Toughest Easy-Clean Kitchen Countertops & More

  • counter_countertop_kitchen_sink_8163240_blog
  • Transcript

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: On a beautiful May weekend, we are here to help you with your home improvement projects. Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Got a great show planned for you this hour. We’re going to talk about kitchens. You know, they can feel like Grand Central Station, right? I mean whether it’s the food being prepped, all the electronics being charged or those car keys that get dropped, the countertops are the part of that kitchen that bear the brunt of all that wear and tear. So we’re going to share some tips on the most durable and easiest-to-maintain countertops, just ahead.

    LESLIE: And are you trying to enjoy the warm weather outside but noisy neighbors or street traffic are making it difficult? We’re going to have a natural solution so you can get some peace and quiet.

    TOM: Plus, it’s a great time of year for outdoor projects. And if you want to step up your space, we’re going to have some tips on the easiest and most affordable way to create grill surrounds, fire pits, benches and even outdoor kitchens by simply stacking blocks.

    LESLIE: And if you give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT, we’re giving away a great product that can help keep all that pesky wildlife away from your beautiful gardens, flowers and trees. We’re sending out a gallon of Bonide’s Repels-All to one listener who calls us with their home improvement question at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. You want a shot at winning a gallon of Bonide’s Repels-All? Keep those deer away? Those are the ones that are attacking our house. They eat our bushes every single year. But now we put this Repels-All on and they don’t bother. They just don’t like the taste and the bushes look fantastic.

    So, if you are dealing with situations like that, give us a call right now. You might just win that product.

    888-666-3974. Let’s get to it, Leslie. Who’s first?

    LESLIE: David in Alaska is on the line. Getting ready for the endless summer. Lots of light.

    You need some help hanging some drapes, huh?

    DAVID: I’ve got an apartment in an old building. It was built in the early 70s through the military. It’s a big cement building. It’s a place called Whittier, Alaska. And people have hung up curtain rods so many times there that all of the drywall is now gone. It’s just lumps of plaster put up there. And I’m just trying to figure out a good way to enter it.

    TOM: What’s under the lumps of plaster?

    DAVID: If you go far enough, it’s cinder block.

    TOM: OK.

    Well, Leslie, what do you think about just going right through all that soft stuff and using a Tapcon fastener?

    LESLIE: That’s probably the easiest way to do it. And Tapcons do really the best job of adhering to any form of concrete or solid rock. It is a special fastener. It’s a special attachment for your drill driver. But it will work and it will do the trick. And you do need to get some sleep.

    TOM: The screw is designed to go into masonry, so you’re just going to need to figure out how long it has to be. But I think if you attach those brackets with a Tapcon fastener – it would be a long, thin screw – then it’s never going to come out. It’ll hold those quite sturdily.

    It’s Tapcon – T-a-p-c-o-n. They’re generally available at hardware stores and home centers.

    DAVID: OK. Alright. Excellent. I’ll give it a shot.

    TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project.

    Yeah, we actually did a project with Tapcon fasteners where we were hanging vinyl shutters on a scout house, actually. The scout house was made out of concrete block, so that’s exactly what we did: we put Tapcon fasteners in all the vinyl shutters. And even though it was only very light vinyl, the screws held them very securely so the winds and the rain didn’t tear them off.

    LESLIE: Now, Tom, do you ever find that when you’re using a Tapcon, you have to put a piece of wire or something into the hole so that as the Tapcon goes into the stone or the concrete or whatever it is, it has a little extra to grip onto?

    TOM: Sometimes, I’ve had to do that if I’d used lead shields, which is the other way to do that. If you’re drilling into concrete block – matter of fact, I was hanging a sign at the same project and we were using lead shields. And sometimes, when you drill through lead shields, the drill gets a little sloppy and big. So what we did in that case is just to hold the lead shield in piece, we took electrical tape and wrapped it around the outside of it, just to make it a little thicker. And then it stayed in place. Because, then, as you drive the screw or the bolt into it, it expands and becomes really, really right.

    So, sometimes you have to fill the holes with a little bit of something, just to make it bite until it can get in deeper and do its job.

