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Tips to Prevent Frozen Pipes, Choose the Right Houseplant for Your Home, Attract Winter Birds to Your Yard, and more

  • Transcript

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And we are here to help you with your home improvement projects. So get out the tools, pick up the phone and call us. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    We’ve got a great hour planned for you. First up, the winter season is always a challenge for plumbing systems, because that is the season when pipes freeze. Then they break and then they spill water all over your lovely house, so we’re going to have some tips to make sure that doesn’t happen to you.

    LESLIE: And also ahead, when it comes to houseplants, is your thumb green or black? If it’s the latter, you could just be choosing the wrong kind of plant. Roger Cook, the landscape contractor for This Old House, will be stopping by with some tips on which plants do best indoors this time of year.

    TOM: And also ahead, don’t settle for a dreary view all winter long. You can bring some life and color into your backyard by attracting a variety of winter birds, if you know the right kind of bird feeder and food to use. And we’ll show you how.

    LESLIE: Also this hour, one randomly selected caller is going to get super-lucky and win a prize pack for your car from 3M. It’s worth 60 bucks and it includes a headlight-restoration kit.

    TOM: Yeah. And they’re all do-it-yourself projects. You figure if you can do your own home improvement projects, you certainly could tackle a few easy projects for your car and save some money, to boot. So that package, worth 60 bucks, is going out to one lucky caller that reaches us with their home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Tim on the line who’s dealing with a big crack in a driveway, causing some unevenness. Tell us what’s going on.

    TIM: Well, I have a concrete driveway. It’s 3 inches thick; I found that out after I saw the crack in the driveway. And they poured this driveway in one – as far as width. And they put it – it’s probably 16-foot wide and they poured it in 16×12-foot sections with – it looks like fracture pieces in it instead of the actual expansion joints? And where it goes over my drop – the ditch over my cupboard – it has a spot about a – 1 foot in a triangle – 1 foot by 1 foot by 1 foot – where it has dropped.

    And I’m trying to find some way to bring that piece back up level with the rest. That way, I can see – I’ve already had it sealed but I put a silicone in there along the joints to keep any further erosion from happening.

    TOM: How big is the piece that’s dropped? You said – is it cracked 1 foot by 1 foot by 1 foot?

    TIM: Yes. It’s a 1-foot triangle piece.

    TOM: So can you dig that piece out?

    TIM: No, I can’t, because it did not break on a smooth line. It fractured and it dropped down.

    TOM: Yeah. Because you know – I tell you what, I’ve broken sidewalks in half before, because I had to run pipes underneath them and then put them back in place kind of right where they were and just sort of filled them up and made it level. So, it would be sweet if you could extract that piece of concrete but I guess you can’t. And so now you’re going to have to pour a new piece.

    How thick is the – how far down has it dropped?

    TIM: The front – on the back edge of it, it’s still level. On the front, it’s probably dropped about 3 inches.

    TOM: OK. Well, not so bad. What you’re going to do is you’re going to mix up an epoxy-based, concrete-repair product that has good adhesion.

    TIM: OK.

    TOM: And then you’re going to put a second layer on that. And QUIKRETE – Q-U-I-K-R-E-T-E …

    TIM: OK.

    TOM: Yeah, you want to use the type of concrete mix that’s made to be a patch. And the difference is that it sticks to the old stuff. If you use regular concrete mix, it won’t stick. But if you use the patch mix, then it will stick. And they also have good step-by-step videos on their website to kind of show you how to do this.

    TIM: OK. Would I be better off by just knocking that one piece – that piece – out and refilling it, since it’s not that big of a piece?

    TOM: Yeah, you might be, because I want to make sure it’s stable underneath. But they – there’s a vinyl, concrete patcher product that can be used on top of this. And it’s designed to adhere to what was there before and not crack again. OK?

    TIM: I appreciate it.

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

    LESLIE: Shawnie (sp) in North Carolina needs some help with a backyard problem. What’s going on at your money pit?

    SHAWNIE (sp): And on my roof, I knew it would rain. All the water would drain toward the back, since it’s on a downslope.

