Keeping Kids Safe Online

  • Young Caucasian Man Helping Little Hispanic Girl with Laptop
  • Transcript

    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: What are you working on this fall weekend? Are you looking for ways to save some energy in your house, to lower those heating bills? Are you looking to fix up your inside space before you get stuck in there all winter long? Whatever you’d like to tackle now or in the immediate future, give us a call. We will walk you through that project, give you some tips, some ideas, some advice to help you save money and get it done right the first time out. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Coming up on today’s show, have you ever thought about the dozens of products that you need, just to keep your house clean, and all the hassles and expense of buying them and then throwing away all those empty bottles and cans? Well, we’re going to have tips on an innovative solution that’s non-toxic and versatile for use on a wide variety of surfaces, just ahead.

    LESLIE: And also ahead this hour, with the internet everywhere we go, it touches practically every aspect of our children’s lives. So keeping them safe online is an important topic for many parents. We’re going to have some tips on a stress-free, easy-to-install solution.

    TOM: And autumn is no time to ignore your lawn and landscape. What you do now will determine the quality of your family’s yard next spring and summer. So we’ll have some tips to help you make sure yours turns out bright and green next spring.

    But right now, we want to talk to you. So give us a call. Let’s talk about what’s going on in your money pit. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

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

    LESLIE: Elizabeth in New Jersey, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    ELIZABETH: I have an outdoor shower and all of a sudden, the pressure just went very, very low. So I didn’t know what to do with it.

    LESLIE: And it’s the only fixture that the pressure has changed on?

    ELIZABETH: The rest of the – my hoses are fine outside. You know, inside is fine.

    LESLIE: Well, have you thought about taking the showerhead off and sort of disassembling it? Because you may have just some sort of sediment or something that’s come in through the pipe and just sort of lodged itself at where the water outflow would come?

    So if you unscrew the showerhead, then sort of start taking that aerator apart – but remember the order in which you’re taking things out, because it’s got to go back in, obviously, in the opposite order. And I would just start taking things out and rinsing things off, because there could be just some debris – I mean especially if it’s an outdoor shower – just something clogging it up in there. And that usually does the trick. I would start there. Just make sure you put it all back in the correct order and it’ll work fine.

    ELIZABETH: I love the outdoor shower. It’s the greatest.

    LESLIE: Sal in North Carolina, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you?

    SAL: Well, we had – the A/C got a leak. The whole house – A/C [got a leak] (ph). So, there’s a leakage in there and we were told the diagnosis. And they recommend we replace the whole A/C system in the house.

    LESLIE: Like just the air handler and condensing unit or all of the ductwork, as well?

    SAL: I think it’s just the condenser thing.

    LESLIE: OK. How old is your unit?

    SAL: Well, it’s old, like about 20 years old.

    LESLIE: Oh, OK. So it’s time. OK.

    SAL: So, I was wondering if there’s a recommended, affordable company that can supply – can replace the whole system, with affordable, too. We live in Durham, North Carolina.

    LESLIE: Well, you’re going to want to find a local HVAC contractor that you checked their references and that you trust. Ask people that you know. Ask people in the neighborhood. Look online, maybe an Angie’s List. Check their references, call them up. And find somebody that you feel comfortable with.

    Now, when it comes to a manufacturer of a condensing unit, Carrier is a fantastic brand. Trane is a fantastic brand. You really want to look at things, such as energy efficiency. You want to make sure – now that you’re doing some work, you want to make sure that it’s properly sized for your home. And the right HVAC contractor can calculate which size condensing unit you’re going to need for the amount of rooms and distance of the house that you’re really trying to cool.

    So you want to make sure that you’re looking for high energy efficiency. If there’s any rebates going on, ask those questions. A good HVAC contractor is going to know that and help point you in the direction of which manufacturer has those going right now, as far as tax rebates. Those are things you really want to look into. But I say you can’t go wrong with a Carrier or a Trane.

    SAL: Oh, good. But I have another question. Some manufacturers offer an insurance – two years of insurance – for the replacement. Do you want me to buy the insurance or it’s a new one, we don’t have to get insurance for that?

