Security Lighting For Your Home #1002171

  • Transcript

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: What are you working on this beautiful October weekend? If it’s your house, you are in exactly the right place because that’s what we do. We’re here to help you with your home improvement and décor projects. But help yourself first by picking up the phone and calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or post your question online to the Community page at

    This is a great time to work on projects inside your house and outside your house, because the days are very pleasant right now to get those jobs done. Very soon, it’s going to get chilly and dark and chillier. So, before you seal yourself in for the winter ahead, pick up the phone before you pick up the paintbrush and call us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    And speaking of the days ahead, they’re getting shorter and darker. So that’s why now is a good time to think about adding security lighting to your home. We’re going to have tips on the easiest way to do this. And guess what? You’re not even going to need to run wires or hire an electrician.

    LESLIE: And it’s also that time of year where we love to get cozy. But before you fire up that fireplace or your wood-burning stove, it’s important that you make sure the chimney that vents it is safe. We’re going to tell you how to avoid the most common chimney dangers and how to get it cleaned without getting ripped off, which can be a big problem in the chimney-sweep business. So you’ve got to know who you’re working with.

    TOM: Absolutely. And it’s also the time of year when many of us take on those last rounds of outdoor cleaning. So, if for you that means cleaning your driveway or your siding, a pressure washer is a great tool to use. I tell you what, once you buy one you wonder how you got by without it. We’re going to have some tips on how to buy the perfect one for the jobs around your neighborhood.

    LESLIE: It truly is the most addictive cleaning project out there: using a power washer.

    TOM: Absolutely.

    LESLIE: And guys, if you’re planning a flooring project, we have a fantastic giveaway going out to one lucky caller this hour. It’s a $200 gift certificate to Lumber Liquidators.

    TOM: Yep. You can use it in any of their nationwide stores or online at Going out to one lucky caller drawn at random. Make that you. The number, again, is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

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

    LESLIE: We’ve got Doug in Rhode Island on the line who’s dealing with a water issue. Tell us what’s going on.

    DOUG: Hi. What happened was the water service was turned off for a day. When it was turned on, we received a lot of dirty water with a lot of grit. And it seemed to be causing a problem – well, not a problem. I’m concerned if there could be a problem. There’s a lot of grit and sandy sediment in the water tanks behind the toilets.

    TOM: OK.

    DOUG: And I don’t know if that’s going to be an issue.

    TOM: I don’t think so. Here’s what you need to do. First of all, the fact that you had some dirty water, some brown water, some gritty water after pipe work was done is not really that unusual. You do have to flush it out.

    Here’s something – first of all, before we get to the toilet ­– you may have forgotten to do and that is I would recommend you take off the aerators from the sinks in the bathroom and the kitchen. Because those screens will sometimes trap a lot of that debris behind it. And that will reduce your water pressure over time, especially if some more dirt comes down the line. So I would take those aerators out and flush them out. Just keep in mind that they – sometimes they come apart in three different pieces but it’s like a Rubik’s Cube to try to get it back together. So just remember how you disassembled it and put it back together and clean those out.

    As far as the toilet tank is concerned, the only problem is that sometimes if you have a lot of grit in it, it will wear on the flush valve, which is the flapper on the bottom of the tank. If you want to just be sure, what you could do is turn the water supply off behind the toilet, go ahead and flush it a couple of times, get all that water out of the tank. And if there’s any sand lying in the bottom of the tank, just kind of wipe it out, clean it up as best you can and then just turn the water back on. You’ll be good to go.

    DOUG: OK. I appreciate it. And you’re correct: I did have one aerator that did – interrupted the flow, the pressure.

    TOM: Alright. But you knew enough to take it apart and get it cleaned out. Good man.

    DOUG: Yes. Yeah.

    TOM: Alright. Well, there you go.

    DOUG: Thank you very much.

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

    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?

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

    CAROL: White paint. 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.

    TOM: Well, you’re very welcome. Good luck with that project and good luck selling the house.

    CAROL: Yes, sir. And thank you very much.

    LESLIE: You are listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Post your home improvement question to us at or call us, 24/7, at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor. They make it fast and easy to find top-rated home pros you can trust for any home project.

    TOM: And if you’re a service pro looking to grow your business and connect with project-ready homeowners, check out

    Well, as the days get shorter, adding security lighting to your home’s exterior is a popular project. We’re going to have some tips on a way to do this without having to run wires or even hire an electrician, right after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Call us now on The Money Pit’s listener line at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor.

