Getting Gutters Ready for Fall – #0925171

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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: Standing by to help you take on your next home improvement or décor project. Help yourself first: pick up the phone and call us at 888-MONEY-PIT or post your home improvement question to the Community page at

    We’ve got a great show planned for you. Coming up this hour, if you love the look of hardwood on your floors, this same product can be used to create a beautiful accent wall, as well. We’ll have the step-by-step, just ahead.

    LESLIE: And now that we’re nearing that time of year when the leaves give way to gravity and land in your gutters, we’ll tell you how to make sure that your gutters are good to go. Because if they’re not, there’s a whole host of problems that can occur, from slippery sidewalks to cracked foundations and even wet basements.

    TOM: And with the chilly weather setting in, do you have that one room in your house that just never seems to get warm? Well, infrared space heating may be a solution. We’re going to tell you how to shop for a heater that can supplement your whole-home heat and reduce your overall utility expense at the same time.

    LESLIE: And this hour, we’re giving away a $65 package of the best tape to have around your house. It’s called T-Rex and it’s a ferociously strong tape that works where other tapes just won’t, like on damp, dirty or rough surfaces. And we’re going to include a large selection of T-Rex Tape.

    TOM: So give us a call right now. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Let’s get to it. Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Andrew from Missouri is on the line and has a question about a deck. What’s going on at your money pit?

    ANDREW: Built a deck with pressure-treated lumber a little over – well, it was a little under a year ago. And everybody had said – everybody I talked to had said I needed to let it sit for a little while to kind of cure out. And so, I went the other day and I bought the stain because I was going to, you know, get ready to stain it and I was talked into using – buying this deck cleaner, even though I never put any stain on the deck before.

    And so I bought the deck cleaner and all it said – it was Olympic Deck Cleaner. And it just said you put it on, you wait at least 10 minutes. Use it straight on, wait 10 minutes and then hose it off – just rinse it off with water.

    TOM: Right.

    ANDREW: So I did that and it first made the deck real splotchy and then it left a real thick, white film on the deck. And so then I called tech support and I talked to a couple guys at a couple different paint stores and they said, “Well, try applying a second application of it and maybe that’ll undercut it.” So I did that and it didn’t do anything.

    TOM: Right.

    ANDREW: So now I have a white film.

    TOM: Yeah, I’ve actually read several reports about that happening online and they seem to point to a reaction between the pressure-treatment chemicals and whatever is in this deck cleaner, which is probably somewhat bleach-based.

    Let me ask you this: what are you planning to do after the cleaner? Are you going to put a stain on this deck?

    ANDREW: That was the plan. We were going to do a semi-transparent; like a rustic cedar was a thought. But I don’t know what to do at this point.

    TOM: I suspect that when you do apply this stain, it’s going to cover that white haze. I think you’re going to end up OK on this.


    TOM: Just an additional point to make on this and that is that you have semi-transparent or solid-color stains that are available. You will find that if you use a solid-color stain, while you’ll still see the grain of the wood, you won’t see different sort of tonal shades. But you’ll find that that has more pigment in it and actually lasts longer. So, keep that in mind when you make that determination.

    ANDREW: Solid color does.

    TOM: Yeah, solid color does. What you might want to do, just to kind of prove a point, is if you can find – if you have any extra lumber from the deck or if you can find a section, like maybe the back of a post or something like that or the underside of a floor joist that you have clean and have that white blotchiness on it, if you can stain that first and see what the coverage looks like, you’ll have a really good idea of what you’re up against before you go for the entire deck surface and railings. OK?

    ANDREW: OK. And then my last question is: so when I do stain it, would you recommend putting two coats on or do you just wait to see what it looks like and then …?

    TOM: If you’re going to put semi-transparent on and you put two coats on, you’ll probably going to end up with solid color because you’re going to be layering on top of it. But I would follow the manufacturer’s instructions on that, you know. If you want to put a second coat on, I think that’s fine.

    ANDREW: Alright. Well, thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Laura in Connecticut is on the line and needs some help with a project. What are you working on?

    LAURA: I was listening to your program on Saturday, OK, and you were referring to galvanized nails rusting with siding.

    TOM: Yes. Mm-hmm.

