Tips for Building a Backyard Fire Pit #1113171

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    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: Coming up this hour, we’ve got a great show planned, starting with a tip on building backyard fire pits. You know, they’re really hot right now; I mean literally. A good evening for us has always been sitting outside in front of the fire pit, enjoying a glass of wine while the kids see who can toast that perfect marshmallow without dropping it into the fire.

    LESLIE: Or burning it on fire.

    TOM: Yeah, that’s the Statue of Liberty bit, right, with the torch? Holding it up in the air?

    LESLIE: That’s true.

    TOM: But you know what? With just a little bit of planning and a trip to your local building-supply store, you can build your own fire pit. Our pal, Roger Cook, from This Old House is going to be by with tips on how to do just that.

    LESLIE: Plus, we’re going to tell you about a new, high-def outdoor home security camera that’s built right into a smart light that you can control from your phone, which makes it easier than ever to protect your home from intruders.

    TOM: Yep. And speaking of intruders, do you know the weakest link in your house? Well, we do and we’ll share tips on what steps you need to secure that, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: For a friend of mine recently, she left her car keys in her Jeep and that is how her car got stolen. So, in their case, it’s just leaving the keys in the vehicle. So, let’s be a little bit smarter there.

    Hey, you guys, if you’re a home improver, crafter, maker or even a decorator, we’ve got a reason for you to call in or post your home improvement question to Because one lucky listener is going to win a package of tools from Arrow Fastener. Now, that includes three different T50 Staple Guns, a Pro High-Temp Glue Gun and the brand-new RT90PT, which is the Pneumatic Rivet Tool, and a ton of supplies. The package is worth over 400 bucks, you guys. This is a great prize pack.

    TOM: If you want to win it, you’ve got to be in it. Pick up the phone and call us with your home improvement question at 888-MONEY-PIT or post your question to The Money Pit’s Community page at All questions, whether they come in by phone or by the Community page, all of you folks get tossed in The Money Pit hard hat. So we draw the winners on Monday morning. Everyone that got in by the Sunday evening before is eligible. So, go ahead and post that question to us at the Community page or call it in to 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Alright. Let’s get to it. Lots of folks want to do just that: get the answers to their home improvement question. Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Jim in Washington is on the line and is having a door issue. What’s going on at your money pit?

    JIM: Well, I have, actually, two doors with a similar problem. Gradually, it’s grown worse over the last several years. The door does not fit tightly up against the weather-stripping. And I’ve finally resulted to putting in small wedges. And this is a front door and a door to the garage. To keep it pressed up against there, I have replaced with new weather-stripping twice but it still doesn’t get up there tight. What can I do to correct that, outside of replacing the door?

    TOM: So, if you close the door and you push it tighter closed, does that make the seal?

    JIM: Yes. And that’s why I’ve resorted to …

    TOM: So then why didn’t you just replace the – why didn’t you just adjust the lock?

    JIM: I don’t know how to do that. I didn’t know you can do that.

    TOM: OK. So, basically, what you need to do is – where the lock strike is – OK, that’s the metal plate in the jam?

    JIM: Yep.

    TOM: You need to move that closer to the weather-stripping so that the door has to actually shut more before it latches. Because you need that weather-stripping to compress a little bit before it latches.

    Now, does this have a deadbolt on it?

    JIM: Yes, it does.

    TOM: Well, you could probably just do it with a deadbolt. Sometimes the deadbolt – if you just push in the door a little bit, put some pressure on it, then turn the bolt so you kind of create that seal, that would make a lot more sense than trying to wedge it against that. Because that’s exactly what the lock does: it holds it – holds the door tightly closed. So I would adjust the lock and forget about the weather-stripping for the moment.

    Are these wood jambs with the weather-stripping sort of inserted into a groove?

    JIM: Yes. Yes, they are.

    TOM: So those pieces of trim with the weather-stripping inserted into it, those usually will come off the door. So another thing to do here is you could take that weather-stripping – those pieces – off and actually move that. It’s, essentially, a piece of trim. Move that closer to the door and reattach it, as well.

