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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Give us a call right now with your home improvement project. We are here to help you solve that do-it-yourself dilemma. The number is 888-666-3974.

    We’ve got a great show planned for you this hour. You know, the mercury is rising, the sun is shining and you’re probably ready to kick back and enjoy. And if you are, we say, “Not so fast.” That mercury and sun mean it’s time to get your air conditioner ready for what’s ahead. We’re going to tell you how to do just that, so that it doesn’t cost you a fortune to cool your home, this hour.

    LESLIE: And you want to add instant drama and a professionally-decorated look to your home? Add pendant lights. Kevin O’Connor from This Old House will be along to tell you how to install them yourself.

    TOM: And this is also the time of year that the wood on the outside of your home is crying out for attention. Maybe your deck, your wood trim or your fencing needs a little attention? We’re going to help you with some tips on how to pick the right stain or brightener to have it fixed up for the season ahead.

    LESLIE: And this hour, one lucky caller is going to get a set of five Maestro Sensor Switches from Lutron. Now, they sense when you’ve left the room and then they turn off the light, so no more wasting money on your electric bills. It’s a prize worth 150 bucks – you’ll probably save that in the first year – and that’s enough sensor switches for every kid’s room in the house and maybe even a couple of shared spaces.

    TOM: Yeah, no more family arguments about the kid that left the light on in his or her room. Trevor, I hope you’re listening. That’s my kid.

    So, give us a call right now with your home improvement project, your do-it-yourself dilemma. Let us help you get that job done. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Paul in Hawaii has got a leaky bathroom. Tell us what’s going on.

    PAUL: Yes. In my master bathroom, there’s a granite countertop sink with – it’s a countertop with two sinks. The left sink, underneath the cabinet, constantly has a strong mildew smell. Now, I’ve got the back of the cabinet out to check the drywall. No leaks. I’ve cut a hole in the floor of the cabinets to look at the concrete. No leaks. I don’t know where it’s coming from. I’ve got a bucket right now of those crystals that absorb moisture. The thing is full of water. I mean I’ve had a friend of mine who’s another contractor – I’m also a contractor – and we can’t figure out what’s going on.

    TOM: So you have high humidity in this cabinet, is that what you’re saying?

    PAUL: Yes. High humidity in the cabinet. I live in a very dry area so it’s not like there’s moisture in the air from the outside doing it. I don’t know. I don’t know what’s causing it. I …

    TOM: And you’re on a slab?

    PAUL: On a slab floor, correct.

    TOM: Slab floors are very hydroscopic. They pull moisture up from the dirt, up through the slab and into the cabinetry itself. You might just want to think about venting this cabinet. Have you ever left the doors open for a week to see if it made a difference? Because I bet it would.

    PAUL: It does. It actually does.

    Now, here’s one thing I must tell you: there’s an outdoor shower on the opposite side of that wall but it’s all granite, sealed to the tile. So I can’t imagine how it would be coming in from that side but anything’s possible.

    LESLIE: Yeah. But could it just be a condensation issue, like when you’re running cold water and the warmth and humidity of just being in Hawaii, moisture forms on the cold-water pipes, drip, drip, drip?

    PAUL: I don’t think that’s it. It just doesn’t seem to – that doesn’t seem to be the problem. The only thing I can think of, somehow moisture is, like you said before, is coming underneath the ground and up into the cabinets somehow. I guess that’s probably what’s happening and (audio gap) how to solve that. Your idea of venting that cabinet is probably a really great idea and there’s a way I could do that. I could put a small, round vent in the – to the outside from that cabinet wall there.

    TOM: I think it’s moisture that’s coming up through the cement slab and it’s congregating in this unconditioned space of the cabinet. And it’s building up to the point where you’re noticing it vis-à-vis a moisture smell, which you’re calling mildew. And I think if you vent the cabinet, that that’s going to go away.

    PAUL: Alright. Well, listen, I’ll definitely consider that venting. That was a very good idea. Thank you for taking my call.