    LAURA: I have a similar problem. If I polyurethane the nail and paint over it, would that work or would it chip?

    TOM: It will still rust through if you don’t have the right kinds of nails.

    LAURA: Uh-oh.

    TOM: See, if you’re talking about cedar siding, what you should have used – or the carpenter should have used – was a stainless-steel nail. Those nails, obviously, won’t rust. If they’re standard galvanized nails, you do tend to get sort of a bleed through it.

    Now, if you refinish the siding and you stain it or paint it, then – and you prime it first, by the way – then you probably will do a pretty good job of stopping most of that from coming through. But the problem generally happens when you want to stain it, as you want to enjoy the grain of the wood, then it’s really hard to cover it up.

    LAURA: Thank you very much.

    TOM: You’re welcome. Unless, of course, you go with rust-colored stain.

    Right, Leslie?

    LESLIE: You could do that.

    LAURA: Oh, OK. That sounds good.

    TOM: If you can’t beat them, join them.

    LAURA: Exactly, exactly.

    TOM: Good luck, Laura. Thanks for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at

    Hey, do you want to take your décor to new heights? Well, we’ll have tips to step up your style by using flooring on the walls and ceilings, 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.

    Call us now at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by You can find top-rated home pros that you can trust. And for local pros who want to grow their business, HomeAdvisor is the easy way to get connected with project-ready homeowners.

    TOM: And hey, there’s another great reason to reach out by phone or by posting your question to The Money Pit community and that is we’re giving away a $65 package of T-Rex Tape to one lucky listener.

    And I’ve got to tell you, one of the handiest tools to have around the house is, obviously, a roll of duct tape, right? But when you need really intense holding power, especially if the surface you’re trying to tape is rough or dirty or damp or really cold or really hot, T-Rex is perfect. It’s a new advanced tape that really delivers. It’s got intense holding power, no matter what the application, and it is ferociously strong. It’s made with super-durable, extra-thick, UV-resistant materials so it’s going to work longer, it’s going to hold stronger than other utility tapes in all types of weather.

    You can find it at retailers nationwide. It sells between $5 and $15 a roll but we’ve got a $65 package of T-Rex going out to one caller drawn at random. Make that you. Pick up the phone and give us a call, right now, at 888-MONEY-PIT or post your question to the Community page at

    LESLIE: Jeff in Massachusetts is on the line who mysteriously has a hole in a bathroom door.

    TOM: How’d that happen, Jeff?

    JEFF: Yes, hello. Well, apparently, one of my guests slammed the bathroom door a little bit too hard and it threw the bolt out all by itself. So, we got locked out of our own bathroom.

    TOM: Oh, boy.

    JEFF: This is a very old building, a 1928 building, and these are the thin paneled doors where the center of the door is a very thin panel.

    TOM: Yep.

    JEFF: So we bashed a hole through the panel to open the door. Now, my question to you is: can this door be repaired? Can it be disassembled so we can replace the center panel or do I just go out and buy a whole new door?

    TOM: So, is it a solid door or is it a hollow door?

    JEFF: Well, it’s a solid door but the thick part of the door is only 4 inches around the edge.

    TOM: Right.

    JEFF: And the center part of the door is a very thin, ¼-inch panel.

    TOM: And is the panel a raised panel? Does it have a design to it?

    JEFF: No, it’s a flat – just a flat panel.

    TOM: Oh, well, then I think you could replace it. Is the door painted or stained?

    JEFF: I believe it’s been painted numerous times.

    TOM: Yeah, then I think there’s no reason you can’t fix it. It will be really hard to find a door to fit that space and I think just taking the door apart – and a good carpenter can build you a panel and set it right in there. And with a little bit of luck, it won’t look too much different than anything else.

    JEFF: Well, that was my question, whether the door can be disassembled. I’ve heard of situations where they took a saw and sawed out through the molding on the inside of a door, that holds in the panel, and they put the new panel in that way.

    TOM: I don’t think you have to take it apart. In fact, I don’t think you can take it apart. I think what you’re probably talking about doing is routing out a groove on the back side of that so you can set the panel in and then maybe covering it with a small, quarter-round molding or something of that nature.

    JEFF: OK. That’s the way to go. Well, thank you very much for this.

