Green Features – Before Buying a Home

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

LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

TOM: We’re here to help you with your home improvement projects. Help yourself first by reaching out and calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT. It does not matter when you are hearing the show; those lines are always answered. And if we’re not in the studio, we’ll call you back the next time we are. You can also post your home improvement question to The Money Pit’s Community page at

Coming up on today’s show, going green can help you save energy. You know that, right? But listen to this: a new survey shows it can also bring you more green when it comes time to sell. We’ll share those eco-friendly features, just ahead.

LESLIE: And there’s an old saying that good fences make great neighbors. That is if you can get the fence built. We’re going to have some tips to make that project a lot easier.

TOM: And if your family is like most, you depend on the garage as sort of your real front door, right? That’s the main way you go in and out of the house. But if your door is old and worn, it can not only be unsafe, it also might be providing easy access for intruders, especially when you’re away. We’re going to have tips on what to look for in a new garage door when you hire a pro to get that job done, in today’s Pro Project, just ahead.

LESLIE: Plus, this hour, we’ve got a very fun tool to give away. It’s the iconic, American-made Arrow T50 Heavy-Duty Staple Gun, along with a supply of staples, worth 50 bucks.

TOM: That’s going out to one caller drawn at random. Why not make it you?

LESLIE: Hey, give us a call. You’ve got to be in it to win it and those Arrow tools are fantastic. But you’ve got to be working on something or thinking about working on something so we can give you a hand.

TOM: The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

Let’s get to it. Leslie, who’s first?

LESLIE: Hi, Fred. Welcome to The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

FRED: I have a standard toilet. It’s the type where the tank hangs on the wall and then you have an L and then you have, I guess – what do you call that? The bowl?

And it started to leak and so the old metal was pretty corroded and everything. So we took everything out. We took the tank off the wall, we – I say we, that I, the plumber who I’ve been using for many years cleaned everything up. Went to the hardware store that handles these kind of fittings and we just cannot get this thing to work. It leaks …

TOM: Where does it leak? Does it leak at the – where at – the base of the tank where the pipe connects?

FRED: In both, yeah. Well, one time we did it, it leaked at the bottom of the tank. The other time, it leaked when it went into the bowl.

TOM: What kind of a washer are you using? What kind of a gasket or seal are you using in those two places?

FRED: Well, I don’t know the technical names of it. The guy at the – they look like the same stuff we took off. I’m a musician; I don’t know all these things.

TOM: Well, this shouldn’t be that hard to accomplish and it sounds like whatever they’re using in that gasket space right there is not working. And look, if all else fails, you can simply use silicone here. You could apply the silicone in – as you put this together, you could – you seal all of those joints with silicone. Let it dry. Try not to touch it until it dries. And then you can take a razor blade and cut off the excess, nice and neat, and essentially make your own gasket.

FRED: Yeah, the plumber mentioned something. He said the only thing is if that thing fails and I’m not home, I’m going to have a house full of water.

TOM: That’s true. But the thing is, if it – once it works, it usually works, you know, continuously. It’s not – it doesn’t usually fail. If you get it right, it’s not going to fail, OK?

FRED: Yes. So, in other words, unless I can see some chips or damage on the porcelain or something like that, which I don’t see, it should work.

TOM: But I would take it apart and I would seal, with silicone, each connection as it goes together so that you end up with a good compression of silicone around that. That’s the solution, OK?

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

LESLIE: Pat in Arkansas is dealing with a humid house. What’s going on there?

PAT: Well, I have a new heat pump and it’s not taking out the humidity. Of course, I live in a humid area but I just wondered. It’s supposed to take out the humidity, as I understood.

TOM: Well, not really. I mean air conditioners, in general – central air conditioners, which is essentially what a heat pump is – are not designed to be dehumidifiers. They do dehumidify by virtue of the fact that they’re cooling the air but they’re not as effective as other forms of dehumidifiers.

