Building a Backyard Deck: DIY or Get a Pro? #0507182

TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

TOM: And what are you working on today? If it’s your house, your home, your condo, your apartment, you’re in the right place because we’re here to help, to lend you a hand to get those projects done around your house. Whether they’re a décor or repair, whether they’re DIY or get a guy, call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT with your home improvement question, 888-666-3974. Or you can post it to The Money Pit’s Community page at

Just ahead, Mother’s Day is coming up. And if you’ve not picked up a gift yet, we’ve got some ideas on how you can redeem yourself through the gift of home improvement for Mom.

LESLIE: Plus, did you know that almost a million children are accidentally poisoned in their homes every single year? Well, we’re going to have tips on how to reduce that risk at your home, coming up.

TOM: And adding a backyard deck is one surefire way to increase your home’s living space. But is building a deck a DIY project or is it one you should hire out? We’ll have tips to help you make the best choice.

But first, we want to hear about your next home improvement or décor adventure. So call it in right now. Let’s talk, 888-MONEY-PIT. Or post it to the Community page at

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

DOTTIE: We have a patio that had some cracks in it. It is exposed aggregate. My husband dug it out and filled in the cracks. Now, our question for you is: is there a sealer with some colorant that we could use over the whole area?

TOM: I think what you’re asking us for is a concrete stain. Sealers are always clear. So, if you’ve got this crack filled in and you’ve got some color to that, then what you’re going to have to do is stain the concrete to match that and then you could seal it. But you’d have to stain it. And if you’re going to stain concrete, you would use an acid stain.

DOTTIE: OK. Is there anything you can recommend?

LESLIE: QUIKRETE makes a great one in a couple of good colors. More neutral than anything a little crazy but it’s an easy-to-apply product. You’re going to get some great coloration there. And you know what? It’s a reputable brand; they know what they’re doing. So I would start there.

DOTTIE: Oh, that sounds great. And I really love your show.

TOM: Thank you very much, Dottie. Good luck with that project.

LESLIE: Tim in New York is having an issue with the tub. What’s going on in your bathroom?

TIM: So, my wife and I moved into our home two years ago and the previous homeowners recently redid the bathroom. It’s very nice but unfortunately, the bathtub has two cracks in it. So I recently had – to be real quick, I recently had a bathtub fitter come in and take a look at it. They can’t do it because they don’t have the molds for it and they would have to cover up the tile anyway. So my question is: is there an easy fix? And even if I had to replace a tub, do I have to take out tile to do so?

TOM: Well, you have to take out probably the first couple of rows of tile. It depends on how difficult it is to get the tub in and out of that space. It’s a pretty big job. It might be that it’s just not worth trying to save the tile. This is the time where you might just want to think about whether or not you could just renovate the entire bathroom. Because frankly, by the time you get that tub out, you’re going to be taking so many other fixtures out of the way to kind of get the tub in and out, you might end up doing that anyway, Tim.

You know, the bathtub is the first thing that goes into a bathroom and everything else works around it or fits around it. And I think the bath-fitter idea was a good one but if they can’t do it, they can’t do it.

TIM: Yeah. I looked up online and they have these epoxies that fix cracks. I don’t think it’s going to work or be a permanent fix. Do you have any knowledge on that?

TOM: That’s true. I would agree with that. It’s very difficult to repair a crack or a chip in a tub. Is it a fiberglass tub?

TIM: It is. It’s a fiberglass tub.

TOM: So, look, they repair fiberglass boats, right? Or fiberglass cars? So you can use – right from an auto-body shop, you can use fiberglass repair compound to fix this. It’s not going to be pretty, right? I mean like a Bondo product or something like that. It’s going to be obvious but if you want to buy yourself some time and use the tub for a while, you could do that.

I had a shower stall once where the fiberglass pan cracked. Then I repaired that with fiberglass and Bondo just by basically applying the fiberglass in a couple of layers and then putting the compound over top of that. And you could see it but it didn’t leak after I fixed it.