    So, either way, you need to basically get the door closer to the weather-stripping. The easiest way to do it is just to adjust the lock, though. So you’re adjusting the striker, not the lockset. You’re adjusting the strike: that metal plate that’s in the door jamb.

    JIM: OK. And because, naturally, that’s screwed into there, do I just fill the old screw hole with …?

    TOM: No. What you do here is you unscrew it. You pull it out, right? And then you move the plate closer by a ¼-inch or whatever gap you have to close, OK? You’ll probably have to notch out the door jamb to fit the new one. Then look at how the holes line up. You may be moved over far enough where you actually will have a shot at making a brand-new hole and you can ignore the old one.

    If you can’t, what you want to do is take a small piece of wood. I usually use pieces of cedar shingles. I put a little glue on them, I shove them in the old screw hole, break them off flush to kind of create a wood plug and then you can drive a new screw next to it.

    JIM: Fantastic. Alright. I think I will try that first. And if that doesn’t work, then I’ll try moving the trim.

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

    LESLIE: Alright. We’ve got Esther on the line from South Dakota with a gutter question. How can we help you today?

    ESTHER: Well, we need to replace our rain gutters but our shingles on our dearly beloved, old house are Portland cement shingles. And the first three people that are the first – the companies that I’ve talked to about replacing rain gutters, they all tell me how simple it is to just lift up the asphalt shingles and put the strapping in underneath it and fasten it. And I think, “OK. Asphalt is flexible but I think the cement shingles might crack.” So how do I find someone who knows how about preserving the shingles and putting up new rain gutters?

    TOM: Well, I think there are a number of ways to install gutters. You can put straps that go up under the asphalt shingles but they can also be attached directly. So what you’re going to want to do is attach those gutters directly to the fascia. And instead of using nails, you’re going to want to use gutter screws. They’re very long lag bolts – lightweight, thin lag bolts. Usually have a hex head on them.

    And the nice thing about these gutter bolts, so to speak, is that once you put them in, they don’t pull out. Sometimes the nails – the gutter spikes that they use – will pull out. But these gutter screws will not pull out. So you just need to use a different fastening system. And have you had – physically had somebody at the house that saw this configuration? Or are they just kind of telling you this on the phone?

    ESTHER: No. We had just moved to the area and I was just going down the Yellow Pages trying to get a …

    TOM: Well, once they get to your house, they’re going to figure out the best ways to attach the gutter. But rest assured, there’s a number of ways to do this. And no, you don’t have to take your shingles apart.

    And by the way, as long as those shingles – those roof shingles – look good, then there’s no reason to replace them. You know, the cementitious roof shingles are very durable. The reason that most people replace them is they tend to grow a lot of algae and moss and they can look nasty after a while. But if they’re still looking decent and they’re – it’s not leaking, then you’re good to go.

    ESTHER: Yep. We’re good and there’s a whole pile of – or a little pallet, probably 200 or 300 of them down in the basement. So, if we have another hailstorm, we should have some shingles.

    TOM: Oh, boy. So you are good to go. Alright, Esther. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Now you can call in your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week right here at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, we’ve got a heads-up on a new HD outdoor home security camera that’s built right into a smart light, which you control from your phone. We’ll have those details, after this.

    Where home solutions live, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Pick up the phone and call us, right now, on The Money Pit’s listener line at 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 the type of job, HomeAdvisor makes it fast and easy to hire a pro you can trust.

    LESLIE: And hey, here’s another great reason to reach out by phone or post your question: we’ve got a great prize pack this hour, super useful. We’ve got an Arrow Fastener Tool Package worth 400 bucks up for grabs. Now, this includes three different T50 Staple Guns, a Pro High-Temp Glue Gun and the brand-new RT90PT Pneumatic Rivet Tool.

    TOM: Yep. Now, this tool is awesome because it really delivers high-speed pneumatic-tool performance at a price that do-it-yourselfers will really love. It’s good for working on cars, boats and general home repair. And it provides easy, one-hand operation to fasten any size aluminum, stainless-steel or even steel rivets.

