30 Minute Home Repairs Episode #0220171
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: And we are so happy you’re here today with us, because we love to talk home improvement, to talk trends, to talk DIY dilemmas. All of those solutions that you are seeking to make your project successful, we are here to help. But help yourself, first, by calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. Whether you’re hearing this on the air, whether you’re hearing this by podcast, we would love to talk with you at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Coming up on today’s show, would you like to do a better job of taking care of your home but figure, well, you just don’t have the time? Sorry, we’re about to cross that myth off the list with a series on home repairs that you can do in 30 minutes or less.
LESLIE: And speaking of myths, when it comes to taking care of your home, there are many myths that we hear like, you know, do you really need to run the water when you’re using the disposer? Or how about this: is it necessary to pre-rinse your dishes before you put them in the dishwasher? This is an argument had in many households every darn day of the week. Moms making kids do it, husbands and wives arguing over this. We’re going to find out the truth to that and other household myths, in a bit.
TOM: And there are many choices out there when it comes to home heating fuel. But have you ever wondered which is really the most efficient? We’re going to sort out the differences between oil, gas, propane and electric heat to help you determine which delivers the best energy efficiency for your home.
But first, let’s get to your calls. What’s going on at your money pit? We’d love to hear. Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Geraldine in New Jersey, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
GERALDINE: I had a shed – well, it’s my first home but I’m 74 and the shed is – was put up about 10, 15 years ago. And what happens is – it’s a metal shed. It wasn’t put up by professionals, if you know what I mean. Somebody recommended people. The roof has leaks in it. And so the floor is a wooden floor like, I guess, a plywood floor. And I went to look at it and everything was wet. So, apparently, it had got leaks in the roof. And the floor, of course, has to be replaced.
My question to Tom is – my neighbor says, “Well, just tear it down.” No. But I come from the old school where you’re taught to save things and repair them. And my theory is that maybe if I can find out from him what I can put in the roof to perhaps seal the metal – and also, that every shed – I just want to ask him. Every shed, I think, should have some kind of ventilation. And this, I believe, has nothing.
TOM: Well, not necessarily. I mean all sheds don’t have to have ventilation. They’re generally so drafty that they’re kind of self-ventilated.
But in terms of this leak, Geraldine, if the roof is structurally intact – in other words, it’s not rusted out – then we can assume that the leaks occurred in the seams of the roof. And the best material to use that would be silicone caulk, because it lasts a really long time and it seals very well. It sticks very well to the metal. It will expand and contract. So, I guess what I would probably do is have a contractor or a carpenter to seal all of the joints in the roof with silicone caulk and see if that controlled it.
Now, one of the things you could do is simply take a hose up there. And by working one small section at a time, you may be able to narrow down exactly where it’s leaking. It might not be the whole roof. There just might be some sections of that roof that are leaking. And this way, you’re not kind of doing the whole thing. But you need to figure out where the leak is and deal with that.
Metal-shed roofs don’t lend themselves to second roofs. It’s kind of one and done. And if it turns out the roof is structurally rusted out, then I would probably agree with your neighbor that it was time to tear it down and get a new one. But if it’s structurally in good shape, not deteriorated, it’s just a matter of a seal that’s broken somewhere. You’ve got to figure out where that seal is and then fix it with silicone caulk.
GERALDINE: Thank you very much, Tom.
TOM: Good luck, Geraldine. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Victor in Georgia is on the line with a carpet question. What can we do for you, sir?
VICTOR: I need to know how to get PVC glue off of carpet.
TOM: A circular saw would work well.
VICTOR: Yeah, I tried a shotgun and that didn’t work.
LESLIE: Now, that’s a little aggressive. No.
TOM: Yeah, that’s an adhesive that I don’t think you’re going to be able to get out of that carpet, unfortunately. What’s the story behind that, Victor? How’d that happen?
VICTOR: Well, I had a man here putting up some ceiling tile and he said to use a primer.
TOM: He’s not a carpet cleaner, that’s for sure.
VICTOR: That’s what happened.
