Solutions for Shady Lawns #0710171

  • backyard_yard_outdoor_living_landscaping_brick_pavers_paver_patio_furniture_shutterstock_72947566
  • 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: And we are so glad to be here with you on this beautiful summer weekend. Are you working on a home improvement project? What? It’s too hot? Maybe you’re working inside or maybe you’re planning a project. Hey, whatever is going on with your money pit, we would love to help you out. Give us a call, right now, at 888-MONEY-PIT or post your question to The Money Pit’s Community page at If you’ve got a project, we have got a solution.

    Speaking of which, there’s an old saying that says good fences make great neighbors but that only applies if you can get the actual fence built, right? So we’re going to have some tips to make that project a lot easier. I see people struggle through fence projects all the time and we’re going to give you the tricks of the trade to make that really go smoothly.

    LESLIE: Plus, have you ever had that one tricky spot in your yard where you just can’t get the grass to grow? Well, adding something like a groundcover – you know, something like ivy or Pachysandra – could be the perfect solution. Roger Cook, the landscaping contractor for This Old House, is stopping by with tips.

    TOM: And if a vacation home is out of reach, you might want to consider glamping, which is short for glamour camping. We’re going to have tips on how you can convert a camper or a trailer into a very comfortable getaway that comes home with you after every vacation.

    LESLIE: And also ahead, does your home have hard water? You leave spots on everything and it’s really difficult to actually wash things with that water? Well, the solution might be as easy as adding a product called the ScaleBlaster Electronic Water Conditioner. It retails for $198 and it’s just one of the water-quality solutions that you’ll find at The Home Depot.

    TOM: And The Home Depot has hooked us up with some of those very same water-quality solutions to give away on the show to you. So, for your chance to win, pick up the phone, give us a call, right now, at 888-MONEY-PIT with your home improvement question. Or post it online at

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

    LESLIE: Rebecca in Tennessee is on the line with a roofing question and this one’s great. Should she let her husband install a metal roof himself?

    Well, what do you think, Rebecca? Should you?

    REBECCA: Worried about my husband putting on a metal roof as a DIY project. I think this might be one that should be left to professionals.

    TOM: Yeah, that’s a big project. It really is, for a number of reasons. First of all, it’s difficult – it’s physically difficult – to do that. Even if you have the basic skills, you’re dealing with large panels of metal up on the roof where the wind can grab them and take you and the panel right off that roof. It’s pretty expensive, so if you do it wrong you’re going to be kind of stuck. So I think I would be tempted not to do that myself. Personally, given my experience, I would think I would always hire a pro for that. So unless your husband has an extreme amount of home improvement experience, I think that’s a project I would not do myself.

    REBECCA: I would say that’d be a big no in the experience, so …

    TOM: I potentially would even do the roof myself – an asphalt shingle roof – but I don’t think I would do a metal roof myself.

    REBECCA: Good to know. Thank you.

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

    LESLIE: Tim in Michigan is working on a kitchen project and needs a hand. How can we help you?

    TIM: Looking for an app to pick colors for walls and the cupboards and all that before I actually go out and buy the samples. Just trying to see if there’s an app available to do that with.

    LESLIE: Well, there’s a couple of great online tools. I know one that I’ve used before. It’s kind of a beginner’s Photoshop and it’s actually one that’s sponsored by Glidden and it’s on their website but they have a separate website for it called And it’s C-o-l-o-r-t-o-p-i-a. So

    TIM: OK.

    LESLIE: And you upload a photo there, you choose colors. And almost like Photoshop, you can kind of highlight areas really simply with a tool and it fills in those colors in that area. So you can do colors on the cabinet, you can do colors on the wall.

    TIM: That’s exactly what I’m looking for. Something like that.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And it’s super easy to use. I know some of them are a little bit more tricky when it comes to selecting areas but they’ve got a great paint tool on there that really lets you to highlight just the area that you want to color with the paint. So you’ll really get a good choice there. And then Glidden’s everywhere, so you’ll be able to find that actual paint at any home center near you.

    TOM: And Tim, it’s a good idea that once you kind of get a rough idea of what colors you think you want to go with, to go ahead and pick up some of those samples. Put a good patch of that paint on the walls or on the ceiling and kind of live with it. Take some time to observe it through as the sun moves throughout your kitchen during the day, because you’ll notice it will take on different colors depending on how much light is going through that space.