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

    LESLIE: Eloise in North Carolina is dealing with some unwanted visitors: squirrels.

    Eloise, one tried to get into my screened-in porch last week because of a pizza box. I can only – and it scared the bejesus out of me.

    TOM: Must have been an Italian squirrel.

    LESLIE: Tell us. What’s going on?

    ELOISE: The squirrels have decided that they like the coziness of getting inside and down into the eaves of the porch rather than to nest in a tree. And they have started eating away at my house. I’ve noticed places where they’ve been gnawing, as well as the nests that are down in the eaves. How can I get rid of them?

    TOM: Well, there’s a couple of ways that you can deal with squirrels in the attic. It’s kind of like bats in your belfry: they drive you crazy. But there are some ways to try to manage these populations.

    First of all, you can trap and release. If you invested in a couple, or even one, Havahart traps – Havahart is a trap that has a door on it that lets the squirrel in, doesn’t harm them. Usually, you’ll use an apple or something like that as bait. We usually recommend you wire it to the frame of the trap, because they’ll figure it out and they’ll steal it and not get stuck in the trap. And then once they get stuck in the trap, you take the whole trap, stick it in the trunk of your car, drive out to a woodsy area, lift the door and off they will run happily to once again rejoin Mother Nature.

    Another thing that you can do is you could consider using a squirrel repellant. There are different types of repellants that are available. They usually are repellants that are designed to emulate a natural predator of squirrels, like fox or something of that nature. And you either spray them or you – sometimes they’re in a bag and you hang them in the area and that can deter them.

    But really, the first thing I would do is try to seal up any gaps that are allowing them to get into this attic space to begin with.

    ELOISE: Yeah, I have some homework to do. Thank you so much.

    TOM: Ah, you sure do. 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 MoneyPit.com. Thank you so much for joining us here at The Money Pit this beautiful Memorial Day Weekend. We hope that you are kicking back, enjoying all of the labors of your springtime home improvements. And if you’ve got a project on deck, we’re here to give you a hand with that, so give us a call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    And before you kick off your first backyard party for the summer, it’s a good time to make sure that your deck and wood trim will look sharp for the season. We’re going to have some staining tips to help you get that project done quickly, easily and with lasting results, next.

    MIKE: Hey, this is Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs and I’ve just been told that Tom and Leslie might have a dirtier job than me? I find that hard to believe but then I heard they worked in a pit. It’s a money pit but it’s still filthy.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Stanley Tools, your trusted name in quality hand tools. To learn more about their complete line of quality tools and everything for your tool box, visit StanleyTools.com.

    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. And the number here is 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Happy Memorial Day, everybody. Well, while you guys are all kicking back and perhaps working on a project or maybe just barbecuing with your buddies, pick up the phone and give us a call, because we’ll help you with whatever project you might be working on or thinking of tackling next weekend. But we’ve got a great prize up for grabs and it will help you have a lower electric bill.

    We are giving away a set of five Maestro Sensor Light Switches from Lutron worth $150. Now there’s no more worrying that you forgot to turn off your lights when you’ve left the room and no more yelling at your kids, either, to stop leaving those lights on. Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT for your chance to win.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    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, you know, like when you purge the line sometimes and then you put the pressure back on, it takes 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 is 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.

    Well, the wood on the outside of your home really takes a beating all winter. And it’s about to get beaten again by that summer sun. The stress that’s caused by the elements not only makes your wood unattractive but it can also make it pretty weak and that spells danger for a deck. The experts at Flood Wood Care, one of The Money Pit’s proud sponsors, have asked us to share some tips with you on how to treat and stain your deck.

    LESLIE: Yeah. First of all, if you’re working on new wood, it’s got to have some time to dry out, because that’s going to allow the pores to open and then receive the stain. So give it a test. Pour a cup of water on the wood. If it’s absorbed in 30 seconds, it’s good to go.

