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    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: Standing by to help you with your home improvement projects. We are here to help solve your do-it-yourself dilemmas. If you are a do-it-yourselfer, we’re also here to make sure you don’t become a do-it-to-yourselfer. So call us first before you pick up that hammer, before you pick up that saw. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    We’ve got a great show planned for you this hour. First up, we’re going to talk about the fact that when temperatures fall, the number of house fires goes up. It’s crazy. And it’s not just people turning their heating systems on; it’s everybody using fireplaces and using more candles and all that sort of thing. And there’s one thing, though, that can protect you from fire and that’s a smoke detector.

    Do you know, however, if yours are working? If yours are working correctly? If yours are going to work when you really need them most? We’re going to give you some tips on how to make sure that you’ve got a good plan with those detectors, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: And also ahead this hour, if you’re like me – a fan of a beautiful, warm, crackling fire – this is your time of year. Fall begins the home fireplace season. But before you strike that first match, you want to make sure that everything is safe. We’re going to teach you how to do a visual inspection of your chimney, this hour.

    TOM: And fall is also the time of year that you’ll take on that last round of outdoor cleaning and a pressure washer can make short work of that project. So we’ve got some advice to consider when buying one.

    LESLIE: We’re giving away a great prize this hour. We’ve got up for grabs a Granite Gold cleaning-essentials kit, which is great for all of your natural-stone surfaces.

    TOM: It’s worth $55. Going to go out to one caller drawn at random at the end of today’s show, from all of those that reach us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT with their home improvement question, 888-666-3974. Let’s get to it.
     

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Chris in Louisiana is on the line and needs help with a driveway project. Tell us what’s going on.

    CHRIS: Well, I have an old concrete driveway that’s got a few cracks in it.

    TOM: OK.

    CHRIS: I would imagine those could be patched up with something like QUIKRETE. But what I’m basically asking about is extending the driveway from where it sort of slopes down to the ground, which is above the street level. And there’s about maybe a gap of 12 feet, perhaps, between the end of the driveway, which sort of feathers down. And then I’d like to extend it down towards the street so my property is about maybe 2 feet higher – eh, not quite that. Almost 2 feet.

    TOM: So what’d they do? Run out of concrete the first time they poured the driveway?

    CHRIS: No. We don’t have any sidewalks, so this would go over the area where there would be a sidewalk if they had sidewalks.

    TOM: Oh, alright.

    CHRIS: So I’m asking if concrete’s a better material to use or asphalt or perhaps something else, even?

    TOM: Oh, no. I think you – since you have a concrete driveway right now, I would clearly extend it using more concrete. I would repair those cracks in the surface. There is a QUIKRETE concrete-repair product that comes in a caulk tube for those small cracks. And you could also consider using one of the resurfacing products that are available so that now you’ll have a brand-new driveway and an old driveway. And if you resurface that driveway, it’s kind of like stucco. And they’re specially designed to stick to the old concrete. Then the whole thing will look brand new and it’ll all kind of match.

    CHRIS: OK. And do you have to wet that down first or …?

    TOM: Yeah, you just follow the instructions. There’s a …

    CHRIS: What’s that product called?

    TOM: It’s made by QUIKRETE and I think it’s called Sand/Topping Mix or something like that.

    CHRIS: OK. And I can get that at like a home center?

    TOM: Home centers. You know, take a look at the QUIKRETE website. They’ve got some great videos there on all of these projects.

    CHRIS: OK. Now, how about the extension? Do I need to build a form or just lay concrete down and kind of pack it in?

    TOM: No. Have you ever poured concrete yourself before?

    CHRIS: A little bit but mostly just for small projects, like walks and stuff.

    TOM: Well, you know what? This is a pretty big project and since you haven’t done it before, I would recommend that you get a mason to help you. It’s a little bit different to handle this amount of concrete. You’re going to need a fair amount of it.

    But basically, the way the project goes is they do build forms that hold the concrete in at the end. And with a 12-foot section, they’re going to probably put an expansion joint in between. So you pour the first section and then you have the expansion joints in there. Then you pour the second section.

