Best Smart Home Products for 2018 #0108181

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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 what are you working on this beautiful weekend? If it’s your house, you’re in exactly the right place because we’re here to help you get the job done. Whether it’s décor, home improvement, repair, remodel, we’re here to help you with some tips and ideas to smooth those projects towards completion. And if you can’t do it yourself, we’ll be the first to tell you how to hire a pro to get it done, as well.

    Coming up this hour, if you’re moving into a new home or apartment, it’s a great time to think about exploring possibilities of new home automation. Homes are getting smarter and smarter.

    I should say the gadgets we put in our homes are getting smarter and smarter, Leslie, and there’s a lot …

    LESLIE: Well, they make the homes smarter.

    TOM: They do, they do. And I like when my house is smarter than me, which is not hard to do.

    But we’re going to share the highlights of the most practical additions to your home in that space.

    LESLIE: I tell you, my sister gave the boys, for Christmas, the Alexa. And she gave them each one. So now, from their rooms, I hear them all the time being like, “Alexa, play The Money Pit. Alexa, play the SpongeBob theme song. Alexa …” I’m like, “You guys, the dueling Alexas have to stop.”

    TOM: Yeah, enough.

    LESLIE: So their rooms have gotten smarter. I’ve gotten a headache.

    Alright, guys. Have you ever wondered, now that we’ve got all these electronics in our houses, how do we handle all those extra cords that are on the TV or whatever else that we have at home? Well, we’re going to share some tips and tricks to make all that mess magically disappear.

    TOM: Plus, now that we are mid-winter, you might think your home is weathertight. But there’s one very important, large opening you may have forgotten. And if it’s not updated, you could be letting in more than just cold air to your home.

    LESLIE: But first, we want to hear from you. What are you guys working on? I mean we’re rushing to the new year. So maybe you’re thinking about a big project to tackle at your money pit or you’re thinking about some smaller projects that can help make living in your home just a little bit better. Whatever it is, we’re here to help. We’ve got ideas, so give us a call.

    TOM: 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Ruth Ann in Michigan is on the line and has a question that I think its answer is going to be a lot of work.

    Ruth Ann, how can we help you?

    RUTH ANN: My house is about 75 years old. And city water and sewer – I had the sewer line replaced, from the house to the sidewalk, with PVC pipe.

    TOM: Right.

    RUTH ANN: And that seemed to last about a year. And now, in September and just two weeks ago, I had to have the line Roto-Rooted out again because when I wash clothes, the water is backing up through the basement drain again.

    TOM: What did the plumbers find in that line that was causing it to clog? Does it have roots in it or something?

    RUTH ANN: Yeah, still, with the tree roots. There’s a big tree in the front lawn.

    TOM: Was that in the new section of PVC?

    RUTH ANN: No. They put an outside cleanout. And when they went through the outside cleanout, to the sidewalk, they didn’t find any. I didn’t – you know, they didn’t find any roots.

    TOM: OK. So then, when it went from the cleanout back towards your house, that’s where they found the roots?

    RUTH ANN: Yep. When they came in the basement and went out to the – towards the street, of course, that’s when they …

    TOM: And what do you have now? You have a cast-iron drainpipe?

    RUTH ANN: Yeah. Well, that’s what there was under the ground in the front yard.

    TOM: Right.

    RUTH ANN: That’s what they dug out.

    TOM: Yeah.

    RUTH ANN: So I’m sure – what they’re saying is that now, it’s probably – they think the tree roots are getting in the line underneath the basement floor.

    TOM: Yeah. Well, it could happen. So, your decision is going to be whether or not you want to tolerate this occasionally having to be cleaned out or whether you want to do something about it. When it comes to do something about it, you’ve got kind of two options, alright?

    First of all, you could tear open the basement floor and dig it out and replace it. While that seems, to the average person, like a really extensive job, truth be told it’s not that hard to break up a floor in a basement. It’s about 4 inches of concrete, in most cases, and it breaks up in pretty short order with the right tools. Then you’ve got to patch it, so that’s going to add to the job.

