Learn how the slow summer months are a good time to buy a house and get the most out of that purchase. Get tips for decorating a small dorm room on a tight budget. Find out whether you can save a bundle by re-doing your kitchen cabinets instead of replacing them. Plus get answers to your home improvement questions about, fixing front doors, septic plumbing, cleaning vinyl siding, mold and leaky roofs, saving energy with new insulation, cleaning wood floors, replacing circuit breakers and refinishing a deck.
TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I'm Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I'm Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Standing by for your phone calls at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. More reliable than a Magic 8 Ball, we have the answer to your home improvement question right here. We don’t even have a crystal ball; we just know this stuff. So call us and let us help you at 888-666-3974.
We’ve got a great show lined up for you. Coming up first, owning a home is fortunately becoming a lot less expensive than renting, in many U.S. cities. But guess what? Now is actually a very good time to think about buying that house. The dog days of summer turn out to be the perfect time of year to invest in a new home. We’re going to tell you why that is and what to look out for, in just a bit.
LESLIE: And also ahead this hour, do you happen to know what the single biggest expense is going to be in a kitchen remodel? Well, more often than not, it’s the cabinets. So we’re going to tell you how you might be able to save a bundle by refinishing rather than replacing them.
TOM: And if you’re like me, you’re in the process of setting up a child at college for the very first time or maybe you’ve got a …
LESLIE: And dealing with a sobbing wife, I bet.
TOM: Yeah, yeah, I know.
Or maybe you’ve got a son or a daughter who is perhaps returning to school and a dorm room that looks a little bit more like a prison cell. We’ve got some ideas on how you can spruce it up without dipping into that tuition fund.
LESLIE: And one caller that we talk to live on the air this hour is going to win a prize pack of cleaning products from our friends at Trewax worth 75 bucks.
TOM: So let’s get to it. The number is 888-666-3974, 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Cindy in Fargo, North Dakota is on the line, dealing with winds ripping off storm doors? Well, they’re not doing their job. What’s going on?
CINDY: I have a farmhouse in a very windy part of North Dakota. And the wind keeps catching my exterior storm doors and it will either ruin them or in a couple of cases, it’s actually ripped them off the screen.
TOM: Wow. You know, Cindy, storm doors are kind of an old technology. When we had wood exterior doors, it was very necessary to have a storm door for that additional layer of wind protection and weather protection. But the doors today, especially the fiberglass doors, are so energy-efficient that the storm door really serves absolutely no purpose whatsoever.
I mean you look at a manufacturer like Therma-Tru, for example. They’ve got fiberglass doors that are far more energy-efficient and tougher than a wood or a metal door. And they’ve even got vented sidelights so that you open up sort of the sidelight and that’s where you get your ventilation, so you don’t even need the screen door because the screening is in the sidelight today.
So, if you’re not going to replace your exterior doors, then you’re going to have to keep facing this problem over and over again. Certainly, some storm doors are tougher than others. You do need to have the appropriate metal catches and the chains that stop them from completely tearing open, unless the wind is just so strong. But just keep in mind that if you think about replacing that door with a good-quality fiberglass door, you will never really need a storm door again.
CINDY: That’s really good advice. Thank you.
TOM: You’re very welcome, Cindy. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Greg in Missouri on the line who’s dealing with a septic-system issue. Tell us what’s going on.
GREG: Yeah, I bought a house back in December and they put a new septic system in. And the piping that surrounds the house, I have baseball-sized rocks that are coming up as the summer progresses and I don’t know how to stop them.
TOM: Oh, you mean as the soil sort of erodes away?
GREG: I’m guessing so and – so I don’t know how deep it goes or what I can do to tear those up or cover it.
TOM: Do you think that, Greg, that this is like the drainage field that’s being revealed?
GREG: It’s hard to say. It’s my first home.
TOM: Yeah, Greg, I would reach out to the contractor that actually installed that, since it’s so new, and see if you can get a sense as to where the septic field is. I suspect you’ve got some settlement that’s going on there and that’s why the gravel field is revealing itself to you. You may need to add some additional fill dirt.
