- If you’ve been thinking about a remodeling project and wondering what to do with your ceiling, a drop ceiling is probably not on your list! But these ceilings are not just the boring flat large tiles we’ve grown up with. We’ll share some amazing transformations that are possible with the newest innovations in these ceilings.
- You probably don’t think much about your home’s electrical panel until a circuit trips – and then you have to! Tripped circuits may be a sign your panel is ready for an upgrade, or just point to the need for a much less expensive repair. We’ll explain how to keep the power on for less.
- Hundreds of unsafe products get recalled each year. But with so many recalls, how do you know if you have recalled products in your own home? We’ll tell you about a free product recall website that can help.
Plus, answers to your home improvement questions about:
- Larry needs advice what to do about a bad contractor who did what sounds like pretty lousy work on his new home.
- Jan in Kansas wants to know how to fix cracks in her sheetrock walls that run from her dining room to her kitchen.
- Howard from Texas has a collapsing retaining wall that needs an immediate repair.
- Karen in Nebraska wants to know how to set up a timer for her front lights.
- James from Minnesota wants to know how to tell the age of a water heater.
- William in Texas has a crack in his double paned window and wants to know the best way to fix it.
- Mary from Missouri wants to know if she can install central air conditioning using existing duct work.
- David in Maryland need tips to clean mold from her driveway and stop it from coming back.
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: Hey, it’s time to fix up your house. If that’s a project that you’d like to get done – maybe you want to paint, maybe you want to put some new flooring in, maybe you want to plan for the future – you’re in the right place because that’s what we do.
Pretty much all the time before the show, we’re just talking about what we did on the weekend. And I did – I have a rental and I had to turn it for a new client. And the laundry-room floor was sagging. And so I had to go figure out a way to fix the sag in the floor and put some new flooring in.
So there’s always a project going on around our money pits and maybe there’s one going on around yours. Or maybe you just don’t know how to get started. Well, we can get you started and you can help yourself first by reaching out to us with your questions. You can do that at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or you can post your questions at MoneyPit.com.
Hey, coming up on today’s show, if you’ve been thinking about a remodeling project and wondering what to do with your ceiling, I bet there is one ceiling type that you are definitely not considering: a drop ceiling. Because what do you think about when you think of drop ceiling? I think about high-school ceilings when you stare up at the ceiling and say, “Oh, is this class ever going to be over?” And it’s a 2-foot by 4-foot Styrofoam ugly panel. It says industrial when you look at it, right?
Well, no more, my friends. Drop ceilings today are absolutely gorgeous. You would be amazed at the styles and designs they have. And they don’t look anything like the kinds of ceilings you may have grown up with. So we’re going to talk about that, in today’s Smart Spending Tip, in just a bit.
LESLIE: And also ahead, you probably don’t think that much about your home’s electrical panel until, say, a circuit trips and then you kind of have to think about it. Well, tripped circuits may actually be a sign that your panel is ready for an upgrade. We’re going to explain why.
TOM: And every year, hundreds of unsafe products get recalled. But with so many recalls, how do you know if you’ve got a recalled product in your own home? I have actually found products that were recalled just by checking the websites, that we’re going to share in just a bit, when we didn’t know that it was recalled. And I remember it was a baby seat, actually, which is pretty darn important. So, we’re going to tell you about a service that can help and it’s free.
LESLIE: And speaking of a free service that can help, it’s us, The Money Pit. What are you guys working on? How can we help you? I know the winter months – you know, we all just got through gloomy January. I feel like January is the slow month where you just start thinking about what’s coming. And maybe you’re thinking about what you’re going to work on in your house in the springtime. So whatever it is, let us lend you a hand. Start thinking of those projects and give us a call.
TOM: You can reach out to us a couple of ways. You can call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or you can post your questions to MoneyPit.com.
So let’s get to it. Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: We’ve got Larry on the line who’s giving us a call back. We’re continuing some help on a project.
What’s going on?