    LESLIE: All good tips but definitely the right tool to use.

    Judy in Louisiana, you’ve got The Money Pit. What are you working on?

    JUDY: Hi. I was asking about mildew and mold on brick. How do I get it off the easiest way? I mean it’s outside. How do I get it off the easiest way without damaging the mortar?

    TOM: So, there’s a variety of products out there that can do that. And these cleaners, essentially, saturate the mold or the moss or the mildew and then they break down the fibers. And then rain, essentially, washes it away.

    They’re slow working. It’s not like you’re going to do it once and it’ll be done. But it will get clean. So, there’s products like Spray & Forget or Wet & Forget and there’s Concrobium. Zinsser has one. And all of those products are basically a mildicide that is designed to kill that material.

    I used them on a roof of a shed last year that was literally totally covered with moss. And I just happened to notice this past weekend, because we were out doing some work on the yard, that I could see all the shingles again as if it never existed. So it just basically melted it all away.

    So that’s the way to do that. You can pressure-wash some of that off but if you do it, you just have to use a gentle pressure washer so that you don’t destroy the surfaces underneath.

    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 at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor, the fast and easy way to find the best home service pros in your area. You can read reviews and book appointments all online.

    And just ahead on The Money Pit, do your countertops look like they could use a redo? Well, we’re going to share some tips on the most durable and easiest-to-maintain countertops, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Give us a call, right now, with your home improvement project at 1-888-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.

    I did a minor remodel this weekend.

    LESLIE: Yeah? What are you working on?

    TOM: I think it’s a good example of how you can repurpose and reuse things that may be lying around your yard. In my case, there was a patio that was broken up many years ago. And I’m talking 20 years ago. And it was broken up into these concrete sort of squares that were roughly 18 inches square.

    Well, I had a little stoop I had to build for the back door of my garage, because it’s slightly below grade. And I had done it about three times out of pressure-treated lumber and it kept rotting. So I’m like, “You know what? I’m going to do this one more time and I’m not going to do it with wood.” And I was able to take all of those squares that had been sort of stacked up in a back corner of the yard for years and had ivy growing on them and stuff. And I’m like, “I’m going to go dig those out, because I think I can make use of them.” And sure enough, I used about 10 or 12 of them. Built a nice, little stoop, a little retaining wall around it and didn’t cost me a dime.

    And so that’s just one example of how, sometimes, just what you need to take on a project could be just lying about in your house or in my case, in my yard.

    LESLIE: You never know where you’re going to find a good treasure.

    TOM: Hey, give us a call right now if you’ve got a home improvement question. Now that it’s so beautiful out, if you’re noticing wildlife is loving your property as much as you are, you might want to think about adding the Bonide Repels-All Animal Repellant to your to-do list. We’ve got a gallon to give away this hour. It’s an all-natural product. It protects the desirable plants and structures for up to two months. And it’s battery-powered for easy application.

    It’s worth 49.99. Going out to one listener drawn at random. Make that you. Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: David is on the line and needs some help with some spring cleaning. What can we do for you today?

    DAVID: I need to get a power washer to power-wash my house.

    TOM: OK.

    DAVID: What PSI should I try to get?

    TOM: Yeah, they come in a wide range of PSIs or pounds per square inch. Number of things you want to consider. You want to consider the PSI, also how many gallons per minute the pressure washer is going to deliver, the size of the motor. Is this going to be gasoline or electric pressure washer you want to buy?

    DAVID: I don’t know. I’m open to suggestions.

    TOM: Electric is going to be a lot less expensive and easier to maintain, as long as you can get a cord around the house where you need to use it. And there’s a new one out from Greenworks that’s – they have different PSIs but there’s one that’s in the 1,800 range. It’s under 200 bucks. It’s a nice machine.

    DAVID: OK.

    TOM: And the other thing that we like about it is it comes with five different types of nozzles. So, if you’re doing a gentle surface, like wood siding, you use one. And if you’re blasting away grime on concrete, then you use another one. And if you’re cleaning the rims on your car tires, then you use a different one. And they all store on board. And there’s also a soap tank, which is super handy.