And then if you put some grass over that or even if you put some sod over it, now’s a real good time to do that. The roots can really take hold before the winter sets in and get good growth there and it’ll be in good shape before next summer heat, which is very destructive, of course, to new grass. Now is a perfect time to plant this and I think that that will solve the problem. Not that all surprised; I think what you’re seeing is some normal settlement out of the new field.
Greg, 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 MoneyPit.com.
Hey, there’s only a few short weeks left to the summer season. So, if you’ve got some projects on your to-do list that you are just aching to finish before we all get back into the swing of real life – I feel like in the summer, we all relax – pick up the phone and give us a call because we’re here to give you a hand 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Coming up, for more reasons than one, this might be the perfect time for you to buy a house. We’re going to have tips on getting the most out of your biggest investment, next.
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ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by ODL’s Add-On Blinds. Enclosed behind tempered glass, they eliminate the need for dusting and exposed cords, both problems with traditional blinds. Plus, they easily install over your existing entry glass. Visit www.ODL.com to learn more.
TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I'm Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I'm Leslie Segrete.
TOM: The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. One caller we talk to on the air this hour is going to win a prize package from Trewax worth 75 bucks. So pick up the phone and we’ll toss your name into that Money Pit hard hat.
If we choose you, you’re going to get a full set of eight different cleaning products, including the Trewax stone-and-tile cleaner and their hardwood-floor cleaner worth 75 bucks, the package. Give us a call right now. Again, that number is 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Alright. Pick up the phone and give us a call. We’d love to give you a hand with whatever you are working on. And as I said before, the summer season, I really feel like we all just kind of take things kind of casually; everything’s really relaxy-taxy. And it’s kind of true: everything really does slow down during the dog days of summer, including the housing market.
So this means that it’s a great time for you to get up and take some action and buy a house. But we’ve got some advice for those of you thinking about purchasing your dream home.
TOM: Right. Now, this may seem like a no-brainer but our first piece of advice is simply to know what you can afford and stick to it. Despite the recent sub-prime loan disasters, people are still buying homes well beyond their means. Don’t let anybody talk you into a mortgage that is simply larger than your budget. And make sure to choose a real estate agent who will respect that budget, as well as what you want in a home.
I cannot tell you how many times, Leslie, that as a home inspector I saw agents verbally pushing around first-time homebuyers into something they really – wasn’t a good fit for them or something that they simply couldn’t afford.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Oh, my goodness. See, when we were looking for our home, we so many times told our realtor, “This is our budget.” And she’d be like, “But this house is twice as much but you could always get the mortgage for that.” And we were like, “No. This is the budget.” So you really have to stick to your guns, know what you can afford and just don’t go crazy.
And also, don’t rush. You know, the current market, it really might be in your favor but you still want to do as much research as possible. Check prices for similar homes in the area you’re looking, test your potential commute and be absolutely sure to get a home inspection. It’s going to save a lot in the long run.
TOM: That’s right. You can find a good professional home inspector, by the way, at the site for the American Society of Home Inspectors at ASHI.org. That’s A-S-H-I.org.
888-666-3974. Give us a call right now with your home improvement question.
Leslie, who’s next?
LESLIE: Lisa in Iowa is on the line, dealing with some vinyl siding. How can we help you today?
LISA: Hi. We were just wondering, there’s lots of stuff out on the internet about how to take care of it and wash the vinyl siding. And we just wanted to see what you guys thought about what’s the best way to do it.
TOM: Very simple solution to that. There’s a product that’s available at Lowe’s and lots of hardware stores called Krud Kutter – K-r-u-d K-u-t-t-e-r. Environmentally-friendly product. You apply it to the siding, let it sit for 10 or 15 minutes, rinse it off and it does a really good job of cleaning it. They have an exterior cleaner version, specifically, of Krud Kutter. You do have to wet your plants down underneath it but other than that, it’s a really easy way to clean your siding.
Do you have sort of mildew and algae that’s forming on it?
LISA: Yeah, there’s some little black specks that are there. It comes right off just if we wipe it with a damp cloth.
TOM: Yeah, you want to get right on that. If there’s little black specks, that could be artillery fungus, which can sort of eat away at the surface of the vinyl. And that’s often caused by the kind of mulch that you use around the house.