LARRY: I called you a while back about a brand-new house with major problems. Well, I took your advice and I actually had hired an electrician and a contractor – a plumbing contractor. Then I got a home inspection and all three agreed on the same things. Now we’re going to court.
TOM: Aw, that’s too bad. So this is a brand-new house?
LARRY: Yeah, we’ve been in it 4 months.
TOM: But it was built from scratch, huh?
LARRY: Yeah, it was built from scratch. And just – you know, we had to repaint the house, top to bottom. That was the biggest thing. And there was just a lot of stuff. The furnace wasn’t put in right; we’ve just fixed that. We’ve got a lot of stuff – a lot of small stuff – but I’m getting too much pushback from the contractor, so I had to go the other direction.
TOM: Wow. That’s terrible. Boy, a brand-new house like that, everything should be perfect, right?
TOM: By the way, did you happen to talk to the local building officials about all these problems? Because a lot of this stuff that you’re talking about may not have been in code.
LARRY: The thing – where I live in Vermont, they didn’t – there really isn’t a lot of inspections.
TOM: Mm-hmm. OK.
LARRY: Hardly at all. You had mention a warranty. There’s no – we didn’t have a warranty on the house. There was nothing ever mentioned. And I actually went to the bank and they – we have the mortgage. So in the bank, they said, “Well, there’s nothing we can do about it.”
TOM: Right. No, they can’t. Nope. Exactly.
Well, sorry to hear about that, Larry. And I’m glad we’re able to give you some tips to get you moving in the right direction. You’re just going to have to resign yourself to the fact that it’s going to be a long process.
TOM: But hopefully, you’ll get some satisfaction out of it. And I’m glad that you got to the bottom of it by bringing in the right professionals.
LARRY: Yeah. I did use one of your products, though, and it works great.
TOM: Oh, yeah? Which one was that?
LARRY: Well, I put it in my – we have a mailbox. And I used that foam where you dig the hole and pour the foam in.
TOM: Are you talking about QUIKRETE?
TOM: That QUIKRETE in the red bag? Yeah, you pour it in dry then you water the hole?
LARRY: Yep. It works great.
TOM: I know, right?
LARRY: Yeah. Everybody thought I was crazy. I said, “No, it works great.”
TOM: That’s a good trick. If you want to set a fence post or you want to set a basketball pole or anything like that, you can just dig the hole, brace it in place, pour the dry concrete around it – the QUIKRETE mix in the red bag – and then literally water the hole and walk away. And a few hours later, it’s rock solid.
LARRY: But I – no, I just wanted to thank you for helping me, pointing in the right – because I had to look to find a certified inspector around here. Yep. So I just wanted to say thanks.
TOM: Well, you’re welcome, Larry. And good luck. And keep us posted.
LARRY: Yep. Bye-bye.
LESLIE: Jan in Kansas is on the line with a home that seems to be cracking up.
Tell us what’s going on.
JAN: Well, I’ve got a lot of problems. It’s an old house; it’s over 50 years old.
TOM: You have a lot of opportunities, Jan, not a lot of problems.
JAN: Yeah. I’ve got some cracks in the wall.
JAN: And I have one crack that is going from the dining room to the kitchen and I believe it’s cracking on both sides of the wall. Same crack.
TOM: OK. You said it’s 50 years old. Do you know if it’s plaster lath?
JAN: It’s sheetrock.
TOM: It’s drywall? OK. So, you know, fixing that is not a big deal. The thing is that most people usually fix it incorrectly. What they’ll do is they’ll try to spackle it. And by spackling it, you’re pretty much guaranteeing that it’s going to re-crack. What you have to do is sand down the area so you get rid of any glaze from the paint or dirt or anything like that. And then you’re going to cover it with drywall tape. And you want to use the mesh type of tape that’s sticky.
So you put a strip of tape across the crack and then you spackle right over that tape. And you’ll use three layers of spackle. And the easiest way to apply this is if you buy the plastic spackling knives. You can buy one that starts at around 4 inches, then you go to 6, then you go to 8. And they’re pretty inexpensive and you use that to apply the spackle and you sand in between each coat. And then you prime and paint and you’re done. So those are the proper steps.
