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UnDecking the Halls after the Holidays, Safety Check for Corrugated Steel Tubing in New Home Construction, How to Get a Granite Look without a Luxury Price Tag

  • 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: Happy New Year, everybody. We hope that you have enjoyed a great holiday season. And we are ready to move on for a fantastic 2014. If your New Year’s plans involve home improvement projects, we are here to help, 888-666-3974. If there’s something that’s on your to-do list that you just haven’t got to because of the craziness of the last couple of months, we understand. We’ve been there, too. We’d love to help you take that first step, which is simply to call us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    And now that the holidays are past, it’s time to talk about the next project. What is that? Well, it’s taking the holiday decorations down. And have you ever found that you’re the last house in the neighborhood to take the Christmas decorations down? If you’re that guy that has windows blinking come Valentine’s Day, you’ve got to stop, alright? We’re going to help you recover, with some tips to help you take those decorations down, preserve them so they’re really super-easy to put up next year. You’ll be getting back in the spirit in no time.

    LESLIE: I’m telling you, at some point, if your lights are white, you can just call them “winter lights.” Just go with it.

    Also ahead, guys, we’re going to cover a new type of pipe that’s being used in home construction. It’s corrugated stainless-steel tubing. It’s safe and it’s cost-effective if it’s installed properly. But if installation mistakes are made, it could actually become a major fire hazard.

    TOM: Plus, we’ve got some tricks of the trade on how to get a granite counter makeover without spending a lot. Yes, granite countertops without spending a pile of dough. We will show you how, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: Alright. And today, we’re giving away a Cabidor, which is a behind-the-door storage unit worth 199 bucks.

    TOM: So, give us a call right now. Let’s get to it. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Lee in Texas is on the line with a window and foundation situation. Tell us what’s going on.

    LEE: Well, I’ve got a house that’s approximately a little over 45 years old and it’s got the original windows in it.

    TOM: OK.

    LEE: And I’ve got a foundation problem.

    TOM: Alright. What’s going on with the foundation?

    LEE: Oh, it’s shifting, it’s cracking. I’ve got a big crack on the westbound side.

    TOM: Hmm. OK.

    LEE: And it’s spread out quite a bit.

    TOM: Do you sense that it’s actively – like it’s growing?

    LEE: No, it isn’t growing. It’s stable, just a crack.

    TOM: It’s been like that for how long?

    LEE: Probably about 20 years.

    TOM: OK. Well, then, I wouldn’t be too concerned about it. If it’s not active, which means it’s moving, then it’s probably stopped. It just happened for whatever reason: soil shift, who knows? But if it’s not active, then I don’t think it’s a big concern if it’s been stable for 20 years. So then I think you can move on and think about replacing the windows.

    A good time to replace windows. The technology has really come a long way. They’re super-energy-efficient; very, very comfortable; very, very easy to operate. What you want to do is choose your windows very carefully.

    If you go to our website at MoneyPit.com, we actually have a free guide. It’s a download from our book, My Home, My Money Pit. Just click on the picture of the book and look for the guide to replacing windows in your house. It will walk you through kind of the whole purchase process and tell you what to look for. You have to decide what kind of frames you want, what kind of glass you want: double-pane versus triple-pane and so on. And it will help sort of walk you through that whole process and then you’ll be more knowledgeable when you start talking to the actual window companies.

    But replacement windows are pretty easy to install. They fit inside the existing openings, so there’s not a lot of siding that’s torn off and stuff like that. And for the most part, they can do the whole project in a day or two.

    LEE: But if it starts being active again about when it shifts?

    TOM: Mm-hmm. Then here’s what you need to do: you need to consult a structural engineer, not a foundation-repair company or a contractor or anybody like that. There’s a lot of so-called experts out there but unless they have the pedigree of a degree, then we don’t want to hear from them. We want you to consult a structural engineer.

    Because when you have a serious foundation issue, you have an engineer inspect it, you have them write a report stating whether or not it needs to be fixed and if so, how it should be fixed. Then you get it fixed by a contractor. Then you have them come back and reinspect it so that they can certify that it was done correctly.

