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The Website – and App – every DIYer needs, Keeping Seniors Safe in Extreme Weather Emergencies, and Projects To Complete Before Winter

  • Transcript

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And we are here for you to help you with your home improvement projects, to solve your do-it-yourself dilemmas. If you’re trying to tackle a job around the house – something that’s going to make your home make energy-efficient, nicer to look at, more comfortable – give us a call, right now, at 888-MONEY-PIT because you don’t have to do it yourself. We can help, 1-888-666-3974.

    Coming up on this hour of the program, don’t you hate it when you are smack-dab in the middle of a project and you reach a hurdle? Well, that’s when you call us. We know. But if you hit a home improvement snag or you need product specs on the spot, there’s an app for that. We’re going to teach you about a new website and mobile app that can help you with those answers on the spot.

    LESLIE: And the most active part of hurricane season is upon us and no one’s more vulnerable than seniors, especially if they live alone. We’re going to get you some tips to keep senior citizens in your life safe from weather emergencies, in a few easy steps, when This Old House host Kevin O’Connor stops by.

    TOM: And do you think that you’re just about done with outdoor home improvement projects? Well, not yet. There are a few things that you need to do now, while the weather’s still warm enough, to avoid bigger and colder headaches in the dead of winter. We’ll tell you what you need to know, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: And you know that horrible odor coming from your garbage disposer? Well, one lucky caller never has to fight it or smell it again. We’re giving away a Glisten Family of Cleaners Prize Pack, including Glisten Disposer Care. It’s going to get rid of garbage-disposer grunge, buildup, germs and that funky smell.

    TOM: It’s a prize worth 50 dollars. So call us, right now, for your chance to win at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. Let’s get to it.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Valerie in Washington is on the line and has question about outdoor décor. What’s going on?

    VALERIE: I have a simple railing on my front porch and it’s cedar. Part of it’s stained to keep it from deteriorating, so it’s orange-colored. And the rest is just naturally-aged cedar-silvery. And I want it to be white to match the rest of my trim. So, there’s two different colors and do I do an undercoat – a primer? And is it oil-based? And can I get a stain – a pure-white stain – for it?

    TOM: So, you probably can. What I would suggest is a two-fold approach. I would prime it first and then I would use a solid-color stain. Because I think that will give you the sort of more natural look that you seem to be looking for. But you should prime it and then apply the solid-color stain.

    Now, because this is off-color orange, as you described it, if you don’t prime it, you may get some of that that comes through. That’s why I want you to prime it first. You’d use an exterior-grade primer and you’d use a solid-color stain. If you buy both the primer and the stain from the same manufacturer, you can be sure that they’ll work well together.

    VALERIE: OK. Does this matter if it’s oil-based or not?

    TOM: I would probably recommend an oil-based primer, only because you’re going to get better coverage over that darker color. But in terms of the stain itself, that could be latex-based.

    VALERIE: Oh. OK, then. Thanks a lot. I appreciate it and I enjoy your program.

    TOM: Well, thank you very much. 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now, it’s time to chat with a pro out of Iowa. We’ve got Ed on the line who wants to get some information to put some issues to rest.

    What’s going on, Ed?

    ED: I’ve got a homeowner in the Omaha area that is doing an extensive remodel. We’ve removed an awful lot of walls in the home and obviously, there’s a lot of new sheetrock and texturing taking place. Typically, when I do a job like this, obviously, you’re plastic-ing (ph) off various rooms to keep dust under control. But you know how dust can move around, regardless of how you try and capture it with blankets and so forth.

    TOM: Right. Mm-hmm. Yeah.

    ED: This particular issue, I’ve asked the homeowner to regularly check and change their furnace filter.

    TOM: OK.

    ED: And when she changed the filter, unfortunately, I saw one of the cheapest – those blue fiberglass filters that you and I …

    TOM: Right, yeah. We call them “rock-stoppers.”

    ED: That’s about it. That stop a rock and not much more.