TIM: OK. Well, maybe I’ll look into that. The bathroom is so new that I don’t want to rip out, well …

TOM: I know. I hear you. It hurts. And it may be very well that the tub was put in incorrectly. Because when you put in fiberglass tubs, you’re supposed to put a solid fill under them. Usually, you’ll put a loose mix of mortar mix underneath it because it basically gives you something solid to step into, because the tub has some flex.

TIM: Yeah. I don’t think they did that because you could actually feel the tub moving underneath my feet.

TOM: Yeah, yeah. Unfortunately, it sounds like it wasn’t put in right.

TIM: OK. Alright. Well, thank you very much. That was very helpful.

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

LESLIE: Now we’ve got Marie calling in to The Money Pit with a cabinet question. How can we help you today?

MARIE: I’m in a dilemma over kitchen cabinets. I really like this fairly contemporary look but it’s a slab. We’re at – we’re on the salt water and I’ve been told to maybe stay away from a slab cabinet door because of the way it expands and shrinks. What’s your opinion on that or your advice?

LESLIE: When you say slab, are you talking about a full overlay?

MARIE: No, it’s an actual slab. I don’t think it’s an overlay or veneer at all.

TOM: I think you mean a solid-wood door, one-piece wood door as opposed to one that’s made up of panels, like a raised-panel door?

MARIE: Yes, it’s not a raised panel but you can actually see the pieces of wood – well, I guess they’re glued together. But there’s no raised panels or anything on it.

TOM: Yeah, it’s a solid piece of wood. It’s a laminated door, basically. Solid pieces of wood glued together.

I don’t know. If the door is made right and the wood is dried when it was built and it’s sealed properly, I don’t think it’s more or less likely to swell than a raised-panel door would be.

MARIE: That makes total sense the way you put it that way. Why wouldn’t they dry it out first and then seal it properly?

TOM: Right.

MARIE: Huh. I never even thought about it in that context.

LESLIE: The boxes themselves that the cabinets are – the cabinet box is going to be constructed out of a wood-laminated ply so – or something that’s more structurally stable. And I don’t think you have to be concerned about the door.

MARIE: Hmm, I think, looking at it from that point of view, maybe I won’t be. I’ve had people tell me that they’re just going to get all warped and – but why would they? If they’re – if it is, like you said, a reliable cabinet maker – I guess that would be the question.

TOM: Right. Exactly. A good-quality cabinet should be dimensionally stable.

MARIE: I agree with you. Ah, I found a beautiful door and I think I might go for it then. Thank you very much. Appreciate it.

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

Just ahead, poisonings from household chemicals and cleaners are on the rise but they’re also very preventable. We’ll tell you how, next.

Where home solutions live, this is The Money Pit. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

TOM: Call in your home improvement question, right now, to 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor.

LESLIE: And hey, this hour, have we got a handy set of tools going out to one lucky listener who calls in their home improvement question or posts it to Up for grabs are a bunch of fun things from our friends over at Arrow Fastener, including the Arrow T50 Electric Staple Gun and Nailer, plus the Arrow Dual-Temp Glue Gun, which really is my favorite. It heats up super fast, it doesn’t drip. It’s one of the best glue guns out there on the market and I always keep it in my tool kit.

It also comes with a supply of staples and glue sticks and it’s a prize pack worth 95 bucks.

TOM: Yeah. And you know what? These are two tools that will be super useful for many fun things around the house, from crafts to repairs, including a very fun project that Arrow is featuring, right now, at It’s a project called the “vertical succulent garden.” The entire project, including the materials list and the photos and all the details are online at Just click on Projects.

LESLIE: Yeah. And we really love the Arrow Fastener Company. I mean the greatest part is that they’ve been in Saddle Brook, New Jersey for 90 years. You rarely hear of that today.

It’s so nice to know that these are made right here, practically in your backyard, Tom.

TOM: I’ll tell you what, having good, well-made tools is important, too. That electric stapler is kind of a pro-grade unit. It’s fantastic. You already talked about how great that glue gun is. I got lots of scars over the years from drippy, hot glue. So, I like the fact that this one is no-drip.