    So, those are the kinds of features and power that you want to evaluate. But something in that area is very general purpose and it can do a really good job in all of those areas around the house.

    DAVID: OK. And the second thing, in the rear of my house I have a little mold on the vinyl. Does using a regular bleach cleaner – would that just work or do you have to get those special ones that mold …?

    TOM: Yeah. I mean you could mix up a bleach-and-water solution for this or you could purchase a mildicide. There’s a wide array of house-wash products out there. I know Simple Green has a good line of them, for example.

    And you’re going to want to apply it to that surface and let it sit for a bit. And then, again, with the right tip on the pressure washer, you can wash vinyl siding without any fear of damaging it. But if you use the wrong tip, you’re going to shoot holes in it. So, just get used to the machine and it can really do all these jobs for you.

    DAVID: OK. So, bottom line, what PSI would you suggest I get?

    TOM: I think something around 1,800 is going to be fine for most general-purpose house cleaning.

    DAVID: OK. Well, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much for answering my question.

    TOM: You’re very welcome.

    Well, kitchen counters serve as the work surface for family life. It’s where we prepare food, we eat family meals, maybe even pay the bills and help with the homework. But that’s why choosing a material for those counters that can stand up is really important. So, if you’re ready to replace your counter or you’re doing a new kitchen, here’s a few things to consider, starting off with natural stone.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Natural stone is probably one of the most popular choices out there. People love the look of natural stone. It adds richness and depth to the space and it really makes it a great choice for kitchens and baths.

    Now, granite and quartz have become sort of the gold standard of late. They’re both beautiful but both can be very costly. A small bathroom, though, can provide the opportunity for a luxe-looking makeover on a budget.

    TOM: Now, solid-surface countertops are another good option. They look great and they offer a bit of design flexibility, because they can be custom-made to fit your needs. Look, if you have granite and quartz, you can be custom-making those but you can’t get too custom because it’s rock, right? But with solid-surface material, you have a lot of flexibility.

    We have these countertops and they’re durable and they’re stain-resistant, they’re easy to install and they’re affordable. The only downside for us was we made a bad color choice for the sink. Don’t choose white sink when you live in an Italian household, because it doesn’t stand up well to tomato sauce. And we need to keep the boni (ph) handy to always scrub it clean after a big meal.

    LESLIE: That’s a good point, though. You have to be careful with the surface that you pick and the type of messes that you make.

    TOM: Yep.

    LESLIE: Now, if you’re a do-it-yourselfer, ceramic tile really has the most size, shape, color, texture and pattern options out there. It’s durable, it’s stain-resistant, it’s easy to install and it’s affordable. But that grout does need some help. It needs to be sealed so that you prevent staining.

    Finally, butcher block, it’s beautiful and natural but it really does need a lot more care than I think people think or know to do, especially because you’ve got to prevent the absorption of E. coli bacteria. So, easy to keep and have but you have to take care of it if you choose to do the butcher block.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. Do you have a kitchen project on your to-do list? Thinking about taking – this time of spring, we start thinking about kitchens. Summer we get more motivated. And September and October, we are great guns all fast-forward, full-speed ahead, let’s get her done before Thanksgiving. So, now is the time to start planning. Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Sharon in Illinois is on the line who’s dealing with a lot of leaky copper pipes. Tell us what’s going on.

    SHARON: We have a concrete slab for our home, with copper pipe in it. And we’ve been having some leaks – some bad leaks – and I have paid a plumber a lot of money. And he mentioned that there was a year that there were some defective copper pipes. And I’m trying to find out what year.

    TOM: Are you suffering from pinhole leaks? Is that what he said?

    SHARON: I believe so, yes.

    TOM: Pinhole leaks is a condition in copper plumbing that’s caused by the acidity in the water. And the problem is that there’s not a lot that you can do about it, short of replacing your pipes.


    TOM: It’s something that develops slowly and the strategies for dealing with this are to either repair the leaks as they develop or to simply plan and budget for a major upgrade of all of the parts of the plumbing that you can actually get to. Because over time, they’re only going to get worse.

