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  • Transcript

    (NOTE: Timestamps below correspond to the running time of the downloadable audio file of this show. Text represents a professional transcriptionist’s understanding of what was said. No guarantee of accuracy is expressed or implied. ‘Ph’ in parentheses indicates the phonetic or best guess of the actual spoken word.)


    (promo/theme song)

    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: Give us a call right now with your home improvement project, your do-it-yourself dilemma. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. It’s time to strap on the tool belt or at least open the toolbox. (Leslie chuckles) Or at least open the can of paint. Do something to fix up your money pit. We are here to help you. It doesn’t get any easier than this.

    You know, many of you are enjoying warmer weather right now after an exceptionally cold winter and you’re probably ready to throw open those windows and let in some fresh air. But before you do, this hour we’ve got some important safety tips because it is window safety week. It’s coming up in a few days and we never like to miss an opportunity to mark a home improvement holiday on the money pit – including window safety week.

    LESLIE: (chuckling) That’s true.

    TOM: So we’re going to have some tips to keep you safe and get you ready for spring in just a bit.

    LESLIE: And also ahead, low water pressure can be a pain; but high water pressure can be downright damaging to your plumbing. We’re going to turn to the experts at This Old House to learn how to get your home’s water pressure just right.

    TOM: And as you go about your annual spring clean-out, you want to make sure that you’re not disposing of hazardous materials. We’re going to tell you how to safely get rid of stuff like old paint and greasy rags and other potentially hazardous products that might be part of your spring cleanup.

    LESLIE: And this hour, we’re giving away a prize that can help you with a great home improvement project that can be eligible for a tax credit. We’re talking about replacing your old front door with an energy-efficient fiberglass one.

    TOM: So give us a call right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT for your chance to win a $50 Lowe’s gift card, courtesy of Therma-Tru. And you’ve got to have a home improvement question to qualify. So let’s get to it because that’s what we do. 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Jeff in Florida is looking for some advice on water heating. What can we do for you?

    JEFF: How you guys doing? Man, I appreciate the show.

    LESLIE: Oh, thanks so much.

    TOM: Our pleasure, Jeff.

    JEFF: I’ve got a 2,500-square-foot, two-story home and at one end of the house downstairs is the water heater, which is a relatively new water heater. And at the opposite end of the house, upstairs, is the master bath.

    TOM: Right.

    JEFF: What’s happening is when I turn on the tub, getting ready to take a shower in the master bath at the other end of the house …

    TOM: Yep, takes forever.

    JEFF: … (inaudible at 0:02:43.8) to wait a minute – I have to wait a minute or two for some hot water, which is what I expect. But then after I shut off the water, after about a four-, five-minute shower, my wife will walk in there, turn it on and it’s still piping hot because it’s sitting there like Johnny-on-the-Spot, ready to go.

    TOM: Right.

    JEFF: It’ll run for about 30 seconds – hot water, like it was when I left it – and then it’ll go cold for like a minute and then get hot again. Now, my question is what upstream would cause the pipes to go cold so rapidly?

    TOM: I bet you one part of that pipe is going closer to an unheated space than another; so while the section of the pipe that is more surrounded by building structure stays warm, there may be a section of the pipe that goes against an exterior wall and chills off more quickly. The problem here is really that the water heater is so far away from the master bathroom – and not an uncommon problem – but the solution might be to think about zoning your domestic hot water and adding a second water heater nearer to the bathroom. You could do that with a tankless water heater, which is a pretty small appliance and could fit in a closet anywhere.

    JEFF: So, do they make a point-of-service water heater that I can just put in the master bath?

    TOM: Yeah, it’s not exactly a point-of-use water heater like you would see like on a kitchen sink, but you can put a …

    LESLIE: That would be strictly for like tea, right?

    TOM: Yeah. You could use a tankless water heater sized just for a single bath.

    JEFF: Right, right. Alright, man, well I appreciate it and you guys have a great show; I’m a big fan.

    TOM: Well, thank you very much. It’s a pleasure to talk to you.

    888-666-3974.   Call us with your home improvement question.

    Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: Cindy in Texas has a painting question. How can we help?

