In this episode…
Well, the quarantine has not been good for many industries but the Wall Street Journal reports that one is actually doing quite well. Any guesses? It’s the JIGSAW PUZZLE INDUSTRY! If you’ve caught a case of cabin fever, then adding a game room may be the answer you’re searching for stay at home entertainment! Tom & Leslie tell you how to get this project started. Plus…
- Building a garden is a project that that’s fun to build on a beautiful Spring day. Plus, we’ll share tips on how to build a stone wall that will stand the test of time.
- If your lawn and garden need a trim around the bed or fence, a string trimmer is a great tool to help you do just that. But if you use it wrong, even more weeds might grow. We’ll have tips.
Plus, answers to your home improvement questions about preparing wood windows for painting,refinishing engineered wood floors, installing plaster ceilings, removing adhesive from wood flooring, are solar panels safe, repair a foundation that is sinking.
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: And what are you doing today, aside from sitting around and sitting out the quarantine wherever you are in the country? Are you thinking about maybe even staring at these four walls and floors and ceilings and thinking maybe you would like to do a little bit of an update? Maybe you want to get outside and do a bit of gardening, make a few repairs to your deck or your steps? Whatever is on that to-do list, look, we’ve all got lots of time now to take on these projects.
I was talking to a friend of ours earlier and said, “We’re not commuting, right? So, if you have a commute, just imagine all the hours that you’re saving by not having to commute.” You could put that into home improvement right from inside your space. You can get stuff delivered today, right? You don’t even have to go out. So, if you’ve got a project on that to-do list, we are here to help. Call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT with your home improvement, home décor, cabin-fever reliever. What kind of question do you have? Doesn’t matter. We’re here to help.
Well, coming up on today’s show, the quarantine has not been good for many industries but apparently, The Wall Street Journal reports that one is doing very, very well. Any guesses?
LESLIE: Which one?
TOM: It’s the jigsaw-puzzle industry.
LESLIE: I have had a hand in this.
TOM: Did you? Did you buy a new puzzle or two?
LESLIE: I bought three new puzzles and my back is killing me.
TOM: There you go.
LESLIE: I keep – I’m so into them.
TOM: Well, I was thinking that if you have caught a case of cabin fever, adding a game room or a space to do your puzzles or do whatever else might be a great opportunity. So we’re going to give you some tips on how to set up your space for all sorts of home entertainment, including puzzles.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And if you’re lucky enough to have a beautiful day, you know, you can get outside and do some projects around the yard or on the terrace of the apartment. Well, maybe a garden, something like that. A project, perhaps a garden wall. We’ve got some ideas, if you’ve got a big yard space, to build a stone wall that’ll help stand the test of time.
TOM: And if your lawn and garden needs a trim around the bed or a fence, a string trimmer is a great tool to help you do just that. But if you use it wrong, which I see all the time, not only may more weeds grow, it can actually kill anything that’s live that touches the string that’s not supposed to, like getting too close to a tree and stuff like that. So we’re going to give you some tips on how to use it right.
LESLIE: But first, we’ve got some great things up for grabs this hour. We’ve got something to help you with your home improvement projects around the house. We’ve got a chance for you to win a Jorgensen E-Z Hold Expandable Bar Clamp Package worth 80 bucks. So if you’re repairing things, this is the perfect prize for you.
TOM: It’s like having an extra set of hands.
TOM: But you don’t have to feed them, you know what I mean?
LESLIE: Especially when groceries are scarce. We don’t need to feed the extra hands.
TOM: So, give us a call right now. That number, again, is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Now, you can also post your questions to The Money Pit’s social pages. Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit has been getting quite busy this past week. Or you can post those questions to our website at MoneyPit.com.
Let’s get to it. Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Bill in Tennessee is on the line with a painting question. How can we help you?
BILL: My house faces east and of course, you get the west – the sunset in the back of my house. But that sun really pounds down hard on my house and I’ve got wood windows and I’ve got a stained, wood front door. My question is: would I get any benefit to – I need to – I want to scrape the windows down and repaint them. Would I get any benefit to putting an exterior KILZ-type product on there before I paint it?
TOM: Yeah, I mean you always get a benefit from priming the wood, which is what you’re talking about doing. So, sure, especially if you’ve got loose paint, you want to scrape it down, sand it down, get rid of everything that’s loose, then prime it. If you want to really do a terrific job, I would use an oil-based primer. And that’s going to soak in and seal and make sure everything is nice and tight and attached to the wood fibers. Then you put your topcoat on top of that, of paint.