Where most people go wrong is they just try to do a quick and dirty spackling job and they wonder why it cracks again and again and again. Because that’s basically an expansion joint right now and unless you spread the repair across both sides of it with new drywall tape, it will continue to show up.
LESLIE: Heading out to Texas where Howard is on the line with a retaining-wall issue.
What’s going on?
HOWARD: I have one in my backyard with landscaping bricks that weigh about 25 pounds each. And the wall is leaning forward and beginning to fall over. I’ve been told it’s because there’s possibly water building up behind it and pushing that over.
LESLIE: So, Howard, I hear what’s happening. That’s not unusual. The reason it is happening – it most likely is happening is because of water. What happens is water gets behind that kind of wall and in the wintertime, expands. Or if you have a type of soil that expands, it pushes on that wall. So water management is really the key to keeping your retaining wall in good shape.
You mentioned that it’s made of landscaping blocks. That’s actually going to be your friend here, because what I’m going to tell you to do is disassemble this wall, basically take it apart and dig out behind it. Because I want you to try to have at least 6 to 12 inches of stone behind that wall for its entire height. You kind of want to trench behind it because that’s going to allow the water to sort of fall and not expand into that landscaping block.
And what I would also do, when you rebuild this, is I wouldn’t ever make a retaining wall completely vertical. I’d always lean it into the hill, just for this very reason. Because if nothing else, if it moves a little bit, at least I’m not now teetering over. So you want to do this – especially with the landscaping blocks, it’s easy to do – is you’re basically just sort of overlapping them in such a way as you sort of step in with each one a little bit, to kind of give you a little bit of an angled wall when you’re done.
Now, I don’t know how high this is; I’m going to assume it’s not terribly high. If it’s really high, then you may have some deeper structural issues. But if it’s a typical retaining wall – it’s 3 or 4 or 5 feet high – you should be able to address it in that fashion.
LESLIE: Karen in Nebraska is having some issues with her automated lighting.
What can we do for you?
KAREN: Well, I have a porch light on the side of the house and one in the front of the house. I got these timers. The one in the back works perfectly fine. At dusk, it’ll come on and then when the daylight comes, it’ll turn off. And the one on the front will not. So I took the timer back on the front and I thought, “Well, maybe it was a faulty timer.” But it still doesn’t work and I had a man look at it and he can’t figure out why it’s not working. It would be helpful if that one would work, too, because now you don’t have to turn it off and on.
TOM: But the switch works. So you know that without the timer, it comes off and on. It’s just when you add the timer into this?
TOM: What kind of timer is this? Is this the kind of timer that takes the place of the switch or what?
KAREN: Well, you just screw the light bulb into this timer and then you screw the whole unit into the – you know, in the light-bulb area.
TOM: Oh, I see. This probably isn’t it but are you using a high energy-efficiency bulb in one or the other?
KAREN: Well, I thought about using those but at this point, I’m using 40-watt bulbs.
TOM: OK. Just regular incandescents?
TOM: And you’ve tried two of these and they’re still not working?
TOM: But without it, the light comes on and off normally?
TOM: Wow. It sounds like something’s wrong with the timer. I wonder if, because of the configuration of the way the timer screws into the fixture itself, that maybe it’s not making contact.
Like, for example, sometimes when you have a timer that screws into the socket where the bulb goes and then you screw the bulb into the timer, maybe it doesn’t get close enough to actually make a contact because the fixture’s a little bit different. That’s the only thing that really comes to mind on this, Karen. Because it wouldn’t make sense that it’s not working.
Have you done this? Have you taken one that doesn’t work in the front and screwed it in in the back and see if it works in the back? Because that will …
KAREN: I did, I did. And then I took the one from the back and put it into the front and it didn’t work either, so …
TOM: And put it in the front. So, then, I think it’s pretty clear that for whatever reason, the timer is not getting power from the light fixture. So …
KAREN: How would I be able to fix that?