    CINDY: I have – my bathroom and my kitchen have this weird kind of wallboard in it and it’s almost like a plastic. I had gone to one of the hardware stores and the man told me if I bought some KILZ and painted it with the KILZ and then whatever kind of paint I wanted to use, it would take care of the problem. But someone else told me that if I did that, the paint would probably peel off. Do you have a suggestion?

    LESLIE: And you’re sure the vinyl is not like a vinyl wallpaper on top of regular wall?

    CINDY: I don’t think so. I think it’s some kind of weird wallboard stuff.

    TOM: OK, well I think the advice that your hardware store guy gave you is the right advice. I would, however, clarify that you should use oil-based KILZ because it comes in oil-based and an acrylic base. And whenever you have a very difficult material like that, you really do want to use the oil base, even though it’s a little more difficult to clean up. You’ll get better adhesion.

    And once you have that material on with good adhesion to whatever this vinyl-covered wallboard is below, then I think you’re going to find that you can put a good-quality wall paint over that and you’ll be much happier with the result.

    CINDY: OK, OK. And so then I should use the oil-based with an oil-based paint over the top of that?

    TOM: No, no. You don’t need oil-based …

    LESLIE: No.

    TOM: No, you do not need an oil-based topcoat.

    CINDY: OK, so just that.

    TOM: Just use an oil-based primer and you can use a latex topcoat.

    CINDY: OK. Well, I’m going to try that, then.

    TOM: It’s the only time that oil and water do really mix. (chuckles) OK?

    CINDY: OK, thank you so much.

    TOM: You’re welcome, Cindy. Thanks so much for calling us.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to the Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Now you can call in your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, before you air out your home for spring, you’re going to want to take note of a few basic window safety tips. We’re going to have those for you, next.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Therma-Tru Doors, the nation’s leading manufacturer of fiberglass entry and patio door systems. Therma-Tru Doors are Energy Star-qualified and provide up to five times the insulation of a wood door. To learn more, visit Therma-Tru.com. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.

    TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to the Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Well, thankfully, the housing market is beginning to recover and that means curb appeal has never been more important. Now, one option to really spruce up your front entry is to replace your wood door with fiberglass. Fiberglass doors, they look exactly like wood but they insulate up to five times better than the wood doors they’re competing with and they qualify for a $1,500 tax credit.

    Now, the Benchmark Door, by Therma-Tru, is sold exclusively at Lowe’s and it comes in a wide range of attractive styles and glass designs. Head on over to a great website; it’s MyEnergyTax.com. You’ve got a lot of information there. And to help you along with this project, we’re giving away a $50 gift card from Lowe’s, courtesy of Therma-Tru. So give us a call right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT for your chance to win. One lucky caller that we talk to on the air is going to win that great prize.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Well, National Window Safety Week is upon us and it’s a good time to remind you that window safety should be a concern for you year round. So here are some safety tips that we got from the experts at Simonton Windows.

    First, keep your furniture – especially cribs – away from the windows because if you open a window for ventilation in a child’s room, open the top sash of a double-hung window because, this way, they can’t fall out.

    You also want to teach children that window screens are there only to keep insects out of the house. They will not sustain the weight of a child; much unlike the strong – remember the strong, aluminum mesh screens that we had as kids?

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: Or maybe they were metal. I think they were metal because they rusted.

    LESLIE: I think they were metal.

    TOM: Yeah. But they were really heavy and you could pound on them and they could hit them with balls and stuff; nothing would ever happen. But today, if you just look at them funny, they’re going to fall right out. So be very careful. Don’t expect a screen to keep a child in.

    And speaking of which, consider window guards but never put locks on the windows in an effort to keep kids from opening them. You want to use a guard – a safety guard that’s easily openable from the inside by a parent; just not by a kid.

    And remember, never paint your windows shut. If you do paint them and they get stuck, all you need to use is a putty knife. Run it around the inside of the sash, break it free, move the window up and down so it always stays operable.

    LESLIE: Now, if you’re considering replacement windows, you want to look into multi-point locks. Now, for seniors, take a look at easy-to-operate windows like casements with a crank or even slider windows. If you’re looking for added security and to deter intruders, you can order impact-resistant glass, like you would see in a hurricane-prone area, for your windows regardless of where you live if you’re looking for that safety issue there.

    Now, for ease of maintenance, order windows with the vinyl frames because they are the easiest to clean and take care of.