    Or you could line the old pipe. And I suspect that it’s probably going to be the same cost as doing the concrete work, which is a reason probably not to do it. But I’ll explain to you what that is. There is a system where a company can basically – it’s like a fiberglass sock that’s sort of inserted into the pipe and then pulled inside-out and then filled up with water – warm water – that makes it cure. And you end up with a new interior surface inside of either a cast-iron or even a clay pipe. And so it’s kind of like building a pipe inside of a pipe. And it’s a way to do this without tearing things up.

    Sometimes, if you have a long sewer line and you’re going under driveways or sidewalks or patios or pools or even other buildings, it makes sense to do something like this because you don’t have to do all that destruction to get to the pipe. In your case, it seems like most of this has been done except for this last piece into the house. You might want to think about opening up the basement floor and then doing this last piece to kind of just be done with it. But like I said, it’s going to be a lot more expensive than you just having to pay a plumber once a year, or once every couple of years, to come out and snake that out. Now that you know kind of where it is, it actually gets a lot easier, too, from time to time.

    RUTH ANN: Is it possible that tree roots can grow back into that PVC pipe? I wouldn’t think so but …

    TOM: No, unless there’s something wrong with it. Unless it’s separated, they cannot pierce those seams. Those are solid, basically plastic-welded joints in those pipes and they should not be able to get in there. So they’re only going to be able to get in between the cast-iron sections, in your case, or perhaps where the PVC and the cast iron are connected, depending on how they tied those together. There’s a tool called a “Fernco connection,” which is like a big, rubber boot with radiator straps, it looks like, on the outsides of them where it gets really tied to one or the other and they can hold odd-shaped things together.

    But it depends on how they make those connections. If they did it right, that shouldn’t be an issue. But the cast-iron pipes are in sections, so the roots can crawl right into those sections and they find all the nutrients they need to grow inside those pipes. And so that’s why they like to be in there.

    RUTH ANN: Yeah, for sure. Should I call a contractor to tear up the basement floor and put that new pipe in or is that a plumber?

    TOM: You’re going to need a plumber. You’re going to need a plumber for that.


    TOM: And I would call – I would go to, find plumbers in your area that are listed there. Read the reviews. I would personally interview a couple of them – two, three of them maybe – and get an estimate on the project. And then choose the one that you’re most comfortable with.

    RUTH ANN: Yes, I’ve seen that. OK. Alright. That’s awesome.

    Could you tell me one more time? What was the – if they were going to put a lining inside the existing pipe, what was that made out of again?

    TOM: Well, it’s made out of fiberglass.

    RUTH ANN: Fiberglass.

    TOM: It’s like a worn fiberglass sock, yeah.


    TOM: You’ll find the sewer-cleaning companies – the bigger ones – will probably have that service, so that’s an option.

    RUTH ANN: That’s awesome. Thank you so much for the information and calling me back.

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

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at What’s your how-to or your décor question? Give us a call 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 project.

    TOM: Up next, the new year is a great time to explore the possibilities in smart-home gadgets that have hit the market. We’re going to share the highlights of the most practical additions to your home, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Pick up the phone, right now, and give us a call with your home repair, home improvement or home décor question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor.

    So, Leslie, we took all the decorations down this past week and put them away for yet another year. And I’ve got to tell you, you’ve got to be so careful what you do with those lights if you want to make them last, you know?

    LESLIE: Yeah.

    TOM: Because they go – they work one year and then you put them away and they don’t work the next year. So, we’re super careful to wrap them around sheets of corrugated cardboard. Or if we still have the original coils for it, put them back in there so that they don’t get messed up. I’m telling you what, next year I’m still going to have a couple strings that don’t work.

    LESLIE: Well, I’m sure. And I think it’s so important. People forget because you’re taking them down kind of quickly and you want to get them put away, because now it’s much colder than when you put them up. Make sure that you wrap them in a way so that you end up with the male end at the beginning, so that you can easily plug that in and then start decorating next year. Because otherwise, then you’ve got to unwrap it and reroll it and it becomes a pain in the butt. So you’ve got to think about it.

    TOM: You can also plug it in and see if it’s working right away, too, as opposed to waiting until you get it completely unwound.

    LESLIE: That’s true. That is true.

    Al in Arkansas, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?

