Space Heater Solutions for Safety & Efficiency

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: Hope you’re enjoying the holiday season. Perhaps you’re giving yourself a bit of a break from the how-to projects around the house or you’re on the flip side and you are rushing to get a few things done before the next crowd arrives. Whether you are or you’re not, whether you’re planning to do a project now or one in the future, we’d love to have you join us on the program. Give us a call, right now, with your home improvement and décor questions at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

Coming up on today’s show, now that the cold temperatures have begun to set in, are you constantly looking for a heavier sweater? Maybe you’re sleeping in your flannel PJs, leaving the socks on at night? I mean does that sound like you, suffering from a …?

LESLIE: It sounds like me.

TOM: Yeah, every night, right?

LESLIE: I’m always cold.

TOM: Suffering from a drafty, cold space? Well, a lot of folks are turning to space heaters, of course, as a solution. But if you don’t know how to select one that will run efficiently and certainly one that’s going to run safely, you could have some serious trouble down the line. So we’re going to review the best low-cost solutions, just ahead.

LESLIE: And also ahead this hour, are you looking for that wood-burning fire feel without the wood-burning fire hassles? Well, we’re going to have some tips for fireplace inserts to convert an old fireplace into a safe, clean and super-efficient source for heat.

TOM: And also ahead, cold weather can lead to one very noisy money pit. We’ll help you eliminate some of those squeaks and creaks, in just a bit.

LESLIE: Plus, this hour, we’ve got a handy tool to give away from Arrow, perfect for projects this time of year and frankly, perfect for projects all year long. It’s the iconic T50 Heavy-Duty Staple Gun, along with a supply of staples. And it’s a prize worth 50 bucks.

TOM: So, give us a call right now. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. And you can also post your question to The Money Pit’s Community page at

Let’s get to it. Leslie, who’s first?

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

MIKE: Is it possible or even a good idea to put a propane water heater in – next to an electric water heater? With the bad weather that we’ve had and the possibility of losing the electricity, I was trying to determine whether or not I could put in a propane water heater and maybe cheap hot water to be able to wash the kids and the clothes when the electricity goes out.

TOM: Well, that’s an interesting approach. First of all, I don’t see why you couldn’t do that as long as both appliances were installed safely and in accordance with electrical codes and plumbing codes and in accordance to the – and in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. So, there’s no reason why you couldn’t have the water heaters side by side with one being propane and one being electric. But you might want to think about a more permanent solution and a more practical solution to the underlying problem of losing power and that is to install a standby generator.

Now, you can get a standby generator that would run on propane gas. And a standby generator is very handy because it comes on automatically when the power goes off and it can handle the water heater, lights, refrigeration, heating systems, all the basics.

LESLIE: Well, pretty much anything that you want it to.

TOM: Yeah. And keep you moving throughout the house. So, rather than see you spend money on a second water heater, I’d rather see you spend some money on a propane-powered, gas standby generator.

MIKE: What would you think would be necessary for running, yeah, the basics that you were just mentioning there: the water heater, the refrigeration, the stove? You know, not running the whole house – I think that takes about 15,000 kilowatts – but just running a partial system there. What would you recommend for that type of a standby?

TOM: Well, exactly. And you can buy them based on different sizes. So, for example, if you wanted one that was about 8k, that would probably run you probably $2,500, plus or minus.


TOM: And if you wanted one that was 20k, that’d probably run you about $4,500 and then something else in between. So, they’re not extraordinarily expensive. They have to be installed professionally and of course, this presumes that you have propane available to run them and not – or natural gas. But I presume you’re talking about propane.

It comes with something called a transfer switch. So, it gets installed next to your main electrical panel and basically, the circuits that are wired in the transfer switch are the ones that actually come on. So you might have a lighting circuit, a refrigerator, furnace and so on. If you happen to have central air conditioning, you may not use that because you’d be willing to put up with not having air conditioning for a few days but as long as your refrigerator worked and so on.

MIKE: Fantastic. Well, thanks for all the good information you folks provide.

