TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show

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I’m Tom Kraeutler.

LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

TOM: Give us a call, right now, because we are here to help you with your home improvement and décor projects. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. Whether you’re starting a project, in the middle of a project or just don’t know how to get to the end of the project, we’re here to help, 888-MONEY-PIT.

Coming up on today’s show, as sad as it may be, it’s almost time to put away outdoor furniture for the season. To help make sure it survives the off-season mold-free, we’re going to have some tips on how to best clean and store that furniture so it’s ready for a fresh start come spring.

LESLIE: And if you just can’t get the lush, green lawn of your dreams, here’s some good news: grass is not the only option for going green. We’re going to have some tips for choosing and planting the best alternative groundcover for your outdoor space.

TOM: And have you ever opened an electric bill and been completely shocked? I mean you’re thinking, “How can this possibly be and where’s all that juice going?” We’re going to share some tips on a new product that can help you figure out a lot about how you’re using your electricity and how to use a lot less of it.

LESLIE: But first, this show is about helping you with your own home décor and improvement questions. So, call in your home improvement question, right now, and you’ll get the answer. Plus, today you’ll also get a chance at winning tools to help you get the job done.

We’re featuring the Jorgensen E-Z Hold Expandable Bar-Clamp Package worth 80 bucks.

TOM: Those can come in super handy for lots of home improvement projects. So call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

Let’s get to it. Leslie, who’s first?

LESLIE: Helen in Indiana is on the line with a driveway-sealing question. How can we help you today?

HELEN: I have an asphalt driveway that when I purchased the home had some cracks in it. But it’s gotten worse and I now have a pothole.

TOM: And it’s officially grown to be a pothole, huh?

HELEN: Yeah. That’s what happens in the Midwest.

TOM: Alright.

HELEN: I’ve had some estimates and they’re way out of my budget. So what can I do to prolong the life and make it look a lot better?

TOM: So, there’s lots of stuff that you can do yourself.

First of all, you do need to patch that hole. And at your local home center, you can find blacktop patch. It comes in a bucket – either a small, 1-gallon bucket or something even as big as a 5-gallon bucket – where it has some stone in it and it has the blacktop material. And it’s usually latex-based these days, too, which is good news.

And you simply clean out the hole that you’re trying to fill, you trowel in the new stuff, you tamp it down. And you can do that with a board or something like that or – if you don’t happen to have a tamping iron.

And then once you have the holes filled, then you want to work on the cracks. And as far as the cracks are concerned, the driveway sealers and crack fillers, there are some that come in actually caulking-like tubes that you can use to sort of roll into those cracks.

So you seal those all up and then the last thing you do is to apply the asphalt sealer. And that comes in 5-gallon buckets and you buy an application tool for it. It’s kind of like a big squeegee. You start at one end and you squeegee it on, work down towards the other and you’re done.

So it’s totally a do-it-yourself project. The best time to do this is when the weather gets to be around 50 degrees or so, on average. You don’t want to do it when it’s really hot out, because it’s a difficult job and …

HELEN: Like now.

TOM: Yeah, like now. And it doesn’t dry that well. So you wait for slightly cooler weather and you can totally reseal that yourself. And then once you get all the cracks filled and the sealer on, then next year maybe you just do another coat of sealer and it’ll be really easy.

HELEN: So it’s a three-step process.

TOM: Pretty much. Patch the holes, patch the cracks, apply the sealer. That’s it.

HELEN: I think that’s something I can do.

TOM: You can. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got Ward from Utica on the line. What’s going on at your money pit?

WARD: Well, I’ve got a roof I’m replacing. The current roof has two layers of shingles on it and I want to rip those shingles off and put on a metal roof.


WARD: However, I got thinking about the underlayment, which I had spray-foamed in the attic about three years ago. And I’m concerned that if I have to repair or pull up the underlayment, I’m going to ruin all my insulation.

TOM: OK. So you have – you did a spray-foam insulation treatment three years ago.

WARD: Yeah.

