned about is a type of insulation called ROCKWOOL that’s naturally fire-resistant and can give you more time to get out of your home safely in the event of a fire. We spoke to ROCKWOOL expert Dave Smith to learn more.

    TOM: This product is completely fireproof. You’ve got a demonstration here. We’ll share some photos online, ROCKWOOL insulation being exposed to a pretty substantial torch with no effect whatsoever. What’s the benefit in that attribute to consumers?

    DAVE: Fire-resistance, one of our main benefits. Really, what that is is that’s giving you time. In the event of a fire, it gives you those precious minutes, seconds to escape to get the firefighters in. You know, it’s got such a high melting point at around 2150 degrees Fahrenheit, which is far superior to other insulation brands. So it’s really that added benefit would be important in the event of a fire.

    TOM: So this product also seems to be extremely water-resistant, maybe I could go so far as to say waterproof. I mean you’ve got a sink tap here running water over it, 24/7. Seems to have no effect. The water beads up on the surface.

    DAVE: Yes. So, it’s water-repellent. It won’t absorb the water. It won’t contribute to mold or mildew or rot. Basically, the water, as you said, it just beads up on it. So that’s a huge benefit in terms of – for attics, if there’s a vapor or condensation in basements or in any exterior walls.

    TOM: So when we install insulation in the attic, we always have to be very careful to manage the ventilation. So we’re flushing that insulation with plenty of dry air so that it’s more effective. How well does this product dry when it gets damp, say, in summer humidity?

    DAVE: Because of the water-repellence of it, a much better drying potential than other materials. It is vapor-permeable and then that, combined with the water-repellent, if there is condensation in it, it just beads up on the surface of the product. So, huge benefit in terms of attic condensation and basements, as well.

    TOM: This product has been on the market for 25 years and known as ROXUL Insulation. Now you’ve changed the name to ROCKWOOL. What’s the reason for the name change?

    DAVE: The reason being we’ve always been a part of the ROCKWOOL Group globally and we had launched the name ROXUL in the North American market to try to be different. But the world is more global than it ever was before. There are much more (inaudible) to be closer to our parent company, in terms of website technology, adopting technologies from a product-development perspective. So it just made sense now to adopt the global name and really present ourselves as one company.

    TOM: One of the benefits of ROCKWOOL insulation is its ability to mute and conceal sound. Is this why most people turn to this product?

    DAVE: For sure. It’s one of our best-known attributes. We have a product called SAFE’n’SOUND that you can – you see at your home centers, lumberyards. People have been using it for years for insulating interior walls, basements, bathrooms. Because it’s a very dense material, that adds to the sound absorption that you can get out of it. So, yes, sound is one of our sort of main differentiators in the marketplace and what we’ve been known for and will be – continue to be under the new name of ROCKWOOL.

    TOM: So let’s talk about what’s most important to consumers when they buy insulation. That’s how well does it insulate?

    DAVE: Yeah, exactly. We have a range of R-values, which are the thermal properties of the product – is roughly an R-4 per inch R-value. So for a 2×4 wall, you’re getting an R-15, which a lot of traditional materials, they’re around an R-13.

    TOM: So it insulates, actually, better than traditional fiberglass?

    DAVE: Correct.

    TOM: OK. Elevator speech. You have a trade man standing in the aisle of the home center trying to decide which insulation to buy. Why should he buy ROCKWOOL insulation?

    DAVE: Fire-resistance, water-repellence, sound-absorbent, very dense material. Easy to cut and install is another one, especially for contractors and carpenters. Because it is so dense, it friction-fits in the wall cavities and it won’t slump or sag over time. It makes it actually easier for the tradesperson to install.

    TOM: I’m sold. Dave Smith from ROCKWOOL Insulation, thank you so much for being a part of The Money Pit.

    DAVE: Thank you.

    TOM: Where home solutions live, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: What are you working on? We’d love to hear about it. Call us, right now, at 888-MONEY-PIT or post your question to the Community page at, which is what Sarah did from New York State.