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

LESLIE: Now we’ve got Sacari (sp) on the line who’s dealing with some mold issues. Tell us what’s going on.

SACARI (sp): I have a half-basement – half dirt and the rest is cement – and there’s a crack in the brickwork but it doesn’t go all the way through. But it must be enough so you can – it seeps through. We’ve measured it and it hasn’t moved – the crack – but water, every once in a while when it rains, we hear it come through the wall and you can see it’s all wet. But upstairs, what it’s doing is causing the vents to get rusted. And my towel bars are wooden, so I’m constantly, every few months, spraying it with bleach or Tilex to get the mold off and then painting it over with KILZ that I thought would stop the mold from coming through but it doesn’t.

TOM: So you’ve got a major moisture problem going on in this house, right?

SACARI (sp): Right. It seems that way, too. And so I was worried about the mold, so I brought that test kit from Lowe’s that tells you. I sent it in and they analyzed it and said that we weren’t in danger of any mold but I’m always seeing mold on the shower curtain, the dish drains and everything, so …

TOM: Yeah, well, there’s different kinds of mold and the kind of mold that you have on shower curtains and dish drains is something called Cladosporium, which is a really common household mold. And unless you’re super-sensitive to it, it generally doesn’t cause a threat.

But let’s talk about the moisture issue because this is a situation, Sacari (sp), where you need to learn how to better manage the moisture that’s in your house. Now, I think that the moisture is starting in the basement because, obviously, you’re getting water in that crack when it rains heavily. And the fact that the water is consistent with the rainfall is actually good news, because that means that this is a relatively simple problem to fix.

You have too much water collecting in the area immediately adjacent to your foundation – that foundation perimeter zone. And so what you need to do is really two things. Number one, I want you to look at your gutters. Do you have gutters on your roof?

SACARI (sp): Yeah, we have gutters and we keep those pretty cleaned out. We actually even put the leaf protector so that they wouldn’t overflow. And it’s fairly new, the gutters. Well, I guess they might be like 10 years old but they’re in really good shape.

TOM: They need to be extended.

SACARI (sp): Well, that’s supposed to be like a hose thing under the ground that goes out from the house, so …

TOM: Well, the fact that you said “supposedly” means you’re not really sure and that’s mission critical. You need to be absolutely certain that that water is not leaking out anywhere near that foundation perimeter. If it is, that roof is collecting water and shooting it into your foundation.

It’s crystal clear to me that you have too much water around your house. How that’s happening, I’m not sure. But the number-one culprit is usually downspouts. And so if that water is not discharged away from the house – and I’ll tell you an easy way that you could check this. That is disconnect the downspouts from the underground pipes and just go add – buy three or four pieces of leader material from your local home center. Let it run out over the grass so that the water is away from the house. It won’t look good for a few weeks but at least you’ll be able to know when it rains, the water is absolutely not getting around the foundation perimeter.

And if you discharge that water and you’re certain it’s not near the foundation and it doesn’t show up in the basement, well, now you know the solution to your problem: somehow, in those underground drains, it’s being – it’s leaking out and redirecting into that foundation area.

The second part of that is looking at the grading and making sure that the soil slopes away from the wall. You want it to drop about 6 inches over 4 feet. And if it’s too flat or if it’s too mulch-y or there’s any kind of landscaping that’s retaining water against the house, that’s a problem. But I say that in most cases, 80 percent of this is gutters and downspouts and 20 percent of it is grading, unless you just happen to be at the bottom of a hill.

If this was sourced by a rising water table, it would not be consistent with rainfall. But the fact that it rains heavy and you get water in the basement, it’s got to be associated with water collecting around the foundation. You just need to figure out where and how it’s getting there.

SACARI (sp): Alright then. Maybe because we have a lot of trees, maybe some roots did grow and puncture those – that downspout that’s underneath the ground. So, you’re saying buy some leader and let that run out and see when it rains hard. I gotcha, I gotcha.

TOM: Right out of the top, just to test it – just to test the theory and see what happens, OK? And if you wanted to invest the money, you could have a drain-cleaning service run a camera down those pipes and see where they’re actually broken. But let’s just figure out where it is first and then take it from there.

