How to Keep Wildlife Away from Gardens

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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: Pick up the phone, give us a call, right now, because we are here to help you with your spring home improvement project. That’s right. It’s springtime. Hooray. I mean I wish it would have been here weeks ago but it is officially here. And that means it is officially time for us to help you with your spring projects. So, whether that’s inside or out – outdoor living, décor, kitchens, bathrooms – whatever is on your to-do list, whatever is on your dreaming-of-doing list, give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. We’ll help you get started on that job.

    Coming up on today’s show, as the weather gets warmer, we’re seeing more and more signs of spring cropping up everywhere, which is fantastic. But along with those pleasant sights of flowers and trees and lots of green, we’re also seeing more and more wildlife that we would very much like to keep out of our garden. So we’re going to have some tips on how to keep deer and rabbit and groundhogs out of that space, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And while we do love to see the wildlife, it is best to keep them out of your yards. And to do so, chain-link fences really do a great job. But they’re not so great to look at, either. And if you’ve got one that’s old and beat up, they certainly aren’t nice to look at. Well, if your neighbors are secretly hoping that you’re going to get rid of that ugly chain-link fence, we’re going to have some tips for you to get it out of the ground and off your property as easy as possible.

    TOM: And hey, is there a spot in your yard where water seems to always collect? You know, that makes it really difficult to use chunks of your property. You can’t grow grass, it’s muddy all the time and you get mosquitoes. Well, maybe a catch basin is what you need. If properly installed, that can drain the water and give you your yard back. So we’re going to have some DIY tips on how to do that.

    LESLIE: But first, we want to hear from you. So call us now with your décor, remodeling, spring repair, fix-up, whatever-it-is-you-are-working-on question right here at 888-MONEY-PIT. You’re going to get the answer to that question, plus we’re giving away a great product from GE Lighting. It’s the C by GE Smart Switch, which can make any bulb in your house smart.

    TOM: Yep. And you’re also going to get a two-pack of the vintage-style LED bulbs from GE Lighting to go along with it. Together, they’re worth about 65 bucks. Going out to one caller drawn at random. Make that you. Pick up the phone right now. We know you’ve got a project on your to-do list. Let’s move it over to ours and we’ll tackle it together, 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Dottie in Nebraska is on the line and needs some help with a flooring project. What can we do for you today?

    DOTTIE: I’m replacing – will be replacing a vinyl floor in the kitchen. And I’ve never had a wood floor. I love the look of wood but I’m confused as to whether to go with wood or with laminate, because I want easy care.

    LESLIE: OK. And this is strictly for your kitchen or does it …?

    DOTTIE: We will be going into the dining room, too, we’ve decided. We’ll be taking up carpet in there to extend into the dining room.

    LESLIE: OK. So it’s – is it an open plan or is there a threshold or is there a division between these two spaces?

    DOTTIE: There is a counter between the two.

    LESLIE: OK. Now, for kitchens, hardwood floors are beautiful but generally, even if they have a commercial type of coating on them, they’re not really meant to stand up to the wear and tear and perhaps the moisture that could occur in a kitchen environment. I think a laminate is probably a better choice for you, just because of the way they are made. And the finishes on top of them make them more easy to clean, easier to deal with any spills that might occur and certainly more durable and of course, can look like anything.

    I actually just put a laminate, in a home I redid in California, that was a 6-inch-wide plank that had a hand-scraped finish on it. So it certainly had that warmth and look and a quality of a traditional hardwood that you’re probably looking for. And depending on the quality of laminate, you could get kind of close to a hardwood price but I think you can still keep it in your price range.

    DOTTIE: Yes.

    LESLIE: But you can find, certainly, beautiful options in the laminate. I think that’s probably the way you want to go for a kitchen.

    DOTTIE: OK. And see if you agree with this: I’ve been told that we have oak cabinets that are OK and not to try to match those. Is that right to go lighter or darker?

    LESLIE: Absolutely. What color is the oak? Is it sort of natural? Has it been stained a different tone?

    DOTTIE: It’s pretty typical, warm oak: kind of a golden – kind of a medium brown.