There’s a couple of other ones that you could consider, one of which is called a “whole-home dehumidifier.” And that’s built into the HVAC system. It would be built into the duct system. And that can take out about 90 pints of water a day.

There’s another type of stand-alone dehumidifier. In fact, I just put one of these in my own house and I thought it was absolutely terrific. It’s by Santa Fe and it’s a small dehumidifier that installs – in my case, I put it in my basement. And it actually is suspended from the ceiling, in an unfinished part of the basement. And it’s only 12x12x22.

And it takes out 70 pints of water a day. And it’s really neat. Once I had it up for an hour or so, I went down there and you can just see this pretty strong stream of water dripping out of it. And all that water used to be in the air and now it’s no longer there.

So, you need to do some dehumidification and I think that you’ll find that that will do the trick, Pat.

PAT: OK. What is the average humidity supposed to be in a house?

LESLIE: Thirty to fifty percent?

TOM: Well, yeah, I was going to say around 40. So we’re in the same neighbor.


TOM: And if you put a good dehumidifier in, that will be set up to a humidistat so that you’ll always know what the humidity is.

LESLIE: And it’ll come on as it’s needed.

TOM: Right, exactly.

PAT: OK. Alrighty. Well, I thank you so much.

TOM: Good luck, Pat. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor, where you can find top-rated service pros, compare prices and book appointments online, all for free. The number, again, is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

LESLIE: Alright. And still ahead, how to make some extra green by making your house more eco-friendly. It’s an investment that’s sure to pay off when you sell.

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

LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

TOM: Pick up the phone, give us a call right now. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor, the fast and easy way to find the right pro for any kind of home project, whether it’s a small repair or a major remodel.

LESLIE: And hey, give us a call, right now, at 888-MONEY-PIT or reach out online in the Community section, because we’ve got a great prize up for grabs. We’re giving away the iconic, American-made Arrow T50 Heavy-Duty Staple Gun and a supply of staples.

Now, it’s the most popular American-made staple gun ever. And there are so many things that you can do with that Arrow T50 Staple Gun. You can upholster a chair, you can make a headboard, you can do repairs around the house, so many awesome things.

TOM: Yeah. And speaking of awesome things, here’s a project, Leslie, that I know that you have done many, many times and that is upholster a chair, right? That’s a really easy DIY starter project for home improvers that want to step up their décor.

And Arrow Fastener has all of the steps outlined, waiting for you, at Just click on Projects. You’ll find step-by-step tips and advice to get that project done. Just go to and click on Projects.

And hey, if you’re lucky, you might also just win that $35 stapler, plus the staples, for a total package of 50 bucks. Going out to one caller drawn at random. The number, again, is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

LESLIE: Jim in Oregon is on the line with a driveway question. How can we help you today?

JIM: It’s a brand-new home. I lived in it less than about three months. A strange odor started coming through in the master bedroom that can’t be detected. We had plumbers come in to check the sewage system. They did a smoke test on it. Couldn’t find that. We just don’t know what the problem is. It’s really an odd odor.

TOM: How would you describe the odor?

JIM: It’s a cross between garbage and sewage smell.

TOM: Has anyone ever suggested biogas as the source of this?

JIM: No one ever suggested that.

TOM: Alright. So, this is a – I’m speculating here, alright? Now, I realize that they’ve done all these tests and so on but sometimes, you get bacteria that deteriorates in the traps of sinks and toilets. And it can release a biogas, which has an absolutely terrible, terrible smell.

One way to deal with that is to get a concentrated – like an oxygenated bleach solution mixed up and – like OxiClean or something like that. And then take a bottle brush and try to get that solution into the drain. Make sure you’re really scrubbing all the nooks and crannies of that drain and let it sit there for a bit. And if there’s any bacteria that’s forming there that could be contributing to this odor, that will eliminate it. So that’s one idea.