    LESLIE: It depends. Now, usually, a brand-new piece of equipment is going to come with some sort of manufacturer’s warranty. And you have to make sure and find out what the term on that is. And that’s usually included. I wouldn’t buy anything extended.

    What I would look into is if there’s a service contract with the HVAC company that’s doing the install. Because it’s a piece of equipment that you’re going to want to have looked at once a year. Levels are going to have to be checked. Everything is going to have to make sure it’s in top operating condition, number one, for the efficiency. But also, you want to make sure it’s cool on the days that you need it to be cool.

    So I think the money is better spent on an annual maintenance contract, because it’s going to include most of those things, as far as parts. Sometimes they include filters, sometimes they don’t. But you want to make sure that you get filters, because you do have to change those monthly and that’s in the return duct. But I think the money better spent, other than an extended warranty, would be on an annual service plan.

    SAL: Oh, great. Thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Alright. Dorothy in New Jersey, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    DOROTHY: I respect all life but when you have a centipede crawling up a wall, that left the basement coming up into the house, it looks very ugly and scary. I understand they’re carnivores, so maybe they’d eat other bugs but I don’t really know how to get rid of them. And also, I’d like to know about crickets, how I could catch them.

    LESLIE: What kind of crickets are you talking about? Those weird-looking ones that hop and they’re like gigantic in your basement? They look like prehistoric?

    DOROTHY: The black ones that live outside but as soon as it turns cold, they come in and you hear them singing in your garage.

    LESLIE: Oh, OK. And you don’t want to kill anything, correct?

    DOROTHY: Well, I guess I could. But personally, I have a pet that eats crickets. I’d like to catch them. I read on the internet – I can’t seem to come up with a way to capture them. And we’re – I’d like to capture them and get them out.

    The centipedes, I’m open to, you know, extermination.

    LESLIE: Well, I was going to say, for your basement, I would start by making sure that everything is sealed off. So if you have anything that protrudes through the foundation wall – dryer vents, anything – make sure that it’s all sealed around. Anything can come in through the tiniest opening. So whether you use an expandable foam or a steel wool, you want to make a combination of things to close up every opening that you see, because that’s how they’re getting in.

    Now, once you’ve done that, if you see a centipede in the house, I would suggest – you could take a vacuum and you can put a piece of pantyhose at the end of the intake hose. So before it gets into the bag or gets into the area, it gets caught in that little piece of pantyhose.

    DOROTHY: Oh, that’s a good idea.                   

    LESLIE: And you can vacuum them into the pantyhose and then release them into the wild or whatever you like or feed the crickets to your lizard or snake friend.

    Now, as far as the crickets in the garage, I would do the same. I’d make sure everything is sealed up. I don’t know of any sort of traps that you can place and leave and go and then collect any of the crickets. I’ve done – and I’ve seen this done with bait – with people who have crickets in the basement, specifically the cave crickets. They take tape and lay it sticky-side up around the entire perimeter of the room. And then the crickets, when they crawl in under the walls, they get stuck to the tape.

    Now, they’re still alive stuck to the tape. I would usually think people throw away the tape but you might be able to, I don’t know, feed them to your friend that way?

    DOROTHY: Right. OK. Thank you.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Give us a call with your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week right here at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Coming up this hour, have you ever thought about the dozens of products that you use to keep your house clean and all the hassles and expenses of buying them and the waste of throwing away the empty bottles and cans? Well, we’re going to share some tips on an innovative solution that’s non-toxic and versatile, 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, with your home improvement question, your décor dilemma. Let’s talk about projects that you want to get done now or in the near future, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor.com. You will never have to worry about overpaying for a job. Just use HomeAdvisor’s True Cost Guide to see what others paid for a similar project. Then get matched with top-rated pros, read reviews, get quotes and book appointments, all for free at HomeAdvisor.com.

    LESLIE: John in Kansas is on the line with an insulation question. What can we do for you today?

    JOHN: Yes, I have a situation on a vaulted section over my living room. And it has no insulation in it; it’s sheetrocked. And I had one insulation outfit come in and say they could blow insulation down in there in what they call a “hard pack” or something. It has no vapor barrier. Is that possible and is that a good way to go about it without having to take down the sheetrock and insulate it?