    You’ve got to shake the concrete and treat the concrete and finish the concrete so that the rocks fall down to the bottom and sort of the smoothest mud comes up to the top. Then you’ve got to put a finish in it so it’s not slippery. And you usually do that with a very course broom. So, it’s not the kind of first-time concrete project that I would recommend to somebody.

    CHRIS: At least that gives me an idea what to aim for. OK. Well, thanks a lot. I always enjoy your program on the weekends, when I hear it.

    TOM: Well, thanks very much, Chris. We appreciate that and good luck with that project.

    LESLIE: Judy in Iowa, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?

    JUDY: I’m in a house that my father built back in 1990.

    TOM: OK.

    JUDY: And while they lived there, they experienced black spots coming through on the drywall.

    TOM: OK.

    JUDY: And they called in a painter; a painter came in. He went over everything with KILZ first and painted it. Well, since then, they’ve both passed away and so I purchased the house.

    TOM: Right.

    JUDY: I had a friend take a look up in the attic and he told me, “Oh, I can’t believe that your father wrapped all this in plastic. Your house can’t breathe. We need to get up here and slice this plastic, let the house breathe and you won’t get any more of these black spots.”

    TOM: So does he think the black spots are mold?

    JUDY: I don’t know.

    LESLIE: And what room were you seeing it in?

    JUDY: Every different room. Yeah.

    TOM: OK.

    JUDY: It’s almost like it’s the nail heads are getting wet or something.

    TOM: OK. So, up in the attic – let’s talk about that area. And you say he wrapped it in plastic. What exactly are you seeing?

    JUDY: Well, I didn’t; I haven’t been up there.

    TOM: Oh, your friend saw it.

    JUDY: My neighbor went up.

    TOM: Alright. Well, look, when it comes to vapor barrier, here’s the rule: the vapor barrier goes towards the heated side of the house. So a common mistake, for example, up in attics, is to put the insulation in backwards where they have the vapor barrier sort of facing up as you’re in the attic looking down.

    And the solution to that is to cut the vapor barrier. I’ve seen that in crawlspaces, too, where they put the vapor barrier because it has the nailing flange on it. And they only tap on it at the edge of the beams and it’s on the wrong side. So, as long as the vapor barrier is between the ceiling and the insulation, it’s done correctly. If not, then yes, you can go up and slice the vapor barrier and let it breathe more.

    The other thing to do is to make sure that your attic has adequate ventilation. And the best ventilation is a continuous ridge vent, which goes down the peak of the roof, matched with soffit vents at the overhang.

    JUDY: OK. That’s what I needed to know.

    TOM: 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. Now, you can be part of the fun. Pick up your phone and give us a call with your home repair, home improvement, décor. Holiday guests are coming over; you don’t know what to do with that guest room to actually make it look like a guest room and not a pile of junk where you shove things. Whatever you are working on, we are here to give you a hand with that project. And we’re available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, before you get too excited about firing up that fireplace of yours, you need to make sure you’re playing it safe. We’ll have tips to help you do just that, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Swann Security. Enter Swann’s Get Connected, Be Protected Sweepstakes today at Swann.com and you could win one of five complete, do-it-yourself home security systems, including the top prize of a four-camera security system, iPad and plasma TV valued at over $5,000. Enter today at Swann.com. That’s Swann.com. That’s S-w-a-n-n.com. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.

    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: Taking your calls right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. One caller who makes it on the air with us this hour is going to get a cleaner home, because we’re giving away a cleaning-essentials kit from Granite Gold, the leaders in stone care. Besides their popular Daily Cleaner, you’re also going to get four other products, including polish. You can use it weekly to bring out a stone’s natural beauty and to guard against water stains.

    It’s worth $55. Going out to one caller that reaches us with their question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Next up, we’ve got Roger in Alaska who’s got a super-loud heater. I guess in Alaska, your heat is on a lot, so you want it to be kind of quiet.

    Welcome, Roger.

