Preventing Heating Snafus

  • Heating Ducts
  • 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: And we are here to help you take on your home improvement projects, take on those do-it-yourself dilemmas. If there’s something that you’d like to get done in décor, repair, home improvement, outside, inside, we are here to help. We are on your team and ready to pitch in but you’ve got to help yourself first by picking up the phone and calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Coming up this hour, we’re all switching on the heating systems right about now. And that means it’s a good time to talk about carbon-monoxide poisoning. You know, hundreds of people are affected by this every single year, so we’re going to have some tips on how you can be sure to be safe.

    LESLIE: Plus, if you own a home, condo or even a co-op, chances are you’re going to need to make unexpected repairs or take on improvements that you can’t do yourself. For those, it pays to have a pro that you can call. But instead of waiting for the dishwasher to fail, the roof to leak or the toilet to clog, what if you had prescreened contractors on the standby, ready to jump in when the need arises? We’ll share tips on how to build your own home repair contact list, in just a bit.

    TOM: Plus, fall is a great time for some really big planting and patio projects, like building rock gardens or paver patios, fire pits, laying new sod or even planting trees. We’re going to have some tips on how to get those jobs done, even when you have no idea how you’d get all those big and heavy materials back to your home to start with.

    LESLIE: But first, we want to hear all about your home projects. What are you guys working on? Give us a call. We’ve got tips. Anything you’re working on: décor, remodeling, home fixup, home improvements, seasonal stuff. Whatever it is, we’re here to lend a hand, so give us a call.

    TOM: The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Susan in Texas has some concrete that’s cracking up. Tell us what’s going on.

    SUSAN: Yes, I have a curb out front of a 1955-year-old home.

    TOM: OK.

    SUSAN: And the curb is cracking in spots and going down in a slant. And I didn’t know – what do I need to do to repair that?

    TOM: And this is your responsibility and not the township’s?

    SUSAN: Yes. I’ve called several times and everyone says it’s my responsibility to fix it. I just – they say when you sell your home – the curb appeal? And I have a curb that’s messed up.

    TOM: Yeah. The curb appeal has got to start at the curb and you keep calling and getting the same answer. So I guess you’re kind of stuck with it.

    SUSAN: Right.

    TOM: Well, listen, there’s a couple of things that come to mind. First of all, when you say it’s slanted and sloped, if it’s settling then it’s going to have to be torn out. If it’s just cracked, there’s a lot of ways to fix the cracks. QUIKRETE has a number of good products that are designed exactly for that. There is a crack seal, there’s a crack-repair product that’s kind of like caulk. There’s also a resurfacing product. So if it’s spalled or deteriorated, you can resurface it and it will stick to the old concrete and come out looking quite nice. So there certainly are products to make what you have look better and work better.

    But if the whole curb is structurally sinking because sometimes water gets under it and that kind of stuff, then that’s the case where you’d have to tear it out and have a mason build you a new one.

    SUSAN: OK, OK. But that QUIKRETE is pretty easy to do?

    TOM: Absolutely, yes. Take a look at They have lots of great videos there. They’ll walk you through exactly what you need to do. Just search for “crack repair.” You’ll see there’s many options, depending on the thickness of the crack and what you need to achieve, OK?

    SUSAN: That is wonderful. Thank you so much.

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

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

    TOM: How’d that happen, Jeff?

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

    TOM: Oh, boy.

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

    TOM: Yep.

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

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

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

    TOM: Right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    LESLIE: Linda in Ohio is on the line and needs some advice on purchasing a generator. How can we help you? By the way, great idea.

    LINDA: Is it possible to use a generator when you live in an apartment?

    TOM: So are you talking about what kind of generator – like a portable generator or a standby generator?

    LINDA: Maybe some standby if my power goes out.

    TOM: So, for an apartment, you have to understand that a standby generator or a whole-house generator is something that’s permanently installed, Linda. So the answer would be no. That said, you could use a portable generator but of course, you’d have to run wires – extension cords – from the generator itself into the house. So it’s not very convenient.

    There is something called a “transfer switch” that can work for a portable generator where it’s kind of like having a mini-electrical panel inside. But again, it’s something that requires some installation. And generally, when it’s an apartment, you can’t do that. So, the only thing you could really do would be to have a portable generator: one that you took out of storage, put outside – because you can’t run it in the apartment – and then run extension cords in to try to deal with that short-term, hopefully, power outage.