    Now, if all of this has you thinking, “Wow, this sounds great and it’s certainly time to replace my windows,” it is a good time, actually, because those windows can qualify you for a federal tax credit. But you have to make sure that you choose those windows carefully and pick ones that do qualify because many don’t.

    TOM: And that’s a good point. And that’s why I really like what one of our sponsors is doing. Simonton Windows actually has an energy tax credit glass package that not only meets the criteria for the tax credit but they actually guarantee it, which is cool because this way there’s no confusion. You can be confident that if you get windows with the glass package, you know it’s going to qualify for the tax credit; you’ll get up to 1,500 bucks off your taxes; and, of course, enjoy energy savings all year long.

    For more tips on that, you can visit Simonton.com/TaxCredit or pick up the phone and give us a call right now with your window question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Who’s next?

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

    MONISH: OK, this is what happens. I have a lot of moisture in my basement. I have French drains installed …

    TOM: OK.

    MONISH: … but still I have to run the dehumidifier in the summer months. And I’ve rerouted all my gutters almost 30 feet away from my house.

    TOM: Oh, that was good to do.

    MONISH: Yeah, and all my gutters lead water away. But the grade is still an issue.

    TOM: Right.

    MONISH: I have solved it by grading it away from the house (inaudible at 0:11:07.1).

    TOM: Right.

    MONISH: But I still get a lot of moisture and I’m wondering what I can do with that.

    TOM: Right. OK. Well, first of all, the grading is still flat. Is there an opportunity for you to add any fill dirt and have it slope away from the foundation wall? We’re just talking about the first four feet or so. Is that possible?

    MONISH: First four feet? Oh, I can do that, yes.

    TOM: Yeah. What you want to do is use clean fill dirt, Monish; you don’t want to use anything that has like topsoil that’s very organic. Use clean fill dirt. You pack it down really well. Then you can add some mulch or seed on top of that to keep it from eroding. You did the right thing with the gutters. I know they’re extending away. I also want to make sure that you’re not seeing any gutters that are overflowing because you don’t have enough downspouts; so just take a good look at the roof. Generally, you want one downspout for every 600 to 800 square feet.

    And then, inside the basement, in the summer, if you’re just dealing with high humidity, what you might want to think about – do you have a forced-air heating and cooling system?

    MONISH: No, I don’t. I have baseboard heater.

    TOM: You have baseboard hot water?

    MONISH: Yes.

    TOM: And do you have air conditioning?

    MONISH: No, I don’t.

    TOM: You don’t. OK. Well, I was going to tell you that there’s an appliance called a whole-house dehumidifier but you need a duct system to basically have it work.

    MONISH: Oh, OK.

    TOM: But you’re doing everything right. You’ve got the downspouts clean and extended out. You’ve got to improve your grading and run a dehumidifier. Short of having a duct system where we can have a more powerful dehumidification system installed, that’s pretty much all you can do with it right now.

    MONISH: Oh, OK. OK. Maybe the grading should help me. Let me give it a try and I’ll …

    TOM: Grading and gutters make a big difference.

    MONISH: Oh, OK. Thanks, Tom.