So priming is always a good idea and KILZ is a terrific product to do that with.
BILL: OK. Now, let me ask you about the stained wood door. What kind of product would you recommend to kind of seal that in?
TOM: So the door is stained right now? Does it have any kind of gloss finish on it?
BILL: No. It’s kind of a walnut-type color.
TOM: But it has no urethane-type finish on it? You think it was just stained?
BILL: Well, it’s about – the house was built in ‘06, so it’s a couple years old. It’s faded out a little bit. There may have been one there on there at one time but it’s …
TOM: Well, here’s why I ask. If the wood door has never had any stain – never had any finish on – a topcoat of finish on it, then you could just restain it. And so if you restain it – and again, if you sand it down, rough it up and then restain it, you should be able to get a very rich tone. But then what you do need to do is put a urethane on top of that. Use an exterior urethane because it has UV protection in it. And take the door off the hinges to do all the work, set it up on a couple sawhorses in your front yard or your garage and then work on it there.
If the door has already got a finish on it, then you may have to sand it down through that finish to get to the raw wood in order to restain it.
BILL: Great. Well, I appreciate it.
TOM: Well, you’re very welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Lavonne in Iowa on the line with a floor-refinishing question. How can we help you today?
LAVONNE: Yes. I have 1,350 square feet of engineered-hardwood floor. It has been refinished twice and you know what? It’s looking pretty tough. And I want to refinish it again and I’ve thought about doing a gel with a lacquer over the top of it. But I’m afraid if I sand it any more, I’m going to be into the plywood.
TOM: You know, it’s very unusual that you’ve been able to refinish it once. Engineered floors have factory-applied finishes and they’re very difficult to refinish, which you may have discovered.
One thing I can suggest, Lavonne, is this. Is the floor physically damaged or is it really just the finish is kind of worn a little bit?
LAVONNE: You know what? There is some physical damage because of water issues, like where I had my Christmas tree, right? The ring, where it – because it wasn’t a very thick poly on it, I think.
TOM: Right. Right.
LAVONNE: And then there’s scratches, of course.
TOM: OK. Well, here’s what you could do. What you could do is you could rent not a sander but a floor buffer. And you get a floor buffer with a sanding screen. So it’s a very fine screen that takes the place of sort of the buffing pads. And it will take off just the upper surface of the floor finish and kind of dull it out and smooth it out. And then on top of that, you can refinish it. So it doesn’t really sand the wood; it really just sands the finish, so to speak.
TOM: And that might be enough for you to get a new finish to take. But I’ve got to tell you, you should just count your blessings because having refinished this two and now maybe three times, with engineered you’re really far exceeding what it’s designed to do. You’re treating this like it’s a solid hardwood and not an engineered hardwood.
LAVONNE: I know. And you know what? I’ve priced out laying new over the top of it, engineered, because to – the cost to remove what’s already there, the existing, is out of this – out of the – it’s just out of the roof. And to lay over the top of it, is that wise to lay another engineered over the top of it?
TOM: But that said, I don’t understand why somebody wants to charge you so much to take out what’s there. It’s not attached to the floor underneath. It’s not glued down, is it?
LAVONNE: You know what? That’s what I don’t know. It’s the unknown.
TOM: In most cases, you would not glue down engineered floor; it would float. And so if it’s floating, all you would do to remove it is you would set the depth of a circular saw to the thickness of the floor, you’d put a bunch of cuts across the floor in a grid-like pattern, you start prying it up and throwing it away. The only thing that’s hard to get out is where it gets to the edges under the molding. But it shouldn’t be that big of a deal to take up engineered floor, as long as it’s not glued.
That said, there’s no reason you can’t put a second layer over that.
LAVONNE: So would you lay something in between? Would you float the floor or would you staple it?
TOM: Yeah, it’s always floated; engineered always floats. And a lot of engineered hardwoods today have a backer on them already, so they’re kind of cushiony.
LAVONNE: We’re thinking about – we’re going to list the house. It’s a 5,800-square-foot house. It’s huge and it’s just my husband and I rattling around in this thing and so – you want to do something …
TOM: Well, if you’re going to list the house, you’re never going to return an investment by replacing the floor. My advice is to sand the floors with a floor buffer and a sanding screen, put another coat of urethane on it and then put the “For Sale” sign in the front yard, OK?