    ROGER: We bought a bed-and-breakfast up here and we’re not using it as a bed-and-breakfast; we’re just living in it.

    TOM: OK.

    ROGER: And one of the last things that was done to it was they replaced this old, 77-percent efficient furnace with a brand-new, cutting-edge 97-percenter. And we did a bunch of insulation work on it and everything after that, too. But one thing we notice is the vents – I mean when that thing – it’s like it’s a variable stage. And the vents seem to roar sometimes when it gets to blowing warm air.

    TOM: Right.

    ROGER: We haven’t had much of a use for it yet; it’s still summer. So we haven’t heard it kick on, I think, full-power. And maybe that’s it; we’re just starting to hear it. And I’m wondering, can – we’re probably going to have to contact the HVAC guys but is there anything that can be done or maybe open the ends of the – replace the floor grates with something that’s wider aperture or something? It just sounds like there’s a lot of noise coming out of it.

    TOM: The one question I would have is: did they change the blower speed? Because if the blower speed is higher than it was before – and it might be necessary by – depending on the type of the high-efficiency furnace that was installed. But the blower speed was stepped up, that could make for louder air noises going through the duct system.

    And second to that, it is possible to do a few things to quiet the duct systems, if they’re expanding and contracting and sort of making that oil-can popping sound. They can be reinforced to slow that down. They can also be insulated and you could add additional bracing to it to cut down vibrations. So I think you’ve got to isolate as to whether or not this is just wind speed because of the blower or is it vibration and expansion and contraction because the ducts are just sort of old and loose and like you say, potentially undersized.

    So you do need to look into it a little bit deeper but rest assured that there are a couple things that you can do to probably quiet it. Although having said that, the high-efficiency systems are louder sometimes than the old ones. Because the old ones only had, really, kind of a lazy burner that lit up and then the blower that just sort of chugged along. High-efficiency systems have draft inducers, which are motors that come on and pull the gases through the system so that you’re assured of getting every single BTU out of the gas that you burn. That’s what gives you the efficiency but it does add just a bit to the noise component.

    ROGER: Yeah, we don’t know the history on this thing because we just moved in. And we do know the gas bills are pretty horrendous over recent years; that was part of the disclosure in the sale of the house and all. So we’re happy to have the high-efficiency system. But like you said, maybe it’s just – it’s a requirement because of the high efficiency of it.

    But yeah, we’re going to have to look into a few other things. I’m afraid that it’s going to involve getting an HVAC company in to possibly change out the squirrel-cage blower in there. And I really – it’s a new system; I’d rather not do that.

    TOM: That’s something that I would not do and frankly, that would have been part of the furnace anyway, so you wouldn’t just replace that if it – those are multi-speed blowers and the fan speed can be adjusted. But that would not be part of what I would expect.

    ROGER: OK. Well, I love you all’s show. I’m just worried that we may have bought a money pit up here in Alaska.

    LESLIE: Oh, no.

    ROGER: But we love it. I tell you, the views are gorgeous.

    TOM: Well, Roger, if it turns out that’s what you did, you know the number: 888-MONEY-PIT.

    ROGER: Thanks so much. I love the show.

    LESLIE: Well, fireplace weather is coming up for much of our country but with all that warmth and coziness, there really is some maintenance that you’ve got to take care of. So, to keep your chimney’s structural integrity intact, it’s important that you make sure there are no leaks.

    TOM: Now, one common leak in a masonry chimney is the crown. That’s the cement area between the outside edge of the brick and the terracotta-clay chimney liner. And when that crown cracks, water will leak down into the chimney and it can actually go right down into the firebox. And what’s worse, during winter, water trapped in those cracks will freeze and that’ll cause the brick to literally break apart as the ice expands. So you can end up facing some pretty major repair costs before long, should they be necessary to restore all of that broken brick.