    LINDA: Wow. That sounds like it would be difficult.

    TOM: Yeah. It’s not the best answer but it’s – see, because generators are something that are permanently installed into the building’s sort of core electrical system? And that’s why it’s real important that they be done correctly. You can’t – when you install these transfer switches inside, they have technology built into them to prevent what’s called a “backfeed,” so that electricity doesn’t go back through the wiring and can hurt a lineman, for example, that’s working on the power lines. So, you can’t really run it without the transfer switch and that has to be permanently installed. And the generator itself is a very big appliance. That said, a portable generator is much smaller.

    Now, if you just want to power a couple of things, you could use a very small generator. Generac has one that’s called the iQ that’s 2,000 watts. That’s under 1,000 bucks and will power a fair number of household items: small appliances, lights, that sort of thing. But you have some options there. But again, you have to use an extension cord.

    LINDA: OK. Well, thank you.

    LESLIE: Isaac in Alaska is on the line. What can we do for you today?

    ISAAC: Yes. I want to know – I have a basement that sometimes leaks sometimes. And I want to know, is there such a thing, like a basement window or another basement exit, you can install on your basement which will carry the water away from your basement and it also acts just like a window, also?

    TOM: So, is the basement leaking whenever you have heavy rain?

    ISAAC: Yes. It’s some sort – we have this certain times, not all the time. But certain times, they do. It leaks in certain parts of it.

    TOM: OK. That’s actually good news. Because the reason that it’s leaking is that you have a problem with drainage at the foundation perimeter. And if you solve that drainage problem, you’ll stop it from leaking. Whenever you have rain that reacts – when a basement that floods in reaction to rain, then that is always, always, always caused by a problem with drainage. And that’s easy to fix.

    So I want you to look at your gutter system. Make sure it’s clean, make sure the downspouts are extended and make sure the soil around the house is sloped away. If you do those three things, you’re not going to have to worry about a flooded basement. The idea of trying to channel water away is not such a good idea because we can stop that water from forming in the first place, OK?

    ISAAC: OK. OK. Thank you for taking my call. I appreciate it.

    TOM: You’ve got it. 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 Show. Give us a call with your home repair or your home décor question. We’re here, standing by, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 888-MONEY-PIT 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.

    Just ahead, carbon monoxide is an odorless gas that results from combustion of fuels, like natural gas, oil, kerosene or even charcoal. We’re going to tell you how you can make sure that your heating system is safe, 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.

    Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor. Find top-rated home service pros and book appointments online, all for free.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

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

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

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

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

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

    AUDREY: OK. Alright. Thank you very much.

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

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

    SCOTT: We had water come in our basement two, three weeks ago from a rainstorm we had. And I’m just wondering how to prevent that again.

    LESLIE: OK. So far, you’ve dried everything out, gotten rid of any sort of issues that may have occurred from the flood?

    SCOTT: Yeah.

    LESLIE: OK. So, if you’re getting water that comes along with a heavy rainfall, what you want to do is – that really is a signal that you’ve got drainage issues around the exterior of your house. So there’s a couple of things you have to look at.

    First of all, you want to look at your gutter system. And a lot of people don’t have a sufficient amount of gutters or maybe the gutters are clogged, maybe the downspouts are clogged or perhaps the downspout just isn’t sitting in the right location. A lot of people just put a downspout right next to the foundation wall and call it done.

    So, what you want to do is make sure that your gutters are clean and free-flowing, downspouts too. Sometimes you have to snake those out. If they run underground, you want to make sure that everything is connected and it’s still moving the water away to where it’s supposed to be. And if they’re just ending at the foundation wall, you want to extend that downspout out at least 3 feet or so away from the foundation.

    Then you want to look at the dirt all around the perimeter of the foundation. You want to make sure that it slopes away from the foundation. You want a gradual slope but you want to make sure everything is moving away from the foundation wall. And if you can do that, that’ll really do the trick.

    A few years ago – gosh, more than a few years ago now, I had a clogged downspout. I didn’t even know about it. Went underground. I just assumed everything was fine and I came home to a super-duper-duper soggy basement and it was truly just because of that. And ever since we fixed that – knock wood – it’s all working.

