DIY Tips to Clean Mold

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

LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

TOM: Happy Fall. We hope that you are tackling lots of fun home improvement projects this weekend. And if it’s not fun, well, maybe we can help you out. So give us a call with your home improvement questions, your décor dilemmas, your smart-home challenges.

I always think, every time I hook up a smart-home piece of equipment, that the house is smarter than I am, Leslie.

LESLIE: You have to be pretty smart to make it all work, though, I’ve got to tell you.

TOM: You do, you do. But whatever is going on in your money pit, we’d love to help you step it up, spruce it up, fix it up, decorate it up. But help yourself first: pick up the phone, give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

Coming up on today’s show, a wet fall brings the potential for a dangerous invader to hit your house. It’s mold. We’re going to have some tips to help you identify and clean mold. And we’re going to talk about what might be covered by your homeowners insurance.

LESLIE: And if you’re lucky enough to have a sprinkler system for your lawn, now is the time when that system needs to be winterized. You don’t want to see what happens when it’s not. Trust me. It happened to Tom one time and it was a real mess. We’re going to explain what needs to happen, to avoid a frozen mess, in just a bit.

TOM: And if you love the look of greenery around the outside of your house but it seems that you’ve only got a black thumb when it comes to getting greenery to flourish inside your home, we’re going to have a solution.

LESLIE: But to kick things off, we want to hear from you. So, give us a call. Let us know what you are working on, gearing up for the busiest time of the year at home. It’s the holiday season just around the corner, so let us give you a hand. Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT.

TOM: 888-666-3974.

Let’s get to it. Leslie, who’s first?

LESLIE: Joe in Rhode Island, you’ve got The Money Pit. What’s going on with your insulation?

JOE: Well, we built a new home.

TOM: Yep.

JOE: And it’s 2×6 construction with a truss roof.

TOM: OK. Yep.

JOE: And I used opened-cell, sprayed-in insulation and they come in and then they shave it all down to the studs.

TOM: Yep. Yep.

JOE: So, we have a completely sealed envelope of the structure itself.


JOE: Now, when – it’s a truss roof, so there’s really no attic. But there is a space up there.


JOE: When you sheetrock the whole ceiling and close that off, do I need to be concerned with some sort of ventilation in the attic space?

TOM: No, not at all. Not at all.

Where did they insulate in the attic? Did they insulate under the roof itself or …?

JOE: They insulated the roof, right to the plywood roof.

TOM: Yeah. Nope, you absolutely do not need to ventilate a spray-foam house and here’s why: because, basically, now that attic is a conditioned space.

I have a spray-foamed attic. It’s terrific because it’s pretty much the same temperature as the rest of the house all the time. It used to be that it was, you know, super hot in the summer and really cold in the winter. Now, it’s pretty much even-steven. And the fact that you used spray foam means that it expanded and sealed all the little cracks and gaps and crevices, so you’re not going to have any problems with drafts getting in there.


TOM: So you do not need to ventilate that roof.

JOE: Oh. How about – we have mechanical equipment up there. I have the air-conditioning unit up there.

TOM: Yep. Mm-hmm.

JOE: No concerns with that, in that space, either?

TOM: No. It’ll even work better because now, when it’s trying to cool in the summer, it’s not going to be doing so in an attic space that’s 110 degrees.

JOE: Alright. I was concerned because there’s absolutely no ridge vent, no soffit vent and no …

TOM: Yeah. No, that is done correctly. And we have to start thinking differently. Now, we use attic ventilation when we use products like fiberglass, because we have to manage the moisture. But with spray foam, ventilation is not an issue. That is now a conditioned part of your house, just like any room in your house.


TOM: You may not have heating ducts up there but it does not need to be ventilated.

JOE: Fantastic.

TOM: Alright? That’s a good choice.

JOE: Alright. Alright. Very good.

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

LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got June on the line with a question about a metal roof.

What’s going on, June?

JUNE: Yes. I have a home that was built in 1972. It’s a pier-and-beam. I’m told it’s a modular home and I wanted to put a metal roof on it.