    LESLIE: That’s right. Sarah writes: “What should I be using to caulk around the tub where the porcelain meets the tile? Silicone or latex? I heard that the two won’t mix. If I were to have one type, should I not apply a different type?”

    TOM: Hmm. Well, I’ll tell you what. For bathroom caulk, you – it’s best to probably use, for an amateur – I mean a homeowner, not somebody that does this every day. It’s best to use latex. It’s very forgiving, you know? You can …

    LESLIE: Well, it’s easier to apply. It’s not going to stay on your hands forever.

    TOM: You can be – right. Yeah, exactly. Yeah, yeah. If you over – if you’re a little bit of an over-caulker, so to speak, you have too much of it in there, it’s easy to walk – to wipe it down. Plus, you have 10 trowels at your disposal. They’re called “your fingers.” And if you wet it and just sort of smush it around that joint between the tile and the tub, it makes a nice, little bead in there. If it’s silicone, you can’t do that.

    With silicone, you really have to have the properly-sized bead, you have to have a steady hand, even pressure and actually, a good-quality caulking gun. Sometimes, people use silicone and they have the really cheap caulking guns and they don’t work because they can’t give you a very steady stream of material to apply.

    So I think, in your case, Sarah, I would use latex. But the type of latex caulk you use should be one that’s designed for a bathroom. Because those caulks have mildicide in them so that they resist the growth of mold and mildew and the bacteria that causes it.

    And the other thing is you want to first take out all the old caulk. If it comes out easily, great. If it’s kind of hard and crumbly, there’s a product that’s kind of like a paint stripper but it’s called a “caulk softener.” And it essentially melts that old caulk, no matter what it is, whether it was silicone or latex or any combination thereof. You get out the old stuff, clean it up, wipe it down with a bit of a bleach-and-water combination to kill anything that’s behind it.

    Then, fill the tub with water. And you’re thinking, “Well, why would I want to do that?” Well, if you fill the tub with the water, it kind of stretches it and causes it to settle a bit. And then if you caulk it and let the caulk dry, you let the water out of the tub, it will sort of come up a bit and compress that caulk. Kind of exactly the same thing that would happen if you were to stand in it, like you do when you’re taking a shower; you press the tub down. You want to basically get that caulk as compressed and tight in there as possible. Because that’s going to make it last as long as it possibly can, as well.

    So, that’s the way you apply it. And remember, use latex caulk with an added mildicide to it. It’s going to – simply going to be called “bathroom or kitchen caulk.” Specifically designed for those damp locations.

    LESLIE: Alright. Good luck with that, Sarah. It’s really an easy fix.

    Next up, Margo in Florida posted: “I have an electronic air filter in my home and I’m wondering, how do I clean them? One dealer says vacuum, because washing could cause corrosion and malfunction. Another says wash with water.”

    TOM: I’d stop listening to dealers and start talking to the manufacturer. Every manufacturer is going to have cleaning instructions for their particular product. But I will say that, in some cases, you can take that entire coil out – that’s the filter – put it in a dishwasher, run it through a cycle and it’s fine. But perhaps with a newer one, where there’s more electronic components to it – so stop listening to these heating-and-cooling dealers. Go right to the manufacturer’s website. There ought to be a manual you can download. And I’m absolutely positive, Margo, it will have the accurate, up-to-date cleaning instructions for that particular product.

    LESLIE: Margo, it’s so great that you’ve got the electronic air filter in your home, because it really does a great job of cleaning the air in your house. And it does a wonderful job so that you don’t have to do all the cleaning as often of those filters. But definitely listen to what the manufacturer suggests, because they know their model and their product best.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. Hope we’ve given you some tips and some advice that can keep you a bit warmer in your house as we weather through these remaining days of winter and try to keep those energy bills down and ourselves comfortable at the same time. If you’ve got a question, we certainly appreciate you trying to call in today at 888-MONEY-PIT. If you did not get through, you can always post your question anytime on the Community page of

    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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