    TOM: I think it’s probably a really bad idea because you’re not going to have any airflow in there. And whatever insulation you put in there is going to get damp and wet and potentially rot.

    Now, is there any insulation in that space right now whatsoever?

    JOHN: No.

    TOM: So you have a vaulted ceiling with absolutely no insulation. It’s covered with drywall now?

    JOHN: Yes.

    TOM: That’d be very odd that you would have no insulation whatsoever. Usually, you have not enough insulation.

    JOHN: Well, it was a project that was started and incompleted. And I kind of assumed, you know, to finish it up and I noticed there was no insulation over that section of the roof.

    TOM: So, let me ask you a question: how big is this vaulted ceiling that you’re looking at?

    JOHN: It goes up 8 feet and flattens off over 8 feet and then back down the other wall 8 feet.

    TOM: So, it’s only like 8×8?

    JOHN: It’s 24-foot long room and the vault goes up, running feet, about 8 feet. And then it has about 8 running feet of flat and then back down the other side to match 8 feet.

    TOM: Alright. So here’s a question: would you like to have a really effective insulation system installed in that ceiling? I mean super effective, like this will make a major impact on your bills kind of effective?

    If so, what you’re going to need to do is remove the drywall. I would recommend you remove the drywall ceiling and then have spray foam installed.

    JOHN: OK.

    TOM: Spray foam, you need less inches of it, in terms of the depth, to develop – to deliver the same R-value that you would need many more inches to do with fiberglass. And it doesn’t need ventilation. So, the spray foam could be installed in that ceiling and really make it super warm and comfortable. And then you could replace the drywall.

    Now, depending on how much spray foam you want to put in there, what R-value you want to get – for example, if you put 8 inches of spray foam, that would give you an R-30. But if you wanted to go more than that, it actually may end up being deeper than the ceiling joists themselves. What you could do is add sort of an extension to the bottom of those ceiling joists to pick up some additional depth and fill that whole bay up with the spray foam.

    Then once you put the drywall on, you’ll see that there’s going to be a huge difference there, because now you’ve got a space that’s – you’ve converted that sort of area from a conditioned space to a non-conditioned space in which you don’t need any ventilation. And not only will it keep the warm air – the heat – in, it will keep cold air from getting in because it seals and insulates when you use spray foam.

    We’ve got a great guidebook on our website. There’s a free download. It’s called The Money Pit Guide to Insulation. And it gives you the pluses and minuses of the four or five main types of insulation that’s out there. Why don’t you download that? Take a look and you can make your decision from there.

    JOHN: Well, I appreciate you taking my call.

    TOM: Well, for most people, keeping your house clean requires a lot of hassle and expense of buying lots and lots of cleaning solutions and all the waste of throwing away those empty bottles and cans. We found a much better solution and it’s called JAWS, the Just Add Water System.

    Now, JAWS is a really innovative concept in household cleaners. It features a refillable pod of ultra-concentrated cleaning solution for use with JAWS refillable and reusable bottles and sprayers.

    LESLIE: Now, all you need to do is fill the JAWS bottle with tap water, insert a refill pod into the neck and then twist the sprayer on to release the concentrate. There’s no measuring, no pouring, no spilling. And when the cleaners are used up, you just insert a new refill pod, add water and you’re back in action. Why throw away a perfectly usable bottle when it can be reused over and over?

    Now, JAWS Cleaners, they’re non-toxic, they’re streak-free and really, they’re so versatile that you can use them on a wide variety of hard surfaces.

    TOM: Now, if you want to get started, the best way to do that is to pick up the JAWS Home Cleaning Kit.

    Now, the kit contains four non-toxic, high-performance, non-streak formulas that work on most hard surfaces in the home. You get the Glass Cleaner, the Daily Shower Cleaner, the Kitchen Cleaner/Degreaser and a Hardwood Floor Cleaner.

    And if you order today at JAWSCleans.com, Money Pit listeners can save 25 percent on every order. Just use the promo code MONEYPIT at checkout to save 25 percent.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you know what else I like about the JAWS product line is that the bottles ship empty. They’re small, they’re lightweight. Those refill pods are concentrated cleanser. They’re also lightweight. Why ship water and the heavy weight of liquids when you don’t have to and you can just fill up with water at home? I mean really, that’s what makes the JAWS System super convenient and easy to use.