TOM: And the spray foam was sprayed to the underside of the roof sheathing. Is that correct?

WARD: That’s right.

TOM: OK. And at that time, did you happen to notice any deteriorated roof sheathing? Because you would see it from the inside of the attic before you’d see it from the outside of the attic. Did you notice anything that was black, moldy, delaminated, hanging down some shreds? Anything like that?

WARD: No, no, not really. And I didn’t look closely myself but the guys who did the job did not report anything like that.

TOM: I’d think that the chances of you having delaminated sheathing at this stage is probably pretty small. I do understand your concern that if you pull the shingles off and you find out you have bad sheathing and you have to take it off, you would ruin the insulation that’s now sprayed and is stuck to the underside of that.

So, if that was the case, I would tell you to resheathe that part of the roof, so whatever half or section or plateau of that roof it is. And you could use ½-inch sheathing or maybe even 3/8 depending on the condition. But I suspect it’s going to be fine.

And also, once you sprayed that spray-foam insulation at the underside of the attic, if they did it right they would have blocked all your vents, because it’s no longer necessary to vent an attic that has been sealed with spray-foam insulation. Because that attic now becomes a conditioned space. And therefore, you get a lot less moisture up there.

WARD: Ah, now that’s interesting because I did not know that.

TOM: Yeah. You’re not supposed to have any openings in an attic that has been spray-foamed because that whole area is now, essentially, part of the interior space of your house.

WARD: Right, right.

TOM: So if you had roof vents or you had ridge vents or gable vents, they should have been closed up and foamed over.

WARD: I will double-check that but that actually makes the whole thing easier then.

TOM: Yeah, I don’t think you have anything to worry about with the sheathing. And it’s a smart improvement to take off both layers and to put on metal roofing, because you’re in Upstate New York. I’m sure you get a ton of snow. And it’s really going to stand up much better.

Make sure they put the snow guards, though, at the roof edge because that snow is very heavy when it falls off. And you don’t want it to hurt anybody down below.

WARD: Absolutely. I’m planning on doing that.

TOM: Alright, Ward. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

LESLIE: Now we’ve got Kathy in Minnesota on the line who is doing a kitchen-revamping project. Tell us what’s going on.

KATHY: These cupboards are varnished and they had hinges on that were on the outside, so they’re kind of like the barn-look (ph) hinge and also the handles, the ends that were anchored. When we take those off, the wood under there is much, much lighter.

TOM: Right. Mm-hmm.

KATHY: And so we stripped the door completely and sanded it to be ready to take on a new stain. And those areas do not absorb the stain.

TOM: Yeah, they probably have some sort of a sealer or something that got under that. After you sanded it, did you use a sanding sealer on the whole surface?

KATHY: I did not. In my experience, I’d always put the stain on first and then use a …

TOM: Well, it’s not a sealer at that point; it’s a finish.

But one thing I’m thinking that could have helped, Leslie – and you tell me what you think – is that if she used a sanding sealer, she may have improved the absorption rate of all the wood so that it was maybe a little evener, a little more uniform. So that it would have all soaked in at about the same level.

Can you get any stain to take in those areas? Even if you take dark stain and put it on with a small paintbrush? Or will nothing stick to that?


TOM: Well, all I can say is that something is applied there that’s sealing the wood and unless you can get it to absorb, it’s going to be a problem. Those old hinges, they didn’t look so bad after all, did they?

KATHY: I kind of get that feeling.

TOM: Yeah. Yeah. If you’ve already sanded it down and you still can’t get the stain to absorb, there’s probably nothing that you’re going to do that’s going to change that.

Listen, the other thing that you could do is paint the doors. I mean there’s a lot of painted cabinets today; they look pretty nice.

KATHY: Yes. Yes. And we’re looking at other options but wanted to be sure that we really had to go that route.

TOM: As long as you sanded it thoroughly and you still can’t get it to absorb, then I say that you’ve done all that you can do at this point, Kathy.

KATHY: OK. Alright. Well, I appreciate your taking my call.