    And you know what? At, not only can you look up the details on the new pneumatic tools, you can also enter Arrow’s 10 Weeks of Awesome Giveaway. It’s running right now through December 17th. And Arrow Fastener is giving away 1,000 bucks in cash for one lucky winner and 100 tool-prize winners every single week. So, what a great opportunity to win something from Arrow Fastener, all designed to introduce fun and practical ways to use Arrow tools for everyday do-it-yourself crafting projects. Sign up, right now, at

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Daniel in Washington on the line.

    Daniel, welcome to The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?

    DANIEL: Well, you can help me figure out why my wife takes a cold shower and I take a hot shower.

    TOM: I bet she’s not too happy about that, either.

    DANIEL: She’s very unhappy and she seems to think it’s my fault.

    TOM: So, who goes in the shower first? She goes in first?

    DANIEL: She does.

    TOM: And then what? It takes a long time for the water to get hot?

    DANIEL: Well, she turns it on. Our bathroom shower is about, I guess, when I added up all the pipes, maybe 30 feet from the water heater. So it’s not very far. We’ve lived in the house for 12 years, so we can usually count on hot water coming about 4 seconds after we turn on the water. And it’s not happening this time. She’ll leave it on for a minute or so, it’s still cold. And she says, “What the heck, I need to get going.” So she takes a shower and then she screams and yells at me.

    LESLIE: And then it’s all your fault.

    DANIEL: Twenty minutes later, after she clears out of there, I get in there and the shower is nice and warm.

    TOM: Well, that’s an odd problem because certainly, it’s not the distance; that’s very, very short.

    Now, as far as you know, is your water heater working normally? So if you go to your kitchen sink, does it deliver hot water pretty quickly?

    DANIEL: When we turn it to the left, it’s hot and when we turn it to the right, it’s cold.

    TOM: Right. So the kitchen sink is fine.

    DANIEL: And the kids’ bathroom is fine.

    TOM: OK. So, it’s not the water heater, it’s not the pipes. What’s left here? The shower valve. You’ve got a bad shower valve.

    DANIEL: You came to the conclusion pretty quickly that it’s not the hot-water heater. Somebody suggested that it’s some deely-bobber inside the hot-water heater that has to kick over.

    TOM: By virtue of the fact that your water heater delivers hot water to your kitchen sink and delivers hot water to your kids’ sink – it’s only not delivering hot water to your master-bath sink or shower, right?

    DANIEL: It does deliver hot water to the master bathroom and the master-bathroom shower but it takes, I don’t know, 10 minutes or so after my wife goes in there. So, one theory is that we’re – by her taking a cold shower but having the nozzle turned to the right – to the left – where it would give hot water, it activates something.

    TOM: OK. So, let me ask you one more question. In your master bathroom, you have a sink, correct?

    DANIEL: Yep.

    TOM: And does that sink get hot quickly?

    DANIEL: Sure. But maybe not first thing in the morning.

    TOM: Well, does it take as long as the shower to get hot?

    DANIEL: I haven’t tested that.

    TOM: Alright. So test that. If the sink gets hot quickly and the only plumbing fixture in the house that’s not getting hot quickly is that shower, then you’ve got a problem with the shower valve. And that could happen. Something could break down inside the shower valve. And it might be that it takes so long to run before it finally lets some of that hot water in, because maybe you’re waiting for one of the pipes to – one of the valve parts to expand and just something to jam shut and it’s just not letting the hot water out.

    So, I suspect if you’ve eliminated – everything else is normal, it’s just that shower that’s not, I’d replace the water valve. It’ll probably save your marriage. Think about it.

    DANIEL: Well, at least my hearing.

    TOM: There you go. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Well, good lighting is one of the best ways to deter burglars from getting anywhere near your home. And security cameras are also a good way to know what’s going on outside your door or when you’re not home. Now, there’s a product that combines both in one and it’s really, really smart.

