Hosts: Tom Kraeutler & Leslie Segrete
(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.)
BEGIN HOUR 1 TEXT:
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: We make good homes better. So if you have a house that needs some improving, call us right now. 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.
Got a great show in store for you. You know, not too long ago, we were answering a lot of questions about water damage; especially after major flooding in the northeast and in the mid-Atlantic part of the country. And a big side effect of water damage is a nasty four-letter word.
LESLIE: Mold! You heard us correct, people. Mold. And mold spores only need two things to grow and thrive and that’s moisture and a food source. And a food source could be the walls of your home. So there’s a good chance a lot of you have mold in your homes without even knowing it. But there is a way to take away that food source and we’ll tell you all about that in a few minutes.
Also, do you want a quick way to kill weeds without killing your entire lawn? We’re going to have a tip to help you do that; sort of a strategic way to get rid of those early fall weeds that have been, perhaps, plaguing you all summer long.
Great show in store for you. Also a chance to win a great prize. One caller we choose this hour is going to win the Weather Channel Storm Tracker Radio. It’s going to automatically alert you to weather threats. It’s a $40 value. So call us right now. 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Let us help you make your good home better. Hey, if your kid is locked in the bathroom and the knob is busted off (laughter), then you need this show! Call us. 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Don in Tennessee finds The Money Pit on the Discovery Radio Network. And what can we do for you to help you with your sticky paint situation?
DON: Hi, Leslie. I don’t know for certain if I’m going to take it down or not but I’ve got that paint that’s got the sand into it on two sides of a stairwell going up the back staircase.
DON: And we’re thinking about downsizing to a (audio gap). I (inaudible). Is there an easy way to get that off?
TOM: Have you tried to scrape it off? Have you tried using a paint scraper?
DON: I haven’t touched it.
TOM: OK. Well, when you have textured paint like that, it’s easy to put on and very difficult to remove. Generally, you have to use some sort of a paint softener or paint stripper to try to get it loose enough to peel that stuff off. And while, for the most part, you don’t have to use a paint stripper on walls, when it comes to a textured product, where the actual texture – be it sand or some other abrasive – is actually suspended inside the paint, it’s necessary to liquefy the paint to be able to get that off. The other thing that you could try to do is to sand the surface. And you may have to experiment a little bit here, Don, to see how much abrasion that can take without causing any wall damage. But it’s possible that you could get it – especially if it’s not sand, you may be able to get it smooth enough where you could put an oil-base primer on top of that and no longer see the texture.
DON: Oh, OK. If I sanded it down far enough.
LESLIE: Right. If you’re able to do so. Otherwise, you’re going to have to use a paint stripper to really get into that and just re-liquefy it. Because there is actual sand in there. I mean you can feel it in the wall.
DON: Oh yeah, you can feel it in the wall and if you’re not careful, you’re walking down and you could …
LESLIE: You scrape yourself on it.
DON: Yeah, you could put your hand against the rail a little bit too far and you’re scraping the skin off your knuckles.
TOM: (chuckling) Yeah, I don’t know why somebody would want to texture a wall with sand. It doesn’t make much sense to me but …
LESLIE: And you know what? It’s not the easiest stuff to put on either.
LESLIE: If you don’t use the proper roller – even when you cut in, you can’t just cut in with a regular brush. You have to cut in with a special roller; otherwise, it gets two different textures and two different looks. So, for something that’s such a pain in the butt and really causes scratched up knuckles and shoulders and anything that sort of rubs against it, it’s going to be a big pain to get rid of.
TOM: Don, thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.
LESLIE: Ray in Rhode Island finds The Money Pit on WPRO. And you’ve got something going on with your concrete stairs. Tell us about it.
RAY: Yes. Well, I’ve got a poured concrete front step. It’s about four steps going up. And I’ve got a crack right down the middle. It’s probably – you know, over the last few years, I’ve been kind of procrastinating on …
RAY: … fixing it. It’s getting pretty wide. And I was wondering what’s probably the best way to alleviate that problem or is it going to keep cracking or should I just blow it up (laughter) and try and get the whole thing done again.
TOM: Well, don’t do anything quite that drastic, Ray. The best way to repair that crack is with a silicone caulk. But I can give you a trick of the trade to help you hide the appearance of the crack. And that is – what you could do is if you had a masonry drill bit and you found an inconspicuous place – like say on the side of that stair or someplace where you’re not going to see this – if you were to drill a couple of holes into the side of the stair and collect the concrete dust that comes out as you do that, what you do is then you put the caulk into the crack and then you take some of that dust and you cover the top of the caulk while it’s wet with the concrete dust …
TOM: … and it’ll blend in perfectly with the step around it.
