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Use Photo Electric Smoke Detectors for Timely Alarm, Learn How to Remediate Mold at Home, Get Travel Safety Advice in Time for Holiday Visits and more

  • Transcript

    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 question, your do-it-yourself dilemma. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. Got any last-minute fix-ups before the holiday rolls around? Well, pick up the phone and call us. We will help. 888-666-3974.

    You know, this time of year, we need to be especially careful when it comes to house fires because whenever we turn on the heating system, well, it turns out then that’s when the fire season really starts in terms of homes, so you want to be super-careful. Now, most of us are super-careful, because we’ve got smoke detectors, right? Well, it turns out, according to a new study, that not every type of smoke detector actually really does its job when it comes to saving your life. Only certain types of detectors really work the best. And there is a huge difference in when the alarm goes off from one type to the next, so we’re going to look at the different types of smoke detectors that are available on the market today and give you some tips on which ones are best to have in your home.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you know what else? We’ve had a really wet fall around the United States and all of that moisture really brings the potential for a dangerous invader in your house this winter and we’re talking about mold. So coming up, we’re going to tell you when mold cleanup is a do-it-yourself project and when you really need a pro. And we’re going to give you some tips on how to determine what exactly would or could be covered by your insurance.

    TOM: Plus, if you’re heading over the river and through the woods to celebrate the holidays, you want to make sure that your car has an emergency kit at the ready. So we’re going to tell you how to stock it.

    LESLIE: And this hour, we’re giving away a fantastic prize package from Stanley Tools. It’s worth more than 220 bucks and it includes a variety of hand tools that will help you get started on pretty much any do-it-yourself project.

    TOM: And it makes a great gift, too. You can check that out and the rest of our gift picks on our website at MoneyPit.com. Just click on the Holiday Gift Guide, which is presented by Stanley Tools.

    But right now, it’s time to get to the phones. So pick up the phone and call us at 888-MONEY-PIT with your home improvement question, 888-666-3974. Let’s get right to it.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Brent in Texas is on the line with a venting question. Tell us what’s going on.

    BRENT: My question is about ridge venting. I’ve seen a couple of different places where people said, “Well, you can’t use the gable venting in conjunction with the ridge vent. It’d change the draw.” Of course, in the old balloon construction, the draw really comes up the balloon framing and vents into the attic, which goes out the gable vent. Would those need to be closed off? Would it work well in conjunction with each other or can I just stick with what’s there?

    TOM: Well, the most important part of a ventilation system you didn’t mention and that’s at the soffits. Are you going to have soffit venting on this house?

    BRENT: Well, since it is vented though the balloon framing now, I wasn’t sure if I really needed to add soffit venting, as well.

    TOM: The best ventilation system that you could have – and I wouldn’t count much on the ventilation through the balloon framing, because that’s presuming that the home is going to be pretty drafty. But remember, the purpose of that ventilation is to dry out the insulation that’s in the attic space. The best way to do that is with a combination of ridge and soffit vents, because they work together.

    And how they work together is that the wind blows and it presses up into the soffit vent, rides up under the roof sheathing and then exits at the ridge. The ridge is always in a depressurized area of the house, because the wind hits that and sort of bounces off the roof and goes in a circular motion, which causes a draw at the ridge. And then, so, the positive pressure at the soffit goes under the sheathing, goes out at the ridge.

    Now, your question is: what about the gable vent? And the answer is you should block it off, because it does interrupt that flow of air from the soffit, under the sheathing and out the ridge. By having the gable vent, you get some sort of turbulence up there that interrupts that flow. So if you can have a soffit vent and a ridge vent, that’s the best situation. If you’re not going to have a soffit vent, frankly, it really doesn’t matter, because you’re not going to have the pattern that we would like you to have and you just have another hole in the space to let air out.

    But if you want to make it really efficient, put in soffit vents, put in ridge vents. And then if the gable vent comes through the wall in an old Queen Anne and you want to leave it for appearances, that’s fine. Just put something across the back of it so it doesn’t actually let air in.