    LESLIE: Yep. It’s called the Maximus Smart Security Light. It’s a high-def outdoor home security camera and smart light that you control from your phone. You’re going to get alerts when visitors approach your house. And you can even talk to them and communicate with them through a two-way intercom. It has a high-def camera with 16 feet of motion detection and 100-dB siren alarm. So that’s pretty loud.

    TOM: Yep. It allows you to monitor your home from any smart device. You can get instant alerts, you can watch a livestream and you can play back or download video. You can decide whether you want to communicate, play a prerecorded message, sound an alarm or even call 911. It’s pretty much all right there.

    LESLIE: Yeah. It’s super easy to install, as well. You just remove your old light and then install the Maximus Smart Security Light using those very same wires. Then connect your smart security light to your Wi-Fi and you’re good to go.

    It’s even compatible with Amazon Alexa. Simply say, “Alexa, turn on Smart Security Light.”

    TOM: You can learn more at

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Linda in Pennsylvania on the line with an insulation question.

    Welcome, Linda.

    LINDA: We have a two-story house built in the late 1980s. In the winter, it’s colder upstairs than downstairs and especially in the summer, it’s just really hot upstairs. We also – we have a whole-house fan and it’s – I don’t want to get rid of that. The one person that came and talked to us about insulation said we should get rid of that. I don’t know whether the fan has blown some of the insulation over that blocks the soffit vents, that we’re not getting enough circulation. So I guess I just don’t really know what to do about adding more insulation.

    TOM: Alright. Well, first of all, a 1980s house probably has a minimal amount of insulation. What you really want is 15 or 20 inches of insulation.

    Do you have decent space in the attic? Can you walk around up there?

    LINDA: No.

    TOM: OK. So how is it constructed? Is it made of trusses, where it’s hard to get around?

    LINDA: Yes. And it’s not real high in the center. You can get around but no, it’s not very high up there.

    TOM: I would have blown-in insulation installed, because you can easily – a professional can get that where it has to go. Professionals are also good at making sure that the baffles are in place, which keeps it out of the soffits.

    And then when it comes to the whole-house fan, you should have a cover for that for the wintertime, just to kind of seal it up a little bit. Perhaps cover it with some sort of an insulation blanket and then you can pull that off in the summertime. It will be a source of energy loss, so you have to kind of take that additional step. But I agree: it’s a great thing to have. But I will say it must have good exit venting, though, too.

    Do you have big gable vents on the side walls of the house? Because when you turn that fan on, you don’t want to pressurize the attic. You want to make that air go out.

    LINDA: No, we have the ridge vent. And when they replaced the roof a couple years ago, they did put in – they said there is a slightly larger-size ridge vent and that’s what they put in.

    TOM: Alright. Well, then, that’s probably big enough to handle the exhaust venting.

    So that’s what I would do. I would use blown-in insulation. Now, around the fan itself, what the installer will do is put sort of a wall around that made of sort of like a stiff cardboard or some type of material like that, so that they can pile the insulation up higher against that opening and keep it away from the operation of the fan.

    LINDA: OK.

    TOM: It’s done all the time, Linda, and it’ll definitely make a big difference in how comfortable you feel in that house, OK?

    LINDA: Alright. Thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Dennis in Alaska needs some help cleaning up hard-water residue. What can we do for you today?

    DENNIS: Yeah, I was wondering if you knew of a product that could take care of that rusty-looking stuff on a porcelain …

    TOM: Try CLR. CLR stands for Calcium, Lime and Rust and it works super well at removing those rust stains. It’s readily available at home centers and supermarkets, as well.

    DENNIS: I could probably find it down at Home Depot or someplace.

    TOM: I’m sure you can, Dennis. It’s been around for years and it does a really good job. Sort of one of those standard things you’ve got to have on your cabinet shelf.

    DENNIS: Right, yeah. OK. I’ll look into it.

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

    LESLIE: Well, backyard fire pits are really hot right now, literally, for a lot of great reasons. For one, on a cool night, who doesn’t want to melt marshmallows and make s’mores?

    Now, with just a little bit of planning and a trip to your local building-supply store, you can build a fire pit yourself. Just ahead, Roger Cook from This Old House will be here to tell us how.