TOM: You’re welcome. Good luck with that project.

LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Give us a call with your how-to, décor or remodeling questions, right now, to 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor, where it’s easy to find top-rated, local home improvement pros for any home project. Go to

TOM: Well, it’s almost time to put away outdoor furniture for the season. To help make sure it survives that off-season mold-free, we’re going to have tips on how to best clean and store it so it’s ready for a fresh start in the spring, when The Money Pit continues.

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

LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor, where you can find top-rated home service pros and book appointments online, all for free.

TOM: And if you call us, right now, at 888-666-3974, we’ll toss your name in The Money Pit hard hat, because we’ve got a set of Jorgensen E-Z Hold Expandable Bar Clamps to give away.

These are super-handy clamps. You’ll be able to clamp things with one hand. Plus, they can be joined together to double the capacity for bigger projects. You’ll get two of the Jorgensen E-Z Hold 24-Inch Medium-Duty Expandable Bar Clamps for a total value of 80 bucks.

That package is going out to one listener drawn at random. Make that you. Pick up the phone, call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

LESLIE: Jim in California needs help with a decking project. What can we do for you today?

JIM: I’ve got two decks that I rebuilt approximately three summers ago and had never treated them. Did a real nice job: mitered corners, rounded everything, routed everything. And of course, not treating them, they have weathered and I need to clean them.

LESLIE: OK. And so your issue is you’re seeing some wear and tear but the big problem is discoloration?

JIM: Yes. The oxidization.

LESLIE: Mm-hmm. So everything looks a little gray and just weathered?

JIM: Right.

LESLIE: Now, with the discoloration, that’s normal wear and tear of any type of wood surface. And if you were to just, say, put a sealer on there, yes, you’re going to protect the wood from any further cracking or checking and you may help it, depending on the kind that you use, from further damage from, say, the sun. But if you want the color to be really what you restore, you’re going to have to go with a stain that has a color in it.

So depending on the condition of that decking, you can go with a semi-transparent, which will deposit color on but still allow you to see the condition of the wood through it, you know, through the stain itself. Or you can go with a solid stain, which gives you a little bit of longer time between having to refinish it, gives you more protection because it is a further saturation of color and a heavier pigmentation of color. So it really depends on what kind of look you want and really, the condition of the wood itself.

JIM: Yes. Well, my wife wants me to bring the color back.

TOM: That color is long gone, my friend. You can’t bring it back once it grays out like that but you can restore it if you stain it, like Leslie suggested. And you can use semi-transparent or solid color and it will look really good and you’ll still see the grain. So you’re not going to lose the grain of the wood. But once it turns gray like that, you’re not going to be able to restore it unless you sand it and that’s really pretty much a waste of effort.

LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Michelle in Iowa on the line who’s looking to spend some more time outdoors with a fire pit. How can we help with that project?

MICHELLE: Well, we started making an outside fire pit with fieldstone. And our mortar that we seem to be using, it just seems like it’s awful dry and it’s like it’s cracking. So, didn’t know if you had a different brand that you thought would work or any suggestions.

TOM: Well, one tip is that if it’s a really warm, dry day when you’re working, you might want to consider putting some plastic over the areas that you’re working on, to slow the evaporation rate. Because if it dries really quickly, sometimes it can shrink and crack.

MICHELLE: And no certain brand of mortar you think would work best as what the stores recommend for outside fireplaces?

TOM: Well, QUIKRETE works extremely well, so you could look to the QUIKRETE brand. And one of the advantages of QUIKRETE is they’ve also got lots and lots and lots of videos online that give you the step-by-step on how to properly mix the product, for example, in this case.

MICHELLE: OK. Thank you.

TOM: Well, as outdoor-living season starts to come to a close, the time has come for your outdoor furniture to go into hibernation. But before you pack it up, it’s a good idea to clean it up.

Now, at our house we like to start by running any cushions that are machine-washable through the washing machine and then, of course, letting them dry really well in the sun. And that’s super important, especially if you want to avoid mold.