    BRENT: Alright. Well, that does help out. I appreciate your help.

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

    LESLIE: Laurie in Nevada is on the line with The Money Pit. Has got a question about a cement sink. What can we do for you?

    LAURIE: Yeah, hi there. Yeah, we – you know, I’m helping my parents out with their very old home. Unfortunately, we’re really low on funds, et cetera, et cetera. We have a sink in our old home; it’s in the basement. And the sink is part of the washer/dryer setup there. And it’s an old cement sink that has a crack in it. I was hoping that we could do something to repair it just until they’re ready to move on, because we’re trying to do the downsizing and stuff.

    TOM: OK. Is the crack really severe where it’s in two pieces or is it just like one crack that – where water gets through?

    LAURIE: Well, it’s kind of like a little forked crack that’s in part of the sink, on the base of it, so …

    TOM: So, what I would recommend is use an epoxy on this. There’s a product called PC-7. It’s sort of like a putty and it comes in a container that has the A part and the B part and you mix it together. And so it ends up being, when it’s mixed together, kind of like Play-Doh. And you can press it into place and get it troweled out and pressed into this crack. And leave it alone for about 24 hours and it will never, ever leak again.

    So good luck with that project and 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. It is just a few short days to the big holiday and I’m so super-happy. And you know what I really want for Christmas?

    TOM: What’s that?

    LESLIE: In addition to a dishwasher – I know I ask for it every year – I would love a good night’s sleep. With a newborn at home, we’re not getting very much sleep. So please, Santa, give me a good night’s sleep.

    But for you guys who need some help with a home improvement project or maybe some ideas or tools to get for the DIYer in your life, give us a call. We’re here for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Still ahead, it’s time to stock your car with emergency supplies so that trip to Grandma’s house for the holidays does not turn into a real travel nightmare. We’ll tell you exactly what you need to get going, after this.

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    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Roxul, manufacturer of fire-resistant, water-repellent and sound-absorbent home insulation products. Keep your home efficient and comfortable this winter and all year long with Roxul ComfortBatt and Roxul Safe’n’Sound insulations. www.DIYWithRoxul.com. Roxul. That’s R-o-x-u-l.

    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. Pick up the phone, give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    This hour, we’re giving away a great prize. We’ve got a combo pack of hand tools from Stanley Tools. And it’s perfect, really, for any project that you might be working on. We’ve got the Stanley Stud Sensor and it’s got a feature that can even detect live wires that are buried in your walls, which you do not want to find with a screw gun in your hand; that would be very bad. So, it’s a great tool, it’s a great prize. And you can get the Stanley Stud Sensor and many more handy tools from Stanley, worth a total of $220.

    TOM: If you pick up the phone and call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. And if you are shopping for handy gift ideas, check out The Money Pit’s Holiday Gift Guide, which is online at MoneyPit.com and presented by Stanley Tools.

    LESLIE: Steve in Missouri is on the line and needs some help with an insulation situation. I just like rhyming.

    What’s going on, Steve? How can we help you today?

    STEVE: I have a 22-year-old house and it has that pink fiberglass insulation up there. It’s blown-in and it’s probably an average of 12 inches deep right now. It’s kind of settled down quite a bit and I was wondering if there was a product that would be better than that that I could put on top of it? Or should you put something different on top of it? And how deep should it be?

    TOM: Well, 12 inches is a substantial amount of insulation but actually, today, we would recommend closer to 18 to 22 inches. So, what you could do is on top of the blown-in, you could add some additional blown-in or some fiberglass batts laid perpendicular to the ceiling joists, so to speak, so that you pick up some additional insulation.

    STEVE: OK.

    TOM: The new batts, though, you might want to make sure that they’re not – they do not have a vapor barrier attached. It’s just a raw fiberglass batt.

    STEVE: OK.