    If you want to avoid the problem, just inspect that crown every year and then caulk it with silicone to make sure it stays watertight.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you know what? It only takes about a half-an-hour and it’s one of our 30-under-30 projects that we’ve got listed in our book, My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure. Check it out at MoneyPit.com. We’ll give you a sneak peek there. You’ll find lots of projects that you can do in under 30 minutes. So you could tackle 1, 5, 10, whatever you’ve got going this weekend. We’re here to help.

    TOM: And that’s online at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Dottie in Nebraska is on the line and needs some help with a flooring project. What can we do for you today?

    DOTTIE: I’m replacing – will be replacing a vinyl floor in the kitchen. And I’ve never had a wood floor. I love the look of wood but I’m confused as to whether to go with wood or with laminate, because I want easy care.

    LESLIE: OK. And this is strictly for your kitchen or does it …?

    DOTTIE: We will be going into the dining room, too, we’ve decided. We’ll be taking up carpet in there to extend into the dining room.

    LESLIE: OK. So it’s – is it an open plan or is there a threshold or is there a division between these two spaces?

    DOTTIE: There is a counter between the two.

    LESLIE: OK. Now, for kitchens, hardwood floors are beautiful but generally, even if they have a commercial type of coating on them, they’re not really meant to stand up to the wear and tear and perhaps the moisture that could occur in a kitchen environment. I think a laminate is probably a better choice for you, just because of the way they are made. And the finishes on top of them make them more easy to clean, easier to deal with any spills that might occur and certainly more durable and of course, can look like anything.

    I actually just put a laminate, in a home I redid in California, that was a 6-inch-wide plank that had a hand-scraped finish on it. So it certainly had that warmth and look and a quality of a traditional hardwood that you’re probably looking for. And depending on the quality of laminate, you could get kind of close to a hardwood price but I think you can still keep it in your price range.

    DOTTIE: Yes.

    LESLIE: But you can find, certainly, beautiful options in the laminate. I think that’s probably the way you want to go for a kitchen.

    DOTTIE: OK. And see if you agree with this: I’ve been told that we have oak cabinets that are OK and not to try to match those. Is that right to go lighter or darker?

    LESLIE: Absolutely. What color is the oak? Is it sort of natural? Has it been stained a different tone?

    DOTTIE: It’s pretty typical, warm oak: kind of a golden – kind of a medium brown.

    LESLIE: I like the idea of a darker floor in a kitchen. I feel like it’s more forgiving. I feel like it makes the cabinets sort of jump off and create a more put-together look for a kitchen space. I think with a lighter floor, you’re always going to be trying to clean it and care for it, cover it up.

    DOTTIE: OK. And as far – I have a friend who put – I think she said hers is cherry but I love the look. It’s kind of a – the planks are a different shade; they’re not all the same color. Is that something you think that I could find or would that look nice with the oak?

    LESLIE: Now when you say “different shades,” is it strikingly different? Does it look sort of patchwork-y or is it more tonal?

    DOTTIE: No. No. More subtle than that.

    LESLIE: More subtle. I mean I think it could be a very good look if you’ve got the right look for your kitchen. That tends to be a more – not a hippie-dippie but Bohemian, free-spirited sort of eclectic look that’s very popular right now. So if you’ve got that look going in your lighting fixtures and in your tile work and in your countertops, then it could really tie it all in together.

    DOTTIE: OK. And one last question. That floor that I like is laid on the diagonal. Do you do that much and do you recommend that?

    LESLIE: Depends on the size of the space. Because if it’s a tighter or a narrow kitchen, it could look very busy. But if you’ve got a good expanse and the kitchen is fairly wide, then it could play very nicely.

    DOTTIE: Well, that’s wonderful. That’s what I wanted to know. I thought probably the laminate was better. I want it to look beautiful; I don’t want it to look fake.

    TOM: I’ll tell you, Dottie, I have laminate in my kitchen and I’ve had it for about 10 years now.

    DOTTIE: OK.

    TOM: It looks like stone floor and it’s beautiful.

    DOTTIE: Wonderful. OK. And no particular brand tips or anything like that? Maybe you can’t do that. I’m really a novice here.