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

    LESLIE: Well, with as little as 100 square feet of flooring, you can step up the style in any room of your home by using flooring to create an accent wall. Now, this trendy, new look is a great weekend home improvement project that delivers a big impact for a relatively small expense.

    You know, decorative wall installations, they could really bring a durable, artistic element to your décor. And you can choose from so many flooring materials for this project, too. Think about options like hardwood, bamboo, wood-look tile, luxury vinyl or even laminate. You can also do this project using decorative wall panels, which really are just hardwood strips mounted on a wooden backing. Super versatile, really easy to install.

    TOM: Yeah. And the installation is pretty straightforward. And it’s much the same as you would if you were installing the product to the floor. Now, depending on the type of flooring, the planks can be secured to the walls using nails, glue or even wood-flooring tape, which really makes it easy.

    You are going to want to make sure that you let the flooring acclimate in your home for a few days before you start the project. And to make sure you get the best layout, you should arrange your planks side by side on the floor first. This way, you can sort of make sure the pattern is exactly what you want. You can balance out the colors and the grains. And you do that before you put them on the wall, which ensures that you’re going to have a really great result.

    LESLIE: Today’s Flooring Tip was presented by Lumber Liquidators. With such new trends in hardwood flooring and so many options to choose from, including decorative wall panels, you’re sure to find what’s right for you. Plus, you can get expert flooring help at every local store.

    TOM: For locations, call 1-800-HARDWOOD or visit Lumber Liquidators, hardwood floors for less.

    LESLIE: Margaret in Kansas is on the line and has a question about water. What can we do for you?

    MARGARET: Yes, I’d like to know what to do with my south wall. I have no trouble until the water table – the ground is saturated. Then it starts seeping in. Now, when we moved into the house 50 years ago, they had a water system that goes to a sump pump and it takes care of it until this deluge we’ve had the last couple of times. Don’t know whether there’s something I can do on the outside, rather than jackhammer that up to see what’s going on in there.

    LESLIE: Now, what’s different? I mean are you just seeing more quantities of rain or more consistent rain over a shorter period of time?

    MARGARET: Yes, we had a lot of rain. It doesn’t happen until we have a lot, a lot of rain, like 6 inches.

    TOM: Wow.

    MARGARET: Yes, yes. And I’ve got three sump pumps. I’ve got one that I had jackhammered on the east side, which takes care of that wall. Well, this one, like I said, it goes to a sump pump. But evidently, 50 years ago I don’t know if they used clay tile or what. Because it slipped or it just can’t handle – I don’t know.

    LESLIE: And we’re sure that the sump pump is actually functioning?

    MARGARET: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Because then I have one right outside my door that takes care – it used to be a drive-in basement, which has been converted.

    TOM: So, Margaret, if you have sump pumps that are handling this water and the water is originating from heavy rainfall, then it’s always a drainage issue.

    MARGARET: Right.

    TOM: It’s not a rising water table, as you would think. Because water tables don’t move that quickly.

    So, what I want you to do is to do a very careful review of those exterior drainage conditions, especially looking at your gutter system, to make sure that it’s properly sized and clean and that those downspouts are dumping at least 6 feet from the house.

    MARGARET: I have the downspouts buried. This used to be a big hill years ago. And they cut it down and put this house.

    TOM: Mm-hmm. When you say you have them buried, how did you bury them? What materials did you use?

    MARGARET: Well, I had – I think they just probably used PVC pipe.

    TOM: Is it solid PVC pipe?

    MARGARET: I think so.

    TOM: Is it corrugated – the black, plastic, corrugated drainpipe?

    MARGARET: I think it’s solid.

    TOM: I know this is going to be hard to believe but I cannot tell you how many times I have had this same conversation with people, much like yourself, who are absolutely, 100-percent convinced that their drainage outside is perfect, absolutely perfect. And in those times we have found, either through reviewing photographs or in the years I was a professional home inspector, that it wasn’t perfect, that there was some element of that drainage that wasn’t right.

    Examples could be the type of drainpipe that was used. People use perforated pipe instead of solid pipe. It could be that the pipe is partially collapsed or disconnected underground. You need to be absolutely, 100-percent sure that the leaders feed into solid PVC pipe and then at the end of that PVC pipe – wherever it discharges, which has got to be at least 6 feet or more from the house – you can see the water come out. You can put a hose down the top of that leader and watch the water come out the other side of it.