    TOM: And that will bring you up to what’s considered the sort of the normal standard for an energy-efficient house today.

    STEVE: Alright. Well, I sure appreciate it.

    TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling at 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: Well, if you’ll be traveling a bit this holiday season, it’s a good idea to pack a travel emergency kit for your car. This can help you stay safe and minimize the inconveniences of an unexpected breakdown. So, here’s what you need in your trunk for everyday travel and a bit of extra preparedness during longer trips.

    First, make sure you pick up a good set of reflective triangles, a flashlight and flares. And this will also help a towing company or police find you in the dark.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Next, you want to add a set of jumper cables, a fire extinguisher, water to drink and a first-aid kit. Now, those basic items can help with many roadside problems. You also want to consider a tire inflator.

    Now, make sure that your spare tire is in the car and it’s in good working condition. You don’t want to be in the middle of changing a flat only to realize that your spare is flat or you don’t even have one.

    TOM: You know, that inflator is critically important. We recently purchased a new car and were shocked to find that the car no longer came with a spare tire. We got a Hyundai Sonata for my wife and we love the car except that it doesn’t have a spare. What it has instead of a spare, it’s got an inflator and a can of that sort of leak – gooey stops that you spray into the tire and it’s supposed to fill the hole? So I don’t know how that’s going to help me if the tire – like you hit something and it tears. But other than that, that’s all you get these days. So make sure you’ve got all that gear in the car before you head out.

    LESLIE: Well, it’s funny because your cautionary tale – when we purchased our new car, I asked the very – one of the very first questions in the deal. I was like, “And do we get a spare tire?” And they were like, “Yes.”

    TOM: Yeah. Because years ago, you would never dream of asking that question. It’d be like saying, “Does the engine come with this car?”

    LESLIE: Right.

    TOM: Everybody gets a spare. Well, today, they’re cheapening out and they’re leaving the tires out. So, if you don’t have one, make sure you’ve got the kit so that you can fix a flat if it happens to you.

    Hey, if you need more emergency travel advice, we’ve got a great article online right now. Just search “car emergency kit” at MoneyPit.com.

    888-666-3974. Give us a call right now, especially if you’ve got a home improvement emergency. We are here to help.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Don on the line who’s looking for some ideas for the patio. How can we help you?

    DON: Hey, I’ve got a little 8×12 concrete patio. It comes off the back of my money pit and I’m looking at ways to shade that. I know I can put something on the house: one of those shades you can buy that will extend automatically. But I’m also looking for different options.

    TOM: Do you care about keeping the weather off of it or you just want to shade it?

    DON: I just want to shade it. I’m not so much interested in keeping the weather off of it. I’d like to shade it in the summertime and I’d like to let the sun in in the wintertime.

    TOM: What about a pergola, Leslie?

    LESLIE: Yeah. I mean a pergola could be a really great idea. It’s a simple-ish build, depending on the design that you go for. It’s basically sort of a shade structure that has some open bays sort of in the ceiling of it, if you will, for lack of a better word.

    And what you could do with those open areas, a couple of different options. You can either plant or have beautiful, decorative pots with vining/climbing/flowering foliage that will grow up and sort of cover over in the arbor top of the pergola itself. Or you can even get – it’s a tracking system with sort of these ball rollers that go onto the tracking system on the sides. And you could put fabric in between, so you can pull the fabric closed or open, depending on how much shade you want to get to the space.

    DON: OK.

    LESLIE: So it really depends on the look that you want.

    DON: Where do you get the tracking systems?

    LESLIE: Now, Don, the company that sells the tracking system for pergolas – or they even sell the entire tracking plus fabric. And you can sort of do individual bays or do the full width. Depends on how much shade and how much fabric you want to see. It’s a company called ShadeTreeCanopies. All one word; that’s their website. And they have a retractable awning kit for pergolas.

    DON: Wow. That sounds cool. That’s what I’ll try to do and I’ll see if I can’t go that route. I do appreciate your help.