TOM: Yeah, I’m sorry to tell you but I don’t think there’s a way to get that glue out of that carpet. Not an industrial glue like PVC glue. That’s just going to be rather impossible.
LESLIE: It was funny. Over this past holiday season, you know, I hadn’t had a large amount of company to my house in a while. And I went to take out some chairs from the boiler room which, in the spring of the previous year, had to have the whole ceiling replaced, the hearth wasn’t supported. There was a ton of work.
And I went to pull these chairs out. And in addition to them just being dusty and dirty, there had been as if someone just drizzled a PVC glue or some type of industrial glue all on the chairs. And you couldn’t pick it off, scrape it off, get it off the upholstery, so I was scrambling to borrow chairs from a neighbor on Christmas Eve.
I mean that glue, it does its job for darn sure.
VICTOR: Yeah. Holds good to anything.
TOM: Well, sorry we couldn’t give you better advice, Victor. Hopefully it’s a spot where some furniture will look good on top of it, right?
TOM: Alright, Victor. Take care of yourself. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now, we’ve got Joan in Illinois on the line who’s dealing with a mold issue. Tell us about it, Joan.
JOAN: Well, I’m wondering what causes dry rot and how you can tell if you have it.
TOM: OK. Well, what are you seeing, Joan?
JOAN: Coming down to the floor, there’s about an inch below the molding. And I took the carpet up and I saw sawdust down there. And I wondered if it was dry rot.
TOM: Alright. So, first of all, there’s no such thing as dry rot; there’s only wet rot. Wood that gets wet – it gets over 25-percent moist – can start to decay. Then, if that wood also dries out, that’s what people call “dry rot” but it’s really sort of a misnomer because it’s not really dry rot; it’s wet rot that has dried out.
JOAN: Oh. So we can’t cause it by overheating or under-humidifying a house.
TOM: No. Well, not overheating but if you over-humidify, I guess it’s technically possible because you’d put a lot of water in there. But no, you’re not going to cause it by overheating.
In terms of what you’re seeing under this molding, I think that would bear some further investigation. When you mentioned “sawdust,” I think about carpenter ants, for example. And so, I would make sure that I know exactly what’s causing this.
One of the things that you could do is you could take a picture of it and you can post it to our Facebook page at Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit. We’ll take a look at it and give you an opinion. Or you could post it to the Community section at MoneyPit.com. How about that?
JOAN: That sounds great.
TOM: Alright, Joan. 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. Give us a call your home repair or your home improvement question.
It’s about to be March, you guys. We are almost, almost done with winter. So give us a call if you’ve got some spring home improvements on your mind. We’re here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Up next, gas, oil, propane or electric? There are many ways to heat your home. Are you wondering which is most efficient? We’re going to tell you, after this.
TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And I put spring at, what, about a month or so away right now? So you must be getting that to-do list ready to go. Are you thinking about a project for the outside? For the inside? Want to make your home more energy-efficient before it comes time to start spending even more money on summer cooling bills? Those are all great topics. Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: You know, Tom, I’m about to do what I feel like is my every five- or six-year spring project.
TOM: What’s that?
LESLIE: I constantly need to replace the gate from my driveway to my backyard.
TOM: What happens to it?
LESLIE: First, it was – some of the mechanisms, like the latch, will start to fail. And I don’t know if it’s that the pressure-treated lumber is starting to fail and the connection point where the latch is to the post will start to fail. So then I redo all of that. And then, eventually, the posts start to fail and the hinges will start to fall off. So I’m thinking this year I might go with one of those – it’s not really Plexi but one of those types of fences.
LESLIE: If you can do that for just the gate.
TOM: Like a PVC type of material.
TOM: Yeah. Mm-hmm.
LESLIE: Can you do that just for the gate?
TOM: Yeah. It’s lighter. One of the problems with those wood gates is that they’re so darn heavy that they do force a lot of wear and tear.
LESLIE: And it is a wider opening because it is the driveway.
LESLIE: And I’ve done it with just two gates.
TOM: Ah. Oh, yeah. Yeah.
LESLIE: So it’s like, inevitably, every five years we’re getting a new one.