RAY: Very good.
TOM: You understand?
RAY: I do.
TOM: Alright, there you go, Ray. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.
LESLIE: Another satisfied customer.
TOM: Absolutely. You get more than you pay for (laughter) when you call 888-MONEY-PIT. (chuckling)
OK, Leslie. Who’s next?
LESLIE: Theresa in South Carolina has a very good question. I’ll let you word it for us. Tell us.
THERESA: Hi. I have a new house and I wanted to make some improvements on the interior and exterior landscape and everything. But my husband is concerned about spending too much money in it because we’re going to be leaving in three years. We’re in the – he’s in the military.
TOM: Does your husband think you’re a serial renovator, Theresa? (laughing)
THERESA: Yes. I think I am actually because every time – I’ve been painting rooms and as soon as I finish painting a room, then I want to do something else. (chuckling) I just kind of want to make it more homey; more my home.
LESLIE: Well, especially since you’re moving so often.
TOM: Yeah, exactly. I mean if you’re moving around a lot, you do want to make it feel more comfortable and I don’t blame you. And the things that you’re doing – first of all, A, the painting and the wallpaper are not that expensive; doesn’t have really much of a return on investment. As long as it remains fairly neutral, it’s not going to take away from the sale. It’s when you get really crazy with dramatic decorating that you love but somebody else could hate, that that detracts from the value. Landscaping, however, always adds to the value and always adds to the value way in excess of what it costs. So that kind of thing is really good for you to do.
How old is this house?
THERESA: It’s brand new. We just moved into it in July.
TOM: Ah, well then you need a lot of – you need a lot of fixing up because right now it’s probably stark white. And Leslie, I know how you hate white.
LESLIE: I hate white paint.
TOM: But it’s a canvas. Think of it as a canvas that you can paint.
LESLIE: And don’t forget. Think about flooring. If there’s a carpeting in there that you don’t like or it’s a color that you just don’t find inviting, you don’t have to replace that carpeting. You can put a throw rug over a fully carpeted rug – over a fully carpeted floor – which will still add warmth and personality without spending a ton of money.
TOM: And could be portable if you have to move.
THERESA: Yes, definitely. So there is no – I guess, is there a magic maximum number of money I should spend on the landscaping. Because I mean it can get pretty pricey, from what I’ve seen.
TOM: Oh, I mean what kind of things are you thinking about doing? I mean do you have a sprinkler system?
THERESA: No, we don’t.
TOM: Are you thinking about putting one in?
THERESA: (overlapping voices) I wasn’t thinking about the sprinkler system but I was thinking about, you know, putting in some nice mulching and shrubbery and …
TOM: Yeah. All that sort of thing is good to do and not terribly expensive and even is …
LESLIE: You know, think about when you’re purchasing any of your shrubbery or your trees or anything that you might be planting, deal with a nursery that offers you some sort of warranty. I know when we had some arborvitaes planted in the backyard, within the first six months, one of the trees just was not doing well and had completely died. And thankfully, we made sure that the nursery that we worked with had, within a certain time frame, if the tree doesn’t make it, they’ll replace it. So always look into some sort of warranty that the nursery might have as far as – whether it’s your fault or their fault or it’s just not watered properly, that they’ll replace it.
TOM: Alright, Theresa. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Michigan’s on the line with Jan who listens to The Money Pit on Discovery Radio Network. And you’re thinking about resurfacing a cement driveway. How can we help?
JAN: OK, now from my asphalt driveway, I have a strip and an apron into my entrance of my garage.
JAN: And it’s very old and I’m wondering about a resurfacing product that is on the market. Would that renew it?
TOM: Is it structurally intact? Is it broken up?
TOM: OK, so you just want to kind of freshen it up then, is that right?
TOM: Alright. Well then, what you can use is an epoxy paint or, if you have any cracks or anything like that, an epoxy patching compound graded for the exterior and that’s the only thing that’s going to stick to that old concrete apron. And before you do that, I’m going to recommend that you pressure wash it and then, of course, let it dry thoroughly; because it’s probably covered with algae or mildew or something like that. We want to get it clean; let it dry really well – a hot day would be great for this – and then, apply the epoxy paint because it bonds really super well to concrete. And it’ll even out the color and it’ll look really sharp when you’re done.
JAN: OK. Now, I can blend that into the color of the asphalt and it would work well?
TOM: Oh, I don’t know if you can blend it into the color of the asphalt. I mean you could make it the color of the asphalt. I mean if it’s paint you could treat it – what do you call? – dye it to be any color you want.
LESLIE: Tint it.