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

    LESLIE: Susan is on the line with a cold-water shower that I imagine she doesn’t like very much. Tell us what’s going on.

    SUSAN: Rather shocking.

    TOM: I bet.

    LESLIE: I can imagine.

    SUSAN: The hot-water faucet in the upstairs shower is the only hot-water faucet that does this – is when I adjust the hot water and it’s right – a good mix with the cold water. Step in the shower, then (audio gap) the hot water stops flowing and the water turns cold. It’s almost like the faucet shut itself off or …

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

    SUSAN: Gas.

    TOM: And does this problem exist with any other fixture in the bathroom or the house for that matter?

    SUSAN: No. It’s the only one that works that way. The hot – the kitchen does not do that; the other bathroom sinks and faucets don’t do that.

    TOM: So this is a single-handle faucet?

    SUSAN: No. It’s a – there are two handles. They have separate handles.

    TOM: Well, I think you’ve got a bad valve in there somewhere. Because if it’s just happening in one location like that, that’s the only thing it could be. We have plenty of hot water for the rest of the house. I suspect that there’s a problem with the valve. You might just want to replace the faucet set.

    SUSAN: Oh, OK.

    TOM: That would make sense as to its …

    SUSAN: I just wondered, why would that do that?

    TOM: I’ll just speculate here. As the water heats up the pipe, the metal expands and causes the valve to squeeze shut a little bit or something like that. There are a lot of reasons it could happen but I think it’s mechanical, because it’s only happening in one location, so it has to be the valve.

    SUSAN: Oh. That’s correct. Yeah.

    TOM: It’s not – there’s nothing mysterious about this. It’s got to be the valve.

    SUSAN: Alright. Well, great. Thank you for the diagnosis.

    TOM: What you might want to think about when you replace this is talk to your plumber about something called a pressure-balancing valve. Now, I’m not sure if he’ll be able to find this for this kind of configuration that you have.

    But what a pressure-balancing valve does is it keeps the mix ratio between hot and cold steady, regardless of what’s happening in the rest of the house. So that if you were to hop in the shower and somebody else flushes a toilet somewhere, you don’t get sort of that shock of hot or shock of cold water as one fixture sort of steals water from the other. It keeps the ratio the same. So while you may have less or more water, the temperature of the water never changes. If you’re going to spend the money on a plumber and valves, I would definitely look into getting a pressure-balanced valve set if I could.

    SUSAN: Well, I’m glad to know about that. Thank you so much.

    TOM: You’re welcome. Good luck with that project, Susan, and 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. Coming up, mold is a threat to your health and your well-being. And with the wet autumn that we’ve had, you might have some growing in your home right now. So up next, we’re going to have Kevin O’Connor from TV’s This Old House joining us. And he’s going to share some tips on mold cleanup, 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.

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    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 to find the perfect holiday gift, 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.

    TOM: Give us a call right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. You can also reach out to us on any one of a number of social-media platforms, like Pinterest. Are you on that yet? You must be, unless you’re living under a rock. Come on. Pinterest is huge and we’re on it, too. We get to share some pretty cool, money-saving home improvement ideas, so please follow us and Happy Pinning.

    LESLIE: John in Oakhurst, New Jersey – maybe Tom’s neighbor – has a question about a water heater. How can we help you today?

    JOHN: Yeah, I just literally had a water – a new water heater installed today. We started to have some leaking coming out of the top where – I guess where the input and the output lines go in. So we had a new one put in; we knew that was failing. But the installer suggested and recommended to us that we flush it once a year. And although that sounds like it makes sense to me – I know there’s a lot of people don’t do the – I just want to get you guys’ opinion on whether that’s really important to do that annually. And if you don’t, what’s the downside of that?

    TOM: Well, the reason that you flush a water heater is because you get sediment in the bottom of it and the sediment acts as an insulator. It doesn’t really cause any harm to the water heater and I think in a situation where you have city water, it’s not as important as when you have well water. It’s sort of an old wives’ tale; it’s kind of something that people always started doing and not really ever stopped doing or understand why they do it.