TOM: Right. And they tend to sag a lot because of weight.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. That’s where it starts.
TOM: So, yep, exactly. So, yeah, I think PVC might be a good choice. You’re still going to have to protect it against sags but I think that’s a great choice. Plus, you certainly won’t be picking up a paintbrush for that.
LESLIE: Fatma is on the line from Michigan with a grout question. What is going on at your money pit?
FATMA: I have a – my house is about 22 years old. I think it was built in ‘94. I have a family room that is – the floors are ceramic. And I noticed that the grout is breaking and so the – some of the ceramic tile is kind of lifting up. And similar thing now just happened in the bathroom and the laundry room. So, I was just wondering, what is the best and most cost-effective way to fix that problem?
TOM: Fatma, what kind of floor is the tile on? Is it on a wood floor? Do you have a basement underneath this or what?
FATMA: OK, it’s – the house is two floors. We do have a basement underneath and part of it is finished and part of it is not. And I have – the problem was noticed a while ago in the upper floor bathroom – in the master bathroom. The master bathroom is above the garage and I saw that that may be because the garage is cold and maybe the difference in the temperature. So that was just one crack.
Now that the family room is having the same – the grout is breaking and the other half-bathrooms – those and the laundry room – all on the main floor.
TOM: Because what I am concerned about is that the base of the tile, however the floor was prepared for the tile to go on, wasn’t stiff enough. So if there’s any flexibility in that floor, then this would mean that the tile would move and the grout would start to crack and you could get tile that pops up.
In this situation, it’s hard to do a partial repair. Certainly, you can – there’s tools that can be used to grind out the grout. It could all be replaced, regrouted but that’s not to say that it won’t continue to move. Loose tiles can be lifted up and reglued to the floor and then regrouted but it might not be the end of it. If it turns out that the base, the way the tile was installed initially, wasn’t done very well, then that’s why you’re continuing to have movement and looseness and cracking.
And so, in that case, the best thing to do is to take all the tile up and then to redo it, really, from the bottom on up or to choose a different type of flooring material. You don’t have to use tile. If you wanted to leave the tile in place and put another flooring on top of that, you could do that, as well. And a laminate floor works very well for that. It’s a fairly new flooring material. It’s extremely durable and it can look like tile or stone or hardwood floor. And it kind of snaps together and then it floats on top of the floor that’s underneath it. You could put that right over the old tile. It’s just that the floor would be a little higher as a result.
FATMA: OK. Alright. Well, thank you so much.
TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, have you been bombarded with ads compelling you to choose propane over oil or natural gas over electric? Well, all those competing claims can make it kind of hard to figure out what is the best deal.
Now, according to the Department of Energy, the best home heating fuel option for your home depends on a variety of factors, including the cost and availability of the fuel and the cost of maintenance and distribution. But the truth is that, for most of us, our home heating fuel options are not really up to us since the fuel has to match the heating equipment that was installed in your home or in your apartment or your condo. And switching out from one fuel to another usually is impractical. But there are some ways to save.
LESLIE: Yeah, that’s right. Now, if you heat by oil, or in some cases propane, one of the ways to cut your costs is to join fuel-oil cooperatives.
Now, cooperatives are groups that form to purchase the fuel oil in bulk at a discounted price and then all of those discounts are passed along to the end user. Now, the cooperatives have been around for more than 20 years and joining one really can result in substantial savings. You’ve just got to remember that these providers don’t offer services, like an emergency oil delivery on a cold weekend night, if you happen to run out.
TOM: Yeah. And that can be super important. If I had to rank all the fuels by preference, I would probably put gas at the top of the that list, followed by – well, cost aside, geothermal. And then probably oil and propane and electric somewhere after that. I love geothermal except the install cost is so darn expensive. But if you happen to live in a community where there are rebates available, it could be just the perfect choice for you.
LESLIE: Always love taking calls from my neck of the woods. We’ve got Scott in New York who’s working on the driveway. Tell us what’s going on.
SCOTT: At my house, in my driveway, I have a blacktop driveway. I notice sitting water spots after a rainstorm. I was wondering what my options were for fixing.