That prize package, worth 95 bucks, going out to one caller drawn at random. Make that you. Give us a call, right now, with your home improvement or décor question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

LESLIE: Now we’ve got Scott in Iowa on the line who needs help with a painting project. Tell us what you’re working on.

SCOTT: I just recently bought a rental house and the plaster – it’s an older home and the plaster was falling off the house. Well, the guy I bought it from had repaired it but if you look at it, it’s falling out in some areas and bowing back in in some areas. And I was just wondering, would I have to re-drywall it or is there a cheaper and easier way to fix that?

TOM: How much of this exists? Is there a lot of this that’s where it’s – the plaster seems to be loose?

SCOTT: Throughout the whole house.

TOM: Yeah, OK. So it’s a problem because it’s going to be dangerous.

What happens is the plaster, when it’s applied, it’s applied over something called “wood lath,” which are like thin strips of wood. Kind of looks like those sticks we use to hold up garden plants and tomatoes and things like that. And the plaster expands to behind the lath and it sort of locks in place.

But over the years, with an old house, those “keyways,” we call them, loosen up and then the plaster is not attached to the wall anymore. So you are looking at a situation where the walls are going to get worse. It’s not going to get better. And if it’s the ceiling that’s loose, it could be dangerous. Because when that plaster falls, it’s really, really heavy. I’ve seen it dent floors and certainly could hurt somebody.

So now we have – the question is: what’s the best way to deal with this? “Should I tear the plaster out? Should I drywall over?” I’ve done it both ways and I’ve come to the conclusion, after trying it this way for many years, that the best thing to do is to put drywall on top of the plaster, not tear it out, for a couple of reasons. First of all, it’s less messy. Secondly, that even when you tear out the lath and the plaster, you’ll find that the studs from the old house behind it are not very even. So when you put drywall up, it tends to warp sometimes.

So what I would do is I would attach new drywall over the plaster. You can use 3/8-inch-thick drywall, too; you don’t even need to use ½-inch drywall. And then by attaching from the drywall, through the plaster into the studs, you’ll help secure that loose plaster so you won’t have any further movement in that room. That would be my recommendation.

SCOTT: That works out.

TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

LESLIE: Laura in Pennsylvania needs some help with a lighting question. What can we do for you?

LAURA: Oh, well, my son gave me some compact fluorescent bulbs because he didn’t like them.


LAURA: And I had never used them before and I thought, “Well, I’ll put them in my little lights I use with timers.” Only they all blow out.

TOM: There’s no reason you can’t use a compact fluorescent bulb in an outlet that has a timer. I mean a timer simply automatically turns the light switch on or off, so that shouldn’t have an effect on damaging the bulb.

LAURA: Yes, that’s what I thought. And I have incandescent bulbs in them now and they work just fine.

TOM: Well, maybe he gave you some bum compact fluorescents. I don’t know. But it’s kind of an odd thing for it to happen to. Compact fluorescents work really well in most fixtures that take incandescents. In fact, you can even have them work well in fixtures that are controlled by dimmers.

There are special dimmers today that are designed to work with compact fluorescents and with LEDs, where you can adjust the range of the dimming so that it doesn’t ever flicker or go out. So, compact fluorescent bulbs are a great option. I don’t know why they’re not working for you but the timer shouldn’t have anything to do with it.

LAURA: OK. Well, maybe I’ll try them again or – I have two left. Or I’ll try and buy some. Maybe he has an off-brand or something like that. I don’t know. Because they should last a really long time, right?

TOM: They should. And you know what I like better than compact fluorescents are the LED bulbs. Take a look at the Philips LED bulbs. These are – they’re very distinctive. They’re yellow. They look like bug lights but they have a very pleasant white light that comes off of them. And they’re going to be more expensive than compact fluorescents but they last forever and they’re super energy-efficient.

LAURA: OK. I will be happy to. That’s a really good idea. Thank you.

