Is Your Tap Water Safe? Tips for Testing & Treating #0226181

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  • Transcript

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Thank you so much for joining us on this hour of the program. If you’ve got a to-do on your list and it has to do with your house, your home, your castle, you are in exactly the right place because that’s on our list, too. Our to-do is to help you get the projects done, whether it’s home repair, home remodeling, new construction, décor, painting, fix a squeak or a leak. Whatever is on that list, we’d love to chat with you about it, help you get the project done. You’ve got to help yourself first, though, by calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT or posting your question to The Money Pit’s Community page at

    Coming up on today’s show, you drink it, you cook with it and you bathe in it but are you sure it’s safe? We’re talking about tap water. It can be deceiving because it looks and tastes harmless even when it’s not, which is why it’s a really good idea to test it to find out. We’ll tell you how to get the right test done so you’ll know what you’re drinking.

    LESLIE: And also ahead this hour, you know, there are many things that are built in factories. But houses really aren’t one of the things that come to your mind. We’re going to take a look at today’s factory-built homes and dig into why they’re becoming popular as a way to quickly build a very energy-efficient home.

    TOM: And wood floors are beautiful but they’re not always the best choice in damp locations, like bathrooms and laundry rooms or basements. We’re going to have an overview of all the new products that will work, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: But our first priority is you. What’s your question? What are you working on? We’re here to lend a hand.

    TOM: Give us a call right now. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Tim in Tennessee is on the line and is noticing some mysterious spots on the floor. What’s going on?

    TIM: Yeah. I picked up a place this past summer and there’s some dark spots scattered throughout the – on the floor – on a wood floor. And wondering if there was some way to deal with that without having to take off the top layer and redo it.

    TOM: So, spots on the wood floor?

    TIM: Yes.

    TOM: Do we – do you have any idea what caused the spots, Tim?

    TIM: I know the house was empty for a period of time. I’m not sure exactly how long but my guess is, in Tennessee, the humidity – there may have been moisture gathered on the floor.

    TOM: And is this floor finished?

    TIM: Yes, it’s – it was finished, yeah.

    TOM: So it’s a finished hardwood floor, then?

    TIM: Yeah. It looks to me kind of like a maple maybe.

    TOM: OK. So I don’t think there’s – there’s not likely anything you can do to remove that, from a cleaning perspective. It really is probably time for it to be professionally sanded and refinished.

    TIM: Alright.

    TOM: And I think that you want to do that professionally because to rent the equipment that’s necessary for that – and if you don’t do it every day, it’s easy to make a mistake. There is a machine called a U-Sand Machine that you could rent, that would not damage your floor, but the thing is it’s not going to take off that much of the finish. And I’m concerned that it may not take off enough to get past those black marks.

    TIM: OK. Alright. And one situation that I have found, going through the big-box stores, is the finish requires – it says to require it to be sanded to a 220. And I can’t find anything finer than a 120 to go on these machines.

    TOM: Well, when you rent these machines, they typically will also provide the sandpaper.

    TIM: Yeah. I just – I haven’t seen anything finer than 120.

    TOM: Well, 220 is awfully fine for a floor. I think you probably – with a floor, especially a hardwood floor – you’re going to want to use one that’s a lot – that’s poured closer to that 120 to 150 area.

    TIM: Alright. Well, thank you so much.

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

    LESLIE: Kathy in Arkansas is on the line and has a question about potentially having radon in the home. Tell us what’s going on and why you might think this.

    KATHY: I built a house about two years ago, on the slab. And I always hear a lot about radon lately, for some reason. Is that a potential hazard on a slab home or is that only where you have crawlspaces? I just – I don’t know how that works.

    TOM: So, it’s technically possible that you could have radon in a house that’s slab-on-grade. Radon is a gas that’s in the soil. And if it builds up to a point where it’s over 4 picocuries per liter of air – that’s the measure of radon – then you would take some action to reduce it in your house.

    Typically, if your house is on a basement or a crawlspace – well, if your house is on a basement, it’s probably at the highest risk because it can come directly through the walls and get into that space and up into the house. Crawlspaces not so much because it’s very well ventilated. Slab-on-grade homes can have a radon level if the radon is very, very high in the soil.