    MARGARET: And it goes to this little moat we have around the house. And we even had sidewalk – cement – put clear to the house, thinking that would take care of this. But it’s not.

    TOM: If it’s rainfall, then it’s always tied into drainage; it’s not tied into rising water tables.

    Let me suggest you do this: take some photographs of your house, from a distance and then also up close, and post them to The Money Pit’s Community page at I want to see those pictures and I want to figure out what’s going on here. Because I can almost guarantee you that something’s not right with your drainage conditions. Because if you’re getting water after a heavy rain, it’s always drainage, it’s never water tables. And we can fix it easily and inexpensively, without the use of a jackhammer or any other tool of destruction, OK?

    MARGARET: That sounds too good to be true.

    TOM: Yeah, well, give me a shot. I’ve got confidence it’s going to work.

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

    LESLIE: Heading to North Carolina where Steve is on the line with a window question. What’s going on at your money pit?

    STEVE: Hi. I have a 30-year-old home where I put vinyl replacement windows in. And here in North Carolina, of course, we have very hot and humid nights. And one thing I noticed in the mornings, there would be condensation around – well, you know, it’s got – the cross pieces in the panes of glass are internal, not external. But I would notice some condensation around those and around the edges. And even some mornings, they were – one, well, it’s a tri-level house and the downstairs is on a concrete slab. And even some of those windows are completely kind of covered with condensation. I just wondered, is that normal or is there something wrong with the installation?

    TOM: So, it’s not normal, Steve. What you’re seeing is the result of lack of efficiency of either the glass or the window frames themselves. What’s happening here is the cool that you’re generating inside the house, that air-conditioned air is basically chilling the windows themselves. Then when the warm, moist air on the outside of your house strikes them, it condenses. Because if you think about it, as you cool the air, it releases the water. Same thing happens when you walk outside with a glass of iced tea and you get water that forms on the outside of it. It’s because of the condensation. It’s because it’s the warm air striking it. So it does point to a potential inefficiency of the windows.

    Now, because the moisture is forming on the outside and not on the outside, you don’t have to worry about leaks and damage. But I don’t think you should be seeing as much as you are. And it does speak to an issue that’s potentially wrong with the windows themselves.

    STEVE: OK. I guess the – contact the manufacturer. Because they are argon gas, I believe. The manufacturer, is that who I would contact or the installer or …?

    TOM: So if the windows are covered by a warranty, I certainly would reach out to the manufacturer, as well as the installer. I would reach out to both of them and raise the issue, explain it very clearly, send some photographs if you can and see if they’re willing to do something about it. Because I sense that the windows were not insulated very well, because that should not be happening.

    STEVE: OK. Alright. Well, thank you so much for your help. Love your program. Listen to it every Saturday night.

    LESLIE: Just ahead, if your gutters become damaged, you need to make repairs quickly to avoid any damage that can range from slippery sidewalks to a flooded basement. Tommy Silva from This Old House will be here to explain why.

    TOM: And today’s This Old House Tip on The Money Pit is presented by Lumber Liquidators, with over 400 varieties of bamboo, laminate, wood-look tile, vinyl plank and hardwood floors for less.

    MARILU: Hi. This is Marilu Henner from The Marilu Henner Show. And I’m obsessed with these guys. You’re listening to The Money Pit, my buddies Tom Kraeutler and Leslie Segrete.

    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 now at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor. You can find out what it costs to do your home improvement project before you hire a pro and instantly book one of HomeAdvisor’s background-checked pros, for free.

    LESLIE: Well, now that it’s getting chilly, it’s fireplace season. But if you have one and you don’t use it much because of the mess, here’s an easy solution to create a warm glow without the mess. Instead of a full log fire, why don’t you arrange some pillar candles of various sizes and heights in your hearth? You’re going to get that cozy feeling without the ashes and all the cleanup.

    TOM: Brilliant idea because nobody likes a mess.

    888-666-3974. Give us a call, right now, with your home improvement question.

    LESLIE: Lorna in Rhode Island is dealing with some flies at home. Tell us what’s going on.

