TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And we are here to help you with whatever home improvement project or décor project is on your to-do list this summer.
And it is, Leslie, officially summer, right?
LESLIE: It is, thank goodness.
TOM: Summer as of this week and boy, we waited for it for a long time through lots of winter and lots of spring storms. But now it’s officially the chill-out summertime and so that means you might be tackling some outdoor projects, maybe spiffing up your deck or your patio, picking up a paintbrush. Maybe you’re dealing with a remodeling job, like a roof. Whatever is going on in your home, give us a call because we’re here to help. Whether it’s a do-it-yourself project or one you need to hire a pro to get done, this is the place to get started, 888-666-3974.
Now, as the saying goes, it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity. And this time of year, though, that moist, humid, sticky air can not only make us feel uncomfortable but it also starts to impact the house. I mean it stops the doors and windows from closing properly and everything is sticky and swell-y and makes it a real mess. So we’ve got some tips to help get you and your house comfortable again.
LESLIE: And also ahead, would you like to have a little more privacy in your backyard? Well, that’s easy to do and a very green project if you build a privacy screen. We’re going to get the step-by-step tips from Roger Cook, the landscape contractor from This Old House.
TOM: And as smart-home products keep getting smarter, it’s become entirely doable to install a home security system that’s just as capable of keeping crime away from your home as anything you’d find professionally installed. But of course, it costs you a lot less to do it yourself.
Now, one thing that’s not been a part of that service, though, is the monitoring – the professional monitoring. But there’s a new service out that’s kind of breaking the mold, that allows those home security systems, those DIY systems, to be professionally monitored and at a pretty affordable price. So we’ll share the details on that, in just a bit.
LESLIE: Plus, if you’re dreading dragging out your gas-powered lawn mower for another season of back-breaking, pull-cord starts, fear not because this hour we’re giving away a fantastic product to one very fortunate homeowner. It’s the Greenworks 60-Volt Lithium Walk-Behind Mower worth $402.
TOM: I’ve got this product. I’ve worked with it. It’s fantastic. It’s got a push-button start and pretty much hassle-free to use. It’s going out to one caller drawn at random from those that call us at 888-MONEY-PIT. Or you can also post your question to The Money Pit Community page at MoneyPit.com. So let’s get going. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Greg in Delaware, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you?
GREG: Yes, I have a house that was built in ‘22 and stuff and for some reason, somebody put those sticky tiles in the kitchen, right over top of some nice hardwood floors.
TOM: Ugh. OK.
GREG: And so you know, it’s all original.
GREG: It’s all original stuff.
TOM: So definitely worth saving.
GREG: How do I get the sticky glue off the wood? I use a sander, it just tears the glue on it, tears it up. And I’ve used – I don’t know if I can say a product but I’ve used Goo Gone and it just doesn’t do any good. I didn’t actually try to (inaudible at 0:03:48).
TOM: What kind of sander are you using on it?
GREG: Well, I had a belt sander that I had and then I used a palm sander. And I used – tried to use a different grit.
TOM: Alright. So, I would stop right there, Greg. I would call in a professional floor-refinishing company and let them do it with their tools. You can sand that stuff off and their sanders are big, 12-inch-wide belt sanders with varying types of grit on it. And I think if you have them come in, they’re going to sand this floor. And I generally don’t recommend belt-sanding because it takes some of the life of the floor. But in your case, when you have adhesive on it, it’s the best way to do it.
LESLIE: It’s the only thing that’s going to work.
TOM: Yeah. But have a pro do it. They’ve got the right tools; you don’t. And it’ll just save you a lot of aggravation. It’s not terribly expensive. You know, if you want to save money, you could even just have them sand it and not finish it and you can finish it yourself. But their finishes – generally, the pro finishes are better than the ones that you can buy over the counter, so to speak.
So I would leave this job to the pro because it requires their specialized tools. And don’t even rent the tools yourself because you’re not going to have the skills to use it and you could ruin the floor using a tool like that.