    Now, the only way to know is with a radon test. Fortunately, it’s pretty easy and inexpensive to do. You pick up a radon-testing canister. You can buy one at a home center or you certainly could order one online. You would place this canister in your home for a period of around two to six days. Then, after that exposure period, you would seal it back up, ship it off to the lab. They would read it and tell you what your radon levels are. And based on that information, you could either do further testing or talk to a radon mitigator about getting it resolved.

    So, that’s the – that’s basically the long and the short of it. Slab-on-grade houses don’t have as high a risk as a basement house but it is technically possible for them to have elevated levels.

    KATHY: Wow. I just wondered how it could get through the cement from the dirt.

    TOM: Yeah, it finds a way.

    KATHY: Wow. OK.

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

    KATHY: Thank you.

    LESLIE: You are listening to The Money Pit presented by, where you can find top-rated home pros you can trust. Call in your home repair or your home improvement question, 24/7, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, even if you drink purified or bottled water, we still use tap water to cook, bathe and clean. We’re going to have some tips on how to find out if your tap water is clean and safe, next.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Hey, this time of year, we’re all looking for that extra sleep to get ourselves ready for the spring season. Well, lucky for you guys, because The Money Pit’s Good Night’s Sleep Sweepstakes, presented by Tuft & Needle, is going on right now at

    Tuft & Needle make the most comfortable mattresses on the internet and we know, because we each have them in our houses.

    TOM: Definitely. There’s over $4,000 in prizes, including your choice of a Tuft & Needle mattress, plus pillows and sheets. Enter today at

    And hey, if you’ve got a décor or home improvement question, we are ready to take it right now. You can call in your question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor.

    LESLIE: Alright. Heading over to North Carolina where John has got a question about insulation. How can we help you?

    JOHN: Hey. So this is just a follow-up question to one I’ve had for you all before. I called in about spray-in foam. And you all said that – you know, for Tom, for your house – I think 1896 home or some older home, you got spray foam.

    TOM: Yeah, 1886. Yeah, good memory. Yeah. Mm-hmm.

    JOHN: Yeah. So, for that house, oh, you said you had to spray – what I was just wondering was – I talked a little bit more to the person that wants to do the work on my house. And they said there were two different types: the closed-cell and open-cell. And I just didn’t know – I was wondering if you knew what was in your house, if it was open- or closed-cell, and if there was one that was better than the other. I guess that was pretty much my main question.

    TOM: Well, closed-cell spray foam can be applied at a lower temperature, as low as, I think, about 5 degrees. It’s also a stronger foam. So, sometimes, if you’re concerned about shift in a wall – what’s called the “racking strength” – you use closed-cell. And it’s also got a higher R-value per inch, so it’s a little more energy-efficient.

    JOHN: OK.

    TOM: And it’s resistant to vapor transfer, so as lower “vapor-permanence,” it’s called.

    JOHN: OK.

    TOM: It also can reject any water, like in leaks. It’s not really damaged by that.

    Open-cell spray foam is at a significantly lower cost than closed-cell. And you can get a greater R-value if you’re not restricted by space: in other words, if you’ve got room for the stuff to expand.

    JOHN: OK.

    TOM: But it’s a little more of a hydrophobic material and it’s going to also be a good air barrier and an insulating material, as well.

    So those are kind of the differences. It really depends on what you’re trying to achieve.

    JOHN: OK.

    TOM: I think in my home, I have both.

    JOHN: OK.

    TOM: I think have closed-cell down in the crawlspace, where there’s more potential moisture, and open-cell up in the attic space.

    JOHN: OK. Yeah, that’s awesome. I really appreciate you all letting me call in again to ask a follow-up question. I love your program. So, thank you so much for calling me, guys.

    TOM: Alright. Take care. Good luck with that project.

    LESLIE: Well, we’re fortunate here in the United States to have some of the cleanest drinking water in the world. But that doesn’t guarantee that your water is safe. Water contamination, it can’t be seen, smelled or tasted. But it’s easy to find out for sure because you can easily test your tap water.