    Then, whether the wood is old or new, you need to prep it so the stain will take. Now, Flood makes a finish remover to get rid of old finish and also a brightener and a cleaner. Just follow the instructions but be sure to wear safety glasses while you’re working on this.

    TOM: And yes, it is really super-easy. You can apply the finish top to bottom so that you can catch any drips. And be sure to work the entire length of the board so that you avoid lap marks.

    It’s also important to be mindful of the weather when you do this project. You don’t want to start the project if the wood is going to be in direct sun or if temperatures are shooting, say, north of about 80 degrees right after you finish it. Also, be mindful of wet weather because if the wet weather is expected in the next two days, you’re really better off putting this project off. You need to wait for sort of the right window of time and if you do, it will come out fantastic and you will enjoy it all season long.

    For more tips on projects just like this and for help picking the right kind of stain for your project, you can head on over to Flood’s website at Flood.com. That’s Flood – F-l-o-o-d – .com.

    LESLIE: Jean in Pennsylvania needs some help with a roofing question. You’ve got black marks on there. Do you think it’s moss? Tell us what it looks like.

    JEAN: I don’t know what it is. It is in the sun most of the day, so it’s not under a tree or it’s not in the shade, really. And I don’t know if it could be some kind of a mold or something that would be causing it. I tried spraying it with bleach to no avail, so I was wondering if there’s some product out there that …

    TOM: Yeah, there’s a product called Wet & Forget that will work very well for this. And just like the name implies, you simply mix this up – it’s a concentrate – you spray it on the roof and it sits on the roof. And if there’s any mold, mildew, algae that’s causing these stains, it will attack them and make them disappear.

    JEAN: Oh, well, that’s good. It probably is a mold because even though my driveway is in the sun all day, I found that there was a mold accumulating on that, also. So I guess I could use the same product for both?

    TOM: Absolutely.

    JEAN: Great. Well, thank you so much.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Eric in Colorado on the line who needs some help with a crabgrass situation. Tell us what’s going on.

    ERIC: My wife and I purchased a home last year and it’s my first time actually trying to maintain a lawn. So far, I’m pretty happy with what we have except I noticed that there’s a patch of grass that’s on one part of the lawn. It looks like it’s a different breed or a different kind of grass or possibly a crabgrass or whatever. I’m not sure if it’s a weed or what it is but I just want to get rid of it.

    LESLIE: There are products out there and if you search online, you’ll find some. One is actually a product called Crabgrass Killer and it’s on a website called MegaGro.com. And it’s truly made from all-natural ingredients. It’s got, I think, cinnamon bark and wheat flour and corn flour and cumin and baking soda. So it is made from organic, if you will, materials that make it a more safe herbicide for the lawn.

    But you have to know what kind of grass that you’ve got, because it won’t harm certain lawns. But if you happen to have bluegrass or fescue, you don’t want to use it. And being that you’re a new homeowner, new to identifying what kind of grass you have, this might not be the best approach. And that’s also something you’ve got to be sort of careful about.

    That one’s called Crabgrass Killer. You can search it online, read about it and see if that’s something you want to do.

    ERIC: So how am I supposed to know if it is crabgrass or if it’s some other – somebody just threw some different grass seeds down there for whatever reason?

    TOM: Well, you get crabgrass, you get chickweed. These seeds are in the air, OK? And they blow around and they land and they start to sprout. And so that’s why we use weed killers and preemergent herbicides and things like that, because it controls those and helps make sure that the grass can really – is really the thing that comes through.

    And so, as a new homeowner, you’re going to have to buy into the fact that your lawn is going to need some care. I mean you wouldn’t go year after year without expecting to have to paint your house. You can’t go season after season without expecting to have to take care of your lawn.

    ERIC: OK. Well, great. Thanks a lot.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Olen in North Carolina on the line who needs some help with a radiant floor-system project. Tell us what you’re working on. Are you doing this yourself?