The second potential cause for this is simply a dead rodent. We’ve seen in the past where the rodents get into the spaces in and under or in the wall or something like that. And then they decompose and you get that kind of odor. So I don’t have a lot of solutions for you on that but I would try the biogas solution first.

And make sure you also get the overflow of the kitchen, of the – sorry – of the bathroom sink. That overflow channel? By letting the water run up, it’ll block the drain until it hits the overflow? Because if you have any of that bacteria in the overflow channel, that can contribute to it, as well.

JIM: OK. Did you ever find this in a new home before?

TOM: Yeah, I mean it can happen pretty quickly.

JIM: Oh, really? Hmm.

TOM: Even though it’s a new home, it’s been under construction for some period of time and so, it could have preexisted.

JIM: Well, I’ll definitely give it all a try.

TOM: Give it a shot.

LESLIE: Well, more and more home buyers are looking at green features when they’re choosing new homes. And that’s according to the National Association of Home Builders. But how does this trend carry over for those of you who already own or are looking to buy existing homes?

TOM: Well, it does carry over because you can easily add value to your home while using environmentally-friendly products and materials. For example, if you’re going to do a paint project, you want to choose paints that are labeled as containing low-VOCs or volatile organic compounds. These paints are not going to give off gas or produce noxious smells. And also, you can choose appliances that are extra efficient by always looking for the ENERGY STAR label.

LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Now, those are good tips. But you can also use natural, enduring materials such as stone, quarry tile and brick instead of the less durable synthetic materials. You should use eco-friendly light bulbs and install occupancy sensors that turn lights off and on automatically. Change out those older fixtures for WaterSense-certified plumbing fixtures. I promise you will not sacrifice pressure there at all, just savings.

TOM: Yeah. And also, think about using renewable resources like bamboo flooring. I love bamboo flooring. It’s so affordable and it’s really strong, it’s really durable. And because it’s a native plant, it really is going to last a very long time and be very easy to regrow. So, it gives you a good flooring and it’s easy to replenish and it’s very green.

And apparently, all these features added together will add up to some real value to your home when it comes time to sell, according to the experts at NAHB.

LESLIE: Judy in Missouri is on the line with a roofing question. How can we help you today?

JUDY: Yes, I was wondering if you had ever heard of – had a roof repair a few years ago and it’s been leaking ever since. They used what they called Tam-Shield. It’s a synthetic underlayment.

TOM: Yeah, mm-hmm.

JUDY: And it’s plastic and they used that instead of felt paper.

TOM: Yeah, right. It’s synthetic. And it’s actually an upgrade to standard, 15-pound felt paper. And it’s actually better than using standard felt paper under a roof.

The reason that your roof is leaking now is probably not because of the Tam-Shield; it’s probably because of something that went wrong with the repair. But I don’t think it would have been the underlayment, because that’s actually pretty good stuff.

How is it leaking, Judy? Tell me about the leak.

JUDY: Well, we really don’t know. It comes through in our bathroom and we get up in the attic and we can see drips. But they can’t seem to pinpoint it. They worked on it several times and they just can’t get it to go away.

TOM: Alright. Usually, if your roof is leaking above your bathroom – there’s a pipe that goes through the ceiling right there and up through the roof and it’s the plumbing-vent pipe. And right around that vent pipe, there’s like a rubber boot that seals that pipe between the pipe and the roof itself. And then there’s flashing that goes around that. That’s the most common place for a roof leak when you have it leak right above a bathroom.

Now, a lot of times, contractors will try to sort of tar that in place but that’s a bad idea. What I would recommend is to take out the plumbing-vent flashing. And you can do that easily by removing a few shingles in that area.

Roof shingles are actually pretty easy to disassemble if you know kind of a trick of the trade. I like to do it with a flat bar that you can slip up under the roof shingle, find the nail and sort of pry it from side to side and it’ll pop right out. And then you replace that plumbing-vent flashing and put it back together again and make sure you put everything in the right order so it – the roofing lays on top of the flashing. That usually stops that leak.