    There’s nothing really wrong with flushing it. The only downside is that you may find that the valve that you open up at the bottom of the water heater once a year, one of these years it’s not going to want to shut again and you end up with an expensive repair. So I don’t think it’s critical but I don’t think it will hurt you unless the valve gets kind of gummed up at some point and starts to leak.

    JOHN: That’s a good suggestion, Tom. I appreciate that.

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

    LESLIE: Well, even the cleanest of homes can have mold and we’re not just talking about the mold that covers the uneaten of leftovers from last week. You know, besides being unsightly, mold can cause major and even permanent health problems.

    TOM: That’s right. But what do you do if you find mold or suspect that you have mold? The host of This Old House, Kevin O’Connor, is here to walk us through it.

    So, Kevin, if we suspect that we have mold or we spot something that looks moldy, is it a do-it-yourself project to clean it up?

    KEVIN: Well, I hate to say it but it depends.

    TOM: OK.

    KEVIN: And here are a couple things to think about. First of all, mold can pose serious health issues. So, if you are allergic to mold or if you have respiratory problems or a suppressed immune system, you should not be getting rid of the mold yourself.

    Now, if you don’t have those health issues, then you want to think about how much mold do you have and where is it. If the mold covers, say, 10 to 30 square feet, that’s about the size of a 4×8 sheet of plywood, well, then you can probably get rid of it yourself.

    TOM: Right.

    KEVIN: If it’s a bigger area than that, you want to call in a professional.

    And if you can see where the mold is, well, then you can probably get rid of it yourself. But if you’re afraid that it’s gotten behind the walls into places that you can’t see, that’s when you might want to think about calling in a professional, as well.

    TOM: And I think it’s important to note that even if you are going to do it yourself, you want to follow some basic guidelines. And the New York City Department of Health actually has some of those guidelines online that are very helpful.

    KEVIN: They do. So does OSHA. And basically, some of those guidelines say eye protection, gloves and a respirator whenever working with mold.

    LESLIE: Now, if you do attempt to sort of tackle this do-it-yourself cleanup of mold, should you first identify what kind of mold that you have, to even see if you should do it yourself? Or if you’ve got it, get rid of it?

    KEVIN: I don’t think you should bother with a mold test. I mean there are literally thousands and tens of thousands of different kinds of mold out there. Mold is a problem when it’s in concentrations and when it’s in our house. And so it doesn’t matter, really, what kind of mold it is; you want to get rid of it. So spend your time and money getting rid of the mold, as opposed to determining which kind you have.

    TOM: Now, if you are going to hire a pro, it’s a challenge today, more so than ever before, to find somebody who really specializes in that.

    KEVIN: And I think that’s the key. I think you do want to find someone who specializes in this. Someone might have done a great job renovating your kitchen and they might be a fantastic contractor but they should be trained in mold mitigation. And so not every contractor out there is right for this job.

    I would suggest that you go to a couple different organizations that certify folks. There’s the American Indoor Air Quality Council and the Indoor Air Quality Association. That’s a good place to start when looking for a qualified contractor.

    TOM: Now, what about insurance coverage for mold? Is that standard today or not? Or is it just another thing that they try to weasel out …?

    KEVIN: Well, in terms of insurance, I think the answer there, also, is: it depends. It really depends on which – what kind of a policy you have. And I will say that you need to be aware that some insurance companies require additional riders for mold. So read the fine print and know what you’re getting into.

    LESLIE: Now, what about once you’ve got the mold situation under control, what can you do to make sure that this doesn’t come back and isn’t a recurring problem?

    KEVIN: Well, mold needs three things to grow and live: it needs oxygen, it needs food and it needs water. Deprive it of any one of those three things and you won’t have mold come back.

    Now, it’s very – well, it’s impossible to deprive it of oxygen.