    OLEN: Yeah, I am a do-it-yourselfer kind of guy and I’m going to just do the rough end of the tubing myself. I’m going to leave the pumps and whatnot to the professionals. But it’s sort of smart to let the – to have somebody to do the hard stuff for you. But I figure I can do the tubing myself.

    And my question regards the choice between PEX and Onix tubing and about cost-effectiveness.

    TOM: OK.

    OLEN: And which one is more appropriate for my region? I’m in North Carolina.

    LESLIE: Well, what type of subfloor are you working with?

    OLEN: I’m going to be working on my existing, open floor joists and 16-inch centers, so I’ve got plenty of space under there to staple up either the aluminum plates or to put up the rubberized Onix material.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And what’s going to be your flooring?

    OLEN: Above it, I will have a hardwood floor and in some areas, I’m going to be putting down the cement board and tile on top.

    LESLIE: OK. Now, when you’re dealing with radiant flooring with hardwood, you have to make sure that the certain type of hardwood you buy is appropriate for radiant. And it depends on the way the graining is cut. And I forget exactly what it’s called but you have to make sure you buy the correct type of grain: the way the piece of flooring for the wood itself is cut. Otherwise, you’re going to get a lot of shifting and movement just due to the nature of the heating.

    OLEN: Right. I hear that the PEX tends to cause a little bit more expansion and contraction in the tubing itself. And my floor is actually existing pine floor; it’s only a certain area where I’ll be putting in the cement board and the tile.

    TOM: Well, look, I think that either product, as long as it’s installed consistent with the manufacturer’s instructions, is going to be fine. PEX is really the more common, known product for this and we’ve seen it in many, many houses. PEX stands for cross-linked polyethylene. Onix is cross-linked EPDM, so it’s another formulation for a radiant-tubing product.

    Personally, I would use PEX only because it seems to have the history. I know that Onix was used a lot on outdoor applications for snow melting and that sort of thing. But because it’s inside the house and because it’s got such a great reputation, I would use PEX. And I have seen PEX become very, very indestructible when it comes to its ability to work with all sorts of conditions inside the house.

    In fact, I saw a demonstration once. One thing that’s cool about PEX is the memory that it has. You can heat this stuff and stretch it to twice its length and let it go and it goes back to its original shape. So it retains its original shape.

    So it’s a pretty impressive product and I think it’s got the history. And that’s what I think I would trust if I was going to go radiant in my house.

    OLEN: OK. Well, thank you.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com.

    Up next, do you need to shed some light on dark spaces in your home? Well, pendant lights might be the solution. We’re going to get tips on how you can install a pendant light yourself from Kevin O’Connor, host of TV’s This Old House. And today’s This Old House segment is presented by Trex Enhance Decking, available at The Home Depot.

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    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by LIQUID NAILS. For tough jobs, demand the extraordinary strength of LIQUID NAILS Brand Heavy-Duty Construction Adhesive. It bonds a wide range of materials, indoors and out, for a job done once, done right. Learn more about LIQUID NAILS Brand Heavy-Duty Construction Adhesive at LIQUIDNAILS.com.

    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. Happy Memorial Day, everybody.

    Hey, do you want to learn how you can save money, energy and maybe do your part to save the planet, too? If yes, take a look at our green product guide right now at MoneyPit.com, which is presented, in part, by Philips Lighting Company.

    TOM: Philips has created products that can save energy in all of your lighting fixtures, while making your home look great. See what light can do at Philips.com.

    LESLIE: Judy in Florida is on the line with a countertop situation. What happened? You scraped it? You cut it? What did you do?

    JUDY: The previous owners had painted it and I took a razor blade and went up under it and I was able to get all of that paint off. But evidently, they sanded the tops and I would like to bring some life back into the top.

    LESLIE: So, wait, is it wood? Is it butcher block? Is it laminate?

    JUDY: It’s laminate, yes. And it’s in good shape. It’s just that it’s dull. It’s got the marble look.