TOM: Hey, well, here’s an eye-opener: the Consumer Product Safety Commission says more than 800,000 kids in the U.S. will be rushed to an ER because of an accidental poisoning this year. Thirty of those kids will die and almost all of these poisonings will happen at home. So, to help, here are a few tips on how to reduce the risk of poisoning in your house.

LESLIE: That’s right. You know, medicines really are a growing cause of poisonings. They’re relatively easy, though, for you to control. You can ask your pharmacy to fill all your prescriptions with those childproof caps that even some adults can’t open. And then keep all of your medicines on the highest shelves possible.

Now, dangerous household toxins aren’t as easy to control. They come in bigger bottles. They’re often in bright, inviting colors. Cleaners, bleaches, paint solvents and pesticides tend to attract children. Simply keeping them in the garage isn’t enough.

TOM: Yeah. It’s a good idea to keep those poisons safely locked up outside your house whenever possible. So, keep it in mind. Keep them away from the kids and keep those kids safe.

LESLIE: Now we’re heading out to Arizona where Rich has a foundation question. What can we do for you today?

RICH: We pulled up some carpet in a back room and upon pulling up the carpet, we discovered that we have about a 1-inch crack that runs full width of the room. And it’s about a 15×15 room. And we were wondering why that one door that we have that goes off into a spare bathroom – why it stops shutting so clean. So when we pulled up the carpet, we discovered that, yes, we’ve got a crack problem. And it’s about 1-inch wide and I want to know – and it’s as deep as far as the foundation, I think, the slab goes. I want to know how I should fill that in or what would be the proper thing to do.

TOM: Well, first of all, we want to determine if it’s an active crack or not. And the fact that you had a door that seemed to work properly and then stopped working properly could indicate that it’s active. Do you get the sense that this crack is fresh or do you think it’s something that’s been there for a really long time?

RICH: I think that it started out small and I think over the last 10 years, it’s maybe – because I’ve been there just over 10 years and I believe that just within about the last, oh, maybe 3 years that the door started shutting kind of stiff.

But anyway, I don’t think it has been all that active but I do think that it’s definitely progressed a little bit since I’ve moved in.

TOM: So what you’re going to do is clean it out and then you’re going to repair it with – a flowable urethane material is good. And with the urethane, what you’ll put in there first is a material called “backer rod,” which is like a 1-inch – you would get like a 1- to 1½-inch-diameter foam tube. It’s called “backer rod.” And you press it in there to that crack and then you leave it about an inch below – not an inch – about a ¼-inch below the surface. Then you fill the top of it with a flowable urethane and that will expand and contract with the crack.

RICH: OK. That’s exactly what I was kind of hoping. Because I don’t think it’s going to be something I’ll be able to do from the outside of the house to maybe – to push that foundation up. Because on the outside, the house looks good.

TOM: No, it’s a one-way street with cracks.

RICH: Yeah. So we …

TOM: And you can’t patch it with more concrete, because it would just crack.

RICH: Yeah. So, now, when I do that, of course that’ll take care of the visibility of the crack. What can I do to relevel the floor? Because it is quite evident. When you’re off in the hallway and you look into this room, you can definitely see there is a – the floor isn’t level, from the crack over to the wall.

TOM: Well, you could – there’s a product called “leveling compound” that you can pour on top of the old floor. And you can work it and level the whole thing out. We use it a lot under tile, where you can’t have a tile floor that bends or twists or anything. But it’s a pretty big job and if you’re going to put carpet down, are you really going to see it?

RICH: Well, no. I’m thinking maybe I’ll put a different kind of flooring down.

TOM: Alright. Well, then maybe you’ll want to consider it. It’s just called “leveling compound” and you’ll find it in home centers, you’ll find it online. And it takes a little practice to get it to flow out properly. But follow the label directions, start in a small area until you’re good at it and you’ll find it should be able to level it out quite nicely.

RICH: Boy, I think I’ve got it. I sure appreciate you. Thank you for the advice.