    TOM: You’re very welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Wilson in Montana needs some help with a basement floor. What can we do for you?
    WILSON: I have a concrete floor that’s got a crack in it that runs across the whole house. It’s not – the gap is not great; it’s not more than probably an 1/8-inch but …
    TOM: OK.
    WILSON: … it’s a pretty significant crack, so I wanted to get a product that would fill that and also wondered about some kind of surface coating or decorative coating for the cement that would – that I could make to simulate rock or tile; preferably something I could do myself.
    TOM: Well, first of all, the crack is not unusual – that’s very typical – and you’re probably going to seal that with a caulk but in terms of what to put over it, I would look at the epoxy floor-coating systems. QUIKRETE has a new one out now that comes in 60 different colors and 4 different types of color flakes, so you can have something that looks like your plain, old gray floor or it could look like a brick color, brown, blue – whatever color you want.
    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.
    TOM: It’s pretty attractive and it’s easy to clean when it’s done.
    LESLIE: Yeah. And you know what’s interesting? If you wanted to take the time and effort to sort of tape off different areas and almost make it look like it has seams, the way the flake looks – depending on the color that you choose of the floor finish – you can make it almost look like travertine, which is that marble with that specking in it. Or QUIKRETE just released – we saw this at The Builders Show in January – there was a very interesting QUIKRETE product that sort of does acid staining and it came in like a reddish, a gold tone and in like an olivey-green and when done on the interior and polished in the way that they have the interior finish, it looks beautiful. And depending on the age of the concrete, the sort of acid-etching material that’s within the product causes it to get these different depths and tones of the color. So, it almost – if your concrete is older, it looks better. And that’s a new product; it’s an acid-staining home kit that they have.
    WILSON: Do they have directions for how you apply and color and so forth these things?
    LESLIE: Absolutely. And they’re very easy to follow and this new acid-staining kit is just a two-step process and the epoxy kit is also the same.
    WILSON: OK. And can you put a design in those things like, you know, make it look like stone or tile and that sort of thing?
    LESLIE: With the acid-staining, you absolutely can and you can do the same with the epoxy kit as long as you take time to sort of tape things out and work in a methodical method, if you will, to sort of create these areas without trapping yourself in a corner and letting things dry.
    WILSON: Uh-huh. OK. And would I just find these at just any home improvement store?
    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. I would start with the QUIKRETE website, just because the acid-staining kit is a new product for them, so I’m not sure what the distribution is.
    WILSON: OK. And is that just QUIKRETE.com, you think?
    TOM: Yeah. It’s Q-U-I-K-R-E-T-E.com.
    WILSON: Alrighty. Thanks very much.
    TOM: You’re welcome, Wilson. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Steve in Arizona needs some help with a tiling project. What can we do for you?
    STEVE: Yes. I have an all-tile floor.
    STEVE: And of course, around the edges of the tile, the grout is cracking.
    LESLIE: Around the edges of the room itself?
    STEVE: Yes.
    TOM: OK.
    STEVE: So I wanted to know what you would recommend to replace the grout with, because obviously I don’t want to put grout back because that’s just going to crack, so …
    TOM: Yeah. No, not between the edge of the tile and the moulding.
    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) And the wall.
    STEVE: (overlapping voices) Exactly.
    TOM: What you want to put there is another piece of moulding called shoe moulding and that covers that gap, because you’re always going to have expansion and contraction between the baseboard and the tile.
    LESLIE: It’s like a quarter round.
    TOM: Yeah. It looks like quarter round.
    STEVE: So some kind of caulk would not do the trick?
    TOM: No, no. Well, no. Not if – I mean …
    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Depends on how big the gap is.
    TOM: Yeah.
    LESLIE: I mean that’s something that I’ve done in a bathroom situation, where it’s tile to tile. I’ve used caulk to bridge the gap rather than grout because the grout is just going to crumble away. But in a kitchen or a finished room where you have baseboard, the shoe moulding – it looks like a quarter round, so a circle cut into fours – and that just sort of covers up that whole space and you paint it the same color as the baseboard and it vanishes.
    STEVE: Oh. OK. Thank you so much.
    TOM: You’re very welcome, Steve. 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, low water pressure certainly takes that oomph out of your morning shower. Now, there can be many reasons for that low water pressure but the experts at This Old House are going to help us flush out those solutions, 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: And do you have painted wood furniture or even doors or shutters that could use a totally new look but you’re stuck with the old paint? Well, we’ve got tips on how to prepare those surfaces for new paint, on MoneyPit.com. Just search “paint-stripping tips” and you will find it right there, ready to go.

    LESLIE: Mike in Delaware has a question about the value of his home. How can we help you today?