    LORNA: Fruit flies. They seem to be invading the kitchen and I’m thinking they’re heading for the garbage-disposal area but I’m not really sure.

    LESLIE: I mean are they coming up out of the garbage disposal?

    LORNA: No, they don’t seem to be.

    LESLIE: Generally, if you think they’re coming to the sink or from the sink, sometimes people will actually put some tape over that drain and just seal that off to see if they are coming from there. This way, if they’re getting stuck on the underside, you know they’re coming up from the drain and then that would be a different approach.

    LORNA: Oh, OK.

    TOM: Yeah, you could do that during the day, say, when you go out for the day. Just cover the drain temporarily with the tape and keep an eye on it.

    LORNA: Great …

    TOM: And the other thing that you could do is you could – if that’s the case, then you could put some bleach down that drain or maybe some OxiClean or something like that and then cover the top of it. That tends to really sort of gas any that are sort of laying in there.

    LORNA: Oh, OK. So straight bleach or mixed with water or …?

    TOM: No, you could just put some straight bleach down there. Or you could use OxiClean, the powdered bleach.

    LORNA: OK. Alright. Yeah. Great. Well, thank you.

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

    LESLIE: Well, rain gutters aren’t a very exciting or even attractive part of a home and you hardly notice them until something goes wrong.

    TOM: Ah, yes. But then it’s the wrong kind of excitement. You know, if your gutters become damaged, you need to make repairs quickly to avoid further and long-lasting damage deep inside the house. Here to tell us exactly how to do that is This Old House general contractor Tom Silva.

    Welcome, Tommy.

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

    TOM: It’s great to see you again.

    I think most people think that gutters are just there to keep water from running off the roof and onto your head. But they actually have a pretty important structural role, as well, don’t they?

    TOM SILVA: They have a very important structural role, not only to the sidewall of the house but to the foundation or the basement of the house, letting water go into the basement. And then you’ve got to think about splash-back off of a roof that would need a gutter. The splashing on the ground, the water coming up, it’s going to rot the seal in the first couple of courses of your siding. So gutters are very, very important.

    TOM: There’s a lot of things that could go wrong if you don’t have a functioning gutter system.

    LESLIE: Now, what’s the first step to make sure that your gutter system is effective?

    TOM SILVA: Well, I would say the first step is to make sure that the gutters are pitched right, make sure that the water goes into the downspout and the downspout leads away from your house so it doesn’t settle the water right there at the foundation.

    TOM: And that’s a great point because I tell you, time and time again, I’ve seen builders and even gutter contractors install those downspouts so they drop a grand total of about 6 inches to a foot away from the house. And that dumps a lot of water.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Oh and here’s your splash guard. Good, done.

    TOM: Exactly.

    TOM SILVA: Exactly, exactly.

    TOM: Yeah. And that dumps all that water right there were it can go right down to the basement or at least wash out the soil right in the [backfield zone] (ph).

    TOM SILVA: It can wash out the soil, it can create a trough and collect there, run down. And you can actually get water in the basement through a crack in the foundation.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. I mean we’ve had that happen in my own home. A downspout was clogged and it caused a major leak in the basement, completely on the opposite side of the house from that clogged downspout. But that was the culprit that caused a huge mess.

    TOM: Right.

    TOM SILVA: Absolutely.

    TOM: But the thing is they’re pretty easy to fix. So any tricks of the trade for taking care of those sags, for example?

    TOM SILVA: Well, yeah. Let’s say you have an aluminum gutter that’s sagged in the middle and now that gutter may be put up with spikes and ferrules. Now, a spike is a long spike that goes through the gutter and into the substrate, like a …

    TOM: It’s like a super-long nail, right?

    TOM SILVA: Exactly.

    TOM: OK.

    TOM SILVA: And in the middle of that, in between the gutter, the spike goes through the face of the gutter through a ferrule. And then that ferrule keeps the gutter from pushing in if you ever leaned a ladder against it. So …

    TOM: So a ferrule is essentially like a thin, aluminum pipe.

    TOM SILVA: It’s a big spacer, exactly.

    TOM: Got it, got it.

    TOM SILVA: Yep, yep.

    TOM: OK. So the spikes pull out. What do we replace them with? More spikes?