GREG: And so there’s no chemicals that would pull it up without …
TOM: No. I wouldn’t – no, I wouldn’t do that. I’d just have it sanded off. It’ll look so good when it’s done.
TOM: Alright, Greg? Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now, we’ve got Tammy in Philadelphia on the line who’s looking for a better shower. How can we help you today?
TAMMY: Hi. I was calling in because I wanted to find out – I have an old Victorian house and I have a three – it’s three stories. I have a bathroom on the third floor and a bathroom on the second. And when I – if someone is in the shower on the second floor and then someone takes a shower or runs the water upstairs, on the third floor, the shower goes cold. And I’ve been asking my contractors and my plumbers and I’m not getting a consistent answer. So, I’d like to remedy that, because I’m doing remodeling.
TOM: OK. So are you opening up walls as part of this remodeling?
TAMMY: Yes. Completely stripped down to the studs.
TOM: OK, great. So, first of all, the reasons you have reduced water pressure in older homes are generally because you have old steel pipes that suffer from internal rusting and they clog. They close down, kind of like a clogged artery, and then you can’t push enough water through it.
Now, that could be your main water pipe, it could be the supply pipes that are inside the house or a combination of them. And so, since you’re taking the walls apart, the general rule of thumb is that whenever you expose these old, steel pipes, you want to replace them with copper pipes or with PEX, which is a different type – a newer type of plumbing pipe.
Now, the other thing is that you may not have enough water pressure coming in from the street.
TAMMY: Well, the pressure is not that big of a deal, because I think that the pressure is kind of OK. It’s just that, basically, we have two bathrooms in the house and you can only use one at a time. Like the water completely goes ice cold if you’re in the shower and somebody comes in and uses the sink.
TOM: Well, that’s because the pipes may not be supplying that hot water. They may not be moving enough hot water.
What size water heater do you have?
TAMMY: Forty gallons.
TOM: Alright. Well, that’s a minimum size but it should be OK for two bathrooms.
TOM: And is it an older water heater?
TAMMY: No, I just replaced the water heater.
TOM: When you replaced it, did they change any of the plumbing around it? Is it still going through the steel pipes?
TAMMY: I don’t think that they changed the pipes around the – no, I don’t think so.
TOM: So, you need to talk with your plumbers about what kind of pipes you have, whether or not that’s contributing to the problem. And you need to know what the water pressure is at the street. Because if you’re not getting enough pressure, that could be the whole cause of it.
TAMMY: OK. Now, I Googled and I saw something online called a “pressure-balance valve.” Would that remedy the issue at all?
TOM: So, a pressure-balance valve is designed to be used primarily in a shower. And what it does is it keeps the mix between hot and cold balanced so that you don’t get scorching or freezing-cold water when the pressure drops. So if somebody was to, say, run hot water downstairs and now rob all that hot water from the upstairs shower, it would not change the balance of water from – the mix of water between hot and cold. So the flow would be less – you’d have less of a stream – but it wouldn’t be – the temperature wouldn’t change.
TAMMY: OK, OK.
TOM: Right. So, no, that’s not it. I don’t think that’s the cause. I mean that would certainly be a good thing to have and something you should consider. But I don’t think that’s the reason you’re not getting hot water on the second floor. I just don’t think you’re moving enough water up there.
TAMMY: OK. So, basically, what I need to do is tell them to check the piping around the water heater.
TOM: Yeah. And the plumber should know this. Not only around the water heater but basically, if you’re going to open up those walls, what kind of pipes do you have and are they corroded? And should they be replaced to help alleviate this, OK? And if all else fails, you could always add a second water heater upstairs. You can add a tankless water heater, which would be a really small unit. And it would supply additional water to that second-floor bathroom.
TAMMY: Oh, OK. OK, that’s interesting. OK. Well, I think that kind of remedies the problem.
TOM: Alright. Well, good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT with your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 888-MONEY-PIT is presented by HomeAdvisor, the fast and easy way to find a home service pro that you can trust. You can read reviews, compare prices, even book appointments, all right there online.