Sacari (sp), thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at Give us a call. We are running out of time before the big holidays hit us. It’s just a few short weeks until the Christmas holiday and New Year’s and Hanukkah and all of the things that everybody is celebrating. So what are you working on to get your house in shape for all the guests that are a coming and pretty much all the people that will be knocking on the door for the food and the treats and the gifts? And we know you want your house to look nice.

So give us a call. We’re here to help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

TOM: 888-666-3974.

Just ahead, if you feel a draft in your home or apartment, do you turn to space heaters to take the edge off? We’re going to share some important tips on the different types of space heaters that are available, so you can choose one that’s both safe and efficient, 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’ve got both the tips and the tools you need for your home improvement project, because today we’re giving away the American-made Arrow T50 Heavy-Duty Staple Gun and a supply of staples. This is the most popular American-made staple gun ever made. It’s got all chrome-steel housing. It’s jam-resistant. It’s got a very powerful coil spring. You can see the staples through the viewing window and it’s got steel working parts.

And there are a lot of things you can do with it, right, Leslie?

LESLIE: Oh, my goodness. Really, there’s so many projects that you can do with a staple gun and so many more projects that you can do with a really fantastic, well-made, durable staple gun. You can put up all sorts of garlands and decorative accessories for this time of year. You can really do easy upholstery projects to quickly change the look of, say, some worn-out dining chairs. Headboards are a fantastic upholstery project that you can do with staple guns. I mean for me, you talk a staple gun, I talk upholstery. But I know you can do so much more.

TOM: Yeah. And if you head on over to and click on Projects, they’ve got the step-by-step on a very fun holiday project: decorating a holiday mantel.

That prize package is worth 50 bucks. Going out to one caller drawn at random. Make that you. Call us, right now, with your home improvement or décor question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

LESLIE: Now we’ve got Steve in North Carolina on the line who’s having a roofing issue. Tell us what’s going on.

STEVE: It’s probably been 15 years ago I built an addition onto a cabin that I have in the woods on my property and built a bathroom. But I built a flat roof and used an asphalt roofing material to do it. It was more of a tar than an asphalt. Not shingles. But it is – the problem is it’s a flat roof and I’ve got a lot of pines – a lot of tall pines – that leave a lot of debris. And I try to get them off and obviously, the roof is 15 years old.

We’ve got a serious leak, which I assume is somewhere in the seam because the actual interior – let’s say the main body – seems to be all intact. I guess my question is: is a flat roof a good idea at all? Should I go ahead and – is it cost-effective to just go ahead and build up a pitch and …?

TOM: So you’re telling me that that flat roof is 15 years old?

STEVE: And has lasted that long, yeah.

TOM: And congratulations, first, on your flat roof lasting 15 years.

STEVE: Yeah.

TOM: And may we be the first to tell you that it’s at the end – well past the end of a normal life for a flat roof. You’re lucky if you get five to seven out of there. So, you must have done a really good job putting that roof together, Steve.

What happens is over time, it loses – the asphalt dries out and the material can become more porous. You can develop very small cracks in it where water can leak through. So, I would just replace that roof and I would do it exactly the same way you did it the first time or you can use an upgraded material. But I think the roof is just worn. At 15 years old, you’re lucky it lasted that long.

STEVE: OK. Well, thank you so much, yeah.

TOM: Well, if you feel a draft in your home or apartment, do you turn to space heaters to take that chilly edge off? If you do, you need to know how to choose one that’s both efficient and safe. And the first thing to know is that there are basically two different types of space heaters: radiant and convection. And they work very differently from each other.

Now, radiant heaters warm objects, and that includes you, by radiating heat as that name implies. But convection heaters, on the other hand, warm the air in a room and that’s eventually going to warm the entire room, provided you buy one that’s sized appropriately for the size space you’re in.

LESLIE: Yeah. You know, to sort of sum it up, if you’re looking to just warm a certain area, maybe that favorite chair that you curl up in at night to watch TV or read, then a radiant heater is going to work just fine for you. But if you want to heat the whole entire room, then a convection heater is definitely the best choice for you.