    TOM SILVA: No. Because the spike is pulled out; it’s done its time. They have – basically have a long screw – a gutter screw – that will screw into that rafter tail and it won’t pull up.

    LESLIE: Now, what about if you’re dealing with a gutter system that maybe has holes or the joinery where the two pieces meet, there’s a leak there? How do you fix that?

    TOM SILVA: Well, they have actually sealants that you can put in there. But before you put the sealant in there, you’ve got to make sure the gutter is really clean and dry. When you put the sealant in there, you want to put a good amount in there and you want to feather it out, especially around the outlet. You don’t want to create a dam; you want the water to fall right into that hole.

    TOM: Good point. Now, Tommy, we shouldn’t really talk about fixing damaged gutters without talking about our favorite season of the year: fall. And they call it “fall” for a very good reason. What’s your favorite gutter guard or gutter cover to keep those leaves out?

    TOM SILVA: Oh, boy. There’s a lot of them out there. There’s a mesh that you can put right in the gutter now and leaves fall on it and they blow away. There’s a type of gutter product that you can slide up underneath the second course of shingles and it’ll act like a lip that the rain will collect to that, surface tension will pull the water in but the debris won’t go in. And they actually have one-piece gutters that basically have a helmet on the top. Water surface tension brings it in but there’s just a little slit across the front.

    TOM: All built into one.

    TOM SILVA: All built into one.

    TOM: Now, that makes a lot of sense because let’s face it, there’s no need to buy two separate products here. We have the technology; we should be able to extrude a gutter that has the gutter protector right built into it.

    TOM SILVA: All in one, yeah.

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

    TOM SILVA: It’s a pleasure being here.

    TOM: For more tips just like that, you can visit

    LESLIE: And you can learn a lot more by watching Tommy and the entire This Old House team on This Old House and Ask This Old House on your local PBS station.

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

    Up next, as cooler temperatures set in, you might be reminded of that cold spot in your house that never seems to get warm. We’re going to have tips on the best way to use infrared heaters to warm up those spots without running up your heating bills, after this.

    You are listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Call us now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor, where it’s easy to find top-rated, local home improvement pros for any home project. Go to

    LESLIE: Isaac in Washington is on the line and has a question about radon. What can we do for you today?

    ISAAC: Yeah, I have a slab on grade. My home is – and I don’t have any drain tile or a sump pit or anything of the sort. I’m just wondering if radon should be an issue there or not, without the drain tile.

    TOM: Well, it’s possible that radon could be a problem in a home that’s built as slab on grade but it’s a lot less likely than if the house was on a basement, for example.

    In terms of the drain tile and the sump pit, certainly that is one source of it but it doesn’t need that to get in. So, if you want to be sure, you should do an inexpensive home radon test. You can order them online, the most common of which, Isaac, is a type of test called “charcoal adsorption” – a-d – not absorption. It’s an adsorption canister.

    And typically, you open this up into the lowest living space which, in your case, is a slab. And you leave it exposed for, generally, three to seven days or so. You seal it back, up, send it off to a lab. They’ll come back with a report that will tell you what the radon level is. And it’s going to be measured in picocuries per liter of air. If it’s 4.0 or higher, it’s an issue. If it’s less, it’s not an issue.

    So I would do a radon test just so that you can have the comfort of knowing what your radon levels are. You might want to wait until it’s a little colder out, because you do have to keep the windows and doors closed except for normal entry and exit. So, typically, you’re going to get higher radon test results in when the weather gets chilly, just because folks are so accustomed to kind of keeping everything closed up.

    ISAAC: Perfect. Sounds great. I appreciate it. Thank you much.

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

    ISAAC: Yep.

    LESLIE: Are you a home improving weekend warrior? Then have we got a sweepstakes for you. Launching October 1st, we’ve partnered with The Home Depot on a sweepstakes that’ll make tool hounds drool, with a shot at winning some of the coolest tools from the aisles of The Home Depot.

    TOM: That’s right. The Money Pit Weekend Warrior Sweepstakes features over $4,500 in prizes, including the Milwaukee 46-Inch 16-Drawer Tool Chest and Rolling Cabinet Set. This is a beautiful toolbox. It’s actually valued at 698 bucks. It’s over 60 inches tall and it holds up to 1,800 pounds of tools, which is good. Because if you win the first-place prize, you’re also going to get the 6-Tool Milwaukee M18 FUEL 18-Volt Lithium-Ion Cordless Combo Kit, which itself is worth 999 bucks.