    LESLIE: I like the idea of a darker floor in a kitchen. I feel like it’s more forgiving. I feel like it makes the cabinets sort of jump off and create a more, you know, put-together look for a kitchen space. I think with a lighter floor, you’re always going to be trying to clean it and care for it, cover it up.

    DOTTIE: OK. And as far – I have a friend who put – I think she said hers is cherry but I love the look. It’s kind of a – the planks are a different shade; they’re not all the same color. Is that something you think that I could find or would that look nice with the oak?

    LESLIE: Now when you say different shades, is it strikingly different? Does it look sort of patchwork-y or is it more tonal?

    DOTTIE: No. No. More subtle than that.

    LESLIE: More subtle. I mean I think it could be a very good look if you’ve got the right look for your kitchen. That tends to be a more – not a hippie-dippie but Bohemian, free-spirited sort of eclectic look that’s very popular right now. So if you’ve got that look going in your lighting fixtures and in your tile work and in your countertops, then it could really tie it all in together.

    DOTTIE: OK. And one last question. That floor that I like is laid on the diagonal. Do you do that much and do you recommend that?

    LESLIE: Depends on the size of the space. Because if it’s a tighter or a narrow kitchen, it could look very busy. But if you’ve got a good expanse and the kitchen is fairly wide, then it could play very nicely.

    DOTTIE: Well, that’s wonderful. That’s what I wanted to know. I thought probably the laminate was better. I want it to look beautiful; I don’t want it to look fake.

    TOM: I’ll tell you, Dottie, I have laminate in my kitchen and I’ve had it for about 10 years now.


    TOM: It looks like a stone floor and it’s beautiful.

    DOTTIE: Wonderful. OK. And no particular brand tips or anything like that? Maybe you can’t do that. I’m really a novice here.

    TOM: Well, I’ll tell you, you might just want to – a good place just to kind of shop for it is, only because they have good prices and they have a whole bunch of manufacturers there on their website.

    DOTTIE: Sure.

    TOM: So that might be a good place to start.

    DOTTIE: OK. I will do it. Thank you so much.

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

    LESLIE: Joe in Georgia, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today with tankless questioning? What’s going on?

    JOE: Based on the high capital cost and the fact that natural-gas prices seem to be at an all-time low, what is the return on investment or payback period and does the federal government still offer tax credits? Second part of that question, is the annual maintenance contract that the installers offer really needed?

    TOM: OK. Well, first of all, the tax credits are less and less today. I believe there are some still, some small tax credits.

    I do like tankless water heaters for a number of reasons, though. First of all, they last a lot longer than a standard, tanked water heater. Secondly, they’re really energy-efficient and you never run out of hot water. Very important to me since I’ve got two teenagers in my house. If I’m the third one to get in the shower, forget it; it’s not going to happen. So I like the fact that they never run out of hot water.

    And I think if you compare the cost of tankless against not a standard, inefficient, tanked water heater but a high-efficiency, tanked water heater, you will find that the difference is not that far apart.

    The contractor’s service contract? Look, you need to have this thing serviced like anything else. I don’t think it needs a big, expensive contract. What it’s typically going to need is a yearly service. And so I would have to probably judge that against what this contract covered. If the contract covered all of my gas appliances in the house and I felt like it was reasonable, I might do that only for the reason that we know that these gas appliances need service, because they burn dirty and they eventually have to be cleaned. But I will say that these newer, more efficient ones need a lot less maintenance than the older, inefficient ones ever did.

    JOE: OK. I guess what I’m hearing out there on the installers is these are stand-alone service (audio gap) and if you compare that to a traditional hot-water heater, you typically don’t see any service required. And I think the capital is maybe 10x difference. It may be $800 for a – maybe 900 for a hot-water heater and you’re looking, I think, upwards of $4,000, I should say.

    TOM: Yeah, that sounds a little crazy. I’m not seeing that. What I’m seeing is if you bought a high-efficiency, tank water heater, it might be 1,500 bucks. And if you bought a tankless water heater, it might be two grand or something of that nature. I’m sure you’re going to run into contractors that are really driving the prices up and trying to charge you crazy money for service contracts and things like that. You just might not be talking to the right guys, Joe.