    SHARON: Yeah. Well, we fixed the leak on the south end of our house and now, today, we finished the leak on the north end of the house. But I just wondered if there was some – we’ve had two other structures that were built on a concrete slab that have never had one problem.

    TOM: Yeah, it’s not the slab; it’s the acidity of the water. If you head on over to our website at and you search “pinhole leaks in copper pipes,” you will find a detailed article that I put together on this a couple of years back, that will give you all of the different types of pitting that are associated with copper pipes.

    SHARON: Yeah. Oh.

    TOM: But it really has to do with the pH of the water.

    SHARON: In the water.

    TOM: Mm-hmm. Yep.

    SHARON: Well, I just thought maybe – as the plumber said, he said there was a year that there was defective copper – rolled copper – and we thought, “Well, maybe that was the year this house was built,” you know.

    TOM: I don’t think it’s necessarily a specific year of defective copper; I think it’s just the pH of the water that’s going through those pipes that’s causing it.

    SHARON: Thank you, sir.

    LESLIE: Jim in Tennessee is on the line and is dealing with some bees.

    What kind of bees? Are they all over? Are you getting stung? What’s happening?

    JIM: We have a log cabin, East Tennessee. And shortly after we built it, we started having a problem with boring bees.

    LESLIE: Ah, carpenter bees.

    JIM: So, these are giant bumblebees that so far have not stung anybody.

    LESLIE: They have big, black, shiny tushies and they can drill a perfect hole in all wood surfaces, 5/8-inches around.

    TOM: Yep. Yep.

    JIM: They’ve decided to make our cabin their home, as well. And about this time of the year, we’re inundated with thousands of bees. We’ve had exterminators come through and nothing seems to eradicate them.

    TOM: I don’t know what material they’re applying but usually, the right pesticide will prevent them from coming back. What they’re basically doing is they’re drilling holes in wood surfaces. And then they go in those holes and they lay eggs. And then they just kind of let them sit there and hatch. Now, with the right types of pesticide – usually, there’s a powdered pesticide that they actually put into the holes and around there – that will stop that.

    Now, is it happening in the logs themselves or is it on the fascia and the trim?

    JIM: No, it’s every – pretty much everywhere.

    TOM: Wow, yeah.

    JIM: It’s in the log and it’s in the fascia and trim, as well.

    TOM: Yeah. Because the fascia and the trim – you know, I had some fascia and trim like that that was getting ravaged in a garage and I got tired of treating it every year, so I just replaced it with a composite material. And it was funny because the first year after that, the bees kept flying around it thinking, “Hey, looks like wood but doesn’t taste like wood.” So, they eventually gave up and didn’t come back.

    But it sounds to me like you’re just not dealing with the right type of pest-control professional, because I don’t understand why if they’re applying some of the standard products that are out there – which you can’t buy, by the way, because they’re not over the counter – that these bees keep coming back.

    JIM: Right. Well, we have a home contract for a pest-control company. And we’ve had them since we built the house. And they’ve applied treatments several times but it doesn’t seem to really eradicate the bees.

    TOM: I can’t give you a specific pesticide but I will tell you that insecticidal dust is typically what works best. It has to be applied to the holes, even inside of those holes. And then once it’s inside of them, you do not want to seal up the holes; you want to let it sit and do its job. And then after the season, so to speak, then you should seal up the holes. Because if you don’t, they’ll come back. But you want to make sure that all the bees have been killed. Because if you don’t make sure they’re all killed, they’ll just keep drilling to find new spaces, because you sealed off the ones that they had. But if you apply the insecticidal dust, that will do it.

    And then after you have it all sealed up, then you might want to think about staining or refinishing those outside surfaces, because that will also discourage bee infestation. It’s typically paints or stains with any kind of a varnish. They’re not going to like the taste of that stuff.

    JIM: OK. Alright. Great.

    TOM: Alright? Yep. Good luck with that project and thank you, again, for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit.

