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, making good homes better. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Don’t look now but your home improvement project just got easier. All you’ve got to do is pick up the phone and call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974. Call us with your home improvement question. Call us with your do-it-yourself dilemma. Call us with something that’s really bugging you about your house and let us get to the bottom of it. We’ll give you the tips, the advice, the inspiration, the empowerment to get those jobs done.
Coming up this hour, the scoop on laminate floors. Are you considering a wood floor? Are you short on cash? Well, you can have the look of hardwood for less money with laminate. Find out why Consumer Reports magazine says sometimes laminate is even tougher than hardwood.
LESLIE: Plus, we’re going to have a few design tips that will make your life easier and help make your home safe and secure for people and visitors of all ages.
TOM: Speaking of safety, you probably have smoke detectors in your house. But if you’re like most Americans, you hardly think about them. Are they working right? Are they in the right place? Find out in just a few minutes when we talk to Richard Roll, the CEO of the American Homeowners Association, about a really interesting program they’ve got going on right now to put a smoke detector in every house.
LESLIE: And I don’t know, Money Pit listeners. Are you aware that October is indoor air quality month? That’s right, it is. There’s no Hallmark card yet but we’re working on it. And we’re calling it indoor air quality month because as this time of year comes around, you’re closing the doors; closing the windows; sealing the gaps and cracks and you’re locking yourself in for the winter. But you’re also locking yourself in with lots of dirt and bacteria and particulates that could make you and your family sick. So …
TOM: So what do we do, Leslie?!
LESLIE: Well, we’re going to be giving away a great prize. If you log onto MoneyPit.com and sign up for our Clear the Air sweepstakes, you could win an Aprilaire Model 5000 electronic air cleaner with installation. It’s a huge prize.
TOM: Worth 1,000 bucks.
Also this hour, we’re giving away a whole kit of DAP products; including caulk, weather stripping and lots of products to help you get your home sealed up and ready for winter weather. So let’s get going.
Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Doug in Nevada’s got a plumbing problem. What happened?
DOUG: I’m planning on building a second home in the mountains next spring and I’m trying to determine what plumbing system to install. And I’m considering the – installing the traditional copper pipe plumbing, but I also am looking at the PEX flexible tubing. And I’m just wondering if you’ve had any experience with the PEX flexible tubing as a plumbing system type in a cabin.
LESLIE: Well, when was that article in Fine Homebuilding, Tom, about that whole plumbing system with the …?
TOM: I think it was the September or the October issue of Fine Homebuilding magazine had a good story about PEX. And they were very high on it. I have personally never installed PEX and you know, my tendency is to kind of wait and see how it shakes out because there’s been bad experiences with plastic pipe in the past. If you go copper, you know, you can never go wrong. But the folks at Fine Homebuilding, who I greatly respect, did a lot of research on it and were very, very positive about the opportunities with it. It was easier to work with. It was less expensive. There were fewer connections. You could run it to more places. You needn’t have to worry about soldering and things of this nature. So, so far it seems to be getting a pretty reputation. So I think they’re both good choices. It probably is going to come down to cost.
DOUG: OK. And it would seem to me that PEX is a little bit easier for the do-it-yourselfer as well. Is that correct?
LESLIE: Oh, absolutely.
TOM: It definitely is easier for the do-it-yourselfer. Because if you – if you try the copper pipe yourself and you’re not real familiar with it, you can get yourself in trouble really quickly.
Doug, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Sean in Indiana listens on Discovery Radio Network and you’re thinking of adjusting your roof, not replacing it. What’s going on?
SEAN: I am putting a hip roof onto my house and I need to try also laterally into an existing roof and I’m wondering how that connection should be made and how they’ll – it should all level itself out.
TOM: Well, is the hip roof going to be like coming off, say, parallel – or I should say perpendicular – to a regular gable roof?
SEAN: Yes. It’s coming off – exactly – off a gable roof. And then, as it planes back, it’s going to tie into making a nice valley. But as that valley also comes across, it’s going to be meeting into an existing garage roof.