    SCOTT: Alright. Well, thanks for your help.

    TOM: Well, as some of you may know, carbon monoxide is an odorless gas that can result from combustion of fuel: natural gas, oil, kerosene. It can all make you sick or it could even cause death. And I’ve got to tell you, in the many years I spent inspecting homes before getting out of the crawlspace and into this radio studio, I found carbon-monoxide leaks with very surprising frequency.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And that’s why you absolutely must have your heating system tuned up every single year.

    Now, Tom, we always say that but what exactly should a tech be looking for that could lead to a toxic situation?

    TOM: Well, there’s a number of things.

    First of all, good combustion. If the flame is blue, that’s a good sign. If it’s orange, it means it’s not combusting completely and that can actually release much more carbon monoxide. And also, you want to watch out for sort of a sweet, acidic-like odor. That also can indicate incomplete combustion.

    The other things that they’re going to check for are, with a furnace, a heat exchanger. That’s kind of what keeps the exhaust gases separate from the house air. And if there’s a crack or a defect in the heat exchanger, then that means you could have a mixing of the two.

    And finally, they’re going to look at the draft which means, essentially, are all the gases going up the vent pipe, up the flue pipe? You can sense, sometimes, with something as simple as the back of your hand, with a certain type of furnace, whether or not the gas is going up – the vent’s going up – or some of it may be blocked or obstructed and sort of pushing down and back into the house.

    So there’s a number of things a technician can do to make sure it’s operating properly. But it’s not the kind of thing you can do yourself. You really have to have a pro check it and that’s why it’s important to have the heating system serviced about now, if you’ve not done it already.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Yeah. And you know what? It’s interesting. We have a service contract with our heating provider. And they’ll put you at the top of the list should something happen in the middle of the winter, to come and repair things. But you’ve got to remember to book those appointments almost towards the end of the summer.

    I forgot simply and called only two weeks ago. And I couldn’t get an appointment until mid-November, which I figured it’s better to have one than not have one at all. So, do that. It’s not too late to still get something before the height of the heating season.

    And you know what? We should still also talk about other sources of carbon monoxide that can be hazardous, like make sure you never run a car, use a barbecue, run a generator, even a lawn mower in an open garage. Those fumes, if you’ve got an attached garage, can rise and then fill the house.

    TOM: Exactly. And even if everything is operating properly, it’s always, always, always a good idea to have carbon-monoxide detectors. In fact, a CO detector is not just a good idea. In fact, they’re mandatory in a lot of states. So, make sure you have detectors. If you can afford it, get one outside every bedroom, because that’s where most of the deaths occur: while people are sleeping. They just don’t wake up.

    888-666-3974. If you are working on a home improvement project and need some direction, give us a call right now. We are here to help.

    LESLIE: Now we’re going over to Eunice in Arkansas who has a retaining wall that thinks it’s a chameleon. It’s changing colors. What’s going on?

    EUNICE: Part of it is – the part that’s turning white powdery-looking is the part that’s exposed to the weather. And it’s kind of spreading. It looks like it’s – you know, the whole thing will eventually turn white. I don’t know if it’s oxidizing or if moisture from the ground is making it change colors or what.

    TOM: And that’s exactly what’s happening, Eunice. What you’re seeing is called “efflorescence.” And essentially, water from the ground pulls up because those concrete blocks are very hydroscopic. So it – water pulls up and then as the water evaporates, it leaves its mineral salts behind. And that’s what that whitish/grayish deposit is.

    So it’s not harmful; it’s really just cosmetic. And there’s not going to be a lot you can do to stop it, though. If it’s an outside wall like that, if there’s going to be a lot of moisture collecting in that area, you’re going to get that sort of thing from happening.

    EUNICE: Oh, OK. So power-washing it or using a chemical or anything wouldn’t make a difference?

    TOM: Well, really, all you need – I’ll give you a little trick of the trade. If you use white vinegar – so if you were to mix up some white vinegar and mix it with water in a pump-up sprayer, that will melt the mineral salts right away.

    EUNICE: OK. Very good. Thank you so much.

    TOM: Eunice, good luck with that project. You’re very welcome.

    LESLIE: Alright. Carol in Oregon is on the line with some rusty water at her house. What’s going on?