    OK. Now, unfortunately, the response I got from this gal was not what I normally get. And here’s the deal, Tom: her brother is a salesman for heating-and-air-conditioning equipment in the Omaha market.

    TOM: OK.

    ED: And he tells her, “Lori, do not buy an expensive filter. Buy the cheapest filter that you can buy because the new, highly-rated-efficiency furnace filters that have the MERV rating 10, 12, 14 and up, they create so much resistance for the blower motor on the furnace, you will shorten the life of your blower motor significantly. Therefore, I recommend not using those filters.”

    I’ve never heard that and I told her, “Lori, I’ve never heard that in my life.”

    TOM: So here’s what I would tell Lori. I would say, “Lori, you either put in a high-efficiency filter or you become a high-efficiency filter. Do you want the dust stopped at the filter itself or do you want the dust stopped in your lungs? Because that’s exactly what’s going to happen.”

    And beyond that, whenever you’re doing a project that’s generating this level of dust, this is the rare circumstance when I will recommend a duct cleaning when the project is done. But you’re wise to try to limit the dust up until that happens.

    But look, if she’s got a family member that’s planting this in her brain, you’ve given her your best advice, I mean you’ve just got to walk away. I wouldn’t get between her and her brother.

    ED: OK.

    TOM: But I think that you’re correct. I think she is incorrect. I’ve never, ever seen any data whatsoever that said that high-efficiency filters cause shortened blower lives. And I’m sure I would’ve heard of this by now, considering for how long we’ve been talking about these and studying them.

    You know, if she doesn’t put a good filter in, what’s going to happen in this case – and if she doesn’t clean it – if she’s got a central air-conditioning system, that evaporator coil where all the air is being pulled through is going to get cake-solid with all that dust. And then it’s going to have a very short life for an air-conditioning compressor. Which isn’t terrible news because, let’s face it, she does have a brother in the business who can buy her a new one.

    ED: Well, I – and Tom, I …

    TOM: And that’s what I would call “poetic justice.”

    ED: Very well said. And I just wanted comfort in knowing that, in all the years I’ve been encouraging people to use high-efficiency filters and going forward, am I giving, as a contractor, good advice or am I not?

    TOM: Nah, I think you’re giving excellent advice. Keep it up. Don’t let one bad experience dissuade you.

    ED: Thank you, Tom. Thank you, Leslie.

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

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

    Well, next week is fall. It’s officially my favorite time of year and of course, the busiest home improvement season. Mother Nature certainly decides that you’ve got a lot of projects to handle. And we here at The Money Pit can lend a hand. Give us a call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Hey, do you have home improvement questions and need answers instantly? Well, there’s an app for that. We’ll tell you what it is, next.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Pavestone’s easy-to-stack RumbleStone Rustic Building Blocks. Create any outdoor hardscape you can imagine, to instantly add old-world charm. Available at The Home Depot. For more information and product instructions, visit Pavestone.com.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Well, you can throw all the lemon you want into your garbage disposer but sometimes, that repulsive smell just is not going to go away.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Well, today’s lucky winner has odor relief on the way. We’re giving away a $50 Glisten Prize Pack chock-full of cleaning products, including Glisten Disposer Care. Now, it’s going to clean your garbage disposer and take all of those awful smells with it.

    TOM: Glisten, the machine-cleaning experts. Find out for yourself at GlistenCleaners.com.

    And pick up the phone and call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT for the answer to your home improvement question, a better-smelling garbage disposer and your chance to win, 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Tom in New Jersey, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you?

    TOM IN NEW JERSEY: We have a problem here. We have double-pane windows and the seal broke in one of them. And I was wondering if I could repair it myself by using clear caulk around the entire perimeter when the window becomes clear, as it sometimes does. If that does not work, would I make it – this will go for a professional to replace the window – the entire window – by doing what – you know, the caulking job?

    TOM: So what’s happening here is you have a thermal-pane window and the seal, which is called “swiggle,” deteriorated and let moisture in and that’s why you have the fogging. And the reason that sometimes it fogs and sometimes it’s clear is because it really depends on what the temperature is inside and outside and whether it’s got condensation there or not. It can’t be repaired, as you’ve described.