JUDY: But you – but leave the vent pipes there?

TOM: Oh, yeah. The vent pipe is there for an important reason. You’re going to start having problems flushing your toilet and all your sinks are going to start to gurgle if you take that out. But replace the plumbing-vent flashing there, OK?

JUDY: OK. Well, thank you very much.

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

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

BRIAN: I’ve got a problem with our septic system. And our septic system zigzags back and forth in the backyard. And then where the end of it is, there’s a sinkhole developing.

TOM: How old is this septic system? Has it ever been inspected or cleaned?

BRIAN: We’ve cleaned it twice. It’s just my wife and I. This thing, I noticed, started developing kind of right after we moved into the house. Our house is about 20 years old.

TOM: Because I wonder if – if you say this is towards the end of the distribution field, I wonder if the field is not absorbing water like it should – absorbing the effluent as it should. And most of it is sort of running towards the end of the pipe like it’s a long drain. And as a result, it’s causing erosion in that area.

I think that probably the first thing I would do is have a septic inspection done with an examination of the field to check the percolation of it. Because if it’s not percolating, if it’s not draining properly, you could be spilling a lot of effluent into the ground unknowingly without it having a chance to really soak properly back into the soil. I think what we’re hearing here is a potential failure of your septic field, more than a problem with a sinkhole. I suspect that this is erosion that you’re seeing.

BRIAN: OK. It’s not just a matter of dumping a bunch of dirt in there and covering that up.

TOM: No. That would fill it up again but I’m afraid it would probably wash out again. So, that’s kind of what I would lean to is having that field inspected and just getting a sense of – listen, you want to find out now. You don’t want this thing to fail at the least opportune time. And if you find out early, at least you can plan a replacement if you have to.

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

LESLIE: Michael in Rhode Island, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?

MICHAEL: I moved into a place. There was a tenant here before my wife and I moved in. And there’s a garage – a detached garage. It’s probably about 10 square, maybe. That’s what the roofer said it was, I believe.

The roof isn’t in bad shape. It’s probably 10 to 12 years old. It’s still got a lot of gravel on it but there’s a tree at one end – a maple tree; a big, old one – and the branches were hanging over it. And now they’re – they’ve been cut back. But there was like ¾-inch of moss all over the very end of it, going about 4 feet in the whole rake of – the guy calls it “the rake”: a hole from the gutter to the ridge. And it was all moss.

And I got up there with a small – like a kid’s nylon snow shovel and scraped a little off. And I was very leery of doing that because I didn’t want to take the gravel off, because the rest of the roof is fine. And I really don’t have the money to invest in a roof. And I was wondering if there’s some kind of a chemical I could use that wouldn’t loosen the gravel, that would melt that off maybe.

LESLIE: Well, yeah. Actually, there’s a couple of products on the market. A good one that we use a lot is Spray & Forget. And it’s actually something that you’ll spray right on the moss or mildew or anything that’s organic and growing on the exterior: your siding, outdoor furnishings, your roof, for example. And you spray it on and you forget about it. And it truly will do the work. The more it rains outside, the more it sits in the sun, that will start to sort of eat away at the moss and the mildew and get rid of it.

And it does a good job of maintaining it over time, as well. Plus, you really don’t want to get up on the roof. I mean everything is so slippery when there’s moss and mildew up there. And you just don’t want to get hurt. So you can do this all from the ground.

TOM: Yeah, it’s a great product. is their website. Now, it will take the green stains away from exterior surfaces in about one to three days. If you’ve got really thick roof stains, that could take a couple of months or more to get rid of it – of all of it. But it starts to work as soon as you apply it.

The other thing that you can do on that tree that you mentioned is try to cut it back a little bit. The more sunlight you can get on that roof makes it a lot harder for that moss to grow.

