- House Cleaning: Keeping things clean with a house full of kids is a challenge. We’ve got helpful tips for busy parents.
- Dishwashers: Are ENERGY STAR-rated dishwashers worth it? Find out how to save money and energy by installing the right dishwasher.
- Wall Drafts: Where is that draft coming from? Besides windows, sneaky openings in walls can be letting cold air through.
Plus, answers to your home improvement questions about:
- Crawlspace Vents: Are crawlspace vents really necessary and should you close them? They’re mandated by building code and Chris gets tips on when to keep crawlspace vents open or closed to control moisture.
- Kitchen Renovation: Elaine wants to renovate her mid-century kitchen. We’ll discuss the pros and cons of opening up some walls and updating the cabinets.
- Attic Ventilation: Should a flat roof have more ventilation? It can be harder to circulate air with a flat roof, but the vents Ken already has should be enough.
- Windows: Amy gets condensation inside the windows every winter. She can start by taking steps to reduce the humidity inside her house, but she’ll eventually need to install better-insulated windows.
- Bathroom Subfloor: Large tiles on the bathroom floor are starting to crack and crumble because they’re less flexible over the uneven subfloor. George has to tear out the tiles and install a new subfloor or mud underlayment before adding new tiles.
- Cleaning Old Walls: Susan wants to know how to clean, restore, and maintain her unfinished hardwood pine walls. We suggest sanding them by hand to even out the color, then adding an oil-based stain before sealing the surface.
- Basement Flooring: What kind of basement flooring should be used to replace the moldy carpet? Richard’s best options are to install laminate flooring or engineered hardwood flooring over a vapor barrier.
- Wallpaper Removal: Sue is tired of the wallpaper in every room of her house. We’ve got hints on using fabric softener or laundry starch to loosen the wallpaper glue before pulling it off and scraping the walls.
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: Here to help you make your home warm and cozy, improve your home, redecorate your home, repair your home. Whatever advice, ideas, information you need to help improve the space that you call home, reach out to us because that’s what we do and we are here to help.
Couple of ways to do that. You can call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or you could post your questions on MoneyPit.com by clicking the blue microphone button, which you’ll find handily placed on every single page.
Hey, coming up on today’s show, there’s nothing like opening up your front door to a clean home. But if you’ve got kids, a clean house can definitely feel a million miles away.
LESLIE: Yeah, especially after you’ve stepped on your third LEGO of the day. They hurt.
TOM: Oh, that’s awful. They do hurt. I think they need to design soft LEGOs for parents that are in bare feet.
LESLIE: Squishable ones.
TOM: Squishable ones.
LESLIE: Yet, somehow they remain rigid for building but when they sense a foot, they don’t hurt.
TOM: It’s a concept. It’s a great idea.
LESLIE: I think we’re on to something.
TOM: Absolutely. So we’re going to share some tips to help keep your home clean and your sanity intact, with a few clever housecleaning hacks for busy parents.
LESLIE: Yeah. Don’t buy toys that hurt. Also ahead, if you guys are shopping for a new dishwasher, does an ENERGY STAR rating really make a difference? We’re going to explain why that little blue star can save you some serious bucks, just ahead.
TOM: And if you’ve been feeling drafts this winter but not sure where they’re coming from, we’ll share some common holes that exist right now in your exterior walls. And you’re probably not even aware of it.
LESLIE: But first, do you guys have some home improvement questions and you maybe don’t know where to turn for answers? Well, you turn to us, of course. We can help you save money, save time and avoid those home improvement hassles that slow you down on the road to your dream house.
TOM: So let’s get started. Call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974 or post your questions on MoneyPit.com.
Let’s get to it. Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: We’ve got Chris in Arkansas on the line.
What is going on at your Money Pit?
CHRIS: Well, Leslie, I’ve been wondering – on my crawlspace vents, I’ve heard that they’re not really useful and they’re best to go ahead and just close them up. I was wondering if that’s a good idea or a bad idea.
TOM: Yeah, I think that’s a really bad idea and here’s why. The crawlspace vents are there for a reason. In fact, they’re mandated by building code. Now, they have a sliding cover on them so you can have the louvers open or closed.