JUNE: And my daughter tells me she doesn’t think it’s strong enough to hold up a metal roof. And so, I …

TOM: A metal roof is going to weigh not that much more than an asphalt-shingle roof. And if you didn’t put a metal roof on, you’d put a second layer of asphalt on. Then it would be really heavy. So I would tell you to take off the old roof shingles and go ahead and put the metal roof on. I mean it is the most durable roof. It really lasts virtually indefinitely if it’s done right. So, I think it’s a great idea.

JUNE: That’s what I thought.

TOM: And I doubt, very much, that you’re going to have any issues with the strength of the building. If it’s been standing up since 1972, I’d say that it definitely needs a new roof and it certainly should be plenty strong to hold a metal roof. It’s a great choice.

And the metal roof, the finishes today, too, especially in your part of the country where it’s quite warm, they have reflective paint finishes on them. So they actually make the home cooler and it makes it easier to cool in the summertime.

JUNE: Can they leave the old shingles on and just put it over the top of it?

TOM: They can but I do not recommend it. You should always take the old shingles off. It’s a much better job.



JUNE: Alright.

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

JUNE: Thank you very much.

LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. Let us know what you are working on. We are here to give you a hand.

888-MONEY-PIT is presented by HomeAdvisor, the fast and easy way to find the best home service pros in your area. You can read reviews and book appointments online.

TOM: Up next, if you’ve got a sprinkler system, now is the time to get it winterized. Done well, you won’t have any issues but done poorly, you might end up with a few unexpected geysers come spring. We’ll have tips to get it done the right way, 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: We’d love to talk with you about what’s going on in your money pit. Give us a call, right now, on The Money Pit’s listener line at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor.

LESLIE: You can get matched with top-rated home service pros in your area and read verified reviews and even 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: Chris in Louisiana is on the line and needs help with a driveway project. Tell us what’s going on.

CHRIS: Well, I have an old, concrete driveway that’s got a few cracks in it.


CHRIS: I would imagine those could be patched up with something like QUIKRETE. But what I’m basically asking about is extending the driveway from where it sort of slopes down to the ground, which is above the street level. And there’s about maybe a gap of 12 feet, perhaps, between the end of the driveway, which sort of feathers down. And then I’d like to extend it down towards the street so my property is about maybe 2 feet higher – eh, not quite that. Almost 2 feet.

TOM: So what’d they do? Run out of concrete the first time they poured the driveway?

CHRIS: No. We don’t have any sidewalks, so this would go over the area where there would be a sidewalk if they had sidewalks.

TOM: Alright.

CHRIS: So I’m asking if concrete’s a better material to use or asphalt or perhaps something else, even?

TOM: Oh, no. I think you – since you have a concrete driveway right now, I would clearly extend it using more concrete. I would repair those cracks in the surface. There is a QUIKRETE concrete-repair product that comes in a caulk tube for those small cracks.

And you could also consider using one of the resurfacing products that are available so that now you’ll have a brand-new driveway and an old driveway. And if you resurface that driveway, it’s kind of like stucco. And they’re specially designed to stick to the old concrete. Then the whole thing will look brand new and it’ll all kind of match.

CHRIS: OK. And do you have to wet that down first or …?

TOM: Yeah, you just follow the instructions. There’s a …

CHRIS: What’s that product called?

TOM: It’s made by QUIKRETE and I think it’s called Sand/Topping Mix or something like that.

CHRIS: OK. And I can get that at a home center?

TOM: Home centers. You know, take a look at the QUIKRETE website. They’ve got some great videos there on all of these projects.

CHRIS: OK. Now, how about the extension? Do I need to build a form or just lay concrete down and kind of pack it in?

TOM: No. Have you ever poured concrete yourself before?

CHRIS: A little bit but mostly just for small projects, like walks and stuff.

TOM: Well, you know what? This is a pretty big project and since you haven’t done it before, I would recommend that you get a mason to help you. It’s a little bit different to handle this amount of concrete. You’re going to need a fair amount of it.