TOM: So if you have shredded mulch, you have a higher risk of getting the artillery fungus. If you have chips or bark, then you usually don’t.
TOM: Give that Krud Kutter a try. I think you’re going to be very happy with it.
LISA: OK, great.
TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LISA: Thanks for your help.
LESLIE: Roy in Illinois is calling in with possibly a mold problem. Tell us what’s going on. Hopefully, we can help.
ROY: What I’m basically after is I have a house – a small house – but I walk in and I don’t really smell anything. But I’ve got friends who show up and they say, “Your house smells of mold.” And I kind of agree with them to some point where my clothes, if they’ve been in the closet for a while, they kind of pick up a certain odor. So, I was wondering if there’s a cost-effective, best-practice kind of thing to track down the source.
TOM: Well, if you have mold, it usually sources with moisture. And so, anything that you can do to reduce the moisture and the humidity in your house is going to reduce the chance of mold. But you may have a ventilation problem and you may not be moving enough air through the house. You may not be pulling in enough fresh air, which is the cleanest air that you can breathe.
There is a system out on the market now called E·Z Breathe, which is a ventilation system which is very, very effective at dealing with situations like this. There’s a lot of people that have said good things about – a lot of testimonials about the effectiveness of E·Z Breathe in reducing odors from moisture, reducing pet odors and the like.
And it’s a relatively inexpensive system to install. You should take a look at their website.
LESLIE: And even to operate.
TOM: Yeah. It costs $2 to $4 a month to run.
ROY: Oh, that’s good.
TOM: It’s at EZBreathe.com. Leslie actually met with them in her house; she was very impressed.
LESLIE: Yeah. It’s a rather small unit but it’s super-effective. It goes either in an area in your basement or somewhere in your crawlspace, where it can do a really good job of sort of pulling air from the upper portions of your home, recirculating it through the basement and taking that stale air out of doors. All they have to do is sort of vent it through your basement wall above grade, so you do get a small duct on the wall. But it’s really effective. It turns the air over several times throughout the day in your home and really does the job of bringing in fresh air to get that moisture out.
Now, you should also look at what’s going on outside of your house around the foundation wall and do the best that you can to keep moisture away from there by maintaining your gutters, looking at your grading and making sure that the downspouts don’t deposit the water right next to the foundation wall. And a combination of all of these things should really do a good job of getting rid of that moisture situation.
Do you have bathroom vent fans, kitchen vents?
ROY: Yes. That’s one thing – I have a bathroom vent and right now, it is venting into the attic and not going out through the roof. And I’m scheduled to have work done to put it through the roof.
LESLIE: Or the side of the house.
ROY: That’s a good idea, too, about possibly venting it to the outside wall (inaudible at 0:13:23).
TOM: Well, you have to remember that your house is a system and you really need to manage the moisture throughout the house. So start outside with the improvements of grading and drainage, make sure those vent fans are venting outside and take a look at the E·Z Breathe unit at EZBreathe.com. I think you’ll find that that will make a huge difference in the odor issue that your friends are complaining with. And then they’re going to want to come over more frequently.
ROY: Yeah, I know. I want them to come out.
TOM: Well, you may not get rid of them that quick. Roy, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Lois in Wisconsin, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
LOIS: Yes. My husband’s been up on the roof twice now and he can’t find where the leak is leaking in our kitchen. And he can’t find out where it’s coming from.
TOM: Is there a vent pipe right above that area, like where the kitchen sink is?
LOIS: I’m not sure but …
TOM: Typically, there is because all plumbing fixtures have a vent pipe. And where that pipe goes through the roof, that’s where I’d start.
Now, roofs typically leak wherever there’s an intersection or a pipe comes through like that. And so I would take a look right above that. Now, keep in mind that roofs can leak farther up above where they’re actually showing up. And the water can sort of go down the roof rafter, sort of hang against gravity, then drip when it gets down towards the end. So, anywhere above that is where it’s going to – you’re going to find that leak.
Now, if you look and you can’t figure it out, why not get up there with a hose and wash down the roof; see if you can make it leak.