    Hey, when you open your windows to bring in fresh air, does a bunch of noise come with it? This Old House landscaping contractor Roger Cook will be here with a natural solution for some peace and quiet, next.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Give us a call, right now, with your home improvement project, your décor dilemma at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by Never worry about overpaying for a job. Just use HomeAdvisor’s True Cost Guide to see what others paid for a similar project. It’s all online, for free, at

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Stan in Oregon who’s dealing with a hot-water issue. Tell us what’s going on. It doesn’t come out that great or that hot? What’s happening?

    STAN: It comes out but it just makes a lot of noise. It does a lot of spitting, kind of like there’s air in the lines, just like when you purge the line sometimes and then you put the pressure back on and it takes you a while to get the air out? It makes the same kind of a sound. And it only does it on the hot-water side and it does it in every faucet in the house: the tubs and the sinks. All the same, only on the hot-water side.

    TOM: Does it do it when it’s off for a while?

    STAN: Yes.

    TOM: Now, what kind of water heater do you have? Is it gas or electric?

    STAN: It’s electric.

    TOM: OK. Have you checked the heating coils?

    STAN: No, I haven’t.

    TOM: Sometimes if you have a bad heating coil, this can be a condition that occurs. Is this fairly new in terms of you seeing the air spurt out of the faucets?

    STAN: No. It’s been like that. I just bought the house about a year ago and the house has been sitting empty for about two years.

    TOM: OK.

    STAN: It was a foreclosure that I bought, so I have no idea.

    TOM: Here’s what I would do. Now, there’s an easy way to test this but you need to kind of know what you’re doing. So this might not be a do-it-yourself project, alright? I’m warning you, because it involves electricity.

    But the way you check an electric water heater out is you turn the power off at the panel and then you expose the – you open the – take the covers off so you can see the coils. And then what you can do is with a continuity tester, you can check each coil to see if the power passes through it. You have to take one wire off of one side; otherwise, you’ll be checking it sort of backwards. But you could check continuity on each coil to see if the coil isn’t working.

    STAN: OK.

    TOM: So you’ll still have hot water even if only one of the two coils is working but you’ll run out quicker.

    STAN: Right. Uh-huh.

    TOM: And this may be the norm for you: maybe you don’t know that you’re only using your water heater at half its capacity. But I would check the coils first because that could be what’s causing so much air to be in the system. It’s just not heating the water enough.

    STAN: Thank you. I appreciate your time and thank you for the information.

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

    LESLIE: Well, road noise assaulting your ears day in and day out can really wear on your nerves and interfere with the peace and quiet you want to feel when you’re at home.

    TOM: But if you’d like to muffle the noise before it even reaches your walls, you might want to consider adding trees to create a natural and a beautiful sound barrier in your yard. Here to tell us how is This Old House landscaping expert Roger Cook.

    Welcome, Roger.

    ROGER: Thanks for having me.

    TOM: So, many people use fences to quiet a yard but that can only help so much, right?

    ROGER: Right. Because there’s restrictions on how high a fence can be. The great thing about using trees is there’s no restriction on how high they can get.

    TOM: Yeah, that’s a good point.

    So, trees reduce the perception of noise by sort of creating a visual barrier between the source and the hearer. But people are also less conscious of noise if they can’t see the source, right?

    ROGER: Exactly. It’s a study that was done that says if you can’t see where the noise is coming from, it mentally blocks some of the sound.

    LESLIE: That’s interesting.

    TOM: You can’t see it if it doesn’t exist.

    LESLIE: Right.

    ROGER: Right. There you go. Yeah.

    But noise is noise and it’s very interesting how it can weave its way through different things to get to where you want to be.

    LESLIE: So when it comes to placement of these trees, do you want it to be closer to the noise source, closer to the house or can you go right in the middle?

    ROGER: Right in the middle is probably the worst spot. Ideally, you want to be as close to the noise source as you can.

    LESLIE: And I think in your ideal mind, you want these bushes or shrubs or trees, whatever you’re using, to be really close to one another. But you’ve got to give them the proper space to sort of grow into their own, right?

    ROGER: Well, it’s a fine line on what you want to accomplish right away. And you can pick certain types of trees that will grow upright so that they will grow into each other and become a living hedge, which could get 8, 10, 12 feet tall and really knock down the noise. If you pick out trees that get too big, then you’re going to end up pruning off some of the branches, which will let the sound through again.