TOM: You’re very welcome, Rich. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

LESLIE: Hey, are you still in need of a Mother’s Day gift but a little short on cash? Well, it’s not too late to honor the mom in your life with a little DIY help. We’re going to share an inexpensive way to make Mom smile, after this.

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

LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

TOM: We are here to help you with your home improvement, your décor questions, whatever is your next home improvement adventure. We love calling these things “home improvement adventures” because if you think about it, an adventure is exciting, it’s exhilarating and it almost never ends up where you think it will be. So, much like home improvement, we’re here to help, 888-MONEY-PIT.

LESLIE: Now we’ve got Sylvia in Texas on the line who’s got some bathroom things going on at her money pit. How can we help you?

SYLVIA: Whenever I flush the toilet, I can hear the water running through my sink drain – you know, the bathroom sink drain?

TOM: Right.

SYLVIA: And so I didn’t know if that was normal or not. And then the other day, we had a real windstorm and I could hear the wind under my house, through my pipes, through that same sink. And I have a concrete slab, so I didn’t know – is that normal?

TOM: Probably the wind blowing over the roof and you’re hearing it through the vent pipe. The plumbing system is all connected, obviously. And the water drains down and the air kind of replaces it from the top – from the vent on top. And so when you flush the toilet, in some cases you can hear that water run down through the pipe and it be replaced by air. So that’s entirely possible.

But if it’s behaving properly and you don’t have any odors and everything’s flowing right, I wouldn’t worry too much about that, Sylvia.

SYLVIA: Oh, OK, OK. Thank you very much. I was just worried about it, because I was just like, “What’s going on with my plumbing, right?”

TOM: And the other thing about plumbing is it’s – it really carries the sound. Anyone that’s ever had a second-floor bathroom and flushed it to the horror of everyone that’s sitting in the dining room enjoying dinner time knows exactly what I’m talking about.

SYLVIA: Oh, thank God I don’t have a second floor.

LESLIE: John in Wisconsin is on the line with a washer/dryer question. Tell us what you’re thinking about there.

JOHN: We were thinking of putting a washer and dryer in our spare bedroom. And where we want to is next to an inner wall. And I was wondering, if we vented it up through into the attic, through the insulation so it’d come out on top, would that be damaging to the – it’d be too much moisture in there or not?

LESLIE: Now, would this still remain a guest room or would this become a new, snazzy laundry room?

JOHN: Yeah, it’d be a laundry room, yeah.

LESLIE: Generally, when you talk about resale value, the amount that you could possibly resell your house for directly correlates to the amount of bedrooms and bathrooms that you have. So, you may want to start by talking with a local realtor who’s familiar with home values in your neighborhood, as to what the effect might be to removing a bedroom.

Now, if you have no intention to sell and you’ve got this dream to have just a kick-butt, gigantic laundry room with perhaps a sewing area and enough ironing space, then this could be awesome for you guys.

TOM: Now, in terms of your technical questions, obviously, you’re going to have to get hot and cold water there and you’re going to have to get electricity there for your washer and your dryer and 240-volt if it’s electric dryer. Venting was the one question you had and can you go up through the wall into the attic? Yes. But you can’t stop there. You have to continue with that vent, John, until it gets outside. You cannot dump the warm, moist, lint-ladened dryer exhaust up into the attic; you’ve got to take it outside.

So, what you should do is only use solid-metal piping, not flex ducting. Get it up in the attic and turn it 90 degrees and then run it across the floor, so to speak, above the joists and then out the side wall of the house, with a proper dryer-vent termination on the outside of it. And the test is when you turn the dryer on, you look outside, you should see the flap open up. You really don’t want to have any restriction. It’s very important you get that lint out, because there’s a lot of dryer fires that happen because people collect too much lint inside those pipes.

JOHN: Oh, I see. Mm-hmm.

TOM: Alright?

JOHN: Yeah. Very good.

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

LESLIE: Adding a backyard deck is one surefire way to increase your home’s living space. But is building a deck a DIY project or one that you should hire out? We’re going to have some tips to help you make the best choice for you, after this.