    So, go ahead and apply those samples, live with it for a little bit. When you’re sure that that’s what you want to do, then you can go ahead and paint the whole place.

    TIM: Awesome. I appreciate that very much. I was hoping to find something just like that and you guys answered my question perfectly. I thank you.

    LESLIE: Sherry in Georgia is on the line with an electrical question. What can we do for you?

    SHERRY: I’m interested in knowing when should I look out to upgrade an electrical panel. A central heating and air unit was installed but this is an older house. And I was wondering if there’s anything I need to look out for as far as voltage or whatever.

    TOM: Do you know what size your service is right now, Sherry?

    SHERRY: No. But they did mention it. Before the install, they did mention that that would need to be replaced but they never replaced it.

    TOM: That would be a different contractor. Well, here’s the thing – is your house heated by gas?

    SHERRY: Yes.

    TOM: The only appliance in your house that’s really going to be pulling a lot of power is going to be that central air-conditioning compressor. And I don’t know if you have an electric range or an electric dryer but you’d be surprised that most people would think you need a much bigger service than you actually need. If you had a 100-amp service, that would probably be big enough.

    But I can’t really tell you specifically because I don’t know what you have and you’re not aware of what you have. I think that maybe that’s a question that you could raise with an electrician but you don’t need a 200-amp service when you only have one air-conditioning compressor. A 16-amp even service itself, if it’s wired correctly, might be big enough.

    Now, if this system was installed properly, which by that I mean has the right size breakers or fuses on the compressor itself and every other wire that’s in that panel then – and you’re not having any issues, you’re not blowing circuits right and left, you’re probably OK. But I would want to find that out from an electrician, not just the HVAC contractor that was trying to sell you the system.

    Alright, Sherry? Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at Give us a call now with your home improvement question to 888-MONEY-PIT.

    888-MONEY-PIT is presented by HomeAdvisor. From small repairs to a major remodel, HomeAdvisor is the fast and easy way to find the right pro for any kind of home improvement project.

    TOM: And just ahead, if you’d like to improve the taste and clarity of your water, Home Depot is a great place to pick up whatever water-quality solution you might need, like the new ScaleBlaster Electronic Water Conditioner. We’ve got water-quality products to give away, too. So for your chance to win, give us a call, right now, with your question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. We’d love to help you with whatever it is you are currently tackling at your money pit or even thinking about tackling. That’s what we’re here for.

    888-MONEY-PIT is presented by HomeAdvisor. Are you ready to get that deck you’ve been dreaming of? Well, HomeAdvisor will instantly match you with the right pro for the job, for free. So give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. And if you’d like to improve the taste and clarity of your water, The Home Depot is a great place to pick up whatever water-quality solution you might need.

    Now, we’ve been featuring a lot of those products as giveaways and today we want to fill you in on one that can eliminate hard water. It’s called the ScaleBlaster. It’s an electronic water conditioner and it solves that hard-water problem without the need of chemicals, salt or even maintenance. It’s a very easy do-it-yourself installation. There’s not even any plumbing required. And it prevents limescale forming and it also removes the existing deposits forever.

    You will find it at The Home Depot and for 198 bucks but we’re going to be sending one of Home Depot’s many water-quality solutions out to one caller drawn at random.

    Now that could be you if you call us at 888-MONEY-PIT or it could be you if you post your question to The Money Pit’s Community page at

    LESLIE: Tony in North Carolina is on the line with a water-heating question. What can we do for you today?

    TONY: My wife and I are in the process of – I guess we’re trying to gather as much information as we can. About to build another home in the next few months and we very much are interested in some of the ENERGY STAR features that we are – have been seeing.

    Just wondering, is it feasible for us – there’s only four of us in the home – to install the tankless water heater or would we be wasting money there?

    TOM: A tankless water heater is an excellent option for a family of four or even more. You buy the tankless water heater based on the number of bathrooms in the house. And the advantage is that you’re only using it to heat the water as you need it. A tank water heater keeps all of that water hot, 24-7, whether you’re using it or not. A tankless water heater fires on demand and heats water as it passes across its heat exchanger, essentially. So I do think that a tankless water heater is a good technology for you to consider.