    AL: Yes. I’ve got a door that – and I’ve always had a door at this spot. And I bought it – one of these case doors where you just slide it in the hole. And the bottom part of it, on the outside, kind of just rotted away. And eventually, now after maybe five years, the bottom foot of it, on one side, is completely gone. And the other side is getting gone. And I was wondering what kind of problems I might have. It’s on the west side of the house.

    TOM: OK. So you’re talking about the door jambs? It was a prehung exterior door and the door jambs at the bottom are rotting away? Is that correct?

    AL: Yes.

    TOM: Yeah, that’s really typical with a prehung door. And unless you’re very careful with the maintenance, in terms of painting that on a regular basis and not letting water sort of collect in that area, it’s kind of the way those doors fail. It’s the way they wear.

    My sister had a door just like that that I helped her with last summer. And we basically just cut the whole thing out of the opening and put a new one in. The doors are not that expensive. I mean you can get a nice Therma-Tru door, for example, fiberglass door with rot-resistant jambs now – they’re made a lot better – for a couple hundred, $300. And I popped it in in an afternoon.

    I don’t think that there’s anything worth saving about the door, as you describe it now. It’s very – it’d be very difficult for you to repair that. And because it’s prehung, it’s going to be attached to the metal sill at the bottom. You’re also not going to be getting a good air seal there, so it’s going to become drafty.

    AL: OK. Yeah, it’s one of those metal doors with the glass in the middle and the little louvers in the middle.

    TOM: Yep. Yeah. Well, here’s the thing. When you get a new door, you really ought to look at the fiberglass doors because they can look like that sort of plain, metal style or they could have a nice woodgrain to it. But the nice thing about fiberglass doors is the door itself doesn’t rust and it’s a lot warmer. It’s much more insulated and energy-efficient than a steel door.

    AL: Oh, good to know.

    TOM: OK?

    AL: Leslie, I appreciate it. I enjoy your show immensely.

    LESLIE: Thanks.

    AL: Thanks a lot.

    TOM: Thank you saying that. We appreciate it and you guys have a great day.

    AL: You bet.

    TOM: Well, the new year is a great time to explore the possibilities of home automation with some smart-home gadgets that have hit the market. There are four that really make the most sense to add.

    LESLIE: Yeah. First of all, we’re talking about smart LED bulbs and smart light switches. Now, these are probably the simplest smart technology that’s out there. So, the light switches, they do require some hands-on installation to replace your standard switches but this is not as complicated as you’re thinking.

    Now, with both smart bulbs and light switches, you’re able to control its operations through your smartphone which, come on, none of us want to get up out of our chair anymore. So you might as well be able to do everything from your phone.

    And many of the brands out there will allow you to change the lights’ colors and set a schedule to turn the lights on and off. So, again, never have to leave your chair.

    TOM: Well, speaking of never leaving your chair, it used to be such an inconvenience to have to get up when you felt a little chilly and turn up the thermostat. Well, if you’ve got a smart thermostat, you don’t have to do that.

    But it actually gives you a lot more control than just that. These smart thermostats today, the feature that I love the most – well, there’s really two. But one of them is geo-fencing. So what that means is when you’re at work and you’re driving home, you can set up a lot of these thermostats so that when you’re in X miles of your house – let’s say 10 miles away – then the heat starts to come on. Or if it’s the summer, the air conditioning comes on so the house is perfect when you walk in the door. But when you’re that far away from the house, it does the opposite: automatically goes off, which just saves you a ton of energy. Love that.

    Plus, some of them will also – if you want to use sort of the setback feature where you kind of know your schedule and you can tell it to go on and go off or go higher or lower, based on a certain time of day, they’ll actually memorize your pattern. So you don’t even have to set it yourself. Just by the fact that you’re there or not there, it knows where you are because it’s connected to your smartphone. So if you’re not home, it knows to go down; if you are home, it can come up.

    So, lots of capabilities in these smart-home thermostats and they’re not that expensive. I mean 100 bucks and up is worth it for the energy savings and the convenience you get.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Now, if you’re starting to get a lot of different smart features into your home, like the thermostat or light bulbs or anything else, and you want to kind of control everything from one place, you can do that with a smart hub. And that’s the perfect device for this task, because it connects everything to your home network and then it gives you control through one single app.