    JOE: You endorse any particular manufacturer?

    TOM: Yeah, there’s a bunch of good ones out there. Rinnai makes a good one. Rheem – R-h-e-e-m – makes a good one. I’d take a look at those. We’re talking about gas, right?

    JOE: Yeah, natural gas.

    TOM: Yeah, I would take a look at Rinnai and Rheem.

    JOE: OK. Excellent.

    TOM: Two good brands. OK, Joe?

    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 Now you can be part of the home improvement fun. We want to hear from you. What are you working on? What are you tackling? What’s happening around your house this spring season? Because we are here to lend a hand 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Just ahead, deer and rabbits. They are a sign of spring but maybe not a welcome one if they’re in your garden. We’re going to have some tips to keep those intruders away, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And we’d love to hear what’s on your to-do list this beautiful spring weekend. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Give us a call, right now, with your home improvement questions, your project challenges. We’re here to help, presented by HomeAdvisor, the fast and easy way to find the best home service pros in your area. You can read reviews and book appointments online.

    And hey, if you do reach out, there’s also a great chance you may win today’s featured product.

    LESLIE: Yeah. It’s super smart, this product. We’ve got the C by GE Smart Switch – it’s worth 49.99 – along with a two-pack of vintage-style LED bulbs worth almost 16 bucks. I love those vintage bulbs and I love them even more now that they’re LED, because they still look fantastic.

    But here’s what’s so awesome about the C by GE Smart Switch, which is from GE Lighting. They can make any single bulb in your house smart. You don’t need any additional wiring or hubs or anything like it. It actually lets you turn on and off and dim any brand – incandescent, halogen, CFL, LED – any kind of bulb you’ve got in your house.

    You can do all of that with your voice, an app, your touch or even simply your movement. And if you already have C by GE smart bulbs, the switches can control the C by GE bulbs even when the switch is off. Super-duper-duper smart. Great technology. Could be yours for free, so make sure you tune in and give us a call.

    TOM: I’ve got to think about that. So, the switch is off but I guess when you use the app, you can light the bulbs and dim them. That’s really pretty cool.

    LESLIE: It’s really cool.

    TOM: That C by GE Smart Switch, including a two-pack of vintage-style LED bulbs, is going out to one listener drawn at random. Would you like that to be you? Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

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

    SUSAN: I was calling because I have a large room that was converted from a garage into a living room but it’s got some dark, ugly paneling on it. And what’s the best way to remove it or how do you undo paneling?

    LESLIE: I mean it really depends on how much work you want to do and how that paneling that’s there was attached to the existing structure.

    Now, it was the garage previously?

    SUSAN: Yes. And it was ridiculous. It was paneled and – like it was a really elite garage when we moved in. It was crazy.

    LESLIE: Now, do you know, is the paneling just attached directly to the studs of the wall? Or is it attached by glue to drywall? Have you had any clue what’s behind it?

    SUSAN: I don’t.

    LESLIE: I wonder if there’s a place, you know, where you can lift up a piece of trim or remove a switch plate and see what’s sort of going on with that? Because it could be that it was a garage. It could just be that the paneling was put directly onto those studs and then you could pull that off and have a clean slate and just go ahead and put some drywall up. And while you’re at it, add some insulation. Because if it was a garage, there’s a good chance there wasn’t any there before.

    Now, if you do find that it was attached to some drywall, it’s probably glued on and everything behind it is going to be a mess. So you’ve got two choices there. You can either just make that paneling look attractive by painting it. And you know what? When paneling is painted like a glossy white or a glossy neutral color, it actually doesn’t look so bad. It can kind of be that great, interesting base texture with sort of a modern country feel, if that makes sense.

    But if that’s something that you’re like, “Oh, God, no, I don’t even want to see it,” you can easily go over it with ¼-inch drywall. The only thing is where you’ve got switches or outlets or trimming, those things are going to have to bump out a little bit. So that requires a little bit of carpentry but it’s not the end of the world and it is a do-it-yourself project.