But basically, the way the project goes is they do build forms that hold the concrete in at the end. And with a 12-foot section, they’re going to probably put an expansion joint in between. So you pour the first section and then you have the expansion joints in there. Then you pour the second section.

You’ve got to shake the concrete and treat the concrete and finish the concrete so that the rocks fall down to the bottom and sort of the smoothest mud comes up to the top. Then you’ve got to put a finish in it so it’s not slippery. And you usually do that with a very coarse broom. So, it’s not the kind of first-time concrete project that I would recommend to somebody.

CHRIS: At least that gives me an idea what to aim for. OK. Well, thanks a lot. I always enjoy your program on the weekends, when I hear it.

TOM: Well, thanks very much, Chris. We appreciate that and good luck with that project.

LESLIE: Well, sprinkler systems are a luxury that affords you a green lawn and garden all spring and summer long. And truly, it really is a fantastic thing to have at your house, because you will never forget to water anything ever again.

But if you live in a climate where they need to be winterized, it’s a job that has to be done right or you could be faced with a big repair bill when spring comes along.

TOM: Now, we once had a little bit of a sprinkler emergency. I think it was more of a communication breakdown, because I could’ve sworn that my sprinkler contractor had come and blown out the sprinklers for the season. But alas, he did not. And we learned this when the sprinkler lines burst and the water was on and we had just a gusher happening inside of our yard. It was quite a pond. A frozen lake would be the best way to describe it. So, it really is important, this time of year, to get that done.

Now, there are really three ways to winterize a sprinkler system. You can do it manually, you can do it automatically and you can do what we just call a “blowout.” And the first step in all cases, though, is turning off the water supply.

Now, if you do it manually, you want to open the manual drain valves and allow the water to drain. And by the way, water – sometimes the water, it’s still under a lot of pressure, it comes out very, very quickly at first.

And then you can also use an automatic system, if you’ve got these special types of automatic drain valves. They’re going to be located at the end and the low points of irrigation piping. These open by themselves, automatically. They drain water if the pressure in the pipe is less than 10 pounds per square inch. So to activate them, you just shut off the irrigation water supply and it pretty much does the rest for you.

LESLIE: Now, there’s one other way you can do it, which is have a pro come by and do it. And they blow it out by using forced air. And that really makes sure that all of the water is completely removed from the line. There’s a service fee for that. You may sign up for a yearly service package to keep the costs down. But they’ll also renew any permits you might need, check backflow valves, all the other stuff that you need to do, as well, for the sprinkler system.

TOM: And it’s always good to have a pro shut the sprinkler system off because most of the reputable pros, if they mess up something it’s going to turn up in the spring. So, when they come to turn the system back on, they’ll just fix it without any kind of an emergency charge.

So, get it done right, you won’t end up with your own version of the Frozen movie is the bottom line here.

LESLIE: Alright. We’ve got Denise on the line. What’s going on? You’ve got Woody Woodpeckers pecking away at your house?

DENISE: Sure do.

TOM: Alright. So what kind of damage is this little guy causing?

DENISE: Well, I don’t live in there – that home; I’m in another state. My son’s there. And he’s hit two or three sides of the house.


DENISE: So, my son has put little pieces of wood up there. It’s a manufactured home, so don’t ask me what the siding is. I don’t know. I’m sure you do. But they just make new holes.

TOM: Right. Yeah.

DENISE: So he was thinking he – we’ve investigated products and the manufacturer actually says, “No, it won’t work.” And so, we’ve come down to some kind of a stone facing. And I don’t know anything about that. I don’t know …

TOM: Well, first of all, if we’re talking about replacing siding, then you’re probably talking about a product like HardiePlank, which is a great product. And it’s basically a cementitious board that can look like wood, frankly – I’ve got it on my garage; it looks great – but you can’t get birds, like woodpeckers, or bugs that can destroy it.