At the least, you should be able to vacuum any cushions that can’t be run through a washer. I like to use my big wet/dry, powerful shop vacuum for that, because it just does a great job of getting all that dirt and debris and other types of dust and mold spores that may have been dropping from the trees out of those cushions. And then I pack them up in heavy, black, plastic bags for storage in the attic.

Worked well, by the way, for a lot of years except that one year when a squirrel got into the garage attic. So now we put them in the house attic. And so the squirrels will not have to munch on them.

LESLIE: Well, they heard there was comfy seating in the attic.

TOM: That’s right.

LESLIE: Now, for your plastic furniture that gets stained and generally nasty-looking, you could actually make a really great cleaning solution yourself. Just mix dish soap with Borax and ½-cup peroxide in 1 gallon of water. Then use a nylon brush to scrub down furnishings. Make sure you rinse well.

If you’ve got metal furniture, you can use soapy water and some elbow grease. You can also remove any rust in stains with sandpaper or a wire brush. Then go ahead and prime and repaint those spots to avoid further rusting.

TOM: And if you’ve got wood furniture, then wash it down with an oil soap, like a Murphy’s Oil Soap. Let it dry really well. And it’s also a good time to take note of any that might need total refinishing, which is best left for the spring.

888-666-3974. If you’ve got a cleaning or any other type of question about caring for your house, give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

LESLIE: Ron in Florida is on the line with a leaky water heater. What’s going on? Tell us how old it is.

RON: Well, the breaker had thrown a couple times and I turned it back on. And (inaudible) stayed when I turned it on. And then I’d gone in, took a nap, came back out. When I did, the entire garage was full of water. I guess the pressure-relief valve that’s up top was just – it was just spewing out water extremely, extremely hot. Hotter than we’ve ever experienced having our – what I thought it was. It just continued to heat.

And so, at any rate, I turned the breaker off. I looked in the panel where the thermostats were and the elements and they were just fried; they were burnt. They were burned up. I got a good scare because the insulation was blackened and could have been worse than it was, I guess, it catching fire. But I just wondered what would have made the hot-water heater do that.

TOM: OK. Well, let’s see. The pressure/temperature relief valve, which is what that’s called on the side of the water heater, is set to go off at about 150 pounds of pressure. And theoretically, the way it works is if the water heater doesn’t shut off, because there’s something wrong with the control circuit, it will continue to heat and heat and heat and build up pressure to the point where to prevent the tank from rupturing, the pressure/temperature valve will open up.

Now, I will say this: very often, those valves fail and they will open up way before they’re designed to open up. And if that’s the case, you just replace the valve. But it sounds to me like this thing got so wet that the water got on the elements and that’s what caused a short, which caused the breaker to trip.

LESLIE: Yeah. But is this associated with an age of a water heater or is this just a random, fluke problem?

TOM: Not really. I’ve seen new pressure/temperature valves that can pop open, as well. And sometimes, you get a little bit of debris that’s stuck under them, too, when you try to close them and that makes it even worse.

Now, where are we at right now with the water heater? You’re still there with it or have you replaced it? What’s your – where are you at with the project?

RON: Just the – what I was looking at didn’t look like it was even worth fixing with all the – like I said, with all the burned …

TOM: Well, it may not. If it’s more than a few years old and you’ve got that much going on with it, I’d probably replace the water heater myself.

But what I was going to say, the one thing that you can try – and assuming that the coils were still OK. You mentioned they were burned out. Burned out is – with a coil, it’s kind of hard to do. If they just got wet and shorted, that’s a different situation. You can clean out the contacts and it’ll work. But if the coils were OK, otherwise, what you could do is you open and close the pressure-and-temperature valve several times.

And by the way, there’s supposed to be a discharge pipe on that that stops within 6 inches of the floor. And sometimes, the plumbers don’t put that on. But if you open and close that a bunch of times to try to sort of clean out that valve, sometimes it’ll reseat itself. And this is assuming that it didn’t open because there is something electrically wrong with it. But I would do that.