TOM: Well, you’ve got to try to look at it closely and figure out why that’s happening.
LESLIE: Now, this may sound crazy but I actually had a light fixture inside my home – a lamp that I’ve had for a gajillion years – that suddenly stopped working. And I thought, “Oh, I have to replace the socket. What’s going on with this?”
And I brought it to an electrician friend of mine who looked inside the socket and there was a little tab that the bulb makes contact with. And I guess over the – I think we’ve had it 10 years – of putting in light bulbs, we may have gotten aggressive and the tab just got pushed down. And he simply reached in with it unplugged and raised the prong.
Yeah, make sure you’ve got this whole breaker turned off. For me, it was a table lamp, so I knew it was unplugged. But for you, make sure it’s completely turned off at the fuse box. And just pull that tab up and surprisingly, that did the trick. The lamp works amazingly. The guy didn’t charge me. It was awesome. So this could be a simple fix. I mean it’s worth a shot; anything’s worth a shot.
KAREN: Mm-hmm. Oh, I know it is. Because I thought, “It’s really a pain to have to turn that off every morning.”
TOM: Yeah. No, I think that’s definitely the easiest thing to do, Karen. Clearly, it’s not getting power. You need to figure out why. Fix that, you’ll be good to go, OK?
KAREN: OK. Thank you so much.
TOM: Well, if you’ve been thinking about a remodeling project and wondering what to do with your ceiling, I bet there’s one ceiling that you are definitely not considering: a drop ceiling.
LESLIE: Yeah. And we get it. You think they look old and they’re dated, right? But you might want to consider giving drop ceilings a second look. Because the ones that are coming out today can actually be stunning. I mean absolutely stunning. So we’re going to have some tips on how you can decide if a drop ceiling is for you in today’s Smart Spending Tip, presented by the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards Credit Card.
So, first of all, drop ceilings, they’re not just a plain, flat tile anymore. Today, you can actually find drop ceilings that look like those old-fashioned tin ceiling panels, wood paneling, much more. You can even find ones that seem like a coffered ceiling. And if you put the right finish on it, it’s really hard to tell that they even are drop ceilings.
TOM: Yeah. You have tons of choices for color and texture and material. And while white is generally a great color for smaller spaces, because of the sense of openness it creates, if you’re looking for something bold or something different, look at colored, textured tiles. It might be a good idea that could take your space in an entirely new direction.
LESLIE: To make sure the drop ceiling is actually going to work for you in your home, you need to consider the available headspace. It’s not just a practical consideration but it’s also an aesthetic situation, as well. Because you want to make sure that you’re not creating this crammed space by a ceiling appearing way too low. So you’ve got to kind of look around.
Look at the space above your living-room windows. See where that window frame ends. What’s that distance from the frame to the ceiling? And you’ve got to consider where that drop ceiling would fall once you’re in relationship to that window frame or any kind of trimming. So you’ve got to really look at all of those architectural details and see where that ceiling is going to sit.
TOM: Yeah. And lastly, another benefit of drop ceilings is that they provide for easier access to any mechanical systems above. Now, this could be handy if you’ve got to make a repair to a pipe or some wiring, especially useful if the drop ceiling is being used in a basement.
LESLIE: And that’s today’s Smart Spending Tip presented by the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards Credit Card.
TOM: Apply for yours at BankOfAmerica.com/MoreRewarding.
LESLIE: James in Minnesota, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
JAMES: Bought a house about a year ago and I don’t know how old the water heater is because it was a foreclosure. And I had gone downstairs and took the cover off and turned up a little bit to try to get a little more hot water out of it, temperature-wise. And I noticed on the inside that it seems wet, like the fiberglass insulation on the tank? So, I was wondering if that means the tank is going bad or do I need to start saving money to buy a new water heater?
TOM: The water heater is in your basement?
JAMES: Yeah, it’s in my basement. Correct.