    CAROL: My house is about 25 years old. I’ve lived in it for about six. My problem is well water corroding both of my toilets.

    And I don’t know – I’ve tried using Clorox. That doesn’t seem to work. I’m wondering if there’s something – some kind of a chemical or something – that I can put inside the tank to keep it from turning black.

    TOM: So, have your tried CLR?

    CAROL: No. What is that?

    TOM: OK. So I would look – take a look at CLR. It’s a product that’s been around for many, many years. A great company and it stands for Calcium, Lime and Rust. It’s specifically designed to clean rust stains from bathroom fixtures.

    CAROL: OK. Could you spell that for me?

    TOM: Yeah. C-L-R.

    CAROL: OK. Got it.

    TOM: Stands for Calcium, Lime and Rust. See? I was never a good speller but I got that one, huh?

    CAROL: Yeah. You did.

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

    LESLIE: Remember, you can reach us anytime 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with your home repair or your home improvement question right here at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Up next, if you own a home, condo or a co-op, chances are, guys, you’re going to need to make unexpected repairs or take on improvements that you simply can’t do yourself. For those, it does pay to have a pro that you can call before you actually need them. We’re going to share some tips on how you can build your own home repair contact list, next.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Well, if you own a home, condo or co-op, chances are you’re going to need to make unexpected repairs or take on improvements that you just can’t do yourself. For those, it pays to have a pro you can call. But instead of waiting for that dishwasher to fail, the roof to leak or the toilet to clog, what if you had prescreened contractors on standby, ready to jump in when that need arises?

    TOM: Well, tracks millions of requests from consumers seeking home improvement pros. And Dan DiClerico, their home expert and smart-home strategist says there are four pros that should be a part of that ready-to-use home improvement Rolodex and he joins us now.

    Welcome, Dan.

    DAN: Great to be here, guys.

    TOM: I think this is a really smart idea, especially for those projects that pop up unexpectedly. It’s an emergency; you need somebody right away. It’s so much easier to reach somebody you have a relationship with.

    DAN: Sure, yeah.

    TOM: Now, you guys did a survey to try to figure out how much money people are spending to maintain and cover the basic repairs of their homes. What did you find out?

    DAN: So the average expense is about $6,000. That’s for – that’s the all-in.

    TOM: Right.

    DAN: That’s the emergency repairs or whatever …

    TOM: It’s not the new kitchen or bath, obviously.

    DAN: That’s right, that’s right, that’s right.

    TOM: Yeah.

    DAN: So, certainly, it is those unexpected repairs. The biggest cause is water-related.

    TOM: OK.

    DAN: It’s clogged drains, it’s blocked toilets, that’s sort of thing.

    TOM: So a plumber would be on your list of folks to dig it on their Rolodex.

    DAN: Number one.

    TOM: Yeah, OK.

    DAN: Yeah, yeah. Number one.

    LESLIE: And that’s a super-important one to have, especially when you have two boys that like to flush a lot of things down the toilet that are not supposed to go down the toilet.

    TOM: Yeah. Go down, yeah.

    LESLIE: Good to have somebody you can call right away.

    TOM: Yeah, yeah. When American Standard wants to try out new toilets, they put them in Leslie’s house.

    Alright. Let’s talk about HVAC.

    LESLIE: I mean truly. We – as you know, Tom – had an emergency during that big polar vortex when the sitter was like, “It’s cold.” And when I got home from work, cold was the understatement. It was 50 degrees in my house and at 7:30 at night, I needed an HVAC person that would come, come quickly and do a job that I could trust. And thank goodness I had one that I have a great relationship with. And truly, 15 minutes later, they were at my house and repairs were underway. That’s got to be a number-one guy to know.

    DAN: Absolutely, yeah. A good heating-and-cooling contractor, “HVAC guy” we sometimes call in the business. Because you know the furnace is going to conk out, right, on the coldest day of the year. Your A/C is going to go out in the middle of August. So having a good HVAC guy is essentially for any homeowner.

    LESLIE: Do you find that these pros – like if you’re doing some sort of prescreening, are these pros going to be annoyed that you’re doing this? Or are they kind of thankful that you’re looking for somebody to really keep close to your vest and use in one of these situations?

    DAN: No, I think they’ll appreciate it because, listen, they want to be servicing your furnace during the off-season. So they want to build that relationship, as well. It’s going to help them manage their business.