    Concentrate’s premeasured, so you’ve got the exact dilution. No measuring, pouring, spilling, touching the concentrate. The refills are child-resistant, which makes it great if you’ve got a young family like me. It’s a win-win situation here with the JAWS System.

    TOM: Check out the JAWS Just Add Water System Home Cleaning Kit today at JAWSCleans.com. That’s JAWS – J-A-W-S – Cleans.com. And remember, Money Pit listeners can save 25 percent on every purchase at JAWSCleans.com. Just use promo code MONEYPIT at checkout.

    That’s JAWSCleans.com. Rethink the way you clean, with the JAWS Just Add Water System.

    LESLIE: Kathy in Texas, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?

    KATHY: Hi, I have a basement – exterior basement window that I need to try to waterproof some way. The house was built in about 1924 and landscaping and surrounding drainage problems have been an issue in the past. But we need to try to somehow waterproof the exterior window for the basement so we don’t get water in there from outside.

    TOM: So does the – is this window above grade or is it below grade?

    KATHY: It’s right at grade.

    TOM: It’s right at grade? So the bottom of it is kind of level with grade? Do you have a window well around it?

    KATHY: No.

    TOM: And the water that you’re getting in there, is it leaking through the window as if the window is bad? Or is it leaking through the wall?

    KATHY: No, it’s coming in through the window.

    TOM: So, basically, you just have a leaky window. The fact that it happens to be above your basement is not really relevant here, because it could be leaking no matter where it was in the house. What kind of window is this? Is it a double-hung window or what?

    KATHY: No, it is a – just a wooden window with – I think it’s Plexiglas that was put in it. And I think it’s just probably getting old but we still need to try to keep the water away from the window because when we get heavy rains, we get a lot of water coming in there.

    TOM: Whenever someone tells me that heavy rain leads to leakage problems in that kind of a space, it’s always related to – the cause is always related to the grading and the drainage at the perimeter. And the two ways that are most common to address that is first, to get a good, careful, honest look at your gutter system. Because many folks have gutters that are undersized, they don’t have enough downspouts or most importantly, they often have the downspouts discharge right at the corner of the foundation. They don’t run that spout out 4 to 6 feet. So that’s the first thing that causes an increase in the drainage problems in the basement.

    KATHY: OK. There used to be gutters on there but because we’ve had renters in there over the past few years, the gutters are no longer there.

    TOM: Yeah. There’s your – that’s the number-one cause of your problem right now. I wouldn’t do a thing until I put gutters on that house. You’re fighting an uphill battle unless you get gutters on that house, because all that water is coming off the roof. And sure, it’s going to land in and around the window and that whole basement area. It’s going to saturate the soil at the foundation perimeter and it’s going to end up in your basement or at the least, it’s going to raise the humidity levels inside that house.

    So I wouldn’t do a thing to that window until I got gutters on. And I would make sure the downspouts are extended out 4 to 6 feet. It’s really critical and a lot of folks think it’s just to kind of keep water off your head when you’re going in and out of your house. It’s not. Gutters have a very important structural purpose and that is to keep that water away from the foundation. So, that’s what I would do, Kathy, and I think you’re going to see a big improvement after that.

    KATHY: OK. Sounds great.

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

    LESLIE: Give us a call anytime with your home repair or your home improvement question right here at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Well, with technology today, the internet is literally in the palm of our hands and we’re all able to access everything, including our kids. Super important to keep them safe online. So many parents are struggling with this concept, so we’re going to have some tips on a stress-free, easy-to-install solution, next.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Well, with the internet touching practically every aspect of kids’ lives, keeping kids safe online is a growing concern for many parents.

    TOM: Parent-control routers are one way to do just that. With us to talk about that is Linsly Donnelly, the general manager and SVP of Consumer and Parent Operations at Securly.

    Welcome, Linsly.

    LINSLY: Hello. Glad to be here.