TOM: OK, well roof framing is probably one of the most difficult home improvement projects to do. It’s something you really need a lot of experience with and a very comprehensive knowledge of a framing square. That being said, generally the way you tie two roofs together is you put a sleeper down on top of the roof that’s the old roof. So in other words, you might put, for example, a 2×8 on the flat right where the new rafters are going to attach. And then each one of them has a hip cut so it goes – it has actually two angles; one front and one to the side – think of crown moulding with a compound angle on it – and that ties in to the sleeper. And then once that’s in, then you sheathe it and go from there. But again, it’s not something that’s a very simple do-it-yourself project, but it something you want to get done just once and get it done right because if you don’t do it right, it’s going to look really, really bad and it’s going to signal amateurish work. So I would get some help and have a pro help you do that because it sounds like it has a lot of intersections and it’s got to line up just right.
Sean, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Jane in Alabama’s got some cracks in the ceiling. Tell us where you see them, what they look like.
JANE: The biggest crack is in my living room. My living room measures about 30 feet long by 12 feet wide. And it’s across the width of the room. One side of the ceiling, where it’s cracked, hangs down, I’m going to say about a half inch lower than the other side.
LESLIE: Is it a straight line? Does it seem like it’s two pieces of drywall that have become separated or is it all zig-zaggy and crazy?
TOM: Or is it a very old house where you have plaster cracks?
JANE: It’s an older house. It’s probably about 40 years old. I don’t know what the ceiling’s made out of.
TOM: OK, because if the – if the plaster is cracked and it’s hanging down like that …
LESLIE: It’s going to fall off.
TOM: … it could fall and it’s pretty heavy, dense stuff. So if it’s loose in any way, you’re going to want to pull the – pull that down before it comes down on its own. And then you’re going to have replaster that space.
Well, is this the only place you’re seeing a crack in the ceiling?
JANE: Two summers ago – when it was very, very dry and we didn’t get any rain – I got two other cracks; one – both of them in the living room on two different walls. The cracks are kind of zig-zaggy …
TOM: Well, those are very common places for cracks. I would suggest this. Repair the cracks the best you can and that means if the – if it’s plaster, pulling it down and replastering it; if it’s a simple drywall crack, you’re going to want to use a perforated drywall tape, cover the crack and then respackle over it.
LESLIE: Yeah but if it’s a sheet of drywall that’s hanging down, you’re going to want to put some new screws in it and suck it back up to those ceiling joists.
TOM: Yeah, the repair advice really depends on what kind of material it is. But if it’s a 40-plus-year-old house, it’s more likely to be plaster or plaster lath than it would be drywall. Alright, Jane?
Now, in terms of the cracks and whether or not it’s an ongoing issue, the best thing to do there is to consider having the home inspected by a professional home inspector who could take into account a lot of the factors that might be impacting that and make some suggestions to you as to how to stabilize it. It could have to do with your foundation, your grading, things of this nature that can make that space unstable. The kind of cracks, however, that you’re describing to us, don’t signify to me that you have a major problem. It sounds like pretty much normal wear and tear in an older house. They are always going to open up – those cracks are always going to open up, especially around windows and doors; those are – that’s the weakest part of the wall and that’s generally where it moves.
I would go to the website for the American Society of Home Inspectors – it’s ASHI.org; A-S-H-I.org – put in your zip code, find a home inspector in your area and those guys are the best in the business.
JANE: OK, great.
TOM: Alright, Jane. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Gary in Nebraska’s beefing up insulation in the house and you’ve got a question about R-value. What can we do for you?
GARY: Yes, we were trying to determine what the R-value of an existing wall was and wondered if we could stack layers of styrofoam floor to ceiling and measure the outside temperature, the temperature of the wall and the room temperature and determine the R-value of the wall by that.
TOM: Well, if you tell me the wall construction, you can figure out what the R-value of the wall is. What’s the – what’s the wall physically made out of?
GARY: Well, it’s a wood siding and sheetrock, but without knowing what – how much insulation is in between, (INAUDIBLE) …
TOM: (overlapping voices) Well, you can determine that. What you want to do is you want to take the outlet covers off – the electrical outlets – get a strong flashlight and you can usually poke around the area where the drywall’s cut around the electrical outlet box and determine whether the – whether or not there is insulation in there. Now, assuming it’s a standard four inch wall – 2×4 wall – and you have three – four inches of insulation in there, what you have is an R-13 insulating area. And then the wood doesn’t really add much to it so you can figure the whole thing’s probably got an R-13 or R-14; not very much.