TOM: And between those two things, you ought to be able to find it.
LOIS: Alright. OK.
TOM: Alright? Be careful on that roof.
LOIS: Yeah, that’s for him.
TOM: Alright. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Ray in Nebraska, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
RAY: I was calling to see if you can give me information. I’m going to put siding on at least a hundred-year-old building and it’s got wood siding on it.
RAY: But it’s – the paint is bad already.
RAY: I’m going to think about putting – blowing in insulation and I don’t know if it’s worth it or not.
TOM: Right. Well, if you’re going to insulate a house to make it more energy-efficient, there’s an order of events that you want to follow. The first and most important thing is to look at the attic and make sure that you’ve got 15 to 22 inches of insulation in that attic space. I would do that as my very first insulation project because that’s what gives you the best return on investment.
RAY: I did that last year.
TOM: Alright, good. So the second thing is – is this on a slab or is it over a floor? Is there an opportunity for floor insulation?
RAY: No, no.
TOM: Why not? Is it a slab or is it over a basement?
RAY: It’s over a basement, yes.
TOM: Alright. So if it’s over a basement, then you want to make sure the box beams around the outside are insulated, as well.
And then, lastly, we can talk about the walls. And yes, if you’ve got no insulation in there, I do think that blown-in is a good thing to do. But you mentioned that the siding is a mess. Are you considering taking the siding off the walls from the outside?
RAY: No. It has the old wood that looks like siding, so …
TOM: Siding on there? Alright. Then what you can do is – you’re going to put siding on top of that then, right?
RAY: Yes. Yes.
TOM: So what you can do is you can blow in insulation from the outside and you don’t have to worry about the holes that you’re putting in the old siding, because you’re going to cover it with new siding.
TOM: So I do think that that’s a good idea.
RAY: Oh, OK. That was about it then. I appreciate it.
TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project.
RAY: Thank you.
TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
And a good time to do that right now. Your insulation bills this winter are going to be much lower.
LESLIE: Alright. Now I’ve got Tim in Colorado on the line dealing with two thermostats and two zones and how to keep it all working right. Welcome, Tim.
TIM: Hi. I just wondered if there’s any strategy on either saving wear and tear on the two separate units or saving energy by – or just keeping both set the same and so it’s comfortable.
TOM: Well, it really comes down to your sort of lifestyle. Now, upstairs are your bedrooms, I presume?
TIM: Well, assume – yes but assume the home is equally occupied. Because my wife is home with the kids and so she’s up and down all the time.
TIM: So, yeah, I was expecting you to say, “OK, go ahead and make the upstairs bedroom sleeping area hot during the day.” But no.
TOM: Yeah. Well, I mean I was going to say that because, typically, if you have areas of your house that are less occupied, then you can reduce the heating and cooling load in those spaces. So, if you don’t, then the same advice applies, too, to both areas and that is use a clock setback thermostat; set them to pattern your use. So if – when you go to sleep at night in the winter, for example, the heat goes down, stays down all night, comes up.
Now, when you do go to sleep at night – for example, if you’ve got your bedrooms upstairs, then downstairs is going to obviously be a lot cooler and upstairs a little bit cooler and then you bring them back up before you get out of bed. In the summertime, generally you want to set the thermostat around 80, 82 and leave it alone. It doesn’t always make sense to bring it up and down but you can have it go up higher if you’re away on the weekends.
Now, there is a new type of thermostat out there called ecobee, which I think is really cool. Do you happen to have a wireless network inside your house?
TOM: Yeah, these work on wireless networks. And so you can – and they actually will pattern the weather …
TIM: So I can set it – wow, that’s cool. I get it.
TOM: Yeah, you can set them on your own sort of web page and you can – and they’ll alert you when temperatures go above or below certain levels. And they even have the ability to reach out and sort of read the weather in advance and make adjustments based on that. You might want to take a look at those. It’s e-c-o-b-e-e is the website – ecobee.com. I just contacted them to get a couple of units to try out in a home that we have.
But I did speak with one of the folks on my team that told me about it and he has been using it very successfully now for several months and is thrilled with its functionality. In fact, it was referred to him by his local heating and cooling contractor.
