How to Burglar Proof Your Home for the Holidays

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    TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And what are you working on this holiday weekend? If it’s your house, you’re in the right place because we’re here to help. We’re kind of your coach when it comes to home improvement. If you’ve got a project that you’d like to do yourself or one you’d like to hire a pro to get done for you, give us a call right now. We’ll talk about that project, maybe suggest some shortcuts, suggest some products, suggest some easier ways to get it done on time and on budget. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Got a great show planned for you. Coming up in just a bit, it’s the most wonderful time of the year for burglars. That’s right. The FBI says that nearly 400,000 burglaries occur in the U.S. for these next two months. So we’re going to share some tips on ways you can stay safe and secure.

    LESLIE: Plus, have you ever bought a home and then found out it had problems that maybe weren’t disclosed to you by the folks that sold it to you? We get calls all the time asking for help with situations like that. But the best way to make sure you avoid problem homes altogether is to hire a good home inspector. We’re going to have tips on how to do just that, in a bit.

    TOM: Plus, we’ve got tips on smart-lighting controls that can give you the ability to set your lights to come on at dusk, so you’ll always come back to a well-lit home.

    But first, give us a call with your home improvement question. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

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

    LESLIE: Kathy in Indiana is on the line and is dealing with a bald spot on her roof when it’s snowy out.

    What’s going on, Kathy?

    KATHY: Hi. Yes, we just moved down here from Wisconsin, down to Indiana. We bought this house and we’ve been doing a lot of work on it. And when we got our first snow, I noticed, on the back part, there is a – like a foot-and-a-half-inch diameter bald spot every time we get a snowfall. And we had a friend – a contractor – come down. He went up in the attic and he’s like, “There is nothing going on here.” So the only thing we thought, well, maybe is going on is we have a heat pump and we also have our dryer vent in that same area back there.

    And so now I had two different suggestions. He said to put a soffit venting on that whole area to get more air going up through there and possibly maybe it’s coming from the heat pump. But then I went to The Home Depot and I was talking to the guy there that seemed to know quite a bit. And he said – and what he would do is take it and remove all the vented area – vented soffit in that area. And so if there is heat coming up – he said, “But this shouldn’t happen.” He said, “This is what people do. They put their heat pumps outside.” And he’d never heard of anything like this before.

    So we ended up doing that and so we don’t know yet if that actually helped it or not but …

    TOM: Yeah, it’s not hurting the roof not having snow on that one spot. If you want to know why it’s happening, it’s because that spot is warmer than the other spots around it. Now, why is it warmer? Well, you mentioned there is a dryer-exhaust duct near there. If the dryer-exhaust duct is not completely sealed, if it’s dumping warm air in there, that’s going to heat up that spot over the roof and then any snow that hits there is going to melt and roll down. If the insulation has some gap in it of some sort in there where more room air can get up and heat that area right above it, that could cause it, as well.

    But I would not tell you to start messing with your venting and everything else just because you’ve got a foot-and-a-half spot that doesn’t – where snow doesn’t stick. It’s curious but it’s not a major problem and I wouldn’t recommend major work for it.

    KATHY: OK. So it’s – we don’t have to be concerned that there is heat getting up there and it’s going to cause mold and issues going on?

    TOM: Well, I mean I would try – I would determine if there’s an obvious source of warmth that’s getting into that spot. But actually adding heat to that area is not necessarily going to cause mold. You’ll get more mold in the less heated spaces, frankly. Because when you warm moist – when you warm air, it uses more moisture, essentially. That’s why the warm air holds more moisture, so that’s not really a concern. It’s just kind of a curious thing.

    And if you’ve got a dryer vent that’s right near there, I’d start with that because that would make perfect sense. If the dryer vent is losing some of its air right in that space, that’s not a good idea, either, because you don’t want to be dumping any lint into the attic. That could be dangerous, OK?

    KATHY: OK. Well, very good. Thank you.

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

    LESLIE: Rob in Washington is on the line and is dealing with some flooding. Tell us what’s going on.