Now, keep in mind when you’re out there shopping, there’s also different sizes and styles for both types of space heaters, ranging from a tabletop radiant heater to those larger, free-standing convection units that will warm an entire room. Some look like mini-radiators and are filled with oil or water while others, like a ceramic convection heater, those pull in cold air that warms the air and then releases that warm air back into the room. So you’ve got to look at what’s really the best option for what you need to heat and how you want to heat it.

TOM: Now, finally, pricing on space heaters varies widely. You can pick one up for as low as about 25 or 30 bucks and go up to well over 100. But keep in mind that if you’re paying your own electric bill, they’re going to add to that.

Now, they can be fairly efficient but in very general terms, if you use a heater every day for maybe six to eight hours, you can expect it to add between about $15 and $20 per month to your electric bill.

LESLIE: Marcia in Illinois needs some help getting a window unstuck. Tell us about it.

MARCIA: I have a window over my sink in my kitchen, so I have to lean over the sink to raise this window. And it’s always been extremely hard to get up or down and I just don’t know what to do with it. I think I’ve tried WD-40.

TOM: Is this a wood window, Marcia?

MARCIA: Yes, it’s a wood window.

TOM: So, probably over the years, it’s gotten bigger, swollen in its place. And it’s gotten tighter in the jambs. And I’ll presume with paint, too, over the years that that didn’t make it any better. So, why don’t you think about a replacement window? Look, we can talk to you about taking this whole window apart and sanding down the jambs and sanding down the sashes and making it easier to use and replacing the cords and the balance and all that work. But I think this would be a good time to treat yourself to a replacement window.

You don’t have to do all the windows in the house. You can buy a double-hung replacement window at a home center today for a couple hundred bucks and it’s a pretty good-quality window. So, you may want to think about replacing just this one window. Or in the alternative, you can pull the trim off, you can take the sashes apart and you could sand them and sand them well. And that will make them a little bit smaller all the way around and make them easier to operate. And of course, also make sure that the balances are working.

Now, if it’s an old, wood window, you may have cords or chains that go up and you want to make sure that they’re still attached, because that gives you a little bit of assistance as you open and close the window.

MARCIA: OK. Well, I appreciate your advice. I guess I’ll have to invest in a new window.

TOM: I think it’s going to be easier than all the work it would take to get the old window working. And I’m all for easy and that’s why I suggest that. OK, Marcia? Good luck. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

And look, if you’ve got these old windows, you can work on them and put 8, 10 hours into a window and sure, it’ll be just as good as new. But why? It’s still going to be an old, drafty, wood window when you can go buy a double-pane, vinyl-clad window – a replacement window – that slips inside the existing opening and just have better energy efficiency and a window that really works, tilts in to clean, the works. Just doesn’t make any sense.

LESLIE: You’re still going to have to reach over that sink. It’s just going to be easier to work.

TOM: Exactly.

LESLIE: Hey, are you looking for that wood-burning fire feel without that wood-burning fire hassle? Richard Trethewey from TV’s This Old House is stopping by next with tips for fireplace inserts that can actually convert an old fireplace into a safe, clean and super-efficient source of heat.

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.

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

LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

TOM: Standing by to take on your ho-ho-home improvement projects. If you’ve got a question, we’ve got the answers. Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

LESLIE: Well, a wood-burning fireplace delivers a natural heat, a beautiful, crackling glow that you really can’t replace. But while that warm glow may feel good, they’re actually not really very efficient and are a lot of work to feed and maintain.

TOM: That’s right. A better option might be to take that old wood-burning fireplace and upgrade it with an insert. This Old House plumbing-and-heating contractor Richard Trethewey is here to explain.

Hey, Richard.

RICHARD: Hey, guys.

TOM: So, what exactly is a fireplace insert?

RICHARD: An insert is basically a fireproof box that’s surrounded by steel or cast-iron and then fronted by insulated glass. It creates a closed-combustion system. The steel or cast-iron helps to trap the heat. And some inserts actually have a blower that pushes the hot air back into the room through front vents.