TOM: Tint it. Sorry, I’m struggling for the word. Yes, you could tint it …
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) That’s OK. I’m with you.
TOM: You’re with me. I knew you were there. You could tint it for any color you want. I don’t know that you would want to make it look like asphalt because that would be unusual. If it was me, I would make it look like new concrete.
So, you’ve been staring at those weeds all summer long? You trying to figure out how to get rid of them without killing the entire lawn around it? Well, we can help.
LESLIE: Coming up next, we’re going to have a tip that will help you to direct your weed killer sprays directly to the right spot without hurting the things you don’t want to.
ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit is being brought to you by Ryobi, manufacturer of professional feature power tools and accessories with an affordable price for the do-it-yourselfer. Ryobi power tools. Pro features, affordable price. Available exclusively at The Home Depot. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.
TOM: Welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Standing by at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, waiting for your call, your question about your home improvement project.
So, have you been staring at those weeds all summer long? Trying to figure out how to get rid of them?
LESLIE: Yeah, but we call those dandelions flowers, Tom.
TOM: Oh, OK. (laughing)
LESLIE: But there’s nothing to make your honey happy than bringing them a nice yellow bouquet of cute little dandelions. You call them exotics around our neighborhood.
TOM: Yeah, especially if they’re like deathly allergic to them, too. (laughing) What a quick way to ruin a good first date, huh?
1-888-MONEY-PIT. If you have a question about how to get rid of those weeds, we’ve got an answer; including this one. To kill weeds without killing the surrounding plants and grass, here’s what you need to do. Ready?
LESLIE: This is a good tip.
TOM: Cut the bottom of an empty two-liter soda bottle. Place it over the weed and spray into the top. What is that going to do? It’s going to direct that weed killer to the very spot that you need and protect you against overspray because if you overspray, you’re going to take out a big swatch of that lawn area that you didn’t want to or perhaps some other flowers. You can actually go right into the middle of the garden – a big garden bed – and just kind of put the soda bottle right on top of those weeds and squirt it right in there. It’ll totally contain the spray. So how about that? Easy way to get rid of weeds without taking out the stuff that you want to leave.
LESLIE: Yeah, it’s a great tip; especially because these weed killers really do what they’re meant to do. So if you get the spray where you don’t want it, you’re going to be really unhappy.
Alright, Money Pit listeners, are you excited? Are you thinking that summer is almost over, folks? It’s almost autumn but it’s still storm season in a lot of places across the United States. So we’ve got a great prize this hour. It’s the Weather Channel Storm Tracker and it’s by Vector. It retails for 40 bucks but it can be yours for free. And it gives you an automatic alert signal of any all-hazard weather warnings in your areas, so you know exactly what to do and where to go. It’s all about having that extra time. So call in now and it could be yours for free.
TOM: How do you do that? You pick up the phone and you dial 1-888-MONEY-PIT. That’s 1-888-666-3974.
Leslie, who’s next?
LESLIE: Jane in New Jersey’s next, who finds The Money Pit on WCTC. And you’ve got a question about squeaky floors. How can we help?
JANE: The last time I talked to you guys, you said something about a pilot hole and a spinner . And I have no idea what that …
TOM: Ah yes, a pilot hole and a nail spinner. Remind me – were we talking about a hardwood floor that has a squeak?
LESLIE: Or carpeting?
JANE: Yes, they’re old floors.
TOM: Old floors, OK.
JANE: They’re about 42 years old.
TOM: Alright, so if it’s a hardwood floor, basically what you – what you have to do is you have to nail through the floor and into the floor joist below. And the nail spinner, what that is, is a little product that’s made by Vermont America and it should be available in any home center in the hardware section. Or, if you don’t want to buy a nail spinner, you can simply take a #10 finish nail and use it as a drill bit and basically use it to sort of drill through the floor where you’re going to insert the nail. The reason you have to create a pilot hole is because you can’t simply nail through the hardwood floor because the nail’s going to bend. The wood is just too strong for that. So …
LESLIE: Well, and also you don’t want any of the wood to crack or split and having a pilot hole helps to guide things properly so it doesn’t do that.
TOM: Yeah, and the reason I like to use the nail spinner is because it holds the nail and uses the drill to kind of spin it in. It sort of separates the fibers as opposed to cutting them, which is what a drill bit would do.
TOM: So if you can’t find that, a little trick of the trade is just to take a finish nail; stick it in the end of the chuck of the drill; chuck it up; and then use that finish nail as the drill bit without the nail spinner. Once you get it close, loosen up the chuck, pull the drill away and the nail will stay put. And if you find (audio gap) in the floor joisting the stud finder and put in two or three nails and you want to put them in, Jane, on a slight angle, then that will secure that floor area down and the squeak will go away.