But if you’re trying to determine where you need to add insulation to your house, the priorities should be, Gary, to start in the attic. The ceiling is the first place you want to insulate. That’s where you have most of your heat loss. So you do the attic first. Then you do the walls and then you do the floors; in that order, kind of working your way down. If it turns out that the walls don’t have insulation in it, then you could also add insulation with a blown-in system. But one way or the other, you can get them warmed up.
Gary, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Hey home improvement fans, now you can call in your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Just dial that magic number. 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Up next – so, you love the look of beautiful wood floors, gorgeous stone or ceramic tile but you just can’t afford the price? We’re going to give you some tips we learned from the folks at Armstrong for an inexpensive solution that will definitely floor you.
ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit is brought to you by Dens Armor Plus, the revolutionary paperless drywall from Georgia-Pacific.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. We’re here, you’re there. Just call us. 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.
So, do you love the look of natural floor materials like wood or ceramic or tile but you just can’t afford the very steep cost? Well there is a solution – laminate floors. Laminate provides the realistic look of wood or tile or stone at a very low cost. I’ve got a laminate floor that looks like stone – like very old stone – in my kitchen, Leslie, and it looks …
LESLIE: And I’ve got laminate floor that looks like wood.
TOM: You do?
TOM: And it looks fabulous, right?
LESLIE: And my mom has a laminate floor that looks like stone. We just put it in her kitchen. It’s gorgeous.
TOM: One time, many years ago when I was in the home inspection business, I was in the addition to a house that was built in the 1700s. And I noticed that there was a – there was a laminate floor underfoot and I asked the whole cadre of people that were buying this house what kind of wood they thought it was and they were guessing like oak, cherry, pine, this and that.
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) ‘Well I think pine was of that period.’
TOM: Like no, it’s plastic. (chuckling) They’re like, ‘What do you mean?’ They felt very cheated. But it looks that good. So that’s why laminate floor is a really hot decorating trend right now.
LESLIE: You’re like, ‘Clearly it’s not original to the home.’
TOM: (chuckling) Yeah, exactly. It’s a – it’s a more recent period.
LESLIE: (chuckling) Well, besides being less expensive, you know laminate is extremely durable and it’s far less apt to scratch than wood. It’s also exceptionally easy to install because it’s got interlocking pieces and they actually float over the floor rather than being attached to the subfloor with glue or nails. And it’s as simple to put together like a puzzle.
TOM: Exactly. Another benefit is the transition between the rooms. You know, some flooring materials are so thick that it makes it very, very hard to install them. But laminate floor is just a little more than a quarter of an inch thick, so it makes those transitions to adjoining rooms in your house very easy and very safe. It’s also child and pet friendly because it does clean up quickly. And it’s usually made of recycled material, so it’s an environmentally responsible thing to do.
A very good place to learn more about laminate floors is the website for Armstrong Floors at Armstrong.com. They’ve got a new book out. It’s a guide. It’s called The Complete Guide to Flooring on Armstrong.com. So check it out.
LESLIE: Yeah, and you know what? It’s a really nice website and you can actually take the opportunity to look at how that flooring looks in a variety of room settings. It’s not going to be your room but you can see what it looks like installed because sometimes can get busy. So it gives you an understanding of what’s going on in that room. So make sure you check it out.
Well alright, folks. If the seasons are changing where you live, you’re about to head back indoors for the next four to six months because it’s going to be cold. But with homes being built tighter and being more energy efficient, we’re actually trapping ourselves indoors with many airborne irritants which can cause respiratory problems.
TOM: Absolutely. And as a result, we’ve welcomed uninvited guests like dust mites, viruses, bacteria. And less ventilated homes trap in pollen and pet dander. So what do you do? We’ve got the solution. October is indoor air quality month and we’re giving away a great prize.
LESLIE: Yeah, we’re going to be giving away the Aprilaire Model 5000 electronic air cleaner. And it’s an air cleaner for your entire house. It’s a $1,000 value and it could be yours if you register at MoneyPit.com.
TOM: There’s no purchase necessary. Your deadline to enter is October 31st. Read the complete rules on the entry page at MoneyPit.com.
Leslie, let’s get back to the phones. Who’s next on The Money Pit?
LESLIE: Len in Florida listens to The Money Pit on WWBA. What can we do for you today?
LEN: Yes ma’am, I was looking for some information on an air conditioner exhaust. It seems like it is continuously – it’s dripping out of the outside drainage. Even when the air conditioner’s off, it still drains and it’s got a weird color drain.