    Could you try to seal that when it happens to be clear? Would that have maybe some minor effect? It could but I just don’t think you’re going to stop it and I would’ve even bother trying with it. Your choices are to either live with it – because the good news is that while it’s unattractive, it doesn’t significantly impact its energy efficiency – or you could replace the window or just the glass itself.

    But I think if you were to order new glass for that window, you may find it to be almost as expensive as doing the window itself. So I would probably tell you just to live with it or replace the window. But to try to – to caulk it I don’t think it’s going to have any impact whatsoever.

    Actually, that’s a great idea, though. No one’s ever asked me that question, so kudos for the effort. 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Diane in Illinois who needs some extra storage space at her money pit. How can we help you today?

    DIANE: Well, I have a deck off of our master bedroom. And it’s a 12×12 deck and I want to turn it into a walk-in closet. And I want to bring my washer and dryer from the basement upstairs and put it into that closet.

    TOM: Well, this sounds like a good project, Diane, but I have to tell you that generally, when people try to convert a deck into a finished room – I’ve seen it done many, many times, especially in the 20 years I spent as a professional home inspector – it just doesn’t work, for a lot of reasons.

    And I can understand that you want it to flow nicely into the house and all of that but you’re really talking about an addition here. And if you’re going to build an addition, you typically were going to build it different than a deck. What I would recommend is that even though this is a small project, it’s a complicated project. Because not only do you want a closet, you also want laundry there.

    I think this is a great opportunity for you to consult with an architect, because you have a lot to do to get this done correctly. And you also don’t want to make it look like it’s sort of slapped on the outside of your house because it’s going to detract from your home value.

    But every single time I’ve seen somebody try to take a deck and convert it into living space, it’s never worked out too well. It might be that you can preserve some of the framing and maybe incorporate it in there but it’s going to now be living space. It’s going to have to be heated, it’s going to have to be cooled, it’s going to have to have wiring, it’s going to have to have plumbing. It’s an addition; it’s no longer going to be in a deck. So while that space might fit well for it, starting with the existing deck doesn’t always make the most sense, OK?

    DIANE: OK. So what would – we would have to just tear that deck down and start over or …?

    TOM: You may. But that’s why I say – let’s not speculate on this and let’s not make a wrong step. This is a type of project where you are well advised to hire an architect. It’s not going to be an expensive consulting fee because it’s a small project. But it’s really smart to do that in this situation because you’ll find out what you can save and what you have to tear down. You won’t make a costly mistake.

    DIANE: OK. I didn’t want anything falling off the house and tearing the roof apart. And I didn’t want to have to do all of that, so I appreciate your advice.

    TOM: Well, the goal is not to have to reach out for home improvement help when you’re covered in sawdust and wearing protective gear but as any do-it-yourselfer knows, that is exactly when you often need it most.

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    TOM: Or if you’re standing at the hardware store and you’re not sure how much product you need, you can let the QUIKRETE smartphone app’s quantity calculator figure it out for you.

    LESLIE: And its built-in products scanner even lets you scan and access more information.

    TOM: Head to QUIKRETE’s website for the app and more, online, at QUIKRETE.com. That’s Q-U-I-K-R-E-T-E.com.

    LESLIE: Peter in Alaska, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you?

    PETER: Well, I’m having trouble with my soil stack up my house, the vent – the main vent – going out. In the wintertime, it freezes solid and I don’t know what to do about it.

    TOM: Let’s see. Tell me about the structure of your house. So the soil vent goes from your bathroom, up through your attic into – though the roof and out?

    PETER: Correct. And it’s a two-story house. It’s very well insulated. I have R-32 walls and R-83 ceiling and I have double walls in my house. And the attic is vented along the ridge and it also has gable vents.

    TOM: And is it freezing over at the cross – the top of the vent?

    PETER: No. It’s down a little bit and my vent is up high. I got it about 4 feet down from the peak of the roof and it stands about 4 foot up from the roof.