    LESLIE: You can get matched with background-checked home service pros in your area and compare prices, read verified reviews and book appointments online, all for free.

    TOM: No matter what type of job you need to get done around your house, HomeAdvisor makes it fast and easy to hire a pro you can trust.

    And hey, there’s another great reason to reach out by phone at 888-MONEY-PIT or by posting your question to The Money Pit community and that is we are giving away a $200 gift certificate to Lumber Liquidators. That is a great prize because you can choose from over 400 varieties of first-quality flooring, including prefinished hardwood, bamboo, laminate, vinyl plank and wood-look tile. You can redeem it at or at any of Lumber Liquidators’ stores nationwide.

    Learn more at Lumber or call 1-800-HARDWOOD. Going out to one lucky listener drawn at random. Make that you. Call us now, post your question now, 888-MONEY-PIT and

    LESLIE: Alright. We’ve got Arthur in Tennessee on the line who’s dealing with a painting problem. What happened?

    ARTHUR: Not much. I’m working on a building in old Downtown Johnson City, built in the 1890s, and trying to strip some brick.

    TOM: Fantastic. OK.

    ARTHUR: I’ve stripped part of the brick that was done in the 1950s and had good success. But this is older brick and I’m not even sure – I think it was made on site and it’s solid and everything. But I wondered what kind of modern options were out there for getting paint off of brick.

    TOM: What did you use to get the paint off of the 1950s brick?

    ARTHUR: I used a product called Peel Away and it worked great.

    TOM: OK. And did you try the same product on the older brick?

    ARTHUR: I’m afraid to use it because it’s got a rougher finish.

    TOM: Well, that means you’re going to have more binding of the paint to the surface but what I would do is I would try it in an area that was perhaps a bit less conspicuous, like not at eye level. Maybe down towards the bottom more if there’s any other area that you really don’t care as much about.

    If you had good success with that particular product, I don’t see any reason not to continue with it, at least to see what happens. Is this a product that is environmentally friendly? Or do you find that it’s pretty caustic?

    ARTHUR: It says it’s biodegradable and a water-based product but you do wear gloves and wear long sleeves. But it’s amazing how it works. I just – I’ve had people come by and say, “Well, why aren’t you using sand-blasting or dry ice?” And I didn’t know if that is an option or …

    TOM: Well, here’s why you definitely can’t use sand-blasting, because those old bricks will be damaged by that process. And it’s costly, as well. So I would tell you if the product that you’re using is working well, I see no reason not to keep working with that. And I’m not really familiar with dry ice but I can’t imagine that that’s very easy to use. Certainly it’s very difficult to handle and potentially dangerous, as well.

    ARTHUR: Well, I don’t see it being – taking off paint very well.

    TOM: Yeah. I agree. I’d stick with what you’re working on. If you’ve got concerns about it, I would definitely try an inconspicuous area, whether that’s the back of the building or the bottom of the building, someplace that you don’t care about as much. We always give that advice when using a product like this. And then just go on from there.

    ARTHUR: OK. Hey, I really appreciate it and I love you guys’ show.

    TOM: Well, thanks, Art. Good luck with that project and congratulations. It sounds like it’s going to be a really beautiful building when you’re done.

    LESLIE: Well, as the days get shorter, it’s a good time to think about adding security lighting to your home. But to do this, you usually need to hire an electrician to run all the wiring that’s required. But now, there’s a new, motion-activated spotlight on the market from Mr Beams that can deliver a super-bright light. And it runs off batteries that can last a full year.

    TOM: Yep. It’s called the MB360XT LED Spotlight. And with all those initials, you know it’s got to be great.

    It provides a very bright light, a very wide coverage area and a pretty cool design that’s going to increase your home security. It’s actually motion-activated and it can deliver 200 lumens of motion-activated light. The reflector face is actually a big part of the design and it creates a wider coverage area of about 600 square feet. And that’s going to light very large areas.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And the coolest part, really, is that it’s battery-powered. So no need to hire the electrician, because it’s totally wireless. And you can install it yourself in just a few minutes. Now, each set of alkaline batteries provides about a year of lighting with an average use of about 8 to 10 activations a day.

    TOM: And because it’s wireless, you can install it not only on your home to cover porches or walks or driveways but even on a backyard shed, for example, for added security. The MB360XT LED Spotlight delivers surprisingly bright light anywhere. It sells for just 24.99 and it’s available at major retailers nationwide. Learn more at or call them at 877-298-9082.