Jane, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Joseph in Virginia’s a WJFK listener and you’ve got a flooring question. How can we help?
JOSEPH: Hi. My home – an addition was built back in about 1979 by the previous owner. I guess they were trying to save money. They put down some kind of particleboard. Then they put vinyl self-adhesive vinyl tiles over the particleboard. Over the past few years, from our girl mopping the floor, the water has seeped down under the particleboard; made it expand. My question is I really don’t want to tear this floor out. It’s a 30×15 foot room …
JOSEPH: … and it’s a functioning office. It was a living room for the previous owner but it’s a functioning office. I wanted to know if you thought maybe I could go over it with like marine plywood and screw it down with maybe like screw nails and then put another flooring over it. Or am I working on something unstable and I’m going to be really sorry in the long run if I do that?
TOM: Well, how swollen is it? Is it just a little bit swollen? Is mostly – is mostly the problem that tiles are popping off?
JOSEPH: It’s only a little bit swollen …
JOSEPH: … and it’s the particleboard underneath that’s swollen.
TOM: I understand. So here’s what I think you should do, Joseph. I think you should think about installing laminate flooring. Because I don’t think you’re going to have to put another layer of plywood. You could, if you wanted to put, say, some quarter-inch luan under it. But if it’s not like deformed in any way, you could put underlayment down for a laminate floor – which is sort of like a soft foam or sometimes a laminate floor is actually backed with its own underlayment – and then the floor tiles themselves or the flooring strips, depending on what type you choose, actually lock together. So they make a very strong floor when it’s all done and all installed properly.
LESLIE: And they’re structurally stable so that if it’s in a moist condition or the way you’re cleaning or whatever it is that’s in there that might compromise the integrity of the flooring, it’s not going to affect it in any way because it’s a manufactured flooring. It’s actually a plastic product that’s made to look like whatever it is you want.
JOSEPH: OK, I’m going to go ahead and do that and I’ll send you an email in a couple of weeks and I’ll tell you how it went.
LESLIE: Alright, good luck with it.
TOM: Joseph, thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: In Florida, Steve finds The Money Pit on WCOA. How can we help you?
STEVE: Hey, I just redid my bathroom in the basement. It’s a half basement; maybe four feet deep.
STEVE: There’s a block wall and the paneling was right up against it. If I added tan insulation foam inside the block, would that add an r factor or would it be worth my trouble?
TOM: Well, if it’s below grade, you probably don’t need to put that much insulation in there. It’s better to use a bat insulation along those walls. That’s what they do in the new homes that are constructed to the current model energy code. It’s sort of a silver-face bat insulation that covers the entire wall. You want to be careful putting anything directly against the foundation like that because you could be asking for troubles with mold and moisture and things like that.
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Well, because moisture’s going to wick right through that concrete whether the foam is in it or not and then that’s going to go right to your paneling.
STEVE: That’s why I want to know – I’m going to keep the water out from the outside and I wanted to know (audio gap). That’s a good idea. Thank you.
TOM: You’re welcome, Steve. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: On our way to Idaho to talk to Linda who listens to The Money Pit on KMAX. You’ve got some unwanted grasshoppers who aren’t sharing any genius with you.
LINDA: Yes, I do. We’ve had a terrible problem with grasshoppers the last two years. Our winters haven’t been cold enough and they have – last year they actually ate …
LESLIE: The family pet?! (laughing)
TOM: Poor Fido! (chuckling)
LINDA: Yeah. What can I do to get rid of them?
TOM: Well, are you interested in – there are a lot of commercial insecticides that impact grasshopper populations and there are also some green alternatives.
LINDA: Yeah, I don’t want the commercial – I do know about those.
TOM: There’s a way to use other forms of insects to control, you know, grasshoppers. The big insects eat the little insects and so on.
TOM: That’s the real green way to do it. It’s a – you know, natural insect predators. There’s a great website called BugLogical.com and they have grasshopper bait there and there are different types of insects that serve as grasshopper bait. One of them is called Nosema. And this particular product has to be applied at a rate of one to two pounds per acre. And these insects will actually kill over 90 different species of grasshoppers.
LINDA: Wow, that sounds great.
LESLIE: Yeah, and not just grasshoppers; also locusts and some types of crickets. So all sorts of large flying bugs that like to get in your hair.
TOM: But not the family dog. (chuckling)
LINDA: (chuckling) Right. That sounds great. Thank you so much.
TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.
OK, Money Pit listeners. Up next, find out what you can do to stop mold before it starts.