    TOM: Right.

    SHAWNIE (sp): And then I had some contractor come in and connect all my downspouts and all to this black pipe. And they connected all of it and ran it out to one source toward, you know, that little creek. And in doing so – I mean everything was fine; it worked fine. And they thought where I was having such water problems, they sort of made a horseshoe out of the black pipe, with the Styrofoam peanuts and all of that in it.

    But what they did, when they dug around the horseshoe area, they found that that was dry. Because they figured if it was wet, it would drain and take care of the problem. But when they put that horseshoe in, wherever they put it, it was completely dry and it was further down that they realized that I had an underground spring.

    So, all of my drain pipes, everything is draining perfectly but it’s one little problem I had with that underground spring.

    TOM: But is that underground spring rising up to the point where the yard is flooding? And how much flooding are we talking about here?

    SHAWNIE (sp): It’s not necessarily flooding but it stays so wet I can’t mow it.

    TOM: It’s just wet?

    SHAWNIE (sp): And there’s a place about – I’m going to say 12-inches square-ish, maybe, that is – has puddled.

    TOM: I don’t think this is a problem worth solving. I think it’s a fairly small area of the yard. And areas of the yard that get soft like that, yeah, the grass can be hard to cut sometimes; sometimes, you have to cut it by hand instead of using a power mower on it. But I don’t think it’s worth you doing anything about it. You would have to do some major, major work to try to take the water that’s collecting there, run it downstream and have it sit somewhere else. So, I don’t think it’s necessarily a big issue.

    Shawnie (sp), 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 MoneyPit.com.

    Well, January still is the new year, even though we’re a couple of weeks in. So what are you working on to get your money pit in tip-top shape for 2013? Let us give you a hand with any and all of those projects. We’re here for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, winter math. Freezing weather equals freezing pipes. We’ll have tips to help you avoid that disaster, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Give us a call right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT with your home improvement question. If you do, we’ll toss your name into The Money Pit hard hat, because we’re giving away a prize package from 3M today that you can use to give your car a little do-it-yourself makeover. It includes a scratch-removal system, a headlight-restoration kit and a door-edge protector film that protects high-traffic areas from wear and tear. Check it out at 3MAuto.com.

    It’s worth 60 bucks. Going to go out to one caller chosen at random from those that call us on today’s show. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Next up, we’ve got John in Ocean City, New Jersey on the line who, unfortunately, lost some insulation during Hurricane Sandy.

    John, tell us, how’s the house? What can we help you with?

    JOHN: Well, I lost the insulation when Sandy came in and inundated my house. But I was very fortunate; the water came within 1 inch of getting into the house.

    TOM: Wow.

    JOHN: So I was very lucky that way. But now I’m faced with replacing the insulation and I’m concerned as to whether I should put the regular fiberglass back or this blown-in type. There’s a type that they – that comes in and it swells up and blows in. And I was wondering whether I should go that route.

    TOM: Well, when you say “blown-in,” are you talking about the expandable-foam insulation?

    JOHN: Yes, yes, yes.

    TOM: OK. So, listen, even if that got wet, if it was closed-cell, it wouldn’t have been a problem; if it was open-cell, you would have the same problem. Do I think that this is necessarily, based on the experience you had with this particular hurricane, a necessity? No. But it’s not a bad idea. I mean the advantage of that type of insulation, especially in a windy area like the coast of New Jersey, is that not only does it insulate but it seals out drafts.

    So, if it’s cost-effective, by all means, I would give that a shot. That said, as you said, the water came within an inch of your house and we all know that Hurricane Sandy was an extraordinary event that is not very likely to repeat itself, at least in terms of the height of the water. And so, therefore, if it was my house, I would not also hesitate to replace that with standard, fiberglass-batt insulation, as well.

    JOHN: So you think I – the blown-in might be a good idea?

    TOM: I think the blown-in is a fine idea. It will be more expensive and that’s what you need to measure.

    JOHN: Right.