TOM: So you have condensate dripping outside and you think it’s from the air conditioner and it happens even when it’s off?
TOM: Well, that’s – I can’t explain that because it flies in the face of science. It could be that – this is a summer problem predominantly?
TOM: Do you have a condensate drain that’s near the air conditioner?
LEN: I have (INAUDIBLE) two drains but one of them is actually closed. It has like a – like a pipe that goes up into the air. I guess that’s to have some type of air and then we have another that just (INAUDIBLE) follows out.
TOM: And the second one is the one that’s dripping water?
TOM: Well, I mean it might be that that’s the condensate drain and it’s hooked into the air handler inside the house. And even though the compressor’s not spinning outside, the air condition air handler inside is still going to be causing moisture that’s in the air to condense. That probably is dripping down to a condensate pump. The condensate pump kicks on; it pumps the water outside. So if that’s what you’re seeing, that is normal function. Sometimes because it’s constantly wet, it will grow algae and look blue or green; especially where it drips out. But again, that’s normal function and nothing to worry about, Dan.
LEN: Does that need to be blown out? The system blown out, do you think?
TOM: No. No. I mean if you don’t like where the water’s collecting, you can extend the line out so it drips off somewhere else; perhaps into your landscaping or irrigation. But no, that sounds like it’s normal operation.
Len, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: And now, a heating and cooling question from Jim in Iowa. What’s going on?
JIM: I was calling – I have a house that I just built about a year ago. And I have low air pressure coming out of my heating and cooling ducts to the upper floors.
TOM: OK. And you have a single zone system, Jim?
JIM: Yes sir, I do.
TOM: The amount of air flow is directly proportional to the size and length of the duct systems. The simple thing you might want to check is for the presence of duct dampers. They’re not that obvious but they’re little handles that would be sticking out of the sides of the ducts. And you want to make sure that they’re wide open, which means that the handle is usually going to be parallel with the duct; not perpendicular to it. Just in the off chance that you have any baffles inside …
LESLIE: That maybe it’s closed.
TOM: … that have closed it off.
TOM: If that doesn’t do it, now we need to really look at the duct design and try to figure out why you’re not getting enough air up there. In order to properly cool that second floor, you’re going to need both ducts that supply air and ducts that return it back. Usually, the returns are not put up or they’re not installed properly or there’s not enough of them in a situation where you’re overheating one place in the house. So it’s a combination of getting the supply and the return.
There is another type of product called a duct booster, which is an inline blower that can be installed on the supply end of the register to pull more air through. But it’s electric. It has to run, you know, all the time to do its job and I don’t recommend it if you can get the ducts’ design tweaked to deliver more air.
LESLIE: But Tom, since the house is only a year old – which means its heating and cooling system is only a year old – if it’s improperly designed, is there any recourse with the manufacturer or the installer or the designer?
TOM: There should be some recourse via the home owner’s warranty. Did you get a warranty when you bought the place?
JIM: It was a – there is a warranty with it. It’s a – where you become the general contractor. That’s how the …
TOM: Where you become the general contractor. Hmm. Is there a process under the warranty for filing claims? Take a look because, Leslie, you might be right and it’s really going to depend on whether or not you can file it within the time limit. Because it shouldn’t have been done that way. But it sounds to me like there’s a problem with the duct design, Jim. That’s going to be the solution to it as well.
LESLIE: Now, that’s an interesting situation. You buy a brand new home that’s being custom built and you’re in charge of making sure the job goes on time …
TOM: (overlapping voices) I’ve never heard of something like that.
LESLIE: … and communicating with all of the contractors who are building?
TOM: It doesn’t make any sense to me. I am very familiar with …
LESLIE: What if you have no knowledge about the process at all?
TOM: I agree. I have – I have a lot – I know a lot about home warranties and I can tell you that if you buy a new house, the builders give you a warranty and they treat the warranty like it’s this warm, toasty blanket that they’re wrapping around you to protect you from things that could go wrong with the house. But in actual fact, it’s more of a wet blanket. (chuckling) It really is. Because there’s a lot of holes in that warranty and if you want to claim under that warranty, you better read it and follow it to the letter of the law or you won’t get coverage because, you know, when I – years ago, I used to do arbitrations for those warranty claims …
TOM: … and you’d see this, you know, huge case file that the arbitration company would send you. And you could see the correspondence, you know, go from, you know, ‘Dear Bill, So nice to see you the other day. Hope you enjoyed the coffee. When you have a chance, can you stop by and fix that leaky window’ to ‘You freaking idiot,’ you know, like six months later.