TOM: Where home solutions live, this is The Money Pit. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

TOM: Well, whether you’re planning a décor project, maybe you’re remodeling your kitchen, fixing up an outdoor space, dealing with a leak or a squeak, we’re here for you every step of the way. And know who else is? HomeAdvisor. They are the fast and easy way to find the right pro for any kind of home project, whether it’s a small repair or major remodel. Check them out at

LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Lynn in Colorado who’s got a tricky, leaky shower. Let’s see if we can help her find it.

LYNN: I had a plumber come out once and he said that the pipe and the bottom, where it comes out of the shower, doesn’t always hook up right. So he siliconed it and it didn’t leak but now, once in a while, it’s leaking again. Of course, it’s upstairs so I see it on a ceiling. And I’m wondering, is there some kind of a liner you can put down the pipe, like they do for sewage lines that go out?

TOM: You talking about the supply pipes or are you talking about the shower stall?

LYNN: I’m talking about the stall – the drain pipe.

TOM: Do you have – is it a tile shower pan or is it like a plastic shower?

LYNN: Yeah, it’s one of the insert ones.

TOM: Those pans can develop cracks in them and you have to figure out where that crack is. One way to try to figure out at least how high on the pan the crack is is if you block the drain of the pan and fill it up with water and see if it leaks. If it doesn’t leak, then the pan’s fine. Then the next thing you have to do is move up with your sort of analysis and now you’re going to get into the seams of it.

If you’ve got existing caulk, what I would recommend, as a first step, is to remove that caulk using caulk softener. And that’ll allow you to strip out everything that’s there and start clean with some new, good-quality bathroom caulk that’s got a mildicide built into it. And I would just caulk, very carefully, every single seam and also around all the pipes and the faucets and the fixtures, where they come through. Because, sometimes, you get direct leaks where water fills up in the pan and leaks. And a lot of times, though, with showers, you’ll get leaks when the water bounces off your body, hits one of those seams, works its way in behind the wall and down.

So, I would take out the existing caulk, recaulk it and check the shower pan for leaks. And somewhere in that analysis, you’ll probably figure out what’s going on.


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

LESLIE: Mark in West Virginia is on the line with a roofing question. How can we help you today?

MARK: I was just wondering if I could put a metal roof over top a shingle roof without removing the shingled roof.

TOM: Well, you can but why do you want to do that, Mark? It’s kind of sloppy.

MARK: I just – I’ve never worked with metal and I didn’t know if you could do it that way. Because you can shingle over an old asphalt shingle; you can put another – a layer over top of it. Just getting rid of them – the hassle of getting rid of them in a landfill.

TOM: Technically, you can but I just think it’s going to be a neater, cleaner, more professional job if you take off the asphalt shingles. And they’re not that hard to remove.

LESLIE: Yeah. And you don’t know how many layers are underneath your existing roof. Plus, I don’t know, really, but I’m imagining that a metal roof is going to have some weight to it. And why put that extra stress on the structure? And it’s a lifetime roof; you know, you’re looking at 50 years on a metal roof, so …

MARK: How about cutting it? Any special tools? You have any idea?

TOM: Yeah, I mean it’s all done with shears.

MARK: Yeah.

TOM: And you can use hand shears and you can use power shears. But when you work with that stuff all the time, you have the tools that you need to do that. But that’s what you’re going to have to cut it with.

MARK: Well, hey – well, thanks – thank you for being so – and I appreciate it.

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

LESLIE: Well, adding a backyard deck is one surefire way to get outside and increase your home’s living space. But is building a deck a DIY project or one that you should hire out? There are a few pros and cons for each.

First of all, DIY. If you do do it yourself, you stand to save a ton of money just by virtue of those labor costs. However, building your deck could eat up a number of weekends, depending on how quickly you work. Also, the DIY option might be perfect if you’re planning a fairly simple square or rectangular deck. But things could get dicey if you choose a more complicated, multilevel deck design. You have to be careful because those do get tricky.