    TOM: I wonder if you were to insulate that soil pipe, whether it would be warm enough to prevent the freezing from forming down deep in it, if you were to insulate it right up to the point where it exits the roof.

    PETER: I thought about that. I did that for our vent that’s over the stove, because I thought of the heat going up through there might condensate with the cold metal. So I did insulate that. So I was thinking maybe that would work. I don’t know.

    TOM: I would. That’s a really easy thing to do. I would definitely think about giving that a shot. Because the moisture that’s getting out there is obviously a lot of water vapor. And if we can keep that pipe from freezing, the less chance you’re going to have to get that ice buildup. And then probably what happens is you get gurgle-y pipes because you’re not getting any air out of it. Things don’t flush right and all that.

    PETER: Exactly. Yeah, I am concerned about it. And everything is heated, you know? Our toilets are hot water.

    TOM: I would try that. I would insulate it. It’s a very easy thing to do and you’ve already got a terrifically insulated house, so why not just extend it up the other side of the roof?

    PETER: Yeah. Alright. Thank you very much. I’ll try that.

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

    LESLIE: Jeanette in Colorado is on the line and needs some help with a radiant-heating question. What can we do for you?

    JEANETTE: I would like to know if it would be good to do the radiant floor ourselves or to have someone else do it. Is it going to increase my electric bill quite a bit? And if it is something I could do, what materials would be best to do?

    TOM: Wow. Lots of questions.

    LESLIE: Yeah. We only said “one question,” lady.

    TOM: Alright. So, the bathroom is the only room in the house that you want to have a warm floor?

    JEANETTE: Well, for starters. We would like to do it in the kitchen, also. But we thought we’d start with the small project as the bathroom.

    TOM: And what kind of a house do you have? Is it a ranch? Colonial? What are we talking about?

    JEANETTE: No, it’s more of a ranch. It has a – the bottom is not sitting completely on the ground because it’s lots of rocks and stuff in the mountains there. So it does have crawlspaces underneath.

    TOM: It does.

    JEANETTE: Yes, it does have crawlspaces where you – we have sump pumps in there to help anything that might cause that. So you can crawl under the house but it’s not very much room.

    TOM: OK. And how is it heated? Is it hot water or a hot-air system?

    JEANETTE: Hot air but we mostly use pellet stoves.

    TOM: So, it sounds to me like you’re going to be limited to an electric radiant-heating system. There are different types of heating underlayments, so to speak, that you would put on a bathroom floor and you would tile on top of.

    Now, is it expensive? Yes. It’s electric heat. It’s expensive to purchase and install, it’s expensive to run. It’s not a way to save money on your heating bill. There’s nothing cost-effective about electric heat. It’s very pleasant and nice to have that warm floor but it is an expensive project and it’s expensive to run. That said, if you put it on its own timer so it’s only on, say, in the morning or in the evenings for a limited period of time, you could manage that expense.

    Is it a do-it-yourself project? Yes, if you’re pretty experienced. Because the tile mats usually have to be ordered custom-made. And you have to make sure that they’re installed properly because if you get that floor down and it doesn’t work, you’ve got a big problem. You end up having to tear it up.

    Frankly, my advice would be to not do it yourself, because I would rather have a contractor do it that’s worked with it time and time again. I’d hate to see the whole thing get together and you’ve got a problem with it and you’ve got to tear it all up and start again. So, the amount of additional expense for labor, I think, would have sort of an insurance quality to it to make sure it comes out right.

    JEANETTE: Well, thank you all for your advice and I appreciate it.

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

    LESLIE: Hey, we are all at risk when emergencies strike. But seniors who live alone, they face the most danger. We’re going to help you create a weather-emergency plan for the senior in your life, when Kevin O’Connor from TV’s This Old House stops by to tell us how, after this.

    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.