But before we go there, let me give you some real simple things to try, which I’ve had very good success with over the years. So, you want to dissuade this woodpecker or pack of woodpeckers from working on that side of your house. It’s just a matter of habit. You know, the reason they peck the wood is because they’re looking for worms and they have no idea that there’s no worms inside the wood that’s being used to side your house.

If you were to cut strips of black plastic – let’s say you had a Hefty bag and you cut it into 2-inch strips – and you were to attach some of the strips in that area, the fluttering of those strips will dissuade the woodpeckers from coming back. And if you leave it up there for a couple months and then take it down, the problem might go away.

The other thing that works is shiny discs, like tin pie plates. When those sort of twist in the breeze, they also can dissuade woodpeckers. But I like the black plastic strips because they’re not quite as obvious and they’re really easy to do.

DENISE: Right.

TOM: So, if you were to go up there with that and tack them in place in that area, I think you may find that the woodpeckers are confused by that and might just go and take on somebody else’s house down the street. But at least they’ll leave yours alone.

DENISE: Mm-hmm. We have tried aluminum foil strips and that didn’t work.

TOM: Mm-hmm. Yeah, I don’t know about the strips. I’ve always used pie plates – pie tins.


TOM: But I would try the black plastic strips. I think you’ll have success with that.

DENISE: So, can you – if it’s not, what kind of siding can he put up to dissuade these little buggers?

TOM: Well, if you want a siding that they’re not going to be able to get through, then I would suggest HardiePlank – H-a-r-d-i-e-P-l-a-n-k.


TOM: They have clapboard, they have shingles. It’s really nice stuff. Take a look at the HardiePlank website and you’ll be able to see lots of photos of homes that have been covered with it.

DENISE: Does it come in sections, like 4 feet wide or …?

TOM: It comes in different types of siding profiles, so the clapboard or the shingle, for example. They have many different types but you can take a look at their – maybe you’ll find one that’s close to what you have. And you can use it for a repair product, too.

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

LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re welcoming Tim from Illinois to The Money Pit with a water-heating question. What’s going on?

TIM: Oh, I have a nine-year-old water tank and I’m trying to get the rod that collects all the minerals out. And it didn’t want to come, so I was afraid to have busted some pipes. So I was curious, should I just – should leave it alone? And with it being nine years old, it’s almost at the end of its life as far as the water tank. Because I understand that water tanks are usually from 8 to 12 years for a replacement?

TOM: Yeah. So you’re – you’ve been trying to replace the anode and having a hard time getting it out, correct?

TIM: Yeah. I think it’s rusted in or I …

TOM: Sometimes, you have to put – get a little leverage on the wrench to do that. And once you get the wrench on the anode, sometimes you have to kind of extend that wrench handle to really get that out. It’s a bit of a tricky job. But considering the age of the tank, I probably wouldn’t spend much money on it because I think you’re right: 10, 12 years is a pretty average life expectancy for a standard water heater.

And when it comes time to replace the water heater, you might even decide to upgrade it and go with a tankless water heater, which is going to last you a lot longer and be far more efficient.

TIM: And that might be a good choice for me because I’m single and no one else lives in the household and I’m gone most of the time.

TOM: Yeah, well, that’s the difference between a tankless water heater and a standard water heater: the water heater is kind of dumb. It just – it heats the water 24/7 whether you need it or not. And when the water cools down, it comes back on and heats it some more.

A tankless water heater is going to heat on demand. And so, because that’s going to be a lot more efficient for a single guy – but even a big family with teenage daughters, for example, that don’t know the meaning of a short shower, they never run out of hot water when they have tankless. Could just – works very well in both extremes.

TIM: So how much is something like – cost for installation and so forth?

TOM: Well, if you compare it against a high-efficiency, tanked water heater, it’s similar. But if you compare it against a standard, sort of low-efficiency, it’s probably going to be about twice as much. But it will last longer, too, and you’re going to save money on the energy bills, too.

TIM: I thank you for your time. And I love your show and your advice is well worth listening to.

LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up, a wet fall brings the potential for a dangerous invader to your house this winter: mold. But is cleanup a safe DIY project? Kevin O’Connor from This Old House is joining us with tips, next.