    MIKE: Yes. My wife and I are thinking about renovating bathrooms in the home.
    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) OK.
    TOM: (overlapping voices) OK.
    MIKE: And we have a full bath in the hallway …
    TOM: Alright.
    MIKE: … and we would like to convert it into just a walk-in shower and not a tub and we were wondering if that would affect, possibly, the value of the home without having that tub in the house.
    TOM: Do you have another tub in the bathroom; in the house?
    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Anywhere else?
    MIKE: Yes, we have – we will have a tub in the master bedroom that will be a whirlpool tub.
    TOM: Then I think you’re probably OK. I actually did exactly that in my house. I needed more closet space so we gave up the bathtub, put in a shower stall and picked up some additional closet space in my very old house where, of course, storage is really at a premium. And I wasn’t too concerned about the value because I knew I had another bathroom in the house that had a tub.
    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. I think if it were the only one and you were getting rid of, then you might encounter a potential buyer who would be turned off by the fact that they would have to do, then, some substantial work to put a tub back in.
    MIKE: Mm-hmm.
    LESLIE: But I think since you’ve got another one, it shouldn’t be a problem.
    MIKE: OK. Thank you very much.
    TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, we hear from lots of you who complain about how to fix low water pressure. But what happens when you have too much water pressure? Is there such a thing? (chuckles)

    TOM: Well, that might sound like a good problem to have but it can actually damage your plumbing system. And here to tell us about controlling both low and high water pressure is This Old House host, Kevin O’Connor, and plumbing expert, Richard Trethewey.

    And guys, besides a lousy shower, if you don’t have enough pressure, you can actually damage some of your appliances.

    KEVIN: Yeah, that’s right. To make sure that certain appliances work properly and that you can take a comfortable shower, most houses should have a water pressure that’s consistently around 50 to 60 psi – or pounds per square inch – but that’s not always possible.

    RICHARD: Well, your water pressure depends on a number of factors like the distance in elevation relative of your house to the nearest water tower or pumping station in the town. Now, usually the complaint about water pressure is that it’s just too low, so you want to make sure it’s not something simple. So you want to check whether or not you have an obstruction or a corroded pipe. If it isn’t, you may have to consider a water pressure booster. Now this is a bronze pump with a specially-designed well tank and a combination of these two parts allow you to boost the pressure inside your house’s plumbing system.

    KEVIN: OK, so there are solutions to the problem of low water pressure. What about the problem of pressure being too high?

    RICHARD: Well, water pressure that’s too high can also be a problem. It can damage pipes and fixtures. You may want to install a PRV – that’s a pressure-reducing valve – right near the water main where the water main comes into the house.

    KEVIN: Great. And to see a video of a water pressure booster and another video of a pressure-reducing valve being installed, go to ThisOldHouse.com.

    TOM: Richard, right now we’re talking a lot about using low-water faucets, low-water fixtures, low-flow toilets. What’s the effect of water pressure on those faucets and fixtures? Does it make a big difference?

    RICHARD: Well, if you have too high of a pressure, yeah, those 1.5- or 2.5-gallon-per-minute showerheads can give you more than you want it to, so it becomes wasteful. But it also becomes dangerous to the piping system itself; it can cause water hammer, too.

    TOM: Richard Trethewey, Kevin O’Connor from This Old House, great tips. Thanks for stopping by The Money Pit.

    KEVIN: Thanks for having us.

    LESLIE: Yeah, and you know, Tom, that actually makes perfect sense with all that engineering that goes into giving us those water-efficient appliances. The water pressure needs to be just right for them to work properly, so that’s good to know.

    TOM: Absolutely.

    Well, for more tips, you can watch Tommy and Richard on This Old House Television. You can find local listings by going to ThisOldHouse.com. And This Old House is brought to you by Cub Cadet. Cub Cadet – you can’t do any better.

    Up next, spring cleaning may be on your to-do list. We’re going to have tips on the best way to dispose of hazardous materials you might run across as you clean out your garage, your shop, your shed or your workspace.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Generac and the Generac automatic standby generator. Be protected and never worry about power outages again. Visit your favorite home improvement center or call 888-GENERAC or visit Generac.com. Your home will stay on the next time the power goes out. 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: And alas, it is tax time once again.

    LESLIE: Ugh.

    TOM: And that might have you scrambling to find some last-minute deductions.

    LESLIE: Or cash. (chuckles)

    TOM: Yeah. And as we mentioned before, there is a big one you can take advantage of for this year and next. You’re entitled to a $1,500 tax credit for improving the energy efficiency of your home. One option is to replace your wood entry door with a fiberglass door. Fiberglass doors look like wood but they insulate up to five times better. We like Benchmark by Therma-Tru, sold exclusively at Lowes; comes in a wide range of nice styles and colors; you can personalize your home with it while increasing curb appeal at the same time. And, to help you along, we’re giving away a $50 gift card from Lowe’s to help you pay for that brand new, beautiful, Benchmark Door by Therma-Tru.