What I generally suggest is that you want to have the crawlspace vents fully open in the spring, the summer and the fall. In the winter, when the temperature really starts to drop, then you should close them. But in the spring, the summer and the fall, leave them open. It helps the moisture, that’s going to be present in the crawlspace, evaporate to the exterior by mixing with drier air from the outside.
The other thing that you can do is – I don’t know what kind of crawlspace surface you have there but if it’s dirt, you ought to be covering it with plastic. So, big sheets of poly Visqueen plastic, for example. That prevents the moisture from evaporating up off the soil.
And the reason we’re trying to control moisture is because if you let the moisture condense on the wood framing in the crawlspace, you’re going to get mold or rot. And you can also make the insulation damp, which renders it somewhat ineffective even if it’s just a little bit of dampness. So, for all those reasons, I recommend you keep them open in the three warmer seasons. Does that help you out?
CHRIS: It did, most certainly. And I sure appreciate it. I love the show.
TOM: Alright. Thanks so much.
LESLIE: Elaine in Delaware is on the line and is looking to redo a kitchen completely. Great project.
How can we help?
ELAINE: I have a house that was built in 1955, OK? So I have the arch entrance going into the dining room. I also have a door going into a basement. I have a door going outside and I have two windows, OK?
LESLIE: And this is your kitchen we’re talking about.
ELAINE: Yes. And the kitchen is only 18×12 feet with a 4-foot bump-out for the basement door.
ELAINE: OK? So I was wondering, number one, if I take out that archway – because I have several other entrances in the house that have the same archway. If I take out that archway and take out that whole wall there that opens up into the dining room …
LESLIE: Do you want to see your kitchen all the time from the dining room?
ELAINE: I like that open concept, yes.
ELAINE: But I’m wondering if it will take away from the integrity of the 1955 style with the arches.
LESLIE: I think an open plan has a much more modern and fresher feel. But I mean you’re talking about mid-century and that itself has a modern and fresh feel. So I don’t think it compromises one another. The issue is, is that wall load-bearing? Can you feasibly and structurally actually remove it?
ELAINE: I don’t think it is a load-bearing wall. No, we’ve done some work in the house and I think that we could actually cut that out.
LESLIE: Now, your kitchen itself, is that original to the home from 1955?
ELAINE: Yes, it is. And it’s got the old, wooden-type cabinets. Like the back door opens up right into the stove.
TOM: Well, the nice thing about the old, wooden cabinets is that they’re really well-built and the second thing is that they’re also easy to refinish.
That’s a perfect candidate for painting cabinets, replacing hardware and thinking about doing a less-expensive kitchen update that way, right, Leslie?
LESLIE: Yeah. It sounds to me, though, that Elaine has got her heart set on a gut job, which isn’t a bad idea either. You know, Tom is right: those cabinets are exceptionally well made. I think the idea of opening out the room, as long as it makes sense and as long as you don’t mind – is this going to be your formal dining room off of the kitchen?
LESLIE: OK. It instantly is going to take on a less formal feel because it is integrated into that main portion of the kitchen.
LESLIE: But you can still add details to it to dress up that portion of the space. Plus, you can add – a kitchen island is a great addition to a space; it gives a more casual seating area. But keep in mind that once you do the open plan, it does sort of reduce the formality of the dining area. But you can dress it up through color, lighting fixtures, furnishing choices, a rug. There are ways to do that.
And keep in mind that now you’re opening the space, your working triangle needs to be modified a little bit. But I think there are great ways to make an open plan work and I think eliminating that archway really isn’t going to take away from the historical aspect of the home.
ELAINE: OK, yeah. And we were actually thinking about maybe putting a couple stools where the wall is now, if we take out that archway and kind of making a little breakfast bar.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. No, I think as long as structurally you’re able – and you’ll have to consult with an engineer – there’s no problem with removing that wall itself and creating that open plan.
And do a lot of research on mid-century design, because you’re smack in that age bracket for your home. And it is swank; it’s very modern. There’s some interesting furnishings; you don’t have to buy the authentic stuff. Although, as gorgeous as it is, there are some fantastic knockoffs in a lot of those pieces. And you can really do something interesting.