TOM: And This Old House on The Money Pit is presented by ADT. Introducing ADT Go, the new family mobile safety app and service. Get ADT Go with 24/7 emergency response with any ADT security system. Go to to learn more today.

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

LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

TOM: What are you working on now that Halloween has passed? Is it a project around your house? Are you cleaning up the rotten pumpkins? Did you have any Mischief Night mischief that you have to kind of clean up now? You got some smashed jack-o’-lanterns on the sidewalk? Whatever is going on in your money pit, we’d love to help you tackle those projects. Whether they’re décor, maintenance, cleaning, give us a call. Let’s chat about it. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Or you can post your question to The Money Pit’s Community page at

And if you call us at 888-MONEY-PIT, our number is 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: Alright. We’re headed over to South Carolina now. We’ve got Dennis on the line.

Hey, Dennis. What are you working on?

DENNIS: I bought a house in Illinois, a house that was built in 1845.

TOM: Wow.

DENNIS: It’s got 2-foot-thick walls and it’s layered stone.


DENNIS: My question to you is: what would you – what type of mortar would you recommend to put in that, in this old stone home? So that –because I mean over the years, people have tried to put some mortar in some of it – some of the mortar that’s fallen out and it cracked.

TOM: Right. Right.

DENNIS: But it’s all different colors. It looks goofy. I want to – I’d really like to make it uniform.

TOM: Yeah.

DENNIS: And what mix of sand and mortar would you recommend?

TOM: Well, usually for exterior and above-grade walls, you’d use a type of mortar called an N – N as in Nancy – an “N mortar mix.” It has a medium sort of compressive strength and it’s made of one part of Portland cement, one part lime and six parts of sand. It’s pretty easy to work with.

And you can also buy premade mortar mix from QUIKRETE. For example, they sell a type N mortar mix and they sell it in different colors. I think gray is the base color. So, you might want to take a look at that.

DENNIS: Right.

TOM: But I think what you’re looking for is type N mortar for stone walls.

Good luck with that project. That sounds really fun and I’m sure it’s a beautiful home. We appreciate you calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

LESLIE: Well, even the cleanest of homes can have mold and we’re not just talking about the mold that covers the uneaten of leftovers from last week. You know, besides being unsightly, mold can cause major and even permanent health problems.

TOM: That’s right. But what do you do if you find mold or suspect that you have mold? The host of This Old House, Kevin O’Connor, is here to walk us through it.

So, Kevin, if we suspect that we have mold or we spot something that looks moldy, is it a do-it-yourself project to clean it up?

KEVIN: Well, I hate to say it but it depends.


KEVIN: And here are a couple things to think about. First of all, mold can pose serious health issues. So, if you are allergic to mold or if you have respiratory problems or a suppressed immune system, you should not be getting rid of the mold yourself.

Now, if you don’t have those health issues, then you want to think about how much mold do you have and where is it. If the mold covers, say, 10 to 30 square feet, that’s about the size of a 4×8 sheet of plywood, well, then you can probably get rid of it yourself.

TOM: Right.

KEVIN: If it’s a bigger area than that, you want to call in a professional.

And if you can see where the mold is, well, then you can probably get rid of it yourself. But if you’re afraid that it’s gotten behind the walls into places that you can’t see, that’s when you might want to think about calling in a professional, as well.

TOM: And I think it’s important to note that even if you are going to do it yourself, you want to follow some basic guidelines. And the New York City Department of Health actually has some of those guidelines online that are very helpful.

KEVIN: They do. So does OSHA. And basically, some of those guidelines say eye protection, gloves and a respirator whenever working with mold.

LESLIE: Now, if you do attempt to sort of tackle this do-it-yourself cleanup of mold, should you first identify what kind of mold that you have, to even see if you should do it yourself? Or if you’ve got it, get rid of it?