    TOM: Right.

    KEVIN: And it’s hard to deprive it of food, because it likes anything organic and it loves cellulose, so we’re talking 2x4s, we’re talking the paper on the backing of insulation and drywall. So, get rid of the water. No water? No mold.

    TOM: Fix the leaks.

    KEVIN: Fix the leaks, keep the house dry and you’re not going to have a mold problem.

    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 to be here.

    LESLIE: 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 mold removal and other projects, visit ThisOldHouse.com

    TOM: And Ask This Old House is brought to you by Stanley. Stanley, make something great.

    Still to come, will your smoke detector sound an alarm quickly enough to save your life? Maybe not, according to a new study. Learn which type of detector is best, after this.

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    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by TotalProtect Home Warranty. Get total protection against unexpected home repair or replacement costs for appliances, air conditioning, heating, plumbing and electrical. Visit BuyTotalProtect.com to see if you qualify for a special offer. That’s BuyTotalProtect.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 right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT with your home improvement question. One caller we talk to on the air this hour is going to win a combo pack of hand tools from Stanley Tools. And it includes the FatMax 25-Foot Magnetic Tape Rule, which is my favorite tape measure in the world, by the way.

    I have been using the FatMax Tape Measure forever and it always really works well, because this idea of the 11-foot standout, that means that the tape measure doesn’t collapse when you’re trying to extend it and measure something. And that is just super-handy and now they’ve made it even better, because they’ve added a rare-earth magnet to the end so that you can kind of grab onto anything that you really want to measure.

    So this prize is worth 220 bucks. Not just the tape measure; you get a whole boatload of tools. And we’re going to give away that package to one caller who reaches us with their home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Clyde in Missouri is on the line with a roofing question. What can we do for you today?

    CLYDE: I’ve got a composition roof on my house. I have a garage. It’s 14 foot, 6 inches to the perpendicular, with a metal roof. And I want to attach the two. What would be my most simple way to do it?

    TOM: So these two roofs will intersect, Clyde?

    CLYDE: Yeah, they’re the same height, floor and roof ridge. Everything is the same.

    TOM: But you have metal on one and then you want to put composition on the other. So what would have to happen is the metal roof would be flashed up underneath the composition roof. The metal would actually be both the roof of the garage and the flashing for the composition. So where they come together, the composition would overlap on top of the metal but the metal will actually go under the composition to create the watertight seal. Does that make sense?

    CLYDE: Yeah. That’ll help out a lot. I can go from there. Appreciate it.

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

    LESLIE: Well, you might think that having working smoke detectors in your home is going to protect you in the event of a fire. I mean we’ve all had that moment of frantically waving a towel at your detector because of burnt toast or – happens to me every time I make pancakes, so I don’t make pancakes very often in the house.

    TOM: For good reason, right?

    LESLIE: Right. And my son is always like, “Ugh, you’re going to set off the fire alarm again.” It’s possible.

    Well, when it comes to smoke detectors, you really need to know that there are two types of detectors out there: you’ve got ionic and photovoltaic.

    Now, it turns out that the burnt toast type of smoke may set off those ionic smoke detectors but those same types of detectors will not detect a slow, smoldering fire. Now, there was a test done by Texas A&M University and the ionic smoke detector did not go off until 36 minutes after the fire had started. And that’s really too late to avoid toxic smoke.

    TOM: Yeah. And the good news is that the photoelectric type of smoke detector does detect fires quickly. They’re a little more expensive but well worth the cost. And what we would recommend is that you actually have both. If you’ve already got the ionic type, back them up with photoelectric ones and vice versa.

    Now, you might wonder why are the ionic smoke detectors still available and even on the market. Well, the main reason may be financial, because those detectors are simply cheaper to buy and cheaper to make. But when it comes to your family’s safety, there’s no price tag. So let’s make sure we have both types of detectors so that you can keep your detectors in good working order, because it definitely could be a matter of life or death. And we want to make sure that you stay safe all year long.