    ROB: Well, I own a 1-acre lot and I’m surrounded by 58 acres of green belt. And my house sits up in the front of the lot and I have a cement driveway that runs down into a 1,200-square-foot shop. And every time it rains here in Seattle, which is every other day …

    TOM: Yeah, frequently.

    ROB: And at daylight savings, we get an extra hour of rain. But I get – my shop floods and I need to know what kind of drain system I can put in in front of my shop. The cement is maybe 14, 16 feet wide.

    TOM: So basically, Rob, what is happening is the water is running down the cement driveway and into the shop. Is that the main source of the water? What you need to do is to put a culvert across the driveway.

    So the way that works is you, essentially, cut the driveway in half; you slice out a gap in the driveway. And it might be 8 or 12 inches wide.

    ROB: How close to the shop, though?

    TOM: I would go probably a few feet in front of it. I wouldn’t go too far away.

    ROB: OK.

    TOM: Because that just gives you more water – more sidewalk to collect sort of in front of it. So I would go fairly close to it. And then you basically cut the driveway in half and you drop this culvert in, which is sort of like a U-shaped channel. And then on the opposite end of it, it’s attached to a drain line, which would go to a curtain drain.

    So the water would go down the garage, it would fall into this culvert. And you can buy these or order these at building-material supply centers that service, you know, masons. And people that do more commercial-type work can be able to find these premade. And the drain tile – the drainpipe – will connect to the culvert so the water would go out to this drain line and then you go into a curtain drain.

    So the curtain drain you’d make yourself. And again, on the downside of the property, you’d carve out an area about 12 to 18 inches wide and deep, fill it with stone, lay the drainpipe in there, cover it with more stone, put some filter cloth and then some topsoil or whatever you’re going to cover it with.

    So, essentially, the drainage for this is invisible once it’s done but you’re intercepting that runoff down the driveway and running it around the building and into the drain tile. And that pipe that you install there must be perforated. And I would recommend using solid-PVC perforated pipe, not the flexible, black, landscaping perforated pipe.

    ROB: OK. Thank you, guys.

    TOM: 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 MoneyPit.com. Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor. Get instantly matched with top-rated pros for any home project and book appointments online, all for free.

    TOM: Up next, this is the busiest time of year for you and for burglars. We’re going to share some tips to keep your house safe and secure, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: What are you working on this holiday weekend? If it’s your house, you’re in the right place because we’re here to help you with those projects. Give us a call right now. We’ve got some tips, some ideas, some advice to get those projects done quickly, on time and on budget and before all the relatives show up. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT and that’s presented by HomeAdvisor, where it’s easy to find top-rated local home improvement pros for any home project. Just go to HomeAdvisor.com.

    LESLIE: Carol in Ohio is on the line with a ventilation question. What can we do for you?

    CAROL: I’ve had a plumber in just about a month ago and the pipe that goes – the ventilation pipe that goes from your sewer line all the way to the roof – and he says that it’s leaking. Now, the house is about 52 years old, something of that nature. And now it’s not leaking like now but he said – I don’t understand how he got the idea that it was leaking.

    TOM: When you say leaking, does he mean leaking water as in a plumbing leak or leaking as in a roof leak?

    CAROL: I’m not sure about that because – but the roof is probably about 10 years old that’s been on there.

    TOM: Have you seen any stains underneath the ceiling, right where that pipe goes over the bathroom? Do you see stains at the bathroom ceiling?

    CAROL: No. There’s none inside the house but he was looking at the pipe in the basement. The leak that he repaired there was from another pipe that – and he repaired that. And he said that he thought maybe that that had been leaking. But there’s no sign of water from the ceiling or any on the floor, above the pipe there or anything.

    TOM: Well, look, if you’ve got no evidence of a leak, he’s got to be more specific. I can tell you that those vent pipes typically do leak at the roof, because there’s a rubber gasket that is part of the flashing system. And over time, especially over 10 years, it’s going to crack and break and separate from the pipe. And sometimes, you get water that sort of leaks in there. They almost never leak from a plumbing problem, like a break in the joint, because from the bathroom, they go straight up to the roof.