    TOM: I’m sure you have a lot of expenses, as most people that were victims of that storm do. That said, I see nothing wrong with going back with fiberglass insulation, because I don’t think it’s likely that you’ll have to replace that any time in the near future. And frankly, it’s not that expensive to do that in a crawlspace.

    JOHN: One of the recommendations was an R-19, encapsulated fiberglass insulation. They’re right around $3 a square foot.

    TOM: Yeah. If that’s fiberglass-batt insulation, that’s pretty standard. And encapsulated simply means it’s inside of a vapor-barrier bag. But look, it’s not expensive. You can see that stuff at the home center. It’s probably $25, $30 a package, so it’s very inexpensive and it’ll do a good job.

    JOHN: Well, thank you so much for your help.

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

    Well, frozen pipes are a pretty common plumbing problem in winter and they can really wreak havoc on your home and your budget. But there are a few things that you can do to prevent them.

    First off, you want to make sure that you’re insulating all water and heating lines that are located in unheated crawlspaces, attics and basements. Drafts can freeze these uninsulated pipes in a matter of just hours. Now, how do you do that? Well, you can use foam tubes or fiberglass tubes or fiberglass pipe wrap.

    Now, on very cold nights, it’s also a good idea to open the doors to any under-sink cabinets that are located along outside walls. This actually helps the warmth of your house work its way into the cabinet and prevents it from becoming its very own ice chest.

    LESLIE: If you notice the same pipe freezing year after year, consider having that pipe rerun through a warmer section of your house. It’s also a good idea to keep your heating zones above 55 degrees all winter long.

    TOM: Definitely. You’re always better off spending a little extra on energy bills than for repairs.

    And speaking of repairs, if you’ve got one on your to-do list, call us; we can help, 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Dina in Iowa is on the line with a flooring question. How can we help you?

    DINA: My husband and I – about, oh, probably three or four years ago – did some remodeling in our kitchen. And we decided on getting some of the laminate, fake-travertine floor.

    TOM: OK.

    DINA: And we went to our local Habitat for Humanity store and got – they’re like planks; they’re planks of the floor. And we installed them and they looked beautiful. But over the course of the last couple years, things have fallen and chunks have come out. Like some places it’s just a scratch here or there but in other places there are some chunks. And luckily, the floor has kind of a brown-rock appearance, so some of them aren’t noticeable. But there is one that’s fairly large and once you start looking, you can see just how many there are.

    So, we can’t go back to the store and get more, because it’s a ReStore; they only have limited quantities. And really, replacing all that is going to be really tough. I didn’t know if you had a way to fix this or any suggestions?

    TOM: Well, there’s a lot of difference in the quality of laminate floors and some are going to be more durable than others. For those that are not aware, laminate floors are similar to laminate countertops except, for the most part, they’re about 20 times more durable.

    Now, if you know the manufacturer of the floor – I don’t know if that’s possible. Most manufacturers actually have a sort of touch-up compound. It comes typically in a tube – it looks like a toothpaste tube – where you can actually squeeze some of the stuff out and patch the floor and come up with a color that’s reasonably close. If you don’t have that, you may be able to find one from another manufacturer that’s close to this.

    DINA: OK. I do remember we looked at the flooring. I don’t remember the name but I do remember it was a major name brand, because we looked it up online to read about it.

    TOM: OK.

    DINA: So, I think we may have one or two squares somewhere; maybe I can look on the back and give them a call. That’s great information.

    TOM: Yeah. If you can do that, I bet you you’ll find that they do have a repair product for the floor. Because you’re not the first one that’s dropped something on the floor and had a chip.

    LESLIE: And you’re not going to be the last one.

    DINA: Right. OK. Well, thank you. That’s good information. I didn’t even think to look back at the company, so I will do that.

    TOM: You’re very welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT and good luck with that project.

    DINA: Thank you.

    LESLIE: Bob in Oregon is on the line with a roofing question. What’s going on?