    TOM: Well, I’ll tell you, you might just want to – a good place just to kind of shop for it is LumberLiquidators.com, only because they have good prices and they have a whole bunch of manufacturers there on their website.

    DOTTIE: Sure.

    TOM: So that might be a good place to start.

    DOTTIE: OK. I will do it. Thank you so much.

    TOM: Alright, Dottie. 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. Up next, the results can be tragic if you wait until there’s a fire to think about your smoke detectors. We’re going to have life-saving information on these important safety devices, 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.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Andersen Windows, the number-one brand of windows in America. Now enjoy 10-percent off all special-order Andersen windows and patio doors at The Home Depot, including the Andersen 400 Series Double-Hung Replacement Window, making it easy to replace your old windows. Valid through October 17. See The Home Depot for details.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Give us a call right now with your home improvement question. We are standing by to help you out at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Kip in Louisiana is on the line and needs some help with a brick problem. Tell us what you’re working on.

    KIP: I just built a patio and we covered the patio with a – basically, it looks like an addition to the house to match the existing roof. And we have brick on the outside but whenever the builder came in and put the patio, he had to cut some of the overhang to make it go straight up, if you kind of imagine what I’m saying here.

    And so now I have particle board, or OSB board, at the top and then brick at the bottom. And I’m looking the best option to cover this with to give it some kind of – something nice to look at instead of going it with stone or something like that. My options were stucco, tongue-and-groove board or the Hardie Board or something like that.

    TOM: So, right now, you have brick on the bottom of the house? And what other kind of siding do you have on top of that or is it only brick? Is this the only area that’s sticking out?

    KIP: Well, the wall is brick and then we have the door, of course. But you have the wall is brick and where he cut the overhang out, above that is OSB.

    TOM: OK. Well, I mean OSB obviously is not an exterior-siding material and so you’ve got to put something on there. I think that the composite shingles – the HardiePlank – is probably a good option for you. The thing is, if you do something like stone, it may not look right because it may not match the brick properly and not look natural. But if you use a completely different siding product, then it may have a better, more complimentary appearance. Either that or even something like 1×8 cedar clapboard. You know, it’s a very thick, deep profile and brown cedar siding looks pretty nice against red brick.

    KIP: OK. What about the – and I know it’s not pressure-treated but there’s a tongue-and-groove pine. If that being stained with a sealer, would that last the duration or not?

    TOM: Not nearly as much as one of the siding products like HardiePlank or cedar. And by the way, if you take your time and finish that properly, you can probably get 20 years out of it. And by finish it properly, I mean use a good, oil-based primer on the siding and then cover that with a solid-color stain.

    KIP: OK. Well, good deal, guys. I appreciate it.

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

    Well, every year in the U.S., there are an estimated 400,000 house fires and nearly 2,400 people die in those fires. Now, much of that can be avoided if folks will just start paying attention to their smoke detectors. You can’t just have the it’ll-never-happen-to-me mentality, because it really can happen to just about anyone.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. So to keep from becoming a statistic, you want to consider this: you do need several detectors in your home. You often hear homeowners say they are awakened by the smell of smoke but don’t count on that. You actually lose your sense of smell while you’re sleeping.

    Also, you want to make sure that you put a detector near your bedroom and one near your kids’ rooms. If you tend to create a lot of smoke when you’re cooking, you might want to consider a newer detector near the kitchen that’s got a temporary shut-off switch that can be reset when it’s just the toast that burns.

    TOM: Now, the single-most important thing to remember is this: you must check your alarms monthly and change the batteries every six months. And if your detector is five years old or more, replace it; they’re not expensive. In fact, some fire departments offer free or even discounted detectors and install them. So, it’s worth a call to find out what your local fire department offers.

    But remember, make sure you’ve got those detectors on every floor of your house, outside the bedrooms, in the basements. And make sure you can hear them.

    If you want more tips on how to get your house protected against fire, log on to MoneyPit.com. There’s lots of fire-safety tips right there.