There’s things that I would check but there’s – these are things you probably couldn’t check. For example, I’d check the amperage on the coils to see if they were drawing normally and things like that that tells me sort of – the circuit is working correctly. So, I guess what we’re coming to here is if you’ve got this much going on with – you’re probably going to have to replace it and you’re going to need a plumber for that, anyway.

But that’s probably what happened. It probably started with the pressure/temperature valve leaking, that water getting in there and causing a big mess electrically. Because water and electricity do not mix, as you have learned, my friend.

LESLIE: Remember, you can reach us anytime with your question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week right here at 888-MONEY-PIT.

Up next, are you having a hard time keeping your yard looking lush, thick and green? Well, you may be able to stop fighting an uphill battle by replacing grass with another equally green groundcover. We’re going to share those options, next.

TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

And 888-MONEY-PIT is presented by HomeAdvisor. You can find out what it costs to do your home project before you hire a pro and instantly book one of HomeAdvisor’s top-rated pros for free.

TOM: Call us, right now, with your home improvement question at 1-888-666-3974.

LESLIE: Susan in Montana is having some drainage issues with the driveway. Tell us what’s going on.

SUSAN: I had my office driveway resurfaced with asphalt. And I thought that the people did a really excellent job until we got a monsoon (ph) rain and all the water was collecting. And I had to leave to go down to Colorado and I got a frantic phone call from my husband telling me that the water was backing up into the house and it was like a big pool. And I called the asphalt people and they’re not responding to me.

TOM: Well, listen, if they just resurfaced the driveway, they’re not going to do anything to change the pitch.

SUSAN: That’s true. They did do it but they deliberately – supposedly, they had the pitch so that it would drain off into the lawn.

TOM: And they didn’t quite get that right. So how do you fix that?

SUSAN: Yeah.

TOM: If the water is draining down the driveway back towards the building – so in other words, it’s never really draining off to the lawn anywhere – then what you have to do is you have to put a curtain drain in the driveway itself.

And in a driveway, basically it’s a job where the driveway is essentially sliced in half. They slice out a chunk of driveway that’s maybe 6 inches wide. And you drop this trough into it so that as the water falls down the driveway, it drops into the trough – there’s a grade on top – and then it runs out the bottom of the trough. And of course, that requires some additional plumbing, so to speak, because you have to hook it up to a drainpipe to take it to the lowest place on the property to get rid of the water. But that’s how you drain a driveway that’s not pitched properly.

And typically, that’s put right near the house or right near the garage lip or something like that so that it catches the water at the lowest possible spot.

SUSAN: So who would I call for something like that? A plumber?

TOM: You’re going to need a general contractor that can install that for you. I mean a driveway-sealing company is not going to do it. A general contractor that could do that – it’s kind of a handyman project. It’s not a difficult project, it’s not a really time-consuming project but you essentially have to cut into that driveway and install a drain. You’ve got to catch that water and you’ve got to manage it. And that’s the only way to do it, Susan.

Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

LESLIE: Lawns. They are so beautiful when they’re a thick, lush green but keeping them that way is a lot of work. If you’re ready to throw in the towel, take heart because grass is not the only plant that can deliver a lush, green look. Here are a few groundcovers that are another good option.

TOM: Now, first off, let’s talk about moss. It’s good for moist and shady yards that have acidic soil. Now, it doesn’t have any roots, so it’s not a great choice for families with kids or rambunctious dogs, which could potentially completely wipe it out if your yard gets heavy foot traffic, unless maybe you’re just putting it in between some stepping stones. Now, it doesn’t need fertilizer, so it really rarely needs to be watered, as well, especially once it gets established. It is, however, easily smothered, so you’ve got to keep the leaves off of it.

And when it comes to planting, pretty easy. You plant it in the spring, preferably after the trees have leafed out. You press chunks of the moss into the surface of moistened soil, you lightly water it for about three weeks and you’re totally good to go.