    TOM: Let’s talk about appliances. I have a friend who has the worst appliance luck. And I think last week she told me that both her refrigerator and her stove went out at the same time, so …

    LESLIE: And that’s not me, by the way.

    TOM: And that’s not you, Leslie. No.

    But seriously, appliances are another thing that are key. If you’re a house that’s doing a lot of laundry and the washer breaks, you’re in serious trouble because that’s going to build up quick before the kids run out of clothes.

    DAN: Yeah. Yeah. You know, in general, appliances are getting more reliable. But once they reach a certain age – 5, 10 years – something’s going to go wrong. The icemaker is going to break. There’s going to be some issues. So having a good appliance repair person is another essential.

    TOM: How about the little stuff, though, right?

    LESLIE: Yeah, it’s definitely good to have a handyman. You always find people that are like, “I need a handyman.” But a handyman is such a general term. It can be something from painting to repairing a stair tread: stuff that some homeowners can tackle on their own. But a lot of people just need help with this little stuff.

    DAN: Yeah. When you find a great handyman, hold onto him or her for dear life. They can handle all of those emergency repairs, plus hundreds of those little things that come up: installing a light fixture, painting the guest room before your in-laws come for the weekend.

    TOM: Alright. So let’s review. A plumber, heating-and-cooling contractor, appliance repair and of course, a handyman. Those four pros. Reach out now, form those relationships because you are most likely going to need them at some point during the year.

    And as you learned, Leslie, most recently, nothing better than having that relationship before the heating system fails.

    LESLIE: Oh, my goodness. It feels great when you get bumped up on that list. You’re in dire straits, so have that relationship and keep them.

    TOM: Dan DiClerico, great advice. Thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    If you’d like to learn more or find pros to start building your own Rolodex, go on over to

    LESLIE: Alright. Dan DiClerico, thanks so much for joining The Money Pit.

    Just ahead, fall is a great time for some really big planting and patio projects, like building rock gardens, paver patios, fire pits, laying new sod or even planting trees. We’re going to have tips on how you can get those jobs done, even when you have no idea how you’d get all those big and heavy materials to your home to start with, in today’s Better Get a Truck Tip presented by Hertz, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor. 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.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Sal in Massachusetts is on the line with a question about an asphalt driveway. What’s going on?
    SAL: Last year, I had a driveway asphalted. They took out the old driveway and put it in a new.

    TOM: OK.

    SAL: And this year, I noticed that there were some cracks starting to evolve along the sides – the edges of the driveway. But they were going into the asphalt and looked like a concave trough in the top of the driveway.

    TOM: It was almost settling?

    SAL: Exactly.

    TOM: It sounds a lot like the company that did the driveway for you didn’t prep properly. Because if they didn’t compact the grade underneath that driveway as part of this or if they didn’t put enough asphalt, then that’s going to happen. So, I think you need to go back to the company that did the original installation, because I think this is something that should have been warrantied. It’s indicative of poor workmanship, in my view.

    SAL: Oh, OK. I didn’t realize that. I did call the original contractor and he came out, looked at it. And he said it was chipmunks. I said, “Wait. Are you crazy?” I said (inaudible).

    TOM: Chipmunks? You mean groundhogs?

    SAL: So I said, “I’ve never heard of that before.” And he said, “Oh, yeah.” He said he got a lot of calls on that. So I said, “Well, he knows better than I do. So, he’s got more experience than I have.”

    TOM: Ugh. Listen, I’ve had plenty of groundhogs in homes that I’ve owned. And I ultimately get rid of them because we use grub control on the soil, on the grass. But this kind of a settling like this, it sounds bigger than what would happen if there was a tunnel from a groundhog. Yeah, I think it wasn’t prepped properly. But it’s a very creative excuse. I’ll give him that.

    LESLIE: It just doesn’t seem possible.

    TOM: Alright. Sorry we don’t have better news for you. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Well, fall is the perfect season for working outside and taking on some really big planting and patio projects, like building rock gardens, paver patios, fire pits, maybe laying new sod or even planting trees. But if this is a project you’d like to get done or if you’re even wondering how you’d get all those big and heavy materials to your home to start with, we’re going to share some ideas in today’s Better Get a Truck Tip presented by Hertz.