    And how perfect that you’re building a home now and can plan it. One of the most common complaints we get – that you might want to consider, Tony – is people complain that it takes too long for their water to get hot in the morning. So, the reason that happens is because the water heater is very far away from the bathroom. That is a condition that would continue even with a tankless but the advantage is that since the tankless water heaters are very small and can also be direct-vented through the exterior siding, that you could actually have the water heater more centrally located to the bathrooms. So that when you do turn the water on in the morning, you’re not waiting very long for that water to actually get there.

    TONY: OK. I thank you so much for it.

    TOM: Tony, good luck with that project. Keep us posted. Let us know how you make out.

    LESLIE: Now we’re heading on over to Washington State where Sabrina is dealing with some grout that’s cracking up. And it’s not laughing; it’s falling apart. Tell us what’s going on.

    SABRINA: So I had some grout installed quite some time ago. And they’re about 18-inch tile pieces. And what I’m noticing now is there are several places – it’s kind of happening all over – where the grout is actually cracking. And I’m not sure what to do.

    TOM: So, is it a fine crack or is it a big crack?

    SABRINA: The grout is cracking and now some of the tile pieces are cracking.

    TOM: Yeah, that’s a problem. It sounds to me like the tile was not put down on a base that was solid enough. When you use a big tile like that, you need to have a really strong base. So you have to have a mud base or you have to have a tile base. And you may even have to have an expansion material underneath that so that you don’t get this kind of cracking. If you don’t get good support across an 18-inch tile and you get a little bit of movement in the floor, it cracks very quickly.

    So, I think this – at this point, it’s going to be something you’re going to have to manage. And if it gets really bad, you’re going to end up taking those tiles out and replacing them. It’s very hard to recover from this when the tile job was potentially not done right to begin with.

    SABRINA: Yeah. And I was wondering if it has anything to do with – I’ve heard a couple of people tell me that the underlayment – and maybe you said that – the underlayment wasn’t secured down properly or whatnot.

    TOM: It wasn’t strong enough, right. It wasn’t strong enough. You see, if there’s more – if there’s flex in the floor, the tile is not going to bend, it’s going to crack. And so that’s why the tile – what’s under that tile has to be really solid. With a – bigger the tile, the wider the tile, the less forgiving it is. If you put mosaic down, you know, it can move all day long and you’re never going to see those cracks. But when you put a big, 18-inch square tile down, it’s got nowhere to go.

    SABRINA: It’s got nowhere to go.

    TOM: Exactly.

    SABRINA: And what is your recommendation for my – for correcting it?

    TOM: Unfortunately, there’s no easy recommendation. If the tile project was done wrong to begin with, there’s nothing I can tell you to do that’s going to fix it at this point in time. It’s really going to be something that you’re going to have to tolerate and eventually, you’re going to end up replacing them. And this time, you’re going to do the proper job with putting the floor down.

    How long have these tiles been down?

    SABRINA: About five years.

    TOM: I was going to say, whoever put them down didn’t really do the job right. You’re going to end up having to tear it out and do it again.

    SABRINA: That’s OK. Well, thank you, guys. I just wanted to talk to some professionals. And I heard your show and I really appreciate you guys giving me the advice.

    TOM: Well, it used to be that working with concrete for small projects like, say, setting a fence post was pretty much a hassle because you had to buy all the raw materials and you had to mix them up, probably using tools like your garden wheelbarrow and garden hose. Then you had to clean them off before that concrete became permanently attached to those tools, which were probably heavy enough to begin with.

    LESLIE: That’s right. Well, QUIKRETE has made that a lot easier with their Fast-Setting Concrete in the red bag. It’s a special blend of fast-setting cements, sand and gravel and it’s designed to set in about 20 to 40 minutes. That’s super fast.

    TOM: Yeah. And you can use it for setting a fence post, a mailbox, a deck footing or even for pouring a slab. And here’s why I love this little trick for fence posts, because you don’t even have to premix it. So you’re not going to need that wheelbarrow and all those tools to mix it up. For the fence post, all you do is pour the dry mix into the hole that you dug for the post. Then you add water and the post will be solid in 20 minutes. So it’s really, really easy to get your post in first, which is the best way to install a fence.

    LESLIE: It really is. And you know what, guys? It couldn’t be easier, because QUIKRETE is available at home improvement retailers nationwide. And right now, there’s a bonus bag available that has 20 percent more of the fast-setting cement.