    TOM: This feels like something that’s really hard to do, because as these kids get smarter and smarter every day, they find more ways to – I mean I think the – they learn to hack – the first place kids learn to hack is in their own home. And they get into our router and into the internet, they start going through all these pages and doing all kinds of crazy stuff.

    LINSLY: That’s so true.

    TOM: How can we control, have some structure over our kids’ internet usage inside the home?

    LINSLY: Oh, man, Tom, you summed it up so well. It is like – you know, we used to sneak out of windows and they sneak out of these digital virtual windows all day long inside the house.

    TOM: Right. Oh, yeah.

    LINSLY: It’s hard. So, what we recommend parents do, really, are three things. And the first is just old-fashioned parenting. Just talk to your kids about the risks, about why this is a priority in your household. And you can drill it down by the safety risks, the damage-to-your-brain risks, the bullying and mental-health risks.

    And we have a series of articles on our blog that make that really easy to just, frankly, coach your kids the way parents used to just talk about healthy eating. And now you have to also talk about healthy screen time. So that’s the first tool.

    But then the second thing we talked about is let your kids know that because it’s so important, you are going to watch what’s happening on this device. And so we recommend that they – there’s some sort of family contract between parents and kids about how to use devices. And that you then use a tool to help you track that usage and then dialogue when it goes offline, which it will do. And so we’ve got a lot of recommendations in that area.

    And then the third and final way is to really show your kids what you’re seeing about that usage, too, and so that you educate them in the process along the way. It’s not “I was only on for 10 minutes.” You can fight about that all day long. But when you’re actually looking at a readout that says you were on for an hour-and-a-half, it just changes the conversation, so …

    TOM: Absolutely.

    LESLIE: And Linsly, I think it’s important because everything seems so innocent. They start in one place. I was very naïve to YouTube a few years back, when my now 11-year-old would be like, “I want to watch this video.” And this was prior to Kids YouTube. And he would start watching a soccer game and then somehow click to, click to, click to, click to how to remove a bra. And I’m like, “What are you looking at?”

    LINSLY: Right? Right, right.

    LESLIE: And he’s like, “I don’t even know what I pressed. What is this?” And I genuinely believed it but it’s challenging to monitor the process.

    LINSLY: It is, it is. And so, that happens all the time and so it doesn’t make it any easier when it happens in your household. But there are two things you can do. One is with – the router-based control is Securly’s hub. You basically just put a blanket of safety on whatever device you select that you want to keep safe. So just imagine – “OK, I’ve got – my 11-year-old’s device is going to be protected by this and then my 6-year-old’s is.” And it turns out mine and my other parenting partners in the house, we’re not going to put this on our device. But then you just know nothing inappropriate sneaks in. So even if it’s on YouTube, it’s on the safe YouTube mode or it’s on the safe Google-search mode.

    And the same technology that we use to keep 10 million kids’ devices safe in a school context, you can then make sure is safe in your home context. So that’s step one.

    TOM: Let me just back you up on that for just a second, because I used to have a network engineer that would come in and help the network work inside of our home, because we had a business attached to it. And he used to tell me, at his house, he had a firewall. And miraculously, at 8:00 p.m. every night, it would just go down. His kids would complain, “Hey, Dad, the internet’s out.” And he’d go, “Oh, I don’t know what’s happening. It just happens.”

    LINSLY: Yes, yes.

    TOM: But this guy was a programmer and it took the skills of a programmer to tweak that firewall so that it would just go down from 8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. every night, when he wanted the kids to go to bed.

    LINSLY: Right, right.

    TOM: Now today, though, with the technology that companies like Securly have, you’ve made it possible for parents, with a more simple interface, to have that kind of control, not only for the entire internet – but is it also on a device-by-device basis? Because, like you say, we could have the kids’ phones be not accessible during certain periods of time and our phones have no controls on them.

    LINSLY: Yes.

    TOM: Is that kind of how it works?

    LINSLY: Absolutely, absolutely. Yeah.

    TOM: OK, great.

    LINSLY: So our engineering team and our founders are like that brilliant engineer times 10 in that they had come from the security-background world. Built all this technology so that – simple, easy interface. You look at it and go, “Hey, you know what? I have two different kids. They have two different profiles, because a teenager is up a little later than an elementary-school child. But they’re all going to be off at a certain time that I determine, with the tap of a button, on my app on my phone. And that internet is going to go on and off based on when I set that time to be, as the parent.”