LAVONNE: Alright. Thank you very much.
TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: We would love to hear what you are working on. And maybe you’re like me: the only adult person in the house when we’re all sort of stuck at home. And you want to take on projects but you really need another set of hands.
Well, we’ve got a great prize for you, because I can’t always count on my children to actually hold something together. So, if that’s like your household, we’ve got up for grabs, this hour, the Jorgensen E-Z Hold Expandable Bar Clamp Package. You’ll be able to clamp all of your projects together with just one hand. It’s like having an extra set of hands or helpers around the house. So it’s really a great thing to have on hand if you’re doing some repairs and you’ve got to just hold some stuff in place while it all sets and stays together.
It’s really great. You’re going to get two Jorgensen E-Z Hold 24-Inch Medium-Duty Expandable Bar Clamps. And that’s worth 80 bucks. So give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT for your chance to win.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Dawn in Florida who appears to be a texture junkie looking to retexture a ceiling.
Dawn, I think this a first. How can we help you?
DAWN: My house is about a year-and-a-half old and when they textured the ceiling, it’s a light orange peel, same thing they did on the walls. And they said it would be easier and more economical to do that than to try to do a slick coat on my ceiling. I don’t think that’s true. Instead now, a year-and-a-half later into it, then I noticed that you can still see the mud marks.
Well, I’ve been doing a lot of research on painting and they have all this Venetian plaster and all these different techniques. And I often got to wondering if I could do that on a ceiling – the same wall technique on a ceiling.
TOM: What does the ceiling look like right now? Like how deep is the texture that you have?
DAWN: Very light. It is a very light orange peel but you can still see the tape and the mudding. Late at night, I look up there and I’m like, “I can still see the lines where the drywall goes together.” So, you can definitely see it raised.
TOM: I’m concerned that even if you do put the Venetian plaster kind of paint on that, that it might not be thick enough. Because if you can see the tape and the mud, it means that the ceiling was never properly spackled. And if it wasn’t properly spackled, you’re likely to see that through no matter what you do.
DAWN: Well, what do you think I should do? You think I should hire somebody to come in and just redo my ceilings? It’s not a very big house. It’s actually an ICF-construction house. It’s got solid concrete walls with rebar. And so it’s very solidly built and I went through a lot of trouble to have it done so a hurricane couldn’t blow me away. But I want it to look good on the inside, as well.
TOM: ICF stands for insulated concrete forms, for those in our audience that have never heard that term used. And it’s a tremendous way to build a house because it is hurricane-proof. Literally, all the things that get thrown around in a hurricane will not pierce the outside of the house. You’d be surprised how quick a 2×4 could be jammed right through a building that’s made with wood siding or even vinyl siding. Could be even worse.
And the ceiling itself, if it wasn’t completely spackled, I’m concerned that if you put anything on top of that, it’s going to show through. So I would suggest then – what you might want to do is to sand – have somebody come in and sand those areas that are not properly spackled. Do a good job spackling them and then lightly sand the whole thing, put a good coat of primer over it and then – because this is a repair, it’s not going to be as smooth as if it wasn’t a repair. So then you could use a plaster paint – a Venetian plaster or a textured paint – as a final step. Does that make sense?
DAWN: OK. Well, I think we’re on the same page and I appreciate it.
TOM: You’re very welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, the quarantine certainly isn’t good for a lot of industries but The Wall Street Journal is reporting that one industry is actually doing quite well. Any guesses, guys? So what are you thinking? It’s jigsaw puzzles. That’s right.
TOM: Of course.
LESLIE: Jigsaw puzzles are booming. And if you scroll through social media, you will see a ton of your buddies out there all in their homes doing puzzles. We’re doing them, too. I mean if you’ve got cabin fever, doing a jigsaw puzzle or working on a game or doing something together as a family certainly is a great way to beat it.
But maybe you don’t have a space that’s dedicated for it. We’re all looking at working from home and everybody’s in the same spaces. So if you’ve got a spot, perhaps creating a game room for all of this home entertainment could be the perfect project for you and your family to tackle. It’s easier than you think and we’ve got some three simple steps to help you do it.