LESLIE: (chuckling) To the height of frustration.
TOM: Exactly, so …
LESLIE: You know but, seriously, I bet that warranty has no coverage; especially if you yourself become in charge of the project.
LESLIE: Then that means you are squarely responsible …
LESLIE: … to make sure that things are done properly, installed properly, designed properly. And if you don’t know, then it’s not going to be done right.
TOM: Another reason to read the warranties first.
Jim, thanks again for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT. Read that warranty. If you have any questions that you need an answer, you can also write us to [email protected].
LESLIE: Well, you probably have smoke detectors in your home, but do you have enough and are they in the right places?
TOM: Find out next when we talk to the head of the American Homeowners Association.
ANNOUNCER: AARP is proud to sponsor The Money Pit. Visit www.AARP.org/UniversalHome to learn more about making your home more functional and comfortable for years to come.
TOM: This is 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. From coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, call us now with your home improvement projects. Call us with your do-it-yourself dilemmas. Call us with the tips – for the tips, the advice that you need to get those projects done around your house. 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, speaking of projects that you should have done or, if not, should do, let’s talk about smoke detectors. You probably have them in your home, but most likely, you don’t think about them. They just sort of sit there and you hope they’re working. But are they working correctly? Are they in the proper locations? Are they worn out? Did you know that smoke detectors can actually get worn out? You have to think about these things; they’re important.
LESLIE: Yeah, they’re not just buy them once, stick them up there and then they’re good for life. And the fact is that you’re risk of dying in a home fire is actually cut down by half if you have a smoke alarm that’s properly installed and regularly tested. Yet, millions of U.S. homes have smoke alarms that don’t work properly. One of them may actually be in your house.
So joining us to talk about that is Richard Roll, the CEO of the American Homeowners Association.
RICHARD: Thanks, Leslie. Great to be with you.
TOM: Richard, I understand that this is a topic that’s near and dear to your heart because a member of your American Homeowners Association family actually perished in a fire that was – I’m not sure what the cause was but certainly the fact that I understand there was no working smoke detector in this home certainly led to those fatalities.
RICHARD: You know, like most people, I didn’t think a lot about smoke alarms and, in fact – just for background – when smoke alarms were introduced widely around the country, they cut down deaths from home smoke – home fires by about half and it’s been really dramatic. But what’s happened recently is that people have gotten a little bit in a haze about smoke alarms – no pun intended. And we got a wakeup call that was very tragic when one of our very beloved employees, Ramona Holiday, and her two-year-old daughter died in an early morning fire because of lack of a smoke detector.
TOM: Yeah and I understand her dad passed away, too, sometime later. It was really a tragedy. And is this something that – you know, did she impress you as the type of person that would have always had a smoke detector? Do you think it was just an oversight?
RICHARD: It was a new apartment in a house that she had moved into. The landlord had recently bought the property. The landlord was not knowledgeable about what his obligations were. And it was one of those things – everybody thinks that ‘It can’t happen to me’ because the smoke detectors are there, la-di-da. It usually doesn’t go off and …
LESLIE: Well, you think you’re going to notice if something’s on fire. You’re like, ‘I’m smart enough. I’ll notice something.’ But the majority of these things happen while people are sleeping and some folks don’t even wake up to the alarm.
RICHARD: That’s exactly right. And especially children under five have twice the risk of dying in an early morning home fire as anyone else. They are asleep and they’re not attuned to smelling smoke. In fact, when you’re asleep, nobody’s attuned to smelling smoke. That’s something people should be aware of.
TOM: We’re talking to Richard Roll – he’s the CEO of the American Homeowners Association – about the importance of having a properly functioning smoke detector in your home.
And Richard, you say that there are some very pressing smoke alarm related issues today that perhaps we didn’t have years ago and some common mistakes that can lead to fire related tragedies. What are some of those errors that people are making?
RICHARD: Well, the first thing is that people are not checking their smoke alarms every month and changing the batteries twice a year. You know, around this time of year, when you change the clocks is the time that people hear, ‘Don’t forget to change your smoke alarm batteries.’ And that warning is quite critical. Because lack of working smoke alarms is the cause of most home fire fatalities.