    TOM: Look for it in the red bag or learn more at

    LESLIE: Elvis from Texas is on the line. He is in the building and he has a question about plumbing.

    Elvis, what can we do for you?

    ELVIS: My wife and I had a house built. Started back in early 2005 and it’s in Lubbock. Houses are made on concrete slabs.

    TOM: Yep.

    ELVIS: Before they poured the slab, they put in a – with all the plumbing was installed. And instead of copper plumbing, which was in kind of short supply back in 2005, the going thing then was called Kitec. I think it’s K-i-t-e-c. And it’s a double-walled plastic pipe with aluminum in the center, instead of regular connections that use, if I’m understanding, a bronze connector. And we’ve had a couple of small problems with the plumbing but it seems as though I’ve read that the bronze can cause a delinkification (ph) in the copper.

    And I’m wondering if there’s been any studies done, if there’s different fittings that can be replaced. If the plumbing has to be replaced, it’d be very labor-intensive to go underneath the house. And we get down to fairly low winters, maybe to zero, and I don’t think I’d want any plumbing overhead for it to freeze. Or if you have any suggestions or thoughts.

    TOM: Yeah, Elvis. The problem with Kitec plumbing is, as you suspect, the fittings will leak.

    Now, what’s interesting is that Kitec starts with PEX, which is cross-linked polyethylene which, by itself and as installed today, is actually an excellent plumbing pipe with fittings that don’t leak. But the Kitec system has definitely had a history of leaking. In fact, there are many class-action lawsuits over that product that are active and going on around the country. And you certainly should investigate those that you may qualify to join.

    Unfortunately, your solutions only include, really, replacing it. And what I would advise you to do is to only replace it where it’s accessible. I mean I wouldn’t create the emergency if the emergency doesn’t exist, so I’m not going to tell you to tear open your walls and pull all the plumbing out and start from scratch. But I would say that if you do happen to be doing a bathroom renovation or you open a wall and you find Kitec, it should be sort of a matter, of course, where you always replace it. Because it’s not going to get any better; it’s only going to get worse.

    ELVIS: Not news I wanted to hear but kind of what I suspected.

    TOM: Yep. Unfortunately, that’s the case. Every once in a while, we get a building product like that and I’ve seen it happen many times over the years. And there’s just no way to make it better because at its core, it’s a defective system.

    ELVIS: OK. No way to just replace the fittings. It’s going to be the pipe itself, too, that’ll have problems.

    TOM: That’s correct. So I would attach it to a plumbing – to copper piping or to traditional PEX piping.

    ELVIS: OK. So I can talk to some local plumbers and discuss it from that point.

    TOM: Exactly. I hope that helps you out. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Margaret in Virginia is next on The Money Pit. How can we help you, Margaret?

    MARGARET: I have an old house. Part of it built Civil War era.

    TOM: OK.

    MARGARET: The floors in the oldest part are pine and they’re about – 2 of the boards are about 2½ inches wide. In the newer part, the boards of the floor are oak and they’re more narrow. I want to know how to safely clean them and keep them protected.

    TOM: There’s a product called Trewax, which is perfect for this particular application. It’s made by the Beaumont Company. And Trewax has been around for many, many, many, many years. And it’s actually a natural cleaner for hardwood floors. So you can find that at retailers across the country. You could find that online.

    But look for Trewax Natural Floor Cleaner. And it’s going to enable you to clean those floors very thoroughly without damaging the wood. And that’s what’s critical, because some of the floor products are not really designed for wood floors. Sometimes there’s too much moisture in them, they don’t evaporate well and they leave too much moisture in the wood. And that causes the wood to swell or stain further.

    So, look up Trewax. It’s not expensive and it works very well.

    MARGARET: OK. So is this a put on and wipe off?

    TOM: Yes.

    MARGARET: OK. That sounds good.

    TOM: Trewax is spelled T-r-e-w-a-x.

    MARGARET: OK. One E. OK. Got it.

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

    LESLIE: Just ahead, do you have spots in your yard where the grass just simply won’t grow? Well, Roger Cook from This Old House will be here with the solution, after this.

    LESLIE: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: Give us a call with your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week right here at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: And 888-MONEY-PIT is 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 background-checked pros for free.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Ed in West Virginia on the line who’s doing some exterior cleanup. What are you working on?