    If you want information on the tax credit program, you might want to visit MyEnergyTax.com for more information.

    One caller we talk to on the air, though, is going to win that $50 gift card; so let’s get right to it. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Alright. Well, as much as I hate to say it, doing your taxes certainly is a rite of spring. And another thing that a lot of people hate to do in the springtime is your annual spring clean-out. Boy, two terrible things that mark such a wonderful season.

    TOM: It’s so wrong.

    LESLIE: I know. Ugh. Thank goodness for all the flowers and sunshine. (chuckles)

    Well, when you do your spring clean-out, you just want to make sure that you aren’t tossing those hazardous material items right into your regular trash. You should be disposing of all of your paint, thinners, motor oils, kerosene and any dangerous cleaning solutions at your local recycling center. Now, if you’ve got spray paint cans, you want to make sure that you empty them all out – you know, turn them upside down and spray them out; and also your solvent cans – and you can spray them onto old newspaper or cardboard or just push down on them until nothing is left in the can. Now, when it comes to cans of paint, open them up and leave them open – in a covered area so they don’t fill with water – until all of that excess paint dries out.

    Now, where you live, you might also have some specific hazmat pickup days; so check with your local area waste-management department for any schedules that you guys might have that will help you dispose of everything. I know where we live it’s called STOP; you know, STOP – Stop Throwing Out Pollutants – which is great. They host it in a park once a month; they empty out your trunk. So look into it because it’s really worthwhile and you can clean out your garage very thoroughly that way, I might add. (chuckles)

    TOM: And you can clean off a few items on your home improvement to-do list, though, if you call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Let’s get right back to the phones.

    Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: Steve in Illinois is dealing with some radon. How can we help you at your money pit?

    STEVE: We live in a house that is – well, we’re the original buyers. We’ve been here about 33 years. And I ran a radon test and it came out to be like 9.4; which is quite high, in my understanding.
    TOM: (overlapping voices) OK.
    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Which is high.
    STEVE: And what I was concerned with – somewhere down the line, we may wind up, you know, having to sell the house and I would like to get this cleared up, if possible, before we would sell it. And I was wondering if you guys have any economical ways of handling this.
    TOM: Certainly. You could open up all the windows, Steve, and that would solve it, once and for all.
    STEVE: Right.
    TOM: Did you do the test in the basement?
    STEVE: Yes.
    TOM: Alright. So that’s going to be the highest place in the house. And you did this test in the winter?
    STEVE: Yes.
    TOM: And that’s going to be the highest time that you’re going to get a high reading, because the house is more sealed up than it would be any other time of the year. So I think what you’ve identified here is a seasonal high for radon. You’ll find that it does go down across the space of the year if you were to do multiple tests. But because it’s over 4.0 picocuries per liter of air, you do need to put in a radon mitigation system.
    The systems are reasonably expensive and probably (Leslie chuckles) in the $3,000 to $5,000 range.
    STEVE: (overlapping voices) Ooh! OK.
    LESLIE: But I mean, well worth it because there are health problems associated with radon.
    TOM: Well, yeah and also a real estate problem if you want to sell this house and it almost always falls to the seller. You might get it done for less, especially in this market right now.
    But the way it works is they drill a line into the floor of your house – it’s called a sub-slab ventilation system – in the basement. And they carve out a space under that hole, kind of like the size of a sump pump. And sometimes you can do this right from the sump itself, by the way, if you can seal the top of the sump. And basically, you have a pipe that goes on there that’s hooked up to a radon fan and it sucks out the gas from below the slab and pulls it outside. And that runs 24/7 and it costs $5 or $10 a month in electricity to run but it will reduce the radon level to a safe level.
    So the question is when do you want to do that. Do you want to do it now or do you want to wait until you sell your house? If you’re using the basement a lot, I’d do it as soon as possible; if you’re not, you know, maybe I’d put it off a little bit but you definitely are going to have to get it done one way or the other. 9.4 is high but I’ve seen houses that have been 50, 80, 100 picocuries as well.
    LESLIE: Wow.
    STEVE: Wow.
    TOM: And the interesting thing is it costs just the same to get rid of the gas.
    LESLIE: (chuckling) Whether it’s 9 or 100.
    STEVE: (overlapping voices) Right, right.
    TOM: Yep.
    STEVE: OK. Well, I appreciate your help. At least that gives me an idea of what I need to look to, to get it done.
    TOM: Alright, Steve. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Lorraine in Wisconsin is dealing with a siding issue. Tell us about it.