TIM: Uh-huh. Great. OK, thanks.
TOM: Alright? Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up, we’re going to tell you about one of the least expensive ways to remodel your kitchen. There’s more Money Pit, straight ahead.
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TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I'm Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I'm Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Do you ever wonder how to get in on the prizes we give away each week? Just fan us on Facebook and we will tell you how, when and where to call for your chance to win. You can do that at MoneyPit.com. Just click on the Facebook icon.
LESLIE: Charlene in California needs some help with a patio-cleaning project. Tell us what’s going on.
CHARLENE: Well, a while back I heard on your show – one of your shows – that there’s a product called Wet something-or-other to keep the black mold off of the patio floor.
TOM: Yes. It’s called Wet & Forget because that’s how easy it is to use. You wet it down and it does the job right there and you will slowly but surely see all of the moss and the mildew go away and it won’t come back.
CHARLENE: Oh, it won’t come back ever?
TOM: Well, not ever. You’re going to have to do it occasionally again.
LESLIE: Well, couple of years.
TOM: But it lasts quite a long time. It’s not like you have to do it every couple of months.
LESLIE: But keep in mind that once you apply it, it’s going to get rained on and Mother Nature is going to do its work. And so, it might gradually fade over the next few weeks. If it doesn’t disappear instantly, don’t be upset. But it really works and it keeps it away.
TOM: Yeah. Go to their website: WetAndForget.com. You can read all about it right there. You can use their store locator to find a local retailer. But it really is a terrific product. Very environmentally-friendly and just does a great job.
CHARLENE: That helps me out and I thank you very much.
TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, kitchens are one place in the house where most of us spend a lot of time. But if you ever feel like your kitchen cabinets are dated, drab or dull, it might not always be your favorite room.
TOM: Well, the good news is that there are options for getting a new look without breaking the bank. Kitchen cabinets can be replaced, refaced or just refinished. Here to help us sort it all out is This Old House general contractor, Tom Silva.
TOM SILVA: Thanks. Nice to be here.
TOM: You know, let’s start by talking about refacing versus replacing. What’s the best way to determine whether refacing a cabinet will do or a full-blown replacement of a cabinet is really necessary?
TOM SILVA: Alright. First, let’s just review the difference. Replacing, of course, is just that: when you tear out and start all over again.
TOM SILVA: Replace is when you want to reconfigure the layout or if the existing boxes are just junky; they’re falling apart.
TOM SILVA: Refacing is when you resurface the surface of the cabinets: the part that you see.
TOM SILVA: Alright? As well as the doors, like the doors, the drawer fronts and the hardware.
TOM: So when you reface, you’re basically reattaching material to the old boxes?
TOM SILVA: Right. The structure’s sound so you’re just making it look good.
TOM SILVA: Alright? That can be a lot less expensive and a lot – difference without breaking the bank.
LESLIE: Now, how do you decide if your cabinets are good candidates for a refacing? Because I imagine if they’re not great cabinets, you don’t want to just jump in.
TOM SILVA: Well, no. If the cabinets aren’t good, like I said, you’re going to rip them out. But you want to look at the cabinets. Take the doors, look inside the cabinets, make sure there’s no rot on the floors, make sure the floors are nice and solid, make sure the sides of the cabinets are good and solid. Make sure you have something really good to work with. If they’re falling apart, it’s not worth refacing.
LESLIE: And refacing is not a project you can tackle on your own. I mean a project like that is better left to the pros, right?
TOM SILVA: Well, refacing is – basically, you have to have some skills, you have to have some tools. You have to be able to know how to put things together because cabinetry can be tricky and it’s pretty exacting. So you want to make sure everything lines up. You’ve got to put a drawer front on, you’ve got to make sure it lines up, you’ve got to know how to hang a door, you have to know how to make the door the right size.
TOM: We’re talking to Tom Silva, the general contractor from TV’s This Old House, about whether kitchen cabinets should be refaced or replaced.
Now, Tom, if we are going to do a refacing project or hire a pro to have it done, what kinds of materials are used for the actual facing itself?