So, first of all, think about location. If you’ve got a basement, that’s the perfect spot. But you want to make sure that your basement doesn’t have any moisture or dampness issues that could be a problem. Basements are just prone to them. They’re below grade, so they do tend to get the moisture just from being in the surrounding of the grounds and the cement on the floor and all of that stuff. So you want to make sure that it’s comfortable and dry. You can add a space heater or a dehumidifier just to help you get that space sort of normalized.
TOM: If you don’t have a basement, think about a seldom used or say, an area of your house that you’re not using as much. And think about reconfiguring it to make room for the entertainment that you’d like to get done, whether it’s puzzles or whether it’s video games, whatever it is, even if it’s just a temporary basis.
Think about resetting that area but the same rules apply. Make sure you have light, make sure you have ventilation, make sure you have everything that you need. You don’t want to overload your electrical outlets and stuff like that, so you need to be cautious of that. And depending on what you plan to add, you may have to spread that electricity across multiple outlets so that you’re not just overdoing everything at once.
If you’re going to spend a lot of time there, you could also think about maybe moving down a mini-fridge or anything like that that you got or setting up some space for some goodies, as well. But whether you have a basement or not, just think about a space you can clear out and make work for this purpose.
LESLIE: Yeah. And then don’t forget, you want it to look good because you want to be in this space and have fun with it. You know, you can find online a lot of really cool, vintage game room-styled artwork, whether it’s a poster from a cool game or fun movie posters or the puzzles that you’re making now. You can glue them together and put them in frames and always remember the time that you and your family were stuck together.
I always joke with my son. We’ve been stuck together now for several weeks and I keep saying to my older boy – I’m like, “Dude, if the three of make this out alive, we’re going to be fine.” And I don’t mean from the illness; we’re going to kill each other just from being on top of each other. Thank goodness everybody’s healthy. But it’s important to take this time and find good distractions. And a game room is a great way to keep your family sane and having fun.
TOM: We’ve got a great post online called “Three Key Design Tips for a Beautiful Game Room.” It’s online at MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: John in Florida, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
JOHN: Being that I’m trying to be more conscious of the energy that we use and most times that we don’t use, as far as wasting – so one thing that I’m contemplating whether or not to do is putting on a timer for my water heater in my home.
JOHN: Being the fact that we only really need the hot water in the early morning, taking a shower or in the evening times when we come home, is it doable? Is it worth investing and putting a timer in your system for that? And is that something that the average homeowner can do or is that something that you have to get a licensed contractor for?
TOM: Well, first of all, it is a good project to do because you’re right: you don’t need your water heater heating water to 110 degrees, 24/7. You only need it when you are home, when you’re showering, when you’re bathing, things like that. And it will stay warm for the rest of the time. So setting the water to heat only for a few hours in the morning and a few hours in the evening makes sense.
TOM: That said, unless you’re very experienced with electricity, it’s definitely not a do-it-yourself project because it is or could be quite dangerous. You have to turn off the power at the breaker panel and then you have to install an electrical box between the water heater and the panel.
And there’s a type of timer made by Intermatic called – the Little Grey Box is what it usually says on it. It’s the Little Grey Box.
JOHN: OK. Well, that’s great. Well, thank you. Hey, it’s a great show. I enjoy listening. Getting a lot of ideas.
LESLIE: Well, stone garden walls are synonymous with strength and permanence but a poorly-built wall can crumble in no time at all.
TOM: Well, that’s true. But there’s no getting around it, I mean building a stone wall is hard work. When it comes to building one that’s going to last, you do need to lay the groundwork first, because it really all starts with that footing.
So, what you need to do is create a very firm base before you start stacking those stones or the wall will move. The easy way to do that is to simply dig a trench below the frost line at about 2 feet wider than the wall, if this is going to be a big wall. And then line it with landscaping fabric. That’s like that weed cloth that you put down. And then just lay down a base of sort of washed gravel, because that allows the water to drain away and stops the freezing and the movement under the wall which is what causes these walls to heave. And that’s going to be the right base for you to get started with.
LESLIE: Now, when it comes to actually building the wall, is there one method that’s better than the other to making sure that it’s straight, it will last a long time? What do you think is the best approach?
TOM: Well, sometimes, folks love to use mortar and sometimes they stack them up with building blocks. The traditional sort of New England-style fieldstone walls, they’re generally stacked without mortar. Or sometimes, the pros will call that “dry-laid.” However, if you mortar the wall, it can be a lot stronger. And that’s an important consideration if you’re building a wall that has to do double-duty. For example, if it’s a retaining wall, it needs to be really, really strong.