    Or what’s even more frustrating for my kids is I travel for work. I’m at work. I know they’re at home. They’re on a different time zone. They should be in bed. And I pause the internet from where I’m working. And if that’s just …

    TOM: “Oh, Mom. There she goes again.”

    LESLIE: I mean …

    LINSLY: I have eyes in the back of my head. It’s a whole new thing now.

    LESLIE: Well, I think the other thing that’s so scary is there’s so many gaming platforms now. And first it was Minecraft, then it was Roblox. Now, it’s Fortnite. And every single one of them allows these children to interface with pretty much anyone in the world.

    LINSLY: Right.

    LESLIE: And if you’re not aware of all the nuances in each of these gaming apps, as to like you can’t talk to people, they can’t – there’s so many things you have to select because – they were only allowed to play it on one iPad and I mastered all the controls on that. And then we switched over to a gaming system in the basement. And I stepped away for a second and when I came back down, they were talking to somebody. And I was like, “Who is that?”

    LINSLY: Yes, yes.

    LESLIE: And they were like, “Oh, we don’t know.” And I’m like, “Well, then don’t.” So it’s terrifying.

    LINSLY: Yes. So that kind of conversation you have to have a lot and earlier than any parent ever really wanted to. But those are the kinds of don’t-talk-to-strangers-in-the-park conversations that you start to have the minute – or on a screen is don’t talk to strangers in your digital parks, either.

    And so those conversations are key but then, a tool like our Securly home app, you can see what they’re doing on the different devices at different times of day. If they’re playing Fortnite, if it’s a connected experience, you can see that activity. And so it helps you at least have the information when you’re not in the room.

    Frankly, if your child’s on a device, 90 percent of the time it’s because you can’t be in the room right then. You’re cooking dinner, you’re working, you’re doing something, you’re carpooling somebody else. And that’s what’s happening is your child is on a device, so you can’t look over their shoulder. But these tools now make it easy for you to virtually look over the shoulder and set some ground rules before, because the conversation will happen or something goes off the rails and you need to have the information. And you have set the guidelines before it’s gone off the rails.

    TOM: That’s great information. Linsly Donnelly from Securly, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit. This is great information for any parent. Like you say, it’s harder than ever to try to have some control over the online experiences that your children have. But with Securly, you guys have done a great job of making it simple and easy and effective.

    Thanks, again.

    LINSLY: Thanks for having me.

    LESLIE: Linsly Donnelly of Securly, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit. Super-great information and something really easy to take care of to help the kids.

    Well, if your living landscape does a lot for you throughout the year, fall is an important time for you to take the steps to keep it in tip-top shape throughout the winter, so it’ll start doing great things for you again in the springtime. 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: Standing by for your calls at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor. They really have the best local pros for any home service.

    LESLIE: That’s right. It doesn’t matter what the project is, they make it fast and easy to find top-rated home service pros.

    TOM: And there are no membership fees. It’s 100-percent free to use. Just go to HomeAdvisor.com.

    LESLIE: Nina in Arizona has got a log home that’s cracking up. What’s going on?

    NINA: My husband and I bought a log home. And the exterior walls, on the inside, are cracked. The logs are cracked. What can we do to fill that in and make that look better?

    TOM: You can fill them in with – there’s various types of wood filler out there that can be colored and stained to match that. But I think you’re going to be chasing it over and over and over again. So, you might want to proceed cautiously.

    NINA: Oh, wow, OK. So there’s really no solution for it?

    TOM: I think you’re better off kind of accepting that that’s what that’s supposed to do. It’s not like finished hardwood furniture or something. It’s a log, so it’s supposed to have that rustic look to it.

    NINA: OK. That’s what – that’s kind of what my husband said, so …

    TOM: Oh, you see? You should have listened to him, Nina. You just thought he was trying to get out of work, didn’t you?

    NINA: OK. Well, thank you very much.

    TOM: So glad we could solve that spat.