    And with that record, you won’t have any problem selling your house. If it becomes an issue later on, you can show them that you hired an expert to review it and to review it after it was fixed and it’s been done satisfactorily. And that should be all you need to know to fix the foundation and to protect the value of the home.

    LESLIE: Jane in Pennsylvania is on the line and needs some help with a bathroom-heating project.

    JANE: Well, I have baseboard heat; it’s hot-water baseboard heat in the bathroom.


    JANE: And the front cover is all rusting out.

    TOM: OK.

    JANE: And I cannot find a cover and right now, I have contact over it so you don’t see the rust.

    TOM: Oh. You can actually order covers for those baseboards. There is a company that sells perforated covers that go on top of them, so it won’t reduce the heat terribly much. I think it’s called – is it Baseboarder, Leslie?

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Yeah, their website is BaseboardHeaterCovers.com. And they sort of just go where – I guess they would replace that whole inset that’s sort of rusted away on you. You keep your end panels, this piece goes in. It’s a pretty easy do-it-yourself installation. You just have to make sure you measure them correctly.

    They’re not going to rust and because the entire piece is perforated, I think it’s going to help you get as much heat out of it as you can. And since yours is mostly covered by the commode anyway – they’re not gorgeous. They’re not terrible, I don’t think, but I mean it’ll do the job for you.

    JANE: Alright. Thank you.

    TOM: You’re welcome, Jane. 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. We are here to give you a hand with your home improvement or your home décor question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, we’ve got quick and easy tips for undecorating so you’re one step ahead next year.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Diamond Crystal Salt. The benefits are bigger than you expected. After all, you’re worth your salt. Diamond Crystal Salt. A brilliant choice since 1886.

    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.

    One caller we talk to today is going to win the Cabidor Storage System. This is a pretty cool product. It’s a unique, behind-the-door storage system that installs seamlessly on your door’s hinges, so there’s nothing to impede it from closing properly.

    LESLIE: Yeah. You can actually store five medicine cabinets’ worth of stuff. And I’m not just talking bathroom stuff. Well, if you’re a parent and you’ve got small kids, you open a medicine cabinet and there’s bath toys in there, so it’s totally strange. Nobody’s going to judge but you can actually keep your craft supplies or your pantry items, even beauty supplies or pet products.

    TOM: Yes. So if you’ve been trying to figure out where you’re going to keep that six pack of shampoo from Costco, this is the perfect place.

    LESLIE: Seriously.

    TOM: It’s a prize worth $199. Check it out at Cabidor.com. That’s C-a-b-i-d-o-r.com. And call us right now for your chance to win at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Rudy in Mississippi is working on a flooring project. How can we help you today?

    RUDY: I’ve got a Great Dane and he’s kind of a hefty fellow. And he puts scratches in the floor when he’s playing. And we’re thinking about selling our home and my wife thinks that we’re not going to be able to sell our home because of the scratches. And I believe it’s just gone through the laminate; I don’t think it’s actually gone to the hardwood underneath. Is there any way to fix that or cover up that problem?

    TOM: So you have a laminate floor? You don’t have hardwood floor. The hardwood floor is underneath the laminate but the scratches are just in the laminate? Is that correct?

    RUDY: Yes, sir.

    TOM: Well, it’s not really possible to fix deep scratches in laminate. There are fillers for it.

    LESLIE: It looks like a waxy crayon.

    TOM: Yeah. I could only imagine, with a dog, how many scratches you have. It’s probably a lot. It’s not like you moved one piece of furniture and got a deep scratch. So, if you’re concerned about selling the home, I would think about replacing that laminate floor. Laminate floors today are pretty inexpensive and they float, so they’re easy to install. And they lock together; they snap together. If it really looks that bad, you probably would be wise to think about replacing it. You’re just going to have to keep your dog off it then until you sell the house.

    RUDY: Well, I appreciate your help.