    TOM: And today’s edition of This Old House on The Money Pit is presented by Healthful Home. You could detect the worst molds with the Healthful Home 5-Minute Mold Test Kit. Then, you can treat mold, bacteria and airborne allergens with their Fog-U Mold Aerosol. Find innovative Healthful Home solutions, exclusively at Ace Hardware or

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Call in your home improvement question now at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by, where you’ll find top-rated home pros you can trust.

    TOM: Yep. Whether you’re buying, selling or just enjoying your home, we are here for you every step of the way. So give us a call, right now, with your home improvement question at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Hey, here’s a quick tip that’s perfect for the cooler weather we’re all experiencing right now. You know those ceiling fans that you’ve probably had off and collecting dust since Labor Day? Well, those very same fans that keep you cool all summer can actually warm you up in the winter if you know what to do with them. You just have to look for the little reversing switch on the side of the fan motor. That’s right. It’s that tiny, little switch right there. You’re always wondering, “What do I do with that?”

    TOM: Yep. By reversing the direction of the ceiling fan and then running them on the slowest speed, what you’ll actually be doing is pushing that wasted, heated air that’s going to collect near the ceiling – because heat rises – all the way down into your room. It actually makes a big difference, so try it out. Look for that little switch and give it a shot.

    LESLIE: Now we’re going to South Carolina where Caroline is on the phone with a question about oak flooring. What can we do for you today?

    CAROLINE: I have an old house built in 1940. Hardwood floors. And I’ve got two almost holes near the living-room door. And on into the hallway here, where each room meets – the hallway is the center – I have this iron grate. It’s about 2 feet wide and 3 feet long and that’s where the return is for the heating and air-conditioning. And the wood seems to be caving a little bit around that. And I was wondering, can he fix that back as good as it – I mean is it possible to fix that back as good as it was the way they built it in 1940? Or will there be a problem around the return?

    TOM: Are you still using that return? Is that still an active part of your heating-and-cooling system?

    CAROLINE: It is.

    TOM: So, yeah. Certainly, when you have worn-out oak floorboards, sometimes they’ll wear through or they’ll become insect-damaged. They absolutely can be rebuilt the same way they were when they were originally installed. It’s a bit of a tricky carpentry job but it’s not too terribly difficult.

    What the contractor has to do is he’ll cut out the old board. Usually, he’ll use a circular saw, he’ll plunge-cut down the middle and then use a chisel to kind of break it out. And then putting the new board in is a bit tricky, especially if it’s tongue-and-groove, which most of them are. Because what you have to do is you have to cut the back of the groove piece off so that you can sort of put it in and overlap the older piece with that. Because you can’t use one that’s a full groove because, obviously, you can’t get it in there. It’s like trying to put in a puzzle piece. But you cut the back of the groove side off and then it becomes sort of a lap joint, you drop the new board in.

    Now, if there’s one tricky part, it’s really just in the finishing. I had a floor that was much like that where we had an old floor furnace that took up a big space in the middle of the room. And so we were able to frame that out and actually put new hardwood floor in there and sort of feather it, like almost like a finger joint with the original floor. The floors were different colors for a while because they had a natural finish on it. But over the course of about the next year, it sort of faded and darkened and then blended and now you could never tell the difference between the repair and – the new wood that was repaired and the old wood that was there existing.

    CAROLINE: OK. I need to have my house checked for termites, I think.

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

    LESLIE: Well, backyard fire pits are really hot right now, literally. On cool nights, who doesn’t want to melt marshmallows and have that great smell of a campfire right in your own backyard?

    TOM: And with just a bit of planning and a trip to your local building-supply store, you too can build a fire pit yourself. Roger Cook from TV’s This Old House is here to tell us how.

    So, Roger, I guess the first decision is where the heck are you going to put this thing?

    ROGER: No. Actually, the first decision is can you have one?

    LESLIE: Oh, true.

    TOM: Oh, good point. Because some towns frown on this, then, huh?