    LESLIE: Right.

    TOM: Now, when it comes to choosing the trees, I guess you want to decide if you’re going to have this deciduous tree, so that’s going to leaf in the spring and the summer, or an evergreen that’s going to be green all year round. Because without the leaves, you’re certainly not going to get the same kind of sound protection, right?

    ROGER: Right. So it depends where the noise is coming from and what’s bothering you. Are you out on your patio when this noise is bothering you and is it different in the winter? If it’s just when you’re out on the patio, then you could use big, deciduous trees with large, large leaves on them to knock down the noise. If it’s something you’re trying to – like road noise you’re trying to block all year round, then you’re better off going with evergreens.

    TOM: Now, before you make that final determination, I guess it’s important to know your hardiness zone?

    ROGER: Yes. You know, there is a USDA map that shows everyone’s hardiness zone. And you want plants that’ll survive and grow well in that zone, so it’s important to pick out the right plants for the right spot.

    LESLIE: Yeah, we used Leyland cypress to do this in our yard.

    ROGER: Yeah.

    LESLIE: And I mean it’s amazing how tall they’ve grown over the 11 years we’ve had the house. They’ve been 20 feet tall consistently since about 3 years after we planted them. They’re fantastic.

    ROGER: Right.

    TOM: And how is the noise working out?

    LESLIE: Those neighbors moved but it was a really …

    TOM: See? So they worked perfectly.

    LESLIE: It worked great. But it really was an excellent sound buffer.

    ROGER: Right. But if I plant leylandii cypress up here, maybe every four or five years it gets so cold they get knocked back or killed.

    LESLIE: Really?

    ROGER: Yep. So we use arborvitae instead of Leyland cypress.

    TOM: So, again, you’ve really got to know your zone and choose the plant that’s appropriate for your part of the country.

    ROGER: Yeah, it’s an investment. Like Leslie just said, they grow and they grow and grow. And they only get better and better.

    LESLIE: They really do.

    ROGER: They not only knock down sound for wildlife and birds and everything else. So, choose the right plant for the right spot.

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

    ROGER: Thanks for having me.

    LESLIE: Alright. Catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For local listings and step-by-step videos of many common home improvement projects, visit

    TOM: And Ask This Old House is brought to you on PBS by Gorilla Glue.

    Still to come, we’ve got some step-by-step tips on the simple and affordable way you can create an outdoor kitchen in your very own backyard. That’s all coming up, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Give us a call, right now, with your home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor.

    LESLIE: You can get matched with top-rated home service pros in your area, 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 the best local pros.

    And hey, now that it’s so beautiful out, have you been noticing that wildlife are loving your veggie gardens as much as you are? Well, we’ve got a great product to give away that can help that. It’s called the Bonide Repels-All Animal Repellant. Got all-natural ingredients. It protects the desirable plants and structures for up to two months and it’s battery-powered for easy application.

    It’s worth almost 50 bucks but we’re giving one away to one caller drawn at random. Make that you. Call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Cynthia calling in from Brooklyn, New York is dealing with some wet-basement issues. Tell us what’s going on.

    CYNTHIA: I have a question I want to ask you about the waterproofing for the basement. Because I live here in a flood zone and then we had Hurricane Irene and was greatly affected by that.

    TOM: OK.

    CYNTHIA: So I had one company come in and they were asking like 21,000 – a little over 21,000 – to do that waterproofing. Does that sound reasonable or whatever going down there with that company?

    TOM: Absolutely, completely not reasonable.

    Now, the water problem that you had was associated with the hurricane?

    CYNTHIA: Yes, yes.

    TOM: The reason the water came in was because it was sourced on the outside of your house. In other words, when you have heavy rain like that, your gutters become overwhelmed. They dump a lot of water right at the foundation and then pretty soon the soil can’t handle the water and it drains into the house. And so I’m sure this is what happened.