    BOB: Well, I had some people saw – and add a roof over a deck on a house, making the deck into a porch. And they – when they nailed the new ledger onto the old soffit, I had told them to get up underneath the existing shingles with flashing, to go over top of the new roofing and so forth so the water continuation – the drainage. And they didn’t do that. I’ve found out since then that there’s probably a reason why they didn’t and that is because the old roofing on the house is very, very well nailed down – about on 2-inch centers – and plying out all those nails would be a problem.

    And so they just put the new roofing up against – as close as they could over top of the new ledger. But it doesn’t – of course, it doesn’t seal. So the water comes down the old roofing and then runs down between the two and down onto the deck – down onto the porch. And I heard you talking about a product that you were giving away, whether you were going to have a joined floor or whatever. And I said, “Hey, that sounds like exactly what I might need: a liquid rubber.”

    TOM: Yeah, you’re talking about the Ames’ Blue Max, which is a great product. But it’s not designed to patch a roof installation that was just done horribly wrong to begin with.

    And so, my advice on this would be to fix it once, fix it right and not have to deal with it again, by making the proper roof repair which, in your case, is going to involve pulling some of the roof material off of the house so that you can take the roof from the overhang – the new overhang now – and work it up under those shingles properly.

    BOB: That’s what I’m trying to avoid, if I can, because, of course, the edge of the existing roof is tarred down pretty well. In fact, real well, because I did that myself a few years ago.

    TOM: Right.

    BOB: And it’s nailed down very, very well.

    TOM: I understand that. But anything else is not going to be a permanent repair. And I really feel like removing that roof is the right way to go here so that you have a properly flashed seam. And it’s going to be important to keep that dry, it’s going to prevent rot if the water leaks through there and it’s going to add to your home value, because it’ll be properly done.

    LESLIE: Clarence in Nebraska is on the line with a basement that’s cracking up and he wants to fix it. What can we do for you today?

    CLARENCE: Yeah. I had a contractor come in and pull my basement walls back. And I’ve got these cracks in the mortar. Some are pretty big; other ones are hairline. What can I do to fix that? Do you have to cut it out or is there a tool you can chip it out and then re-tuckpoint that or what do you think?

    TOM: The common mistake is kind of what you just explained. When you say “tuckpoint,” you’re assuming that you’re going to put more concrete or mortar mix into that crack. And that’s not going to work, because the patch in the wall surrounding it are going to have different expansion and contraction rates.

    So, concrete-product manufacturers have products designed specifically for crack repair, because they’re flexible and designed to stick to the old concrete surface. So, for example, you could go to QUIKRETE.com – Q-U-I-K-R-E-T-E. They have a concrete-repair product that comes in a tube; it looks like a caulk tube.

    And you apply it with a caulk gun and it’s like a sanded acrylic latex formula and it’s designed specifically for crack repair. You can buy it in a 10-ounce size or a 5½-ounce sort of squeeze-tube size. And you can fill the cracks in with that. You know it’s going to dry solid and it’s not going to open up again. And it’s good for either vertical or horizontal applications.

    So you want to use a product like that that’s designed specifically for crack repair because if you don’t, Clarence, it’s just going to fall out and you’ll be doing the same thing over and over again.

    CLARENCE: Hmm. Try to re-crack. I don’t know if it would fall out, would it?

    TOM: Well, it may and very often, it does, especially if you get any moisture in there, as well. If it’s a basement wall and it gets cold, you get some frost heave, it can pop out. So, I would use the product that’s designed for it and that’s just one by QUIKRETE. And I’m sure that that will work out for you, OK?

    CLARENCE: Thank you very much.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. You don’t have to have a green thumb to have beautiful houseplants; you just have to know how to pick the right ones. Roger Cook from This Old House is going to stop by to tell us how, after this.

    NORM: Hi. I’m Norm Abram from This Old House and when we’re working on our projects, we listen to The Money Pit.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: On air and online at MoneyPit.com.

    Hey, would you like to know how to beef up your home security without spending a lot of cash doing it? Head on over to MoneyPit.com and search “cheap home security tricks.” The name says it all. You will get tips on how things like lighting and landscape can increase your home security without spending a boatload of cash.