    TOM: Rudy, 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 – a contractor come in and connect all of 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: Well, the holidays are officially over, so it’s time to put away all of those sparkly and beautiful decorations.

    Now, it’s important, so you won’t become the neighbor with that petrified wreath come April – and some of the people on my block, you know who I’m talking about. Well, not to name names; you know who you are. It doesn’t become the wreath of the season if it’s all dead and worn. You’ve got to take it down. So here are, actually, a few tips to help you with the undecorating that will make it really easy to get in the spirit next year.

    First, while you’re taking your decorations down, you want to check for any damage that may have occurred during the holiday season. If you can, replace any burned-out bulbs and make sure that there are no frayed wires from their decorating-season display. Now really is the best time to make sure that your lights will be in good working order for next year. Plus, if you do find any damage, you can still replace them while the holiday lighting is still available and at a huge, post-holiday discount.

    TOM: Now, when it comes to storing those lights, what I like to do is to cut up some cardboard into sort of maybe 12×9 pieces. And all you do is wrap the lights around them, because you never get them back into those trays that they were sold in when you buy them in the box. No way. So just put them around some chunks of cardboard. It works really well. It’s very simple. And next year, you’ll simply unwrap them. You’ll be good to go and you won’t damage them.

    Now, you can also use, perhaps, wrapping-paper tubes cut to size, another thing that works. And you want to plug the male and female ends together and then tuck them into the center of the tube to keep everything nice and neat.

    Now, be sure to store decorative items in clear plastic bins. Why? Well, because this way, you’ll know exactly what’s inside. It also helps make sure that the moisture doesn’t deteriorate any of that holiday cheer. Just place all the stored items at the back of your storage area. And this way, you can allow the current seasonal items to sort of rotate to the front. And that’s the way to make sure what you need is always easily accessible.

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

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

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

    TOM: Hmm. OK.

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

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

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

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

    JOE: Yes.

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

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

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

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

    LESLIE: Roy in Illinois is on the line and there seems to be a crack in the front of the garage.

    What is going on? Are you getting water in the garage? Is it on the door? What’s going on here?

    ROY: When the house was built about 21 years ago, they brought in a cement saw and they cut marks in it to control the cracking.

    TOM: OK.

    ROY: Well, the first cut is 4 feet from the garage door. Well, now, that part next to the garage has settled down so when it rains, the water runs towards the garage, which is making it worse.

    TOM: Ah, OK.

    ROY: And I saw a commercial on TV for this mudjacking outfit and they say for a little more than half of what it costs to replace the cement, they could jack it back up in place. But you will see the marks where they drill the holes to put the cement in. And will it last? Should we do the whole driveway over or is there some way we can do something to make it look good and last? It’s a beautiful place. We have no problems with anything except you drive in the driveway and you see that.

    TOM: Yeah. So when you get close to the driveway, that last slab, so to speak, tilts in towards the garage and it’s running water up against the house? Is that correct?

    ROY: Yes.

    TOM: Yeah. And that’s going to – could affect the foundation that’s holding the garage up because you throw a lot of water under it, it becomes less stable and you get a lot more movement. So I do think it’s an important thing to fix.

    Mudjacking will work and it can replace that area as long as they can lift that slab nice and even so it doesn’t crack and become worse. I would just try to get their guarantee that they’re not going to crack the slab in the process. But if they can get the mud underneath it – they’re basically filling in the low spots, bringing that slab up and then it’s not going to collapse anymore, because the concrete they put under it – the mud, so to speak – takes up that void.

    So, I wouldn’t be afraid of doing that. And if it turns out that that’s less expensive than breaking that one piece out and just pouring that one piece new, then I think you can do that. If you decide to break that out, I don’t think you have to do the whole driveway; you can just do that one piece.

    And make sure the soil below is properly tamped. You’re going to have to replace that with fill dirt and stone and get it tamped down. Tamping is really key so it’s really solid. What’s happened is water has gotten over there over the years, it’s softened the soil and that’s what’s caused that slab to sort of rotate with the car going back and forth.