    SUSAN: OK. So it really depends on what it’s over.

    LESLIE: Depends on what it’s over, how it’s attached and how involved you want to get.

    SUSAN: OK. Well, I guess the first thing I will need to do then is take a piece off or figure that out and go from there.

    LESLIE: Don’t sound so down; it’s not a difficult project.

    SUSAN: OK. Well, I appreciate the advice.

    TOM: Well, as you head out to your yard in these warmer temperatures, you may discover you’re not the first one to get your paws in the dirt. Deer and rabbits and groundhogs, they can be very friendly reminders of the wonders of spring. But they can also be pretty destructive intruders when they trample and chomp on all of your hard work.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Now, here’s why: deer are going to return to that same feeding ground every single year and a deer can consume more than 10 pounds of foliage in a single day. They are so slim, deer, it’s always amazing to me that they can eat so much. Meanwhile, those rabbits and the groundhogs and all those other nesting type of animals, they’re just going to simply launch ground attacks on anything that’s coming up out of the ground. So your yard is going to go from looking sort of springy to just wintery all over again.

    TOM: And I have planted numerous gardens over the years. And actually, it’s not so much the garden as some of the landscaping type of plants that we’ve put around, which are not protected by fences, only to find them gone within days because of the invading animals.

    So, what do you do about it? Well, obviously, fencing is one solution. Whether that’s in the form of a high structure or a decorative border or a low wall, they can work. There are natural repellants that work.

    And one of the things, though, that I’ve been using more recently – because we have these beautiful bushes that surround part of the property and they just get chewed up. They look like Swiss cheese when the deer get done with them. We’ve been using a deer repellant on there. And we spray them down about two to three times a season. You know, it’s a concentrate; you mix it up in one of those pump-on sprayers. And that works really, really well to keep them off. Because once they find out they don’t like the taste of your landscaping, they just go chew on the neighbor’s lawn or something. But they leave your stuff alone.

    So, definitely a good idea to not wait for them to do the destruction, to get out there and add the fencing or add the repellants now, so that you can enjoy your garden and your landscaping and give it a good chance to grow deep before the summer shows up.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Gary in Maryland with some wall cracks. Tell us what’s going on.

    GARY: The cracks are along the one outside wall – or the one wall on the short side, on a 26-foot side. And they’re both on either side of the bathroom, which is between two bedrooms.

    TOM: So what you’re describing is a pretty normal scenario. We typically get movement in walls of homes and where you have seams between walls and ceilings, one wall and another wall or above a window or above a door. That’s where the movement tends to evidence itself.

    Now, the solution here is going to require that you redo the seam between the cracked areas. What you’ll do is you’ll pull off the old drywall tape, if it’s loose. If it’s not loose, you could probably leave it in place. But if it’s loose or if it’s wrinkled or anything like that, I would pull it out. And I would replace that with fiberglass drywall tape.

    Fiberglass drywall tape kind of looks like a netting and it’s sticky, it’s easier to handle. And so you press it into the seam. And then once it’s pressed in place, then you’re going to add three layers of spackle on top of that, making each one as thin as possible. So you start with the first one, try to keep it pretty narrow and just cover the tape. And then the subsequent two, you go a little wider and a little wider and try to feather out the edges. And that actually will bridge that gap between the two surfaces and the crack will not form again.

    If you try to spackle over a crack without doing that, it’s just going to show up. I mean you could spackle it and paint it but it’s going to come out every winter or every summer, depending on whether it’s swelling or shrinking that’s causing the crack. It’s going to pop open again.

    GARY: Good. Thank you very much. Good show, too.

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

    LESLIE: Well, you don’t see them as often as you used to, which is why so many chain-link fences are in such bad shape. They’re just plain old. If you’re looking to get yours out of your yard – and believe me, your neighbors are probably looking for you to do the same – Roger Cook from This Old House is stopping by with tips on the easiest way to pull out those posts, after this.

    TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement 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 Never worry about overpaying for a job. You can use HomeAdvisor’s True Cost Guide to see what others paid for a similar project. All free at

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Nicole in Illinois on the line who needs to fix a crack in a wall. And you’re saying it’s from an earthquake? When did you have an earthquake in Illinois?

    NICOLE: Well, it was just a really small earthquake. We get them just randomly, about one or two a year.

    TOM: Wow.

    NICOLE: Because we’re right on – there’s some fault that’s down south of us.

    TOM: And now that fault has worked its way up into your wall. So what does it look like? How big of a crack is this that we need to fix?

    NICOLE: It’s about an 18-inch crack and then that’s going down from the ceiling. And then it goes like – it goes diagonally up the wall and then hits the ceiling and then just moves horizontally on the ceiling for a couple of inches.

    TOM: So it’s 18 inches long altogether?

    NICOLE: Yeah.

    TOM: How old is the house?

    NICOLE: It’s not very old, like ‘99.

    TOM: OK. So it’s a drywall crack then.

    NICOLE: Yes.

    TOM: Many people will simply spackle that but the problem is that if you spackle that crack, the wall is now always going to move – and walls always do move but now that the wall has a crack, the two sides of that are going to move at different rates. And so that crack will reform. The way you stop that from happening is by taping over that crack with drywall tape and then spackling it.

    Now, taping with paper drywall tape can be a bit tricky, so there’s a product out that’s a perforated drywall tape that looks like a netting. It’s like a sticky-backed netting. And that type of perforated tape is the best one to use because you put the tape on first and then you spackle over it. You want to do two or three coats, starting with smaller coats and then working wider as you go.

    And remember, the thinner the coat the better; I’d rather you put on more coats than put on too much spackle, which too many people tend to do. Then it kind of gets all gooped up and piled up on your wall and you’ll see it forever. So, thin coats – two or three thin coats – and that should do it.

    NICOLE: OK. Alright. Thank you.

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

    LESLIE: Well, the saying goes that good fences make good neighbors. But your neighbors might disagree if you’ve got a beat-up, chain-link fence circling your property.

    TOM: True. Chain-link fences might be functional but they leave a lot to be desired in the looks department. If your home’s worn-out fence has overstayed its welcome, it might be time to get rid of it. To find out how to do just that, we welcome Roger Cook, the landscaping contractor for This Old House.

    Welcome, Roger.

    ROGER: Thanks for having me.

    TOM: So, this sounds like more of a demolition job. What does it take to get rid of a chain-link fence?

    ROGER: Well, you know what I say all the time: “Before you have construction, you’ve got to have destruction. And destruction is fun.”

    TOM: Yeah, absolutely. So, the first part of that destruction is probably pulling out the chain link. I would imagine that’s easier.

    ROGER: It is. A pair of pliers and a socket set and you can undo all the nuts and bolts and then cut the wire that’s hanging the fence onto the rails. And you can just roll it right up.

    TOM: Roll it up and get it out. And then we get into the post issue and that’s where it really starts to get difficult.

    ROGER: Right. All the posts in this fence are going to have concrete holding them in the ground. The line posts, the ones in between the corners or terminal posts, will have the least amount of concrete. The terminal or corner posts have a lot of concrete, because they’re the soldiers that are holding this fence up.

    LESLIE: So what do you do? Just wiggle things back and forth or …?

    ROGER: In the line posts, if you dig around the concrete and then start wiggling, sometimes you can just pop it out of the ground like a bad tooth.


    ROGER: Other times, we’ll tie a rope on it and two guys will pull on it and it’ll pop out. But that’s not so with the terminal ones. They have a lot of concrete around them.

    There’s a couple things you can do. You can either try taking an iron bar or a chisel and breaking the concrete off or you could come in with a Dingo or a Bobcat and try to pull them on. But that might make a mess of the yard so, sometimes, we actually would just cut them off and leave them.

    TOM: Now, that’s OK if you’re not going to put a new fence in. Otherwise, you’re never going to be able to get a fence post back in that same hole.