TOM: So, are these actual potholes or just sort of low spots?
SCOTT: Just low spots.
TOM: I’ve got to tell you, it’s difficult to address a situation where you just have low spots like that, because it’s a failure of the base of the driveway. When the driveway was put in, the base of the driveway underneath, you know, probably wasn’t prepped correctly. And so, over time, it’s settled and sagged. And that’s why you’re developing those water spots now.
It’s difficult to patch over that unless it’s a fairly contained area. So, for example, if you had a section of broken-up driveway that maybe was a foot or so square, there are different densities of patching compounds. They come everywhere from like a gravel mix, that is a latex product that you could put in and will dry solid, to something that’s fairly liquid for cracks.
But to really raise the level of low spots in there, you’re really talking about a situation where you’d have to replace the driveway or put a second layer on it. And I’ve got to tell you, I probably would not even put the second layer on it, because I would not be confident as to how the original driveway was constructed. And if I wanted to avoid that in the future, I would probably just tear it up and start again.
So, I guess your question is: how much does this really bother you? Does it bother you enough where you want to tear it up or you just want to live with it for a few more years before you get to that? If it’s not cracked, perhaps just sealing it is going to protect it as long as possible. Keeping that water from saturating into that area and soaking into that area will help stabilize it for the – at least for the immediate future.
SCOTT: OK. Thanks for your help.
LESLIE: We’ve got Cindy in Michigan on the line who wants to talk about reducing energy costs. How can we help you?
CINDY: Is there a way to lower your electric bills by generating your own electricity? I’ve heard of solar panels and windmills and seems like they cost a lot of money to get them going. And I’m wondering, is it actually feasible, financially, to do something like that?
TOM: Yeah. Well, first of all, the most effective way to cut those energy costs – and especially if we’re talking about heating and cooling energy – is to improve the energy efficiency of your home. And the single most important way or easiest way to do that is by improving insulation. It’s amazing how many people simply don’t have enough insulation. And in a state like Michigan, you’re certainly going to want to have 15 to 20 inches of insulation in your attic.
Now, as to your question about generating your own power, there are some programs that are run by state governments and by utility suppliers that include different sorts of rebates and different sorts of purchase – I don’t want to say “schemes” but sort of plans for getting that equipment to your house.
So, for example, in my part of the country, they have offers where you don’t actually pay for the initial installation there. You partner with an energy company that does the installation of solar panels. And then, as it generates energy, you get to keep some of that and some of that goes back to the utility company and eventually, it pays off the cost of that installation. So I would investigate solar programs in your area and rebates that might be available. Start with the utility companies and go from there.
Because if there’s a favorable program, that’s the only way it makes them cost-effective. You are correct in that a lot of these things are very expensive and don’t make a lot of economic sense. But if there’s rebate money available – either locally, at the state level or federally – it does make sense.
CINDY: OK. So you would just call your energy company then?
TOM: I would start there, with your utility company, or simply do some research online for rebates that are available in your area. OK, Cindy?
CINDY: Alright. Thank you.
TOM: You’re very welcome. Good luck with that project.
LESLIE: Hey, just ahead, we’re going to sort out the facts from fiction with the truth behind a few of our favorite home improvement myths, after this.
MARILU: Hi. This is Marilu Henner from The Marilu Henner Show. And I’m obsessed with these guys. You’re listening to The Money Pit, my buddies Tom Kraeutler and Leslie Segrete.
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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: Well, have you replaced your heating-system filter lately? That’s a job that tends to get forgotten about this time of year. And a dirty filter can reduce airflow, which makes your system work that much harder to deliver that warmth where it’s needed. Plus, that, in itself, can drive up the heating and in the summer, cooling costs, too.
So, you might want to make sure you get to replacing that filter soon or better yet, if you want to plan a project for the spring, think about investing in a whole-house air cleaner that requires only annual maintenance, which is pretty sweet.
LESLIE: Well, when it comes to the topic of home improvement, there’s often more bad advice than sage wisdom that spreads like wildfire.