    And if you’re only getting water when you have really heavy rain conditions like that, then you absolutely, positively do not need to spend $20,000-plus on a system to pump water out of your basement. What you do need to do, on a regular basis, is to make sure, first of all, that your gutters are – that they exist, that you have them, that they’re clean, that the downspouts dump the water at least 4 to 6 feet away from the house and even more than that or run them through underground pipes and take them out. And then your grading around the house, the angle of the soil slopes away. Those two things will go a long way towards preventing any further wet-basement problems.

    The problem with the waterproofers is this: they don’t make money by selling you gutter-cleaning services and extending downspouts; they only make money when they come in with their jackhammers and tear up basement floors and put in drain tile and sump pumps. And they do it whether you need it or not. And in this case, you don’t need it because you told me that this only happened when you had an extraordinary weather event like that. And that means you absolutely don’t need that service. What you do need is to make sure your drainage conditions are set up on the outside of your house. Does that make sense?

    CYNTHIA: OK. Thank you.

    TOM: You’re welcome. Good luck with that project. Saved another one from the perils of the waterproofing contractor.

    If you look at our website, Leslie, and you look at all the articles I’ve written about this and look at all the comments …

    LESLIE: They’re all from waterproofing contractors.

    TOM: Oh, they hate me. Oh, they totally hate me because I take business away from them, because I tell people the truth. They don’t – you don’t need sump pumps, you don’t need drain tile. All you need is clean gutters. It’s very, very simple.

    LESLIE: Well, if you’d like to improve your outdoor space by adding an outdoor kitchen, a fire pit, grill enclosure, planter or even a bench, there’s a really easy way that you can do that with a product called RumbleStone.

    Now, RumbleStones, which are made by Pavestone, are rustic-looking stones that come in project kits. And you simply stack them together, like Legos, in a predetermined pattern to build all sorts of popular outdoor features.

    Now, RumbleStones make it fast and easy and affordable to upgrade your backyard with amenities like an outdoor kitchen, a fire pit, a bench. The kits start at 250 bucks and they can also be used for traditional paver projects like patios, walls and even landscape borders.

    TOM: And if you want to strengthen that finished project, you can even use the QUIKRETE Advanced Polymer Construction Adhesive between the stones. So, there’s no mortar required.

    These RumbleStones are a beautiful addition to your outdoor living space. Plus, right now, there’s even a step-by-step video of a really cool outdoor kitchen, topped with a QUIKRETE concrete countertop, available online. Just head to YouTube and search “how to build an outdoor kitchen with RumbleStone and QUIKRETE Concrete Mix” and it’s all right there. Took a look at it today. It’s about seven or eight minutes long. Very well done and very informative.

    If you’d like to learn more about all the things you can build with Pavestone’s RumbleStone, visit

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

    KELLY: Yeah, I have a Craftsman-style home and it has ridge vents. But I had an energy audit just this spring and the energy audit said, “Kelly, you don’t have any soffit vents in your – around your eaves.”

    TOM: Yeah. Hmm.

    KELLY: Well, I don’t really have eaves. All of my roof ends in these exposed rafters. It does have gables and so he said, “You need to vent this house. Your house – your attic is not properly ventilated because you don’t have any way for the air to get in the bottom.”

    TOM: OK. So you have no soffit. Is that correct? Basically, it terminates?

    KELLY: That’s correct.

    TOM: So here’s the solution, OK? There’s a type of vent called a “drip-edge vent.” And what a drip-edge vent does is it essentially extends the roof line by all of about 2 inches. And that 2 inch becomes an overhang at the edge that provides the intake ventilation for the soffit.

    So, if you go the website for – it’s the Air Vent Corporation – take a look at the product selection there. Look at the Drip-Edge Vent and you’ll see exactly what I mean.

    Now, to do this, you’re going to end up taking off the bottom course of shingles and maybe even putting two shingles in its place, because you’re going to have to actually physically extend the roof by a couple of inches. But done right, you will install that soffit that you don’t have and you won’t notice it from the outside. So you’re not going to physically notice a difference in terms of the architectural style of your house but you will provide that all-important space for intake ventilation.

    KELLY: OK. Appreciate it.