TOM: Up next, summer humidity is not only uncomfortable, it can also wreak havoc on your home and make doors and windows swell and HVAC systems work overtime. We’ll have tips to help cut that humidity, next.
TOM: Where home solutions live, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. You can call us, right now, or post your question to The Money Pit Community page at MoneyPit.com for the answer to your question. Plus, this hour, we’re giving away a great product to one very fortunate listener. We’ve got the Greenworks Pro 60-Volt Power Mower worth over 400 bucks.
Now, this is great because it’s not gas-powered or oil-powered. It’s push-button start. There’s no cords to pull. It’s got a very powerful brushless motor. It’s going to cut through all the tough grass. It also stores vertically. Now, if you try to do that with a gas-powered mower, you’d have a real mess on your hands.
LESLIE: It’d be a big mess.
TOM: But this is going to store vertically, which is going to save you a lot of space. You’ll find it at Lowe’s and Lowes.com. Worth 402 bucks. Going out to one listener who calls us with their home improvement question or posts it to The Money Pit Community page at MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got John from Iowa on the line who has a question about an addition. How can we help you today?
JOHN: We have an addition that was built onto our home before we bought it. It’s about the size of a two-car garage but this winter, it started separating from the house. You can see where the mud and the tape separated about an inch from the original part of the house and we actually had frost on the inside of the room. So we don’t know what we can do to fix it.
TOM: So, what kind of foundation does this addition have?
JOHN: It looks like – it was built before we bought it but we had a contractor come out and he dug around in a couple places. And it looks like it’s only about 6 inches thick.
TOM: That’s what I was afraid of. It sounds to me like it was kind of like a patio that maybe somebody thought they could convert to an addition. And we see that quite frequently. And unfortunately, this is the same – this is the sort of thing that happens.
I mean foundations have to be down to the frost line and that usually means they have to be 2 to 3 feet deep. And if you just have a cement slab and that slab is just 6 inches thick, you are going to have movement.
Now, you can minimize that movement by making sure that the soil at the foundation perimeter slopes away and you have good drainage and you have good downspouts that discharge the water away. That kind of thing could make it more stable. But it’s really difficult to try to stabilize a building that’s moving like that when the core problem is that the foundation is insufficient to hold that load.
So, that’s not really what you want to hear. I get that. But it is an issue that’s going to have to be dealt with. So what I would suggest you do is have an inspection done, not by a contractor but by a structural engineer who can maybe design – I’m thinking they may be able to design an underpinning system that could help support that slab.
And then once that repair is designed, then you could take that – those instructions, give those to a contractor to have the work done. Then you have the engineer reinspect the work to make sure it’s done completely and write you a letter that says that. In this way, if you go to sell the house in the future and that comes up, you can prove that you addressed it and you had an engineer design a fix. And that was properly executed as a result of the letter that you can present to a future buyer. That’s probably the best way to get it done correctly once and not have to do it again and to make sure that it does not have a negative impact in any future sale. Does that make sense?
JOHN: Do you have a general idea what something like that would run?
TOM: No. It’s kind of all over the map because I don’t know exactly what kind of fix that they would spec out. But for you, just to pay a consulting fee of – I don’t know – $200, $300, $400 for an inspector to come out that is a structural engineer, not just a contractor. A structural engineer.
JOHN: Yeah, we had a contractor come out and he said it might be the frost in and out that was going to make it shift.
TOM: Well, of course that’s – of course it’s the frost in and out that makes it shift. That’s why you put things below the frost line, you know?
JOHN: Right, right.
TOM: So, yes, he’s correct. But if you minimize moisture, you’ll get less movement. That’s just a very temporary slowdown type of solution but it’s not a permanent one. So I really want to see you get to the bottom of this so it doesn’t impact the future value of the house.
Did you have the – did you have an inspection done, by the way, before you bought the house?
JOHN: There was one done the year before that we had.
TOM: Oh, so you did have your own – you did not have your own home inspection done?
JOHN: No, no.