TOM: True. And for those of us in the role of trying to provide the best advice, we often need to help separate fact from fiction, which is why we thought it might be fun to invite our friend, Kevin O’Connor, the host of This Old House, to help us get to the bottom of some of these very common household myths.
KEVIN: Hi, guys. Great to see you again.
TOM: So, I’m sure you hear about as many of these supposed pearls of wisdom as we do. What household myths really need to be busted, in your view?
KEVIN: Wow, there’s a whole bucket full of them.
KEVIN: But let’s see if I can make a short list here. I think one of the first things is when you’re picking a contractor, the lowest bid is the worst one, right? So we always advise people, “Go out there and get a few bids.” And sometimes you throw out the lowest, you throw out the highest and you settle on the middle.
Well, that might be reasonable. But to think that the lowest is always the worst? I don’t think that that’s necessarily true. And in fact, price probably shouldn’t be your only consideration. You’re going to want to find out to make sure that the person is actually bidding on apples to apples. Are two contractors going to do the same level of work? That might explain the discrepancy in their price.
But also, really important things, word of mouth. Have they gotten a good reputation? And are they licensed? Do they have all of the certificates that are needed to get the job done?
TOM: Yeah. And I want to go back to that apples-to-apples comparison because I think that’s a point that a lot of folks miss. You need to have a good set of specifications for your project. Otherwise, you’re leaving it up to the contractor to tell you what they intend to do to complete your job. Whether it’s a kitchen reno or a bathroom or even a repair, it has to be – it has to come out exactly how you expect. And if you don’t have that, you’re not going to be able to make that comparison.
KEVIN: The more detail that you have in the plan before you get started, the better off you’re going to be served, both by the contractor who you eventually pick but also in picking the right contractor so that they’re all bidding against the same thing.
We just went through a kitchen renovation. And one contractor pointed out that the electrical panel was going to need to be upgraded because we needed new circuit breakers – the arc-fault circuit breakers. And that was great. We said, “OK, fine. Let’s put that in the price.” Another contractor came in and said, “Hey, you may not be aware but these new breakers will not fit in your existing panel.” I had to change the whole thing out.
That was better information for me, explained why there was an extra $600 charge in his proposal. But I was better off knowing that because I was going to end up paying it anyway.
TOM: And you definitely would want to work with a guy that knew that, as opposed to the guy that may have found it out later and hit you with a $600 surprise.
KEVIN: Absolutely, absolutely. And along those same lines, I wouldn’t necessarily think that the highest bid you get is necessarily from the best contractor.
LESLIE: Oh, yeah.
KEVIN: “Oh, he’s charging me a lot. He must be the best guy in town.” You know, these guys, they’re usually small businesses. Their calendars fill up fast. And one of the fastest ways to make sure you don’t get too much work is to throw a big number against a job. Maybe it means he doesn’t really want it. So don’t necessarily think that the lowest or the highest should be thrown out by a matter of course.
LESLIE: I think another thing that people don’t realize, or perhaps just don’t want to acknowledge, is that if they’re doing a DIY project that, well, they probably don’t need a permit.
KEVIN: Yeah. I think people think that the permit comes with the professional and if the professional is not involved, the permit’s not necessary. And to be true – to be honest, there are a lot of jobs that homeowners can do without a permit: the sanding, the painting, even some small renovation with taking down walls or putting up walls. But there are plenty of projects that even if you were doing them yourself, you do need the permit. And you want to check into that beforehand because whether you knew or not, if you needed a permit to do the project and you didn’t get one, you could have a little, nasty surprise at the end of that project.
TOM: We’re talking to Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House, about some common household myths.
Now, here’s one that actually used to be true but not so much anymore. And that is that low-flow toilets – the water-efficient toilets – don’t work.
KEVIN: Yeah. So the low-flow toilet – these days, it makes it sound like it is something new and revolutionary. It’s a toilet that uses 1.6 gallons or fewer to actually cause the toilet to flush. And they’re pretty much standard issue these days. I mean it’s hard to buy one that isn’t a 1.6 toilet out there.