    LESLIE: I mean you’ve got a couple of options. You could paint it again. There are several different companies that make a laminate painting kit. Rust-Oleum has a couple of different products: Modern Masters and – oh, Tom, there was that one we saw in Vegas. It’s named after the guy’s daughter; it’s got two marbling kits in it.

    JUDY: Yeah, I have seen that and I prefer not to do that. I read an article somewhere – and I cannot find the article – that said that you could use car wax, paste wax and buff it?

    LESLIE: Sure.

    JUDY: Would that look – the countertop looks fine; it just needs a gloss. I don’t want a real high gloss; I just want it to look better.

    TOM: Well, there’s no reason you couldn’t use the car wax. It’s not all – except that I wouldn’t want my food to be in contact with it. But other than that, I think it – probably OK.

    JUDY: That’s a good idea, surely. Well, I thank you for your time, your suggestions.

    TOM: You’re very welcome.

    JUDY: I appreciate it.

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

    LESLIE: Well, pendant lights, they are a popular choice these days and for good reason: they’re sleek and they can add instant style and drama to your lighting.

    TOM: True. But is this an electrical project you can hang yourself? Here to talk about both the highs and the lows of pendants is a guy that we like to hang out with: Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House.

    Welcome, Kevin.

    KEVIN: Great to be here, guys.

    TOM: So is this a DIY project or one best left to the pros?

    KEVIN: You know, it depends but in most cases, I think it’s a DIY project.

    TOM: Alright. Well, let’s start at the beginning. Let’s talk about what a pendant light is, for those that aren’t familiar.

    KEVIN: Well, you can imagine these things are suspended from the ceiling and they’re hanging by a rod or a chain. And they’re putting light down onto the surface or maybe even casting it sort of ambient through the space. They come in all different sizes, they come in all different prices. Some of them are as small as 4 inches, some of them are as big as 12 inches. Maybe $25 for one, maybe $250. A lot of options exist.

    TOM: So this sounds like a good option for task lighting, right, Leslie?

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Yeah. I mean not only do they work great over a kitchen island or maybe an area where you need some specific downlighting but they really can look great in an entryway or even a hallway.

    TOM: OK. So let’s say you do want to hang them yourself. Where do you begin?

    KEVIN: Turn the power off.

    TOM: That’s always a good place.

    KEVIN: Turn the power off so you don’t get electrocuted. And I actually like to use an electrical tester when I do any electrical work. Because even if you turn a circuit off, you want to make sure that you got that circuit right. You can put one of these little sticks up to it and it will let you know if there’s any juice running through those wires.

    But once the power is off, it’s pretty straightforward: you’ve got a new fixture, the wires are colored and you want to match them up with the colored wires that may be in the wall or in the box.

    TOM: Now, what about the controls for these? It seems like dimmers would be a really good application for this.

    KEVIN: Dimmers are great. You can imagine if you have them hanging over a kitchen island and you’re preparing dinner, you want them nice and bright. But when dinner is being served, maybe you want to dim them down a little bit.

    And the other thing I like to do, in terms of wiring them – it’s pretty straightforward, right: white wire to white wire, black wire to black wire. But sometimes it could be a three-way circuit. And I have actually taken little pictures of the wiring of whatever fixture I’m taking out so that I can rewire it the proper way when I’m putting it back in.

    LESLIE: Oh, that’s a good trick of the trade.

    KEVIN: Because sometimes you do get confused. The three-ways are a little bit more complicated to wire up.

    LESLIE: So, Kevin, when it comes time to install the new fixture, say the pendant itself has two wires that are the same color. Is there a way to tell the difference between those two?

    KEVIN: Well, sometimes you can actually do it by feel. If you have one of the wires and you feel it and it is ribbed, well, that means it’s probably the neutral wire, whereas the hot wire is actually flat. So that might help you distinguish between the two.

    If you’re unsure, though, about what the wires are on the fixture, and especially if you’re unsure what the wires may be in the wall, then it’s time to call an electrician.