LESLIE: Now, another great option is clover. Now, clover’s a perennial, so it comes back every year, and it’s tough as nails. And it works in yards that have full sun to part shade. Another cool thing about clover is that it takes nitrogen from the air and it stockpiles it into the root nodules, so it actually fertilizes itself.

For maintenance, it needs just an occasional mow and its white flowers attract bees. Or you can plant microclover, which produces smaller flowers that aren’t as attractive to bees. To plant it, it’s actually really easy. You just sow the seeds in the spring and keep moist until they germinate.

TOM: Now, let’s talk about sedges, one of my favorite grass-like plants. They come in clumps and they’re perennial. And they can definitely mimic the look of a lawn. You can leave them even unmowed or you could maintain a more formal look of a lawn but you only have to mow them a few times a year.

When it comes to planting, one of the easiest groundcovers to plant. You just plant the plugs in the spring or the fall or even in the winter if you live in a warm climate. Or you can sow seeds in the spring. Just water them until the plants are established. Maybe add a top dressing of compost or mulch between the plugs to help maintain that soil moisture until it all grows in nice and thick.

So, if you’re totally done with the idea of having to keep up with the needs of grass, groundcovers do provide a very solid alternative that can have your lawn looking just as green.

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

RICHARD: I’m interested – I have an older home I remodeled. It’s built in the 30s and I wanted to put in a whole-house water-filtration system. And I was going to connect right to the service line going in.

And I’ve been shopping around. I found the small canister types and then it just jumps up to a big, 33-gallon, barrel-type filtration, which is too much. And I just wanted to know what a good brand is and what I need – reverse-osmosis and all that.

TOM: You know, Richard, 3M makes the Filtrete line. That’s F-i-l-t-r-e-t-e. And they have single filters for use under maybe your kitchen sink or bathroom but they also have a whole-house system. It’s not terribly expensive; I think it’s under 100 bucks. And installation is pretty straightforward, so perhaps you could even do it yourself. And they also have various levels of filtration.

So I would take a look at the Filtrete Whole-House System Water Filters and I think that’s a good choice to make sure your water is tasting good throughout the entire home.

LESLIE: Alright. Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit.

You can call in your home repair or your home improvement question anytime 24 hours a day, 7 days a week right here at 888-MONEY-PIT.

Hey, have you ever opened up that electric bill and wondered where all your electricity is going? Well, there’s a new product on the market that can help you figure out a lot about how you’re using your electricity and how you can use less of it. We’re going to tell you all about it, next.

TOM: Where home solutions live, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

TOM: What are you working on on this beautiful September weekend? If it’s your house, you’re in the right place, because we have got some tools to give away that can help you with some of those projects. If you call us, right now, at 888-MONEY-PIT we will toss your name in The Money Pit hard hat for a set of Jorgensen E-Z Hold Expandable Bar Clamps.

Very, very handy clamps because you can use them with one hand, which always is nice when I’m working on a project, because I tend to run out of hands a lot.

LESLIE: It’s true.

TOM: Plus, they can be joined together to double the capacity if you’ve got a bigger project.

We’re giving away a set of two. They have a total value of 80 bucks and going out to one listener drawn at random. If you want to make that you, pick up the phone and call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

LESLIE: Now we’ve got Esther in South Dakota on the line with a shed that is scorching. Tell us what’s going on.

ESTHER: It is really hot today. We’ve had temperatures outside of up to 102, so it – we just moved here, so right now it just has the sleds and the bikes and the stuff stashed in it. But I want to put my potting shelf out there.

TOM: Esther, what you’re looking for, for this roof, is something called a ”reflective roof coating.” It’s basically paint that’s designed for a metal roof, that is further designed to reflect the heat that your shed is gaining back out.

The problem is that these products are typically only designed for commercial buildings. So, you’re going to have to do a little bit of work to find it; it’s not like you’re going to be able to run down to the hardware store and pick this up. But they do exist and I’m hoping that you can buy it in a gallon container, as opposed to 5 gallons or more. Because, again, they’re typically used on a commercial basis for much bigger roofs.