    So, there’s really not a good place for them to leak. Maybe an elbow but you would see that. You would see some staining or something. There’d be some evidence of it. So, I would ask the plumber to be a little more specific about what exactly is leaking before you turn over your checkbook, you know what I mean?

    CAROL: Yes. In other words, maybe I should have someone to check the roof to see if the seal around that is broken or something.

    TOM: Well, but yeah – but if you’re not seeing – you would see leak stains in the ceiling of the bathroom. I’ve seen this more than a hundred times and I can tell you if that seal is split, the water is going to go right down that pipe, hug that pipe and probably drip off into the ceiling. So, sure, it’s a good idea to always inspect your roof. But I’m just not – you’re not telling me anything that makes me think, “Oh, absolutely, you’ve got a leak there.”

    CAROL: Oh, OK. Well, that’s really good news to me because I was concerned. Because he said if that pipe had to be replaced, it would have to be replaced from the basement, all the way to the top of the house.

    TOM: Do you trust this plumber?

    CAROL: He was – the plumber is – the company is an old company here in Canton and they seem to be very good. And I know of other people that have had them but I don’t know what his problem was that day that he saw that.

    TOM: Yeah, that’s not sounding right to me. It’s very rare to have any reason to replace a vent pipe. Because a vent pipe carries air; it doesn’t carry water.

    CAROL: Right, right.

    TOM: It carries water down, from the toilet down. But it carries air, basically, from the toilet up.

    CAROL: OK. And then that’s what I told him. I said, “There’s no water that comes down through that.” I said – but he says, “Well, there could be when rain or something of that nature.” But I thought, “Well, that …”

    TOM: Now, it’s sounding even more like the guy’s looking for a job.

    CAROL: OK. Thank you very much. I appreciate that.

    TOM: Alright. Good luck, Carol.

    CAROL: Thank you.

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

    Look, Leslie, if the guy’s got a – if she’s got a problem, then it’s got to be fixed but I’ve never heard of a pipe like that leaking in that way and certainly not when rain comes into the pipe. I mean certainly, rain could get around the pipe but not into it.

    LESLIE: Well, according to the FBI, nearly 400,000 burglaries occur in the United States, from November through the end of December, every single year, which is why now is the perfect time to step up your home’s security. You know, with all the usual burglary-prevention tips that we give you, they apply here. We want to make sure that you’ve got good outside lighting, secure locks, no piles of mail at the door to tell everybody you’re away.

    There’s one more tip that we’d like to suggest that applies only to this time of year.

    TOM: Yeah. And that’s this: no bragging.

    LESLIE: It’s true.

    TOM: Don’t advertise all of those expensive gifts to the burglars by leaving empty gift boxes from your new computers and flat-screen TVs and DVD players and all those things on the curb.

    It’s interesting. In my neighborhood, you can always tell, for the holidays, who got the good stuff because all those big boxes are piled up on the curb. And man, that’s just a signal to any of the crooks that want to get in your house that there’s some good loot in there, right?

    So, instead, you want to break down those boxes, place them in large garbage bags. Conceal the items that Santa maybe has delivered. And better yet, just take those boxes to a recycling center after those gifts have been opened. You will not tempt fate by leaving them out there on the curb saying, “Rob me. Rob me. Rob me.”

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Eddie in Delaware on the line who is dealing with a moisture situation going on. Tell us about it.

    EDDIE: I’m having a moisture problem with two out of the three bathrooms. It’s a three-bathroom home. And each bathroom has an in-line exhaust fan. And this occurred last season – last winter season – and we got a really severe winter and we’re getting a lot of condensation.

    I have dampers in two of the bathrooms, at the ceiling. And last season – the last winter season – I installed an additional damper after the exhaust fan – after the in-line fan in the ceiling – and I was still getting a lot of moisture, actually, at the ceiling where the sheetrock was actually falling apart. That’s how much moisture we got.

    TOM: OK. First of all, right above this space, is there an attic? What’s above it?

    EDDIE: Yeah. It’s an attic, yeah.