    ROGER: Well, wait a minute. If you’re going to do a nice, new fence, why not use the post you already have in the ground and save yourself a lot of time and effort? You could paint those with Rust-Oleum or a product black and get a black, chain-link fence and put that up.

    TOM: Yeah, now, I love the black fences because they tend to sort of disappear, especially in the summer or in the spring when you have a lot of green around. You really don’t see them.

    ROGER: Right. And rather than put out and put in new posts, we’re going to just take and paint them black with Rust-Oleum and then just take and put the fence right up again using them.

    TOM: Now, what a great idea.

    Now, what if you want to just leave the old fence but perhaps come up with a very green approach, like planting some sort of a vine against it? Is that an option, as well?

    ROGER: That’s an option as long as the fence is strong enough to support the vine. Some lighter vines that would be great would be like Clematis or maybe a honeysuckle. Fast-growing, quick-growing plants.

    TOM: Great advice. Roger Cook from TV’s This Old House, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    ROGER: My pleasure.

    LESLIE: Catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For local listings and step-by-step videos of many common home improvement projects, visit

    TOM: And This Old House is brought to you on PBS by Marvin Windows and Doors.

    Just ahead, when you walk across your yard after a storm, do you not so much take steps but take squish, squish, squish through the soggy spots? Well, that happens when your yard gets that standing water. But there are solutions. We’re going to tell you what to do about it, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And the number here is 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor. You can find out what it costs to do your home project before you hire a pro and instantly book one of HomeAdvisor’s top-rated pros, for free.

    LESLIE: And hey, if you do reach out, you’re going to get a chance to win today’s super-fantastic spring smart project. That’s right. I’m calling it a spring smart project but it’s really good for you all throughout the year. We’re giving away a C by GE Smart Switch that’s worth 50 bucks, along with a two-pack of vintage-style LED bulbs that are worth about $16.

    Now, what is so cool about the C by GE Smart Switch is that what it does is it makes every single bulb in your house a smart bulb. You don’t need any additional wiring or hubs or hardware. It’s simply the switch. Now, that’s going to let you turn on and off, dim any brand of incandescent, halogen, CFL, even an LED bulb simply with your voice, the app, even your touch or just walking through a room. It’s such a fantastic product. It’s super smart.

    TOM: The C by GE Smart Switch, including a two-pack of vintage-style LED bulbs, is going out to one listener drawn at random. Make that you. Pick up the phone, right now, and give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

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

    ELLIE: Yes. I just recently moved to Florida and the house I bought, the water softener is broken because – I believe it’s because they had it outside the home. Every other house in my community has them in the garage. And mine, they – for some reason, the water line is on the opposite side of the house, in the garage. So, it would be a – I believe it would be a major thing to have the water line brought from one side of the house to the other so I could have it inside.

    And Sears tells me that I can have it put outside but you have to have some kind of protective covering. Lowe’s tells me that they don’t sell any that go outdoors. And a private plumbing company is telling me that they have one that – to put outside, specifically. And other people are saying you don’t even need one, to go – don’t even bother the expense. So, I don’t know what to do.

    TOM: So, first of all, the question is: do you need a water softener or not?

    ELLIE: Right. I’ve looked online and I see the pros and cons.

    TOM: Right. Well, if you – if you’re accustomed to a water softener and you eliminate it, you may find that you don’t like that experience. You certainly could bypass the water softener just to see if you like the water.

    Is the water city water?

    ELLIE: Well, it’s not well water. So does that mean it is city water? I don’t know.

    TOM: Yeah, it’s city water. If it’s city water, you probably do not need a water softener.

    ELLIE: Well, I was – I think no. I don’t think it is city water because people in Ocala, I think they told me that they don’t need it; they have city water. I could be wrong; I’m not sure. But everybody in this development says you need it.

    TOM: Ellie, the first thing you want to do is figure out if you’ve got city water. If you do, it’s going to be treated. If you’ve got well water, then you do need, probably, a water conditioner, as well as to have the water tested to make sure that it’s safe. And that’s something that should be done on an occasional basis.