And as you say, Tom, maybe that was the case 10 years ago or even 2 decades ago but these things work perfectly fine. And in fact, they’ve improved on the technology where you can flush a toilet effectively with even less water than the low-flow standard.
TOM: Yeah. And I think the thing is that since toilets last a long time, there’s still plenty of the poorly performing low-flow toilets out there. But you can rest assured, if you upgrade to the newer ones, that they’ve got all those kinks worked out.
LESLIE: I think another one is everybody always thinks, “Oh, bigger, better. So I might as well apply that to everything in my home, especially the HVAC system.”
KEVIN: Yes. So I’ve heard this story plenty of times from Richard Trethewey, our HVAC and our plumbing specialist. The easiest thing for a contractor to do when they’re coming and putting a new system into your house is to just make it as big as they can possibly make it. Because that will guarantee you that you’re not going to have a day when it doesn’t keep up. They don’t have to do any thought. It might be a higher-end system and they’ll just put it in. But bigger is not necessarily better.
The ideal thing to do with an HVAC system is to size it appropriately for the house. You want it to be able to service that house, to keep up with the cooling load. But if you make it bigger, you actually are going to run into problems. You probably bought more than you need but also, it could cause it to cycle. And by that, I mean it will give you a huge blast of cold air. It’ll bring the room to temperature very quickly but then it will shut off. And shutting off doesn’t always help you because, as you guys know, with air conditioning, a lot of it is dehumidification.
And so, dehumidification happens when the air is actually moving through that system. And it’s less about cooling and it’s more about extracting that moist air out of that. And that happens when it is cycling frequently.
TOM: Good advice. So one more myth that I think we should tackle, that is a really expensive mistake for folks to make, and that is that homeowners insurance will always cover a flood. Not the case, as so many people learned in the recent hurricane that struck New Jersey: Sandy.
KEVIN: Yeah. And I think the way to think about this is that there’s two different kinds of floods. There’s the flood that’s caused by your washing-machine hose that goes that’s in the house. That is not the flood we’re talking about here. We’re talking about the act of nature. When the river overflows or the ocean pushes up over the dunes, those types of flood are very typically a separate level of insurance. Your homeowners does not typically cover that, so you could have catastrophic damage to your house.
Call up your insurance company and they’ll tell you simply, “Sorry, you are not insured.” So if you think you’re at risk of this and you can find out where the maps are, where you lay in the floodplains, you should be thinking about an additional policy specifically to cover for flood insurance.
TOM: Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House, great advice as always. Thank you so much for being a part of The Money Pit.
KEVIN: It is my pleasure to be here. Thank you, guys.
LESLIE: Alright. You can 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 ThisOldHouse.com.
TOM: And Ask This Old House is brought to you on PBS by Mitsubishi Electric Cooling & Heating.
Up next, do you think you don’t have time to be a DIYer? Well, think again. We’re going to discuss some home repairs you can get done in 30 minutes or less, after this.
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TOM: Where home solutions live, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Thinking about picking up a paintbrush, fixing a squeak, dealing with a leak? Give us a call right now. We’d love to help. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Trent in Florida on the line who’s dealing with a falling-apart popcorn ceiling. How can we help you?
TRENT: Well, my popcorn ceiling is actually in my bathroom. I guess, on one night or something, my son had gotten it wet and when it dried, it started flaking off the ceiling. And now it’s just continuing to do it.
LESLIE: Well, it’s funny because when you get a popcorn ceiling wet, that’s actually the way to remove it. You would spray it with, you know, some sort of garden sprayer and then scrape it off. So if you want it gone, he’s got you on the correct path.
TOM: Now, is the time, right.
But if you don’t want it gone, what I would do is this: I would take maybe a stiff-bristle brush and gently brush away – maybe like a dry paintbrush and just brush away all the loose stuff. And then you’re going to pick up some popcorn-ceiling patching material. There’s a number of different manufacturers of this. I know that Zinsser makes one, Homax makes one. It comes both in a trowel-on finish and also in a spray-on finish.
LESLIE: It looks like cheese in a can when it comes out.