TOM SILVA: Well, there’s all kinds of materials. You can use laminate; basically cover the wood. You can use different types of wood to make your cabinets. You’ve got to think about whether or not you want to stain them or paint them.
TOM SILVA: All of those things have to come into play.
The other thing you have to think about is what kind of doors you want to make. You want raised panel, flat panel, recessed panel, flushed doors, inset doors? All of those things make a difference.
TOM: So a lot of decisions to be made.
Now, I guess replacing is probably the way to go if you do need to change something around, because if you reface, you’re pretty much accepting the layout the way it is, correct?
TOM SILVA: The layout’s not going to change, yep. So you’ve got to – if you are refacing, what you have is what you’re going to get. You’re just going to get a new look.
LESLIE: Alright. So replacing, excellent option if you want to change out the layout or you want to go with a completely different wood or you just want to do something totally different in your kitchen. Refacing, you like where things are; you just want a fresh look and an update on the space.
What about refinishing? New stain, new paint. Is that a good option?
TOM SILVA: Existing cabinet’s in good shape? Why not do something with them like paint them, repaint them or restain them? Refinishing a cabinet is probably your most cost-effective move, since repainting or re-staining is a great DIY project that delivers good results.
TOM: Great advice. Tom Silva from TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
TOM SILVA: My pleasure.
TOM: And for more great tips just like that from Tom and the entire team, visit ThisOldHouse.com.
LESLIE: And don’t forget you can watch them on This Old House or Ask This Old House on your local PBS station.
TOM: And Ask This Old House and This Old House are both brought to you by The Home Depot. The Home Depot, more saving, more doing.
Well, it’s that time of year when students are getting ready to head back to college. If your co-ed is on their way back to a dump of a dorm room, we’re going to have tips on fixing it up without adding to the already sky-high tuition cost. That’s all coming up, after this.
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TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I'm Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I'm Leslie Segrete. And you should pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT because we are going to help you get all of your home improvement projects done on time, on budget with the skills to get the job done. Plus, we’re going to give one lucky caller this hour a complete set of cleaning products from our friends over at Beaumont Products, the makers of Trewax and Citrus Magic.
TOM: So if you do the project and it comes out really bad and it’s really sloppy and it’s a mess, no problem. The project won’t go – it won’t do so well but it’ll be clean.
LESLIE: But you’ll clean it up really well and it’ll smell great.
TOM: Exactly. Perfectly.
LESLIE: You are going to get full sizes of the Trewax All-Natural Hardwood Floor Cleaner, Stone and Tile Cleaner and the Citrus Magic Solid Air Freshener. And it’s a prize pack worth $75, so pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, although it’s been more years than I do care to admit, Leslie, I still remember my college dorm room. And this year, I’m actually getting ready to help my oldest son move into his dorm room for the very first time and …
LESLIE: Very exciting.
TOM: It is exciting. But while most dorm rooms will never end up on the cover of Architectural Digest, that’s no reason for them to have to look like a scene from Animal House, at least not initially. The problem is though, of course, that you don’t own the space, you can’t paint. Your student’s only going to be there for a short time, so it’s not worth putting a lot of money into fixing up something that you’re probably not even allowed to do anything, like structural or even painting-wise, to.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. It’s true.
TOM: So what do you do? How do you straighten up the space? How do you spruce up the space without actually physically changing it that way?
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Well, I think it’s important. You know, you’ve got to keep things in check, you’ve got to stick to your budget. You don’t want to dip into the kid’s college fund but you do want to make it personal. So really think about color.
And while you can’t paint the walls, you can get inexpensive canvases and paint them. And you can paint them a solid color or use multiple colors that kind of complement each other. And you can just hang them on the wall, sort of spaced out, for a fun, artistic impact or get a whole bunch and put them right next to each other. And suddenly, it looks like you’ve painted that wall.
And you don’t have to worry about using a nail to put them up. You know those sticky, 3M sort of things you put on the wall with the tabs? They hold everything and they release and they don’t mess up the wall behind it. So, that’s an awesome thing to take care of.
Now, you can also buy wallpaper remnants really inexpensively online or in the stores. Frame them in thrift-store frame finds and it’s something that’s totally unique, chic and really inexpensive.