    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: Well, a room is just a room until you add some amazing trim details. And they do more than just look great. Chair rails can protect from scuffs and crown molding can make a low ceiling look fantastic. And the installation is actually easier than you think. We’ve got tips for installing chair rails and molding on our home page, right now, at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Vinnie in New Jersey is on the line with a flooring question. What can we do for you today?

    VINNIE: I want to install laminate flooring in my bedroom. Right now, I have builder’s carpet and rather than removing the carpet, can I put the laminate flooring right over the carpet?

    LESLIE: Well, while it seems like it would be a good idea, it’s definitely not. Yeah, the issue is because a laminate flooring is a floating floor, it locks together and sort of floats in the perimeter of the space of your room. It needs a solid foundation to sort of keep those joints together and to keep it standing up to the wear and tear of just furniture placement and usage of the space. So you really do want to take up that carpeting, you want to take up whatever underlayment they’ve used and then you want to use the underlayment that the manufacturer of your laminate flooring specifies.

    So, some of the laminates come with an underlayment attached already to the back. Some recommend a foam that sort of rolls out. It really varies but it’s super effective and you do need it.

    TOM: You know, a lot of the seams with the flooring are locked together. And if the underlayment of carpet in this case is soft, as I’m sure it is, and you press down on that seam, it could pop open or it could break. It’s just not designed to be supported by anything other than the underlayment sold by the manufacturer and specced out to go with that particular product.

    VINNIE: So, the underlayment sold by the manufacturer would be more firm.

    TOM: Yeah, it’s usually a very thin foam, like maybe an 1/8- to ¼-inch stiff foam that comes in rolls and rolls out or like Leslie said, it could be attached to the back of the laminate piece. And it would go right on the subfloor or on the slab.

    VINNIE: OK. Thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Well, more than 60 million families have members that include children, seniors or someone who is disabled. And when weather-related emergencies strike, getting help to those families is crucial. But as we saw here on the East Coast during Hurricane Sandy, the most vulnerable are often the most difficult to reach.

    TOM: Well, that’s right. We saw seniors get stuck in high-rise buildings in New York City and on the Jersey Shore. And many older residents had no way to leave their homes. So what can you do to make sure the families who need help most during a weather disaster are actually getting that help? Let’s find out as we welcome Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House.

    Welcome, Kevin.

    KEVIN: Hi, guys. Great to be here.

    TOM: Kevin, this is a problem that we see time and time again. It happened during Hurricane Katrina, as well as Hurricane Sandy. Why is it so often overlooked?

    KEVIN: Well, I think it’s because people try to avoid the things that they don’t want to do and they’re hoping that it’s not going to affect them.

    TOM: Right.

    KEVIN: But the reality is is that millions of Americans are going to be affected by a weather event at some point; they are going to occur. Whether it’s a tornado or a hurricane, lots of us end up getting affected by these events at some point in our lives.

    LESLIE: Now, what should be included in your plan? Is it an escape route? Is it extra materials? Is there a checklist for this?

    KEVIN: There is a checklist. And what you really want to do is you want to start off thinking about what are you potentially going to be affected by. What are the threats in your area? Because they’re different across the country. Are you subject to tornados or is it wildfires? Could it be flooding or hurricanes? Obviously, the threats along the coast are going to be different than the threats in, say, the middle of the country, in Kansas, where they’re subjected to tornados.

    But the plan that you want – the checklist that you’re talking about, Leslie – there are some great ones out there. And if you go to the FEMA website – where you can actually download one of those plans. And it’ll give you that checklist so that you can look at all the things that you should be thinking about.

    TOM: And that’s at Ready.gov, which has all of that sort of information on it. It’s really a great resource.

    KEVIN: It’s a great resource. You can look at it, download it, keep it with you and refer back to it before the big event happens.

    TOM: Now, one of the things you probably should consider is where exactly you’re going to go if you’ve got to get out.

    KEVIN: I mean chances are, you are going to have to get out or someone you love is going to have to get out. And as soon as you get out, you may have lack of access to communication, so you want to know that in advance. Pick a loved one’s house, pick a friend’s house. Let your family members know that this is where we’ll go if we’re not going to be at home. “This is how you’ll reach me if you can’t reach me through the usual sources.”