    ROGER: Right. And you look at a lot of places that have fire problems. The worst thing that can happen is an open fire. So the first place you’re going to go is probably the fire department and check with them and see if your town will allow you to burn, period, before you spend any money or time on anything else.

    TOM: That makes good sense, because a lot of folks don’t have good sense when it comes to locating anything with heat. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen that halo pattern in vinyl siding when a grill got too close.

    LESLIE: Got it from a barbecue.

    ROGER: Yeah. Yeah. Well, that’s the thing is you want to locate it centrally so it’s away from fences, away from buildings. But also look up; you really don’t want to burn your favorite tree or catch a tree on fire. And that can happen if you put it right underneath it.

    LESLIE: Is there an appropriate distance? Because I know sometimes with branch overhang at 10, 12 feet in the air – but you might get an ember just shoot straight up.

    ROGER: Right. I’m looking for a 10-foot to 15-foot clear space around whatever you’re putting in.

    LESLIE: Like a dome, you know.

    ROGER: Exactly.

    LESLIE: Gotcha.

    ROGER: Yep.

    TOM: Now, once we’ve identified the space, we’ve got the clearance, it’s OK with our town to build one, how do we actually get started?

    ROGER: Well, you want to pick out the material you want to make the basin with. Now, what you want to do is dig a hole down because you want that fire down in the ground, like a foot below grade. That will make it safer to be around. We’ve been using a lot of kits lately that have been made out of the segmental concrete blocks in the …

    TOM: Oh, is that like what they use for retaining walls, where they lock together?

    ROGER: Exactly. Except these ones are shaped in a radius and give you a perfect circle. So you compact the gravel, you lay your first base down and then you build it up. And I like to see it about a foot above grade and that makes it safe that no one is going to step into that fire.

    LESLIE: So that first row really gets inset into that hole that you’ve dug?

    ROGER: Right.

    LESLIE: Do you need any sort of steel ring, like you might see at a park?

    ROGER: Concrete needs to be protected from the heat. And they make a steel ring that goes with this kit. In fact, it even has a grill that flips over on the top so you can grill away.

    LESLIE: Oh, that’s great.

    TOM: Now, if you’re going to construct this and you’re using the segmented stones, you have your steel ring, once you get it above grade, are you actually attaching those bricks together? Are you using any kind of sealant to sort of hold them in place or is it all just sort of gravity?

    ROGER: No, we use the regular glue we use on the walls. And that just binds everything together so that it really becomes a one-piece structure.

    TOM: So there’s really no mortar involved.

    ROGER: No mortar at all; no, it’s all dry.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. So no masonry adhesive at all?

    ROGER: No. Yes, that’s what you use to hold the block together.

    LESLIE: Yeah, so the masonry adhesive. Just no mortar.

    ROGER: No mortar.

    TOM: Wow, that sounds really super-easy.

    Now, if that’s still a little bit too much of a project for the average DIYer, what about the premanufactured kits that are available or the kind that you sort of roll out: the chimeneas and that sort of thing?

    ROGER: Well, I think they’re great. I think they all have a place. The chimeneas are great because you can put different flavored wood, so to speak, in it and get different scents coming out of it. They also make shallow basins. Some of them are copper, some of them are steel where if – you put in a few logs and have a real small fire that way.

    TOM: And it doesn’t matter what kind you use; the s’mores taste the same, don’t they?

    ROGER: Yeah.

    LESLIE: Since those are so accessible and you can just pick them up at a home center, do you still need to follow those same rules: check with your fire department and make sure that you can have one or those kind of just go under the radar?

    ROGER: An open fire is an open fire. It doesn’t matter if it’s a big one or a little one.


    ROGER: Check.


    TOM: Good advice. Roger Cook from TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    ROGER: You’re welcome.

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

    Still to come, holiday season is peak break-in season. Do you know your home’s weakest link? Well, we do and we’ll share that tip, after this.