    TOM: Alright. And how much insulation do you have in that attic?

    EDDIE: The home is only eight years old.

    TOM: So, first of all, bathrooms are sources of warm, moist air. If the temperature of the drywall is chilly, it’s going to condense and cause condensation. So you want to make sure that the attic above it, that you’ve got at least 15 to 20 inches of insulation in there. That’s really important.

    EDDIE: Oh, there is. There definitely is. And what I also did was – when I started having this problem, I replaced the flexible ductwork, which was originally R6, to the maximum of R8. And I’m still getting the problem. And these two bathrooms that I’m having the problem, they are not used for showers or bathing of any sort.

    TOM: The second thing I want to suggest to you is – you mentioned that you have exhaust fans in two of the three?

    EDDIE: No, no. All three have their own individual, in-line exhaust fans, yes.

    TOM: OK. So in-line – in other words, it’s ducted out somewhere? They’re all connected together and ducted out at once, at one point?

    EDDIE: No, no. They’re not connected together; they’re all different.

    TOM: They all vent on their own out the building?

    EDDIE: Yes.

    TOM: And you can confirm that the vents are working? So if you turn the fan on and you go outside, you’ll see the flapper?

    EDDIE: Yes.

    TOM: So, hooking them up to a humidistat/timer might not be a bad idea. Because this way, when the humidity gets high in the room it’ll automatically come on. Leviton makes such a switch, designed specifically for bath fans. And I think that might be the next step. I think we need to move more air through these rooms.

    The second thing is, what’s underneath these bathrooms? Are these on the second floor or first floor? Are they over a slab?

    EDDIE: It’s a ranch home.

    TOM: And what’s underneath?

    EDDIE: A crawlspace.

    TOM: Crawlspace? OK. Does the crawlspace have a high humidity problem?

    EDDIE: No.

    TOM: I would recommend that you replace that existing fan switch with a humidistatically-controlled fan switch.

    EDDIE: Yeah, OK. I’ll try.

    TOM: Eddie, good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Cheryl in Texas, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you?

    CHERYL: I have some countertops that are plywood. I just purchased a house recently and I’m planning to do a total remodel in about a year. But right now, the countertops are plywood. And so I wanted an idea to put on the countertops so that I don’t have water damage to the plywood and – plus something that looks nice. And I was wondering if you might have an idea.

    LESLIE: Well, there’s a lot of different options, of course, at a variety of price points. And if you’re looking for something that’s just going to be temporary but still stylish and functional, probably your quickest and most DIY and affordable option could be tile.

    Now, that’s going to be something that you could easily do on your own. And there’s a lot of different choices to keep you within a variety of price points. And that, generally, can look really, really great. The other options are laminate countertops, which you can get precut at the local home center. And that just depends on how much of a run you need and how much actual cutting to fit to size that you have to get.

    But those are probably going to be your two most affordable. I think with tile, it really gives you an opportunity to make it really stylish and your own and something that you can feel proud of doing yourself and lasts you through the long haul, until you’re ready to do a major remodel.

    CHERYL: OK. And what do you usually adhere the tile with? I’m not really much of a DIY person but I’m sure – I think I could do it. But I was just kind of curious, with the water, what adheres that tile and keeps that countertop protected.

    TOM: So there’s two options. There’s tile mastic, which is sort of like a glue that you trowel onto the plywood and you stick the tiles onto that. And then there’s a tile mat that’s like a two-sided adhesive mat that you glue that down to the wood surface, in your case, and you peel off a backing and you can stick the tiles right on top of that. So there’s a couple of ways to do that. If you can find the mat, what’s interesting about that is you can grout right away. If you use the mastic, you’ve got to let it dry overnight and then you can grout.

    CHERYL: OK. I like those ideas. OK. Thank you so much.

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

    LESLIE: Hey, are you getting ready to buy a home next year and you want to make sure that it’s not a real-life money pit? Well, hiring a professional home inspector can definitely help. We’ll tell you exactly how to find the best one in your area, next.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Well, if you’re thinking about buying a home and you want to be sure you’re not diving into what might be a real-live money pit, getting a home inspection done before you commit is critical.