    LESLIE: Yeah. And I think a lot of things that people tend to overlook are your pets. Because if you have to sort of locate to a shelter for a temporary stay, some shelters don’t allow animals. You’ve got to consider those things.

    KEVIN: When the hurricane comes to my house, my wife is packing up the dog before me. There’s no doubt about it.

    TOM: You know where you sit.

    KEVIN: She is not leaving Trapper behind.

    So, yes, absolutely, pets are part of our families. They’re going to probably come with us. How are we going to care for them? Where are they going to go in one of those emergencies?

    TOM: And part of getting out, also, is making sure you have those essential things, which in your wife’s case is the dog. But it could be medicine, eyeglasses, things that you don’t think about.

    KEVIN: Well, prescriptions are very important. Obviously, documents that are very important. Social-security numbers for your kids; I don’t have those memorized. Insurance documents. The types of things that you might need. If you have to file a claim when you’re not at the house, you may not have access to them. Bring them with you if you can.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And I think you really need to build a good support network. Because say you’re all alone in an area without family members nearby, you’ve got to make plans of where to go. So you’d better start making friends.

    KEVIN: Definitely. Talk about it with your friends. Think about family members that are close. But then, as you say, if they’re not close, you have to rely on friends. Think about people around the church that you might be involved with or other groups that you might be involved with. All of these people are going to be the folks who you might have to rely on, so you should be talking about it with them, thinking about who you’re going to call, who you’re going to contact.

    And also, think about who you’re going to check on. You might be the able-bodied person in the neighborhood but there might be elderly people on your street. Think about – “Should I go down and knock on their doors, see if they’re OK, if they’re prepared?” And if the disaster does hit, how are you going to contact them and make sure that they’ve got access to either communication or the things that they’re going to need.

    TOM: It’s like we say in construction: “Plan your work and work your plan.” Right?

    KEVIN: Plan your work and work your plan.

    You know, the other thing to think about it, too, is in an emergency, communications may go down or they’re going to be stressed.

    TOM: Right.

    KEVIN: And so, making a phone call may not be possible. So texting is a great idea. It’s a lot easier for a text to get through. And I know my parents prefer to call me. I prefer to text my wife. But get them prepared to say, “Hey, Dad, listen, this is how you text. This is what we’re going to need to do.” Get them familiar with it beforehand.

    TOM: Hey, that’s great advice. Kevin O’Connor from TV’s This Old House, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    KEVIN: Pleasure, guys.

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

    TOM: And This Old House is brought to you on PBS by Lumber Liquidators. Hardwood floors for less.

    Up next, home emergencies are enough of a hassle when the weather is warm. We’ve got tips you can take, right now, while it’s still pretty nice outside. They’ll have you avoiding those home headaches when it gets pretty cold out, when we come back.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Well, they’re supposed to make life easier but dishwashers and garbage disposers can become another headache when they start to smell.

    LESLIE: That’s why today’s prize puts a stop to all of those odors. We are giving away a $50 Prize Pack of Glisten cleaning products, including Glisten Disposer Care. It’s going to thoroughly clean every single gross, grimy part of your garbage disposer and take all of those germs and yucky smells with it.

    TOM: Learn more about Glisten, the machine-cleaning experts, at GlistenCleaners.com. And call us, right now, for home improvement help and your chance to win at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Michelle in Iowa on the line who’s looking to spend some more time outdoors with a fire pit. How can we help with that project?

    MICHELLE: Well, we started making an outside fire pit with fieldstone. And our mortar that we seem to be using, it just seems like it’s awful dry and it’s like it’s cracking. So, didn’t know if you had a different brand that you thought would work or any suggestions.

    TOM: Well, one tip is that if it’s a really warm, dry day when you’re working, you might want to consider putting some plastic over the areas that you’re working on, to slow the evaporation rate. Because if it dries really quickly, sometimes it can shrink and crack.