TOM: Sometimes you get a little condensation inside of that. Does your water stay hot or do you – does it seem to run out quickly?
JAMES: No, it stays hot for a while. It’s just not as hot as I’d like it, so I just went down to dial it up a little and I saw it was wet inside. And I don’t see anything leaking from the bottom.
TOM: OK. Well, generally, when water heaters leak, everybody knows it, OK? It’s not subtle.
JAMES: Yeah, OK. Good.
TOM: Alright? So I doubt it’s leaking badly right now. You may have a bit of condensation in there. However, what you want to keep in mind with electric water heaters is, first of all, they’re very expensive to run and so it’s a good idea to have a timer on them. Secondly, with an electric water heater, there’s two coils, not just one. So, on the outside of your water heater, you should see two panels: one up high and one down low. And each one of those has its own thermostat. And so in order to adjust the temperature, you have to open both of them up and with a screwdriver – an insulated screwdriver – you turn it very carefully until it’s about 110 degrees on both of them.
TOM: And with a 40- or 50-gallon water heater – how many bedrooms – I mean how many bathrooms do you have in the house?
TOM: So, a 40-gallon would be smallish, maybe adequate; 50-gallon would definitely be good.
JAMES: That’s what it is.
TOM: If you’re wondering the age of it, on the label on the water heater, there’s generally a date that’s either written plainly on that or it’s coded into the serial number. So, if you look at the serial number, you look at the date, you may see a date on there and you can figure out how old this is.
JAMES: Oh, OK. Great. Thanks so much.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got William calling in from Tyler, Texas. William has got a question about a window.
What’s going on?
WILLIAM: After the really bad freeze, we’ve had windows that have cracked and this is not uncommon. I have 4 or 5 that are 24 inches by 30. And they’re double-pane, so that helps out. But I’m going to need to repair those. Is there some type of tape, glue? What would be a good way to handle that? I think that’s a question for a lot of people. I’ve had some of these repaired before and of course now, with the shortage of glass, the cost would be out of this world.
LESLIE: Now, it seems like when you have this issue with a window, it’s not like it’s something you can replace. It’s like a broken seal, right?
TOM: Well, he’s got – he said he has double-pane windows. So once that glass breaks on one side or the other, you’ve broken the seal. And so now, the window’s no longer going to be insulating the way it was before. And so replacing a broken window, in this case, is the only option.
Now, if you’re concerned about sort of biding some time on this, yeah, you could tape the glass. Hopefully, it’s not loose where it’s falling out. You could board it up but you can’t tape this or glue this. It has to be replaced, because it’s a one-piece unit where you have two pieces of glass and then you have an insulating band that goes in between. And then inside of that is a gas, usually argon, which is an insulating gas. And so that unit has to be replaced or it may be, frankly, less expensive to replace the whole window than trying to order the type of – the exact size that you need for this particular window.
Now, if it happens to be a name brand, like I’m thinking an Andersen or something like that, you might just be able to order the sash: the part that is basically – goes up and down, if it’s double-hung or one side of a casement window, because they do keep a back stock on that. But if not, you’re definitely going to need to either replace the glass or replace the entire window.
LESLIE: Well, your home’s electrical panel is made up of circuits that provide electricity to your home. You probably never think about it. You know where it is. Have you opened it up recently? Do you kind of know what’s in it? Maybe, maybe not. But when a circuit trips, you have to start thinking about it.
So, you’ve got to figure out why this is happening. Is it happening more often than not? This could definitely be a sign that you need to upgrade your home’s electrical-service panel.
TOM: Well, that’s right. It may or it might not be. There are really five signs your service panel could need an upgrade and the first is faulty wiring. That’s the leading cause of residential fires in the U.S. And some of those faulty-wiring signs could include dimming or flickering lights, a slight shock sensation when you touch an appliance, of course, any persistent burning smell and if you see any sparking or discolored power outlets. Or that discoloration, sometimes if you see a dark stain on top of a power outlet, that’s a bad thing. So, you ought to keep your eyes out for that sort of thing.