TOM: Yeah, exactly. It looks like Cheez Whiz. And you can spray that on and recreate the popcorn effect that way. And then, lastly, you’re probably going to have to paint that ceiling and paint the entire ceiling to blend it in.
But you’ve got to get rid of the loose stuff, add the patching material and then repaint the ceiling and you’ll be good to go.
TRENT: OK. Well, great. Well, thank you very much.
TOM: Now, you’ve got options. You’re very welcome.
Well, if you keep telling your spouse or your significant other that you just don’t have time to do anything around the house, we are calling your bluff. Because if you’ve got 30 minutes or less, there are lots of improvements that can make your home more comfortable.
For example, you know that window that probably hasn’t opened since Seinfeld was on prime time? You know what? It’s probably time to get it fixed. And the reason it doesn’t open is most likely because it’s painted shut. That’s an easy fix. Don’t keep staring at that stuck window. Just grab a putty knife and break the paint seal all the way around.
Now, here’s the trick: if it still won’t budge, take a block of wood, put it on top of the lower window sash and then tap the wood down with a hammer. That will push it just down enough to break that paint seal. Do it on both sides and you’ll be amazed. It’ll pop right open again.
LESLIE: Well, here’s another one: exercise. It’s good for you but it turns out that exercise is also good for your circuit breakers. Who knew about this, guys? Now, every six months you need to turn off each breaker and then put it back on again. Then every month, you want to push the test button on the GFCI to make sure that it stays flexible and strong, just like you feel after your workout.
TOM: Pretty much. Now, you can check for water leaks in 30 minutes. Turn off all the running water in your house and then look at your water meter. If it’s moving, you’ve got a leak. You can also check your fixtures and faucets for leaks pretty quickly. You want to check your sink? Simply fill it up to the overflow and then release the drain, look under the sink and see if you’ve got any drips. It’s easy to check for leaks around toilets. They usually show up right at the bottom of the bowl. And sometimes, the wood will get a bit soft there, telling you have an internal leak going on.
And if you want to check for leaks in the shower pan, just cover the drain with a washcloth and fill it up. Give it about 20 minutes and look underneath. Go right downstairs below it. Keep an eye on it. If there’s anything wrong with that shower pan, you’ll see the leak.
Now, fixing those leaks, I will admit, will take more than 30 minutes. But at least you found it out pretty quickly and you saved yourself all the damage that would ensue if you didn’t know about it.
LESLIE: Kelly in South Dakota is on the line and wants some help removing wallpaper. What can we do for you?
KELLY: I have a – some wallpaper that I want to remove. And I believe we primed the walls. This has been about 10 years ago. And when I pulled back on the edges of the wallpaper, it seems as though it’s taking a bit of the drywall with it.
TOM: So, what you want to do is you want to get a tool called a “paper tiger,” which puts small holes in the surface of the paper. And it helps the wallpaper remover get behind it and loosen up the adhesive.
Now, in terms of wallpaper remover, you can use fabric softener, which works well or you could use a commercially available product, like DIF – D-I-F. But putting those holes in there is important because, otherwise, it doesn’t saturate the paper.
Now, if you do that and it still doesn’t loosen up and pull off, then what you need to do is go out and rent a wallpaper steamer. And that will use warm, moist air to separate the paper from the wall.
No matter how you do it, it is a lot of work. And once that wallpaper is off, you’re going to need to reprime that wall with a good-quality primer so you have a nice surface upon which to put your final color of wall paint.
KELLY: OK. Do you need to sand that once you get it all done?
TOM: Well, if it’s a little rough, just lightly sand it. You don’t want to sand it too much, especially because you don’t want to cut into the paper that’s part of the drywall. But a little bit of light abrasion is not a bad thing.
But the most important thing is a good-quality priming paint applied to that wall surface, because you’re going to have old sizing material and who-knows-what-else stuck to that. And if you put the primer on, it’ll give you a good surface upon which to apply the paint. The paint will flow nicely and it’ll look better when it dries.
KELLY: Well, thank you very much. I appreciate that.
LESLIE: Alright. Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit.
Just ahead, stoves can be a real danger zone for your kids. We’re going to have some tips on how to make stoves safe, including an important note about preventing stoves from tipping over, after this.
TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Hey, you know, stoves can be a real danger zone for children.
Leslie, I’m sure you are always on guard when you’re cooking around your kids.
LESLIE: Oh, my goodness, even now. Henry is eight and Charlie is four but I’m still nervous. I always make sure – the traditional things: handles are pointed inward. I only recently took the special big, plastic covers off of the knobs to turn the gas burners on. It was basically like you had to unlatch a secret thing to then get to the valves themselves to turn on the burners. I only just recently did that. I mean clearly, I don’t trust my kids.
TOM: Well, the thing is you can’t be watching them 24/7. And here’s a new danger that I think a lot of parents are not aware of and that is tip-over. Kids love to climb, right? And so they’ll open the oven door and climb up on that door. And what happens? The entire range can tip over.
Now, there’s a bracket called an anti-tip-over bracket that can be installed on your range to stop this from happening. If you don’t have this, especially if you have an older range, it’s a really good thing for you to install. So, let’s be safe out there and take care of those kids.
LESLIE: That’s interesting. When Charlie was little, he used to like to pull out the warming drawer and then sit in it.
TOM: Sit in it or climb on it.
LESLIE: And I would turn around and he’d be sitting in the warming drawer. So that makes a ton of sense that you would have to be concerned about this.
TOM: Absolutely. They’re learning new things every day and so, even though they didn’t do it today doesn’t mean they’re not going to figure it out tomorrow.
LESLIE: Alright. Well, figuring things out is what we help you guys do, so let’s jump into a post here from Joan in Massachusetts who writes: “I do a lot of entertaining and I would like to put a second refrigerator in my garage. But I’ve heard that since my garage isn’t insulated, that the refrigerator isn’t going to work properly. Is this correct?”
Ooh, Joan is a smart cookie because a lot of people can’t understand how this is even a possibility.
TOM: Yeah. Because refrigeration really is designed to work at room temperature. So when you put it into an unfinished space where it’s going to be super cold, like a garage, it does not work well. There are, however, special refrigerators designed for those spaces. I know that the Whirlpool Company makes one in the Gladiator brand. I am sure there are others. But just putting your old refrigerator out there will not work well. And in fact, it can waste an awful lot of energy.
So, it’s not the best place to put that extra fridge if you’re just trying to find a place to keep an extra case or two of beer or some extra turkeys or whatever else is going on in your house. It’s not the best place for it because the refrigeration cycle is designed to work at room temperature and not at sub-zero temperatures.
LESLIE: Alright. Well, I hope that helps, Joan. This way, at least you haven’t wasted money on a fridge and then a whole bunch of rotten groceries.
Next, we’ve got one from Bob in North Carolina who writes: “There are smoke marks above one of my electrical outlets in the kitchen. Should I call an electrician? I don’t even use the outlet.”
TOM: You should definitely be concerned about that. Because if you do have any type of a soot mark around that outlet, that means that there was some sort of a short in the outlet.
Now, it might be nothing or it could mean that the outlet itself is deteriorating. So whether you use it or not, it is energized all the time. And so that could make it potentially dangerous. So that sort of thing is definitely something to be aware of. And in the kitchen, as in the bathroom, if you’re going to have an electrician come in, make sure, if you don’t have them, that they install ground-fault circuit-interrupter outlets in those places to make it even more safe. Because the ground-fault outlet detects any diversion of current to a ground source, which could be you if you’re getting a shock. And it turns the power off before anybody can get hurt.
LESLIE: Yeah. And Bob, while you’ve got the electrician in, there’s actually a newer version of that ground fault. It’s actually called an “arc-fault circuit interrupter.” So you can even get a combination outlet, you can get just the arc fault. It might be worth it to invest in those things now while you’ve got the work getting done and just keep everybody safe.
TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Hey, thank you so much for spending this hour with us. If you’ve got questions, 24/7, you can call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. The Money Pit lines are always open. We’re always there to take your calls. And when we’re not in the studio, we will look to call you back the next time we are. Happy home improving.
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 2017 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.)