    LESLIE: With us to talk about that is James Thomas. He’s the executive director of the American Society of Home Inspectors.

    Welcome, James.

    JAMES: Thanks, Tom. Thanks, Leslie. It’s a pleasure to be able to join you today. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me.

    TOM: Well, it’s my pleasure. And as my audience knows, I was a home inspector for 20 years and I was a member of ASHI during that period of time and actually have continued my ASHI membership as, what you guys call, a “retired member.” Although I don’t quite feel retired. I’m not doing crawlspaces and roofs quite as often but I don’t quite feel retired.

    But I’ve got to say that the reason I joined ASHI is the reason I recommend ASHI and that is it is an organization that has – for over 40 years, as we said – created the most rigorous set of standards for home inspection that exists anywhere in the nation. And it’s the one thing you need to know if you want to find a good inspector, which is really important when you’re buying a house, right?

    JAMES: Absolutely. I think one thing I want to say is that ASHI home inspectors – as you said, Tom, and appreciate the candor on that – we’ve passed the most rigorous technical examination in effect today, including inspectors who are required to perform more than 250 professional inspections before they’re even allowed to call themselves “certified.”

    TOM: And that’s terrific because there are other organizations out there that will be membership organizations or quasi-certification organizations for home inspectors, but they don’t have these kinds of requirements. And that was why I joined early on in my inspection career. Because if you want to be the best, you’ve got to associate yourselves with organizations like this. And ASHI is just that.

    So, for those that are not familiar – maybe they’re thinking about buying a home or they haven’t bought a home in a long time – let’s start with the basics, James, about what a home inspection covers. And I think the public would love to have a service that will find everything that is, was or ever will be wrong with the house. And you guys come pretty close to that.

    JAMES: Tom and Leslie, honestly, a home inspection is an objective visual examination of the physical structure and systems of a house, from the roof to the foundation. So from top to bottom, if you want to say it that way.

    LESLIE: So you guys do come pretty close to that. I mean it’s all laid out in your standards and practices right online. It really is floorboards to shingles.

    JAMES: Absolutely. You’ll have a home inspector typically check out the roof to all the way down to the foundation of the house itself. So, yeah, they’re really going from nuts to bolts, so to speak.

    TOM: Yeah. So, heating, cooling, plumbing, electric. It’s a good onceover.

    Many times in my career, I would have folks that would ask me do they really need a home inspection. And I think, as a buyer, you get emotionally attached to the house. It’s kind of hard to see through that veil what could potentially go wrong.

    And even though you may have a well-meaning dad or a brother-in-law or uncle that’s handy, home inspectors are real specialized. They are sort of the forensic examiners of a property. They can see one thing in the house and know that everything’s connected to that, like seeing just the tip of a termite tube and knowing that there’s some pretty significant structural damage, potentially, underneath it.

    JAMES: I absolutely agree. You know, even for myself as a first-time homebuyer, when my wife and myself purchased about 12 years ago, our home inspector was our advocate. They were truly protecting us as consumers. You could see, as he took us around and showed us what potential issues there could be and told us about pitfalls that may arise over time and taught me a lot about the house. Just showed me where the furnace was, the water heater. Took me up into the attic and – didn’t climb on the roof with him but definitely saw those pictures afterwards.

    It’s a service to the consumer. It helps people take away that anxiety of making a purchase that is probably going to be the biggest investment of your life. And one of the things that you did say was that – for us, too – at ASHI, we ensure that, ethically speaking, that we are really looking out for the needs of the consumer and helping people make a wide-open decision on what they decide to do.

    LESLIE: Yeah. That’s exactly what it is. You’ve got these guys that come across as home inspectors and they show up and they do their sort of inspection. And then they say things like, “Oh, you’ve got these things wrong with the property but the good news is I’m the guy that can fix it.” And that really seems like a huge conflict of interest.

    JAMES: Absolutely, Tom and Leslie. And those are the ethical standards that we hold our members to. And that’s how we can honestly say they are to advocate for the consumer.