MICHAEL: Yeah, yeah. The tree’s already been cut back, yeah. It was a safety issue besides an appearance issue just following on that. I just – but I (inaudible) shade but the thing is it was neglected for so many years. And as the water dripped, yes, the green of photosynthesis dripped down and it just stained it. And moss there was quite, quite thick. So what I did is I used a plastic ice scraper for our car and I got most of it off being very cautious, obviously. I had to be, you know, sitting on my rear end and my feet sideways in an old pair of sneakers.

TOM: Yeah, we don’t want you to get hurt.

MICHAEL: No, no, definitely don’t want that.

TOM: That moss can be very slippery, too. So it’s good that you got the most of it off but I want you to apply Spray & Forget. And I think you’ll be very happy with the result.

Thank you so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

LESLIE: Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor. Find top-rated home service pros, compare prices and book appointments online, all for free.

TOM: Up next, planning a fence project before weather turns cold? We’re going to have tips on a fast and easy way to get done what is usually the hardest part of that project: installing post. That and more, after this.

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

LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

TOM: Standing by for your calls, your questions at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

LESLIE: Kim in North Carolina, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

KIM: Well, we have trouble with weed. And it was never a trouble before. But it – we have had trouble finding what we used to have and want to know if it is outdated or no longer safe to use for the environment.

TOM: Oh, you mean your weed-killer?

KIM: Well, no. It’s not a weed-killer, because we try not to put anything down in the ground other than to kill the fire ants.

TOM: But your goal here is to eliminate weeds?

KIM: We used to use a black plastic. The black plastic would keep the weeds gone – just literally gone. And the plants would actually flourish from the root system being gently baked, we use the term. But now, all you can find is that sand fiber stuff almost.

TOM: Well, listen, if it’s worked for you in the past, I don’t see why it won’t work for you in the future. It certainly is available and it’s safe. And you’re talking about weed block. That’s a different material entirely. And weed block is basically designed to cover the whole surface or to be just below the surface. It will work, as well. But generally, with weed block, you put slits in it and that’s how the plants grow through it. They don’t grow under it.

Now, if you’re talking about a lawn, there are other ways to deal with a massive influx of weeds. If your lawn is in really bad condition and completely full with weeds, then I would recommend a kind of radical step called a “Round-Up restoration,” where you essentially spray the entire lawn with a Round-Up product in the fall, by the way. In the fall. You spray the entire lawn. And then as that lawn starts to die out, you put seed on it. And the seed comes up through the original dead lawn. And then by next spring, you’ll have a beautiful, new, green lawn without a lick of weeds in the whole place.

So there’s a couple of ways to approach it but either way, I think, is fine. If you can identify the plastic and use it again, I see nothing wrong with doing that. If you want to use the weed block, that’s fine. But you have to have cuts in it for the plants to come on. Or if you just want to restore the entire lawn, then go with the Round-Up restoration.

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

You know, it used to be that working with concrete for small projects like, say, setting a fence post was a real hassle. You had to buy all the raw materials. You had to mix them up probably using tools like your garden wheelbarrow and garden hoe. Then you had to clean them off before that concrete became permanently attached to the tools. It was a real mess.

LESLIE: Well, QUIKRETE has made that a lot easier with their Fast-Setting Concrete in the red bag. Now, it’s a special blend of fast-setting cements, sand and gravel that’s designed to set in approximately 20 to 40 minutes.

TOM: You can use it for setting a fence post, mailbox, deck footings or even for pouring a slab. And for those posts, you don’t even have to premix it. For fence posts, just pour the dry mix into the hole, add water and the post will be solid in 20 minutes.

LESLIE: QUIKRETE is available at home improvement retailers nationwide for about $5 a bag.

TOM: Look for it in the red bag or learn more at

LESLIE: Michelle in Minnesota is on the line with a bathroom-floor “thing” is all I can call it. What is going on? You’re getting moisture coming up through the floor?