    And I’ve got to tell you, I’ve got some of these Mr Beams products and they are awesome. We put one in my wife’s closet and now everything she wears matches, magically. I don’t know how that happened but it’s working. It’s working for her.

    LESLIE: It’s amazing what lighting can do, right? I’ve done that, you know. I’ve gotten dressed where I thought I was wearing all navy blue or all black. And I’ve gotten to the office and I’m like, “I have on navy-blue pants and a black sweater,” which is fine but not when you thought you had something else.

    TOM: You call it the “bruised look,” the black and blue.

    LESLIE: Exactly.

    We’ve got Ella on the line with a question about fencing. How can we help you today?

    ELLA: I would like to know whose job it is to establish boundary fencing.

    TOM: In terms of the property line, where it is?

    ELLA: Yeah.

    TOM: Yeah. So, OK – so the person putting up the fence is responsible to do that. And in most municipalities, you have to have a copy of your survey. And the survey determines, of course, where your property line is. And then if there’s a permit that’s taken out for the fencing – and in some towns there is and some towns there isn’t – that would be also one thing that the building inspector would check, to make sure it’s on the right side of the line.

    But is this you putting up the fencing or is this your neighbor maybe encroaching on your yard?

    ELLA: Well, my neighbor actually put the fence on the boundary line but it actually blocks the snow part – I live in New York, Upstate New York – and the snow removal on my driveway. And so the city is telling me that they don’t read surveys.

    TOM: Yeah, that’s convenient, huh?

    ELLA: Yeah. And so they issued the permit – of course, I wasn’t home – and then the fence was constructed. And now, basically, they say it’s a civil matter. But isn’t that what a code inspector or a building inspector is supposed to do? Isn’t that what my taxes pay for, as part of the job?

    TOM: Yeah. I mean you would – well, you would hope so but I don’t think you’re going to fight City Hall on this, frankly. Have you tried talking to this neighbor about this issue?

    ELLA: Well, he’s not interested now that the fence is in disrepair. He’s not interested in splitting the cost or anything, which is typical from my research about boundary fences. It’s usually the city gets both sides involved. And we agree on a middle and I take one side and he takes the other and we maintain it. But in this case, that’s not what happened.

    TOM: So he put the fence up. Is there a good side and a bad side of the fence or are they both the same?

    ELLA: He put the good side to me.

    LESLIE: So, OK, that’s correct.

    TOM: OK. He has to do that, yeah. That’s correct. He has to do that.

    ELLA: There was already an existing fence and he didn’t match the fences. And he actually got a sale on fence pieces so just the fence really looks pretty bad. It’s just different panels, you know, 4×8 sheets of paneling fence (inaudible).

    TOM: Yeah. Well, unfortunately, there’s not a lot you can do about the aesthetics if it’s not – if it’s permitted, they can put any kind of darn fence they want there. They’re usually – they’re controlled by the height of the fencing.

    ELLA: Yeah.

    TOM: Is it tall fencing or is it low fencing?

    ELLA: Well, he got the permit for a 6-foot fence.

    TOM: Yeah, then he’s allowed to do that. And does it come all the way out to the street or is it …?

    ELLA: No, it came in – it came off, so – because, again, I live smack dab in the middle of the city. So it’s set back. It’s just that because we have no place to put our snow, now this boundary fencing is preventing me. Because my house is on one side and then now this fence is on the other. And we got 36 or 39 inches of snow this winter, so …

    TOM: So in other words, the fence is preventing you from being able to go and clear the snow away from your house? Is that correct?

    ELLA: Yes.

    LESLIE: Well, that’s not good.

    TOM: That’s not good, yeah.

    ELLA: It’s just everything I’m reading says that the – like you said, the building instructor or the codes person, in some of the things I’ve read – nobody seems to be responsible for the survey. So they’re arbitrarily issuing permits.

    TOM: So, first of all – right. So, first of all, when did you buy your house?

    ELLA: Oh, years ago now.

    TOM: And you have a survey?

    ELLA: Absolutely, yes.

    TOM: Well, here’s what you can do. You should, first of all, check and make sure that he put it on his property and not yours.

    ELLA: Right. Well, it’s on the boundary, so it’s right – it’s not on his and it’s not on mine. I think what a boundary is, literally, the invisible line that separates the properties and …

    TOM: Right. But the thing is, even if it’s – is it allowed to be on the line at all? In my view, it has to be on his side of the property, on his side of the line. He doesn’t get the right to encroach even an inch into your side of the property.