    Well, your living landscape does a lot for you throughout the year. And fall is a really important time to take steps to keep it in tip-top shape through the winter. Here’s some ways to make sure you’re set for a green recovery next spring.

    First, keep mowing. Grass that’s too high can attract lawn-damaging field mice. Shorter grass is more resistant to diseases, traps fewer falling leaves and allows more sun to reach the crown of the grass. However, if you cut off too much grass at one time, that can be damaging. So, for those last two cuts of the year, never trim more than a third of the grass blades off in a single cutting.

    Next, you want to aerate your lawn. Compressed soil can hurt grass health. Aerating punches holes in the soil, lets oxygen, water and nutrients into the lawn. You can do it two ways: you can rent a walk-behind aerator or you can pick up an attachment to pull behind a riding mower.

    LESLIE: Now, you’re also going to want to mulch your leaves. Now, so many mowers can mulch the leaves with an attachment. And since mulching with a mower can mix those grass clippings with the leaf particles, these nitrogen-enriched grass particles and carbon-rich leaf particles are going to compost more quickly. And together, they’re going to return the nutrients to the soil.

    And you know what? Now is also a good time to shore up any trees and bushes on the property. You can use trimmers, chainsaws, pole pruners. Cut back those trees, the shrubs, the plants, whatever you’ve got. And you may need to tie or even brace the limbs upright of some evergreens to prevent them from breaking, if you’ve got some high winds or a heavy snow. You could even go ahead and call in a professional arborist if you’ve got some big trees or maybe there’s some hard-to-reach spaces.

    TOM: Now is a good time to repair any bald spots in your lawn. The easiest way to do this is with sort of an all-in-one lawn-repair mixture. You’ll find it at most garden shops and home centers. You can use a garden rake or a dethatcher to scratch the loose soil on the spot and then apply the mixture of the all-in-one repair.

    And lastly, you want to take this time now to get your outdoor power equipment ready for winter storage. You need to drain fuel tanks before you put the lawn mower, the leaf blower, the string trimmer away for the winter. It’s really important if you want it to start up properly next season.

    Which, by the way, is another reason I love my battery-powered tools, because the battery power is so great today. I could do everything I used to have to do with gas-powered equipment with the batteries. And I don’t wake up my neighbors on early Saturday mornings when we’re cutting the grass. We don’t have to deal with any of that winter maintenance or trying to pull-start the lawn mower in the spring and throw your shoulder out at the same time.

    So, check out some of those battery-powered lawn tools if you’re thinking about updating what you have. But all in all, if you take some simple steps now, you’re going to make sure that in the spring, when you’re eager to get back outside, your lawn will be nice and green and ready to welcome you to do just that.

    LESLIE: James in Illinois is on the line and is looking to make a fire pit at their money pit. What’s going on?

    JAMES: Well, I just want to know what’s the best way to build a fire pit in the ground. Would you use fire brick or would you get those galvanized rings?

    TOM: There’s a really nice fire-pit kit that’s on the market now at Home Depot that’s made by Pavestone. It’s called the RumbleStone Fire Pit Kit. I like it because it contains everything that you need. It’s got the stone, which you can use to create the round fire pit itself, and then it also has a metal insert and a screen. So, basically, everything you need is in the box and you can pick it up and put it together and they’re pretty good about giving the instructions and step-by-step. Why don’t you take a look at that?

    I’ve got to tell you, I have a fire pit now but if I was doing it again, I would pick up the RumbleStone Round Fire Pit Kit at Home Depot.

    JAMES: What would – the metal ring that goes around there? How thick is it? And would it rust and you’d have to replace it in a couple years?

    TOM: I’ve had metal fire pits for a number of years and I find that they’re good for five or six or seven years. So I don’t think it’s an every year kind of thing. And this one, in particular, is made of heavy steel.

    JAMES: And what’s the price of that?

    TOM: I think it’s around 400 bucks, maybe 400 or 450 bucks, something like that. But it includes everything, so it’s all in there: the brick, the stone, the metal ring and so on.

    JAMES: OK. Well, I thank you very much.

    LESLIE: You can reach us anytime at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor, where 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.