    So, for example, if you’ve got a motion detector, smart lights and a smart thermostat, the hub’s app can turn on the light and the heat for you when the motion detector sees you walk through that front door. How cool is that?

    TOM: Very, very cool. And lastly, let’s talk about smart locks in those front doors. If you ever had to fumble around for your keys in the dark trying to get in and out of your house, smart locks are the answer. They give you a keyless access to any door and they can be controlled and monitored from your smartphone. You can use the app to open the door for visitors or to make sure you lock the door after you get to work. Most are Wi-Fi connected. They are very, very easy to use and they provide terrific levels of security.

    I love the fact that it reminds you if you left the door open, because I know that’s happened to everybody from time to time. And these smart locks answer that question.

    LESLIE: I need the smart device that tells me if I’ve left the oven on. I do this often. I’ll drive away somewhere and I’ll be like, “Did I turn the oven off?” And I know full well I did but if you do something slightly out of routine, that’s the one thing that I worry about the most.

    TOM: Right. Yeah. And probably most of the time, even if you turn around or you have it checked, it is off. But it’s just that fear.

    LESLIE: Oh, of course.

    TOM: It’s knowing what’s going on in your house. Taking that anxiety away is really helpful. And you can do that with a lot of these smart devices.

    LESLIE: Loretta in Massachusetts is obviously scarred from such a cold and snowy winter in Massachusetts and needs some help with a heating question.

    What can we do for you, Loretta?

    LORETTA: Well, I would like to know if it’s going to be cost-effective for me to change a heating system that I have, which is now oil. I do not have heat – gas in my street. And I’d like to make an apartment out of my basement where the boiler and all that – the tank and all of that stuff is.

    TOM: OK.

    LORETTA: So I was wondering, you know, if – can I – is this something that I can do? I have two floors. The basement would be a third, really. And I don’t know if you can have more than one pellet stove or how this would work. Is it clean?

    TOM: So, first of all, you want to add heat to the basement space. Is that what you’re asking us?

    LORETTA: Right. I want to get rid of the mess down there: the burner and the oil (inaudible).

    TOM: Well, how are you going to heat the rest of the house?

    LORETTA: Well, this is what I was – my big question. Can I heat the whole house with pellet stoves?

    TOM: No.


    TOM: Not unless you’ve got a little cabin in the woods. You need your central heating system. It would be foolish to remove that. Your house would lose dramatic amounts of value.

    If you want to improve the energy-efficiency of it, you may be able to replace the oil burner or replace the boiler itself and pick up a lot of efficiency.

    Now, in terms of this apartment, if it is a boiler, therefore a hot-water heating system, it’s easy to add an additional zone and have that zone only heat the basement. That would be the most cost-effective way to do that and that is one big advantage of having a hot-water heating system. Because with a zone valve and with the plumbing being right there, you could easily add an additional zone and heat the basement on its own zone. So this way, it will only heat when that particular thermostat calls for it. But keep the boiler. You’re going to need it for the rest of the house.

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

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

    BELA: Well, we have a sunroom. And the roof of the sunroom is 4 inches of Styrofoam and on top of that is aluminum. Now, when it rains, it’s very, very noisy. It’s like living in a double-wide. So what I would like to do is put architectural shingles on it.

    Now, I talked to one roofer. He said, “Oh, we can just nail it on.” But I don’t think so. I thought maybe we need some plywood – ¾-inch plywood – and even maybe some spacers.

    TOM: This aluminum roof, is it fairly flat or is it shaped?

    BELA: It is flat. Yes, sir.

    TOM: Well, first of all, keep in mind that metal roofs are far more durable than asphalt-shingle roofs. But if you can’t really deal with the sound and you want to soften it, I agree with you: I do think you should attach a plywood decking to that metal roof first.

    And I would do that with screws. So I would drive screws through the decking, into that metal roof. And then, on top of that, I would put ice-and-water shield, which is going to give you protection from any ice damming. And I would probably, since it’s a fairly flat roof or a low-sloped roof, I would probably cover the entire surface with ice-and-water shield. And then over that, I would put the asphalt shingles.

    BELA: OK. Thank you so very much for your help. That is the kind of a thing I’ve been thinking about.