    ELLA: Right. And that was my understanding, too, but there are no regulations in the city codes that say anything about a boundary fence or …

    TOM: Well, look, here’s the deal. If he put it – if that fence is encroaching on your property, you have a case, alright? And the only way that that’s going to be determined is if you have a surveyor certify that that’s the case. Now, that’s going to cost you some money because surveyors don’t work for free. They’ll take your old survey and they’ll use reference points from it and they can give you a new survey or a statement that basically identifies whose side of the line it’s on.

    And then, unfortunately, I agree with them: it’s going to be a civil matter. You could certainly get the town involved and you could become a real squeaky wheel on this. And frankly, I’d encourage you do to do it because they’re sort of asking for it by kind of washing their hands of the whole matter. But I think when it comes down to it, you’ve got to get the proof. So the proof is the surveyor, right? A licensed surveyor is going to have to tell you where exactly that fence is. And I don’t think you get to put it down the middle of a line. I think it’s got to be on his – if it’s his fence, it’s got to be on his side.

    And generally, the right thing to do – and I always tell folks on this show the right thing to do is to give yourself a few inches of wiggle room. Because it would be awful if your survey was off by a few inches and you ended up having to tear the fence down.

    ELLA: Right.

    TOM: So, who knows? That could happen. If it turns out that he’s even an inch on your line, then I think he gets very flexible very quickly and does what you need to be done so that you can live in peace and harmony. OK?

    ELLA: Well, thank you so much for your advice.

    TOM: Alright. Good luck. Sorry to hear that’s happened to you. I hope that helps you out a little bit.

    ELLA: It does. Thanks.

    LESLIE: Well, fireplace weather is coming for much of the country. But with all that warmth and coziness comes some maintenance. Richard Trethewey from This Old House is here with tips to help.

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

    ADAM: Hey, this is Adam Carolla. And when I’m not swinging a hammer, I’m catching up on The Money Pit with Tom and Leslie.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Give us a call, right now, at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by They make it fast and easy to find top-rated home pros. Plus, it’s 100-percent free to use.

    LESLIE: Alright, guys. Here’s a quick reminder that’s really important this time of year. We want to make sure that you’ve got carbon-monoxide detectors in your home.

    You know, carbon monoxide is actually the leading cause of poisoning deaths in America. And now that we’re heading towards the heating season, it’s more of an issue since it forms very quickly when heating equipment breaks down. So you’ve got to be on top of this.

    TOM: Absolutely. You want to protect yourself and your family with a carbon-monoxide detector, which will sound an alarm when the gas is detected so you can get your family safely out of the house.

    Now, here’s something interesting you need to know: that you should have at least one for every floor of the house, with the most important one being outside your bedroom. And that’s because that is where most CO deaths occur: when folks are sleeping. So if you’ve only got one detector, put it outside your bedroom.

    Hey, if you’ve got a question about that or a happier topic, we would love to chat with you, right now, at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, there’s nothing like the glow of a crackling fire on a cold winter’s night. It’s perfect for roasting marshmallows and even just warming your tootsies.

    TOM: Ah, yes. But before you fire up that fireplace or even your wood stove, it’s important to make sure your chimney that vents it is safe. Here to tell us what to look for is This Old House heating expert Richard Trethewey.

    Hi, Richard.

    RICHARD: Hey, guys. Nice to be here.

    TOM: And I’ve never seen one, and I hope I never do, but a chimney fire is one very nasty inferno that can destroy a home pretty quickly. How do we make sure that our chimneys are safe?

    RICHARD: Well, chimney fires are fueled by highly flammable deposits of creosote. And that builds up inside the chimney as warm smoke condenses on the insides of that cold flue. These fires are just dangerous. They burn hot enough to melt the mortar, they’ll ruin a flue and increase the chance of a house catching on fire.

    TOM: So the secret is to keep it clean. How do you determine how frequently you should do that?

    RICHARD: Well, it really depends on a couple things: how often you burn the wood and some people don’t use their fireplaces at all. So if you’re burning it a lot, you want to make sure you use a wood that’s been seasoned for at least 12 months; you love it to be dried enough that it’s not filled with moisture. It’s going to burn cleaner, it’s a drier smoke.