TOM: Gravity sucks, so you’ve got to be careful.

Hiring a pro is obviously going to result in a pricier deck because you’re paying for their labor. But on the plus side, a pro – or at least one that’s reliable – is likely to finish the project faster than you will.

And they’re also going to take care of that permitting process. That’s not something you want to skip. You want to make sure that the deck is up to code and you also want to make sure that it’s approved by the city building inspector. Because if it’s not, what’s going to happen when you sell your house is they’re not going to give you a CO and you’ll be stuck. So it’s really important that you have it inspected as it’s built. Those guys are there to make sure your contractor is doing the job that you hired him to do.

For more tips on how to build a deck, make sure you check out “How to Plan an Amazing Deck.” It’s one of our latest posts on Just search for “How to Plan an Amazing Deck.”

LESLIE: Next up, we’ve got Pat in Georgia who needs some help with a cleaning project. What’s going on?

PAT: I have granite countertops. And I am wondering if there is an advantage to using the store-bought cleaners versus a homemade cleaner. And what would the homemade cleaner be?

TOM: So I guess you don’t have a recipe for a homemade cleaner. Is that what you’re saying?

PAT: No, I don’t.

TOM: If you happen to run across one that you like, tell us about it because I have not found one. But I will say that the commercial cleaners are usually very well-developed and are designed to give you a longer-term protection than you can probably get out of anything that you could mix up on your own countertop.

There’s a website called that specializes in these types of products. And our listeners have always had good success with them, so I would take a look at that website.

But the thing about granite tops is a lot of folks buy them and think, “Well, it’s stone. I’m not going to have to do much work to the top.” But the truth is it’s a lot of work, isn’t it, Pat?

PAT: It very certainly is.

TOM: It really is. And if you don’t stay on top of it, it gets pretty nasty-looking. So, you are going to have to invest in some regular cleaning and I would just buy a good-quality product from a good brand manufacturer and just accept it as reality, OK?

PAT: Thank you so very much.

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

LESLIE: Gary in Pennsylvania unfortunately had a flood and needs some help picking up the pieces. What can we do for you?

GARY: We had a flood here: a flash food. Rain came down in 8 hours, about 7 to 10 inches. It flooded our basement with about a foot of water. And I’m interested in finding out from you folks how we can get back to normal as far as the basement is concerned. It smells. We did manage to get the sump pump going and get the water out of the basement. But it was – like I said, it was a foot around the furniture and everything. And how can I manage to get things back to where they were before the flood?

TOM: Alright. So, when you have a flood situation like that, of course, it’s human nature that you want everything back just the way it was, as soon as possible. But from a practical standpoint, it doesn’t always work that way. Here at the Jersey Shore, we faced one of the worst hurricanes in history with Hurricane Sandy. And that was the natural reaction; everyone wanted to get back. And we always say, “No, you can’t get back that quickly because you’re going to make some mistakes along the way.”

So what you want to do first is you want – as you’ve already done, you got rid of the water. Secondly, you want to prevent further damage by removing all of the wet materials. So, wet carpet has to be tossed out. If the basement is finished, does it have drywall down there? Those drywall sections have to be cut out to above the flood line. If there’s insulation in the walls, that has to be pulled out. If you have furniture that’s water-damaged, you may have an option of saving some of that if you can get it upstairs and start to dry it out and kind of make a decision as you go. But frankly, a lot of that should be covered by insurance so I wouldn’t maybe try too hard to save it. But get all of that material out of there.

Now, you said it was a flash flood and it flooded the basement quickly. Any time you have water infiltration that’s consistent with rainfall, it can always be reduced, if not eliminated, by making sure that your drainage conditions outside are proper and that you have gutters, they’re clean, they’re extended from the house 4 to 6 feet – not just a few inches like normal gutters are – and that the soil slopes away. So those sorts of things can prevent further water infiltration.