LESLIE: And so many people borrow the batteries from the smoke detectors to use for something else and then just never put them back and completely forget about it.
RICHARD: Leslie, everybody I speak to – and since we’ve gotten on this national smoke alarm safety campaign – everybody I’ve spoken to has had an anecdote about smoke alarms and how they’ve taken the batteries out to put in a kid’s toy. (chuckling) The kid was crying and needed batteries. That they’ve taken them out because of persistent alarm going off when there’s been smoke in the kitchen.
LESLIE: From cooking, yeah.
RICHARD: Usually because they’re not placed properly. You can’t put a smoke alarm near where there’s going to be a recurring cooking fire.
TOM: You know and also, Richard, I think that the technology in smoke detectors has changed. And now they have detectors that are designed specifically for kitchens; that have reset buttons on them, which are very convenient because you can have one – of course, we wouldn’t want it over your range, but you could have one, certainly, within eye sight of a range. And if you did occasionally burn some toast or something that set that off, you can hit a button and it actually goes off temporarily – only for five or 10 minutes – to allow the smoke to clear. I think that folks don’t understand that there’s new technology out there.
RICHARD: It makes it a lot more convenient and less of an issue. And the most important thing, again, is check your smoke detector batteries and realize that you probably need to replace the smoke alarm every 10 years. They do wear out.
TOM: Yeah, if you imagine an appliance that was constantly cycling millions and millions of time, you would eventually understand that that appliance is going to wear out and that’s exactly what happens to a smoke alarm. I mean it’s always constantly on. It’s always constantly sensing the air that passes through it. And if it’s more than 10 years old, it’s just got to be replaced. There’s just no two ways about it.
RICHARD: And Tom, that’s one of the reasons that there are so many millions of smoke alarms that are not functioning. And once again, people believe that it can’t happen to them but more people are dying every year now, in America, from fires relating to lack of working smoke alarms than from all the natural disasters occurring in the course of a year.
TOM: Richard, I understand that you guys have a campaign going on right now that’s going to help ensure that every American has a working smoke detector. Talk to us about it.
RICHARD: That’s right, Tom. When this tragedy occurred so close to home for us, I realized this must be happening all over the country; that people are dying needlessly in home fires because smoke alarms aren’t working or they don’t have a smoke alarm. So I looked into it. I discovered this was happening to families with young children, to elderly people all over the country; In Falls Church, Virginia; Honesdale, Pennsylvania; San Diego, California; everywhere. I said, ‘The American Homeowners Association needs to do something about that.’ So we launched a national campaign and pledged up to $5 million of smoke alarms that we are giving away to every landlord, every homeowner …
LESLIE: To anyone who asks.
RICHARD: Well, anybody – in addition, they pay $1.95 shipping and handling fee to get it and they get a free 60-day trial in AHA to see all the benefits that they’ll get there.
LESLIE: And you’re also offering a reminder service just to make sure that folks remember to change the batteries, correct?
RICHARD: That’s right, Leslie. And that reminder service is free to everybody. It’s at www.AHAHome/RemindMe. And the smoke alarm is available at www.AHAHome/SaveMe.
TOM: And those links will be available on our website.
Richard Roll – CEO of the American Homeowners Association – thanks for stopping by The Money Pit. Great work.
LESLIE: Alright, Money Pit listeners. Well, recently research by the AARP shows that making minor changes in your home can make your life easier for you today and help you stay in your same home longer.
TOM: Up next, find out how to make minor changes that offer major conveniences.
ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit is 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, making good homes better. Call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
Well, along the lines of making good homes better, some design features just make good sense. And once you’ve got them in your home, you’re going to wonder how you ever lived without them before. Plus you’ll have no problem hosting friends and families of all ages.
TOM: That’s right. You know, the AARP suggests floor and bathtubs should have nonslip surfaces to help everyone stay on their feet. Also, good lighting is important. It helps people with poor vision and it helps people with good vision, too. It’s always a little bit dark in my house and right now, this time of year – when the daylight is not lasting quite as long, I like to go around and change all the wattage on the bulbs to make sure I’m putting the biggest bulb in the light fixture that it can handle so it’s nice and bright and cheery and you can see what you’re doing.
LESLIE: Yeah, it’s no fun to walk around in the dark. And you should think also about lever door handles and rocker light switches. They’re great for people with poor hand strength but other people like them, too. You know, try using them when your arms are full of packages or laundry or a hand full of kids and toys. You’re never, ever going to go back to knobs or standard switches again once you see how convenient it is.