    You want to maintain a good draft. If the smoke backs up into a room when you’re lighting up the fire, you’ve got issues with draft and you want to make sure you have somebody check that. It’s probably lingering a little too long in the flue.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. We get questions sometimes about folks who see these creosote-cleaning logs that they can purchase and burn with their fireplace. Is there any effect to that or does that just cause more condensation and then sort of impact everything?

    RICHARD: They might work a little but nothing beats a properly cleaned and inspected chimney by a licensed chimney sweep. That’s your best asset to make sure that you can sleep at night after you’ve had a fire.

    TOM: Now, if you’re going to have your chimney cleaned, this, unfortunately, is one of those areas where we do get a fair number of fraud-related stories, where there’s chimney sweeps that come out and declare that the chimney is absolutely horribly unsafe and it’s going to kill you if you even light a match in it.

    RICHARD: Yeah.

    TOM: How do you find a good-quality chimney sweep that’s really going to do a professional job and fix it if it needs to be fixed, clean it if it needs to be cleaned and if not, just shake your hand and say it’s in good shape?

    RICHARD: Well, you want to make sure the sweep is licensed, you want him insured and he should be some member of a recognized trade association. One of the biggies is the National Chimney Sweep Guild. And you might want to check that he’s a member there.

    And then, really, ask around the people that have been in the game for a little while. They’re pretty generally reputable.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. I think a lot of people forget that regardless of how much you use your fireplace, the chimney itself acts as the main ventilation system for many of the appliances in your home.

    RICHARD: That’s right.

    LESLIE: So, what kind of maintenance do you need to do to the chimney, just to sort of keep those things in check?

    RICHARD: Well, I want to just build on your point, Leslie. This is carrying CO2 and CO – carbon monoxide – these chimneys from your gas and oil appliances and your fireplaces. If they don’t vent properly, people can die and so it’s a really important subject. You’ve got to look for this efflorescence. It really – you’ve often seen it on the outside of chimneys.

    LESLIE: And that’s like a white deposit, right?

    RICHARD: Yeah, it’s a white, salty deposit. It looks like it’s just salt water has been all over the side of the chimney. And that really means that some of that moisture from the fireplace is bleeding through and making some of the mortar come through to the outside. That might be a reason to call the chimney sweep.

    And then the chimney lining. You have to have a chimney lined. It has to have a consistent liner without any breaks in it. It comes from the basement all the way to outside. Otherwise, you’re going to have hot spots and you can have a fire, so – and a chimney sweep would always check that, usually with his camera coming down or up the chimney, to be sure it’s all set.

    LESLIE: I mean technology really just has helped so much in this industry because as a homeowner, we can’t see what’s going on up there. And we had our heating system serviced at the end of the year last year and the gentleman took off the venting pipe from our boiler to the chimney.

    And as he pulled it off, the entire lining just started crumbling out. And he stuck his iPhone in there, took a couple of pictures and then turned and showed it to us and was like, “And that’s all your lining in there.” Something I would have never seen short of sticking my head up there, which I’m not going to do. But that’s a valuable maintenance that we needed to make for the house.

    RICHARD: We love our little cameras and technologies to get into places we can’t fit anymore.

    LESLIE: It’s great.

    TOM: Yeah. And Richard, the high-efficiency systems that we’re putting in today, they vent more condensation than gases sometimes and that condensation can be very acidic. So when you put in a higher-efficiency heating system, you have to be even more concerned about the quality of that chimney?

    RICHARD: Tom, you often can’t vent into a chimney because the higher the efficiency, all that’s left in the flue is water and a little bit of temperature. So they often have to be vented directly through its own pipe to outside, because you just can’t go into a chimney; it would sweat too much.

    LESLIE: Is that because they would have that clay liner and then you need the steel liner or is it …?

    RICHARD: Well, one of the things about efficiency is I’m trying to extract as much heat out of the fuel that I’m burning and put it into usable heat into the house. And that means there’s less temperature in the vent that’s going to go up the chimney.

    Now, if I don’t have as much temperature and I have nothing left but moisture, I don’t have much draft.

    LESLIE: Right.

    RICHARD: You know, a fireplace has draft because there’s plenty of temperature and it pulls all the flue products out. But modern, high-efficiency equipment has to be vented individually, not into the chimney.

    TOM: Great point. Richard Trethewey from TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    For more great tips on how to maintain your heating system, visit And This Old House is brought to you on PBS by Lumber Liquidators. Hardwood floors for less.