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

    TONY: Last winter, in January, we got rid of our oil furnace and we got a 16 SEER HVAC, 3-ton unit. And this year, we noticed that there was condensation on our windows, so the first thing we did was we turned off the humidifier. In fact, I actually disconnected the line. And then we got a humidity gauge. We also ran a dehumidifier. We can’t get the humidity down below 45 percent in the house. It’s staying between 45 and 48 percent and it seems not to make any difference to anything that we do.

    TOM: OK. So, the difference between the heat pump and the oil furnace you had before is pretty significant. When an oil furnace heats up and heats the air, it’s going to deliver that air at somewhere around 140 degrees or so. And when a heat pump delivers the air, it’s delivering it at 96, 97, 98, maybe 100 degrees. And so that 40-degree difference means that you’re going to have a lot more humidity stay in the air that the warmer oil furnace would have taken out. So that explains why you’ve got humidity now where you didn’t have it before.

    So, what can you do about that? Well, you have to look at strategies to try to reduce the moisture load inside your house, turning off – the humidifier was an obvious one because, frankly, you rarely need those with heat pumps, for the reason I just explained. Secondly, taking steps to try to reduce the way moisture gets into your house can help.

    So, for example, you can regrade the soil at the foundation perimeter: just the first 3 to 4 feet so that you don’t hold any rainwater against that foundation. You can make sure your gutters are clean and the downspouts are extending 3 to 4 feet from the foundation. You can make sure that you have proper attic ventilation so that you have open soffit vents and open ridge vents, so that air is not getting trapped in the attic. And this way, you’re moving the vapor pressure, reducing the amount of vapor that gets into the foundation, works its way up into the house and gets out at the attic space.

    Now, mechanically, you can add a device called a whole-home dehumidifier. You already have a ducted system. A whole-home dehumidifier is a product that would work both in the winter and in the summer in your location. And it would take a lot of water out of the air. But there’s an expense, obviously, to purchase it and to operate it.

    So, what you’re explaining is not surprising to me. You’re just going to have to take some additional steps to try to reduce the amount of humidity. Does that make sense?

    TONY: Yes. How about – the basement’s our first floor and it’s been dry when many of our neighbors have had water in the basement.

    TOM: That’s a good sign.

    TONY: So, I have to tell you, I’m a little reluctant to fool with the dirt outside. But what about – we have a fireplace down there. How about if I run the fireplace occasionally?

    TOM: It’s not going to be a very efficient thing to do just to run your fireplace to try to dehumidify your house. It’s like it’s a lot of work to dehumidify, you know what I mean, using a fireplace. But if you were to use a whole-house dehumidifier, then you would have total mechanical and automatic control of that humidity level.

    Take a look at the website for Aprilaire: Aprilaire.com. They make a pretty good one and then you could check with some local contractors and see what it will cost to have it installed.

    TONY: Thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Well, if you love the look of greenery around the outside of your house but seem to only have a black thumb when it comes to getting greenery to flourish inside your home, we have a solution.

    TOM: It might not be you as much as it’s the type of plant you’re choosing. Roger Cook is the landscape contractor for TV’s This Old House and joins us now with tips.

    Welcome, Roger.

    ROGER: Well, it might just be you, Tom, you know.

    TOM: It could just be me.

    ROGER: Yeah.

    TOM: Well, I kill plastic plants from overwatering. I don’t have the green thumb.

    ROGER: You have a real skill.

    TOM: I do. But aside from folks like me, what are some of the most common mistakes that homeowners make when they choose their indoor plants? There are some that are just a whole lot easier to take care of than others, aren’t there?

    ROGER: Well, sometimes we get our inspiration from the wrong place.

    TOM: OK.

    ROGER: I mean you walk around and you see a plant, say, like a ficus. It’s an absolutely beautiful plant. You bring one home and all of a sudden, all the leaves are falling off of it. It’s because a lot of houseplants need full sunlight and when they don’t get it, they drop their leaves.