If you want some more info, you can go to AARP.org/UniversalHome – that’s AARP.org/Universal Home – for lots of other ideas to make your life more convenient.
TOM: Coming up in our next e-newsletter, we’re going to have three more design tips to help your home stand the test of time. If you’re not a subscriber to our free e-newsletter, sign up right now at MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: We’re giving away a great prize this hour. We’ve got everything you need to keep you snug as a bug in your home this winter. This is the perfect time of year to seal up all those cracks around your windows and doors and make sure everything seals up nice and tight to keep that cold air out and keep that warm air in.
TOM: It’s a winterizing kit worth more than 170 bucks and it’s from DAP. We’re going to give it to one caller we choose this hour at random. It includes DAPtex Window and Door Foam Sealant, DAP Seal ‘n Peel removable weatherstrip caulk, DAP SIDEWinder advanced polymer siding and window sealant and a whole bunch of other stuff to keep you toasty.
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Yeah, this is the DAP truck delivery, really.
TOM: Yeah, pretty much. Pretty much. It’s like three pages of like stuff that they’re going to give you. So call us right now to qualify. 1-888-MONEY-PIT. You must be willing to come on the air and ask your home improvement question.
Leslie, have you ever seen that Seal ‘n Peel stuff?
LESLIE: It’s really fantastic. It’s so good if your windows are just sort of drafty once they’re closed and you can’t really figure out how to fix that. You can just put this caulk in and it peels itself out – well, you peel it out when you’re done with it – and it seals that window shut. So for the whole winter …
TOM: Yeah, it’s like temporary caulk.
LESLIE: Yeah, for the whole winter, your window’s glued shut …
TOM: What a cool idea.
LESLIE: … and there’s not a single air leak.
TOM: It’s a cool idea that will keep you warm. Get it?
888-MONEY-PIT is the phone number. 888-666-3974. Leslie, who’s next?
LESLIE: Kitchens offer number one return on investment and that’s what Mike in Idaho is doing. How can we help?
MIKE: Hey, I have a good question for you, I think. I have an old kitchen with a Formica countertop on it. Do I actually have to pull that all off or can I go right over the top of that?
LESLIE: What are you putting on top of it?
MIKE: That’s a good question. (chuckling) Could I put more Formica on it or could I put tile on it?
TOM: Well, you could go right on top of it with another layer of Formica or laminate. I’ve done that myself. You’ve got – the last time I did it, I sanded the old stuff so I roughed it up a bit. Then I used the solvent-based contact cement; not the latex-based. And it worked fine. It’s lasted to this day. It’s in a – it’s in a condo that I own that we rent out.
If you’re going to put tile, I don’t see why you couldn’t put the tile right on top of it because I know the glues going to stick to that.
LESLIE: Yeah, as long as you’ve got an even, level surface you can go for it.
MIKE: OK, do I – if I put tile on that, what’s the procedure on that then? Still go ahead and sand that and just put the mud down and the tile on top?
LESLIE: Oh yeah, I would definitely scuff it up just so you give better adhesion. Because if the surface is very smooth and slick, it might stick but it could cause some shifting and movement if things don’t really adhere. So give it some scratches and scuffs to give it a place to stick to.
LESLIE: Alright? Enjoy that new countertop.
TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.
LESLIE: Mark in Indiana, you’re up. How can we help?
MARK: Yes, I have a home that’s about five years old.
MARK: It has vinyl siding. And up on the top connection – where it connects in – it seems to always come unsnapped in two different spots on the house and I’m wondering how do you keep this from reoccurring.
TOM: When it comes unsnapped, do you get up there and like pop it back in?
TOM: There’s a little tool called a zipper tool that most siding contractors have that can help reassemble that entire joint. Because I suspect that you’re not locking it in place when you push it back in. And it would be very hard for you to do that at this point. So, the next time it pops out, call a siding contractor. It will be a very quick, inexpensive repair for them to come back in and reassemble those sections of siding so that they lock together.
MARK: OK, because it seems like it does snap in but evidently it’s not.
TOM: No, apparently it’s not. And they can address that with the right kind of tool. It’s a specialty problem.
MARK: Appreciate that. Thank you.