    TOM: Start by contacting your water provider. They’re required by law to make tests available to consumers. And these reports can detail the results of the water testing done in your area.

    Now, even if the results come back clean, you want to note the testing date. Because if it’s been more than a year or so, you might want to take a few more steps to make sure your water is still safe.

    LESLIE: That’s right. Next, you can hire an independent, certified lab to test your tap periodically. Now, this can be done for as little as $30 and covers threats ranging from lead to pesticides to bacteria and even radon. And there’s also a number of do-it-yourself kits out there but be cautious if the free kit comes with a hard-charging salesman. That’s not the best way to really learn what’s in your water, because the testing company has an obvious conflict of interest. They want your money.

    TOM: Absolutely.

    Now, if contaminants are found, you want to treat the water as necessary. And the good news is that there is an incredible range of water-treatment products out there, from something as simple as a filter pitcher to whole-house systems that are installed at the main valve, where the water first comes into the house, and covers everything from that point forward.

    LESLIE: June in Alaska is on the line with a question about tiles cracking on the floor. How can we help you today?

    JUNE: I was listening to your wonderful program and when you got to the part about the in-floor heat, the – we have a lot of that here in our area, the in-floor heating, and I love it.

    TOM: Yes.

    JUNE: However, our home is only 10 years old. It’s fairly new. But I noticed my bathroom floors, they have ceramic tile and we have some hairline cracks in them.

    TOM: OK. Yeah.

    JUNE: But I thought when – OK, I’m going to replace them.

    TOM: Right.

    JUNE: But when I do that, I want to know how to have the people do it properly so that doesn’t happen again.

    TOM: Right. Yeah. So I think you may have heard us talking to the representative from Schluter Systems. You’re referring to the remote show that I did up in Newton, Massachusetts with all of the guys at This Old House. And we were talking about one of the products they put in, which is a product called DITRA. And DITRA is a membrane that goes under tile and it does just that: it prevents cracking. But now they have DITRA where they’ve combined it with a heating system, so you can have an electric floor underneath your tile and you know that the tile is going to be both warm and it will not crack.

    So it’s a really cool product. Very effective. And I really hate to get the calls from folks that are asking me how to stop the floors from cracking, because there’s no easy answer. It just – it’s happening because the floor wasn’t put down correctly to begin with. But now, you can put down this DITRA product with the heating system built in. There’s a Wi-Fi thermostat that’s available for it. And you’ve got all the parts in one place.

    JUNE: Cool.

    TOM: So, I would definitely encourage you to look into that when you’re ready to do the floor. Just look for the Schluter Systems, their website. And it’s pretty obvious. It’s called DITRA-HEAT. They’ve been making products for pros that install tile for a long, long time. And that’s why the guys at This Old House use them for so many of those critical bathroom projects there.

    JUNE: OK.

    TOM: Alright, June. Good luck with that project.

    JUNE: Love your program.

    TOM: Well, thank you very much.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Joe in Michigan who’s dealing with a gutter issue. Tell us what’s going on.

    JOE: Hey, this roof, I need some help with. I bought the house about eight years ago. And it’s got a good roof on it but it appears that they tried to save some money and have somebody do it. And what the problem is is the shingles don’t come out far enough from the top of the roof to get into the gutters. And there’s a metal strip that goes along, right at the bottom edge of the roof.

    And from what I see, it almost looks as though it’s turned around backwards as though if it were put in properly, it would extend out further to help get the water towards the gutters or into the gutters?

    TOM: Hmm. OK.

    JOE: So what – the mess I’ve got now is I’ve got all this water that’s hitting some spots in the gutter properly and others not. And I’ve tried to push the gutters and tap the gutters back up as far against the fascia as I can and I’m still getting water through there and it’s frustrating.

    TOM: Well, the metal strip is throwing me a little bit. Now, typically, at the edge of the fascia, you’d have something called a “drip edge,” which is sort of like a right-angle piece of trim that goes over the front of the fascia and up under the roof. And it’s at a 90-degree angle. Is that kind of what you’re seeing or not?