KEVIN: I don’t think you should bother with a mold test. I mean there are literally thousands and tens of thousands of different kinds of mold out there. Mold is a problem when it’s in concentrations and when it’s in our house. And so it doesn’t matter, really, what kind of mold it is; you want to get rid of it. So spend your time and money getting rid of the mold, as opposed to determining which kind you have.

TOM: Now, if you are going to hire a pro, it’s a challenge today, more so than ever before, to find somebody who really specializes in that.

KEVIN: And I think that’s the key. I think you do want to find someone who specializes in this. Someone might have done a great job renovating your kitchen and they might be a fantastic contractor but they should be trained in mold mitigation. And so not every contractor out there is right for this job.

I would suggest that you go to a couple different organizations that certify folks. There’s the American Indoor Air Quality Council and the Indoor Air Quality Association. That’s a good place to start when looking for a qualified contractor.

TOM: Now, what about insurance coverage for mold? Is that standard today or not? Or is it just another thing that they try to weasel out of?

KEVIN: Well, in terms of insurance, I think the answer there, also, is: it depends. It really depends on which – what kind of a policy you have. And I will say that you need to be aware that some insurance companies require additional riders for mold. So read the fine print and know what you’re getting into.

LESLIE: Now, what about once you’ve got the mold situation under control, what can you do to make sure that this doesn’t come back and isn’t a recurring problem?

KEVIN: Well, mold needs three things to grow and live: it needs oxygen, it needs food and it needs water. Deprive it of any one of those three things and you won’t have mold come back.

Now, it’s very – well, it’s impossible to deprive it of oxygen.

TOM: Right.

KEVIN: And it’s hard to deprive it of food, because it likes anything organic and it loves cellulose, so we’re talking 2x4s, we’re talking the paper on the backing of insulation and drywall. So, get rid of the water. No water? No mold.

TOM: Fix the leaks.

KEVIN: Fix the leaks, keep the house dry and you’re not going to have a mold problem.

TOM: Good advice. Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

KEVIN: My pleasure to be here.

LESLIE: You can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For your local listings and a step-by-step video on mold removal and other projects, visit

TOM: And Ask This Old House is brought to you on PBS by Gorilla Glue.

Up next, if you’re sorry to see the green fade away as winter approaches, we’ve got some tips on the best plants for inside your home, to last the entire season, after this.

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

LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

TOM: And I know you like the mouse named Mickey but for the other mice in your life, not so much. I hear you had a visitor. What happened?

LESLIE: It’s a new roommate. I’m going to go with roommate.

I swear this thing is smarter than everybody else who lives in this house, which is me and my kids. So, it could definitely be smarter. But it’s the tiniest, cutest, little brown mouse with these tiny, little pink ears. And he’s very sweet. And every night, he walks right into my bedroom and then walks behind a dresser and disappears in my closet.

TOM: Oh, man.

LESLIE: And I can’t tell you how many little holes I’ve found around the house with the boys that we’ve plugged up with steel wool. I don’t leave the dog food out overnight. I have cleaned up everything. I put some traps under the dresser. I now have watched the mouse walk around the dresser completely and go back to where it’s going.

TOM: Smart mouse.

LESLIE: I don’t know what to do. And it’s so bad that I’ve finally gotten to a point where I’m like, “You know, I watch these Outlander– and Game of Throne-type shows where they interact with mice in their daily life.” I’m like, “I’m just going to sleep normal, knowing that there’s potentially a mouse walking around my bedroom.” It’s just not bothering me anymore.

TOM: Oh, man. What about bait stations? Maybe you should pick up a small bait station, give the mouse a little bit of food and they’ll just go away once and for all.

LESLIE: I have those – they’re mini-versions of a Havahart. It’s the ones that you can relocate the mouse. I don’t want to hurt it.

TOM: Alright. Yeah, I guess you’re too nice to use that kind of thing. But you said you did some traps. But the traps are not the kind that eradicate the mouse, huh? They just – you try to catch them?

LESLIE: No, it’s like, “Go inside this little house and then I’ll take you outside. And then you could come right back in.”

TOM: Did you put any food in it?