    LESLIE: Yeah. First of all, let’s talk about building a fire pit. This is one of the greatest projects to do this time of year. And it’s really not that hard to do, which makes it a win-win for everybody.

    Now, the most important step, though, is picking the right location. You’re going to be aiming for a sweet spot not too far from the back door but not too close where those sparks can come flying off the fire and land on your house roof or where the heat can melt the siding.

    Now, to build it, you want to use landscape stones. These are large bricks about two to three times as big as a regular brick. And they come in shapes to build either square or round fire pits.

    Now, to install them, you’re going to need to prepare a solid and level base of well-packed gravel. Then simply stack the big landscape stones on top of each other and let gravity do the rest.

    TOM: Now, another great project for this time of year is to build a rock garden or even a water feature. The weather is perfect for this kind of heavy work and it’s easier to get it done now and maybe only have to add plants or finishing touches when the spring arrives.

    Now, before digging out what you already have and laying in the rocks, the stone or even a few bags of concrete, there are a lot of heavy materials to deal with. So remember that Hertz does trucks and vans and has a great selection that can help get those materials home quickly and easily.

    LESLIE: Now, the part of this project that often gets DIYers tripped up is figuring out the best layout. Well, here’s a trick that we found that can really help and all you need is a rope.

    Now, you just want to use the rope to define the borders of the rock garden, water feature or any other element that you want to build. And once it’s down, think about whether it looks good in the yard and if it also works with the flow of everything else that you’ve got out there.

    You know, think about, for example, if the rock garden is along a path. Is there still going to be enough room so that you can walk by? Are you going to need to run a lawn mower over the path? Can the machine fit? Taking the time to think through these various scenarios and how the layout impacts that is really going to help you make sure that the job gets done right and works well for your space over time.

    TOM: And that’s today’s Better Get a Truck Tip presented by Hertz. For any home project, store pickup or a move that needs more than your car can handle, remember HDTV: Hertz Does Trucks and Vans. Book now at

    LESLIE: Carol in Texas is on the line with a question about a ceiling crack. How can we help you?

    CAROL: I have a crack right in front of my front door. It’s a slab. It was the porch and then it was [took into] (ph) the house. It’s more like a sunroom. We extended the outside of it all the way to the ends of the house, so it’s about 33 foot across. And I think what happens is that it gets dry – the soil gets dry – and so now we have a crack in that ceiling.

    And we hope to put our house on the market next year. Being a realtor, I don’t really want that crack showing, because people get alarmed. I don’t think it’s anything to worry about but I don’t like the looks of it. So would you tell me what to do and do it right?

    TOM: So, the ceiling material in the porch is made of what?

    CAROL: It is sheetrock up there with the finishing so that you – it’s not popcorn or anything like that. It’s smooth finish on the ceiling.

    TOM: And the crack is – you said it’s 33 feet long. So is it a …?

    CAROL: No, no, no. The crack goes across the other direction.

    TOM: Oh, OK. So it’s – good.

    CAROL: It goes from a – yeah, it goes the other way.

    TOM: So it’s not 33 feet long. Alright.

    CAROL: Yes, sir.

    TOM: So here’s what happens. The cracks reform because people generally spackle them. And then they expand and contract and it kind of shows through. The right way to do it is to sand over the area of the crack so you get some rough surface there. And then you put a piece of fiberglass repair tape across it, which is sort of like a mesh-looking kind of sticky-backed drywall tape. And it’ll hold there by itself and then you put spackle on top of that so the fiberglass mesh actually bridges the gap across the crack. And once that’s done, it’s a much stronger seam. And as the ceiling expands and contracts, the crack doesn’t reform. It takes three or four good coats of finish to get that done but that really is the hot ticket.

    CAROL: And then you go ahead and paint it white, just like your ceiling white paint?

    TOM: Paint it. Yep, yep. Absolutely. Uh-huh. That’s correct.

    CAROL: And I just don’t want it showing. I’m not really worried about it because it’s a very, very small hairline crack. I just – I know that it’ll alarm people and so …

    TOM: Yep. Sure. Totally understand. And I think that that’s basically the right thing to do. OK?

    CAROL: I appreciate that. And thank you for your help.