    LESLIE: Wow, that’s huge. All told, guys, there are over 40 prizes, including workbenches, mechanics tools, levels and power tools. Get the details and enter now at You can even increase your chances of winning by entering once a day and sharing the sweepstakes with your friends.

    TOM: It’s all online, right now, at

    LESLIE: Audrey in South Dakota, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?

    AUDREY: Right. I was listening to your show last weekend and I heard you talking about some kind of contact paper but you put it on your kitchen wall and you can put tile on it for a backsplash.

    TOM: Yeah. That’s a product called Bondera Tile Mat Set. Kind of a long name but basically, it’s a two-sided adhesive sticky material that if you want to do a backsplash, or for that matter a countertop, you pull off the backing on one side of it, press it against the wall – in your case for the backsplash. Then you can stick the tiles right to the other side of it, pull off the backing on the other side and you stick the tiles right on. And then you can pretty much grout immediately thereafter, so you don’t have to wait for glue to dry or even mix up glue or get a tile glue that can kind of get all over the place. It’s all on the mat. So you cut it to fit, put it on the wall, pull off the back and then go ahead and glue the tile right to it.

    I would caution you, though, that I would not recommend you put this right on drywall because it’s going to be a permanent. You’re never going to get it off. And if you ever want to replace it, you’d have to cut the wall out because it’ll just pull the paper right off.

    What you could do is just put a thin sheet of luan plywood on the wall first and then put the tile right on that.

    AUDREY: OK. Alright. Thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Well, if you haven’t already, pretty soon you’re going to be turning up that thermostat to get warm. But did you know that every 2 degrees you lower your thermostat in the winter could save you 10 percent off of your energy bills? To supplement heat in the room you use most often, consider a portable heater.

    TOM: Now, I’m totally loving this because I do have one room in my house that’s always cold and can benefit from a portable heater. And we use it in the winter because it’s supplemental heat and it uses infrared heating to warm pretty much any area of your home. And by doing this and doing it strategically, you could turn down the furnace and stay warm and save money. Because most people are going to turn up the furnace if there’s just one room in their house that they’re cold in, which is such a waste because therefore it raises the heat in the entire house when you only need it in one room.

    LESLIE: Yeah. But it’s important, guys, if you’re thinking about picking up one of these heaters, you really need to understand how the infrared heater does work. Basically, what happens is an infrared heater heats the object in a defined space and not the air like central heating systems do. It’s the difference between being directly in the sunlight versus sitting in the shade. We feel the warm when we’re in the sun because of the light that hits our clothes and our skin and then it makes us feel warm.

    TOM: Absolutely. So, with that in mind, you want to make sure you’re buying the best model. Portable infrared heaters are going to range in sizes that can heat from 300 square feet up to about 1,000. And many models are going to also have a programmable thermostat that’ll start the heater, just before you get home and are ready to plop down in that favorite chair, so it’ll be warm and ready for you.

    So, buy one that’s just big enough but not too big or you’ll be wasting energy.

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

    BOB: I live in a house that’s 18 years old. And I actually have the original hydro-air heating-and-cooling system in the home. It’s got one air handler in the attic, one in the basement, along with the boiler and then two 2½-ton air compressors. This may sound strange but the systems worked absolutely flawlessly for 18 years. And other than – three or four years ago, I noticed there was some – the water in the condensation pump on the air handler was a little rusty and it’s continued that way since.

    And so, my question is – I feel as though I may be on borrowed time. And I’m not sure if I should look to be proactive and potentially replace everything. I know that wouldn’t be cheap but I hate the thought of it just kind of going out on me, so to speak. And so I appreciate your thoughts.

    TOM: Well, look, I mean 18-year-old air-conditioning compressors are certainly beyond the normal life cycle. But an 18-year-old boiler and an 18-year-old furnace is still kind of middle-aged. So, if anything, the compressors will probably go first. A little bit of rust in the condensate pan and system is not unusual. That could – it’s probably coming from the ducts.

    I would tell you just make sure you keep servicing it on a regular basis and doing the same thing you are. I personally wouldn’t replace it until I had to, because you know what? That could go another six months or it go another six years.