And Lucite is back in a big way. And if you mix Lucite and wood and some interesting lighting, you can really create a cool, mid-century feel.
ELAINE: OK. Well, thank you very much.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Ken on the line who’s dealing with a very moist situation in the attic.
Tell us what’s going on.
KEN: OK, yeah. Say, we live – Dorothy and I – about three blocks from the Pacific Ocean, next to the Columbia River. I purchased a house here with a flat roof. Basically, it has about a 3/12 pitch. It had a torch-down system on it and I opted to go – an IB Teflon system.
KEN: And it was about a $10,000 system. Well, after they put it in, about a year later I noticed mold on the underside of the roof. And they put 3 vents – about 8-inch-diameter vents – in the ridge. And when I saw the mold, well, they said, “Well, you’re not getting adequate ventilation in the (inaudible).”
Well, anyway, they put six more vents in there and they had messed up and left about a half-a-dozen little holes where they had bad leaks. And so I had water in between the IB system and the torch-down and my plywood.
KEN: So I put the fan in there and my question now is – and putting those additional six vents on the bottom.
TOM: Are you talking about – when you say the bottom, are you talking about the underside of the overhang, at the soffit level?
KEN: Well, no. I don’t have any overhang.
TOM: You don’t have any of the – OK. Mm-hmm.
KEN: It’s a flat roof and it just comes to the walls. And so, after they put the six – three on the – or four on the top ridge about – I had mentioned to them we should put some vents down low and they said, “No, you don’t need vents up here with that little” – but probably wouldn’t have had to have but they were incompetent.
KEN: And they did because they left about a half-a-dozen holes and leaks in that Teflon.
TOM: Alright. So here’s the situation. So you had a minimal amount of vent. You spotted some mold, you added additional vents and now you’re – are you still seeing mold in the attic or not?
KEN: No, I think – they came in and they wiped it down with whatever.
TOM: So you’re not seeing the mold anymore in the attic. And the question is do – is it possible to have too much ventilation? The answer is no. In fact, a perfectly ventilated attic space is going to be at ambient temperature all the time.
Now, because it’s a flat roof, it’s much more difficult to vent. If this was a pitched roof with an overhang, you would have soffit vents down across the soffit, ridge vents across the peak. It would essentially be wide open all the time, constantly circulating air. And what that does is in the wintertime, it takes out moisture, which can condense and lead to mold. In the summer, it takes out heat which, of course, drives up your cooling costs. So I don’t think it’s possible to have too much attic ventilation.
Did you also mention that you put a fan in there?
KEN: Well, I put a fan in there to dry out the moisture first and that’s what my concern was. Maybe I shouldn’t have put the fan, because I’m spreading those mold spores around by doing that.
TOM: Well, if the mold was treated, I wouldn’t worry too much about that. But here’s the thing about fans. Now, the fans – the attic fans – are only going to work on a heat-sensitive switch unless you wired them somehow differently. And so those fans – those attic fans – typically only work in the summertime; they don’t work in the wintertime.
KEN: It was in the fall, so it was relatively cool.
TOM: Right. But there’s – but those attic fans work on a thermostat, which is generally, if it’s installed correctly, set at around 100 degrees. So it would have to be an awfully warm, fall day for that to kick on. I would say that if you’re not spotting the mold any further and the attic doesn’t seem to be leaking, you addressed all those issues, that you’re just good the way it is and I would just stop right there and enjoy it.
KEN: Right, right. Well, this is about the eighth house – we retired in the last 4 years. It’s kind of like watching gold rush here; you’re always going to find something in an old house. So, we enjoy it but it’s a lot of work.
LESLIE: Well, if you’ve got kids at home, a clean house is definitely not something you’re in every single day. I mean you dream about it and you wish you had it but then, again, the kids. They definitely make that a hard goal to keep.
TOM: But it always comes back to the kids.
LESLIE: Yeah. It always comes back to the kids.
So, we’ve got some tips here to help keep your home clean and keep your sanity intact, because we know you parents out there are super busy and you’re juggling a lot.