LESLIE: I did. I put peanut butter in one. I put a chocolate bar in the other, because it ate a chocolate bar.

TOM: You’re too nice. But OK, well, you let us know how that works out. And if you really get frustrated, I might suggest a different type of trap.

LESLIE: That roommate doesn’t invite other roommates over. I’m convinced that the one I see is just one.

TOM: You never know. You never know.

LESLIE: It’s just one. Only one.

TOM: At a time.

LESLIE: Well, if you’d like to choose the best plants for inside your home this winter, the first step is really knowing your house. You’ve got to know which room gets west, north, east, all that type of sun, southern exposure. Is that room sunny in the morning or in the afternoon? And then, once you kind of know the pattern of sunlight and warmth in your home, then you can choose the plants.

TOM: Yeah. Now, the best type of houseplants are not always those that are most popular but they’re those that are going to work best in varying levels of low to bright light.

First of all, the popular ones, like the ficus, not a very practical plant for a house. They’re difficult to maintain, they have to be grown in full sunlight and they do drop a lot of dense foliage.

We had a ficus tree, which is absolutely beautiful, in my first house. And I loved it. It was just gorgeous except it was just such a pain in the neck to take care of, because we’d always be picking up the leaves and it would leave sort of this gooey stuff that would get on the bark, like sap. And it was just a pain in the neck. So, it didn’t last more than about a year.

Now, the best alternative, though, to ficus is a Kentia palm. It’s popular in parlors and dens of Victorian homes. Each leaf is gradually smaller on each palm frond, so it’s got a very rich, green color. It’s elegant looking. And also, the Lady palm is a good choice because each leaf is kind of like a lady’s hands, with a paper-like texture.

LESLIE: Well, isn’t that super delicate, Tom, and so ladylike?

TOM: Real ladylike, yeah.

LESLIE: Another good option that I think some people have more luck with than others are orchids, especially if you seek out the moth orchid. The flowers are going to last for months. It’s really easy to maintain. They don’t need a ton of sunlight and they’re super gorgeous when they are flowering.

And let me tell you, when the flowers go away, if somehow you can make it figure out how to reflower, reach out to me and help me figure that out. Because one time I trained – you know how orchids have those little roots that come out?

TOM: Right.

LESLIE: I trained one up the little stick that the flower branch grows off of. And after six months, I went to the nursery and was like, “Why? Why will this not flower?” And he was like, “That’s the root.” So, orchids take special work but they are gorgeous. And if you could get the knack, it’s worth it.

Now, I think another thing people struggle with is when a plant is thriving in your house and it just sort of grows and grows and really fills that pot. So, how do you know when to repot it and how to do it? Well, if your plant isn’t absorbing water – either it’s just full of roots or you see that it’s not absorbing any water and it’s just ending out in the dish underneath the pot, there’s really no place for that water to go – it could be time to repot that plant.

So, in general, you want to go up about 2 inches in pot size. Then you want to use potting soil. Don’t be confused with topsoil, because you use that outside. You want to use rocks or even pieces of a broken clay pot to line a pot with holes in the bottom. This way, the dirt isn’t clogging the holes and the plant can actually drain, which it needs to to stay healthy. Then you go ahead and add soil almost to the rim, add your plant, fill with dirt to cover. Water it thoroughly. I would never dare to do it because I always feel like I kill everything but I have a girlfriend who is so gifted with greenery, she’ll take one that’s overgrown the pot and cut it into smaller sections and make them into more plants. God love her, she’s amazing at it but I can’t do it. I wish I could.

TOM: If you’d like some more tips on how to keep your plants kicking all winter long, check out our post, “13 Hard to Kill Houseplants.” It’s online, right now, at

LESLIE: Now we’ve got Matt in Wisconsin who’s dealing with a splashy toilet. That is the worst: constantly cleaning a toilet seat. Tell us what’s going on.

MATT: Well, when we flush the toilet, a good portion of air comes up through the trap, forcefully enough to cause the water to splash up onto the seat or the inside of the lid if it’s closed.