    ED: Well my deck – I’ve got a covered deck with treated wood. And it needs cleaning to get the dirt and grime off of it because, since it’s covered, the rain won’t come in and wash it off. And I can’t use a lot of water because I’ve got things underneath it that the water would leak down to. Then I also have exterior steps and they’re getting mossy, so what kind of a cleaning product can I use to clean this wood with?

    LESLIE: Now first of all, what’s underneath that you don’t want to get wet? Is it furniture? Are you storing stuff there?

    ED: Well, I’ve got, basically, a workshop. I’ve got two workshops: one inside at the house and one outside, under the deck.

    TOM: You’re going to probably have to cover those with tarps or something, because you are going to need to use some amount of water. But what we would recommend is a wood cleaner.

    Now, cleaners, what they do is they’re very good at removing dirt, removing grime and sort of removing that oxidized, grayish sort of appearance that gets on top of pressure-treated lumber.

    And Flood makes a good one, right, Leslie?

    LESLIE: Yeah, Flood actually has a product called Flood Wood Cleaner. And you can mix it with water; I think a 1-gallon container makes up to 5 gallons of cleaning solution. And it can actually remove a grayed appearance on lumber and give it a like-new appearance.

    Now, here’s the thing. I know a lot of people think that when it comes to cleaning a deck – “Oh it’s just dirt, it’s pollen, whatever’s on it.” And they think just using some water on it is going to get rid of it. But you get the same things on your car and you don’t wash your car with just water; you actually need a cleaner or a soap product.

    But you don’t want to use soap on wood, so it’s always good to use a product like a wood cleaner. That really will help you get rid of all of the weathering, the dirt, the grime, you know, just the usual stuff that a winter will put on a surface.

    So if you go with the Flood Wood Cleaner, you can use it on exterior, interior, all kinds of woods. I mean I’m saying interior because I’m meaning that yours is covered. I wouldn’t use it in the house but that’s what I mean there. And it’ll do a good job. You’ll get about 1,000 square feet total from a gallon, so you’ll get a really good coverage. You want to let it dry but again, like Tom mentioned, you want to cover anything that’s underneath, because it is a cleanser and you don’t want to get it on your tools.

    TOM: Yeah. And you have to wet the deck surface first. And then once it’s wet, then you apply the wood cleaner using kind of like a pump-up garden sprayer. Or you can even roll it on with a brush roller like you would – as if you were painting.

    ED: OK.

    TOM: You let it sit on the surface for a while and then you rinse it off.

    ED: OK. Well, that – rinsing it off is a problem.

    TOM: Ed, you’re not going to be able to dry-clean your wood deck.

    LESLIE: Yeah, I don’t know any cleaner that’s going to take that in.

    TOM: Just not going to happen. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, if you have an area of your lawn where grass just doesn’t seem to grow that well or maybe it grows too well and you’re just plain tired of cutting it, you might want to consider planting groundcover.

    TOM: Absolutely. Groundcover, like ivy or Pachysandra, are a great solution for lots of problem areas. For tips on what kinds of groundcovers work well and how to plant them properly, we welcome This Old House landscaping expert Roger Cook.

    Hi, Roger.

    ROGER: Hi. How are you?

    TOM: We are great. And this is one of those questions that people are constantly dealing with. There’s always that sort of problem area in the yard where something just won’t grow or it seems to take over. Are those all good opportunities for groundcovers?

    ROGER: Oh, exactly. And even the areas that you’re mulching over and over and over again. Groundcovers are a great way to get rid of mulch and replace it and you never have to mulch again.

    LESLIE: So you would mix that in with your flower bed to avoid the mulching?

    ROGER: Yep.

    LESLIE: Does that provide the same sort of protection during the winter season?

    ROGER: By the time the winter comes, your plants are all established; they’ll be fine. You don’t have to worry about it. Mulching over and over again sometimes has a worse effect on plants than it does good.

    TOM: Now, what are the best plant considerations? Is it sun? Is it shade? And how exactly should you set about planting your groundcover garden?

    ROGER: It’s like any other planting: you have to know your conditions. Is it wet? Is it shady? Is it dry? Is it sunny? Then you go and you pick out an applicable plant for that situation.