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

    BETTY: We live in a ranch-style home and we have several bedrooms and bathrooms where the door frames, up above the door frames on just one side, are cracking. And we have repeatedly had contract workers out here to repair them and it has not held.

    TOM: Feel like it’s Groundhog Day? You’re fixing the same thing over and over again?

    Yeah, it’s pretty common. Around the door frame and around windows, those are the weakest portions of the wall. So if you have some movement from the normal expansion and contraction, that’s where it’s going to show. Typically, what happens is you’ll have a painter or a handyman come out and they’ll spackle the crack and paint it and it seems to go away for a while. But of course, as soon as the wall moves again, it shows up.

    What you really have to do here is sand down the area around the crack.

    BETTY: OK.

    TOM: And then you have to cover it with a perforated spackle tape. And that usually looks like netting and it’s a little sticky. You put it across the crack and then you spackle over the tape. And that does a permanent repair, because it actually sort of melds one side of the wall with the other and it should not separate again the next time the wall moves.

    BETTY: OK. Well, that sounds wonderful. Thank you so much. I appreciate your help.

    TOM: You’re very welcome. 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, it’s my go-to tool for outdoor cleaning projects. I’m talking about a pressure washer. We’re going to tell you why it’s a great investment and help you figure out how to choose the one that’s right for you, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Bostitch. Professional-quality hand tools. Pneumatic and cordless nailers and staplers.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. And the number here is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Now, we’ve got some great prizes up for grabs this hour. We’ve got something that’s really, really helpful, because we know that natural stone is really popular for a reason, because it’s so beautiful. But taking care of it can be tricky, so we thought this could be a great prize for a caller. So one of you this hour is going to get a grand prize from the Cleaning-Essentials Kit from Granite Gold.

    And the kid includes the best-selling Daily Cleaner plus four other products, including an outdoor stone cleaner that can actually attach to your garden hose. So if you’ve got a natural-stone surface anywhere around your money pit, you can make it clean.

    TOM: It’s worth $55, so give us a call right now for your chance to win. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

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

    SUSAN: I was calling because I have a large room that was converted from a garage into a living room but it’s got some dark, ugly paneling on it. And what’s the best way to remove it or how do you undo paneling?

    LESLIE: I mean it really depends on how much work you want to do and how that paneling that’s there was attached to the existing structure.

    Now, it was the garage previously?

    SUSAN: Yes. And it was ridiculous. It was paneled and – like it was a really elite garage when we moved in. It was crazy.

    LESLIE: Now, do you know, is the paneling just attached directly to the studs of the wall? Or is it attached by glue to drywall? Have you had any clue what’s behind it?

    SUSAN: I don’t.

    LESLIE: I wonder if there’s a place where you can lift up a piece of trim or remove a switch plate and see what’s sort of going on with that? Because it could be that it was a garage. It could just be that the paneling was put directly onto those studs and then you could pull that off and have a clean slate and just go ahead and put some drywall up. And while you’re at it, add some insulation. Because if it was a garage, there’s a good chance there wasn’t any there before.

    Now, if you do find that it was attached to some drywall, it’s probably glued on and everything behind it’s going to be a mess. So you’ve got two choices there. You can either just make that paneling look attractive by painting it. And you know what? When paneling is painted like a glossy white or a glossy neutral color, it actually doesn’t look so bad. It can kind of be that great, interesting base texture with sort of a modern country feel, if that makes sense.

    But if that’s something that you’re like, “Oh, God, no, I don’t even want to see it,” you can easily go over it with ¼-inch drywall. The only thing is where you’ve got switches or outlets or trimming, those things are going to have to bump out a little bit. So that requires a little bit of carpentry but it’s not the end of the world and it is a do-it-yourself project.

    SUSAN: OK. So it really depends on what it’s over.

    LESLIE: Depends on what it’s over, how it’s attached and how involved you want to get.

    SUSAN: OK. Well, I guess the first thing I will need to do then is take a piece off or figure that out and go from there.

    LESLIE: Don’t sound so down; it’s not a difficult project.

    SUSAN: OK. Well, I appreciate the advice.