    TOM: I think you’re on the right track, Bela. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Hey, if you’re a person that appreciates a neat house – and I certainly am one of those people – or perhaps you’re one that just wants to make sure that it’s safe, keeping your TV or other electronics cords organized and out of sight can do both for you. We’re going to have tips for that project, 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. You can call in your home improvement, repair or décor question, right now, to 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: Jacob in Kentucky is on the line with a water-heating question. What can we do for you?

    JACOB: Hi. Basically, the problem that I’m having is when I’m taking a shower and it – kind of in the sink, as well in the kitchen – when I turn on the hot water, you could – I mean you can cook macaroni in the hot water.

    You’ve got to kind of fidget with it if you wash your hands too long or something. And in the shower, kind of the same thing. I won’t turn it on full blast on hot but just about normal and it’ll cool off after just a couple of minutes. It’ll just almost go cold and then just, as you’re taking a shower, in the duration of 5 or 10 minutes, I end up going all the way over with the hot water. Just the one knob. I end up turning it on, I guess, full-blast hot.

    TOM: So let’s see what’s going on here. How old is your water heater?

    JACOB: It’s fairly new. I think it’s just a few years old. Maybe three years old.

    TOM: So, electric or gas?

    JACOB: It’s gas.

    TOM: So, first of all, let’s check the temperature of the water heater. It needs to be at about 110 degrees. And see if – there may be a temperature indicator on the valve that you can line up or you could simply measure it with a thermometer.

    Secondly, in terms of the shower, what I would recommend is that you install what’s called a “pressure-balanced valve.” So what a pressure-balanced valve does is that once you have set the temperature, it maintains the mix between hot and cold so that you deliver that same temperature, regardless of what happens to the pressure on one side or the other. So if somebody flushes a toilet or runs the dishwasher and all of a sudden, you’ve got less cold water or less hot water, it’s going to adjust. So the flow may be greater or less but the temperature will never change. And that makes the shower situation pretty much go away.

    JACOB: OK. Awesome. What was it called again, the valve?

    TOM: A pressure-balanced valve. It’s a type of shower valve.

    JACOB: Oh, OK. Awesome. Well, I appreciate it.

    TOM: Hey, ask your plumber for it. They’ll know exactly what you’re talking about.

    JACOB: Alright. Well, I definitely appreciate your call.

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

    LESLIE: So you finally got that flat-screen TV that you’ve always wanted and you’ve got it hanging right where you want it: that perfect, prime spot for viewing, right up on your wall.

    TOM: Yes. But what do you now do with all those dangling cords and wires? Tom Silva is the general contractor for TV’s This Old House and he’s faced this problem himself and has some tips and tricks to magically make all that mess disappear.

    Welcome, Tommy.

    TOM SILVA: Hi, guys. Nice to be here.

    TOM: Now, this is one of those problems that you really want to – it kind of ruins the whole point of having a flat-screen TV, you know? It’s very clean, it’s very crisp, it’s very modern but then you have this mess of wire.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah, with a mess of wire hanging down underneath, it looks terrible.

    TOM: So what are some ways to hide those cables?

    TOM SILVA: Well, there’s a couple of ways. Basically, you could punch a hole in the wall right behind the TV and another one down below the table or whatever it’s at, right near the outlet, and snake the wire down through there.

    TOM: Down the channel of the wall.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah, if you have a – yeah.

    TOM: But what if it’s a brick wall or something you can’t do that to or if your wife is saying, “You absolutely will not be cutting a hole in my wall”?

    TOM SILVA: Yeah, that happened to me, actually. I wasn’t allowed to do that.

    But anyways, yeah, there are actually chases that you can face or screw to the wall. It’s …

    TOM: Now, what’s a chase?

    TOM SILVA: Well, you’re making a chase, I should have said.

    TOM: OK.

    TOM SILVA: It’s basically a little channel that you screw or even two-face tape to the wall. And then you run your wires into that little chase and there’s a little piece that you can clip right on it to hide the wires.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And those you can paint, right, to match your wall color and they virtually disappear.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah, they virtually – you’re right. And they’re very hard to see because they disappear.

    LESLIE: Yeah, they do.

    Another thing that I’ve seen done, if you’re lucky enough to have a closet on the back side, is you can run your components through to that back-side closet. However, your remote control then doesn’t operate as effectively as you would have liked.