    TOM: Alright. So home inspections take, typically, two-and-a-half to three hours. I think there’s a misconception as to whether or not there’s a pass/fail criteria for inspections. Let’s talk a little bit about that.

    JAMES: Yeah. You’re absolutely correct. It’s an examination of the house. It’s not something to say whether it passes or fails something. It’s more to give the person who requests the report an absolute idea of what they’re stepping into, knowing what might need major repair or replacement and just giving them an idea. You don’t pass or fail a home inspection.

    TOM: Yeah. Municipal inspections, you could pass or fail those. But even then, the standards vary so much, literally, from town to town. And typically, they’re not looking – there’s no such thing as a house being up to code that was built any more recent than a couple of years ago, because codes were always changing. So they may look for smoke detectors or carbon-monoxide detectors, make sure the windows open, some things like that. But they’re not really going to dive deep into the house.

    And an appraisal, of course, could also be confused with it. But that’s more about the financial condition of the home, not the structural and mechanical conditions. So that’s what an ASHI-certified home inspector does.

    Now, I think we should talk about when this happens in the transaction, because that really is important that it’s done at the right time. Otherwise, if something’s wrong, you may have difficulty negotiating a fix or even getting out of the contract, right?

    JAMES: Oh, definitely. Typically, they contact immediately after the purchase agreement or contract has been signed. You want to make sure that there is a clause – what we call an “inspection clause” – in the sales contract that’s contingent on the findings of a professional home inspection. That will make sure that you’re keeping yourself safe and that your investment will be going into something that you want to and meets the standards of what you, as a consumer, are expecting as you move into that house.

    TOM: Now, if you’re looking for a home inspector, certainly there’s lots of referral sources out there. I’ve got to tell you a little side story. I was the guy that the real estate agents wouldn’t refer to their clients unless they were a friend or relative, because sometimes – they’re great people but let’s face it, sometimes they didn’t really want the most thorough inspector out there looking at a property for fear that maybe it would not go through.

    But seriously, if you want to find a good home inspector, you guys have a tool in your website and that’s HomeInspector.org. It’s called the Find an Inspector Tool. You can search there. You’ll get a list of home inspectors in your area. I think it’s by zip code or by distance. And then I would encourage you to call around and chat with them, because one size doesn’t fit all and you get a sense as to who you feel you can really work with.

    JAMES: Absolutely. I would also encourage, if they can, to check out the home inspector website, just to have them and see the reports. Typically, they put up a sample report and you can kind of read and see if it’s a report that you would like to receive. And you can then use our tool, as you said, to find those in your area that are – that meet the ASHI standards.

    TOM: Great advice.

    He is James Thomas, the executive director of the American Society of Home Inspectors. HomeInspector.org. That’s all you need to know if you’re buying or even selling a house and you want to find out what its true condition is. Head on over there. Use the Find an Inspector Tool and you will find an ASHI-certified member. They don’t get any better than that.

    James, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit. Great advice.

    JAMES: Thank you so much, Tom and Leslie. It’s my pleasure to join you today and I hope that I was able to be some help to some of those people who are looking for home inspectors out there.

    TOM: And again, that website is HomeInspector.org.

    LESLIE: Alright. Just ahead, we’ve got some tips on smart-lighting control that gives you the ability to set your lights to come on at dusk, so your family is always coming back to a well-lit home. So stick around.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

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

    Hey, do you need some new flooring, a new kitchen or bathroom? You getting a bathroom all set for the holiday season before the relatives start to show up? You need some help to get that project done? Well, HomeAdvisor can instantly match you with the right pro for the job, for free.

    Check them out, right now, online at HomeAdvisor.com.

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

    LAURIE: We have a Chamberlain ¼-horsepower garage-door opener and it has no remote.

    TOM: OK.

    LAURIE: We bought the house as-is, so we have no remote for it. Also, it has a keypad on the outside, which I’m unable to use. So, my question was: if I go to Home Depot or Lowe’s, would a universal remote work or do I have to call a garage-door company out to sell us a Chamberlain remote and program it?