LESLIE: Well, if you’ve ever had water damage and needed to replace moldy drywall, you’ll want to hear about a great new product that will ensure no mold growth. So stay with us.
ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit was brought to you by Aprilaire, makers of professionally-installed, high-efficiency air cleaners. For more information, go to Aprilaire.com. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.
TOM: Welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974. There’s lots of reasons to pick up the phone and call us at 888-MONEY-PIT or logging onto our website at MoneyPit.com. Are you working on your roof? Are you working on your floors? Are you redecorating a room? Do you want to do a new kitchen? Or do you have mold?
TOM: You know, there’s actually a pretty good chance that you could. Mold spores need only two things to thrive; moisture and a good food source. The moisture could come from a damp basement or a leaky roof. And the food source could come pretty much from anything in your house; wood, paper, fabric or even through the walls of your home.
LESLIE: But there is a way to take one of those things out of the equation. Joining us to tell us about a product from Georgia-Pacific that will put a damper on mold growth is Vicki Lankarge, author of ‘What Every Homeowner Needs to Know About Mold.’
VICKI: Hi, thank you.
TOM: So Vicki, what does every homeowner need to know about mold? We get asked about it more and more on The Money Pit. We, in fact, have an entire mold resource section on the website. What, from your point of view, are the most common things that we need to get out about the mold problem in this country?
VICKI: Well, the most important thing is not to get too freaked out about it. There’s been a lot of press about it. Every home has mold to a certain degree, so it’s probably a pretty sure thing that you have it. The main idea is just to take care of it and there are some basic things that you can do to rid yourself of it. One of the biggest things is make sure that you keep the moisture content down in your home.
LESLIE: What are some ways you can tackle that moisture?
VICKI: Well, for one thing, you could buy an inexpensive instrument called a hydrometer and that measures the water vapor content in your home. So you can get one of those and measure it. It should be under 50 percent if you can get it down there. If you can keep it down there, that’s one of the main things you can do.
TOM: So, keep your moisture level in the house under 50 percent. And of course, ways that you can reduce moisture if it’s high could include ventilation in your home; they could include vapor barriers; or they could include some of the things that we talk about on this show often about …
LESLIE: Drainage and grading.
TOM: … drainage. Yeah, exactly. How to reduce the water that collects around the foundation and actually works it’s way into the house. You mentioned that there’s a lot of mold around homes and you’re right. I mean we’re all – we’ve been familiar, of course, with mold in refrigerators for years; at least in my refrigerator. (chuckling)
VICKI: Icemakers are also a big force.
TOM: Right. And although that’s icky, you know, we don’t generally eat that stuff so it’s not much of a problem.
VICKI: (overlapping voices) No.
TOM: But then, of course, we’re familiar with mold in the bathroom and that cladosporium that gets on the walls. And while some people can be allergic to that, generally it’s just a cleaning issue. But when we’re talking about the mold that grows in the organic places in our house – in the carpets and on the walls – I think that’s where we start to sort of jump off from the safer forms of mold to those that can make you really sick.
Can you explain, for our audience, you know, what is it about mold that makes people sick and why do some people seem to be much more sensitive to it than others?
VICKI: Right. Well, mold is one of those things that can mask itself. You know, when you have allergies, it’s hard to tell do you have a seasonal allergy or is it something in your house that’s causing the allergy? So sometimes it’s hard to figure that out. But if you’re worse, actually, when you’re in your house and better when you’re outside, probably not a seasonal allergy. There’s something else going on. So, that may be a sign that there’s something going on with mold in your house.
Some people are not bothered. You can have a family where, you know, two people are fine but one person is really sick. People have different susceptibility to the allergy symptoms that come from mold.
TOM: Now, is there a medical way to determine what your level of, sort of, allergic reaction is to mold? Can you go to some sort of a doctor that can figure out if you’re particularly sensitive to some of the molds that we have in our homes?
VICKI: Right. Well there’s all kinds of allergen testing and certainly they can test, you know, to see if they can expose you to some spores and see what happens. But, you know, it’s really a process of elimination more than it is anything else. And there’s really no guidelines. That’s part of the problem. There’s nothing, you know, anywhere in any kind of U.S. government report that says ‘This is the level of mold that’s acceptable in a home.’ There’s no guidelines. So right now, it’s very tricky.
LESLIE: Vicki, if you’re seeing physical signs – if you actually see the mold spores around the house, do you recommend getting it tested first before you try to tackle cleaning it or do you want to just take care of the situation and have it tested if it looks a certain way?