    So I think either option is OK. It becomes an economic choice. My only concern is that you commit to spending money on mudjacking and end up breaking the slab and then you’re kind of almost back to the beginning.

    ROY: OK. Sounds great. Sounds like you’ve got the answers.

    TOM: Yeah, well, we try. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, still ahead, if you’ve had a home built or remodeled since 1988, it may have been built with corrugated stainless-steel tubing. Now, that’s a product that needs to be inspected because you have to make sure that it’s safe. We’re going to have tips so you can do just that, ahead.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Lutron’s new Maestro Occupancy-Sensing Switch. Never ask “Who left the lights on?” again. Starting at around $20, this motion-sensing light switch turns the lights on automatically when you walk into a room and off when you leave and works with all types of light bulbs. Learn more at LutronSensors.com.

    TOM: 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: Visit us online at MoneyPit.com and also, check out our Facebook page and our Pinterest page: two of our social-media platforms that are getting a lot of traffic lately. People seem to love some of the ideas we’ve been posting on there. And it’s always fun to get questions posted right to those pages. They are both accessible from MoneyPit.com.

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

    JAMES: Bought a house about a year ago and I don’t know how old the water heater is because it was a foreclosure. And I had gone downstairs and took the cover off and turned up a little bit to try to get a little more hot water out of it temperature-wise. And I noticed on the inside that it seems wet, like the fiberglass insulation on the tank? So, I was wondering if that means the tank is going bad or do I need to start saving money to buy a new water heater?

    TOM: The water heater is in your basement?

    JAMES: Yeah, it’s in my basement. Correct.

    TOM: You know, sometimes you get a little condensation inside of that. Does your water stay hot or do you – does it seem to run out quickly?

    JAMES: No, it stays hot for a while. It’s just not as hot as I’d like it, so I – it’s cold here now this time of year, so I just went down to dial it up a little and I saw it was wet inside. And I don’t see anything leaking from the bottom.

    TOM: OK. Well, generally, when water heaters leak, everybody knows it, OK? It’s not subtle.

    LESLIE: Yeah.

    JAMES: Yeah, OK. Good.

    TOM: Alright? So I doubt it’s leaking badly right now. You may have a bit of condensation in there. However, what you want to keep in mind with electric water heaters, first of all, they’re very expensive to run. And so it’s a good idea to have a timer on them. Secondly, with an electric water heater, there’s two coils, not just one. So, on the outside of your water heater, you should see two panels: one up high and one down low. And each one of those has its own thermostat. And so in order to adjust the temperature, you have to open both of them up and with a screwdriver – an insulated screwdriver – you turn it very carefully until it’s about 110 degrees on both of them.

    JAMES: OK.

    TOM: And with a 40- or 50-gallon water heater – how many bedrooms – I mean how many bathrooms do you have in the house?

    JAMES: Two.

    TOM: So, a 40-gallon would be smallish, maybe adequate; 50-gallon would definitely be good.

    JAMES: That’s what it is.

    TOM: If you’re wondering the age of it, on the label on the water heater, there’s generally a date that’s either written plainly on that or it’s coded into the serial number. So, if you look at the serial number, you look at the date, you may see a date on there and you can figure out how old this is.

    JAMES: Oh, OK. Great. Thanks so much (inaudible at 0:22:25).

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

    Well, a product called “corrugated stainless-steel tubing” or CSST has gained a lot of favor in construction over the past couple of decades. It’s a flexible alternative to the rigid, black iron pipe that you often see used for gas lines in homes and commercial buildings and industrial buildings. But it’s a lot easier to install and it’s a lot less expensive, so it saves in labor costs for builders.

    Now, when it’s properly installed, the CSST is safe, it’s strong and it actually offers fewer risks for gas leaks than the threaded piping. But when it’s put in incorrectly, it can be a potential fire hazard that could lead to massive damage to your home, so it’s something that you really need to watch.