    TOM: Why don’t you do this? Why don’t you get the model number of the Chamberlain garage-door opener, which is probably printed on the back of the unit, go to the Chamberlain website and get the owner’s manual for the door opener? With that owner’s manual, you should be able to program the keypad. It’ll tell you the right sequence to do that. And also, you most likely can find out from Chamberlain exactly which remote is designed to work with that unit.

    Now, Chamberlain is a very good company and in fact, they have a new technology that’s called MyQ. And the cool thing about the MyQ technology is you can actually put this MyQ unit in your garage and then you’ll be able to open and close your garage door with your smartphone. So, they’re way ahead of the game on this stuff.

    LAURIE: Yeah. That’s what I was going to ask you, too. Is this one too old to do that?

    TOM: I think it actually works on every garage-door opener that was built after 1996, so it may not be. It might be fine.

    LESLIE: Can’t remember if it’s ‘96 or ‘94.

    TOM: Yeah, it goes back over 10 years.

    LAURIE: Good. OK. Because this one is about six years old.

    TOM: I think that’s how I would proceed. I would not just go buy something and hope it works. I would do the research and you’ll figure it out. OK, Laurie?

    LAURIE: OK. I’ll go on their web page. Thank you for the advice.

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

    Hey, so there’s a new smart-lighting control that’s just out on the market that is pretty cool, because it gives you the ability to set your lights to come on at dusk, so your family always comes home to a well-lit place.

    It’s from Lutron and it’s called the Caseta Wireless Smart-Lighting Dimmer-Switch Starter Kit. And it actually gives you a lot more function than a standard dimmer.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And it’s actually really easy to use, super simple to set up and gives you a smart system that can expand at your own pace.

    Now, the kit’s designed for hardwired lights and it gives you smart-lighting control in one room. Everything you need is right there in that box. Now, it’s going to include a Smart Bridge and a free app and there’s an in-wall light dimmer. Plus, you get the wall plate and even a remote control.

    TOM: Now, the kit starts at around 100 bucks and you’ll find it at Amazon, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Best Buy or through your local electrician. You can learn more at CasetaWireless.com – C-a-s-e-t-a – Wireless.com.

    LESLIE: Always love taking calls from my neck of the woods. We’ve got Scott in New York who’s working on the driveway. Tell us what’s going on.

    SCOTT: At my house, in my driveway, I have a blacktop driveway. I notice sitting water spots after a rainstorm. I was wondering what my options were for fixing.

    TOM: So, are these actual potholes or just sort of low spots?

    SCOTT: Just low spots.

    TOM: I’ve got to tell you, it’s difficult to address a situation where you just have low spots like that, because it’s a failure of the base of the driveway. When the driveway was put in, the base of the driveway underneath, you know, probably wasn’t prepped correctly. And so, over time, it’s settled and sagged. And that’s why you’re developing those water spots now.

    It’s difficult to patch over that unless it’s a fairly contained area. So, for example, if you had a section of broken-up driveway that maybe was a foot or so square, there are different densities of patching compounds. They come everywhere from like a gravel mix, that is a latex product that you could put in and will dry solid, to something that’s fairly liquid for cracks.

    But to really raise the level of low spots in there, you’re really talking about a situation where you’d have to replace the driveway or put a second layer on it. And I’ve got to tell you, I probably would not even put the second layer on it, because I would not be confident as to how the original driveway was constructed. And if I wanted to avoid that in the future, I would probably just tear it up and start again.

    So, I guess your question is: how much does this really bother you? Does it bother you enough where you want to tear it up or you just want to live with it for a few more years before you get to that? If it’s not cracked, perhaps just sealing it is going to protect it as long as possible. Keeping that water from saturating into that area and soaking into that area will help stabilize it for the – at least for the immediate future.

    SCOTT: OK. Thanks for your help.

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

    LESLIE: Hey, if you’d like to enjoy the warm glow of a fireplace this winter, you’d better make sure the screens are clean to start. We’ll share some simple cleaning hacks, next.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Pick up the phone and give us a call, right now, on The Money Pit’s listener line at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor.