    JOE: I had them install some aluminum over the fascia board but I don’t think that’s what you’re talking about. It is a channel of sorts but it’s right on the top lip of the roof, if I’m explaining this right. You know where they first start putting the shingles on and then they start moving up forward? It’s like right at that edge, there’s a – there’s metal.

    TOM: Are the shingles resting on top of the metal?

    JOE: Yes.

    TOM: Regardless, the solution here is the same. What you need to do is to extend those roof shingles into the gutter. So, because there’s not a magic potion that will do that, the way to fix this is to get a flat bar – and that’s a very thin pry bar. And you’re lifting up the edges of those shingles at the bottom of the roof edge. And you’re going to slip underneath some flashing. And the flashing that you would use is probably just aluminum-roll flashing, maybe 6-inch or 8-inch-wide flashing. And the easiest way to do this is in small pieces, because it becomes too hard to handle when you have a long piece.

    And you run the flashing up under the roof shingles and you make sure it extends past the roof shingles and lays into the top of the gutters. So, essentially, what you’re doing is creating a bridge to make up the distance between where the shingle ended and where it really should have ended, which is at the edge of the gutter. And this way, when the water comes down the roof, it will drop from the shingle to the flashing to the gutter. Does that make sense?

    JOE: Absolutely. And that sounds like something I can do, so I appreciate you and we’ll give that a shot.

    LESLIE: Shironnie (sp) in Colorado is on the line and has a question about mold. What can we do for you today?

    SHIRONNIE (sp): The pipes have broken inside the walls and we fixed the pipes and everything. Now we’ve got this problem with mildew and the mold, so we have – we want to know what’s the best way to treat it.

    TOM: Yeah. First of all, when that happened, did you file a claim with your homeowners insurance company?

    SHIRONNIE (sp): No, we just got the house. We got it as is, so we’re fixing it before we move in.

    TOM: Oh, oh. OK. Got it, got it, got it. OK. Well, is it a lot of mold or is it a little bit of mold?

    SHIRONNIE (sp): A lot. We’re ripping out drywall and as we rip it out, we’re finding more.

    TOM: Oh, boy. Yeah. Yeah, this is generally not a do-it-yourself project because when you have a lot of mold, you can contaminate parts of the house with this. I really think this is the kind of thing that you want to stop and get some professional help with, Shironnie (sp). Because if you release all those mold spores into the air, you potentially could be causing a bigger problem.

    Generally, when you have that much mold – you say a lot of mold – you have to be careful about how you take that apart. What you generally do is you depressurize the house, you put fans in the house so that it pulls the air out as you’re breaking out that – the drywall and so on and flushes all of those mold spores to the outside. And then all of the framing gets sprayed down so that you kill anything that’s left behind. You get it good and dry and then you reinsulate and re-drywall.

    But it’s a pretty big job and when you have a lot of mold like that, you can be exposing yourself to that mold and that could make you sick. So I would say to proceed very cautiously when you’re trying to rebuild a house that’s got heavy mold damage. It’s not an easy problem to resolve.

    SHIRONNIE (sp): Oh, OK.

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

    LESLIE: Tony in Iowa is having a hot-and-cold water situation. What’s going on?

    TONY: Well, I’ve got an electric water heater. And the main feed that comes in from the city, that goes into my electric water heater, it’s a cold line. But yeah, I get cold water to come out of my faucets and everything but that cold-water line, up around through the water heater there, it’s hot, the line, when I touch it. And I’m just curious what’s going on with that.

    TOM: So, you have an electric water heater and that’s going to be fed by a cold-water line and it’s going to go through the water heater and come out as a hot-water line.

    TONY: That’s correct.

    TOM: OK. And so what’s the problem? So far, it’s normal.

    TONY: The water line that goes into the water heater – the cold water?

    TOM: Yes. Yep.

    TONY: That line is hot.

    TOM: Well, some of the heat from the water heater can be working its way back up the pipe. So you may be feeling some conductive heat that comes from – the hot water in the water heater itself could be making that pipe warm. But if you go farther down the line, you’re going to feel that it’s cold again.

    It goes in cold and comes out hot but the fitting right around the top might feel like it’s a bit warm. But that’s only because of the conductive heat of the water in the water heater coming back up the metal pipe.