TOM: Now, you also want to think about the space; most dorm rooms are barely bigger than a closet.
TOM: So, you want to pick furniture pieces that also double as storage units. Make use of the wall space by using shelves or even cubes that you can paint.
Now, if you want some more tips, you can Google “money pit dorm room décor.” That’s “money pit dorm room décor.” We’ve got a great article online that will walk you through it.
LESLIE: And Glenn in Missouri is on the line, dealing with an issue with a door and a dog. So let’s find out what’s going on. Hey, Glenn.
GLENN: Well, a visiting dog, attending some people that came to my house, chewed off a corner of my treadle. I’m sorry if I don’t have all the right nomenclature here but this door is a solid-wood, 3-foot door.
GLENN: And it’s my front door.
GLENN: And there’s the storm door that was up and down on the front of it there. It was flat and screwed against the frame and it’s one of those pre-hung, door-like assembly things.
TOM: Right. Yeah.
GLENN: And I’m trying to figure out what to do to get that kind of wedgy piece of wood out of there, because I can’t remember anything about how it was attached to the vertical parts of the box that went around the door. I don’t want to tear up and just go in the basement and pound it out of there. I might tear up the other edge.
TOM: I think that dog really wanted to get out of your house.
GLENN: No, he was trying to come in. It’s outside.
LESLIE: Oh, OK.
TOM: Maybe to get some food. Hey, listen. I’ve got one word for you: Bondo. Bondo works really well. It’s an auto-body filler; there’s also a version that’s a wood filler. And you can pack any area that’s been dug out by this dog.
LESLIE: Or even build it out.
TOM: Yep. You can over-apply it, you can build it up and then you sand it down so it blends in with everything else. And you paint and you’re done.
GLENN: Yeah, OK. Well, that’s a simple solution.
TOM: Yeah. Well and next time, don’t invite the dog back. Tell your friend he can come. He’s to bring – leave the dog at home.
GLENN: Yeah, well, this is a long time ago. I built this house in about ’64 and we nailed it together stick by stick. Never built anything else. I had a lot of trouble getting a construction loan. Not no more knowledgeable than I was.
But anyhow, you solved my problem and I thank you very much.
LESLIE: June in Vermont needs some help cleaning a wood floor. Tell us what’s going on.
JUNE: Yes. I recently purchased one of these steam floor cleaners that is supposed to clean hardwood floors or any other type of flooring and also area rugs. And I just have become a little apprehensive about how safe it is. It cleans with a vapor. You heat up the water inside the machine and then the vapor cleans the floor. It has pads for cleaning your floors?
JUNE: And I just wondered what your opinion – if you had an opinion on these floor cleaners: how safe they were for the wood floors, especially the hardwood floors.
TOM: Well, I don’t think they’re going to hurt your wood floors. I mean, generally, with a hardwood floor, you don’t want to use a lot of water; you want to use a – damp-mop it and use a good-quality hardwood-floor cleaner. I don’t see the steam as being a problem because it’s not really going to sit there for a long time; it’s just going to loosen up the dirt and sort of move on.
LESLIE: Well and it may open the pores a smidgen, if there’s not too much of a glaze on it.
TOM: It’s going to cool really quickly, so I don’t think it’ll hurt your floors. And if it does a great job cleaning them, then you should use it.
JUNE: OK, OK. Well, I thought it probably would be a lot easier than – because I have a lot of hardwood flooring. And I thought it would be a lot easier for me to clean it with a machine than going over it with a mop.
TOM: Well, anytime you can get a machine to do the job for you, I say do it.
JUNE: Yeah, it’s a job. But it’s the vapor that’s supposed to clean it and I know some people that have used them and they swear by them. But I didn’t know what your opinion might be as to how safe it would be.
TOM: I don’t see any reason you can’t use it.
JUNE: OK, OK. Thank you very much.
TOM: You’re welcome, June. Good luck with that project. 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 MoneyPit.com. When we come back, we’re jumping into The Money Pit e-mail bag, the postings on our Community section. And we are going to answer one about a composite deck and how to get the biggest bang for your buck and the longest wear, so stick around.