    LESLIE: Yeah, good idea. And especially if you’ve got a lot of projects, save them all up, hire that electrician once and have them take care of everything.

    TOM: Yeah, good point.

    Now, what about flickering? That sometimes is a problem with pendant lights.

    KEVIN: Yeah. Well, a flicker probably comes when you don’t have a great connection. And that bad connection might actually be between the bulb and the socket.

    TOM: OK.

    KEVIN: Lights attract bugs and they can actually get in there. So turn the power off, take the bulb out, clean it out – maybe some compressed air blown in there will get rid of any bugs or dirt – and then put the light bulb back in.

    TOM: And if it still doesn’t work, call a pro.

    KEVIN: You got it.

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

    KEVIN: My pleasure, guys.

    LESLIE: Alright. You can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For your local listings and a step-by-step video on how you can install a pendant light, visit ThisOldHouse.com.

    TOM: And This Old House is brought to you by State Farm Insurance. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.

    Up next, the summer heat is soaring. Is your air conditioner up to the task? We’re going to teach you how to tune it up and survive the season, next.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Behr Premium Exterior Weatherproofing Wood Stains and Finishes. Formulated to restore, beautify and protect decks, fences and siding year-round. Behr is available exclusively at The Home Depot, where you can visit the new Exterior Wood Care Center, built to help you find the right products and colors for your project. For more information, visit B-e-h-r.com.

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    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Lutron Dimmers and Sensors. Tired of reminding your family to turn off the lights? Install a Lutron Maestro Occupancy Sensor and you’ll never have to remind them again. It works with all bulb types and only takes about 15 minutes to install. For easy upgrades with big impact, choose Lutron. Visit ChooseLutron.com.

    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 at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. You’ll get the answer to your home improvement question and this hour, you’ll have a great chance to win a way to save on your lighting bill. We’re giving away a set of five Maestro Sensor Light Switches by Lutron.

    These are really cool. The Maestro Sensor Switch can tell when no one is in the room and flip off the light, which saves you money. The prize is worth $150, so give us a call right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT with your home improvement question for your chance to win.

    LESLIE: Robert in Michigan needs some help with a composite deck. How can we help you?

    ROBERT: I was just wondering, have the composite materials for the deck – have they come up with anything yet that is good for not fading? I’ve run into some problems with the materials I have available to me here in Northern Michigan. I don’t know if it’s the weather or the sunshine or what but the composite materials seem to fade real bad up here.

    TOM: That’s interesting. You know, I’ve not seen that and I’ve used composite decking for many, many years. There is a company out called Kleer – K-l-e-e-r. It’s got a product called Kleer Decking. They’re one of the new sponsors of our show. And I had a chance to look at their product up close at the Remodelers’ Show just a few months ago and I was pretty impressed by it.

    And the Kleer Decking is made of PVC. And so the color is solid through this. It comes in seven different colors and I don’t think you’d see any fade with that. And they’ve got a lifetime warranty, so I doubt they’d put that on there if there were any fade issues.


    TOM: I think that the newer products are probably pretty good and going to protect you against fade. Take a look at their website. It’s KleerDecking.com. It’s a good place to start. K-l-e-e-r-Decking.com.

    ROBERT: OK. I’ll do that.

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

    LESLIE: Well, to you, summer might mean kicking back and enjoying yourself. But your air conditioner certainly does not see it that way.

    Now, just like that valuable piece of machinery in your driveway, a heating-and-cooling system needs annual maintenance to keep on running efficiently. Now is the time to get your cooling system ready.

    So to do that, you need to clean your filters. A dirty filter is going to slow down airflow and then waste energy. And it’s going to make your whole system work way harder than it needs to.

    TOM: Also, think about adding a programmable thermostat and setting it to match your away-from-home schedule. You can save, actually, around $180 a year if you do that.