    TONY: OK. That alleviates my concerns then.

    LESLIE: Alright. Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit.

    Just ahead, there are many things built in factories but houses really aren’t the one thing that comes to mind. Coming up, we’ll take a look at today’s factory-built homes and dig into why they’re becoming more and more popular as a way to quickly build a very energy-efficient home. Kevin O’Connor of This Old House will be by to explain.

    TOM: And today’s episode of This Old House on The Money Pit is brought to you by Lumber Liquidators. Lumber Liquidators, hardwood floors for less.

    We’ll be back with that tip and much more, after this.

    Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Hey, what’s your how-to or décor question? Call it in, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor. They make it fast and easy to find top-rated home pros you can trust for any home project.

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

    BRIAN: Hi. Yeah, we have a house. It’s about a year-and-a-half old and it has a – in the upstairs, it has a game room/playroom area, you know? And got a two-year-old and a six-year-old and so trying to think of – trying to build – yeah.

    LESLIE: And lots of stuff.

    TOM: Yeah.

    BRIAN: Lots of toys. So I’m trying to think of a seating area, bench, storage area. Suggestions? Ideas?

    LESLIE: I mean you’re on the right track. I’ve done a ton of makeovers on $100 Makeover with a similar situation, where – small kids, lots of stuff, multi-function rooms. You want it to look good, you want it to be practical but you want to have a place for everything and everything in its place.

    And if you’re a handy guy, you can easily make a storage bench and it could be something as simple as a framed-out box with one of those slowly-closing hinged tops to protect the kiddies’ fingers, either painting it or wrapping it in fabric, padding the top and wrapping just the top, veneering the bottom. It depends on your skill level. And there are ways to even modify existing pieces that you might have.

    Maybe there is a bench or a piece of inexpensive furniture that you can find at one of those stores where you sort of put things together yourself. And you can add baskets underneath. It depends on what your skillset is and what kind of look you want for that space.

    BRIAN: I saw on some show leaving it open using 2x4s or 2x6s – or would you suggest enclosing it?

    LESLIE: I feel like leaving things open, only from my experience with my own son and people who I see how they live – if it’s closed up, it tends to be neater.

    BRIAN: Right.

    LESLIE: And you can frame something – build the box out of 2x4s, clad it with MDF, dress it up a little bit with 1×3, make it almost look like it’s paneled or something.

    BRIAN: Right.

    LESLIE: Give it some raised areas and recessed areas, if you even want to go that far. Up to you. You can add in a baseboard to just sort of dress up the bottom. Paint that. Everything looks beautiful in glossy white or glossy black or a great chocolate brown.

    And then on the top, same thing: MDF top. You want to wrap it with some batting. Put some foam, wrap that in batting, wrap it with fabric, staple to the underside. And the key is the hinge; you have to get that hinge that slowly, slowly, slowly goes down. Because the kids are always going to get their hands in everything.

    BRIAN: Now, we have a corner area, so should I just make it straight or should I make it like an L-shape or what?

    LESLIE: I think an L-shape is really practical. And what you can do is on the ends – on both ends or just one – you can sort of then build out an additional area that maybe has some open shelving on both ends, to put some books.

    BRIAN: Awesome. Looks like I’ve got a project to get started.

    TOM: Sounds like you do.

    LESLIE: It’s a good one.

    BRIAN: Alright. Well, I appreciate it.

    LESLIE: Well, when you think of a home being built, most of us picture the sights and sounds of carpenters, roofers and other tradesmen building a home on a lot from the bottom up. But there’s another way to build a house and it happens usually far away from the site of the actual building itself.

    TOM: That’s right. Modular or factory-built homes are becoming more and more popular these days and for some very good reasons. With us to talk about that is Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House.

    Welcome, Kevin.

    KEVIN: Great to be here, guys.

    TOM: Now, it seems that building a roof under the protected roof of a factory can make the entire homebuilding process a lot more efficient, right?

    KEVIN: Yeah, I really think it can. And sometimes we call them “modular homes.” I often call them “prefabricated homes.” But whatever we call them, there are some efficiencies that you can get from building them in controlled environments.