    MICHELLE: And no certain brand of mortar you think would work best as what the stores recommend for outside fireplaces?

    TOM: Well, QUIKRETE works extremely well, so you could look to the QUIKRETE brand. And one of the advantages of QUIKRETE is they’ve also got lots and lots and lots of videos online that give you the step-by-step on how to properly mix the product, for example, in this case.

    MICHELLE: OK. Thank you.

    TOM: Well, temperatures might be nice right now but in a few months, the last thing you’re going to want to do is bundle up, head outdoors and deal with a home improvement problem in the dead of winter. Why not tackle a few easy projects today that can save you those hours outside when the big chill hits?

    LESLIE: Water-leak emergencies are common when it’s cold, so now is the time to locate and label important water valves, including the main water valve, the water-heater valve, hose and ice-maker valves. Now, knowing where they are and what they do is going to spare you major damage and hassle if cold weather strikes.

    TOM: And after the first big fall rainstorm this fall, grab a flashlight, head into your attic and inspect areas around chimneys and plumbing vents for leaks. Then pick up your binoculars and inspect the same spots from the outside, scanning also for missing shingles and loose flashing that might need to be replaced.

    LESLIE: And steadying a handrail today could mean avoiding an emergency this winter. Make sure that all inside and outside handrails are secure and repair loose railings, posts and spindles. They need to be extra sturdy when the conditions get icy.

    TOM: And caulking your chimney crown can protect against water, which is extra risky over winter when it can cause chimney bricks and structures to freeze, break and even fall right to the ground.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Deb in Missouri on the line who needs help with a flooring question. How can we help you?

    DEB: Yes. Well, we replaced our flooring but we destroyed most of the molding trying to get it off along the mopboard.

    TOM: OK.

    DEB: And we were wondering, what’s the best way to put new on? What would be the best to use? The walls are all plaster. It looked like the nails had been set before the plaster was dry, because we had to cut them off.

    TOM: And so how high up the walls did the molding go? Because usually with plaster walls, the molding is a lot taller than a standard 3½-inch base molding.

    DEB: It’s 3½ inches.

    TOM: It is 3½ inches?

    DEB: Yes. But we could go a wee bit higher and it still look nice.

    TOM: Right. OK. Do you want the molding to be painted or natural?

    DEB: Well, I don’t think we’ll ever match the doors. It’s all wood and I don’t think we’d ever match that.

    TOM: OK. So do you want the molding to be painted, then?

    DEB: Yes. We’ll probably go painted, yes. But adhering it to the walls is going to be a real pain because of that plaster.

    TOM: Hmm. Yeah. Well, you’re going to do it with a combination of trim screws and LIQUID NAILS. So you’re not going to nail it, OK?

    What you’re going to do is – probably the least expensive thing to buy is something called “finger-joint Colonial baseboard molding.” It’s a very straightforward molding with a little bit of a fluted edge on top. It looks nice; it looks finished.

    Is it – does the thickness matter? Does it have to be a certain thickness to cover a gap between the wall and the floor?

    DEB: At least a ¼-inch, yes.

    TOM: Quarter-inch? OK. So all you’re going to need is the molding then. Because you could put the molding and then shoe molding over that, which would extend it out to almost an inch. But no, you’re going to buy finger-joint baseboard molding. Finger-joint means it’s ready for paint.

    Now, before you apply it to the walls, I would prime it so it’s a lot easier to paint this molding. In fact, I would prime it and I’d put one finish coat of paint on it because it’s a lot easier to paint it when it’s up on some sawhorses than when it’s attached to your house.

    And then when it comes to installation, you’re going to – and you know what? You might want to get a carpenter that knows how to do this because, frankly, it’s just a lot easier if you know how to make a corner joint, which is called a “coped joint.” And you do it with a coping saw.

    But the way you attach it is with – after it’s all cut to fit, you apply some LIQUID NAILS to the back of the molding and then you put in only as many trim screws – and trim screws are kind of like drywall screws except they have a really tiny head, like a finish nail. But you only put enough of those in to hold it while it’s drying. So you’re not going to have nearly as many trim screws as you will nails. And it’ll be really solid.