[audio timestamp: 0:33:17]
ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit is brought to you by The Iron Shop, the leading manufacturer of spiral stair kits. Visit www.TheIronShop.com today to find out how you can own a beautiful, iron spiral staircase.
LESLIE: And I'm Leslie Segrete.
And we want you to have a super-fun time with The Money Pit, so why not go over to MoneyPit.com? And you can download our free iPhone app and this will give you the ability to take Tom and myself with you wherever you go. You can listen to our show on the go, you can find out about projects, you can see what everybody else is working on. It’s a really great website. The app is super-fun, so check everything out at MoneyPit.com today.
And while you are online, head on over to the Community section and you can post your question. And I’ve got one here from John in New York who wrote: “My house recently lost power and when the power was restored, I found one of the circuit breakers had tripped. I reset the breaker and it tripped again. The breaker controls the living room, which has eight outlets. I unplugged everything and tried to reset the breaker but it still pops. Do you have any suggestions as to what to look for next?”
A good electrician.
TOM: Yes. John, listen to the breaker. The breaker is talking to you. The breaker is saying, “John, we have a serious problem with this electrical circuit and as a result, I refuse to energize this circuit and burn your house down.” So it’s going off for a reason; you have to assume that there’s a reason.
Now, sure, if it goes off because you’re vacuuming or you’re using a hair dryer or the dishwasher’s going and you’ve got too many things going on in the circuit, then yeah, you could be overloading it. But if it’s going off with nothing on, that means there’s a serious problem with the circuit. It could be a burned wire somewhere, it could be an arc, it could be a spark. But for some reason, it’s telling you that there’s a problem with this circuit.
So yes, you are correct, Leslie. Your solution is get a good electrician.
You know, it’s funny. So many times, the safety things that we have in our house, you don’t listen to them.
LESLIE: You don’t want to listen to them.
TOM: Breakers, carbon-monoxide detectors. Every year, we read about people that have carbon-monoxide detectors that go off and they think it’s a false alarm.
LESLIE: “It was going off but I couldn’t smell anything.”
TOM: And they unplug them and they kill everybody in the house. You’ve got to listen to these things, folks. If the breaker is tripping, there’s a problem. Get it fixed right.
LESLIE: Good advice.
Alright. Now we’ve got one from Rose in New Jersey who writes: “I have a 12x20 deck which is about 6 years old. Each year, I have to refinish the deck and I’m getting really tired of having to do that process.”
TOM: I imagine you are, Rose, every year.
LESLIE: “I would like to give the deck a good finish and then put a composite deck over it to cut down on the maintenance. What do you think?”
I don’t think you need to refinish the existing. You need to pull it up, throw it out and then put the composite.
TOM: Yeah, exactly. There’s no point in refinishing it. You can – see, here’s the thing. Decks are made out of pressure-treated lumber, for the most part. And these surface boards, the decking? That gets impacted by the sun. They crack and they check and that’s why people want to stain them, OK?
But you don’t need those boards. You can pull those up, keep the structure and then put new composite decking on top of that. Use Trex. Trex is gorgeous composite decking. In fact, we have Trex here at the New Jersey shoreline near where I live. It’s been down on the beach with all of those people walking on it for over 10 years and it still looks as good as the day it was put down.
There is a complete Trex collection at Lowe’s. They’ve got a bunch of different colors, Rose. Go there to the nearest Lowe’s; check out all the different Trex colors. They also have railing systems and again, you can do a complete deck makeover; you do not have to finish what you have. Take off the old boards, put composite on it. You’re going to be very, very happy and you will never, ever have to touch a paintbrush again in terms of staining that surface.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you will be so happy, so enjoy that new deck, Rose.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. You can pick up the phone and call us 24-7 at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Even now, in the dog days of summer, we are standing by to help you with your home improvement questions.
If we’re not in when you call, you can leave a message and we will call you back the next time we’re in the studio because, occasionally, I have to give Leslie some time off. She’s very particular that way.
LESLIE: I’m so demanding.
TOM: 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.
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END HOUR 1 TEXT
(Copyright 2011 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.)