    I love groundcovers because there’s some that are adaptable for every situation.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Yeah, we had an area of the yard that was just problematic: so shady, poor drainage. We couldn’t get anything to grow there until I finally discovered Vinca.

    ROGER: Yeah.

    LESLIE: And it’s amazing what it’s done; it’s taken an area that was so drab and horrible and it’s green and lovely and sometimes we get these purple flowers. You know, we really enjoy it.

    ROGER: Yeah.

    LESLIE: How do you know what the best solution is? Do you come into the garden center with your list of conditions and say, “Help”?

    ROGER: That’s a great help and there are a lot of places online. You can get lists of different types of groundcovers for different areas. What I’m encouraging people to do right now is to look at native plants, native groundcovers. There’s a lot of Pachysandra, a lot of ivy; you see it everywhere. I’d love for you to go to some of the native – some of the different plants.

    TOM: Now, you mentioned ivy and that’s one of those plants that can quickly sort of take control and spread everywhere. How do you have sort of a manageable ivy garden?

    ROGER: Either through edging – a mechanical edge like steel edging, which will help keep it out of the lawn – or you go along that edge. You actually turn your trimmer vertical, go right along the edge between the grass. And every other time you cut the lawn, you just trim it back.

    The other thing that happens is sometimes it’ll grow up trees. Maybe once or twice a year, you want to go to the tree and cut the pieces that want to run up the top of the tree.

    LESLIE: Is it bad for the tree? Because it looks so pretty.


    ROGER: It looks nice but it’s not the greatest thing for the trunk of the tree. It can let insects get in there and even cause a little bit of rot sometimes. Because if it …

    TOM: Does it sort of strangle the tree sometimes?

    ROGER: Not so much strangle but you remember, it’s attaching right to the bark, so it’s going to cause – could cause a weak point in the bark where other things could get into the tree.

    TOM: Right. Now, ivy used to be very, very beautiful going up brick buildings but we’ve learned in recent years, of course, that that’s not such a good idea for the house, either.

    ROGER: Right. If it can damage the mortar in the brick, what could it do to the tree? So let’s look at it that way.

    TOM: So groundcovers are a great solution but you’ve got to pick the right plant, you’ve got to have the right soil. It’s really a recipe, isn’t it?

    ROGER: Right. It’s like anything else: unless you prepare the area properly, it could fail. Any planting depends on how good you prep the soil. The great thing about groundcovers are their root systems are only 4 to 6 inches, maybe 8 inches deep, so you don’t have to prep that bed that much. But I would go in and skim off any grass that was there or excess mulch. I would rotor-till the area, then I would take some compost that I made in my backyard, add that and a little bit of low-nitrogen fertilizer, rotor-till it all in and then you’re ready to plant.

    TOM: So, Roger, if this has been a problem area that you’re trying to tackle, is it best to clear out everything that’s there and sort of rebuild the soil and start from scratch so you know what you’ve got?

    ROGER: Right. Any planting you do, whether groundcover or bigger plants, is only as successful as the soil is prepared. Fortunately, with groundcovers we only have to prepare the soil 4 to 6 inches deep.

    TOM: OK.

    ROGER: So I’d go in and strip off the grass, rotor-till that area, probably add a low-nitrogen fertilizer and then rake it in and then you’re ready to plant.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Anything that we need to be concerned about as far as weeding? Because I imagine you might still have those same situations you would have before.

    ROGER: You will. And the key is to keep on top of the weeds as they come up. It’s easier to pull a small weed than it is a big one. And the more you pull, the more the groundcovers have the ability to grow in. And once they grow in, you – minimum weeds.

    LESLIE: That’s great.

    TOM: Great advice.

    For more tips on how to plant covers, there is a good video on, featuring our guest, Roger Cook.

    Roger, thanks so much for the advice and stopping by The Money Pit.

    ROGER: Oh, you’re welcome.

    LESLIE: And remember, guys, you can watch Roger and the entire This Old House team on This Old House and Ask This Old House on your local PBS station.

    TOM: And Ask This Old House is brought to you on PBS by Mitsubishi Electric Cooling & Heating. Make comfort personal.

    Well, if you need tools, there’s no better place to shop than The Home Depot. And there’s no better show to listen to for fantastic tool giveaways than us. Because thanks to our buddies at The Home Depot, we’ve got the DeWALT 20-Volt Cordless Combo Kit with Tough Case worth 299 bucks.