LESLIE: Alright. Now, what if your house still has fuses? A lot of people, I think, call it a “fuse box” even though it’s a circuit. It’s something different. But if you have those actual fuses, does that automatically mean that you need to upgrade?
TOM: Not necessarily, if the right-size fuses are in place. So, fuses are another way of protecting your wiring from overheating but it’s not nearly as convenient. Because if the fuse trips, you have to actually physically replace it. If a circuit breaker trips, you address what the cause of it was and then you flip the circuit back on.
So, if you’ve got an old fuse box, as long as the right-size fuse is matched with the wiring – which, frankly, after all these years, people get confused because you can put the wrong-size fuse in. If you have a circuit that’s rated at 15 amps, right – and the way we know this is because the wiring behind it is a Number-14 wire.
Of course, you wouldn’t know this because, really, it would take an electrician or somebody with my weird skill sets to tell you that. But if it’s a Number-14 wire, it’s rated at 15 amps. If it’s a Number 12, it’s rated at 20. But the problem is that if you put a 20-amp fuse on a Number-14 wire, that wire could overheat and cause a fire. So, what I’m telling you is that it can be safe if it’s hooked up right. But it’s really inconvenient.
So I would say that if you did have a fuse box and you had the opportunity to upgrade it and go with circuit breakers, you would definitely be well served by doing that.
LESLIE: Yeah. And I think another sign that something’s going on with your power or maybe you don’t have enough of it coming into your house service-wise is that you’re constantly using extension cords and power strips. So, if you do find yourself plugging nearly everything into a power outlet, via power strips and extension cords, it’s probably a good idea to upgrade that panel.
You can also install new electrical outlets and a circuit where they’re needed and minimize fire and tripping hazards. This is really making sure you’ve got enough service for everything that you need at home.
TOM: Yeah. Because if you’re constantly tripping the same circuit, that means you’re kind of overusing that circuit. And that signals the need for either an additional circuit or a panel upgrade.
Another time you might think about doing this is if you add major appliances, especially if it’s a 240-volt appliance. Maybe you’re adding central-air conditioning, maybe you’re adding a hot tub or a new spa or something like that that uses a lot of energy. Or if ever you get in the situation where your existing panel is not big enough, your only other option would be to add a subpanel. Now you’ve got two panels to deal with and for the most part, at that moment, I’d probably just replace the main panel and just make it big enough to kind of handle everything.
LESLIE: Yeah. And I think it’s always a smart idea if you’re planning to sell or you’re renovating the house. That’s a perfect opportunity to go ahead and upgrade that electrical panel.
So definitely take a look. If your home is underserviced, people are going to notice that when they’re looking to buy. I know I’ve looked at a ton of houses and you see a house that’s 100 amps – which, believe it or not, Tom, when we moved into our house, it was 100 amps. So, we had to upgrade to 200 and thankfully, now we get everything we want. So you’ve got to pay attention to that and if it seems like you’re underserviced, take care of it.
TOM: Yeah. And you know, this is a project that is not, obviously, DIY. Only a licensed electrician can do this. It is very complicated and is potentially very dangerous. So, it’s a job only that should be left to pros.
And by the way, Leslie, I’ve heard that before. When you have a 100-amp pal, you think, “Well, my system is definitely not big enough.” That actually may not be the case.
LESLIE: Well, it depends on what you want.
TOM: Well, right. A lot of 100-amp houses that have – let’s see, even if they have central-air conditioning, if they’re not electric – so you don’t have electric range, electric ovens, things like that – it’s probably enough.
I’ve actually had to prove this in the years I was a home inspector. I had a lot of clients say, “Oh, it’s only 100 amps, it’s going to be a problem.” Well, I’d say, “Look, I have everything turned on right now.” And then I would put an amp probe on the service-entry cable on the panel, which is a tool that says how much power it was drawing. And with everything going on in the house, all the appliances – the oven, the air conditioning – I look at my amp probe and say, “It’s pulling 28 amps.” And it’s 100-amp service. So that was OK. Yeah. Actually uses a lot less.