    LESLIE: Yeah, especially if you’ve had a home built or remodeled since 1988, it could potentially have the CSST piping in it. Now, reliable, well-trained professional home inspectors can easily determine whether CSST pipes are properly installed, so it could be worth arranging an inspection for your home.

    Now, lightning has been the culprit in most of the CSST-related fires, which happens if there’s either a lack of or inadequate bonding and grounding, which then causes arcing damage to the tubing. And that may lead to a puncture in the CSST wall, potentially causing a gas leak and then, of course, potentially a fire. So it’s definitely something worth looking into, especially if your home was built in the last 25 years or so or if you’ve done a major renovation sort of in the late 80s, early 90s. Better to play it safe, guys.

    TOM: Good point. Give us a call right now if you’ve got a big project planned for your money pit. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re heading over to Patty in Illinois who’s got a toilet that is running constantly. Tell us what’s going on.

    PATTY: Well, it doesn’t run constantly but it runs about five seconds, several times an hour. And it’s gone to the point that my water bill has gone up quite a bit and I’m needing to know if I need a new toilet or if I need new seals or a new handle pump or – what would you think?

    LESLIE: It’s actually an easy fix and this tends to happen kind of regularly. Unfortunately, people don’t realize that there’s actually some level of toilet maintenance, because it’s just an appliance in your house that’s there and you use it and you expect it to work.

    But inside the tank itself, there’s a fill and a flush valve. And those need to be replaced not that often but every couple of years or so. And of course, now that you’re dealing with this water-running issue – Tom, is it Fluidmaster?

    TOM: Yeah, Fluidmaster is sort of a mainstay of replacement valve parts.

    And they just wear out, Patty, over time, so this is a pretty easy fix.

    LESLIE: And it’s probably 10 bucks to get both of them. But if you go to Fluidmaster’s website, the only reason I recommend that is because on their website, they’ve got a really great how-to video. So you can actually see what the fill valve is, what the flush valve, the flapper valves – you know exactly what you’re looking at and how to replace it. And it’s a really easy do-it-yourself project that you can do confidently and definitely decrease your water bill.

    PATTY: Thank you. That sounds wonderful. I appreciate it and thank you so much for taking my call. Love your show.

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

    This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up next on the program, we’ve got tips on how you can have granite or granite-looking countertops without paying the big luxury price. That’s all coming up when The Money Pit continues, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    One of you lucky callers that we talk to on the air today is going to win the Cabidor Storage System. Now, this is really unique. It takes a space that you’re generally not using – which is, of course, behind any door in your home – and it installs seamlessly onto your door’s hinges a really cool storage system. And what’s going to happen there is this cabinet that hangs on the hinges there, it’s not going to impede the door from closing properly at all.

    TOM: Yeah. And it’s actually huge. It can store five medicine cabinets’ worth of stuff: anything from craft supplies to pantry items and even beauty products or pet products.

    It’s worth $199. Going to go out to one caller drawn at random. You can check it out at Cabidor.com and that is spelled C-a-b-i-d-o-r. Or call us right now for your chance to win. The number, again, is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Ooh, now we’ve got Catherine from Colorado on the line. Not something we like to deal with: pest control. What is going on with the mice and the rats?

    CATHERINE: Well, the downstairs in the house is not finished. So, somehow, they’re getting in downstairs and I see little droppings, different days. So what I’ve been using so far is the – those green pellets of poison? But I’ve heard from a friend that there is a new product out there: the Ultrasonic Plug-In. So I wanted to get information about that, if you would know.

    TOM: Yeah. I would skip that. I think that’s kind of junk science. So, I would skip any of those ultrasonic plug-in things.

    What you want to do is a couple of things. First of all, you want to eliminate nesting areas. So around the area of your house, if you have firewood, trash cans, debris of any sort that’s anywhere near the foundation, those are nesting areas for rodents. You eliminate those. Secondly, you plug up any openings in the outside walls of that house. Now, mice need something the size of about a quarter or even less to get in, so any openings should be plugged.