JOHN: And we’ve been there eight years and this is the – and we’ve had much worse winters. And this is the first time it’s done anything. But the contractor we did have come out offered – he suggested putting a 2-inch-thick Styrofoam around the base of the house and putting that down below the frost line. And he thought that would keep the frost out but he’d want to charge – I think it was $3,500 to do it. And then he said that would be if it works.
TOM: Well, my concern about that, if you start digging around that foundation perimeter and you don’t have a foundation there, you’re just going to loosen up all the soil that’s helping to support that foundation in place where it is. So you might get more movement if you start disturbing that dirt right around the foundation perimeter. Because you’re never going to get it back as tamped and solid as it is right now. And it will hold more water.
JOHN: Alright. I appreciate it.
TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, summer is great for so many reasons, from the beach to the barbecues. But one thing that’s not so fun is the humidity. Now, not only can it make you feel very, very uncomfortable, plus make your hair look like an absolute nightmare, it can also wreak havoc on your home. The windows, the doors, nothing is going to operate correctly.
Now, that excess moisture causes the wood to swell and expand. And if you’ve ever tried to open a kitchen window or something, you’ll notice it gets stuck and sticky and nothing’s really closing right. It makes it tricky.
TOM: Now, here’s how to get them unstuck. First, you want to make sure that all the doors are operating smoothly. Tighten any screws on the hinges and the hardware that might have come loose. Next, give everything a shot with WD-40. You want to lubricate the hinges. You can even spray some on the key before inserting it in the lock to loosen that. And double check the weather-stripping and replace anything that’s damaged around, to keep that very valuable cool air inside your house.
LESLIE: Now, for your windows, you want to clean any dirt and any of that debris from all that stuff blowing around outside. Just get it away from the sill, the tracks, even the hinges. Double-check that the screens are secure and add child-safety bars if you’ve got young children. Now, remember, screens are meant to keep bugs out, not your kids in.
Think about your window treatments, as well, guys. They can go a long way in helping keep your house cool, so you want to keep the drapes closed on the south- and west-facing sides of the house to stop that sun from getting in all of its hot rays and just warming up the house excessively.
TOM: And to reduce that overall humidity inside your house, you want to manage your drainage around the outside foundation perimeter. So that means clean gutters, downspouts extended well away from the house and make sure the soil around your house slopes away from the building.
LESLIE: Glenn in Michigan, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
GLENN: I’ve got a Jenn-Air natural-gas range and when it – when you turn the temperature to 350 to preheat it, it takes between 25 and 30 minutes to come up to temperature. The manual with the stove said that, yeah, it should only take about 10 minutes, so I was wondering if you had any ideas.
LESLIE: Yeah. I wonder if there’s an obstruction in the line.
TOM: Yeah. Well, I was thinking about the valve. It sounds like it’s a problem with the control system.
TOM: So that could be electronics or it could be the valve or it could be a maintenance issue. I think it’s definitely something you need to get addressed because it could potentially be unsafe. There’s no way it should be taking 30 minutes for that to happen.
Is this a self-cleaning range?
GLENN: Yes. It’s not the type that’s got the lock, though. You know, you just – and we don’t use that feature; we just clean it by hand. But it does have that feature but we don’t use it.
TOM: I’m hesitating on this. I mean one way to look at this is you could run the self-cleaning cycle and see if it cleared it. But then again, if there’s something wrong with the valve, I wouldn’t want you to run the self-cleaning cycle. So I think the best thing to do is to have it serviced by a professional that is familiar with that brand and can access those parts. Because it’s clearly not right.
GLENN: Yeah, I agree.
TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Just ahead, would you like to have a little more privacy in your backyard? It’s easy to do and it can be a very green project, as well. We’re going to get some step-by-step from our pal, Roger Cook, the landscape contractor from This Old House, when The Money Pit continues.
TOM: And This Old House on The Money Pit is presented by the Citrus Magic brand of odor-eliminating air fresheners. Available in refreshing, long-lasting sprays, solids and the new candles. Experience the magic of Citrus Magic Odor-Eliminators today.