TOM: Well, what really causes that, Matt, is a venting problem. Is this a new problem or has it always been this way?

MATT: No, it’s just within the last couple of months.

TOM: OK. So then what I suspect is that you’ve got a blockage somewhere. If your vent for that toilet is partially blocked, then the drain line is being starved with air. And if it’s starved with air, it’s going to try to gulp that air from somewhere else and that’s what’s causing the bubbles.


TOM: So, what you need to do is try to figure out where that obstruction is. And it’s going to be somewhere in the vent that is connected to the waste line under the toilet, if that helps you narrow it down a bit.

MATT: Yes, it does. Thanks.

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

LESLIE: Stick around because we’ve got a lot more great home improvement advice to share with you when we come back.

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

LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

TOM: Give us a call, right now, with your home improvement, your décor, your remodeling questions. We’re here to take them at 1-888-MONEY-PIT 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.

LESLIE: Alright. But you’ve got two pros standing by right now to jump into all of those questions you guys post in the Community section on Every day we’re getting new questions, which I love.

This is actually a good one I don’t think we’ve received ever, as far as I can remember. Now, Sarah in Georgia writes: “Can you tell me what that little diamond mark is on my tape measure? It appears every 19-3/16 inches?”

I love how tape measures have really thought about everything and they give you all these little grabbers and holders and tricks and time-savers.

TOM: Yeah.

LESLIE: So what is this one?

TOM: Well, that is actually for spacing a certain type of building component. It’s for spacing a floor truss.

Now, if you think about a floor truss, they often have a 4-inch-wide top. They don’t need to be 16 inches on center because the top is so wide. You can use fewer of them and they can be farther apart.

Now, originally, 19.2 inches was used in metric layouts. So, dividing 5 into 96 inches, which is 8 feet, gives you 19.2 inches which yields 5 trusses per sheet of plywood floor. And that’s why we have the diamond marks on tape measures. It’s for laying out floor trusses to fit under plywood.

LESLIE: I love it.

Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post here from Ronnie in New York City who writes: “My home is 50 years old. Central air and heating were installed 15 years ago, which included 5 vents in the basement. An energy-conservation expert suggested sealing off those basement vents since it’s not used as living space. But an HVAC expert says closing the vents will build pressure and strain the system. I want to save money but not if it’s going to cost me in the long run. What’s the right move?”

TOM: I think they’re both a little bit right here. I mean you can shut off some rooms. Maybe shutting off something that’s 25 percent of your house, if it was designed to have an HVAC system in the basement from day one, a lot of times – I say that because a lot of times, systems were extended to cover a space like a basement if it was being finished, in which case it doesn’t really matter.

But I think if you were to shut off all of those registers and it was designed to have it in the system, you might strain the system a bit. You’d probably put more pressure on the blower. I don’t think you’d put much pressure on the compressors in the summer. It probably wouldn’t have any effect on the heat, although your system could cycle more.

So, yeah, I do think he’s right. There’d be more wear and tear on the system components. Whether it would be something that would force it to rapidly fail, I doubt. But it would save you a bit of energy, though.

But you know what? If you do – if you are really concerned about saving money, shutting off one room is one thing. But you really need to get your priorities in terms of where are you losing most of the heat. And that’s in your attic.

Right, Leslie?

LESLIE: Really, you have to think about the attic as the head of your house. And if you’re not properly insulated in your attic space, all of that heat is going to escape, just like it does through your head on your body. So you want to make sure that you have the proper amount of insulation. And I’m not talking about to the underside of the roof; I’m talking about on your attic floor, whether it’s blown-in or fiberglass. You know, you really want to check with what the state codes are for the minimum amount of suggested insulation to keep that air in. But you also need to let air out, so it’s all about insulation and ventilation in the right amounts.

TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show on this beautiful fall weekend. We hope we’ve been able to share some tips and ideas and projects for you to think about taking on in your home. But remember, if you’ve got questions, we are here any time of the day or night. Just pick up the phone and call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or post your question online to the Community page at

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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