    LORRAINE: Well, I was wondering if anything can be done about bulging siding.

    TOM: What kind of siding is it, Lorraine? Is it vinyl?

    LORRAINE: It’s vinyl.

    TOM: OK. So the reason the siding bulges is because it was put on too tightly. I bet you, without even seeing your house – and no I’m not stalking you, Lorraine (Leslie chuckles) – that it’s probably bulging worse on the west and the south sides.

    LORRAINE: Well, this happens to be on the east side.

    TOM: It does?!

    TOM: Oh!

    TOM: Alright. Ah, you tricked me. Well, the reason I say that is because usually the warmest sides of the house is where this happens because if the siding was installed too tightly, it expands and sort of bulges and gets very wavy on the house.

    Now the solution is to pull off the siding, to remove it, and then to reinstall it in the same place but to be very careful not to nail it home, so to speak. In other words, don’t drive the nails all the way in. You will find that the siding is put up – has prepunched nail slots, not nail holes, and the nail needs to be placed in the middle of the slot so that the siding piece can actually slide back and forth on it. If the nails are driven too firmly into the siding, then it’s attached to the house too securely and when the sun hits it and it warms up it will expand and bulge.

    LORRAINE: Oh. Can that come from pounding, like throwing – they may pound it a lot when they took the ice off the roof?

    TOM: No, not really. If the siding was put up – was nailed too hard to begin with – you should be able to grab the siding and slide it back and forth. If you can’t slide it back and forth, it’s nailed too stiffly; it’s too tight. OK? And that’s why it’s bulging.

    Lorraine, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT. 

    LESLIE: Bruce in North Carolina has an electrical question. What can we do for you?

    BRUCE: Well, I’ve got a question. I’ve got a home that was built in the early 60s and it’s got two-wire wiring in it.

    TOM: OK.

    BRUCE: You know, with neutral and hot?

    TOM: Yep.

    BRUCE: And one of the problems is that all the duplex outlets are old, which means they’ve only got two prongs in it.

    TOM: Yep.

    BRUCE: And what I’d like to do is to change those into an outlet that I can plug a three-prong into.

    TOM: Right.

    BRUCE. So my question is what would be the problem with tying the neutral and ground together at the outlet.

    TOM: Not a good idea because it’s not going to ground properly. There is one trick of the trade but I don’t recommend that an amateur do it and that is that you can actually install a ground fault circuit interrupter into an outlet like that and it won’t actually be grounded but it’ll be ground fault protected so if something shorts, the outlet itself would turn off. The best thing to do is to run a new three-wire line across that circuit.

    BRUCE: Well, it’s the whole house. (chuckles)

    TOM: Well, you know, the thing is that, for the most part, appliances can work fine on the two outlets if you use the appropriate adapter, but you have an older electrical system and it’s not a good idea to replace that with sort of a dummy ground system because you’re not getting any protection. It’s nice and convenient to be able to plug into three-prong plugs but it’s not really protected; it’s not connected to the ground in the way that it should be and that could be dangerous.

    Bruce, if that’s – you know, if you want to take this any further, you really need to have an electrician run the ground wire and I don’t think you have to do it throughout the whole house; just to the circuits that are most important.

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

    So are odd odors plaguing your plumbing? We’re going to tell you why sewer odors sometimes back up into your bathroom and how to stop it, next.

    (theme song)

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com where you can follow us on Facebook. You can also fan the Money Pit to FBOOK at 32665 from your cell phone; you’ll be instantly added as a fan.

    While you’re there, why not shoot us an e-mail; just like Candace did in Alaska?

    LESLIE: Alright, and Candace writes: “What should I do about the sewer smell in our basement bathroom? It happens during cold weather mostly and has only a slight odor otherwise.” So I guess it’s super-stinky when it’s cold but normally it’s just tolerable. (laughs)

    TOM: Normally, it’s just tolerable. (laughs)

    LESLIE: We just tolerate it.