    TOM: Now, that’s a great point, because we had a beautiful ficus tree when we bought our first house. It was a condo and we had cathedral ceilings and it looked great. And we tried to take good care of it but it just eventually would dry out. It got very sort of gooey; the sap would come out of it. And the leaves would fall out and it became very difficult. And I found out later that a lot of times, the professionals that take care of these things – you see them in doctors’ offices and malls – they cheat. They take them out and they put them outside and they trade in better ones.

    ROGER: Yeah.

    LESLIE: Right. They swap them out.

    ROGER: They swamp them out.

    TOM: And they kind of – they rotate them and we don’t know this. So it’s not so much us killing the plant; it really maybe wasn’t the right plant to choose.

    ROGER: That’s right. And that’s why you really have to go around your house and examine it and say, “Where am I getting the most sun?” And then find a sun plant. And then be honest – what side of the house is getting a lot of shade? – in finding a plant that will grow in the shade and putting it there. That’s where people made the biggest problem.

    LESLIE: Do interior conditions, such as lack of moisture or too much moisture or dryness from heating – those really have to take a toll on the plant, as well.

    ROGER: As they would take a toll with us. That’s why we adjust the humidity to our bodies but not to the plants. So sometimes, that’s where misting comes. When you go around a plant and you mist it? That little bit of extra water will help it. A lot of these are tropical plants and in the tropics, it could be 80-, 90-percent humidity.

    LESLIE: Humidity. Daily.

    ROGER: Daily, right. But they’re not getting it in my house.

    LESLIE: No, not in my house, either.

    Now, here’s a situation and I know we always ask you about this. I have a Peace Lily that was given to me when my father passed away eight years ago. And I love it and this thing has taken over every inch of that pot.

    ROGER: Yeah.

    LESLIE: I feel like I water it and all of a sudden, the dish on the bottom is overflowing. And I know it’s time to repot but I’m petrified of it. So how do you do it without causing harm to the plant?

    ROGER: Well, fortunately, Peace Lily is a very, very tough plant and it’s really hard to hurt. And it’s probably begging you to get it out at that point.

    LESLIE: Oh, I think it’s asking for it.

    ROGER: Yeah. Out of that pot. So let’s go to a pot that’s 2 to 4 inches bigger. And when you take it out of the pot, shake off some of that soil that’s on there.

    LESLIE: If there’s any.

    ROGER: If there’s any. And let’s get a lot of new soil in there for that plant to grow out into.

    LESLIE: And 2 to 4 inches in width?

    ROGER: In width.

    LESLIE: So height has nothing to do with it?

    ROGER: Oh, yeah, yeah. I’d like to see it – let’s just think as moving on up.


    ROGER: We want it a little bigger in width and volume. Just bigger.

    TOM: Now, if you are repotting a plant, what do you do to get sort of the base ready? Don’t you have to put some stones or something like that in it or broken clay? How do you do it?

    ROGER: Well, every pot usually has a single hole in the bottom of it.

    TOM: Right.

    ROGER: And you want to make sure that you don’t plug up that hole. So you can do what’s called “put a shard,” which is a broken piece of pottery over that hole before you put the soil. Just something to keep to allow the water to come through the hole but not all the soil behind it.

    TOM: Good tip. Now, what’s one of the most common mistakes people make when it comes to houseplants?

    ROGER: Watering: overwatering or underwatering. It’s the – typically, 99 percent of the plant – times when the plant has a problem, that’s why. There is no regular schedule. Every plant will dry out differently, every soil type will dry out differently.

    You need to check the soil. And I do that by putting my finger into the pot. If I can get down two or three knuckles, I can tell whether that’s moist or overwatered there or dry. That tells me to water it.

    TOM: You’re really getting your hands dirty on this, aren’t you?

    ROGER: Well, if that’s what gardening is all about. Inside or outside, you’re going to get dirty.

    TOM: Roger Cook, the landscape contractor on TV’s This Old House, great advice. Thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    ROGER: Thanks for having me.

    LESLIE: Alright. You can 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 ThisOldHouse.com.

    TOM: And This Old House and Ask This Old House are brought to you by GMC. GMC, we are professional grade.