    888-666-3974. You’ve got a question about home safety? You’ve got a do-it-yourself dilemma? You’ve got a project that positively, absolutely must get done before the family shows up for the holidays? Pick up the phone, let us help you out. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Karen in Nebraska is having some issues with her automated lighting. What can we do for you?

    KAREN: Well, I have a porch light on the side of the house and one in the front of the house. I got these timers. The one in the back works perfectly fine. At dusk, it’ll come on and then when the daylight comes, it’ll turn off. And the one on the front will not. So I took the timer back on the front and I thought, “Well, maybe it was a faulty timer.” But it still doesn’t work and I had a man look at it and he can’t figure out why it’s not working. It would be helpful if that one would work, too, because now you don’t have to turn it off and on.

    TOM: But the switch works. So you know that without the timer, it comes off and on. It’s just when you add the timer into this?

    KAREN: Right.

    TOM: What kind of timer is this? Is this the kind of timer that takes the place of the switch or what?

    KAREN: Well, you just screw the light bulb into this timer and then you screw the whole unit into the – in the light-bulb area.

    TOM: Oh, I see. This probably isn’t it but are you using a high energy-efficiency bulb in one or the other?

    KAREN: Well, I thought about using those but at this point, I’m using 40-watt bulbs.

    TOM: OK. Just regular incandescents?

    KAREN: Uh-huh.

    TOM: Huh. And you’ve tried two of these and they’re still not working?

    KAREN: Right.

    TOM: But without it, the light comes on and off normally?

    KAREN: Right.

    TOM: Wow. It sounds like something’s wrong with the timer. I wonder if because of the configuration of the way the timer screws into the fixture itself, that maybe it’s not making contact.

    Like, for example, sometimes when you have a timer that screws into the socket where the bulb goes and then you screw the bulb into the timer, maybe it doesn’t get close enough to actually make a contact because the fixture’s a little bit different. That’s the only thing that really comes to mind on this, Karen. Because it wouldn’t make sense that it’s not working.

    Have you done this? Have you taken one that doesn’t work in the front and screwed it in in the back and see if it works in the back? Because that will …

    KAREN: I did, I did. And then I took the one from the back and put it into the front and it didn’t work either, so …

    TOM: And put it in the front. So then I think it’s pretty clear that for whatever reason, the timer is not getting power from the light fixture. So …

    KAREN: How would I be able to fix that?

    TOM: Well, you’ve got to try to look at it closely and figure out why that’s happening.

    LESLIE: Now, this may sound crazy but I actually had a light fixture inside my home – a lamp that I’ve had for a gajillion years – that suddenly stopped working. And I thought, “Oh, I have to replace the socket. What’s going on with this?”

    And I brought it to an electrician friend of mine who looked inside the socket and there was a little tab that the bulb makes contact with. And I guess over the – I think we’ve had it 10 years – of putting in light bulbs, we may have gotten aggressive and the tab just got pushed down. And he simply reached in with it unplugged and raised the prong.

    Yeah, make sure you’ve got this whole breaker turned off. For me, it was a table lamp, so I knew it was unplugged. But for you, make sure it’s completely turned off at the fuse box. And just pull that tab up and surprisingly, that did the trick. The lamp works amazingly. The guy didn’t charge me. It was awesome. So this could be a simple fix. I mean it’s worth a shot; anything’s worth a shot.

    KAREN: Oh, I know it is. Because I thought, “It’s really a pain to have to turn that off every morning.”

    TOM: Yeah. No, I think that’s definitely the easiest thing to do, Karen. Clearly, it’s not getting power. You need to figure out why. Fix that, you’ll be good to go, OK?

    KAREN: OK. Thank you so much.

    TOM: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Up next, we’ve got advice to help make sure your bathroom has plenty of ventilation, because all the humidity needs somewhere to go. And if you don’t flush it out, you could be looking at mold and mildew problems. So we’ll teach you what you need to know, next.