MARILU: Hi. This is Marilu Henner from The Marilu Henner Show. And I’m obsessed with these guys. You’re listening to The Money Pit, my buddies Tom Kraeutler and Leslie Segrete.
LESLIE: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: Give us a call with your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week right here at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
TOM: And 888-MONEY-PIT is presented by HomeAdvisor. Find out what it costs to do your home project before you hire a pro and instantly book one of HomeAdvisor’s background-checked pros for free.
LESLIE: Heading on over to Minnesota where Mercedes is having some roofing issues. What’s going on at your money pit?
MERCEDES: Well, I had roofing put on a few years ago and they nailed it in the valleys instead of on the ridges.
TOM: Oh, OK.
MERCEDES: And then now that it has rained these – you know, quite a bit in between, then my paint in my kitchen ceiling is peeling off and the sheetrock is wet because of the moisture coming in.
TOM: So, basically, it’s leaking through the metal valleys because there’s holes in those valleys, Mercedes?
MERCEDES: Yes. Yes, in the valley.
TOM: So, obviously, that wasn’t done right. And so, you have really two choices: you can either replace that valley flashing – and that’s a project, because the metal roof has to be loosened up to get the new valley underneath it – or what you could do is silicone-caulk those holes and hope for the best.
Silicone, you’ll probably get a good couple of years out of that but you may have to do it again.
MERCEDES: Well, now, I wonder, did you hear about this product that – they put an undercoat on a metal roof to repair it? And then they put a second coat over the top of that?
TOM: No. And I don’t know how you get an undercoat under a metal roof that’s already down.
So, metal roofs have been around for over 100 years and they’re super-durable roofs. But the problem is that a lot of times, the contractors don’t have the skill set to properly construct them and properly repair them.
If they’re installed properly, then they can last indefinitely and be leak-free. It sounds like there were some errors made in the installation of your roof. And so you have to kind of decide now whether you want to take this apart and fix those errors or just continue to explore opportunities for patching.
If it was me, I would try to disassemble it and replace that flashing, because it’s going to be a sore spot moving forward, not only with water but also, you’re going to have ice dams that’ll form there in your part of the country. The water will get behind it and that can also work its way into the roof.
OK, Mercedes? Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Joe in Ontario, Canada is on the line. He’s got a question about gutters. How can we help you?
JOE: Yes, I want to find out if there’s a special way of making the hole to put the downspout in the eave trough.
TOM: To cut through the gutter for the downspout?
TOM: Well, usually you do it with tin snips. So, you start with a small hole that you can make with a punch or with a drill and you stick a tin snip in there. And you basically snip out the circle for the downspout to go through and then you seal everything in place with rivets and caulk. Usually a silicone caulk. Keep in mind that there are right-hand and left-hand tin snips and so you want to choose the one that you’re going to be the most comfortable working with. But you can cut a pretty tight-radius hole with that.
So, Joe, why are you putting your own downspouts in?
JOE: I’m just doing some repair work and I didn’t want to take them down and start over, so I just thought I would …
TOM: OK. So you just want to add one to it? Well, that makes sense. Yeah, that’s the way you do it. It’s really pretty straightforward.
Now, if it ends up sort of with an uneven cut, what you could do is you could hold a wood block under it and tap it with a hammer. It’ll bounce around a little bit. But if you tap between the bottom of the gutter and that wood block – just a tap, tap, tap, tap – it’ll kind if flatten it out and give you a better surface to seal that downspout plate to.
JOE: OK. There’s nothing that just like – where you can make a clean cut by just stamping it out?
TOM: Yeah. Well, it may be available but the thing is, it’s going to be expensive. This is just a one-off thing, so you’re going to cut it with tin snips. That’s what I would do.
JOE: OK. Thanks.
TOM: Good luck. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, enjoying a relaxing afternoon in your own backyard is one of the true joys of home ownership. But what if you’ve ever felt that your neighbors were getting an eyeful every time you’re out there? Well, if you’re feeling that way, it might be a good idea to create a more private area.
TOM: And there are lots of very natural ways to do just that. Here to lay out some privacy-screening options that both look good and take you out of the public eye is a guy whose work is very much in the public eye: landscaping expert Roger Cook from TV’s This Old House.