One company that makes them is called Sealoflex – S-e-a-l-o-f-l-e-x – and they have a reflective coating called ReflectoWhite that is a very reflective coating for all sorts of roof surfaces. But it’s important that you get one that’s specifically designed for roofs; otherwise, it’s not going to stick. OK?

ESTHER: I understand.

TOM: Alright. Well, good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

LESLIE: Well, have you ever opened your electric bill and wondered where all that electricity is going? Now there’s a new product to the market that can help you figure out a lot about how you’re using your electricity and how you can use less of it.

TOM: Well, that’s right. It’s called the Sense Home Energy Monitor. And I actually just installed one in my house. And you can see how it works at

But it’s pretty amazing. It works kind of like a fitness tracker for your home, Leslie. So it tells you what’s on, what’s off and how much energy it’s using. So you can save money and make your home a bit more sustainable.

Now, the way it installs is directly to your main electric panel. And once it’s there, it monitors your home’s electric use in real time. It’s got an app that lets you see what’s on and what’s off and how much energy everything is using up and how much it costs daily, weekly and monthly. You’ll even be able to spot energy guzzlers before they show up in the form of a huge electric bill, which can be super helpful.

LESLIE: Now, Sense also helps you look after your family by tracking your home’s activity and device use.

For example, within the Sense app, you can see if you turned off the clothing dryer before leaving the house. And you can set alerts to tell you if you’ve left the coffee maker on.

Now, Sense can also help you avoid problems by identifying unusual activity in your home, all in real time and before it becomes an issue. Because it can look for unusual patterns, like a refrigerator that’s running constantly because its filter is clogged or a sump pump that’s running more than usual, because maybe the water heater broke and your basement is flooded and you’re on vacation.

TOM: Yeah. It’s actually an incredibly helpful and very smart device that can save you money and make your home more efficient and sustainable. So take a look. It’s at There’s a cool video there that walks you through. That’s I guarantee you once you see it, you’re going to want one for your house.

LESLIE: John in Delaware is dealing with a spider problem. I can’t even talk about it for fear they will jump into my house. What’s going on?

JOHN: I moved to the beach about 10 years ago. I’m not – I’m 12 miles from the water but I don’t know whether that’s part of the problem or not. But we have spiders inside the house all the time. They’re always in the corners of the room. It’s rare to come into any room and not have one. And it seems like as quickly as you get rid of them, a week later you have more in the same areas. And it is very annoying.

TOM: What do you do to get rid of them, John?

JOHN: The only thing I do is I try to kill them and knock down their little web.

TOM: Good luck with that. That’s not working out too well for you, I bet, huh?

JOHN: No, it’s not.

TOM: You’re not going to win the war if that’s your treatment approach. The thing about insects today is the best way to control them is through science. And if you look at a company like Orkin – you know, a company that’s been around forever – these guys know exactly what insecticide to put down, they know how to put it down in the right amounts and the products that they use today are very insect-specific.

It used to be that there was sort of a broad-spectrum pesticide that was put down. Today, the pesticides are very, very specific for the problem. And if I was dealing with this in my house, I wouldn’t be running around with my boot trying to kill them all. I would have the pesticide applied in the right amounts, right place and be done with it.

So, I would recommend that you call Orkin and have that taken care of the right way. It’s safer to do that than to buy over-the-counter pesticides, which you end up over-applying – which are far more dangerous, in my view – and certainly a lot less frustrating than having to stomp them to death, OK?

So, I would use a pesticide to control these spiders and that’s the best solution.

JOHN: OK. And you would not advise trying to do it on your own. You’d advise getting a company that’s – would they regularly – to have them come back?

TOM: Yeah, you can’t buy the products that a professional can buy. They’re not available to the general public because they have to be applied just right. That’s why it’s a good idea to turn to a pro, like Orkin.

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

LESLIE: 888-MONEY-PIT is presented by HomeAdvisor. You can find out what it costs to do your home project before you hire a pro. And instantly book one of HomeAdvisor’s top-rated pros for free.