    And the last thing you do is fill those holes. And you put one finish coat of paint on when – and then you’re completely done. So by putting the paint on ahead of time, you’re halfway there. All you do is touch it up, fill the holes, put one more coat of paint, you’re good to go. OK?

    DEB: Awesome. Thank you so very much.

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

    LESLIE: Coming up, you know there are plenty of products claiming to keep your heating costs down. But not all of them are created equal. We’re going to share some times to separate insulation fact from fiction, when The Money Pit returns after this.

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    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Thank you so much for being a part of our program today. We are here to help you, 24/7, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    And hey, if your kitchen oven is not working properly in your house, that can happen more frequently in the colder months. Don’t lose it when you need it most. We’ve got some easy maintenance tips that can add some efficiency and even years to that appliance, on our website, right now, at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Alright. And while you’re on our awesome website, make sure you post your questions or even brag about whatever projects you are working on and post some pictures. We’d love to see it and of course, then offer our unsolicited advice as we often like to do. But seriously, if you’ve got a question, we’ve got answers.

    And here’s a question from Todd who writes: “What are your thoughts on insulating paint additive? I hear it can improve the heating and cooling of your home if you paint it onto your walls and ceiling and inside your attic. Because the paint additive contains ceramic microspheres that have reflective properties. It’s a NASA spinoff, according to what I’ve read. Any truth to this?”

    TOM: The concept of insulating paint, Todd, though, has been around for probably at least a decade that I can remember. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen any convincing data that it actually works as promised. It’s certainly not widespread. I mean sure, ceramics are a great insulator for rockets but that doesn’t mean it’s going to work well for walls and ceilings.

    Whenever I hear stories like this and it’s sort of on that periphery of some product that’s been touted as being energy-efficient – going to help save you money, whatever, but it’s not like sort of an over-the-counter product – I always say to go back and check the basics first.

    So, in your case, I would take a look at your insulation. I’d be willing to bet you that if you went up in your attic right now, you probably don’t have enough. And before you start thinking about some of these crazy products, like insulating paint, I would check to make sure I’ve got insulation in my attic, insulation in my basement or crawlspace, at the box beam, all the basic areas are well covered. And if you get the rest of the house perfect, then you can start thinking about these other areas and maybe trying out one of those products on a very limited basis and seeing how it goes.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Plus, I imagine those cans of paint have to be super-duper-duper heavy with all of that insulative-property stuff that’s in it.

    Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post from Jordan who writes: “We recently dug out an old garden patch that was up against our house. Just wondering what’s the best type of fill to use to bring the soil level back up to the foundation. We have some mixed three-quarter-minus” – I don’t know what that means – “sand and soil leftover from a patio project and wonder if that would do. We would, of course, grade it away from the house.”

    TOM: That’s like a mixed gravel type of a product. And the bottom line is that any type of clean fill dirt absent of any kind of organic matter, like branches and leaves and grass, should work to bring that level back up. It is, however, very important that you slope it properly. And it’s always good to add an additional layer of topsoil on top of the clean fill dirt if you want to add some grass. Or you could also just add some mulch over it.

    The material that you talked about will probably be fine. Of course, you’re not going to do it all with that. But you’ve got to tamp it down really well, pack it down there really well and get that slope established.

    And while you’re at it, take a look at your gutters and downspouts and make sure that they’re extended away from the foundation, as well. That proper water management at the foundation perimeter is what’s going to really make the difference.

    LESLIE: Yeah. I mean that really does make a huge difference. You’d be surprised how quickly water can move if you’ve got a blocked downspout or something’s disconnected. Start there and then you’ll probably see a huge difference right away.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Hey, if you have home improvement questions, we’ve got home improvement answers, 24/7, at MoneyPit.com. You can also post your question to our Community section or head on over to our Facebook page at Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit. We would love to talk with you.

    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.

    END HOUR 1 TEXT

    (Copyright 2015 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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