    Inside the house, you want to make sure that there’s no food for them. So, a lot of times, people will make mistakes by providing food when they don’t realize they’re doing it. For example, I had a friend who used to keep her pet food in the garage and it was a big sack, 50-pound, whatever it was, bag of pet food. Never really even noticed that the mice had dug themselves a nice, little front door for this that wasn’t obvious. And they were just getting a big meal every single day from the pet food. So, look for things like that where food is being left out for them. Moisture is also very attractive to rodents, so water that collects at the foundation perimeter can bring them in.

    And inside the house, I think you’re doing the right thing using the baits and the poisons, because that’s – they’re very effective with most of the baits today: for example, the d-CON. One hit of that, so to speak, it takes them out. I mean it’s just one and done.

    So, I think all those things together is what’s going to control and reduce the rodent population around this house.

    Hey, here’s a cool idea for new granite kitchen countertops, which are typically very expensive. You could have that luxury look for a lot less if you use smaller sections of stone. Now, the granite stone squares are available at landscape-supply places and even, sometimes, countertop-supply places as scraps, as cut-offs.

    But if you put them side by side and fill the joints with grout, you’ll end up with a solid-granite top that costs a lot less than if it was one solid piece. They’re a lot less expensive and they’re easy to install and they are just as attractive as the solid-stone tops. In fact, they’re somewhat unique in terms of the look.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And you know what? You don’t always have to grout. If you butt them up super-duper-duper close to one another, it almost creates a smooth, seamless look, as well. And then you don’t get any of that grout line to sort of interfere with that look.

    Now, there are a couple of other options, as well, to give you a granite-look countertop. You can find great designs in a laminate counter that actually look a lot like granite. Because today’s laminates, they come in thousands of colors, many of which can look just like granite or a solid-surface countertop. And if you’re even looking for a cheaper solution – or I should say, less expensive, because it really looks fantastic. There’s a paint that simulates granite.

    TOM: Yeah. It’s called Giani and their website is GianiGranite.com. It goes on in several steps. It gives you a really cool, sort of veined look of the granite for just really the cost of the paint. And check it out: this can even go on over old laminate tops, which is kind of cool because even those junky laminate tops can actually look like granite if you use this Giani product. So, check that out at GianiGranite.com. We saw it come out a few years ago and they’re doing great.

    LESLIE: Keith in New York, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    KEITH: What I have is I have an oil-fired boiler system. Does hot-water baseboard heating and also heats my hot water. And I have a well. And my question is whether I can actually divert water off of the well system, from the boiler, and put in an electric hot-water heater system, because oil is so expensive now.

    TOM: So you want to stop heating your domestic hot water in the boiler and instead heat it via an electric water heater?

    KEITH: Yes, whether it’s just a regular hot-water heater or an instant-hot. And that doesn’t concern me but I want to try using a little less oil.

    TOM: You absolutely can do that. And when it comes to choosing the right electric water heater, you want to make sure that you’re choosing one that’s as energy-efficient as possible. And they do have some electric water heaters that are heat-pump water heaters today. And they use a fraction of the electricity that the traditional tank water heaters use but they’re more expensive.

    If you get a good-quality, heat-pump water heater, you’ll be very happy because that water will be far less expensive than what you’re – what it’s costing you now to run the boiler with the oil. I understand what you’re saying: it’s a very inefficient way to heat your house.

    Now, the other thing that you can do is – do you have a storage tank on that boiler?

    KEITH: I have a pressurized storage tank that serves the domestic water. I don’t know if that’s …

    TOM: Right. Is it – look big? Is it like 30, 40 gallons?

    KEITH: It’s 40 gallons, yes.

    TOM: It’s oil-fired?

    KEITH: It’s oil-fired, yes. Comes directly off the boiler.

    TOM: Oh, OK. Yeah. When you say “directly off the boiler,” it’s separate from the boiler or it’s – the hot water is heated through the boiler?

    KEITH: No, it’s separate from the boiler.