    Where home solutions live, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Post your question to The Money Pit’s Community page, right now, or call us at 888-MONEY-PIT and we will toss your name into this week’s giveaway, which is the Arrow Fastener Tool Package worth 400 bucks. It includes the T50 Staple Guns; there’s three different models. You also get the Pro High-Temp Glue Gun and the brand spanking-new RT90PT Pneumatic Rivet Tool, which delivers high-speed pneumatic-tool performance at a DIY price that most folks are just going to love. It’s great for working on cars or boats and general home repair. And it provides easy, one-hand operation to fasten any size aluminum, stainless-steel or steel rivets.

    But wait, there’s more. At Arrow Fastener, right now, there’s a cool giveaway going on, Leslie.

    LESLIE: Yeah, it’s called the 10 Weeks of Awesome. And it’s running now through December 17th. Arrow Fastener is giving away $1,000 in cash to one lucky winner and 100 tool-prize winners every week, all to introduce fun and practical ways to use those Arrow tools every day for your DIY and crafting projects. Sign up today at

    TOM: That Arrow Fastener Tool Package going out to one listener drawn at random. Make that you. Call us, right now, at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Heading over to Missouri where James has a painting question. What can we do for you today?

    JAMES: Well, I have some 60-year-old cedar lap siding and I was wondering what type of paint would stick best to it.

    TOM: This cedar siding, has it ever been painted, Jim?

    JAMES: Yes.

    TOM: Was it painted or stained?

    JAMES: It was painted.

    TOM: So, the most important thing here is going to be the prep. You’re going to want to sand down the old paint to make sure that you’re removing any loose material that’s been left behind. And then you’re going to want to prime it. And I would recommend that you use an oil-based primer on that and – because that’s going to give you really good adhesion for the topcoat.

    Then, beyond that, you can use a good-quality exterior latex paint on top of the oil-based primer. But you want to make sure that you purchase the best-quality paint like, for example, Benjamin Moore or Sherwin-Williams. Because better paint is going to have more titanium dioxide, which is the colorant that’s in that paint. And it’s going to give you the best bang for your buck and last the longest.

    888-666-3974. This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show.

    Well, it’s peak break-in season. The FBI says there are more than 400,000 burglaries in November and December alone. So, this holiday season, home security should be a concern for anyone that’s planning an extended visit to family or friends. And one place to pay particular attention to is your garage door. You know, they can be actually pretty vulnerable to break-ins, so it’s a good time to take steps to make sure it’s harder for those burglars to breach that garage.

    LESLIE: Yeah. First, if you are leaving for an extended period of time, you want to detach your electric garage-door opener. Now, most electric garage-door openers have a rope or a chain that you pull and that’s going to disconnect the electric motor from the chain that operates the door. That way, if a thief uses a frequency-scanning device to obtain your code, it’s going to be of no use; they won’t be able to open it.

    TOM: Yeah. Now, next, you want to install a manual, sliding, bolt-style lock on the inside of your garage door that can only be opened from the inside. Just remember to enter through your front door when you return.

    LESLIE: And you want to make sure that the garage door is properly functioning and that there’s no damage to any of the panels that the thief could use to get in. If you have windows, you cover them up to keep any prying eyes away.

    TOM: Now, lastly, if you’ve got a door that leads from the garage door to the house, make sure that that door is as secure as any other entry door. You want to have both a key and a deadbolt lock.

    And if you’d like some more holiday home security tips, they are online at, including how to make sure your utilities don’t misbehave when you’re away. We’ve got a checklist to teach you what you need to turn off and leave on before you head out the door.

    LESLIE: Mark in Illinois is on the line with a question about heating a bathroom. How can we help you?

    MARK: Well, I was wondering if it would be cost-effective to run floor heat off of my gas water heater in my bathroom.

    TOM: No. First of all, you have the initial installation of the piping under the floor. Secondly, a water heater produces hot water at around 110 degrees, which is not nearly warm enough to warm your floor. A boiler, on the other hand, is going to come out much, much hotter, more like maybe 160 degrees. And so, you really can’t use a water heater to provide enough heat to deliver radiant heat.

    Now, if – is this a new bathroom you’re putting in, Mark?

    MARK: No. Matter of fact, it’s – there’s a crawlspace under it, too.