Hey, are you tired of waiting for hot water to reach your shower in the morning? We’re going to highlight an easy-to-install solution, next.

TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

TOM: Hey, what are you working on? If it’s your house, you are in the right place. Give us a call, right now, because we’d love to give you some tips, some advice to help you get those projects done a lot easier. That number is 888-666-3974. Or you can post your question to Money Pit’s Facebook page at That’s what Randy did.

LESLIE: That’s right. Randy writes: “My bathroom is some distance from the water heater and it takes a couple of minutes for the water to get hot. I’m considering adding a hot-water lobster device, which is supposed to give me an instant hot water. Will it work?”

TOM: So, I was not familiar with the device and I did a little bit of research on it. And it struck me that it’s very, very similar to a device I am familiar with that is called the Watts Hot-Water Recirculating System – Watts is the brand name; W-a-t-t-s – with one key difference and that is that the hot-water lobster does not have a circulating pump that will move the water through the plumbing lines. And therefore, it sort of seems to rely on the buoyancy of warm versus cold water to move that hot water towards your bathroom that’s the – it’s the farthest, basically, away from the water heater.

The way these things work is there’s a crossover pipe and valve that goes on the water – usually the sink – that’s the farthest plumbing fixture away from the water heater. And it essentially spills a little bit of hot water back into the cold side. It essentially will help mix that hot water in quicker.

And with the Watts unit, it works on that recirculating pump, which you can set a timer for. So I just feel like that’s probably a more reliable way to go, because this way it will work exactly when you want it to work. And it’s not going to run 24/7 and waste a lot of energy. You could set it for those couple of hours in the morning when you’re waking up and just tired of stepping into that really freezing-cold shower.

So, I’m not familiar with the device you were asking about but I am familiar with Watts. It’s pretty inexpensive; it’s under a couple hundred bucks. And if you are pretty handy, with some basic DIY skills, you can probably even install it yourself.

So, hope that helps you out, Randy.

LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we have a post from Jenna in Virginia who writes: “I’m about to get my husband a large, flat-screen TV. My question is whether any wall can hold that wall mount. Do I need any special equipment to make sure it’s not going to fall?”

TOM: What a great wife, huh? She wants to get him a large, flat-screen TV. She might never see him again.

Well, listen, Jenna, the key with these flat screens is that there’s a bracket that usually is sold separately from the flat screen. It has to be properly installed. And they’re all similar but except in the way that they tilt or move that flat screen. Some will tilt one direction, some will tilt in two directions and so on. But when you get that bracket, you’ve got to follow the instructions about installing it. And it usually comes with all the hardware you need.

And very important, though, is that the bracket has to be installed into the wall studs. So that’s going to require a little carpentry skill to identify but those brackets are certainly wide enough to capture two of the vertical studs with two fasteners each. And that should be plenty of power – plenty of holding power – for that large-screen TV.

Interestingly, those large-screen TVs are not as heavy as you might think. And those brackets do provide enough security for you to go ahead and attach to the wall. But again, it’s got to be attached to the studs.

So, I’m pretty sure it can get done in your house, sight unseen, as long as it’s a regular, standard wood-frame wall. But it’s got to be done right. Otherwise, that’s not going to end up well.

LESLIE: And make sure you pick the right bracket. It’s got to be sized for the TV itself. And it’s got so many different functionalities. Make sure it does the things that you want it to do. Do you want the arm to extend so you can tilt it and look in another room? Do you only want top or bottom, top-down swizzle? There’s a whole bunch of different things. So, look into it before you purchase one and put it up.

TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show on air and online at Hey, thank you so much for spending this part of your day with us. If you’ve got questions, you can send them in, 24/7, to 888-MONEY-PIT by calling us. Or post them to The Money Pit’s Facebook page at

Until then, 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 2019 Squeaky Door Productions, Inc. No portion of this transcript or audio file may be reproduced in any format without the express written permission of Squeaky Door Productions, Inc.)

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