    Still ahead, would you like to turn your boring winter yard into a vibrant, colorful space? Well, you can do that by attracting winter birds with the right seed and feeders. We’ll tell you how, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. And we’re taking your calls at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Now, one caller this hour is going to get a prize pack from 3M for your car. It includes a scratch-removal system. I’ve actually tried this; it really works very well. Don’t ask me how I end up with all these scratches on my cars. I swear, I don’t do it but I definitely can fix them with this 3M system.

    And you’re also going to get a door-edge protection film and a headlight-restoration kit. When your headlights seem to get fogged up or they get a dull film on them, this is going to fix that.

    You can check it all out at 3MAuto.com. The 3M Auto giveaway is worth 60 bucks, so give us a call right now at 888-MONEY-PIT for help with your home improvement project.

    TOM: Do they have a lacrosse-ball dent-remover kit inside that package from 3M?

    LESLIE: You should use your toilet plunger for that.

    TOM: Well, we love our kids but really need to learn how to keep the cars out of the trajectory sometime, you know?

    LESLIE: Right?

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Well, if you’d like to add some life to your backyard during the winter season, you might think about making some simple changes to attract winter birds.

    Now, all birds don’t catch that red-eye from Mexico at the first sign of a cold winter. Even the northernmost parts of the U.S. has cardinals, woodpeckers, finches and many more winter-loving birds. And you can attract them to your yard simply by giving them the right food.

    TOM: That’s right. Now, most winter birds eat seeds. They have to, because insects are hard to find in the cold. So you want to stock up on both sunflower seeds and safflower seeds. The great thing about safflower is that squirrels don’t like them.

    Now, if you love woodpeckers, you can also hang suet for them but hang that high, because most winter mammals like it, too.

    LESLIE: Also, don’t forget about water. Break up ice in bird baths or add warm water to melt that ice and birds will flock from all over your yard for a little refreshment.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. Give us a call right now with your home improvement question.

    LESLIE: James in Missouri is dealing with a plumbing concern, which seems to happen every single winter. Tell us what’s going on.

    JAMES: Yeah, every January, it seems to – the pipes freeze under the house.

    TOM: Now, what have you done to try to stop them from freezing?

    JAMES: Well, plugged up the outside entrance; it’s only a crawlspace. But I don’t own the house but I live there and the last three years it’s done this. So I’m wondering if they’ve used the right pipes. Right now, it’s plastic but I’m not sure if it’s the right gauge or what.

    TOM: Have the pipes been insulated?

    JAMES: I don’t think so.

    TOM: OK. So that would be the next step here. The insulation for the pipes is pretty inexpensive. I mean maybe you can get your landlord to do it or take it off the rent and do it yourself. But you want to get these insulation sleeves and they will sort of snap around the pipes. And if you insulate those pipes, that will protect them from the freezing weather and make it a lot less likely that they’re going to seize up when the temperature drops for an extended period of time.

    JAMES: Now, does it matter if it’s copper or plastic? Does it make a difference?

    TOM: Nope. They could both be insulated with the insulation sleeves.

    JAMES: OK.

    TOM: Just be careful at the corners. Make sure you tape the corners. You might want to use some insulation wrap at the corners. Just don’t leave any exposed gaps. Do a really good, careful job sealing it all up. The insulation sleeve is slitted down the side and snaps around the pipe. Usually, you tape it once or twice to keep it in place and I think you’re good to go.

    JAMES: So do you even think about the electric heat tape?

    TOM: Only use electric heat tape when you have a frozen pipe and it’s metal and you follow label directions. And you could put it on for a limited period of time until the pipe thaws and then turn it off. It’s not a permanent appliance; that’s dangerous.

    JAMES: OK. I didn’t
    TOM: OK?

    JAMES: Cool. Well, I appreciate the info.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Mold can show up pretty much anywhere and in any weather. We’re going to tell you the best way that you can get rid of it for good, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Give us a call right now with your home improvement question, your home improvement project, your do-it-yourself dilemma. Or head on over to MoneyPit.com and post your question in the Community section any time of the day or night. We answer lots of those questions through the week but we like to pull a few out for the show on the weekends. And we’re going to start with this one from Trish in Louisiana.