    It’s going to go out to one listener who calls us with their home improvement question or posts it to the Community page at Make that you. That number, again, is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT with your home improvement question. We’d love to give you a hand and help you out with whatever it is you are working on. And since the weather is much warmer out, we’re all drinking lots more water. Well, you guys really should be. When temperatures rise, you get dehydrated so easy. And if you’d like to improve the taste and clarity of your water, The Home Depot really is a great place to pick up whatever water-quality solution that you might need.

    Now, we’ve been featuring lots of those products as giveaways here at The Money Pit and today we want to fill you in on one that can eliminate hard water. It’s called the ScaleBlaster Electronic Water Conditioner. And it’s going to solve all those pesky hard-water problems without the need of chemicals or salt or maintenance.

    And if you’ve got hard water, you know it. It’s difficult to wash your hands, everything ends up with some sort of texture-y grit on it. It really is an easy-to-do solution. You install it yourself. No plumbing required. It prevents that limescale formation and removes existing deposits forever. You can check it out at The Home Depot and It’s a prize worth 198 bucks.

    TOM: And we’ll be sending out one of Home Depot’s fine water-quality solutions out to one lucky caller drawn at random. Make that you. That number, again, is 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Well, if you’d like to take off for a relaxing vacation but you want to do that on a budget, you might want to consider what some call “glamping,” which is pretty much the opposite of roughing it. You get to enjoy the great outdoors with all the comforts of home. And you can take it one step further and glam up your camper to create sort of a vacation home on wheels.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Just imagine one of those pop-up trailers tricked out with the absolute best, luxurious bedding and really gorgeous home décor. Then camp near the beach or the lake and now it’s like you’ve got a home on the water. And the best part is since you can park it in your driveway after the vacation is over, you don’t have to worry about flood insurance or hurricane damage and you can vacation anywhere you want.

    TOM: Yep. Now, this new trend of glamping is something you can take advantage of even when you’re not away. You can use it to create a guest house or an office or make it your man cave or just some extra steps that are just sort of steps away from your home. I mean think about it: the next time you host a sleepover for your kids, you don’t have to lose sleep. Put those teenagers outside. There are lots of possibilities. You can do it at a fraction of the cost of a second home. And if you look for vintage campers to renovate, it can be a very cost-effective project.

    LESLIE: Hi, Fred. Welcome to The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    FRED: I have a standard toilet. House was built in ‘29, so it’s, what, 80 years old? It’s the type where the tank hangs on the wall and then you have an L and then you have, I guess – what do you call that? The bowl?

    And it started to leak and so the old metal was pretty corroded and everything. So we took everything out. We took the tank off the wall, we – I say we, that I, the plumber who I’ve been using for many years – cleaned everything up. Went to the hardware store that handles these kind of fittings and we just cannot get this thing to work. It leaks …

    TOM: Where does it leak? Does it leak at the – where at – the base of the tank where the pipe connects?

    FRED: In both, yeah. Well, one time we did it, it leaked at the bottom of the tank. The other time, it leaked when it went into the bowl.

    TOM: What kind of a washer are you using? What kind of a gasket or seal are you using in those two places?

    FRED: Well, I don’t know the technical names of it. The guy at the – they look like the same stuff we took off. I’m a musician; I don’t know all these things.

    TOM: Well, this shouldn’t be that hard to accomplish and it sounds like whatever they’re using in that gasket space right there is not working. And look, if all else fails, you can simply use silicone here. You could apply the silicone in – as you put this together, you could – you seal all of those joints with silicone. Let it dry. Try not to touch it until it dries. And then you can take a razor blade and cut off the excess, nice and neat and essentially make your own gasket.

    FRED: Yeah, the plumber mentioned something. He said the only thing is if that thing fails and I’m not home, I’m going to have a house full of water.

    TOM: That’s true. But the thing is, if it – once it works, it usually works, you know, continuously. It’s not – it doesn’t usually fail. If you get it right, it’s not going to fail, OK?

    FRED: Yes. So, in other words, unless I can see some chips or damage on the porcelain or something like that, which I don’t see, it should work.

    TOM: But I would take it apart and I would seal, with silicone, each connection as it goes together so that you end up with a good compression of silicone around that. That’s the solution, OK?