So, first up, you want to start at the top. If you want to know the best cleaning hacks, watch professional cleaners in action. They always start at the highest point in the room and then work their way down. Clean the ceilings and the fans and the light fixtures and end up with vacuuming the floor. This way, you’re not kind of doing the same thing twice.
TOM: Now, you can also save time when you take advantage of your shower. You know, bathrooms can get scuzzy very fast with water spots and soap and toothpaste, you name it. But your morning shower can do double duty and keep your bathroom clean. So, just take advantage of the shower steam to wipe off the mirror and the countertops and the tile walls, if you have a tile shower, with a microfiber cloth or a squeegee. It’s a very quick and easy way to keep the moisture down and to keep that mold and mildew from growing as quickly as it might.
LESLIE: Yeah. And then I think, you guys, you need to prioritize the order that you’re doing the tasks. Because does cleaning up kind of feel like it takes longer than it should? So then prioritize the cleaning order by starting with the tasks that require a machine, like the dishwasher or washing machine. Then you can complete any other tasks on your list while those machines are doing the work they’re supposed to be doing.
TOM: And it’s also smart to think about how you’re vacuuming or mopping because when you’re doing that, what you want to do is start at the point farthest away from the door and work your way out. This way, you won’t have to re-mop shoeprints off the floor or anything else that happens to drop along the way.
LESLIE: Yeah. Now, another thing is while you’re cleaning and tidying up, you also want to take this chance to declutter. Because if your kids are leaving their toys all over the place, you can declutter, you can put things away as you’re cleaning. And that’s going to kind of keep those nighttime tripping hazards at bay because that’s, I feel, always when the tripping things happen. It’s dark, you’re headed to the bathroom or something or somebody’s calling you and then you step on a toy. It’s all terrible.
TOM: Well, you can also save some money and make your own cleaners. If you think about it, store-bought cleaning supplies are pretty expensive. They can also have some harsh chemicals and be a bit smelly to the point of actually bringing on headaches in some people. And there are a lot of advantages of making your own cleaners. It does save money and you know exactly what’s in there. And you control the scent.
If you’ve got young kids, you can make homemade cleaners like a, for example, vinegar-and-water solution that works as an all-purpose cleaner. And it will not be harmful to your children. It does a pretty darn good job of keeping your countertops and your windows clean.
LESLIE: Now, guys, I’m here to tell you a clean home just doesn’t have to be a pipe dream when you’ve got kids. I work hard to keep the house tidy and I have kids who really work hard to keep the house not tidy. So, you just kind of have to break down the chores into manageable chunks so that they can fit into your super-busy parenting schedule. I promise you can have both kids and a clean house.
Amy in Michigan is on the line with a condensation question.
How can we help you?
AMY: I live in a house; it’s about 15 years old. And every winter, I have the same problem. I’ve been here for 3 years but I have condensation on the inside of my windows. I think they’re pretty decent windows. I know when we had the home inspection, the guy said these are really good windows. Just wondering what I can do to control it.
LESLIE: Now, when you’re talking about this, this is in your living room, you’re saying?
AMY: It’s actually in just about every room of the house. It’s worse in my bedrooms and it’s gotten – it seems like it’s getting worse in other areas of the house.
TOM: Well, the reason that your windows condense is because they’re not insulated properly. I’m going to presume that they’re thermal-pane windows. Is that correct?
AMY: They are.
TOM: They’re thermal-pane windows but they’re not very good thermal panes, because the windows are super cold. So what happens is when the warm, moist air inside your house strikes them, it condenses.
So what can you do at this point in time short of replacing the windows? You could take some steps to try to reduce the volume of moisture that’s inside the house.
TOM: This might include taking a look to make sure that your outside drainage is done properly so that you’re not collecting water.
Do you have a basement?
AMY: We do.
TOM: OK. So you want to make sure that you have gutters on the house, downspouts that are clean, downspouts that are extended away, soil that’s sloping away from the walls. That sort of thing reduces soil moisture.
Dehumidification in the basement can help. You can either do it with a portable or a whole-house dehumidifier.
LESLIE: Depending on your heating system.