But think of it this way: if there’s too many things on one circuit, you could trip the individual circuit without tripping the whole panel. If you trip the whole panel, that’s a bigger problem. But you could trip individual circuits. So if you’re in the habit of always, I don’t know, plugging the vacuum cleaner in the bedroom outlet and that shuts down the whole house, maybe you need some additional outlets at that point.
LESLIE: Alright. That’s a good point. But definitely make sure you’ve got the right service for your house for all the things you want.
Mary in Missouri, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
MARY: My husband and I are trying to install central air in our home. It’s a ranch-style and we bought the central-air unit and the ductwork from a building that had been torn down. And I wondered if we could simply attach the ductwork – and we’ve cut the holes in the wall, in the ceilings – for the vents. I wondered if we could just go ahead and attach the ductwork that was there from the previous building or if we had to redo all the ductwork – I mean all the vent piping.
TOM: I guess the answer is: maybe. And the reason is because the duct design is going to be dependent on the building. And it depends on the size of the building and the distance that the air has to travel. And if it’s not done right, what will happen is you’ll either create a situation where you have either too much or too little heating or cooling. And most likely, you’ll have too little. And if that happens, you end up wasting, actually, a lot of energy because the system has to run a lot more to try to make the building comfortable.
So, I would suggest to you that insofar as the duct design is concerned, you really need to have somebody that is experienced in designing these systems lay it out for you. It’s definitely not a do-it-yourself project. It’s not the kind of thing that you can tackle, even if you’re very industrious first time out, because you might get it wrong.
It depends a lot on the size of your building, how many windows are in your building, where the building faces. There’s a heat-loss calculation that’s done and then based on that, you determine how much warm or cold air you have to get to each room. So you can’t necessarily sort of just completely copy what was done in an older house unless it happens to be an identical house.
So this is a point where it’s good that you got the equipment inexpensively, you got the ductwork inexpensively. You do need to spend a little bit of money on getting it laid out properly, Mary, or you just won’t be comfortable. Does that make sense?
MARY: Yeah, that was what I wanted to check, because we’re pretty self-sufficient but I had a feeling this might be more than we could tackle.
TOM: I think that’s a good idea. Mary, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Hey, have you ever half-heard a product-recall report and then you realize, kind of in the middle of wondering what you’re listening to, that that product sounds very familiar and you may actually own it? Well, product recalls often seem like minor news. But if one of these recalls affects your family’s safety, that’s another story.
TOM: Yeah. And there’s an easy way to get the information you missed and keep tabs on other recalls kind of as they happen. Six different federal agencies have gotten together to better protect you by putting recall info on everything, from cosmetics to boats to baby products, all on one site. And it is simply Recalls.gov. It’s got details on currently recalled products that you can get safety information on and also sign up for email alerts on other recalls as they happen.
So check it out. It’s a great service. Recalls.gov.
LESLIE: David in Massachusetts has a question about mold. Tell us what you’re seeing.
DAVID: I have a problem. I have a driveway, which is about 6 years old. And in the summer, we get mold up on the shady area. Not too much but enough. It comes about maybe 2 feet by 3 feet wide, OK? I used bleach on it, tried to kill the mold. But within months, it’s back again. I scrub it with soap and water. I did stuff with detergent and it’s still come back. I think it loved the water.
TOM: Mm-hmm, yeah. Well, listen, there’s a very simple solution. There’s a product called Spray & Forget. And when you apply Spray & Forget, it basically is a mildicide. And it will kill the mold, the mildew, the algae, the moss that’s there and even the lichen if that’s what’s causing it. And it has sort of a residual effect to it, so it sticks around for a couple of months and then you reapply it. So it’s really easy to do. And as long as you keep that – keep doing that, you’re never going to have a problem with that building up again.