    Think about this, right? I’ve heard studies that say that a typical home has over 40,000 individual parts, right? And the traditional way of doing this is by shipping all these individual parts to an exposed job site and they sit there for maybe six months, out exposed to the weather, in the mud. It’s just the opposite when you do it with modular housing, because you’re building it in a factory.

    So, you’ve got a controlled environment. These materials are never exposed to the weather and neither are the workers. And that can lead to some significant efficiencies.

    TOM: No rain days there.

    KEVIN: No rain days there at all.

    LESLIE: And I imagine you probably waste far less materials because you have access to so many and then they can be repurposed for the next project.

    KEVIN: Well, a good builder who does it the traditional way – a stick-built home on the job site – they can be very efficient. But generally speaking, I think you’re right, Leslie. I think when it’s in a factory and the materials are right there and it is very well-controlled, you’re going to have less waste because you’re building many homes in one location. So anything that’s left over from one project goes immediately to the next. It’s not like you’re building in one town and then two towns over, which is the case when you do site-building.

    TOM: And that makes it a very green process, as well, because you’re really not leaving anything to go back into the environment.

    KEVIN: Less materials, less resources is always better for the environment. And it can actually save you some money, too.

    TOM: And the quality control has got to be a lot better. Let’s face it: you’re out on a job site, you’re working in very cold weather, for example. You’re measuring out lumber plus or minus a ¼- or a ½-inch. Sometimes that doesn’t mean much in that environment. In a manufacturing sense, though, you’re in a factory – all that stuff could be precut and perfectly accurate. One board is just the same exact length as the next, if that’s what it needs to be.

    KEVIN: Yeah. I mean I don’t want to suggest that you can’t get a quality-built home if it’s built on the site, built by traditional methods. But I will say it is a lot easier to do it when you have a controlled environment and all of your workers are dry and all the materials are dry.

    LESLIE: And how does that affect construction time? Is it quicker if you go with a modular home or depending on the job of your contractor himself, does that sort of really impact how long it actually takes to build a home on site?

    KEVIN: I think it depends but I think the general rule is it’s faster when it’s done in a factory. But here’s the thing: it’s not so much about the total length of time; it’s really the amount of time that you’re on the job site. Because you can actually order up one of these modular homes long before you actually start prepping the site. And so you can coordinate those two that once the house is primarily built in the factory, you can actually deliver it and assemble it on-site very quickly.

    TOM: Now, besides being efficient – from a green sense, in terms of not having any waste – these homes have to be more energy-efficient.

    KEVIN: Well, a lot of energy efficiency comes from how tight we can make our homes. Now, we were working with a prefabricated builder not that many years ago, on This Old House. And he was building the wall panels in the shop and he was actually installing a gasket around the entire wall panel. So that when it was brought to the job site and lowered down by crane, these wall panels are actually coming together with an airtight seal, both to themselves and also between where the wall panel hit the deck. That makes for a super-tight house. And that kind of quality control can mean a more efficient house to operate.

    TOM: So, is modular housing something that can be ordered for just a single house or is this something that you’re seeing more and more developers take on?

    KEVIN: Well, actually, I think we see more of it with developers, with these large-scale projects where they do it. I think it’s now the individual, one-off, site-built homes for the residential market where it’s not as common. But as these efficiencies improve, as these techniques improve, I think more and more people are going to be ordering some level of a modular or prefabricated home.

    TOM: And just because it’s prefab doesn’t mean that you have any shortage of design possibilities, though. I think that’s important to point out.

    KEVIN: No, not at all. There are hundreds, literally thousands of different models out there that you can choose from. And you can also design your own and have it just prefabricated in a factory before it gets to the job site.

    TOM: Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House, great advice. Thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    KEVIN: Thank you for having me, guys.

    LESLIE: Alright. You can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For your local listings and step-by-step videos on many projects, visit

    TOM: And This Old House and Ask This Old House are brought to you on PBS by GMC Trucks and SUVs.