MICHELLE: Yes. It’s a laminate floor. This is my third summer in this house and it’s the first time that I’ve had this issue. And it was – it started around the warm and humid days. At first, I thought maybe that it was my toilet leaking, because I had a new toilet put in last summer. But the plumber did come out and pull the toilet and it didn’t look like it was leaking or that the seal was broken on it. So we’re thinking that it’s condensation from the concrete slab coming up between the slats of the laminate flooring.

TOM: So the laminate flooring is on top of a concrete slab?

MICHELLE: Correct, yep.

TOM: What’s this looking – what’s this doing to the floor? Is it causing it to deform in any way? Or is it just showing up as a stain?

MICHELLE: It is not buckling or anything along the edges. He thinks that maybe it’s a rubber flooring – more of a rubber-based flooring – rather than a wood. And so it has not curled edges or anything like that. It just seeps up as moisture and it comes – like beads up right along the edges of the laminate.

TOM: Do you have air conditioning in this bathroom?

MICHELLE: I do not. Nope.

TOM: Yeah, I was thinking cooler, moist air against a warmer floor could cause additional condensation.

So look, if you want to reduce the moisture that’s coming up through the bathroom, there’s a couple of things I can suggest. First of all, you want to take a look at the grading and the drainage conditions outside that bathroom. Because the slab, if it’s getting very wet, is extremely hydroscopic. So all the moisture in the earth will be drawn into the slab and that’s going to wick up and show up in your bathroom, apparently.

So, take a look at your gutters and downspouts. Make sure they’re clean and free-flowing and the spouts are extending 4 to 6 feet from the house. Get all that roof water away and then take a look at the angle of the soil and make sure that that’s sloping away.

Now, do you have a fan in this bathroom?


TOM: That is helpful. You might want to think about replacing the fan with one that has a built-in humidistat, because that’s convenient in a couple of fronts. First of all, when you take a shower and you leave the bathroom and turn the switch off, it’ll actually stay on until all the moisture’s properly vented out of there. And if it does get humid on its own, then the humidistat will kick the fan on and also dry it out. They’re not terribly expensive; I know Broan makes a good one. There are a number of manufacturers you can find this from.

And keep an eye on the floor. Some laminate floors stand up very well to moisture. I’ve seen laminate floors that can be submerged and they don’t seem to be affected by it. But others will buckle just like hardwood would. So just keep an eye on it. And if it ends up that it does have to be replaced, I would paint that cement slab underneath with a couple of coats of epoxy paint to kind of seal in and stop the moisture from evaporating through and into the room.


TOM: But only if you get that far. I wouldn’t tell you to tear up the floor now. But if you have to replace it, just make sure you seal the slab at the same time.

MICHELLE: Mm-hmm. Yeah, OK. Thank you. That’s good, thanks.

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

LESLIE: Well, if your family is like most, you depend on the garage as the real front door to your house for reliable access, as well as protection. But if your door is old and worn, it could not only be unsafe, it could be providing easy access for intruders when you’re away.

TOM: We’ve got tips on what to look for in a new garage door when you hire a pro to get that project done, in today’s Pro Project presented by, just ahead.

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

LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

TOM: And we are here to help you get your projects done around the house and give you some of the tools to do just that. This hour, we’re giving away the iconic, American-made Arrow T50 Heavy-Duty Staple Gun and a supply of staples.

If you’ve got to have one tool in your house, I tell you what, this might be the one because it is the most popular, American-made staple gun ever. And it can really help you do all sorts of things around the house. It’s got all chrome-steel housing. It’s got a jam-resistant mechanism. It’s got a very powerful coil spring. It’s got a staple-viewing window and all steel working parts.

And there are a lot of things you can get done with the Arrow T50 Staple Gun, including upholstering a chair, which is their Project of the Month at If you have, say, a dining-room chair or a kitchen chair with an upholstered seat and you want to make that go away and refresh it with something beautiful, you can do that project yourself. In fact, all of the steps and the tips and the advice, everything you need to get the project done is online, right now, at Just click on Projects.