    TOM: Well, a pressure washer is a great tool to have for all of those fall chores we’re all doing right now. You can clean sidewalks, driveways, decks and siding, just to name a few. And if you don’t own one, it’s a pretty good investment, because it’s something that you can use quite regularly.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. There are a few things that you need to consider, though, when you’re buying a pressure washer. The first is, of course, the water pressure itself. A light-duty pressure washer is going to be about 1,300 to, say, 2,000 psi or pounds per square inch. And that’s going to give you about 30 times more pressure than what just comes out of your garden hose. And that’s pretty good for things like your cars, sidings, boats.

    Now, if you need something a little bit stronger, you can choose a medium pressure washer that goes up to about 2,600 psi. And that’s good for cleaning grease and grime. Heavy-duty pressure washers? Those are really best for stripping surfaces. So if you don’t have to do that, you don’t have to go that crazy.

    TOM: Now, you also want to look at the gallons per minute or the gpm. The larger the gpm, the more surface area a washer can actually clean. And finally, think about price. The price is going to be a major factor. You can expect to pay anywhere from about 100 bucks to up to a couple of thousand.

    If you’d like more tips, go to our website at MoneyPit.com and search “pressure washers.” We’ve got a fantastic article on there that will help you line up exactly what you need to look for if you’re buying one for your fall fix-up projects.

    LESLIE: Robert in Oregon is on the line and is having an issue with some plaster walls at his home. How can we help you?

    ROBERT: Well, I was finishing a room in my bedroom and after applying the plaster, some of the plaster was coming off after I painted it. But originally, I did the living room, which was my first job, and I mixed it – a bunch of the plaster – Imperial plaster. And of course, I mixed too much and it got hard, you know? So I learned not to mix so much, because it only – you can only use so much during a certain time before it sets up.

    So, anyway, in the next room, I drywalled it, finished it and then I used a product called Plaster-Weld, which is supposed to be a primer for the plaster.

    TOM: Right. Plaster-Weld is a bonding agent.

    ROBERT: Right.

    TOM: And you used this on top of drywall? Is that correct?

    ROBERT: Yes.

    TOM: Was it new drywall?

    ROBERT: Yeah, new drywall.

    TOM: OK.

    ROBERT: But I’d primed the walls first and then put the Plaster-Weld over that.

    TOM: OK. Hmm. OK.

    ROBERT: And then mixed up my plaster – it was Imperial plaster – and applied it and finished it all up and troweled it to the texture I wanted. And then we went back – my wife and I – and touched up a few spots and then let it dry overnight. Then we put a primer on it and while putting the primer on it, some of the plaster was coming off.

    TOM: First of all, I would not have primed the drywall. I don’t really see a reason to do that. You prime the drywall to control adhesion and to stop the absorption, I should say, of the new paint – the top coat of paint – and to get an even sheen. But you weren’t really concerned about sheen because you intended to do a plaster coat.

    You were basically building what’s called “plaster lath.” This is the way homes were done in the 50s, where you have a drywall base and then you put a plaster coat on top of that. The bonding agent was the right thing to do but that should have gone directly onto the drywall. Now you put the drywall on and then you put a primer over that and then you put the bonding agent on top of that. So now you have to get the bonding agent to stick to the primer and that’s a little more difficult than getting it to stick to the raw drywall.

    So I think you’ve got a situation now where you’re going to have this problem potentially repeating itself. So I hate to tell you this but what I might do is put another layer of drywall over this – real thin layer – and start again. You don’t have to use ½-inch; you can use ¼-inch just to skim it. And then put the plaster over that.

    ROBERT: Alright. Thanks.

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

    This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Up next, when you’re bundling up for this coming winter, don’t forget to bundle up your water heater, as well. We’ll explain why, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Andersen Windows, the number-one brand of windows in America. Now enjoy 10-percent off all special-order Andersen windows and patio doors at The Home Depot, including the Andersen 400 Series Double-Hung Replacement Window, making it easy to replace your old windows. Valid through October 17. See The Home Depot for details.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. And my favorite time of year, Halloween, is right around the corner. We’ve got some great ideas on avoiding tricks but keeping the treats in this year’s celebrations. Check out MoneyPit.com for a ton of ideas. We’ve got advice on keeping the pranksters away, safe lighting for your walkway and more. Just search “Halloween” at MoneyPit.com.