    BOB: OK.

    TOM: And you know it could be on borrowed time and so if it happens, you replace it then. But if not, you just keep going the way you are. Just as long as you keep it serviced, it’s going to work as efficiently as it possibly can.

    BOB: Awesome. Thank you so much for your help.

    LESLIE: Well, you may be done with your deck for the season, which is why now is a great time to make those few repairs that’s going to make sure it’s good to go when spring arrives once again. We’re going to have the tips, 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, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor. They make it fast and easy to find top-rated home pros you can trust for any home project. And if you’re a service pro looking to grow your business and connect with project-ready homeowners, check out

    LESLIE: Hey, guys. Are you looking to expand your home improvement abilities, skills, tools, all of the above? Well, starting October 1st, you can enter The Money Pit Weekend Warrior Sweepstakes for a chance at winning some very cool tools from The Home Depot. We’ve got over 40 prizes worth over 4,500 bucks. Enter today at You guys, enter. You can enter every day. This really is a great chance to get some cool tools.

    And if you’re looking for a great chance to get some good advice, email or post your question at And I’ve got one here that Lisa posted about a fix for deck boards. She writes: “If I want to replace the wood boards on my deck, will there be a problem installing new ones because of the existing screw holes? We’d like to put composite boards in place of the old boards but we only want to do the top layer, not all the wood framing.”

    TOM: Yeah, actually, that’s a really good project. It’s sort of like a deck makeover. You pull off, you know, the wood decking and you replace the decking with composite. And you don’t have to worry too much, Lisa, about the screw holes because there’s plenty of meat left in those floor joists, assuming that they’re in good shape where you could attach right to it.

    Now, if you’re going to go with composite – and it looks so nice and so beautiful – one of the things you might want to think about is using one of these hidden fastening systems. Because this way, you won’t see the fasteners – with the deck boards, you see the nails driven right through. Well, if you use these hidden systems, they’re pretty much invisible. And it’s actually a lot nicer look when you’re done.

    There’s also some special screws for putting in composite boards if you do have to screw through the surface. Because if you use a normal screw, it’ll sort of mushroom up around it. But the special composite screws have a different kind of head and that just doesn’t happen to them. Neatness definitely counts if you’re using that expensive decking material, so you want to make sure that you do a good job with that.

    And while you’re at it, you might want to also think about replacing the wood railings and maybe covering the exterior box beam. Composite decking is available in the standard 5/4×6-inch size for the flooring. But they’re also available in a 1×12 option, which is a great size if you want to cover those wood sides of the deck. Either way, you’re going to have a good looking deck that you can use for many more years.

    However, I want to caution you that as a first step, before you spend all that money, you want to make sure you inspect the deck carefully to make sure the floor joists are structurally sound and that the deck is firmly and properly and securely attached to the house. You wouldn’t want to go ahead with all that work only to find that the structure is bad later.

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post from Jordan in Massachusetts who writes: “We recently dug out an old garden patch that was against the house. Just wondering what’s the best type of fill to use to bring the soil level back up to the foundation.”

    TOM: That’s a good question. Leslie, they probably took out a lot of topsoil doing that.

    LESLIE: Oh, yeah.

    TOM: And we generally don’t recommend topsoil against the house except in sort of very thin layers, because it’s so organic it tends to hold a lot of water against the house. So, what you want to do is use clean fill dirt, which is not organic and it packs very well. And get it sloped so it slopes away from the wall about 6 inches over 4 feet. After that, you can put a little topsoil or mulch or whatever else you want for groundcover. But get the clean fill to make the slope first and then put the topsoil on top of that.

    LESLIE: And of course, make sure you grade everything away from the foundation, so that the water just doesn’t sit there and build up against the house and then end up in your basement.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at Really enjoyed talking to you today and helping you with those home improvement and décor projects. Remember, if you did not get through to the show, there’s lots of ways to get in touch with us. You can post your question to The Money Pit Community page at or you can call us, 24/7, with that question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …

    LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.


    (Copyright 2017 Squeaky Door Productions, Inc. No portion of this transcript or audio file may be reproduced in any format without the express written permission of Squeaky Door Productions, Inc.)

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