TOM: Making sure that your bath fans are exhausted outside, making sure that your kitchen range hood is exhausted outside. Those are the sorts of things that will reduce the volume of humidity in the house.
But I think until you get better-quality windows in there that are better-insulated, you’re still going to continue to have this to some degree, because it’s just sort of the nature of the beast. If it’s really cold outside and it’s really warm and moist inside, that condensation is going to form, the same way it happens in the summer when you go outside with a glass of ice water and you get droplets on the outside.
TOM: It’s just the nature of the condensation.
AMY: Why does it seem worse when I have the blinds drawn or the blinds down and closed? And then there’s more condensation on the windows.
TOM: Because the windows are probably colder when the blinds are down. The warm air inside the house is not getting to the glass as readily. So the windows are probably a little colder when the blind’s down; you have less air circulation across it, so you’re not drying off some of that moisture, probably, as quickly as you would have.
AMY: Oh, OK. Yeah, that makes sense.
TOM: So do what you can to reduce the amount of humidity inside the house and then keep an eye on them. But I think, eventually, you’re going to want to think about replacing your windows and you can do that in stages. Start in the north side first, because that’s going to be the coldest side of the house and the side that will give you the best return on investment.
LESLIE: George in Utah is on the line with some sort of subfloor issue over at their money pit. What is going on?
GEORGE: Yeah, I’ve got a bathroom floor that’s starting to crack in places, made of tile. So the flooring underneath it is crumbling and I’m just not sure what to fix it with.
TOM: Are they big tiles? Are they wide tiles, like 12-inch-wide tiles, or what?
GEORGE: They’re about – yeah, they’re your standard 12-by …
TOM: Yeah, I figured that. When you have those big tiles, the floors have to be that much stronger because there’s no flex in those big tiles. I mean if you have – you know, if you have mosaic tiles and they’re only an inch by an inch, all those grout lines give you a little bit of flex. But in those big tiles, it’s got to be rock-solid.
So, there’s no easy fix for this. You’re looking at having to tear out that floor and properly rebuild it. If you want the big, wide tiles, you’re going to have to take out everything that’s there, down to the subfloor. Put in new plywood subfloor, probably pretty thick subfloor, too, so it’s really strong. Or maybe even go with a mesh mud floor where basically you put mesh down, then you put a mix of concrete over that floor – a slurry mix – and then level it out and then glue the tile on top of that so that it’s absolutely rock-hard and perfectly flat. Otherwise, what’s going to happen is you get any deviation in that space, you’re going to break that tile.
LESLIE: Well, getting the dinner dishes clean is a lot easier when you use a dishwasher instead of washing them by hand. But do you have the best dishwasher for that job? First of all, you want to make sure that your dishwasher is ENERGY STAR-rated. That’s really a good first step. Besides saving you hours of time each week, a new dishwasher with an ENERGY STAR certification will use 12 percent less energy and 30 percent less water than a standard dishwasher model.
TOM: Yeah. It’s really smart when shopping for a dishwasher to look for that ENERGY STAR symbol. This is going to indicate you’re dealing with the best models that have met strict energy-efficiency standards. And these models actually use less than half of the energy it takes to wash dishes by hand and they can save your more than 8,000 gallons of water a year. A standard-size model only costs about 35 bucks a year to run. So not much at all.
LESLIE: Now, dishwashing technology has also improved dramatically in recent years. New ENERGY STAR models have features like soil sensors, improved water filtration and more efficient jets. They also have dish racks that are designed to reduce energy and water consumption while improving performance. So, you still might fight with your spouse about whether you need to prewash the dishes or not – I feel like that fight’s never going to go away – but at least you’ve got a dishwasher that’s totally going to kick butt and save you money.
TOM: And all those bells and whistles are going to get your dishes as clean as a whistle while saving you time, money and energy.
I really appreciate the ENERGY STAR program because it standardizes energy efficiency. So if you, as a consumer, want to buy an appliance or a television or anything that’s energy-efficient, all you need to do is to look for that ENERGY STAR rating. Even when it comes to buying houses, they have ENERGY STAR-certified houses now, as well. So it’s a really smart program to follow and one that you can really rely on when it comes to making those investments.