    Still to come right here at The Money Pit, are you looking to make your kitchen a safe and functional place to make that food-prep process easier? Well, we’re going to share some advice on how to do just that, when The Money Pit continues after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: What are you working on? We’d love to talk about it. Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor. You can find top-rated home service pros and book appointments online, all for free.

    LESLIE: And remember, head on over to MoneyPit.com and post your question in the Community section, just like Larry did. Now, Larry is from Connecticut and he writes: “I need to replace two 14-year-old water heaters in my attic and I want to minimize wait time for hot water on the far side of the house. Should I use a circulating pump or a tankless water heater?”

    TOM: Well, actually, you could use either. I mean it’s a good question because think about how much time and water is wasted every time you do this: every time you hop in the shower in the morning and just let it run cold for a while until it gets warm.

    There are really two solutions, Larry. First is a product called the Watts Hot-Water Recirculating System. It basically is a circulating pump that will take some of the hot water and keep it moving through the loop, from the water heater all the way to those far-away fixtures, pretty much whenever you have a timer set up to do that.

    The second way to go is to have two water heaters but of course, that’s a lot more expensive. I think if you check out the Watts solution – the recirculating system – you’ll find it’s a lot less expensive and easier to install in the long run.

    LESLIE: Alright, Larry. Good luck with that.

    TOM: Well, we’re all going to be spending more and more time in the kitchen as we get ready for the end-of-the-year holidays. Leslie has some tips to spruce up this space, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    Leslie?

    LESLIE: Hey, Tom. Well, you’re right: I love the holiday season and I love cooking for my family and friends. But there are several tips and tricks that I always keep in mind to make sure that I’m working safe and smart.

    First of all – and this a long, long, long time ago. I’m talking when my older sister was in high school and I was in elementary school. She cooked some sort of crown leg-of-lamb roast and everybody got sick.

    TOM: Oh, no. And you’ve never, ever, ever let her forget it, did you?

    LESLIE: Oh, no, no, no. We hardly ever talk about it. But I remember it so clearly and to this day, I won’t eat one of those crown roast leg of lambs.

    But you’ve got to remember that you have to be smart when you’re cooking. If you’ve got raw foods, you’ve got to keep them separate from the prepared foods, because you never know. And you would feel so horrible if everybody got sick. And that’s especially true with poultry. You know, it can carry Salmonella. So preparing that requires an extra step of disinfecting.

    And you, you’ve got to make sure that you wash your hands more often. Use a plastic cutting board, not a wood one. Those wood cutting boards, while they are gorgeous, they can hold germs in those small cuts on the board’s surface.

    And if you want some quicker cleanup – maybe you’re in the process of prepping out the bird or some veggies or whatever it is you’re working on – flip your cutting board over really quickly after the poultry prep. But don’t forget to wipe down that counter with the disinfectant after, because you’re literally taking that raw-chicken side or that raw-turkey side and just putting it right on your countertop.

    Next, be safe, guys. Pots and pans, they get really heavy. They can be tricky to move from place to place. So, when filling them, if you can, place the pot on the stove first and then add the ingredients. You can even go ahead and get one of those extra-long hoses for your sink’s sprayer, so you can fill the pots with water without actually having to pick them up and move them from the sink to the stovetop.

    Another thing I think people get hung up on is lighting. I know you want the room to feel nice and warm and cozy but the kitchen truly is a task-driven room. So you’ve got to have good lighting and it’s not difficult to achieve. You can use stick-on LEDs that’ll run on batteries. You can have under-cabinet lighting faster than you can say, “Stuff a turkey.”

    So, really think about the smart stuff, guys: lighting, good surface prep, making sure you’re cleaning things, be careful when moving hot water around the kitchen. All of this stuff will make sure that everybody has a good and delicious and safe holiday season.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Coming up next time on the program, are you and your ceilings dreading the next big storm? The only thing tougher than cleaning up after a leak is figuring out where it made its way in in the first place. So we’re going to explain the most common causes of leaks you’ve never thought of, on the very next edition of The 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.

    END HOUR 2 TEXT

    (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.)

RECOMMENDED FOR YOU

More tips, ideas and inspiration to fuel your next home improvement, remodeling or décor project!