    Just ahead, wood floors are beautiful but they’re not always the best choice in damp locations, like bathrooms, laundry rooms or basements. We’ll have an overview of what will work, next.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Hey, you guys, are you looking for that perfect night’s sleep? I know everybody sort of finds that good night’s sleep rather elusive. It’s like the giant squid on the Discovery Channel. Will they ever find it? But a good night’s sleep isn’t very far away.

    At, we’ve got the Good Night’s Sleep Sweepstakes. We are giving away over $4,000 in prizes in bedding, pillows, sheets and a mattress from our favorite mattress maker, Tuft & Needle. You can enter once a day at and share the sweepstakes to earn bonus entries and increase your chance to win.

    TOM: Enter today at

    Well, whether you’re buying or selling or just enjoying your home, we are here for you every step of the way. Call in your home improvement or décor question, right now, to 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor, the fast and easy way to find the right pro for any kind of home project, whether it’s a small repair or a major remodel.

    LESLIE: Coreen in Alaska is on the line and has a question about real estate value. Tell us about it.

    COREEN: I live in an older condo with a wood fireplace.

    TOM: OK.

    COREEN: Would a wood fireplace be more – have more resale value or would a freestanding stove?

    TOM: I think a fireplace probably would have more value. It certainly might make the place more attractive to most buyers who make more emotional decisions than practical decisions.

    LESLIE: And I think from a decorating standpoint, I know that freestanding wood stoves, to me – while, yes, they create a cozy, little seating area, sometimes they pose a ginormous decorating dilemma.

    TOM: Well, true, because they just have to be out there in the middle of everything, so how do you work around that?

    LESLIE: Right. And they’re usually a certain color. It’s not the easiest thing to paint or change the look of.

    TOM: Yeah, so I would stay with the fireplace. Wood stoves are more efficient but I wouldn’t replace it if you’re getting ready to sell the house. I would keep the fireplace. I think if you did something to dress up the fireplace, if you needed it – with a new mantel, that kind of thing, cleaning up brick, whatever, just make it look good – I would just stop right there. I don’t think putting the wood stove in is going to be something that you’ll get a return on that investment from, Coreen.

    COREEN: OK, great. Thank you.

    LESLIE: Well, if you love the look of wood floors and you want them in areas that can be prone to a lot or even a little water, hardwood is probably not the best choice. But we’ve got better options, in today’s Flooring Tip presented by Lumber Liquidators.

    TOM: Now, if solid hardwood gets wet, it can swell and it can buckle. And once that happens, there’s no going back. There’s a new waterproof flooring on the market now that can deliver the same look of real hardwood but without the risk of water damage. And it’s called “engineered vinyl plank” or EVP. And the nice thing about this EVP product is that it is totally and completely waterproof. It can stay wet for an extended period of time, so wet-mopping, bathroom splashes, even pet accidents will not do any damage to the floor whatsoever.

    LESLIE: And don’t be confused by its name. This is not your mom’s vinyl. EVP today combines the comfort and waterproof features of standard vinyl with the quick and easy installation of laminate. And the EVP today comes in lots of high-end styles that capture the authentic grain, color and even the texture of real hardwood. They look amazingly like actual hardwood and that’s what really inspires its design.

    TOM: Yeah. But because it has a truly waterproof construction, you can bring that warmth and beauty of hardwood pretty much to every room in your house, even bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms and basements. And because the planks are pretty rigid, the EVP installs easily. It doesn’t show ripples that can be caused by imperfections in the subfloor, like the old vinyl used to. It’s also really durable, which is great for busy homes because it’s not going to show dents from heavy furniture or kids dropping toys and stuff like that.

    LESLIE: And that’s today’s Flooring Tip presented by Lumber Liquidators, where you’ll find the new Coreluxe Engineered Vinyl Plank Flooring. Coreluxe EVP is ideal for any room in your home, including bathrooms, kitchens and even mud rooms. It’s easy to install and a great option for upgrading your floors with a truly durable and waterproof option.

    TOM: You’ll find Coreluxe Engineered Vinyl Plank at Lumber Liquidators stores nationwide and online at

    LESLIE: Hey, are you not sure whether to keep up that high-maintenance deck or get rid of it? We’ll help you decide and we’ll tell you what it means for your home’s value when The Money Pit continues.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Well, I hate to even think about it, you guys.