    TOM: Generally, if you have sewer odor in a below-grade basement, it’s because you’ve got a problem with the trap. It’s called a trap because that’s what it does. It traps the sewer gas and stops it from getting in. I suspect what’s happening here, Candace, is that the trap – which is a U-shaped piece of the waste system that goes from the bathroom – is drying out, especially if you don’t use it a lot in the winter. What’ll happen is that that water dries out in the trap; then, of course, the sewage gas from the whole community is going to come right up. So you want to make sure that the trap is not drying out.

    And if that is still a problem, what I would recommend is a drain camera inspection to see what’s going on because I suspect that there’s a problem with the way it’s configured and some part of the system is vented behind the trap, which basically means that the gas is getting up.

    So it’s all in the waste pipe system; that’s probably the reason – in fact, it would be the only reason you’re getting a bad odor in that part of your house, so you really need to trace it out; figure out where the trap is broken, so to speak, and that will stop the sewage gas from coming back up.

    LESLIE: Aye, aye, aye. And when you said “the whole neighborhood’s sewage gas,” it just …

    TOM: That got you right there, huh?

    LESLIE: It really got me and especially when she writes “in colder weather only.” I’m like of course, everybody’s huddled inside using the bathroom stinking up your house.

    TOM: (laughing) Yeah.

    LESLIE: Aye, aye, aye.

    Alright, Vince in Utah writes: “My son used straight Pine Sol on our laminate floor and took the shine off. Is there some way to restore that original shine?”

    TOM: That’s like a super-concentrate. (chuckles)

    LESLIE: Yeah, I think with Pine Sol, the formulation, if I’m not mistaken, is 1/4-cup of Pine Sol to like a gallon of water.

    TOM: Isn’t it like a capful or something like that? (chuckles)

    LESLIE: Yeah. A capful to an entire bucket. No, but I really think it’s 1/4-cup to a gallon.

    TOM: He’s got a fair amount of rinsing to do to begin with, I would imagine.

    LESLIE: Yeah. So I think what’s happened is because it was used straight out of the bottle, it just took the shine right off your floor. Now, if you’ve tried to rinse it off using a damp mop and still nothing is happening, I would get something – there’s a product out there by Armstrong called Shinekeeper and it’s a floor finish that’s made for floors that have just lost their gloss. And it will put that shine back on and it’ll protect your floor. It doesn’t require buffing. You can get it pretty much at any home center or you can go to Armstrong.com and look up the Shinekeeper floor finish and it’ll tell you where to buy it. And you can use that straight from the bottle; you don’t have to water that down at all. So why not give it to your son? He seems to know what he’s doing with it. (laughing)

    TOM: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, I wouldn’t encourage him. I wouldn’t see this as a teaching opportunity.

    LESLIE: Alright, Dan from New York writes: “We installed hardwood flooring over an on-grade slab with moisture issues. The floorboards sit on three-inch strips of 3/4 plywood laid perpendicular 16 inches on center. Moisture barrier used between the slab and the plywood strips is modified bitumen roofing material which was great and kept the floor stable.”

    TOM: Interesting.

    LESLIE: “My question: is the modified bitumen emissive? Is it safe to use indoors as a moisture barrier?” I mean it seems like he already put this in (Tom laughs); maybe you should have asked before.

    TOM: So you’re looking for an out from us. I would say that there probably is a minor amount of off-gassing but nothing I would be terribly concerned about; especially because it’s essentially very cool in the basement.

    However, having said that, you totally used the wrong material for a basement floor. You should never put 3/4-inch hardwood down on a basement; you should only use engineered hardwood which is dimensionally stable. Had you done that, you probably could have had a much simpler vapor barrier situation, a much easier installation and absolutely no chance that no matter what happens the floor would buckle. As it is right now, if you do get a flood, you’re going to have a big mess down there.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. But I mean look at this way: Dan got really creative and made an interesting flooring situation that seems to work for the time being.

    TOM: Absolutely. (Leslie chuckles)

    You’ve been listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. Please catch up with us on Facebook or on Twitter. The show now, though, continues online at MoneyPit.com.

    I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …

    LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.

    (theme song)


    (Copyright 2010 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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