The problem with bleach is you’re basically just taking it off one time and then it starts – from that moment forward, it starts to regrow. But if you use Spray & Forget, it’ll have some mildicide that will stay back and stop it from reforming.
DAVID: Now, can I purchase this Spray & Forget at Home Depot or Lowe’s or what?
TOM: You can find it at – yeah, you can find it at home centers. Go to SprayAndForget.com. There’s a store locator there, I believe, and you can find out where it’s sold right near you.
DAVID: OK. Thank you very much.
TOM: Good luck. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now, Barbara reached out with a question about a bathroom-sink countertop. She lives in a 1976 home and the countertop has a few light scratches and she wants to remove them. I don’t know if that’s possible with marble. What do you think?
TOM: Well, it’s the faux marble, right? So it’s not real marble. And because it’s the faux marble, it’s kind of like a composite, right? So it’s sort of – I don’t even know if there’s any real marble in it. It’s not like Silestone, which is like a marble composite. That’s real marble. But this, I think, is the sort of cast sinks that we saw in so many development houses. And they’re pretty durable but the good news is that you can actually sand out scratches.
LESLIE: Well, because the color goes all the way through because it’s kind of poured.
TOM: Yes. The color goes all the way through. Exactly right.
So, if you had some really fine sandpaper – so we’re talking about 400-, 500-, 600-grit sandpaper. Almost like an emery paper. Super, super fine. And you would very slowly, in small circles, sort of work those scratches out. And then, what you could do is follow up with some very fine steel wool to kind of polish it.
Now, remember, when you buy steel wool for finishing, it comes in different grades. The higher the number, the rougher it is. The lowest number is actually a series of zeros – it’s four zeros in a row. It’s the only time you ever use this word – it’s aught. It’s four-aught steel wool. On the package, they’ll have a pound sign and four zeros. I’ve seen it six zeros. And it’s like four-aught, five-aught, six-aught. And basically, it means it’s just four zeros in a row or whatever it is. But the more zeros, the finer it is. You get really soft steel wool and you buff it with that.
And the other thing that you can use maybe instead of steel wool, if you don’t happen to have that, is you can use rubbing compound like you would for a car finish. Like if you try to take a scratch out of a car, that rubbing compound that you buy from an auto-parts store, it’s just a tiny bit gritty. If you feel it in your fingers, it kind of feels like wax but has a little bit of grit in it. And that’s also handy if you’re taking out scratches.
LESLIE: But be careful. You don’t want that on the floor, right?
TOM: Yeah. You could definitely spruce that up, for sure. And yes, of course. Be careful with that.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got a question here from Terri Marie who writes: “I want to know, how do I keep my fence post safe from the lawn guys? Their weed-whacker is eating the bases of each post.”
TOM: Eating away at the posts. Well, where there’s a problem, there’s a solution. And there’s a product out that’s – there’s different names for it. I’ve seen it called Post Saver. I’ve seen it called, I think, Fence Armor, Post Shields. And you can Google this. You’ll find them on Amazon. They’re not too expensive. And they’re basically a sleeve that covers the bottom of the post.
And if you don’t want to pay for it, you could also make your own sleeve up out of aluminum flashing. Won’t be as pretty but if you were to wrap the bottom of the post with aluminum flashing, that would protect it from those evil lawn guys with their weed-whackers that love to chew away at those posts. Because you’re right: they look pretty beat up after a while.
LESLIE: Alright. I hope that helps you out. There’s always pool noodles; I feel like they protect everything, as well. But you never know. Good luck, Terri Marie.
TOM: I think the weed-eaters will eat up those pool noodles right quick.
You’ve been listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. We really appreciate you taking a little bit of your day and hope that we’ve been able to share some ideas that are relevant to your money pit, helping you take on some projects or maybe gave you some ideas on projects that you might want to take on as soon as this weather warms up.
But remember, if you’ve got questions, we would love to hear them. You can reach out to us at MoneyPit.com, you can call us at 888-MONEY-PIT or post your questions to our social-media feeds, like Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit.
Until then, 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 2022 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.)