    LESLIE: Alright. Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit presented by You’ll never have to worry about overpaying for a job. Just use the HomeAdvisor True Cost Guide to see what others have paid for similar projects. It’s all for free at

    Coming up, did you know that the sheets you sleep on can have a big impact on whether or not you’re going to get a full night’s sleep? We’re going to have tips on the best bedding for getting some shut-eye, when The Money Pit continues.

    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: Call us, right now, with your home improvement question at 888-MONEY-PIT or post it to The Money Pit’s Facebook page at, just like Andrew in Colorado did.

    LESLIE: That’s right. Now, Andrew writes: “I recently realized that my second-floor bathroom exhaust fan simply sends the air from my bathroom straight into my attic. Should I worry about this?”

    TOM: Well, yeah. It’s a really bad idea. First of all, you’re sending hot, humid air into a very cold space through the winter months, which means you’re going to get moisture, water, as in rot and decay and even mold. So, very bad idea to vent things into an attic. What you want to do is extend that vent to the exterior of the home.

    Some houses don’t even have vent fans, which is silly. They expect you to open the window in January to vent out the bathroom. But in your case, you’ve got one. You just need to extend it out to the side of the house. Probably through a gable wall at the end of the building is the most common place to do that.

    So, definitely don’t live with that – especially in Colorado, Andrew – because you’re going to be causing some real serious moisture problems.

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got Stan in Ohio who writes: “My wood garage door doesn’t seal when down. And anytime it rains or snows, water comes in under the door. Part of the problem is that the floor is sloped and doesn’t allow a complete seal. How do I fix this?”

    TOM: Well, since it’s a wood door, what I would do is actually bring the door down to the what I presume is a concrete slab. And I would trace that floor angle onto the door and then basically cut the door a little bit so that it now is flush with the angle of the floor. This way, when you put a new seal on it, it’ll fit perfectly all the way across that floor surface.

    It’s just like when you’re trying to fit a door. Sometimes you’ve got to cut the door to fit the opening. In this case, you’ve got to cut the door to fit the floor.

    LESLIE: Alright. Good tip.

    TOM: Well, did you know that the sheets you sleep on can have a big impact on whether or not you’re actually getting a full night’s sleep? Leslie has tips on the best bedding for getting some serious shut-eye, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.


    LESLIE: Yeah. You know, luxury bedding goes a long way toward a good night’s sleep. But wading through all those thread counts and fabrics really is enough to make sure that you actually need a nap right there.

    But before you drop those dollars in upscale linens, you want to know exactly what each one offers and what their drawbacks are.

    Now, bamboo sheets. They aren’t just soft. In fact, they’re sometimes compared to cashmere. And they’re actually going to get softer the longer you keep them. But if they’re from China – and most bamboo sheets are – there’s a chance that they come from an uncertified factory. So, skip bamboo sheets if all this uncertainty about where they come from is just going to help you stay awake more at night with the worry.

    Another good option is organic Egyptian cotton sheets. They’re super sought after and with good reason. They’re soft, they’re durable, they’re breathable. They’re good for anyone who gets warm in the middle of the night. But if you love the sight of a crisp bed, you’ve got to pass on Egyptian cotton because it wrinkles very easily and it always look a little bit unkempt. And I’m telling you, I’ve ironed more pillowcases and just the top quarter of a flat sheet to know that I don’t want to do that every day.

    TOM: Exactly.

    LESLIE: Now, another option, as these luxury sheets go, are cultivated silk sheets. And they’re the ultimate in softness. But even if you can afford to splurge on this item, the long-term cost might be more than you bargained for. Because silk sheets, they can be easily damaged by maybe a jagged toenail or a fingernail or even if you just have rough skin on your elbows or your heels. And come on, guys, everybody’s got rough heels. We all do. So silk sheets might not be the choice for you.

    And forget about using the washer and dryer to clean them. These sheets are going to need to be hand-washed or dry-cleaned. And then they’ve got to be air-dried, so that’s a lot of work. But I’m telling you, a silk sheet is wonderful even if you just use it for a pillowcase, because it does wonders for your hair and your skin on your face. Definitely worth it. So if you’re going to invest in silk, maybe just stick to a pillowcase.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show on air and online at Coming up next time on the program, do heating costs send a chill down your spine even when your house is warm? If you are sick of paying a bundle to heat your place, we’re going to have tips for spending less, 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.


    (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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