    Now, in terms of the enclosures, given the fact that you’re in Florida, we’re not concerned about freezing pipes. I wouldn’t be too concerned about putting it outside. I would want to have it enclosed. Now, how do you do that? Well, you either use one that’s rated to be outside – and perhaps your – the water-treatment company – the plumbing company has one that has such a certification, that’s designed for interior or exterior use and that’s fine. And if not, you’re going to have to construct something or have something constructed or perhaps pick up a small shed or something of that nature where the equipment could be protected from the weather.

    But I think the first thing you need to do is determine whether or not you need it and determine what kind of water supply you have. If it’s well water, get it tested. You can even have the hardness tested. You’ll know exactly what you’re dealing with. And if it’s city water, then I think you can try bypassing the system you have right now and see if you like it.

    I hope that helps you out. Ellie, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, with all the heavy spring rains that’s going on right now this time of year, you might have noticed that your lawn is starting to show areas where that water is puddling up. Now, that can make those areas hard to use or even grow grass. All that standing water can also become a mosquito breeding ground, which we definitely want to avoid this time of year.

    TOM: Yeah. And that’s why this is a good spot for what’s called a “catch basin.” It’s a structure that actually catches water right where the buildup occurs. And then it diverts that water to safe areas sort of downstream, lower on the property, away from the structure or other areas that don’t drain too well.

    LESLIE: Now, to put in a catch basin, you can buy it as a kit. It comes with everything you need for about 50 to 60 bucks. There’s even decorative grates that are available if you want to dress up the yard a bit at the same time. Now, this is a structure that you put underground that’s going to collect that water and divert it away.

    TOM: That’s right. And then, essentially, the drain lines go from it into, say, a French-drain trench which may be a trench that you dig and it’s filled with stone and perforated pipe.

    LESLIE: That really diverts the water away.

    TOM: Yeah. And there’s a type of drainpipe that actually has sort of the aggregate attached to it, too. So a lot of ways to do this. But they’re really a handy way to collect that extra surface water from the lawn or landscape areas.

    Or they even work with driveways and garages. How many times do we get calls from folks that have saggy driveways because the asphalt settled maybe up against where the apron is? That’s a concrete piece before it goes into the garage. But when it’s properly installed, it’s even tough enough for a light vehicle to drive over it. It all depends on the type of installation and the type of grate.

    So, all in all, it’s a great way to get rid of that standing water and get your yard back, get your driveway back, without it causing any ongoing damage.

    LESLIE: Rob from Utah is on the line who’s looking to save some green by going green and needs some help with an energy audit.

    How are you doing today, Rob?

    ROB: We are interested in getting a home energy audit and mostly trying to figure out what to expect. Like how much should it cost?

    TOM: Well, that’s a great question. Now, have you looked around for audit providers?

    ROB: I haven’t really reached out to people yet but tried to get in a little bit. But no, not really.

    TOM: OK. So I would start with your local utility company. Because sometimes, they provide home energy audits themselves or will provide those at a discount. What I would like to see you find is someone that’s not tied in with a repair operation, so you get somebody that’s truly independent. There are some energy auditors that work for the same companies that offer insulation services and weather-stripping and that sort of thing. And what you really want to do is find someone who’s completely independent.

    The scale of the energy audit can vary dramatically. A couple of things that I would look for – one thing that is really good to get is what’s called a “blower door test.” And this is where they take a device and pressurize your house with air or depressurize it and can measure the amount of leakage your house has. And that can help you pinpoint the worst offenders and teach you how to get those sealed up.

    Other parts of an energy audit would determine how energy-efficient your windows are, how much insulation you have in your attic space. Does it match with the right kind of ventilation? How efficient are your appliances? You know, it really looks at all of those areas.

    And then it should boil down to a specific list of recommendations that are prioritized. Because I think a lot of times when we try to make our homes more efficient, we guess. We guess at where we’re suffering the most, whether it’s new windows or insulation or whatever we think we need or a salesperson tries to sell you. It ends up being a guess. But an energy audit really can nail that down with some cold, hard facts and help you prioritize where to put the money.