VICKI: Yeah, you want to take care of it. The problem with testing is it can get very expensive. And at the end of the day, you’ll find out that you have mold. Well, yeah true; but you knew that already. And every home has mold anyway. So, you know, any test you take is going to take back positive, to some degree, for mold. The thing is to take care of it; especially if you can see it. The other thing is, you know, it might be better to spend some money on opening up a wall if you have some suspicion that there’s a leak, perhaps in a wall that houses plumbing. You’re noticing a really musty odor coming from maybe a closet that houses plumbing that shares a wall with a bathroom. That’s the kind of thing that you should invest your money in.
TOM: We’re talking to Vicki Lankarge. She’s the author of the book ‘What Every Homeowner Needs to Know About Mold.’
Vicki, in your book, you talk about the 2001 case in Texas when a jury awarded $32 million in a verdict against Farmers Insurance Group for failing to cover the necessary repairs to a water leak and, thereby, allowing toxic mold to invade a family’s home. And I guess they got very sick from that. And eventually, did that house have to be torn down?
VICKI: Eventually that house was torn down – it’s kind of a sad story – and actually the verdict was reduced on appeal. They still had to pay some money out but it was – it was quite gutted. I think it was only $4 million, on appeal, that the family got. But yeah, that kind of case changed everything as far as insurance coverage goes. Most of the insurers rushed to restrict coverage.
TOM: Yeah, right. (laughing) ‘Oh, oh, somebody can file a claim for that? Let’s put in an exclusion in the policy quick.’
VICKI: Absolutely. (chuckling) I mean some policies that will cover it, there’s usually a cap of $5,000; no more. And a mold problem can run you 10, 20, 30, $40,000 or more.
LESLIE: Well, what are some of the things, Vicki, that a homeowner can do if, say, they’re doing a repair or building a room that would house plumbing or an area where there might be a lot of moisture? Is there something – you know, we’re all familiar with a building material called Dens Armor. You know, do you recommend this and how much do you think it costs above and beyond traditional drywall?
VICKI: Right. Actually, that is an excellent product and I do recommend that. You can also use things like mold-resistant paint. But definitely it’s good – it’s the drywall that you want to take care of. And it’s really not all that more expensive. For the average home, I think, to upgrade for the entire house, it’s like $1,000 extra; which is nothing compared to a $40,000 repair cost for mold.
TOM: Now, what’s the differences between Dens Armor and regular drywall and why is it mold resistant?
VICKI: Dens Armor is mold resistant because it has glass matte facing. So there’s inorganic material – the glass; it’s not paper and you know how mold loves to eat paper.
VICKI: You know, old newspapers, cardboard boxes. So there’s no organic material. It doesn’t feed the mold.
TOM: Terrific. Stop feeding the mold.
VICKI: Stop feeding the mold. (chuckling)
TOM: Vicki Lankarge, author of ‘What Every Homeowner Needs to Know About Mold.’ Thanks for stopping by The Money Pit.
VICKI: Thank you so much.
LESLIE: Thanks, Vicki.
TOM: You’re welcome.
For more info on how to keep mold away from your home improvement projects, you can visit the website that Vicki mentioned; StopFeedingMold.com or GP.com/Build or call 1-800-BUILD-GP for information on that Dens Armor Plus product.
Well, it’s colorless and it’s odorless and it can be very harmful to your health.
LESLIE: Yeah, we’re not talking about carbon monoxide or a family member’s stinky farts. (laughing) That’s right, up next, we’re going to tell you about radon and how it’s making it’s way into your home.
ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit is being sponsored by Metal Roofing Alliance. We call metal roofing investment-grade roofing. Because in your lifetime, a metal roof will save you money and add value to your home. To find a Metal Roofing Alliance contractor or to learn more about investment-grade roofing, visit www.metalroofing.com.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show, standing by at 1-888-MONEY-PIT; waiting for your call, your question about your home improvement projects. Let us help you make your home better. That’s what we do.
I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
So Tom, in your 20 plus years of home inspection, have you actually come across radon; had to run tests; anybody concerned about it?
TOM: Oh, absolutely. It’s a big concern when you’re buying or selling a home. In fact, in some states, if the radon test comes in over four picocuries per liter of air – that’s the …
LESLIE: That’s a fun word.
TOM: … that’s the – you learned a new word tonight. That’s your new SAT word; picocuries.
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Picocuries.
TOM: That’s right. If it comes over 4.0, you need to put in a mitigation system to get rid of it. Because, basically, what radon is is it’s a soil gas and it lives in the soil. And you know, outside the house it doesn’t matter because it’s so diluted, you never get enough of it to breathe. But inside your house, it can actually build up to potentially toxic levels associated with cancer and all sorts of bad things. So, if you have it, you need to find out about that and get rid of it.