    LESLIE: That’s right. Trish wrote: “I’ve got mold growing on the roof, on the shady side of my home. Can I run bleach through a pressure washer to get rid of it?”

    TOM: Well, first off, we want to deal with why the mold is on the shady side of your house. First of all, I want to point out that it’s probably – it may be mold; it’s more likely algae. We call everything that’s green and sticks to the outside of our house mold but it could be moss, it could be algae, it could be mold. It’s probably more like algae or moss. And so, not that it makes any difference, it still looks ugly.

    How do we get rid of it? First, take a look at all of those trees that are creating that shade. If you could punch some holes in those trees to let some sunlight through, that’s going to help slow down the growth of that stuff, because it needs that cool shadiness to kind of really take hold. So the more light you can get on that side, the better. You don’t have to take the trees down. Just open them up a little bit; it makes a world of difference. You want to treat what you have right there now.

    Now, I think using a pressure washer on a roof is not a smart idea because if it’s too strong, you’re going to poke holes in it. What you could do is you could use a bleach-and-water solution – maybe 10-, 15-percent bleach in water – up on that roof. But if you do that, you’re going to – you want to make sure that you capture all of the runoff, because it’s going to kill your plants.

    You can use another product called Wet & Forget which, as the name implies, you pretty much spray it on there and you forget about it and then it naturally will break down the moss and the mildew and the algae and the mold and take it off your roof.

    Once the roof is clean, what you can do is get a strip of copper flashing. Lay it across the top ridge of the roof. It won’t be terribly visible but when it rains, some of that copper will release and that acts, also, as a mildicide and will keep your roof nice and clean from this point forward.

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up, Gary in Georgia posted: “I have wood trim on the outside of my house. Is there any advantage to painting it with Rust-Oleum? Would it provide a better barrier against the elements?”

    Unless your wood is metal, not really.

    TOM: I’m sure that the Rust-Oleum people are very happy that you’re such a fan of their product. You think it can do miracles.

    LESLIE: “We’ll just use it everywhere.”

    TOM: Yeah. I guarantee you this: if you paint it on your wood, your wood will never rust. How about that?

    However, if you just want a good-quality paint job, you don’t need to use a metal paint on it. You want to make sure you prime the wood properly and with exterior wood, you want to make sure it’s thoroughly dry. You know, choosing the right weather for this project is really more important than ever. If it’s thoroughly dry, then you put on a good-quality primer. What I might use is an alkyd-based primer or an oil-based primer. Let it dry thoroughly and then put a good-quality top coat – quality exterior paint – on top of that.

    Doing those two steps in the right order will assure that you will have a super-long-lasting paint job here that won’t have to be repeated the next 8 to 10 years.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you know what, Gary? You could always replace it with an extruded PVC trim, which you would never have to paint or deal with any sort of these maintenance things again.

    TOM: Yeah, like AZEK or something like that, mm-hmm.

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up, Brad in Missouri wrote: “I have a gravel driveway. Can I still use a snow thrower?”

    TOM: Yeah, you can. You just have to be careful the way you use it. You can hold the depth of the snow thrower so that it doesn’t dig into the gravel itself. But many folks have gravel driveways and they use snow throwers quite successfully.

    Now, if you’ve got an asphalt or concrete driveway, I mean those blades can practically scrape on that surface; it’s not going to be an issue. But if you set the depth properly, you’re not going to get down to the gravel. You want to stay 2 or 3 inches above. You should be fine.

    And by the way, there’s a great article about how to choose a snow blower, on our website, at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Alright. And on MoneyPit.com, we actually cover the four most common types of snow blowers and we’ll help you choose the right one for your house.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online, 24-7, at MoneyPit.com. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us.

    Hey, if you’ve got questions, maybe they pop into your head at any time of the day or night, remember you can always call us at 888-MONEY-PIT. If we’re not in the studio, we’ll call you back the next time we are.

    Happy Home Improving. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …

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


    (Copyright 2013 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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