LESLIE: Susan in Georgia is on the line with a cleaning question.
How can we help you today?
SUSAN: Hi. My husband and I have purchased a 1920 Craftsman house.
TOM: That’s a beautiful home.
SUSAN: Oh, it is stunning. Well, it will be. It’s been neglected and all the interior walls that we’ve exposed so far have antique heartwood pine.
SUSAN: And so my question is not only cleaning, it’s kind of threefold. First, I need to clean it – it hasn’t been cleaned in years – and what is the best way to do that? As well as – after I clean it, I was thinking – what is the best way to restore it – the wood is dry – and maintain it?
TOM: So, when you say restore it, do you want to refinish these pine walls?
SUSAN: Yes, I do.
SUSAN: They are – I mean they’re – it’s antique heartwood pine. They can be really, really pretty.
TOM: Yeah, they can be.
SUSAN: But because the house has some – it had old, coal fireplaces, so they are just really grungy.
TOM: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
LESLIE: So they’re dirty.
TOM: Well, I would say clean it first; then we know how much more work you have to do.
SUSAN: What do you clean it with?
TOM: Well, because it’s wood, you can’t use a lot of moisture. But I would try something like Murphy’s Oil Soap.
SUSAN: And that’s OK to do on unfinished wood?
TOM: Yeah. Doesn’t it – it probably has some sort of base finish on it, does it not?
SUSAN: No, it does not.
TOM: It has no finish on it at all.
SUSAN: No. We actually – when we purchased the house, they had put up wallpaper on it.
TOM: New idea. If it’s completely unfinished, then you’re going to have to sand it. So I would start with one section and I would lightly sand it and see where it goes. I would use a medium grit – like a 100-, 150-grit – and take it from there.
Now, I would sand it very carefully by hand to start with, just to kind of see what I’m working with. If it looks like it’s going to work out for you, then I would definitely rent or even buy – they’re not that expensive – a vibrating sander. And you …
SUSAN: I actually tried sanding it in one area that’s going to be a water-heater closet and it didn’t work so well. There is so much, I guess, tannic acid or – in it. It wasn’t working very well.
TOM: If you want to try cleaning it with something else that’s a little more heavy-duty, you could try TSP. And since you’ve got this water-heater closet, this could be your experimental room.
TOM: But you could use trisodium phosphate, which is something that you can buy in a home center. It’s usually near the wallpaper-and-paint section.
LESLIE: In the paint prep.
TOM: And you mix it up with water and it’s pretty good at pulling stuff out of – pulling stains out of things. But I’ve never used it on raw wood. I don’t see why you couldn’t give it a try, though.
SUSAN: Yeah. It hasn’t – it actually – you know, I didn’t know if mineral spirits or …
TOM: No. No, no, no, no, no, no, no. That’s going to do nothing but set it. I would try the TSP but if that doesn’t work, you’re just going to have to sand this.
SUSAN: OK, that’s fine.
TOM: And you’re going to sand enough to eventually cut through it. It’s not black all the way through, so eventually you’re going to cut through to fresh wood.
TOM: And then once you sand it, what you’re probably going to do is stain it and that’ll even out the color. So I would use a Minwax stain – an oil-based Minwax stain – and I would stain it to even out the color. And then I would finish it with a clear finish.
SUSAN: Perfect. You have answered my question and I’m so glad I talked to you. I didn’t realize the mineral spirits would set it. So, thank you, guys, so very much.
LESLIE: Alright. Now, we’ve got Richard calling in.
What can we do for you today?
RICHARD: Hey, guys. Thanks for taking my call.
We’ve got carpet in the basement. We just bought this house about 6 months ago and they’ve got some kind of mold issue and I’m not going to mess with it. I’m just going to rip it out. I don’t want to re-carpet it and I don’t want concrete floors. I’ve heard laminated wood, engineered wood, plastic wood. Could you give me a nickel education on this?
TOM: Well, absolutely. First of all, you’re really smart to tear out carpet from a basement, for all the reasons you stated. Carpet is like – it’s a filter and you put it down in the basement, it traps dust, dust mites and allergens. It holds moisture in and it can be a very unhealthy situation. So removing that, going down to concrete and thinking about a hard-surface flooring is a wise move.