LESLIE: Yeah. And you can test – if you have any concerns at all or you’re just curious about it, you can actually test for the radon gas yourself. You can buy an at-home test kit and it’s sold by many testing labs across the country. And you want to make sure you follow the kit directions and then send your test back to the same lab for results. And if your test comes back showing high levels of radon, don’t panic. Most buildings can be modified to reduce the radon gas to safe levels by installing a simple ventilation system. But it’s good to know and it’s good to address before it causes a problem.
TOM: Hey, coming up next week in our Money Pit e-newsletter, we’re going to get into the details on exactly how radon enters your home and what you can do about it. There are some do-it-yourself tricks of the trade to actually stopping radon from getting into the house and we’re going to get to that in the next edition of The Money Pit free weekly e-newsletter.
Did I mention it’s free …
TOM: … and available at MoneyPit.com? It doesn’t get any better than that.
LESLIE: That’s right. Tom and I and team Money Pit, we love to give free stuff away. That’s why, this hour, we’ve got a great prize for you and it’s the Weather Channel Storm Tracker. It’s by Vector. It’s worth about $40 and this will automatically alert you of any hazardous weather conditions in your area so you know what to do. It’s got an AM/FM radio. It’s got an LED flashlight. It can charge your cell phone. It’s got rechargeable batteries. And it even has a built-in hand crank so if the battery dies and the power is still out, it will still work for you. Great thing to have no matter where you live because we all get bad weather.
TOM: 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.
LESLIE: Alex in D.C.’s up next with an insulation question. What can we do for you?
ALEX: Well, the previous owner put insulation in the attic and the crawl space under the house. But I’ve – I heard, during my home inspection, that he did it backwards. Basically, in the attic, the paper vapor barrier is up.
TOM: Oh, that’s bad.
ALEX: But also, the inspector said it looks like someone tried to make a minor repair. They cut a bunch of slits in the paper.
TOM: Actually, that’s the exact right thing to do, Alex.
TOM: Yeah, so that’s not a – that is a repair and that’s the perfect thing to do because that vents the insulation.
ALEX: The purpose, I guess, of the vapor barrier is to keep the moisture either out of the house or in the house; I’m not sure.
TOM: It’s supposed to keep the moisture on the conditioned sided of the house and not let the moisture wick up into the insulation. Because once it gets into the insulation, the insulation becomes ineffective. If you take insulation – say, six inches of fiberglass insulation has a value of r19 – and you add two percent moisture to that, it reduces its effectiveness by a third. So keeping insulation dry is important. If your vapor barrier’s backwards – and usually I hear about this in the crawl space when people are installing insulation and they use the paper lip; they like staple it to the underside of the beams …
ALEX: Yeah, they did that, too.
TOM: Yeah well, generally, there, I tell – I tell folks to take a utility knife and cut it about every six to 12 inches so that it’s thoroughly vented. In the attic, I am more concerned because there’s a lot of vapor pressure that pushes up there and even if you have that slit, there’s still a decent chance you’re going to get moisture in there. So, in areas where the insulation is easy to access, I might recommend taking that out and putting unfaced fiberglass insulation there in its place.
ALEX: Great. Well I appreciate your help.
TOM: You’re welcome, Alex. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Roger in Montana finds The Money Pit on KGEZ. And you’ve got a glue question. What can we do for you?
ROGER: Well, a few weeks ago, I heard you talking about a glue when you were down at a show in Las Vegas called Sumo Glue.
ROGER: And the description of it kind of gave me the idea that it might be useful in application for what I use in the building custom treads and risers for custom homes; out of flooring.
TOM: Oh, absolutely. All the polyurethane glues are incredibly strong and work very well for something like that.
LESLIE: Yeah, but the good thing about the Sumo Glue is that it doesn’t tend to bubble up, like so many of the others do. You know, you put a little bit on and all of a sudden it becomes this big, foamy mess. This one’s really contained and goes on really nicely and just stays where you need it.
ROGER: OK. And the question really is where do I get it? (chuckling)
TOM: Oh, OK. Now, have you checked local home centers?
ROGER: Yes, it’s not – you know, I live kind of in remote Montana, shall we say. (chuckling) And so, we actually work in an area where grizzly bears are actually in our backyard.
TOM: Oh, alright. Well …
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Holy cow!
TOM: I’m pretty sure that Sumo Glue also works on grizzly bears.
LESLIE: (chuckling) It holds grizzly bears right in place.
TOM: So Roger, Sumo Glue is available at Lowe’s home improvement warehouse. And I believe that there are at least three or four of them in the state of Montana.