And then after it’s all torn out, then you’re going to want to spray those – that basement floor and the walls down with a solution of bleach and water, about 10- to 20-percent bleach with water. That will kill any mold spores that are left behind. Then get some fans down there; dry that all out. And then once it’s dry, then you can think about putting it back together.

And next time, I would not put carpet on a basement floor because that’s a breeding factory for mold and mildew and dust mites, as well. OK?

GARY: Sounds like a winner to me. I certainly appreciate it.

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

LESLIE: Hey, are your guests getting bugged by swarms of gnats in your backyard? Well, we’ve got tips on keeping these common nuisances away, after this.

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

LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

TOM: Still looking for help with your money pit? You are not alone. Head on over to for tips and answers to home improvement questions big and small. And while you’re there, sign up for our free e-Newsletter. Stay ahead of home maintenance chores year-round. It’s all online and free at

LESLIE: You can also post your question while you’re online. And here’s one from Craig who writes: “I’m thinking about installing hardwired, integrated smoke detectors. Is it worth my while and what should I know beforehand?”

I think absolutely.

TOM: Yeah. And I totally agree because – for two reasons. First of all, if they’re hardwired, you’re not totally relying on batteries. And secondly and even more importantly, hardwired detectors run in series. They’re interconnected. So if one goes off, all the detectors go off.

I mean imagine if there was a fire that started in your basement and you’re on the second floor with the door closed to the bedroom in the middle of the night. You’re never going to hear that detector. So you want hardwired detectors that are interconnected. There are battery-powered ones that can be interconnected, too, but hardwired is key. So, I would install one in every room and make sure that you have the best possible chance of detecting fires early by doing that.

LESLIE: You know, another tip, Craig: when you’re selecting your smoke detector, there’s actually two different types. And the two different types detect two different types of fires. But there is one that will detect both and it will detect a slow, smoldering fire and one of those quick flash fires. Because you can’t pick what kind of fire you’re going to have but you can pick a smoke detector that will recognize both of them.

TOM: Yeah.

LESLIE: Because they do burn very differently. And one gives you more time to get out and one doesn’t. So you have to be on top of it.

TOM: Yeah. And that’s called a “dual-sensor smoke detector.” So make sure you look for that on the packaging: dual sensor. It will cover both slow, smoldering and fast-burning fires.

LESLIE: Yeah, just play it safe, play it smart. Do the right thing. You’re on the right track.

TOM: Well, you could plan the most elegant outdoor soirée ever only to have it spoiled by annoying, little bugs flying around your guests’ heads by the thousands. Leslie explains how to not get bugged by gnats, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.


LESLIE: Yeah, you’re right, Tom. Your outdoor party could be ruined in a flash if the guests find themselves constantly swatting away the swarms of relentless, little gnats. And they are relentless.

Now, the gnats themselves, they’re pretty harmless but they’re irritating and definitely annoying. So to keep your party gnat-free, you need to know that the little buggers love wet, rotten, organic matter like compost. So if you are composting, cover it up. You can cover it up with mulch.

Now, with mulch, you want to make sure that you rake it and turn it consistently to avoid mold growing on the underside, thus creating a damp habitat that those gnats are going to love. You also want to make sure that you have no standing water or leaves in your gutters. And keep those birdbaths and water features clean of any debris, as well.

Also, this is something you’ll love: gnats hate vanilla but people seem to love the smell of vanilla. So you can place vanilla oil in aroma-oil burners – that’ll help keep them away – as well as vanilla extract on cotton balls placed strategically around your outdoor table. Your guests truly will appreciate being gnat-free because nobody wants to be swatting away while you’re trying to have a good time. But they’ll also love the smell of vanilla.

So get outside, don’t be annoyed and have a wonderful summer season.

TOM: Great advice. This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show.

Hey, here’s another thing that we want to learn to avoid and that’s mold. And with all of the damp, wet weather we’ve had this spring, it’s certainly a condition during which mold can grow. We’re going to have tips on how to actually stop that mold cold, on the very next edition of 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.


(Copyright 2018 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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