TOM: So does that improve the efficiency over a standard fireplace?

RICHARD: Absolutely. Most people don’t realize that regular wood fireplaces actually do very, very little to heat up a room. In fact, they typically pull warm air from inside the house and send it right up the chimney. You sit in front of that fire and for the first little bit, you’re getting plenty of heat.

TOM: Right.

RICHARD: But as soon as that draft is going up that chimney, all of a sudden you realize that – “Wait a minute. I’m pulling more air out of that building – because I’ve increased that uplift in the chimney – than I’m ever getting out of the fireplace.”

TOM: Right.

RICHARD: Another problem is pollutants. Asthma or allergy sufferers may have respiratory issues when you have a wood-burning fireplace. And wood-burning fireplaces also send a lot of air pollution into the atmosphere, as you can’t really control how much air is mixed with how much fuel.

TOM: And you’re burning all kinds of different fuels and there’s all kinds of off-gases occurring as a result of that process.

RICHARD: That’s right. Right. And then don’t forget: you can also cause home fires. I mean there’s plenty of stories about houses that have gone – you build up creosote inside that chimney – build it up, build it up, build it up – and now, after a while, you can have a fire inside that chimney.

LESLIE: So, now, Richard, when it comes to a gas-fireplace insert, obviously, there has to be a lot of mechanics, if you will, installed to your existing wood-burning fireplace to make this function with a gas-burning insert.

RICHARD: Yeah. It’s not as complicated as you’d think. It’s a unit that slides right into the opening: that standard opening that you see on the fireplace, where it used to have the wood – the grates for the wood. And then it seals tight. And now, what you have to do is you have to find a way to get air from outside into the combustion area.

Now, that’s done a couple of different ways. One would be to cut a hole and drill up through the floor to bring some air from outside, right into the bottom of the firebox. But most often, with the gas units, it’s actually a pipe within a pipe. So up inside the existing chimney, you fish a 6-inch pipe and then a 4-inch pipe inside it or a 5 and 3, depending on how big the fireplace is. And now the exhaust products go up through the smaller inner pipe and then the combustion air is pulled in down through the outer, larger pipe.

And that really means that when you turn it on, you’re getting every bit of the air from outside, you’re getting a perfect exhaust to outside and then all the heat you make, that’s available, actually comes into the building. Not all the heat; some heat goes out in the flue products. But most of the heat you make is actually going into the building as usable heat.

LESLIE: But what about the gas line?

RICHARD: The gas line has to be run, certainly. With modern, flexible gas-supply lines, it’s a lot easier than it used to be. It used to be you had to cut plain steel and thread each piece or assemble it that way. So it’s a lot easier to do it but you do have to run a gas line.

TOM: So, there certainly are different types of inserts then. We just talked about gas. There’s also a plain wood-burning insert. Would that – if you just use a wood-burning insert inside of a wood-burning fireplace, does it make that fireplace more efficient?

RICHARD: Absolutely. I don’t want to overlook those because people still love a wood fire, the way that that flame comes off the wood and the way it crackles. It’s mesmerizing. But what you can do is if you do the wood fire – the wood insert – now you get all the best of both worlds: you get the wood fire, you get the air from outside but you don’t lose that heat up the chimney. So you can leave that fire and let it run down and not worry about the entire house emptying out of its heat.

LESLIE: Will it utilize the existing flue or do you have to vent it differently?

RICHARD: No, it could use – utilize the existing flue because you’re going to go there – with that case, Leslie, you have to make sure that you find a way to get air for combustion to come in. So you generally have to drill or find some hole in the bottom of the fire hearth. You have to find a way to have a duct to go down and then to outside so air can come in and stay inside that sealed – yeah, sealed space, yes.

LESLIE: Pull it from underneath.

TOM: And speaking of efficiency, what about pellet inserts? There are pellet stoves.


TOM: They also have pellet inserts. Are they …?

RICHARD: Right. Pellets are the rage. Pellets are a fabulous future source because we’ve got plenty of sawdust, we’ve got plenty of wood chips and byproducts, you know.