LESLIE: Grizzly bears and all, you’ll find it.
ROGER: Wow, that’s really great. Thank you very much.
TOM: You’re welcome and good luck with that project. Roger, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Up next, home inspectors; friend or fraud. One of our e-mailers has sort of a challenge question; had a very bad home inspection experience and wants to know how to find a good one. We’ll tell him that secret and you, next.
ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit is being sponsored by Peerless. If you’re putting in a new bathroom or kitchen faucet, Peerless can help you with every step including the hardest one – getting that old faucet out. For a complete undo-it-yourself guide, visit the Peerless faucet coach at faucetcoach.com.
TOM: Welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Standing by at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. That number’s available to you 24/7/365. How does it work? Pick up the phone and call us. If we’re not in the studio, you’ll be directed to our live call screeners who we never let sleep. They have to work, work, work all the time to take your home improvement questions. And we will call you back the next time we’re in the studio.
If you’re not the calling type, perhaps you’d like to email us. You can do that by visiting MoneyPit.com and click on Ask Tom and Leslie. And this week, we’ve got an angry email …
TOM: … from a guy who seems to have had a very bad experience with home inspectors.
LESLIE: Yeah. This isn’t a question at all. This is a comment. But I thought you might like it, Tom, so here goes. It’s from Robert in Chicago who’s writing: ‘I think home inspectors are as fraudulent and a rip-off as the waterproofers you often rant about. At least those guys put in a drain system. Home inspectors deny any culpability for anything and charge $300 an hour for a useless checklist.
LESLIE: If you are worried about major things in a home purchase, hire a contractor; not your real estate agent’s cousin.
TOM: Hey, you know what? Those that live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, Robert. If I was going to hire a contractor, I would be finding a guy that says, ‘Tom, bad news: you need a new roof. Good news: I can put it in for you.’
TOM: You know, why – you want to talk about conflicts of interest? Contractors have major conflicts of interest when acting as home inspectors. Now, I will agree with you that perhaps, if you get the recommendation for which home inspector to hire from a real estate agent …
LESLIE: Yeah, chances are they’re in cahoots.
TOM: Yeah, they could be; they may, they may not be. It certainly is a built-in conflict of interest. Whether it’s an actual conflict really depends on the morality of the people involved. But if you want to avoid all of that and find a really good home inspector, I recommend going to the website for the American Society of Home Inspectors at ASHI.org. These guys are tested and certified and the best in the business.
Well Leslie, in home improvement, as in life, sometimes an unexpected surprise can be a good thing. In fact, that’s the way my third child arrived, I’m pretty sure. (laughing)
LESLIE: I think I’m one of those as well.
TOM: Yeah, like with home improvement, if you find hardwood floors under your wall-to-wall carpet, that happened in our house and we were very, very surprised.
LESLIE: It happened in our house too and we love it.
TOM: It’s terrific. So up next, your tips on spiffing up the finish on those floors in this edition of Leslie’s Last Word.
LESLIE: And the best part about finding beautiful hardwood floor underneath a wall-to-wall carpet is that that carpet has had many years to protect that flooring. So sometimes you could find beautiful wood flooring in not so bad shape. If you open it up and you find out under that rug that you’ve got some nice wood floors that seem to have their original finish, you can rent a floor buffer with sanding screens. And this will do a great job of getting it down just enough to a good level where you can put a new finish on it. And you want to mop on an oil-based polyurethane finish with a lambs wool applicator. That’s going to give you the best results. And you really want to make sure you put on several thin coats and try to avoid heavy traffic on the floor for a few days after the finish is applied so it can fully harden and cure properly. Also, it’s going to be pretty stinky so stay out of that room.
If you find out that that floor is not in such great condition but you still want to see your wood floor, you can actually paint that wood floor. That’s right, folks. You can paint your wood floor. You can paint checkerboards, borders, stripes, a decorative finish. You can even paint a unique rug on the floor that no one else will have. So if you’re going to do a painting job, make sure you prep first. If you’ve got bare wood, make sure you sand and prime. If you’ve got a varnished floor, sand and prime as well. And remember that each coat should thoroughly dry before you put on the next one and once you’re done with all of it, seal it in with a water-base polyurethane to make sure it stands up to all the traffic your floor sees.
TOM: Two words that describe old carpet: drop cloth.
LESLIE: (chuckling) Exactly.
TOM: It’s a great drop cloth, protecting those old wood floors.
Next week, we’re going to teach you the biggest mistakes homeowners make when caring for their lawns this time of year and what to do about it. That’s coming up same bat time, same bat channel (chuckling), next week on 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.
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(Copyright 2006 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.)