And hey, if you call in your home improvement question, you might even win an Arrow T50 to work on that project with. That $35 stapler, plus 15 bucks in staples, going out to one lucky caller drawn at random. Make that you. The number, again, is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

Well, if your family is like ours, you depend on the garage door as your real front door for reliable access, as well as protection. But if your door is old and worn, it could not only be unsafe, it could be providing easy access for intruders when you’re away. We’ve got some tips now on what to look for in a new garage door when you hire a pro to get it done, in today’s Pro Project presented by

LESLIE: First, the garage-door designs today are amazing. It used to be that you had to choose from heavy, wood doors that needed a lot of upkeep, to metal doors that were cold and prone to rust. Well, today, there’s a wide variety of composite and fiberglass doors available that look amazingly like wood but need virtually no care at all. Plus, the doors are better insulated and can keep those drafts out of your garage, which is especially nice if you like to use the space to work in.

TOM: Yes. But in addition to better doors, we also now have much better door openers. I mean today’s garage-door openers are fully integrated into smart-home technology. That enables you to open and close them from your smartphone and from virtually anywhere. I like this feature, too: they can even trigger an alert if you left home and left your door open.

Now, the openers themselves are also safer than what they were years ago, with improved auto-reverse mechanisms that prevent injury, as well as battery backups that can be super handy in the event of a power failure. All of these improvements make now a really great time to update your garage door and your garage-door opener.

LESLIE: And that’s today’s Pro Project presented by With HomeAdvisor, you can get matched with top-rated home service pros in your area and compare prices, read verified reviews and book appointments online, all for free.

TOM: No matter the type of job, HomeAdvisor makes it fast and easy to hire the best local pros.

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

JIM: Yes. I have hard water in my house and every – I don’t know – year, about, I have to clean out my water heater to get the calcium deposits out. So, my question is: first of all, is there a better tool than a shop vac with a piece of copper tubing taped to it to get into the – you know, I take the bottom element out and I shove that in there and try to clean that calcium out. Is there a way to liquefy that so that I could wash it out? Or is there a water heater on the market that provides access to that?

TOM: So, how much calcium do you actually think you’re getting out of this when you open it up?

JIM: Oh, my. It gets to the point where it’s almost to the bottom element.

TOM: I wonder if you could put a filtration system in before the water heater that will take some of that away.

Yeah, the problem with calcium is not so much that it shortens the life of the water heater, it just acts as an insulator. And so, if you have it – I’m sorry, you have a gas – do you have electric water heater?

JIM: It’s electric, yeah.

TOM: Yeah. So it’s probably not even affecting your efficiency much because it’s just taking up room.

See, if you have a gas water heater and the flame is underneath it, then it acts as an insulator and the gas has to run longer to heat the water up. But because you have an electric water heater, where the elements are embedded up higher in the unit, I don’t think it has any effect on the efficiency.

JIM: Well, how I found out about this was the element went bad.

TOM: Yeah.

JIM: The bottom element. And I took it out to replace it and I could hardly get it out; it was actually above the element, at that point, the first time.

TOM: Yeah. You know why? Because it probably – that might have shortened the life of the element, because it basically held the heat into it, didn’t allow it to cool like it normally does. So I could definitely see it shortening the life of it.

Do you have any other type of filtration system on the well?

JIM: Just an in-line filter that we put on. We had the water tested and an ultraviolet light and an in-line filter is all we have.

TOM: There is an electronic device called EasyWater that basically will help suspend those water particles – those mineral salts – in the water and kind of let it flush right through, as opposed to collecting.


TOM: And I like it because it’s no salt involved. It basically doesn’t add to the salinity of the water. It does it electronically. It’s at

Take a look at it. They also have an extraordinarily good warranty. If you install it and you don’t like it, they’ll send you your money back.