If you want to preserve that sort of dry-laid look, which is really beautiful, but get the strength, one of the tricks of the trade that you could put into this, Leslie, is to actually tint the mortar. You can dye the mortar so it’s a darker color and it won’t be as obvious. Otherwise, it’ll be that bright gray against the darker …
LESLIE: Oh, the super new.
TOM: Yeah, it looks new, right. Kind of gives it away. So no, you could actually make it dark. You could make it dark gray or black and then it won’t show up as well.
LESLIE: And once you’ve got it all sort of figured out, is there an order to the stones? Do you put the bigger ones first? Is there a method to the madness or can you sort of just go for it?
TOM: No, the bigger ones are definitely the “base stones,” we call them, and we place first. And then you use the smaller stones to fill in the gaps.
They need to lay flush along the height of the face stones. So make sure, as you start to build this, you pay attention to the fact that you’re not sort of making the wall too wide, you’re not sort of leaning it in one direction or the other. You can use a level and you can use a string to help you keep everything sort of straight.
And if you’re using mortar, make sure you fit the stones before you put the mortar in. Otherwise, it’s just going to be a big mess. It won’t – doesn’t fit and it starts to dry and it gets in the way and you’ve got to chip it out. So if you do those steps in that order and you build the wall right, the good news is this thing’s going to last a hundred years. These walls last longer than we do, for sure. So, you take your time and do it right, it’s a really fun project. Either around your property or around a garden, it can be absolutely beautiful.
LESLIE: Greg in Delaware, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you?
GREG: Yes, I have a house that was built in ‘42 and stuff. And for some reason, somebody put those sticky tiles in the kitchen, right over top of some nice hardwood floors.
TOM: Ugh. OK.
GREG: And so you know, it’s all original.
GREG: It’s all original stuff.
TOM: So definitely worth saving.
GREG: How do I get the sticky glue off the wood? I use a sander, it just tears the glue on it, tears it up. And I’ve used – I don’t know if I can say a product but I’ve used Goo Gone and it just doesn’t do any good. I didn’t actually try to (inaudible).
TOM: What kind of sander are you using on it?
GREG: Well, I had a belt sander that I had and then I used a palm sander. And I used – tried to use a different grit.
TOM: Alright. So, I would stop right there, Greg. I would call in a professional floor-refinishing company and let them do it with their tools. You can sand that stuff off and their sanders are big, 12-inch-wide belt sanders with varying types of grit on it. And I think if you have them come in, they’re going to sand this floor. And I generally don’t recommend belt-sanding because it takes some of the life of the floor. But in your case, when you have adhesive on it, it’s the best way to do it.
LESLIE: It’s the only thing that’s going to work.
TOM: Yeah. But have a pro do it. They’ve got the right tools; you don’t. And it’ll just save you a lot of aggravation. It’s not terribly expensive. You know, if you want to save money, you could even just have them sand it and not finish it and you can finish it yourself. But their finishes – generally, the pro finishes are better than the ones that you can buy over the counter, so to speak.
So I would leave this job to the pro because it requires their specialized tools. And don’t even rent the tools yourself, because you’re not going to have the skills to use it and you could ruin the floor using a tool like that.
GREG: Yeah. And so there’s no chemicals that would pull it up without …
TOM: No. I wouldn’t – no, I wouldn’t do that. I’d just have it sanded off. It’ll look so good when it’s done.
TOM: Alright, Greg? Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, maybe you’ve noticed that your tool supply is running a little low or maybe you’re looking for something new to add to your tool arsenal. Well, we’ve got a great prize for you this hour. And it’s perfect for these little repair projects you might be working on at home when you need an extra set of hands but you can’t do the project all on your own.
We’ve got the Jorgensen E-Z Hold Expandable Bar Clamp Package up for grabs, that you’ll be able to actually clamp your project together using just one hand. It’s really great because you can join these two together to actually have the capacity for a larger project. And we’ve got up for grabs two Jorgensen E-Z Hold 24-Inch Medium-Duty Expandable Bar Clamps. They’re worth about 80 bucks. Check them out online. Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT for your chance to win.
TOM: Those expandable bar clamps by our friends at Jorgensen are going out to one listener drawn at random.