    And while you’re online, you can post your question in the Community section, just like Sam from Kentucky did who wrote: “I have a 100-year-old house that was rewired about 5 years ago. Now, I have random on-and-off circuits and ceiling fixtures going on in one part of the house. Do you have any idea what’s causing this?”

    How appropriately spooky for Halloween.

    TOM: Yes. I was thinking poltergeists, myself.

    No, actually, it’s probably not something quite so mysterious. If you’ve got an old house, you’ve got old wiring and you may have some of the original knob-and-tube wiring, which is potentially very dangerous. So, when you have lights that are going on and off randomly like that, you’ve got a short somewhere and you’ve got to get to the bottom of it. There’s a lot of stuff that can happen and the problem is that if you ignore it, eventually you could build up enough heat to light the house on fire.

    So, while I don’t know exactly where this is in your house, Sam, I will tell you it is indicative of a bigger problem that you need to have checked out. So I would contact an electrician today and get that addressed.

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got one from Kyle in Texas who wrote: “Is there a way I can figure out the R-value of an existing exterior wall? It’s a wood shingle-and-sheetrock wall. I don’t know how much insulation is in the middle.”

    Can you do like an infrared scan? Will that give you a sense of what’s behind there? But you’re not going to get “R-13.”

    TOM: Well, no. But here’s the thing: if you can – you can probably figure out what’s in the wall. What you would do is take off the outlet covers or the switch covers and get a bright flashlight and kind of poke around. And you usually see through the holes in the back of those boxes and see if you see any insulation in the wall. So, it’s either going to be insulated or not and if it is insulated and it’s a 2×4 wall and it’s fiberglass, it’s going to be R-13.

    The thing is, though, what I would focus on when it comes to insulation is always the area that has the best heat loss, the one that’s going to save the most money, and that is the attic. So if you have – if you don’t have a good 10 to 15 inches of insulation in your attic, maybe even more – maybe 15 to 20 inches – I would work up there first. Because if you put that much insulation in your attic and it’s properly installed and ventilated, you’re going to save a ton of energy this winter.

    LESLIE: Yeah, Tom is right, Kyle. You really do want to focus on the attic.

    And then another space that people really don’t think about – and you should first be tackling those spaces that you can actually access easily – is any sort of floor that’s right above an unheated crawlspace. This way, you can get under there, insulate the floor from below in that crawlspace. You can also seal off that crawlspace floor with some Visqueen or some plastic sheeting, just to control moisture down there. But if you do that, you will see a huge difference in your energy bills.

    TOM: Well, it’s about the time of year that most people take out the sweaters and bundle up. But there’s something else in your house that would appreciate the same thing. Leslie explains in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    LESLIE: That’s right. When the mercury drops outside, you need to add an extra layer of clothing to your wardrobe, right? Well, why not do the same thing for your water heater? Your water heater loses plenty of heat through their outside shells. So for about 10 bucks, guys, you can buy an insulating jacket that’s going to keep the heat from actually escaping the water heater.

    They’re easy to install and can actually save hundreds of dollars on your energy bill over the lifetime of the heater. You want to look for a blanket that’s got an R-value of around 11 and then you can go ahead and enjoy those warm showers this winter.

    TOM: And save some money in the process.

    This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up next week on the program, we’re going to talk about replacing your front door. That can completely change the look of your home. But if you’ve resisted because you didn’t want to cut up your walls, we’re going to tell you how to install a new door into an old opening, the easy way, on the next edition of The Money Pit.

    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 2012 Squeaky Door Productions, Inc. No portion of this transcript or audio file may be reproduced in any format without the express written permission of Squeaky Door Productions, Inc.)

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