JIM: Alright. Great. Thank you very much.

LESLIE: Alright. Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit at 888-MONEY-PIT 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 top-rated pros for free.

TOM: Up next, if your trips up and down stairs to do laundry are getting to be a drag, we’ve got ideas to help you bring your laundry to you. It’s all coming up, next.

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

LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

TOM: Standing by for your calls and your questions at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor. They have the best local pros for any home service.

LESLIE: That’s right. Doesn’t matter what the project is, they make it fast and easy to find top-rated pros.

TOM: And there are no membership fees. It’s 100-percent free to use.

LESLIE: Alright. And while you’re online, guys, post your questions in the Community section at or give us a call. We’re always standing by to lend you a hand.

Now, jumping into our posts, we’ve got one from Louis in Florida who writes: “How long should a garage-door opener last? Our seems to be working intermittently lately, especially the remote units in our cars. We tried changing the batteries. Now, the unit itself is about 12 years old.”

TOM: That’s an antique in garage door-opener years.


TOM: Yeah. That’s really old. And it’s old for two reasons.

First of all, it’s old for a piece of – any piece of mechanical equipment. But secondly, it’s old because the standards have changed and the function has changed over the last decade-plus. So, I think this is a really good opportunity for you to think about replacing that garage-door opener itself. That’s a project you could find a pro for at

A couple of things that you will benefit from. The technology has improved, so you’ll have the benefit of wireless access to that door. I love the feature that when you leave home and leave the door open, that can give you a push alert on your phone. I mean most of these openers have that kind of technology today. Plus, it’s just a safer, more secure product. And it’s harder to break into for criminals, as well. Because a lot of the old door openers were pretty easy to get into but the code is much more sophisticated now.

So, all great reasons for you to replace that door opener. Its time has come.

LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post here from Jim in Alabama who writes: “I took your advice and got a programmable thermostat. I’ve already noticed big savings. Now, no one is home during the day and I set it to get pretty hot. My question is: how hot is too hot? We have serious heat and humidity here in Southern Alabama. Can I let my house heat up to 85 or 87 without causing damage?”

TOM: Only damage to your electric bill. Look, if you let everything in the house get that hot, it’s going to take a lot more energy to cool it down. So I wouldn’t go quite that high. I might try to keep this at around 78 or 80 max. If you let the house get practically the same temperature as the outside, it’s going to take hours for it to cool down again. It’s going to waste more energy and cost you a lot more money than you could possibly save by, essentially, turning it off while you’re not home.

LESLIE: Yeah. And keeping it in the high 70s really is enough, I promise.

TOM: Well, if you’re constantly navigating a narrow stair with a laundry basket in your arm, it might be time to bring that laundry room to you. Leslie tells us how to do just that, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.


LESLIE: Yeah. You know, more new homes have washers and dryers in hallways, kitchens and bathrooms. But if yours is stuck in the basement or at least on the floor other than the bedrooms, don’t worry. It’s never been easier to move your laundry room upstairs.

For example, a stack washer and dryer is small enough to fit into a closet. Another type of combo unit washes and dries clothes without any help from you. Now, this unit looks just like a normal washing machine but you won’t have to move wet clothes from the washer to the dryer, because the washer is the dryer. So it saves a ton of space.

I remember a long time ago, my family – we all went on a vacation to London. And instead of going to a hotel, we rented an apartment. And in the kitchen, they had one of those combo units under the counter. It was amazing. It was on the smaller side but you just set it, forget it, walked away and your laundry was done.

So, guys, bring that laundry room to you, instead of you having to go to the laundry room, and cleaning your clothes will be less of a chore.

TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show where we try to help you with all the chores around your house, at least those having to do with home improvement, remodeling and décor. And coming up next time on the program, just like choosing the best lumber for a project, there are a wide variety of grades of vinyl fence. If that’s a job you’d like to get done, we’ll tell you which ones will really stand up to the test of time.

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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