Let me tell you something about Jorgensen: that’s a brand that I have been using since I was a kid. Since I could hold a clamp, I’ve been using that brand. It is just timeless and they really make great stuff. I have got probably maybe a dozen or 15 Jorgensen clamps in my shop right now that I’ve had probably for 40 years. They just don’t wear out, so this is a great tool to have in your arsenal. Believe me, you can pass it down to your kids.
The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. We’d love to give that prize package out to you.
LESLIE: Shirley in Oregon is on the line with a solar-panel question. How can we help you?
SHIRLEY: Hi. Yes. I had heard that with solar panels or solar shakes on the roof, that if you had a fire, that the fire department would not be able to start fighting that fire until the sun went down because you’re actually creating electricity? And I just was considering putting solar and I just wanted to make sure if that is correct: that they didn’t want to get the water on anything that was actively creating electricity.
TOM: So let’s just think about this, Shirley. Your house is on fire, the fire department pulls up, they spot the solar panels and say, “Ah, you know what? We’ll be back, say, what, 6:30, 7:00? Sun should be down by then. Then we’ll take care of it.”
SHIRLEY: That’s what I thought was ridiculous.
SHIRLEY: That’s why I’m thinking, “Why is anybody doing solar if that’s the case, is there?”
TOM: No. Look, there’s electricity all throughout your house. Why would electricity on the roof have – be any different? If electricity is a concern, the fire department is going to go over and turn the power off; they’ll pull the meter.
SHIRLEY: Well, they said that solar creates its own electricity so even if the meter was turned off or pulled, that it still would be creating. Is that not correct with the solar?
TOM: Let’s think about what you’re saying. You can fight a fire in a power plant if you had to.
TOM: So, this is not an issue. Somebody is pulling your leg, Shirley, OK?
SHIRLEY: I think it was just somebody that was kind of ignorant and I said I couldn’t hardly believe it. But I was going to ask before I – thank you.
TOM: Shirley, good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, if your lawn and garden need a trim around the beds or the fencing, a string trimmer is a great tool to help you do just that. We’ve got tips on how you can do that project, on today’s Lawn and Garden Tip presented by Greenworks Tools.
TOM: Now, first off, mind the weather. Seems obvious but here is something to consider. String trimmers do not work well when the grass is wet, because it’s slippery. It doesn’t cut the blades of grass quite as cleanly, so it’s always good to use a trimmer in dry weather. Plus, of course, it’s easier for you to slip when you’re working on the wet grass, too. So, wait for that dry weather and it’ll do a much better job.
You’ve got to dress up for this. You’re going to be throwing up a lot of debris, dirt, small rocks. So you need your safety glasses, long pants and good shoes before you take on that project, because you’ve got to be protected.
LESLIE: Now, when it comes to cutting your lawn, you don’t want to cut it too low and here’s why. The lower that it gets, the greater the chance that weeds are going to grow. So keep it about 3 inches in the spring and summer. Now, one of the great things about the string trimmer is that it can double as an edger, as well. You just flip it over to make that string rotate vertically and now you’ve given yourself a neat edging tool, as well.
TOM: Now, lastly, be careful not to trim against anything that’s live, like a tree. If the string cuts through the bark, it can actually kill the tree. So, if that’s a situation you have, you want to build sort of a mulch bed around the base of any live plants like that so you don’t connect it with the string trimmer and keep it growing nicely.
LESLIE: And that’s today’s Lawn and Garden Tip presented by Greenworks Tools, makers of the new Greenworks 60-volt family of tools with the most innovative technology in battery-powered outdoor tools.
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LESLIE: Brian in Ohio is dealing with a settling house. Tell us what’s going on.
BRIAN: Ah, well, I have a real nice, 1930s brick Colonial. And in a number of areas, you can see that the house has settled so that the doors aren’t square in the door frames. And the tile on one wall in the bathroom is about an inch below where the tile line on the other wall is. And there’s some cracks in the outside of the brick structure.
And I just wondered if it – if there’s a way to fix this to sort of square up the house. Because, among other things, if I redo the bathroom, I’m afraid that if the house is moving or twisting, so to speak, and I put new, beautiful tile on the floor or the wall, that it’ll crack that next.
TOM: Brian, did you have a home inspection done when you bought the house?
BRIAN: Well, I’m in the real estate business, so I kind of knew what I was getting into from the standpoint of the structure. So I did not have a home inspection done, no.
TOM: Hmm. Yeah. Or not.