ROGER: How are you doing?
TOM: We are excellent. Thanks so much for spending some time with us today.
And I think that when homeowners think about privacy screening, they assume it’ll take a fence to accomplish that but there are some very natural ways to do a great job, right?
ROGER: Right. Now, you’ve got to remember that a fence, usually 6 to 8 feet is the maximum height you can get out of a fence, unless you go for a variance or something like that.
Trees grow. They get bigger and bigger. Shrubs grow and they’ll block more and more than any fence ever will.
TOM: And then they usually don’t trigger any code concerns, either.
ROGER: No, not at all.
LESLIE: So, really, you can let them grow as much as they’ll allow.
ROGER: Well, that’s the thing about trees: no one tells them to stop growing. They just keep going unless you want to do pruning on them.
LESLIE: Well and I also feel that with a fence, you sort of create a very boxy environment that doesn’t have a very warm or personable feeling to it.
ROGER: No. That’s the great thing about planting a screen is you can mix different colors and textures together and it really looks good.
TOM: Well, let’s talk about that mix. What are the best choices for privacy screening?
ROGER: Well, people get carried away with trees that are going to become too big. If you’re going to do a privacy screen, you have to figure out how deep you want that hedge to be. Do you want it to be 6 feet across? Do you have room to put in trees that are going to get 20 feet across? It’s all an investment, so you want to invest in the right tree for the right spot.
ROGER: There are columnar plants and fastigiate plants, which’ll stay much tighter. There are regular plants that’ll grow and be a great screen but need much more space.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And of course, are all of these screening options that we’re talking about evergreens, so that in the winter season you sort of have the same effect or …?
ROGER: It depends. Sometimes I’ll mix the evergreens in the critical spots and add some deciduous material so that we have a mix of both. In nature, you don’t find just one group; you find things mixed together. So I try to mimic that when I do a screen.
TOM: Now, how do you plant them, in terms of the spacing? How do you plan for it? Because, obviously, the first year you plant it, you’re probably not going to have as much screen than the fifth year.
ROGER: Well, it all depends on your wallet, Tom. I can give you instant screening; it all depends on what you want to spend.
TOM: I bet you could.
ROGER: It’s all up to the people and how fast they want that screen to be and that’ll determine how close I put the plants. Sometimes we’ll leave space in between so that five years down the road we have a great screen. Other people want it now; we plant the trees almost touching each other and let them fill in very quickly.
LESLIE: But is that detrimental to the plant itself: putting them right on top of each other so that as they do grow and expand, are they crowding one another?
ROGER: No. They’ll just grow in to each other. Some of the branches will drive back.
LESLIE: Sort of weave themselves.
ROGER: Right. And they’ll just become a mass and they won’t have any individuality at that point; you’re looking at one big, giant screen.
TOM: We’re talking to Roger Cook from TV’s This Old House.
Let’s talk about the maintenance. Are there some plants that really lay – need a lot less care as time goes on than others, when it comes to privacy screening?
ROGER: That depends on the form and the shape of the plant you picked. If you picked a plant that’s fastigiatal – upright-growing and tight – that’s going to need less work. If you picked a plant that’s going to spread out and you don’t have the room, then you’re going to have to be in there once, maybe twice a year doing some pruning.
And sometimes, pruning can cause problems. Arborvitae is a tree that’s used all over the place for a hedge but it’s multi-stemmed.
ROGER: And if you go up into that plant and, say, you want it 10 feet tall, it gets 10 feet and you cut it off, well now that plant puts out even more growth in the top of it. When it does that, you get a good snowstorm, opens the plant right up because it catches the snow and you lose your hedge. That’s not a good thing.
There are different types of arborvitae: Thuja plicata – Western Redcedar. Single stem. It’ll grow up and it’ll never be affected by the snow.
TOM: Great advice. Roger Cook from TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
And there are lots of tips on how to build privacy screens, online right now at ThisOldHouse.com.