TOM: And that’s what a pellet is? It’s basically ground-up sawdust?

RICHARD: Yeah. Our franchise is based up here in New England, so we’ve got Maine and New Hampshire filled with woods. We’ve got plenty of forest where there’s an issue with what to do with this byproduct. And pellets have – people that have them love them. And they’re not – they don’t have the same look as a wood fire. But their efficiency – the fact that you can meter, also, your fuel use, meaning you can put it in – when you light up a fire with five logs, you’ve got to wait for those five logs to burn down. With pellets, what they like so much is two things: one is you can meter it so beautifully and the other is how little ash you have from a pellet.

TOM: So when you say meter it, you mean the speed with which you sort of feed the pellets in, right?

RICHARD: Correct. Right. You always have that issue when you have a wood fire. “Do I put another two logs on or am I going to bed within an hour?”

LESLIE: Right.

TOM: Right.

RICHARD: With a pellet stove, it’s really like having a solid version of oil or gas where you can put in just what you need. And then as soon as you stop feeding it, it will die down ever so slightly in a much more controlled way.

TOM: Sounds like it’s almost like having a thermostat: the faster I feed it, the hotter it’s going to get.

RICHARD: That’s right. Right. Right. There’s a lot of potential on the horizon with this use of sort of the wood byproducts to burn renewable …

LESLIE: Yeah. And a lot of people – we were getting calls, for a while, from the Montana area about people using pellet stoves as their primary heat source.

RICHARD: Yeah, yeah, yeah. There’s an interesting group up in Maine and New Hampshire that really has the dream to have a delivery method to houses, just like the old days. The ice man came and the oil guy came that have a chute on the side of your house and you would come and the pellets would be dumped right in. And then – and really, if you don’t have to travel that material too far, it actually has some real potential.

TOM: Now, let’s talk, finally, about chimney cleaning and cleaning these vents. Has it become more complicated because now you’ve kind of blocked off the front of the fireplace?

RICHARD: Yeah. I mean they – generally, these fireplace inserts can disconnect pretty straightforward. Just as it assembled pretty easily, you can break it apart and pull it out.

LESLIE: Yeah. But you don’t want to be doing that every time you clean it.

RICHARD: The fact is you should – no, I know that. But the gas ones don’t need a lot of cleaning. So the gas fireplaces – it’s only when you have wood products and particularly with conventional wood, where the creosote is rich. The pellet fire is much cleaner; you don’t have as much creosote, so your need to clean the chimney is reduced slightly.

TOM: Wow. Great advice. Richard Trethewey, the plumbing-and-heating contractor on TV’s This Old House, I think a lot of folks are going to be looking at these inserts this coming winter season. Thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

RICHARD: Insert fire here.

LESLIE: Catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For local listings and step-by-step videos of many common home improvement projects, visit

TOM: And This Old House is brought to you on PBS by American Standard.

Just ahead, does your home have squeaks and creaks that drive you crazy? We’re going to have tips for a quieter home, 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: What are you working on? If it’s your home, we’re here to help. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. Whether you’re a do-it-yourselfer or a direct-it-yourselfer, no matter how easy or hard that project is, we want to make sure you don’t become a do-it-to-yourselfer and get it all messed up. So give us a call right now. We’re here to help.

LESLIE: Give us a call. We’d love to hear what you are working on. And we’ve got some great projects and ideas available on

But first of all, the holiday season, everybody loves making things look festive and warm and welcoming. So, maybe you’ve got a fireplace at home that you’re looking to decorate the mantel for this wonderful time of year. If so, head on over to and click on Projects. Right there, you’ll find all the step-by-step tips so that you can get that project done and do it very easily. And I promise you it’s such a simple way to make holiday décor look fantastic.

TOM: Yeah. And I’ll tell you what, if you call or post your home improvement question to us, we’re also giving away a great tool to help with projects just like that. Because we’ve got the iconic, American-made Arrow T50 Heavy-Duty Staple Gun and a supply of staples going out to one lucky caller. So give us a call, right now, and that prize may be going out to you. The number, again, is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

Well, we all get a little creaky this time of year and your house is no exception. With all this cold weather, it can definitely lead to one very noisy money pit.