    TOM SILVA: No, you have to get one of those little things – the wires that you glue to the TV right onto the remote sensor – and then that will pick it up there.

    TOM: Because that’s one of the wires that hangs out.

    TOM SILVA: But again, that’s just – it’s another wire that – yeah.

    TOM: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Now, you actually had a creative solution for this involving a threshold that I saw that you gave a reader of

    TOM SILVA: Yeah, I basically had a threshold that I basically put a channel in it.

    TOM: Now, a threshold is for a door, typically, right?

    TOM SILVA: Yeah. Well, we used – like I said earlier, I’m a Yankee.

    TOM: You have to do it everywhere.

    TOM SILVA: Whatever I can get off the shelf, I will use.

    TOM: Right.

    TOM SILVA: But yeah, basically an oak threshold, I think it was, and I put a channel in the back of it or a dado and hide the wires with that. You can actually make – you can take it – if you have a table saw, you can take any piece of wood and miter the three pieces and make your own without a dado blade.

    TOM: Channel it out.

    Now, any tips for running those wires safely once you’ve actually decided what your cord-management system is going to be?

    TOM SILVA: Well, you want to make sure that you don’t have the electrical wires right next to or against the wire that’s bringing all the data to. Because sometimes, you can get interference with that, so you have to be careful of that.

    TOM: OK.

    TOM SILVA: So you want to try to separate them, so you don’t want to have the pieces – you don’t want to have that channel too wide.

    TOM: Right.

    TOM SILVA: If you’re just getting it into a wall cavity, that’s another thing you don’t have to worry about it that much.

    You also want to make it so that you leave enough slack in the line so that if you have to turn the TV, you don’t pull the thing out and then you’ve got to say, “Why isn’t it working?”

    TOM: Right.

    TOM SILVA: And you’ve got to take the TV off the wall, in some cases, just to get to it.

    And you want to make sure that nothing is rubbing; you don’t want to wear a wire. So if the TV gets moved a lot or a table or something gets moved into those wires, you don’t want them to rub.

    TOM: A little trick of the trade from the radio business: label both ends of your cable.

    LESLIE: Yeah.

    TOM SILVA: Yes, yes. And another thing that’s very important: don’t lay them underneath a rug.

    TOM: Oh, yeah.

    TOM SILVA: Because you’re going to step on that rug. You’re walking on that rug and believe it or not, you’re wearing on those wires and you can get electrocuted, cause a fire.

    TOM: Cause a fire, yeah.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah.

    TOM: Good advice. Tom Silva from TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    TOM SILVA: My pleasure.

    TOM: We’ll be thinking of you the next time we watch the big game on the flat-screen TV, because we’ll watch the game and not the wires.

    TOM SILVA: There you go.

    LESLIE: Alright. You can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS.

    TOM: And Ask This Old House is brought to you on PBS by Caseta by Lutron.

    Just ahead, now that we’re mid-winter, you might think your house is weathertight. But there is one very important and very large opening you may have forgotten. And if it’s not updated, you might be letting more than just cold air break into your home. We’ll tell you how to secure that space, 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: Pick up the phone, right now, and give us a call. We’d love to talk about your home improvement, repair or décor question at 888-MONEY-PIT. Or you can post that question to the Community page at

    LESLIE: Deborah in Georgia is on the line with a laminate question. What can we do for you?

    DEBORAH: I have some laminate floor covering that, unfortunately, some nail polish was spilled onto. It’s dried. It’s clear. But how can I get it up? Because you can see it at an angle but I’d really like for it to be gone.

    TOM: Was there a story behind that accident?

    DEBORAH: Yeah, my grandson picked up a bag and dropped it.

    TOM: Bless his heart. Have you tried nail-polish remover?

    DEBORAH: I was afraid to try it.

    TOM: You know what? I have enough confidence in your laminate that I think that’s probably OK. But here’s what I would do. I would not soak it. I would put a little bit on a cotton ball or a little bit on a paper towel and then just work at it a little bit at a time.


    TOM: But I bet you that’s probably the quickest way. That’s acetone. And that’s the quickest way, probably, to get that off of the floor.