TOM: Alright Mark, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, water, water everywhere. It’s one of the most popular questions we get here at The Money Pit. Up next, we’re going to help one homeowner figure out exactly where it’s coming from and how to stop it. So stay with us.
ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit is 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: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show, available right now by calling 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974. How do I know that someone will pick up the phone if they happen to call right now? Maybe it’s the show’s not live right now. Maybe I’m busy right now. Maybe I recorded on the podcast and it’s three in the morning and right now I have a question for you guys. Here’s how we know – 24/7/365. Our call screeners are always standing by to take your calls to 1-888-MONEY-PIT live.
Also, you can email us by logging on to our website at MoneyPit.com and click on Ask Tom and Leslie. Lots of folks do every single week. Let’s get to some answers.
LESLIE: Alright, here we’ve got one from Deanna in Upper Marlboro, Maryland who writes: ‘My husband and I are first-time homebuyers’ – which I know is a very, very scary thing. They’re in a townhouse and after heavy rains they notice a lot of standing water on the back patio. It’s a concrete area and sometimes they get a small leak around the interior corner of the patio doors and walls on either side of the patio door. They’ve tried caulking the interior door frame and exterior around the door. They even dug a trench around the cement patio to prevent standing water. But she writes: ‘After a recent heavy rain, we noticed that the carpet and padding were soaked …’
LESLIE: ‘… and it extended further into the room. Dried them out. It rained again. Same thing happens. Now there’s a foul odor. This never happened before.’ What’d they do?
TOM: You know, I’m thinking that this may be two problems: number one – obviously they’ve got some leaks around the patio door that need to be addressed; and number two – it sounds like it’s a slab-on-grade house and so, if you have a lot of water that’s being deposited in the patio area, that’s going to saturate the foundation, which is very hydroscopic – that’s my SAT word for today; hydroscopic.
LESLIE: (chuckling) Meaning it’s going to suck the water through itself.
TOM: (overlapping voices) It’s going to suck the water up. Exactly. And an engineer once taught me that if you had a solid concrete column and it was, say, six inches in diameter and you stuck it in an endless supply of water, that water would walk its way all up the column to some point where the weight of the water would overtake the weight of gravity and stop advancing. But you know where that point is? It’s like a mile.
TOM: Yes. So that’s how strong water is. Water can certainly come up six, eight, ten inches and saturate a floor. What do you do about it? That’s why you wrote us. Here’s what you need to do about it.
I think you’re going to need to take that patio out and I think you’re going to need to do some drainage right around the foundation perimeter to try to keep the water away. And because this is a townhouse, you may have an issue with the association because you could have site drainage issues here that are causing the problem as well, Deanna. If the buildings are too close together; if one building is running water into the other building, you need to put – need to put in a curtain drain to carry that away. That’s something, obviously, you couldn’t do but your association could do. So it’s a lot of work but it’s got to get done because that foul odor might mean mold, Leslie.
LESLIE: Yeah, absolutely. And make sure you ask the association before you do any of that work because you don’t want to spend that money and then just have to put it right back. So do it once, do it right.
TOM: Well, sometimes saving money is as easy as the flick of a switch. Leslie explains in today’s edition of Leslie’s last word.
LESLIE: You love using your dishwasher, don’t you?
TOM: I do.
LESLIE: And I don’t mean your husband standing there and I don’t mean your wife, Tom, standing there with the rubber gloves on washing those dishes.
TOM: Or the kids. (chuckling)
LESLIE: Or the kids. I’m talking about that dishwasher that’s underneath your counter in your kitchen. But it’s costly, right? Water bills, energy bills. Well if you want to cut your dishwasher energy costs by one-third, it’s simple and so easy.
Most automatic dishwashers have a power dry switch to speed up the drying process. You know, they heat it up immensely hot and those dishes become instantly dry. But if you’re not going to run another load right away, just turn that switch off. Air dry them, folks. The dishes are still going to dry spotless and you’re going to save about one-third of those energy costs. And it’s a good idea to prop even the door open a little bit. Just undo that latch, let some air get in there, let them dry out and save that money.
TOM: Excellent advice.
This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Up next week, if you’ve got a generator to get you through winter storms, you are being very smart. But there’s no reason to get caught in the dark or end up with a fridge full of spoiled food because your home has lost power. We’re going to make sure you know exactly how to use your generator safely. We’ll tell you what you need to know, 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.)