    ROB: OK. Great. Thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Well, we might think about beefing up insulation in the fall season but spring is actually also a perfect time to take on an attic-insulation project, before it gets too ridiculously hot up in that attic space. We’re going to have some tips on how to insulate one of the more difficult spaces in your home, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Call us, right now, with your home improvement question to 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor. You can find top-rated home service pros and book appointments online, all for free.

    LESLIE: And don’t forget Money Pit is available all the time, online, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. So make sure you post your question, right there, for us to review. And right now, I’ve got one here from Anna who posted: “We bought a house in Southern California with vaulted ceilings and no attic. As far as we can tell, there’s no insulation in the walls of the house or above the ceiling. Can we install blown-in insulation into the walls, ceilings? Is it worth it?”

    Could there seriously be no insulation?

    TOM: Man, it would be really unusual for there to be zero insulation. But I mean that said, you have what’s – and that would be in the walls and the ceiling. But you have what’s called a “cathedral ceiling,” Anna. And a cathedral ceiling basically means you have, as you know, no attic. So, the bottom of the ceiling rafter is the drywall and the top of the ceiling rafter is the sheathing and the roofing. So you only have that narrow cavity in between.

    So, let’s say that the ceiling joist is a 2×10. That doesn’t mean you get 10 inches of insulation, because you need air space. You need to have some air above the insulation that can actually waft through that cavity and dry out. So, to do this right, you would only be able to put in about 8 inches of insulation. You’d have to have ventilation at the top – continuous ventilation – because, again, there’s no attic. So you’d have to have ventilation, like a ridge vent, all the way across the top and a soffit vent all the way along the side. So it’s a difficult structure to properly insulate.

    Other options might be to wait until the next time you have to do your roof. And then you could add insulation on top of the sheathing. You could put in a 2-inch or a 3-inch foam polyisocyanurate. It’s like a type of foam insulation that goes on top of the sheathing and then the shingles are nailed through it. It’s a type of application where that’s possible.

    Or if you really want to do it right – and this is going to sound rather dramatic and destructive – but honestly, if you’re going to go through all the work of redoing your roof, I would almost recommend that you do the second option instead, which is take out the drywall, take out that ceiling in that main room and then have those rafters sprayed with foam insulation. Spray foam gives you much higher R-value per inch, so you could actually get a really well-insulated, draft-resistant house if you were to pull your ceiling down, spray it and then put the ceiling back up. It’s probably just as much of a job as doing the roof. It may even be less expensive but that’s how to handle that.

    As far as the walls, yes, you could do blown-in but I’ve got to tell you, I’d be really surprised if there’s no insulation in those walls. Don’t mistake drafts coming through windows, for example, as no insulation. There’s ways you can check it. You can take outlets apart, for example, and you can look in there either unassisted or there’s small inspection cameras that a lot of insulation pros have that actually can go into a tiny hole, like a ¼- or 3/8-inch in diameter, and sort of look around the inside of the wall cavity. So, there’s an option.

    And if it turns out, in the unlikely event, you have no insulation in those wall cavities, in that case I would recommend blown-in cellulose insulation because it can be blown in pretty successfully. There’s a way to measure and make sure it’s getting to all the different cavities. You can do that with an infrared scanner.

    And in fact, if you do hire an insulation pro, make sure you do a scan before and a scan after, right, Leslie? Because otherwise, you don’t know if they got every space.

    LESLIE: Oh, 100 percent.

    Now, here’s a question. If you do the spray insulation in taking down the ceiling, you would have to do that at the same time you do the roof.

    TOM: Right.

    LESLIE: Because God forbid you need to replace the sheathing, you’re then disrupting that, correct?

    TOM: If the sheathing’s bad, yes. But chances are it’s probably OK.

    LESLIE: Alright. Good to know. Lots of options there and good luck with the new house in Southern California, Anna.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show and Podcast. We’re so happy you stopped by this beautiful spring weekend to check in with us, get some tips, some ideas on how to tackle your spring home improvement projects. Remember you can reach us, 24/7, at 888-MONEY-PIT or post your question on

    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 2019 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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