    TOM: So, I think that you’re probably best just insulating that floor and not trying to heat it, because it’s an awful lot of work for just a bathroom to add that.

    MARK: Right. Well, that answers my question.

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

    LESLIE: Well, should you do it yourself or not? That is the question. Just ahead, we’re going to dive into that question for a listener, with a project that seems simple but maybe not if you add in the cost of an emergency-room visit. We’re going to share that story, next.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at Give us a call, right now, on The Money Pit’s listener line at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor.

    LESLIE: Yeah, 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 the type of job, HomeAdvisor makes it fast and easy to hire a pro you can trust.

    LESLIE: Speaking of trusting pros, you’ve got Tom and me right now. And we are answering some questions posted on the Community section, just like Jillian wrote from Oregon. She writes: “My roof barely gets any sun with all of the shade trees around here. It gets very stained as a result. Many of them are evergreens, so the sun doesn’t even get through in the winter. Could I try to thin out the branches myself?”

    That sounds like big trees, lots of climbing, sharp objects.

    TOM: Very dangerous. Yeah, I mean there are so many ways that it could go bad for you, Jillian. I would not tell you to do it yourself. I would, however, tell you that you’re on the right track. If you get the tree shade – thinned out so that you get more sunlight on there, that’s the best sort of natural mildicide.

    Now, short of that, you could apply a product called Spray & Forget, which will kill the mold, the moss, the mildew and the algae that’s staining your roof right now. Takes a week or two for it to start to work, because it reacts with sunlight to kind of do the job. But that’s a really good option, as well.

    But I don’t think doing your own tree trimming is a very wise move. You could really get hurt. There’s a lot of issues of balance of yourself on a ladder and also, you don’t necessarily know, unless you do it all the time, how the tree branches are going to react when you start cutting them away. So I would definitely not recommend that you do that yourself.

    LESLIE: Alright. Here’s a post from Jack who writes: “How do I check to see if I have lead pipes? My home was built in 1922 and I’m concerned.”

    TOM: Yeah, well, that’s a good question. So I think the easiest place to do that is to go to the main water pipe where it goes out through, usually, a basement or a crawlspace wall. And it’s probably not apparent just looking at it. But if you were to take a utility knife and scrape the side of the pipe, if it’s a lead pipe it’s going to get really, bright, shiny silver. I can assure you it’s not a silver pipe, so it’s probably a lead pipe. Lead is a pretty soft material and it’ll be very obvious to you very quickly.

    Of course, you can also do a water test but I think, you know, the visual is probably the best way to go.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we have a post from Susan who writes: “I’m trying to solve a problem with peeling paint. The paint in my son’s room just pulls off in long strips and looks like rubber. I want to repaint the room but I have no idea how to handle the areas where the paint is peeling off. What can I do?”

    It sounds like there’s just way too much paint.

    TOM: Yeah. And you know what? If the paint is not sticking, you cannot put good paint over bad paint, folks. So if the paint is not sticking, you absolutely have to take all of that off.

    And then what I would do, Susan, is because we have sort of an uncertain surface here, I would prime it with a good adhesive – a good oil-based primer or a solvent-based primer. And once you do that, then you could go ahead and put any topcoat you want on top of it after that. It’ll never fall off.

    But if you have an adhesion issue, there’s nothing else you can do but pull off that old paint.

    LESLIE: Susan, what happens over the years, as all of those layers just come on the wall, one layer just stops having the ability to stick to the other one and it kind of just creates a weak spot in the wall and the paint itself. That’s called “delaminating.” You’re going to see it just separating, which you are.

    So Tom is right: you just kind of have to get down to a bare surface and start over. And that’s truly going to be the best thing for a beautifully painted room.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Hey, thank you so much for spending this hour with us. We hope we’ve given you some tips and ideas to help improve your home. Remember, you can reach out to us, 24/7, at 888-MONEY-PIT or you can follow us online at, on our Pinterest site, our Twitter site or our Instagram site. Always trying to put out there some good tips, good advice and help things move right along in your home.

    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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