    Just ahead, whether you’re cleaning a car, a sidewalk or a house, a pressure washer is a great go-to tool for outdoor cleaning. We’re going to tell you how to choose one that’s right for the projects on your to-do list, next.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Call in your home repair or home improvement or décor question, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor.

    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.

    LESLIE: Hey, are you a home-improving weekend warrior?

    TOM: I am.

    LESLIE: Well, have we got a sweepstakes for you.

    Tom, you’re not allowed to enter but everybody else is.

    TOM: Oh, man.

    LESLIE: Launching October 1st, everyone, we have partnered with The Home Depot on a sweepstakes that will make tool hounds drool, with a shot at winning some of the coolest tools from the aisles of The Home Depot.

    TOM: And they definitely have the coolest tools.

    So, here’s the deal, guys. We have over $4,500 in prizes. Lots and lots of tool prizes. First prize is a beautiful Milwaukee Tool 16-Drawer Tool Chest and Rolling Cabinet filled with a $1,000 6-Tool M18 FUEL 18-Volt Lithium-Ion Cordless Combo Kit. Basically six separate tools there and a couple of other things.

    There’s two second prizes. We’ve got a Husky Mobile Workbench with a solid-wood top. Very beautiful. And they’re going to fill that with the Husky Mechanics Tool Set.

    That’s 268 pieces of tools right there, Leslie.

    LESLIE: Ooh, that’s huge.

    TOM: I mean you’re going to have a wrench for everything that will ever go wrong in your house. You will have it if you get the second prize. But there’s more. There’s third-place prizes – 10 of those which are Ryobi Combo Kits – and even 25 copies of our book, because we thought we want everybody to have a great chance at winning. That’s going to be the fourth-place prize. So, go ahead, enter right now. You can get the details at

    LESLIE: That’s right. And you can even increase your chances of winning by entering once a day and sharing the sweepstakes with your friends. It’s all online, right now, at

    TOM: That’s

    Well, a pressure washer is a great tool to have for outdoor chores. You can clean sidewalks and driveways and decks and siding, just to name a few. But if you don’t own one, it’s actually a pretty good investment because it’s something that you will definitely learn that you have many things to use it on.

    LESLIE: That’s right. You really will. And then once you start cleaning your house, you’ll end up cleaning your neighbor’s house because you’re having so much fun. I swear it.

    So, here’s a few things you want to consider when you’re buying a pressure washer. The first is the water pressure itself. Now, a light-duty pressure washer with, say, 1,300 to maybe about 2,000 psi or pounds per square inch – that’s what it means – is going to give you about 30 times more pressure than what is already coming out of your garden hose. So that’s really good if you’re cleaning things like your car or siding or boats.

    Now, if you need something that’s got a little bit more pressure or a little bit stronger, you can choose a medium pressure washer. That’s going to go up to about 2,600 psi. And that’s really good for cleaning grease, grime. And heavy-duty pressure washers are best used for stripping surfaces. And they really will strip surfaces, so you have to make sure that you don’t use something more heavy-duty on something more delicate, like a vinyl siding, because you will blow a hole right in it.

    TOM: I tell you what, I used a pressure washer last weekend because we had a concrete bench that has actually been in my family for probably – it’s got to be 75 years. It just was a permanent fixture in our backyard. I decided it was time for a makeover of that bench, so I took it all apart. Had to get the paint off it. And the last time it was painted, it must have been years and years and years ago, when they had that really thick, oil-based paint that comes off in ¼-inch thick pieces. So it was really gunked up on there. But using the pressure washer, I was able to kind of get under that and blast it right off. It really is fantastic.

    And that’s the kind of projects that you can do: pretty much anything under the sun. If you want to learn more about what to do with a pressure washer and how to find the best one for your dime, head on over to We’ve got a great story online right now.

    LESLIE: Now I’ve got Michelle on the line. What can we do for you today?

    MICHELLE: I had this huge flower bed right by my house and it’s about as big as a one-car garage. Anyway, I know that it’s to be sloped away from the house but I was wondering, if I have a raised flower bed, how far that raised flower bed should be from the house.

    TOM: That’s a great question. Sometimes, people put it right against the house, Michelle, and then it’s great for the flowers but it also holds all this water against your foundation. And it can cause flooding in lower levels, like crawlspaces and basements, or it can even damage your foundation.