    LESLIE: That’s right. You can get matched with top-rated home service pros in your area, read verified reviews and book appointments online, all for free.

    TOM: No matter the type of job, HomeAdvisor makes it fast and easy to hire the best local pros.

    LESLIE: Alright. Pick up the phone and give us a call or post your question online in the Community section of The Money Pit, just like Maryann did. Now, Maryann writes: “We have a rental with a very tall exterior natural-rock fireplace. Last winter, the chimney leaked and brought a lot of water inside to the house. It’s been checked by several people but none with good solutions. Is there a product we can coat it with to stop the rainwater from getting in?”

    TOM: First of all, Maryann, since you are a tenant and not an owner, I would tell you that this is clearly the owner’s responsibility. But if you were an owner, I would tell you to do the following.

    The first thing that I would do is I would check the flashing. And that’s where the chimney intersects with the roof. And I can tell you that 9 out of 10 times, it’s done incorrectly and water can get behind it. And that may be one source for water leaking down into your place.

    The second thing I would do is I would apply a chimney cap if you don’t have one: a chimney cap which blocks the water – direct rainfall – from getting through the center flue. It sort of sits up above the chimney but it’s kind of like a roof for the chimney. That’s a pretty good idea to add.

    And thirdly, sometimes you get a leakage that goes right through the block itself. So to deal with that, you want to apply a masonry sealer. Now, there are many different brands of this out there. Typically, they have a silicone element to them but you want to make sure you choose one that’s vapor-permeable. What that means is that the moisture can move in and out of the block and not stay behind and freeze and crack and break it up through frost heave in the winter.

    So, do things in that order – fix the flashing, get a chimney cap and then seal the surface with a masonry sealer – and that should dry it out.

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post here from Donna. Now, Donna writes: “I followed your tip about using plastic strips to get rid of woodpeckers and it worked. My question is: now, how do I fill the holes that the woodpeckers left behind in the siding?”

    TOM: First, if you didn’t hear the tip about the plastic strips, basically she had woodpeckers that were attacking her siding. And what I told her to do is take Hefty bags, cut them into 2-inch strips and tack a few of those up like big, black, plastic ribbons. And it kind of freaks out the woodpeckers and they go somewhere else.

    Now, in terms of the repair, you want to use a two-part epoxy/wood mix. You mix them together, push it into the holes, let it dry, sand it, prime it, paint it and you’re good to go. Bye-bye woodpeckers and bye-bye the holes they left behind.

    LESLIE: It’s always good when the woodpeckers go away, at least from your house.

    TOM: We must evict them from the premises.

    Well, if you’d like to enjoy the warm glow of a fireplace this winter, you need to make sure the screens are clean to start with. Leslie has some tips on how to do just that, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    Leslie?

    LESLIE: You know, I really do love a good fire in the fireplace. But if you really want to enjoy it, you should plan to clean the fireplace screen once or twice a season. Now, to get the job done right, you should use a cleaning solution of 1/8-cup liquid dishwashing detergent per quart of water. And that’s really going to do wonders for all that caked-on dirt.

    Then you need to just gently scrub the screen with a soft-bristle brush and follow up by wiping with a lint-free cloth to avoid rusting. If you’ve got any brass details on the screen, you want to polish those with some brass cleaner and make sure you use a lint-free cloth, because that really does a beautiful job of polishing.

    I’m telling you, if you spend some time and clean the fireplace screen and really polish up all the bits and pieces on it, you’re going to see that that screen is going to glow just like your fire and you’ve got instant ambiance for the holiday season.

    TOM: Now, that’s the kind of fire you want to enjoy. But unfortunately, this is also the time of year when risk of home fires is at its highest. So coming up on the next program, we’re going to have some solutions to help you stay safe, not only in the next couple of heating months but all year long. That’s coming up, on the very next edition of The Money Pit.

    But for now, that’s all the time we have. So, thank you so much for tuning in.

    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.

    END HOUR 2 TEXT

    (Copyright 2018 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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