LESLIE: And you can watch Roger and the entire This Old House team on This Old House and Ask This Old House on your local PBS station.
TOM: And This Old House and Ask This Old House are brought to you on PBS by GMC. GMC, we are professional grade.
Just ahead, more burglaries happen in summer than any other season. We’ll have tips to help make sure someone besides the burglars are watching your home when you’re away, after this.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
Pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT or post your question to Money Pit’s Community page at MoneyPit.com. We love to help you out. We’re going to give you the answer to whatever it is that you are working on at your money pit or even just trying to figure out the right product for the job. We can give you a hand because we know how it is: sometimes you get overwhelmed, sometimes you want to tackle a project that’s just not exactly up your alley. Well, we’re here to give you a hand.
And even better, we’re here to give away a great prize this hour to help you with all things money-pit related around your home. We’ve got up for grabs the Greenworks Pro 60-Volt Power Mower.
Now, this is amazing because if you’re like me, I, for some reason can’t start anything with a pull cord. I don’t know why. Is it my pterodactyl arms? Am I not strong enough? I don’t understand. Well, you’ve got a push-button start, which makes it so easy. It’s got a powerful brushless motor that’s going to cut through the toughest grass, so no matter how high you let it grow, your Greenworks Pro 60-Volt Power Mower is going to go right through. You can store it vertically, so you don’t have to worry about taking up excess space in your very space-limited garage, I am sure. It’s really a fantastic prize.
Check it out now at Lowe’s and at Lowes.com but one lucky caller is going to win the Greenworks Pro 60-Volt Power Mower worth 402 bucks this hour.
TOM: So call us now at 888-MONEY-PIT or post your question to The Money Pit Community page at MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Well, it used to be that home alarm systems had to be professionally installed, which made them really expensive. Now, smart-home technology is creating greater innovation in home security, making it entirely possible to install a system yourself that delivers the same level of security you’d find with a much more expensive professionally-installed system.
TOM: Yeah. But one thing that’s not been available is a service that monitors those do-it-yourself systems. Now, though, there’s a new service that’s changing the landscape and it combines a DIY smart-security system with a new professional monitoring service. It’s called Iris by Lowe’s and it gives homeowners the ability to have first responders sent right to their homes in the event of a security, a smoke, a carbon monoxide or even a panic alarm from their smart-home system.
LESLIE: That’s right. Iris is a DIY smart-home security system by Lowe’s that connects an entire range of compatible smart devices in your home through a single app.
Now, it lets homeowners create a do-it-yourself, tailored system that’s really not only convenient but effective. You could have a 24-hour, 7-day-a-week monitored protection for as little as $15 a month. I mean that is a huge savings.
TOM: You’ll find Iris at Lowe’s, Lowes.com and Amazon. The Iris Smart Hub retails for just 69.99 and a security starter pack is just 99.99.
LESLIE: Anthony in Rhode Island, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?
ANTHONY: I was just wondering about the proper way to measure hardwood flooring: from the outside or the middle in. I heard you guys mention something about that.
TOM: So are you thinking about replacing your flooring?
ANTHONY: Yes. I want to sand it, drum-sand it, edge-sand it, you know.
TOM: Measuring it is simply, obviously, length times width. If you’re sanding it, you’re not replacing it; you don’t have to worry about accounting for any extra for cuts. But if you’re trying to calculate how many square footage you have to work with, then just measure it as length times width.
Now, you mentioned drum-sanding it. I would only drum-sand the hardwood floor if it really, really needed it. It’s a pretty drastic step. It takes off a lot of material. It really shortens the life of the floor.
TOM: So, what I would rather see you do is use a machine called a U-Sand machine. It’s a disc sander. There’s four rotating disc sanding heads under sort of one hood and it has a vacuum attachment for it that’s actually easier to use than the drum sander. Takes up a lot less material but gets the floor kind of prepped to be refinished.
ANTHONY: And where can I grab one of those U-Sanders?
TOM: Yeah, you can rent them at home centers.
ANTHONY: Like Home Depot or no?