    (theme song)

    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: So, while you’re out playing Santa, wouldn’t it be nice if Santa paid you a visit, as well? Well, that could happen if you enter The Money Pit Santa Home Improvement Sweepstakes, because we are giving away a fantastic prize.

    LESLIE: That’s right. And you could win a brand-new Whirlpool Duet High-Efficiency Washer and Dryer worth $1,449. Now, entering is really easy. Just head on over to MoneyPit.com.

    TOM: You can click on our Facebook link from MoneyPit.com and enter on our Facebook page. Plus, once you’ve submitted your entry, you will also be given the opportunity to share the contest link with your friends. And if they enter, guess what? You get five bonus entries for every one of your friends that enters. So you can really collect quite a few opportunities to win if you enter the Santa’s Home Improvement Sweepstakes on MoneyPit.com. So do it today.

    LESLIE: And while you’re online, check out our Community section and you can post your question there or just brag about a home improvement project you’re working on or post some pictures. But Josh from Michigan had a question and he wrote: “In my bathroom, I’ve been having some problems with what looks like drips on the wall. Now, these drips are sometimes a yellowish color and more noticeable after a shower. Is this a venting problem?”

    TOM: Potentially. It sounds like it definitely might be.

    Now, the thing about bathroom ventilation is the building code is a little crazy. If you’ve got a window in your bathroom, most building codes say you don’t need to put a ventilation fan. And that would require you, of course, to open that window on a crisp January morning to let that air sort of vent out.

    We always think it’s a good idea to have a ventilation fan and we also think it’s a good idea to have a ventilation fan that is on two types of switches: one is called an occupancy sensor, so it comes on whenever someone walks into the room; and the second is a timer because when you take a shower, you don’t just want to turn the vent fan off when you walk out of the bathroom. Because if you’ve ever entered the shower after somebody just came out of it, it’s always very hot and steamy in that room. And that moisture has the opportunity to collect and condense and then settle on all the surfaces.

    And because the moisture contains mineral salts and things like that, that’s what gives you those yellow stains, sometimes those white, crusty stains that really just makes a mess and you have to clean it. So, it’s a good idea to have a ventilation system that’s set up on those switches and that will definitely avoid that problem from happening in the future.

    LESLIE: Alright. I hope that helps you. It is – you know, it’s something you have to keep up on but it will solve the problem.

    Now we’ve got Mark in Ohio who wrote: “I’m debating on getting my old home insulated. It was built in 1941 and I don’t believe there is any insulation. How should I go about it?”

    TOM: Yeah, it’s a great question. So I would set priorities for insulation. The number-one priority would be the attic. You want to get insulation across that attic floor. You’re going to want probably 15 to 20 inches of insulation there. If you’re going to use a batt product, you’re going to want to put in at least a couple of layers so you get up to that thickness.

    If you’re going to reserve some area of your attic for storage, you can have less insulation there so you have the room for the storage and then more where it – in all the rest of the areas. So attic is definitely first.

    And if we could get to walls, we would tell you to do that second. But since we can’t, you should go to the floor next. So you want to insulate all of the open cavities between the floor joists. And then the last thing to do is those walls and I say “last” only because that’s the more expensive part of the house to insulate. Attic insulation, floor insulation, batt insulation, very inexpensive but the walls, you have to actually do some sort of an insulation where you blow it in. And that requires a professional contractor to do.

    So attic first, floors second and then if you’ve got the budget, walls third. You’ll see a big difference in comfort.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And Mark, if you happen to be working on a project where you’re opening up the walls or you’re doing an expansion, definitely insulate there, because that will make a huge difference. But even just starting with the attic, as Tom said, you will notice a huge difference.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Happy Holidays, everybody. Hope you’re out there and about and enjoying this very special time of year. Remember, if you’ve got a home improvement question 24-7, we are standing by at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. And you can also post your question 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.

    (theme song)


    (Copyright 2011 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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