    And did you know that up to 20 percent of cool air escapes through poorly-sealed and insulated ductwork? The ducts that run through the attic, through the crawlspace, the garage, any unheated basement should be first on your maintenance list. You want to use duct sealant or metal-backed duct tape. Never the regular duct tape that we’re so familiar with, that’s sort of cloth-like and sticky-backed. Because what happens? It doesn’t have the staying power. It dries out and falls off.

    If you want some more step-by-step instructions on how to seal ducts and save energy, in general, this cooling season, search “air conditioner maintenance” at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: David in Texas is dealing with some rotting wood. Tell us what’s going on.

    DAVID: I have an area on my house. I removed my siding and there’s a low spot where the porch meets my house. And the water stayed there and it rotted out my siding and I pulled it off. The bottom lower plate is also rotted.

    TOM: OK.

    DAVID: And I dug all of it out – all the dry rot out – and I was wondering what would be the best to put in there.

    TOM: OK. So where the siding reached the porch, that all rotted. And because the water was sitting there, it actually went into the frame itself and rotted out the sill plate of the wall?

    DAVID: Right.

    TOM: OK. So where have you – have you exposed the wall from the porch side? So is the siding torn off there?

    DAVID: Right. I pulled it off the bottom sheet of siding.

    TOM: So what you have to do here is a little wall surgery. You have to cut out that sill – the rotted area of sill – and you have to slip a new sill underneath the studs. Is that possible from that side?

    DAVID: I don’t think so. I was wondering if there was some type of composite I could put in there.

    TOM: Well, the thing is the sill is a member of the structure, OK? So the studs would sit on top of the sill and the sill sits on top of the foundation. So you can’t really fill the sill or – like you would, say, a rotted piece of wood that you fill with wood putty, because it’s not going to be structurally sound. If the area underneath the stud itself is not compressed and rotted out, then maybe you could just walk away from it and leave it alone now that you fixed the leak issue. But if it’s structurally damaged, the only thing you can do is dig that out.

    We see damaged sills all the time with termite infestation, for example. Now, usually it’s easiest to do this from the inside of the house.

    Is the house on a basement?

    DAVID: No, it doesn’t have a basement.

    TOM: So it’s on a crawlspace or a slab?

    DAVID: It’s on a slab.

    TOM: OK. Yeah, really, what you have to do is remove the siding. You can use a tool called a Sawzall. You know what that is? A reciprocating saw? And you can reach into the wall with that, cut out the old sill, slip in a new sill and put it all back together. That’s the way – the right way to do that repair.

    DAVID: Alright. Thanks a lot.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Robert in North Carolina on the line who’s looking to paint a porch. How can we help you with that?

    ROBERT: Well, it’s an older home and it’s a wood floor, pressure-treated. And I’ve always used oil-based paint, which is a pretty good cleanup; it’s a project, then.


    TOM: Right.

    ROBERT: But I’ve always heard that you could not put latex floor paint on top of oil-based and that’s my question.

    LESLIE: Well, you can if you’ve got a step in the middle; you’re going to have to prime it. This way, you’ve giving yourself a neutral sort of playing ground for the new latex paint to stick. And also, that’ll do a good job of covering everything up and sort of giving a good sealant, so that you know the new paint will adhere.

    TOM: So if you apply a good-quality primer, Robert, after you sand as much as you can the old surface, then you could put a latex paint on top of that and you should be good to go.

    ROBERT: Well, that sounds great.

    TOM: Alright. 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 MoneyPit.com.

    Still to come, quick fix-ups that can make a dramatic difference in your home. We’re going to tell you how lighting can really change the look and feel of any space for the spring.

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    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Santa Fe, makers of the world’s most energy-efficient basement and crawlspace dehumidifier. Santa Fe offers a complete line of high-capacity, Energy Star-rated dehumidifiers, specifically designed to effectively operate in the cooler temperatures of crawlspaces and basements. Visit DehumidifierSolutions.com to learn more.