TOM: My Home Depot rents them; I bet you yours would, as well. You’re up in Rhode Island, correct?
ANTHONY: OK. Yeah.
TOM: Yeah. It’s just U-S-a-n-d. Look it up online. You’ll see exactly what I’m talking about and then perhaps you can find it in one of your local home centers.
ANTHONY: OK. I understand.
LESLIE: Alright. Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit.
Hey, are you ready to interview a pro for your next big home remodeling project but don’t really know what questions to ask? We’re going to share tips on what you really need to find out before signing on the dotted line, next.
TOM: Where home solutions live, welcome back to The Money Pit. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
Well, now that you’ve switched on your air conditioning, here’s a tip that can help troubleshoot some common issues you might be facing. First of all, central air-conditioning units need regular maintenance to work efficiently and effectively, I might add. So, first, you want to check to make sure that the filter and the condenser are clean. Those dirty condenser coils can be brushed or vacuumed. It’s not difficult to do.
TOM: Now, if the system leaks water, it’s probably a clogged condensation drain that’s causing it. And if the unit runs warm or maybe just not really cold, then the refrigerant might be low and that’s a condition that’s easily repaired by a service professional. Here’s a trick of the trade to figure out if your A/C is running properly: measure the temperature at a supply duct and then again at a return duct. If it’s not 15-20 degrees apart, then call a pro and get it fixed.
LESLIE: Alright, guys. If you want some more info on keeping your house nice and cool all summer long, always head on over to MoneyPit.com. And while you’re there, check out the Community section and post your question.
Vicky in Hawaii did that and she writes: “We’re about to interview two different contractors who are willing to build our house. What are important questions that I should know when meeting these contractors? We already know that they build the whole house and it comes with everything, from floors to the roof, even appliances, kitchen and bath, electrical, plumbing, et cetera. I want to be able to compare the bids equally.”
That’s a huge project.
TOM: And she hit exactly on the right issue and that is: how do you compare the bids? How do you know that you’re bidding apples to apples?
So the first part of that is something that happens well before the contractors are involved, Leslie. And that’s, of course, that you have an architect that creates not only the design for the home but a set of specifications for every single element that goes in that house. We’re talking about everything from the studs to the kitchen faucet. You want to have it all specked out, because that actually insures that when you have competing bids that everybody is really bidding on the same set of requirements. Otherwise, you could have a contractor that uses, potentially, a less-expensive heating system or cooling system or fixtures or faucets or whatever and that goes to profit. And it may seem like it’s a cheaper opportunity but maybe it’s not.
So it’s real important that you start with those specifications. But beyond that, you want to talk to the pros about how long they’ve been in business. Who’s going to supervise the job? What’s their working schedule? Are they going to be on the project exclusively? Does most of the work get done by their employees or by subcontractors? You really want to find out how many projects like yours they’ve done in, say, the last one, two or three years.
And then you want to track down those last few customers that they’ve had. That’s really important. I would ask them where they’ve worked, who they’ve worked for and then actually talk with those folks, as opposed to asking for a list of sort of canned references where everyone’s been vetted to say wonderful things. You want to talk to the real deal: people they’ve really worked on and find out what that experience has been like. That is probably the single most effective way that you can determine, when you get done to that level, who’s going to be a good fit for you.
Also, find out if they’re a part of a trade association and if there’s licensing involved in your state. Make sure that that is all good to go.
LESLIE: Yeah, Vicky. I think it’s important to think about, also, all of these specifications that are being provided by the pro. That’s on the functioning side, of course, of the home. But what about the decorative side? And where do you get a say in what those choices are and what that budget is? I think a lot of that makes a big difference in what you’re getting and what you’re expecting to get. So ask a lot of questions, because they’re not just going to provide the information. You want to know exactly what you’re getting so that doesn’t get left out. Maybe they provide design services, maybe they don’t. Maybe you need help with that. So ask a lot of questions so you know exactly what you’re going to end up with.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. It’s time to let the summer home improvement projects get underway. And we will be here for you every step of the way.
I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …
LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.
(Copyright 2017 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.)