    DEBORAH: OK. Well, I didn’t know if the non-acetone nail polish might work even better. I don’t – I was afraid to try anything.

    TOM: Yeah. Well, listen, if you’ve got a concern about it, what you could do is go to an area of the floor that’s not so visible, like maybe in a closet or underneath the kickboard or a piece of furniture and just try a little bit right there. I suspect it won’t have any effect on it, because that stuff is pretty tough.

    DEBORAH: Well, great. That’s wonderful. That’s the best news I’ve had.

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

    LESLIE: Well, for most folks that have a garage, that’s the main entrance to your home. But the garage door can take a beating in the winter weather. So, here are some tips to help keep your home warm and safe all winter long, presented by LiftMaster.

    TOM: Now, first, check the weather-stripping around the garage door. You want to replace any seals that look damaged or are missing. And check to make sure the garage-door opener is working properly, as well. You want to make sure it’ll reverse if it’s obstructed, like by blocking the electric eyes at the base of the door. If it doesn’t immediately reverse, you need to contact a qualified service pro to get it fixed, because it could be unsafe.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Next, you want to think about installing a second power source. Now, winter weather can lead to power failures, which means that your garage-door opener isn’t going to work. Now, if your home isn’t equipped with a backup generator, LiftMaster offers a garage-door opener with a battery backup that can open the door even when the power is out.

    TOM: You can also consider adding some smart-home technology to your garage. A connected garage system will allow you to open, close and operate the garage door from anywhere. And that can be pretty handy if you forget to close the garage door or if you need to open the garage door for somebody visiting when you’re not home.

    LESLIE: And if you’ve got an older garage door that’s ready for a replacement, you want to think about getting one that works with LiftMaster’s new Automatic Garage-Door Lock. Now, this works like a deadbolt on your front door. It will secure the garage door automatically every time it closes. It’s a brand-new product to the market and makes that garage door virtually impossible to break into, which really is a nice feeling to have, especially if you find yourself traveling a lot in the winter or anytime, for that matter.

    TOM: You know, your garage door is really your biggest door, so it’s smart to give it kind of an extra layer of protection. Auto Lock works with select LiftMaster garage-door openers. And you can purchase it on LiftMaster website or through a LiftMaster dealer.

    Learn more or find your local dealer at

    LESLIE: Heading out to New Jersey where John has some issues going on in the attic. Tell us about it.

    JOHN: I have the breather up on top of my roof. It’s leaks, comes down into the attic. And I have a little container up there and sometimes, I don’t get up there in time and it’s kind of messing up my ceiling.

    TOM: Well, that’s not good.

    JOHN: Well, I’ve gone up there and I’ve had that can of – I forget what you call it. You spray it and it’s like a rubber whatever. I’ve sprayed all around the metal flashing and it’s still leaking. I don’t see any holes anywhere else. There’s no missing shingles. I don’t know what else it could be.

    TOM: OK. So let me just – clarify for me: when you call this an “attic breather” or “vent,” what are we talking about? Is it a square hole in your roof with a vent over it? Is it a ridge vent that goes down the peak of the roof? Or are you talking about the plumbing vent that comes up through the roof?

    JOHN: No. It’s almost up in the – about midway. There’s one on one side of the roof and one on the other.

    TOM: OK. So it’s like a square vent?

    JOHN: Right. And there’s no – the opening – it’s on an angle but I don’t know if it’s enough of an angle when the wind drives the rain in a certain direction.

    TOM: Yeah. That’s what I was thinking. You may have some wind-driven rain in here. And what my advice would be to you is – you have a ridge that goes down sort of the – like a peak of the roof that goes down the middle of the house?

    JOHN: No. It goes across. It runs horizontally.

    TOM: What kind of roof style do you have? Is this a standard Colonial house or – what is it? A ranch?

    JOHN: Small ranch.

    TOM: OK. So here’s what I would do. You may very well be getting wind-driven rain inside that. What I might suggest is – that’s actually not the best kind of vent. And there’s an opportunity for you to improve your ventilation here in your attic space, which’ll actually make it cooler in the summertime and drier in the wintertime, which makes your insulation more effective.