    So, the flower bed is fine but you need to make sure – you essentially need to build it on a hill in a sense that what you want to do is establish the grade that slopes away from the house first. And then once that grade is established, then you could plant flowers or shrubs or whatever else you want to do.

    What you don’t want to do is kind of have an edging around the outside of the bed so that – a lot of times, you’ll see that people will use railroad ties or scalloped bricks or block or something like that. And think of it as a trough that they build around their house. And that’s what happens: it holds water. So just don’t impede drainage, a good flow of water away from the exterior wall, and you’ll be fine.

    MICHELLE: OK. Well, thank you so much.

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

    LESLIE: Hey, if your lights flicker, could it be a sign of more serious electrical problem in your house? Find out, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT with your how-to question.

    Hey, do you want to conserve heat at night but avoid waking up to a cold house in the morning? You can actually get the best of both worlds if you install a clock thermostat. Clock thermostats all have setback features that can automatically lower your heat at night while you’re asleep and then raise them in the morning.

    And the smart versions of these are awesome because I love the fact that my thermostat now knows when I’m home and knows when I’m out. And actually, when I’m on my way home, it will adjust my temperature within – when I get within, I think, about 10 miles of the house to exactly where I want it. So when you walk in, it’s nice and toasty in the winter and nice and cool in the summer.

    You can learn more about clock thermostats at

    LESLIE: And you know what else you could learn more about? You can learn more about an amazing sweepstakes we’re having over here at The Money Pit. Starting October 1st, you can enter The Money Pit’s Weekend Warrior Sweepstakes for a chance at winning some really cool tools from The Home Depot. We’ve got over 40 prizes up for grabs worth over 4,500 bucks. So enter today at

    TOM: Going to take a question now from Bennett in Rhode Island. Bennett posted in The Money Pit’s Community page and says, “I’ve got a 100-year-old house that was rewired about five years ago. Now I’ve got random circuits and ceiling fixtures going on and off in one part of the house. Do you have any idea what’s causing this?”

    Well, no but we can speculate. And we can first tell you that it’s not good. When you have flickering lights on, it can be a sign of a sparking or a shorting in your electrical circuit. It could be at the breaker, it could be at a junction box, it could be at a switch. You definitely need to get an electrician to look into this.

    I will tell you that sometimes, when folks have told me in the past when they’ve rewired their house – “rewired” it or an electrician told them, “We’re going to rewire your house,” all they did is they changed the main electrical panel. But sometimes, a lot of the old, antiquated wiring is in the walls.

    So one thing I would absolutely ask you to check, Bennett, is whether or not you have knob-and-tube wiring. That’s an old, antiquated type of wiring. It’s like a rubberized wire that runs through tubes between beams and across knobs on the sides of beams. If you see that and it’s active, that is a big problem. It needs to be removed because it’s an old system that’s ungrounded and usually very brittle and a big fire hazard.

    So, get on the phone, find yourself a good electrician. Go on over to I did that, by the way, recently for a very small project that we needed to get done for my mom in Florida. She wasn’t there in the winter and we were able to go to and find a plumber to fix a leak. So, it works. So check that out and get that looked at. It’s definitely an issue.

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post here from David in New Jersey who writes: “We’ve recently dug out an old garden patch that was up against our home. Just wondering what the best type of fill to use to bring that soil level back up above the foundation. We have some mixed, three-quarter minus sand and soil left over from a patio project.”

    Ooh, don’t use that.

    TOM: Nope.

    LESLIE: “I wonder if we should. We would, of course, grade it away from the house.”

    TOM: Yeah, you know what? You could put all that sand against the house and grade it any way you want, it’s not going to help as the water is just going to fall right through it.

    LESLIE: The water is going to go right through.

    TOM: No, you want to use clean fill dirt. And that’s basically a non-organic type of dirt that packs very, very well. We call it clean because it doesn’t have debris, it doesn’t have glass or anything like that. You get this grade established with that, then you could put a little bit of topsoil on top of it and plant some grass or some mulch or whatever you want to do. But get it established with clean fill and take it from there.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And that’s going to make sure the water goes where you want it to go, which is away from your house and not into your basement. And save the sand for a playground. Let’s just do that.

    TOM: You’ve been listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at We hope we’ve given you some tips and ideas and advice on projects you can tackle this fall around your house, to save some dough and make yourself that much more comfortable and make your spaces more enjoyable. The show does continue online. And you can also find the answer to your home improvement questions at

    Thanks so much. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …

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


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

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