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

    Are you ready to add air conditioning to your home, just in time for summer, but you’re wondering what size you really need? Well, going too big can waste energy and going too small just isn’t going to handle the heat. We’re going to share tips on how to pick the perfect size, next.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Call us, right now, with your home improvement question or post it online at

    LESLIE: That’s right. Now, Anita in Illinois writes: “I’m going to have to install a new central air-conditioning system this year. How do I know what size to get for my 1,800-square-foot, single-story home?”

    TOM: That’s a great question, Anita, because I have found, in the 20 years I spent as a home inspector, that it was very common for the air-conditioning size installed in the home to be wrong.

    Now, it’s usually too big, not too small, because folks want to be comfortable.

    LESLIE: But I feel like people think bigger is better.

    TOM: Right. But here’s the problem: if you put a system in that’s too big – a central-air system that’s too big – it short-cycles. What that means is it comes on, it cools the air really fast, then it goes off. And it comes on, it cools all the air really fast and goes off.

    The problem with short-cycling is, first of all, you use a lot more electricity. And second of all, it’s not running long enough to take the humidity out of the air. And so your house becomes sort of cold and clammy, which is a really uncomfortable situation. And when it’s damp like that, you can also grow mold.

    So, how do you know what size? Well, start with the rule of thumb: 600 square feet of house for a ton. So, 1,800-square-foot house, probably a 3-ton. But you don’t stop there. You need to figure out what your heat loss is and this is not something that you can do. There are calculators online but an HVAC pro should be able to do it.

    Heat loss, basically, is a measure of how much air-conditioning power you need to compensate for the amount of heat that will get into the house on an average summer day. And it depends a lot on things like your windows. Are they single-pane? Are they double-pane? Are they low-E glass? How much glass do you have facing the southwest sides of your house? How much insulation do you have? All of these things go into a heat-loss calculation and then you can determine exactly what you need.

    So, my point to you would be: make sure this work is done. Don’t just guess. And if somebody says, “Well, I could put a 3-ton in but maybe you should go 4,” I mean maybe that guy is just trying to sell you a bigger unit than you need. You’re going to curse it from the moment it gets turned on, because you won’t be comfortable. Just buy what you need – not too much and not too little – and you’ll be very comfortable on those warm days.

    LESLIE: Oh and you’ll be so thankful you have it.

    Alright. Next up, Danielle in New Jersey has posted: “I refinished my wood kitchen table years ago and had no problems with it. Recently, I sanded it and refinished it again. This time, I put on about four coats of an oil-based polyurethane and allowed a day of drying in between each coat. Now it sticks if anything warm sits on it: coffee cups, plates, everything. How do I fix it?”

    TOM: Ugh. Well, I think that even though it says on the label that the polyurethane would dry in a couple of hours, it’s just not true. You’ve really got to let polyurethane dry a couple of days, at least. And just putting the four coats on – first of all, you didn’t need four coats. You really just needed two, especially since you were recoating something from before, even though you sanded it. And now you’ve got it all built up there and it’s all gummed up. And I think that the underlying coats never really dried properly. I don’t think they’re ever going to dry.

    I’d tell you to take it all off. Take it all off and do it again. It’s really the best way to go. You’re really not going to be able to solve this any other way. If you wanted to try one thing, you could try using a paste wax on it, like a car wax, and see if that helps stop the stuff from sticking. But I suspect it won’t. You’re really going to have to take it down to the original wood and reapply it.

    LESLIE: But the good news, Danielle, is now you’re a pro at it. It shouldn’t be too terrible.

    TOM: Exactly. You’re really good at it. Well, it’s a practice.

    LESLIE: And that – ugh, that really is the worst. I’m so sorry, Danielle. I know exactly how sucky that is. But good luck. It’s going to be awesome.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Thank you so much for stopping by. Hope we’ve given you some tips and advice on how to get those projects done around your house that were on your to-do list. You can reach us through our social-media channels. Post your question on or ping us @MoneyPit on Twitter. Or you can call us, 24/7, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …

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


    (Copyright 2019 Squeaky Door Productions, Inc. No portion of this transcript or audio file may be reproduced in any format without the express written permission of Squeaky Door Productions, Inc.)