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

    LESLIE: Hey, guys. With all the beautiful weather, have you been enjoying cooking up those sizzling steaks, burgers, chicken and more these last few weeks? If so, your gas grill has really been getting a workout. We’re going to have tips for a midsummer makeover to keep it clean and safe, after this.

    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 1-888-MONEY-PIT for the answer to your home improvement question. And 888-MONEY-PIT is presented by HomeAdvisor where it’s easy to find top-rated home improvement pros for any project. Go to

    LESLIE: Alright. And don’t forget you can always post your question. And I’ve got one here from Drew who writes: “After a couple months of heavy grilling, my gas grill needs an extreme makeover of its own. Do you have any tips for a midseason grill cleaning?”

    It can. Think about it: barbecue sauces and all those marinades you make are so sticky and gross. And no matter whatever kind of cleaning you do, it gets nasty in there.

    TOM: It does. And they’re – at some point, a little bit of char is OK but when it really gets sort of crusty and sticks to the burners, it starts to impede the flow of the gas and it can actually be dangerous at some point. So, what you want to do is pretty much do a complete strip-down of this whole grill and just clean it. So you want to soak the grids and you can do that in hot, soapy water. And then clean them with nylon scrubbing pads. Now, if they’re really crusty, you could also use an oven cleaner but do that outside or in some other well-ventilated area and then rinse them.

    Then, of course, you want to take out everything that’s inside that grill. So if you’ve got lava rocks or ceramic briquettes, pull them out. You can clean them with a wire brush. If they’re kind of crumbly, order a new set of them. Go pick up a new set of rocks because they’re not that expensive and it’s just not worth trying to save any that are falling apart. Because they end up clogging some of the burners, as well.

    Now, you want to remove those burners and brush them clean. And here’s the really important part: check carefully for any cracks or split seams or holes. Because sometimes, a lot of that sort of carbonated crust will cover up those defects in the burners. And if you’ve got holes in those burners, that is a dangerous burner and it has to be replaced. You need a new grill or you can order just the burners right from the manufacturer or from one of the many retailers online that sell grill parts.

    We did that, Leslie, and I think I spent maybe under 100 bucks for all of the burners. And we didn’t have to buy a $500 grill as a result.

    LESLIE: Now, can I ask you a question? We’re always talking about ceramic briquettes or lava rock. Now, with a gas grill, they never come with the unit. Is that something that you add in? Does it help you think with maintaining a temperature? What’s the point of them?

    TOM: Sometimes, it comes with them. It depends on the design. But the idea is that the surface heats up and then the meat juices drip on and then they can flare up and they give you some of that additional charcoal flavor. So if it comes with it, fine. If it doesn’t, then you’ve got nothing to worry about. There are other ways to do that. But if you do have them, I know that they’ll disintegrate, so that’s why I always recommend that they be replaced.

    Also, you want to make sure that all the rubber hoses, you check those for cracks. An easy way to do that is to mix up some water and dish detergent. And if you brush that on and it bubbles up, you’ve got a leak. So, 50/50 mix of dish detergent and water.

    LESLIE: That’s probably the best trick of the trade right there.

    TOM: Yeah. It’s very, very simple. And then put it all back together and you’re good to go. And we’ve got this whole procedure on our website, in the Community section, because someone asked this very question at

    And once you get it all clean, if you want to make it dirty all over again, Leslie, we put your recipe up there for a delicious barbecue sauce.

    LESLIE: You did? Aww.

    TOM: Yep. Yeah. I figured why not?

    LESLIE: So good.

    TOM: Clean it up and then you can trash it up for good reason.

    LESLIE: Let me tell you, that barbecue sauce has just gotten rave, rave, rave, rave reviews from anyone anytime I make it. And I usually just will put that on a skirt steak or a flank steak. It’s super easy. It caramelizes beautifully. It’s got ketchup in it and molasses. That’s kind of the secret right there. But check out the whole recipe online and happy grilling, you guys.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Hey, thank you so much for spending this part of a beautiful summer day with us. We would love to take your questions and your calls. If you couldn’t get through to us during the program, remember 888-MONEY-PIT is available to you, 24/7, as is The Money Pit’s website where you can post your question to the Community section at Happy home improving.

    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.)

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


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