OK, well, as a former professional home inspector, my first advice would be to determine if the home is still actively moving. And that’s the type of observation that takes a bit of a trained eye. You want to see if there’s anything that tells you that those cracks are active or not. It may very well be that in a 1930s house, this is just normal settlement that’s happened over time.
In terms of re-squaring the house, really bad idea. You never want to put a house back where you think it belongs, because it took many, many, many, many years to get into that sort of skewed, settled state. If you try to lift up different pieces, you’ll end up cracking more walls, breaking wires, breaking pipes and that sort of thing.
So, what you would do, if you redid the bathroom, is basically just live with that. Chalk it up to another real estate word, “charm,” and just live with it, OK?
BRIAN: Thanks. Great. Great insight, OK.
TOM: Alright? There you go. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, Joanne from New York has posted a question online and she writes: “Our wood deck has many cracked and/or split boards and some are starting to peel. We can’t afford to replace it at this time. Is there any way that we can fix this problem? Can it be sanded? We coated it last year with a semi-transparent seal, which took a beating over the winter months and now it looks terrible.”
TOM: That’s too bad. So, OK – well, listen. First of all, you certainly could sand it again and you could reseal it again or restain it again. But if it’s just a cracked board that’s really causing the problem, there is a trick of the trade for that, which works very well. And that is – and think about it: usually, all those cracks are caused by exposure to sunlight, Joanne. So if you were to pry that board up, you will find that no matter how long it’s been down, the underside of it is in almost pristine condition.
It’ll be a little dirty, maybe a little mossy but you can clean that up. But there’ll be no cracks on the underside of the board. Why? Because that has not been exposed to sunlight. So you can fix a cracked board really easily by taking it up and then flipping it over and then reattaching it to the deck. Now, of course, it’ll stand out a bit because it’ll be a different color and you can deal with that when you’re ready to restain the deck. But the cracks and getting rid of those sharp edges and splintery kinds of surfaces can be handled by just flipping that board.
LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post here from Barbara in Florida who writes: “I’m thinking of buying a house. But when the owner turned on the microwave, the lights in the family and the dining room went out and he had to reset the circuit breaker. Is this a serious problem and what would cause it?”
TOM: That’s kind of a bad thing to happen when you’re ready to sell a house.
So here’s what probably happened. There’s a circuit – if it’s an older house, the circuit that controls the kitchen and these other rooms is probably the same. Now, in a newer house you would have a separate circuit for the kitchen, a separate circuit for the refrigerator and the kitchen-counter appliances and such, because we’ve changed electrical code on that. But when you have one and then you’re overdoing it, it can easily trip.
So it could be that you’ve exceeded the capacity of the circuit breaker and tripped it, which can be a problem because that can happen in day-to-day life, as you’ve witnessed. Or it could mean that you’ve got a short in that circuit, which is even worse. So, regardless, you do need to have that examined by an electrician. So I would put that on the to-do list before closing. Make that part of the punch list to have a licensed electrician go in there and address that and provide you a letter or a receipt that says exactly what caused it and what was done to fix it.
Now, if you’ve not done this yet, also, you need to get a home inspection done. That is also very, very important. I know home inspectors and the real estate agencies and the whole industry is struggling with how to do this in a safe way but maybe you can put this off until the summer. But you’ve got to have a home inspection done. Do not buy a house without the home inspection, because the home inspectors are very good at identifying stuff like this that may take weeks, months or even years to discover. And you want to get it discovered before you close so you can make a financial adjustment of the price if that becomes necessary.
LESLIE: Alright, Barbara. I hope that helps you with finding out whether this house is worth it or not. And always remember, make sure you get all that information up front. The home inspector is a really great resource for all of that. And good luck in your home-buying adventure.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Hey, thanks so much for spending a small part of your day with us. We hope we’ve given you some ideas and inspiration on ways that you can improve the spaces that we’re all spending so much time in these days.
Remember, just because you’re stuck at home doesn’t mean you can’t get these things done. We have been getting more questions, more comments and more interest on stuff that you can do to kind of relieve the cabin fever and minor fix-ups than we typically get, because of this quarantine, and that’s great. That’s what we pledged to do when this whole thing started – is to keep doing what we’ve been doing for 20 years: helping you take care of your house and making it the best it can possibly be. So thanks for being a part of that.
And that’s all the time we have for today’s program but the show does continue online. 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 2020 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.)