    TOM: Oh, OK. Yeah, alright. So, yeah, then my original answer applies. You can replace that with an electric water heater: either a standard one or a heat-pump unit. If you can’t afford the heat-pump unit and you’re going to use the standard electric water heater, make sure you put it on a timer because you don’t need to run it 24-7. You could set it to go off in the middle of the night.

    KEITH: Oh, OK. Yeah, that’s – yeah, that’d be very good.

    TOM: OK?

    KEITH: Yeah, I appreciate that. Thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Still ahead, we’ll tell you about one resolution that you can make that will help you declutter your home over the course of the entire new year, so stick around.

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    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show available at 1-888-MONEY-PIT and also online at MoneyPit.com, where you can post your question, just like Hal did from South Carolina.

    LESLIE: “I just put a new shingle roof on our single-story duplex six months ago. We have very large pine trees in the backyard and pine straw is piling up on the roof. How damaging can the straw be to the roof and do I need to clear it off periodically?”

    TOM: I don’t think that pine straw or leaves are necessarily physically damaging to the roof. I mean the biggest downside is that you’re holding moisture against the roof, you’re likely to get more algae and that sort of thing. But I really don’t think it can hurt the roof. If you just don’t like seeing it, certainly you could clean it off but I wouldn’t worry about it damaging the shingles.

    Alright. We’ve got another question here from Jeff and Jeff has a question about insulation. He says, “We live in an older, 1949 home. There’s no insulation under the floors. Limited insulation in the attic. Wondering whether it makes more sense to insulate the attic or the crawlspace if I’m on a limited budget.”

    So, good question: floor or attic? Obviously, the answer is attic because heat rises. So, my priorities for insulating a house would be attic first, floor second and walls third because the walls are the hardest to get to and are probably going to have the least return on investment.

    LESLIE: Yeah, Jeff, exactly, unless you do want to tear up all the siding on your house, which is exactly what I did, which is why my walls now have insulation. It does make a huge difference. But I also updated all the insulation, so it’s hard to say exactly what is working best. But it’s definitely a key. Start at the top; work your way down.

    TOM: Well, it’s the time of year when we all make some resolutions to change the habits we wish we didn’t have. And that’s why it’s also a good time of year to change your household habits, as well, especially those that have to do with clutter. Leslie has got some tips to help you get rid of that clutter, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    LESLIE: That’s right. Now, one of the best and least expensive ways to feel better about your home is to clear it of its clutter. Every year, most of us end up with more stuff than we get rid of. Now, without some regular purging, cabinets and drawers will eventually begin to overflow. Now, with small kids, I like to get rid of all of the non-played-with toys while the big one is at school. But don’t tell him.

    Now, not only does it become harder to find the things you need and the things that you’re using on a daily basis, but your home is going to start to look dated and dingy if you don’t stay on top of the clutter.

    So, one resolution that you can make is to take a day, every now and then and throughout the year, go room by room and clear it of anything that you don’t use, wear or love. After that, think twice about what you’re buying to sort of fill up that space that you’ve just made.

    And stash those useful things that you need but aren’t necessarily nice to look at. You’ve got items like DVDs or remote controls, kicked-off shoes. Think about woven baskets. I keep a beautiful, sort of Middle Eastern or African-looking basket underneath a bench in our foyer that we all just throw our shoes in. So, instantly, instead of having a pile of shoes, they’re just in a basket and you don’t even know they’re in there. So really think about that. You also want to clear your counters of everything that you do not use on a daily basis.

    And if you do all of these things, just seriously, take a minute. Because you’re going to start to breathe a little easier and you’re not going to feel so overwhelmed in your own home. And being that it’s a new year, it’s a great time to start.

    TOM: Good advice. This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up next time on The Money Pit, we’re going to have some tips to help you with roof replacement. You know, your roof replaces – your roof stands up to every storm and it really does protect the structure. But if it starts to wear, that structure is at risk and replacement could be needed. If that’s a project you’ve got planned for your money pit in the next 12 months, we’re going to have tips to help you get that done, on the next edition of the program.

    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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