    TOM: Don’t say it. Don’t say it.

    LESLIE: Allergy season. I’m saying it.

    TOM: Ugh. Achoo, achoo.

    LESLIE: I know it. It’s terrible and it’s right around the corner, unfortunately. I mean it could be as little as just weeks away. And if you are like me – I don’t know about you, Tom, but I suffer from the worst seasonal allergies. And sneezing is just horrible as soon as we get to the pollen season.

    Now, if you’re like me, you might want to think about getting a better vacuum. The best option really is a central vacuum system, because that main airflow is typically exhausted outside of the house instead of re-polluting your indoors with fine dust and allergens that sometimes come out of a portable vacuum.

    TOM: Yeah. Now, there’s another option, which is a central vacuum system but they’re expensive and hard to install. So in the alternative, what you do want to look for is a portable vacuum with a HEPA filter. And you can add that to your vacuum and that will do a good job of trapping those pollens. Any kind of high-quality allergy filter, add to the vacuum.

    And also, look for the same kind of allergy filter for your heating-and-cooling system. Don’t just get the standard kind; get the ones that are designed to trap out allergens. They’re much more effective. They’ll do a good job of keeping you comfortable through that allergy season.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you know what, guys? If you have filters in your vacuum and in your whole home, you want to make sure you change them. Change them as often as recommended. Get the highest-quality one that you can afford and like and use it. And don’t forget to change it. I think that’s really where things cause problems is when you forget it even exists.

    But don’t forget about The Money Pit and don’t forget about the Community section. Because Kevin sure didn’t and he writes: “We have a deck off of our master bedroom. It sits on top of our garage, which is becoming a problem because the deck is constantly leaking into the garage. We’ve tried adding drains and we’ve covered the deck in outdoor tile but it hasn’t helped. Should we just enclose the deck to solve the problem?”

    TOM: Well, that’s kind of dramatic and there is a much better solution. Now, look, whenever you have a deck that’s on a second floor like that and you have living space underneath, that is one of the most difficult roofing surfaces to build. But there is a product that is very successful and very good at it and it’s fiberglass.

    Think of the fiberglass that’s used to form your tubs and your showers. It’s kind of like that but it’s done in layers. What happens is you prep the surface, then you add layers of fiberglass and there’s resin that goes in between the layers. And it kind of builds up and it becomes one solid, complete roofing surface. You can bend it up or sort of mold it up, I should say, underneath the siding and then over the edges. And once that’s done, that becomes a surface. So it’s not a wood-deck type of a surface; it’s a fiberglass surface.

    You can have a railing system on it. Of course, you would need to have a railing system on it, the same way you would if it was a wood deck. But it’s absolutely impervious to water, so that’s the hot ticket right there. You want to make sure that you are absolutely using a quality fiberglass deck to make sure that you don’t have any issues. And you’ll never have to worry about a leaking deck again.

    LESLIE: Alright. Sue from Florida writes: “How do I remove a rust stain from my driveway? I think it’s from rebar.”

    Don’t be afraid, Sue. There’s an easy solution.

    TOM: Yeah, trisodium phosphate – TSP. You pick it up in the hardware store. It’s near the paint.

    LESLIE: It’s usually in the paint aisle.

    TOM: Mix up a paste. Yeah, make a paste of it, apply the paste to that stain, let it sit for a little while and that will draw that rust stain right out.

    LESLIE: Be careful, though. It does tend to bleach the surface, so you might want to try an area first.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Hey, thanks for spending some time with us. We hope that we’ve filled you in with some great tips and advice to help you get some projects done around your house. I want to remind you that you can reach out to us all week long by calling 888-MONEY-PIT. Or you can post your question anytime to The Money Pit’s Community page at We try to answer two or three of those questions every day. And also, it’s a great place to search for an answer because there’s about 1,000 questions there right now that we’ve answered over the years. So, great resources for you there, online at

    Don’t forget to enter our Money Pit Good Night’s Sleep Sweepstakes. We’re giving away mattresses and pillows and sheets and more from our friends at Tuft & Needle.

    We’ve got to go. Thank you 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 2018 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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