    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: Hey, did you know that an attic fan can actually increase your home’s cooling cost? Before you flip on the switch for your fan, go to our website at MoneyPit.com and search “attic fans.” You’ll probably find yourself leaving that fan off during the heat of summer.

    LESLIE: Now, we want to talk about spring and some quick, easy and inexpensive fix-ups that you can do around your house, that will not only make it look great but these fix-ups will help you save energy and money.

    TOM: Here to tell us how lighting can make a dramatic difference to your home is Melissa Andresko from Lutron.

    Welcome, Melissa.

    MELISSA: Hi, Tom. Hi, Leslie. How are you?

    TOM: We’re great.

    Now, lighting is a really surprisingly simple way to dramatically improve the look of your home. And your company, Lutron, actually invented the technology that makes that possible. You guys invented the dimmer and you’ve come such a long way. And you’re going to tell us today about one of the new lines called Maestro, correct?

    MELISSA: Right, Tom. You know, Lutron, like you said, Lutron really has come a long way. We date back to the early 1960s when we first introduced that common rotary dimmer that a lot of people have in their family rooms and different rooms throughout the house. And today, we’ve got about 16,000 different products, at all kinds of price points, for all different styles and décors.

    So, the one you mentioned, specifically – the Maestro Dimmer – is one of our tried-and-true products. And we keep coming out with newer and better ways to make the dimmer more accessible to homeowners and just a better fit. And today, we’ve got one that actually works with compact fluorescents, with LEDs, halogens and incandescents. So it’s going to work with all of the most popular light-bulb styles that are out there right now. So, no matter which bulb you choose, the new Maestro C?L Dimmer is going to work.

    LESLIE: And Melissa, I think that’s super-important because so much is changing in the technology of lighting and light bulbs, in particular, that you never really know what tomorrow is going to bring. And when you want a dimmer, which is such an important addition to lighting – any lighting scheme, in fact, in any room of the house – it’s kind of hard to figure out what goes with what and to make sure things work and in fact, are dimmable.

    MELISSA: That’s right. And because this one is so easily adaptable to all these different light sources, it really takes the guesswork out of it. So if today you’ve got an incandescent bulb and you’re planning to replace that with a CFL six months from now, it’s going to work. If you’re planning, a year from now, to replace it with a dimmable LED, it’s going to work.

    So we’re really helping to future-proof your home and it’s done at a very affordable price. The C?L Collection starts at around $15 at retail, so very easy and inexpensive upgrade for any home.

    TOM: We’re talking to Melissa Andresko. She is one of the lighting experts at Lutron, the inventors of the dimmer.

    And as you say, it’s come a long way. Now the C?L Dimmers allow us to dim both compact fluorescents, LEDs, incandescents, you name it. Lutron has the technology that can make that possible.

    And speaking of which, you’ve also got a new product coming out now called an Occupancy Sensing Switch. Now, those are three words that most Americans are not familiar with but they have seen these switches before. And these are the motion-detection switches that when you go into a room, the lights go on. What’s important to us, though, and especially if you’ve got kids like me, is that when they leave the room, the lights go off, right?

    MELISSA: That’s right.

    Now, an occupancy sensor will actually sense when you walk in the room and it’ll sense when the room is empty, as well. So it’s going to automatically turn the lights on when you go in and then off when you leave. So great, like you said, for kid’s rooms, great for places like the laundry room. You’re carrying a basket full of clothing, you don’t want to do that old elbow trick where you’re trying to turn on a light switch with your arm or your elbow. It’s going to automatically sense that you’re walking into the space and it’s going to light it up for you.

    TOM: Melissa Andresko from Lutron, the technology continues.

    If you’d like to learn more, you should visit their website. It’s Lutron.com – L-u-t-r-o-n.com.

    Thanks, Melissa.

    MELISSA: Thanks, Tom. Thanks, Leslie.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. The show continues online at MoneyPit.com.

    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.

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    (Copyright 2012 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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