You do have options. The two best options would be laminate flooring and engineered-hardwood flooring. A good source for both products is Lumber Liquidators. They have good products, good prices, great experts there. We’ve had them on the show a number of times.
And whether or not you go with laminate or hardwood, the installation’s going to be really important. You’re going to follow their directions on that and make sure you have the appropriate vapor barriers down.
Now, engineered hardwood is just like regular hardwood except that it’s made kind of like plywood, with different layers that overlap. And this gives it dimensional stability, which is the reason you could put it in a damp area like a basement.
LESLIE: Right. But then the top layer is actually the hardwood veneer of the hardwood that you’re looking at, so it’s truly a beautiful floor.
RICHARD: OK, cool.
TOM: Now, laminate is also an option and the laminate flooring today is absolutely gorgeous. And I’m telling you, in many cases, you cannot tell that it isn’t hardwood floor, because it looks so good. If you decide not to go with that hardwood look, you could get a laminate.
Like I have Lumber Liquidators laminate in my kitchen. It looks like stone and it’s beautiful, it’s tough. We’ve raised three kids on it. You just can’t kill this stuff. So, I would take a look at LumberLiquidators.com. Take a look at either laminate or engineered hardwood. Not solid hardwood, because that will move if it gets damp or wet, but only engineered. Does that make sense, Rich?
RICHARD: That makes great sense. Thank you so much.
LESLIE: Well, if you’ve been feeling drafts this chilly winter and blaming your windows, the windows aren’t the only way that air leaks are sneaking into your house. Now, your outside walls may have some even bigger holes to worry about. I’m talking about those outlets that are on exterior walls of the house. Those can be huge energy wasters.
TOM: Yeah. But air that leaks through these holes can be easily sealed. So, to do that, turn the power off, remove the outlet or light cover plates and install inexpensive foam gaskets. These are going to lay on top of the outlet or the light switch. They slightly overlap the hole in the wall, the box where it was cut out. And then when you put the cover plate back on, they compress back down and they’ll seal out drafts. They’ll stop those energy dollars from leaking right out of your wallet.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Sue on the line who needs some help removing wallpaper.
Tell us what’s going on.
SUE: Well, I live in an older house that has – every single wall in the house is wallpapered.
TOM and LESLIE: OK.
SUE: And I’m really sick of wallpaper.
TOM: Yeah. Going to be a lot of years of wallpaper, too, huh, Sue?
SUE: Yes, it is.
LESLIE: Well, as a decorator, wallpaper is coming back in a big way. And big, bold patterns sometimes work really well in interesting spaces. But they might not always be what everybody wants.
Now, Sue, tell me, is it paper or is it vinyl?
SUE: I think it might be a vinyl. Don’t want it.
LESLIE: OK. Now, with vinyl, you’re going to need to score that wall covering first, only because the vinyl is going to stop any of your efforts from actually getting to where the paste is.
Now, I’ve done this before and it depends on how you’ve actually put up the paper and how long it’s been there and what it is adhered to. Was the drywall behind it prepared first? That’s all going to depend on your success rate in removing the wallpaper. But believe it or not – and it’s definitely worth trying; it doesn’t always work but it has been successful many times for me – you can actually remove wallpaper with fabric softener.
LESLIE: I know it sounds crazy.
TOM: Works great.
LESLIE: But you can mix about a 1/3-cup fabric softener with 2/3-cup hot water. Or you can even do it with – what is it? – laundry starch: equal amounts of laundry starch and hot water.
And the laundry starch, the benefit I find with that is that it ends up being like a thicker consistency, so it holds the moisture on the wallpaper where you want it, whereas the fabric softener and water is a little bit wetter.
But you – if you’re using the fabric softener, you want to put it in a spray bottle, spritz that wallpaper, get it super-wet, let it sit there for 10 to 15 minutes. That wallpaper, you’re going to feel it start to loosen and then you’re going to peel it away. Start at the bottom, work your way to the top. You may need a scraper to sort of get underneath it and give it a lot of elbow grease. But with the laundry starch and hot water, you can put that on with a paint roller or a sponge. Super-wet the walls again, let it stand until you can peel away.