LESLIE: This time of year, my knees are also creaking quite a bit. Well, truly, a quieter home is just a few small moves away. And it’s a really simple thing to do around the house.

First of all, you just need to grab some WD-40. Now, that’s a spray lubricant. And you want to apply it to any doors that aren’t opening smoothly or maybe aren’t sliding the way that they used to or simply just creaking and making some noise. Lubricating them really is the best way to get them working quietly, working better. And it’s a super-easy fix.

TOM: Yeah. And while you’ve got that product out, you can also lube the hinges on the medicine cabinets and the kitchen cabinets. You’ll notice that they’ll start to work a lot better. And you can spray door locks to keep all the parts working, including your car door and your house door locks. Spray it right into where you put the key and you’ll find that you won’t have any trouble, especially when it gets really cold out.

LESLIE: Yeah. And here’s some fun things that you can do with it that maybe you haven’t really thought about. WD-40 can be used to remove unwanted duct tape. You can use it to get oil spots off of driveways and it even removes candle wax from carpeting.

TOM: Yeah. You know, it’s a pretty amazing product. It’s got an interesting story about how it was invented. Do you know how the WD-40 name came to be? It actually was created by a guy named Larsen and he was the founder of a company in the 50s called Rocket Chemical Company. And what they were trying to do was develop a line of rust-prevention solvents and degreasers to be used in the aerospace industry. So this type of product is called a “water-displacement product.” And he finally succeeded on the 40th attempt and that’s where the name comes from. It’s Water Displacement Formula 40 – WD-40. It turns out it was great for the rockets and also great for about a zillion other things, as we’ve talked about today.

LESLIE: Jim in Washington, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?

JIM: I’ve got a rear patio that’s an aggregate cement. And there’s a gap between the edge of that that goes under our rear sliding-glass door, under the threshold. It’s a gap of about 3 to 4 inches and about maybe a foot or 2 in length. What can I use to kind of fill that void so we don’t get like rain in there and insects or even rodents?

TOM: So, you have space between the patio and the actual patio door? Like it didn’t press up against the house kind of a thing?

JIM: Correct.

TOM: You said it’s about 3 or 4 inches deep?

JIM: Yeah. The gap is, yes.

TOM: The gap is. And you said it was a foot-and-a-half wide. You threw me on that because it sounded like it’s not going along the entire length of the door?

JIM: Yeah, correct. It’s just about maybe a third of it.

TOM: So we need to figure out a way to kind of fill this in and perhaps make it blend in with the patio. What I probably would do here is – can you dig this out and make it a little bit deeper so we can get a bit more concrete in there?

JIM: I could do that. It’s aggregate, though, so I’m not sure how well it’s going to match.

TOM: Because I’m afraid if you put something in that’s not very thick, it may crack and break up very easily. But if you were to dig that out a little bit, put a little stone in the bottom of the pit and then use an epoxy patching compound and mix the concrete up with the epoxy products, then you’re going to have something that’s going to be less resistant to cracking and more likely to stick to the old patio.

Now, in terms of coloring it, you’re probably going to have to use some concrete dyes. And they come in different colors but you may be able to dye it to get somewhat close to what you have there now.

JIM: OK. It’s aggregate, so how do I deal with that?

TOM: So it has sort of a stone – has like a stone-like finish on top?

JIM: Yes.

TOM: Well, could you add aggregate to the top of the concrete mix?

JIM: Yeah, I could try that.

TOM: So there’s another way to do it. This way, you’ll have the texture and the color, as well.

JIM: Yeah, OK. Sounds good.

TOM: Just do it all at once and let it set. But use the epoxy patching compound, which is kind of like a concrete mix except that it’s very sticky.

JIM: Mm-hmm. How much do I need to cut out? How much should I fill?

TOM: If the depth of that replacement section was 3 inches, that should be plenty.

JIM: OK. Sounds good.

LESLIE: Hey, are you looking to freshen up your carpets before and of course, after all of the holiday traffic? We’re going to tell you how, after this.

TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to 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, or post your question to The Money Pit’s Community page at And that’s what Joy did.

LESLIE: That’s right. Now, Joy in Florida writes: “What is the best method for cleaning the carpet in my home’s main living areas? Chem-dry? Steam? Should it be done sparingly or is it OK to clean them as often as needed?”

First of all, Joy, are you super messy? My question.

TOM: How often do you need to clean your carpets, Joy?

LESLIE: Why are we cleaning them so often?

TOM: Exactly. Wear a bib, for gosh sakes.

LESLIE: Seriously. Joy, honestly, I’ve personally never used the chem-dry method. I’ve been a steam-cleaner pretty much since I’ve been a homeowner for 15 years. And I don’t do it very often. I do hire a pro to come in and do it, just because I feel like they’re machines and the temperature of the water that they can get are far higher and more efficient and more aggressive, if you will, than anything that I could rent or do myself.

And I’ve never had a problem. I do only do it maybe every other year, just because I don’t have a lot of carpeting in the home. I do it in the kids’ room and in the staircase area. Pretty much is the only place it is. I will tell you that I find that the drying times sometimes tends to take maybe a day, especially on the wall-to-wall carpet where there’s padding underneath. I feel like it does feel a little damp. Nothing that I would be concerned about for mold or mildew. It’s done a fantastic job at cleaning, making it refreshed.

Now, chem-dry, from what I understand, uses a solution that’s a carbonated base with a higher-temperature water, as well, and far less water than a steam-cleaning method. Having not done it myself, I can’t sort of compare. But that’s the difference in the process. I mean I wouldn’t do it every month; I just don’t know how messy you are. But I feel like steam-cleaning works great.

TOM: Yeah, I agree. I’ve taken some carpets that I was pretty sure I had to replace and steam-cleaned them and they came out fantastic. So, hope that helps you out, Joy.

Let’s go now to Michael in Illinois who says, “My wife and I are finishing our basement to include a family room and bedrooms for our two young children. What’s the best way to minimize noise from people walking around upstairs? The ceiling is going to be an I-joist system and we’re planning on drop ceilings since the plumbing will be present above. And the floor in the main floor is a combination of carpet and hardwood.”

Look, so you’ve got to understand, Michael, how sound transmits. And when you have a physical connection – let’s say the hardwood floor to the subfloor to the I-joist below – sound will transmit through that, just like you hear water that runs through a pipe when you’re at the other end of the building.

One thing you can do that will help a little bit is you could use a special type of insulation that has a sound-absorptive quality for it. It’s made by Roxul. It’s called Roxul Safe ‘n’ Sound. And so it’s a stone-based insulation that’s also designed for sound-deadening. If you truly, truly don’t want to hear anything, you would also have to cover that – the bottom of that joist not with a drop ceiling but with a sound-resistant drywall. They make special drywall that has a membrane in it that helps break up the sound waves, as well.

So it’ll be quieter but I don’t think it will be crazy loud downstairs if you do those two things.

LESLIE: You know, Michael, a couple other things that I was thinking about. When it comes to the flooring upstairs on the main floor, area rugs will definitely help soften any additional noise on the floors that are not carpeted. And then downstairs, I’m not sure what flooring you’re planning on using for the kids but definitely think about a laminate floor. That’s totally fine if there tends to be a little moisture, which you’ll get in a concrete slab. But also, area rugs down there will sort of reduce the noise that might be echoing around for the kids downstairs and make that basement feel more cozy and then sort of absorb some sound.

So, that might help with the noise upstairs, the noise downstairs. And hopefully, this turns out to be a really great family room and rooms for your kids. Enjoy it.

TOM: You are listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on this very ho-ho-home improvement weekend. We hope that you’re enjoying the winter weather, getting ready for the holiday that is just ahead. If you are still taking on some projects and need some help, we will be available to help you with those projects if you post your questions to The Money Pit’s Community page at But for now, that is all the time we have because, frankly, we’ve got to get some shopping done.

I’m Tom Kraeutler.

LESLIE: Truly. 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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