    And to do that, what I would do is I would remove those square vents, patch the hole and re-shingle over that. And I would replace that with a ridge vent that goes down most of the peak of the roof. The ridge vent’s not likely to leak if it’s properly installed. And that will open up that space to more ventilation, which will have the benefits that we talked about.

    JOHN: Wow. OK, OK. That’s my next project.

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

    LESLIE: Well, nothing like winter to make you appreciate building materials that need little to zero maintenance. We’re going to answer some questions from The Money Pit community about products that can do just that, after this.

    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: Give us a call, right now, with your how-to question at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor. Find top-rated home pros you can trust.

    LESLIE: Alright. And while you’re online, post your question in the Community section. And we receive so many emails and posts there every day and I’m going to answer some now.

    First, we’ve got Bob from Chicago who posted: “We’re planning to update the look of our home with new siding but we want to select a low-maintenance, long-lasting material. Any suggestions?”

    TOM: Gosh, there’s so many options in low-maintenance to zero-maintenance products. This past year, we got to spend some time with the folks at Tando. They brought out that Beach Shake product that looked just like cedar shakes, which are just gorgeous but zero maintenance.

    LESLIE: It really does.

    TOM: The stuff is so indestructible. So you’ve got options like that. You’ve got the cement sidings that are out there that are terrific. They can be in clever …

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Which I have on my house.

    TOM: Right. And I’ve got some of the cement shingles that look like – actually look a little bit like the old asbestos shingles but they’re not. They’re made out of cement and they were prefinished, so they look terrific. You’ve got that. You’ve got lots of different stone options: either real stone or fake stone or slate products that are out there. So you’ve got lots and lots and lots of options in low-maintenance siding if you just want to kind of look at what’s at the market. I think you’re going to be pleasantly surprised.

    Siding is the thing – the kind of thing that you buy once a lifetime, you know? Generally, it …

    LESLIE: Well, you hope so, yes.

    TOM: You hope so, right? I mean your siding doesn’t wear out very often. So, take a fresh look at what’s out there. There are so many options that have you really never touching a paintbrush again, frankly.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you know what, Bob? There’s a big trend – and I think this trend is here to stay – of people mixing different materials when it comes to their siding. So maybe by the entry door and extending up to the second floor, that’s all a stone veneer. And then on the side is a shingle of some sort, depending on what your taste is. But I think you really have an opportunity to create a look that’s totally unique, that works with the architecture of your home.

    Don’t be afraid to look online for some inspiration. On, you’ll find lots of different looks that you can put together to see what would work best for your house. So don’t be afraid to mix and match.

    TOM: Alright. Michelle from New York, she wants to clear the air in a good way, because she’s having a problem breathing. She says, “There’s a fine dust that seems to be coming from my heat pump, that gets on everything. The heat pump has been looked at and cleaned and no one can find any problems.”

    Well, listen, whenever you have a dust coming out of any forced-air heating system – and heat pump is included in that – you’ve got to look at your filtration. And the thing is, generally, if you don’t ask for a better-quality filter, the contractor is going to put in a standard filter, which stops about everything that’s the size of a pebble and lets everything else pass through. These fiberglass filters that are about an inch thick really don’t do a very good job of cleaning the air.

    There are lots of options in filtration. There are media filters that are sort of folded in almost in an accordion shape so that they have a lot of filter material in a small space. And when you slide in this rack of filter, it has so much more efficiency compared to the fiberglass filters that it traps a lot more.

    There’s also a whole host of electronic air filters out there that are so terrific, they can filter out even virus-size particles. So if you’re getting that kind of debris in your air, you’ve got to put a better filtration system and that will definitely fix it.

    LESLIE: And you know what, Michelle? Not only are you going to see far less dust throughout your house but the entire heating system itself is going to operate far more efficiently. Because that dust gets into the machinery itself and that sort of bogs it down so it’s not working efficiently, it’s not working to the best of its abilities. So, everybody is going to be happier all around.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Hey, thank you so much for spending this hour with us. Hope that you’ve picked up a tip or two to help you fix up your home-sweet-home. Remember, if you’ve got a question that we couldn’t get to today or you think of it mid-week, that’s OK. Just call us anytime at 888-MONEY-PIT or head on over to The Money Pit’s website at and post your question right there in The Money Pit community.

    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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