And I would start there before I start renting steamers and getting crazy chemicals. Just start and see your success rate.
SUE: OK. That sounds easier than I thought it would be.
TOM: Well, that’s what we’re here for. Thanks so much, Sue, for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT and good luck with that wallpaper project.
SUE: Well, thank you. I’m going to be starting it probably in the next couple of weeks.
TOM: Good. And then we’ll talk to you next year when you’re finished, OK?
SUE: No, no. It’s going to be (inaudible). Thank you so much.
TOM: You’re welcome.
LESLIE: Greg reached out to Team Money Pit and he says, “I have laminate flooring up to my exterior doors. I’d like to create an entryway for wet shoes from the rain and snow. What’s the best waterproof option? I’ve considered ceramic tile but I’m unsure about the grout and the sealer and all the work that it takes to keep it clean.”
I mean this really is – it’s a tricky spot. Because it’s an area you see quite prominently in your home but it also takes a tremendous amount of abuse, this floor, because you’re coming in from the outside and you’re bringing in all the yuck.
TOM: Yeah, I agree. But you know what? I think that we’re in much better shape today than we were years ago because of the advent of products like the vinyl products. The vinyl – luxury vinyl-plank products, which are just incredibly durable. And even more durable are the stone products – the hybrid stone products that are out there. Inexpensive flooring, easy to install, far more waterproof and resistant than laminate flooring ever was and certainly a heck of a lot easier and less to maintain than tile. Given all of that, I would not hesitate for a second to use luxury vinyl plank or a durable, hybrid stone product.
I used – in the last two kitchens I built, I used the Duravana hybrid stone product from LL Flooring. An awesome product, super tough. You just can’t kill this stuff. And the reason I like this over the luxury vinyl plank, it’s a little more expensive but the boards are stiffer. And so they kind of tend to lay flatter in an older house where you get a little more waves in the floor. So, less flooring prep before you put it down.
But that’s my two cents. I would stay away from the tile, because you’re right: it’s going to be a boatload of work to keep that clean.
LESLIE: Alright, Greg. I hope that helps you out, because you can find a floor that looks great and is durable for that spot. So good luck on your hunt.
Now we’ve got Tyler who says, “I want to paint our brick fireplace white. I know painting it means it’s permanent, which is fine with me. However, I saw that there are white brick stains and wanted to know if a white stain would be better than a regular paint?”
TOM: It comes down to cleanability, right? You can’t clean the stained brick.
LESLIE: Yeah, it really depends. So, a stain on brick is going to be more saturated into the brick itself. It’s going to give you more of a wash-y look, whereas a paint over brick is going to seal over the top of the brick. And then you’ll be able to clean it.
Either way, whatever you put on is going to suck into that brick itself. So to get back to a natural-brick surface is virtually impossible without a tremendous amount of work. But you say you’re OK with that, you want to keep it painted. And sometimes, white painted brick – I know I’m saying this – looks really nice. I know.
You’ve got to sort of weigh the differences here. Do you want to be able to clean it? Do you want it to be more solid? Then paint is the way. If you want it to be more sort of wash-y looking and very soft but still have that brick, stony feel to it? Then that’s a stain.
So those are your two choices. Either way, I’m sure you’re going to love it. Just make a choice knowing what the maintenance is.
TOM: Yeah, absolutely. But if your fireplace tends to be the least bit smoky, then definitely paint it because you’ll never get that smoke out on top of the stain.
LESLIE: Yeah, that is true.
TOM: You’ve been listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Show and we are so happy that you are. We hope that we’ve been able to give you some tips, some ideas, some actionable advice that help you improve your home, help you take care of your home, help you to decorate your home, help you fix your home while saving money, saving energy, saving time and making that place as comfortable as it can be.
Remember, if you’ve got questions, you can reach us, 24/7, at 888-MONEY-PIT or always by posting your questions on MoneyPit.com.
For now, that’s all the time we have. 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 2023 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.)