- Would you like to do a better job of taking care of your home but just don’t have the time? We’ve got 30 home repairs you can do in 30 minutes or less!
- Tile is a timeless and durable choice for a floor but aside from the look, choosing the best TYPE of tile is the only way to make sure that beautiful floor lasts. We’ll share tips to help you choose the best tile and save in today’s Smart Spending Tip.
- Did you know that with every breath you take, you may be inhaling not only clean fresh air, but also VOC’s that can impact your health. We’ve got tips to help you understand and avoid volatile organic compounds.
- Good lighting is key to a happy home. We share tips on how to brighten your spaces with the best lighting for every type of activity.
Plus, answers to your home improvement questions about, removing a popcorn ceiling, installing energy efficient windows, idea renovations for a small kitchen, repairing a sagging wood floor.
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 take on your new projects in this new year. If there’s a project you’d like to get done, if you would like to redo your kitchen, if you’d like to update your bath, you want to do a new deck, you’ve got a deck dilemma – outdoor living is huge now. It’s going to get bigger even as the spring weather hits. But there’s a lot of contractors that are really busy right now helping folks get those spaces ready to go.
If you don’t know where to start, you can start right here by picking up the phone and calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or posting your questions at MoneyPit.com.
Coming up on today’s show, tile floors. Tile is a timeless and durable choice for a floor. But you know what? Aside from the look, choosing the best type of tile is the only way to make sure that that beautiful floor is really going to last. So we’re going to share some tips to help you choose the best tile and save money, in today’s Smart Spending Tip.
LESLIE: And did you know that with every breath you take, you might be inhaling not only clean, fresh air but also VOCs – volatile organic compounds? Now, they can impact your health, so we’ve got some tips to help you understand and avoid those VOCs.
TOM: And would you like to do a better job of taking care of your home but you just don’t have the time? Sorry, we’re about ready to crush your dream and cross that myth off the list, because we’ve got a series of home repairs that you can do in 30 minutes or less. Thirty minutes or less. In fact, we actually have 30 of them that you can do in 30 minutes or less, in our book. We’re only going to check off three of those projects today and more as time goes on.
LESLIE: Now, Arrow Fastener has got, up for grabs for us this hour, the E21X Wire Stapler. And it’s handy for all sorts of decorating projects, both inside and out.
TOM: That Arrow E21, plus a supply of staples, is worth about 50 bucks. Going out to one listener drawn at random. Make that you. Post your question now at MoneyPit.com or pick up the phone and call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
Let’s get to it. Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Heading over to Florida, where Peter has lost power in the bathroom.
Peter, what’s going on and can you see what you’re doing?
PETER: Yeah, I had a GFI go bad. And when I went to change it over, for some reason I couldn’t get any juice to the receptacle underneath the sink. So, I got juice to where I put the new one in but – so I went down to Home Depot – I listen to you folks all the time – and I got a new one. And the gentleman over there told me to find the hot wires go and put them on the receptacle where it says line. And then the other two hook up on the bottom of it.
TOM: Peter, do you know that the ground-fault circuit worked properly and then it stopped working?
PETER: Yes, sir.
TOM: So it worked properly and then stopped working. Have you considered the fact that the ground-fault circuit interrupter could be doing its job and then there could be a problem elsewhere in the circuit?
PETER: Yeah, I didn’t give a thought about that. No, I didn’t.
TOM: So, I think that when ground-fault circuit interrupters start to trip, people say, “Oh, it must be a bad circuit breaker,” and they don’t consider the fact that the circuit breaker is, in fact, doing its job detecting a diversion of current to a ground source and tripping to prevent you from getting a shock.
So, the solution wouldn’t be necessarily first to replace the ground fault. I would investigate further to see what exactly is happening and causing that to trip. I think, based on your description of what you’ve done thus far, that this might be just a little bit above your skill set. And while we can respect the fact that you’re doing this on your own, when it comes to electricity you want to get it right. And if you were to miswire that and in fact, perhaps, you – there are different ways to hook up ground faults. And if you do it one way, you can get it to trip and not protect the rest of the circuit. So, it would appear to be working correctly when, in fact, it wouldn’t.
So this is not the kind of thing I would recommend that you do yourself, Peter, with all due respect. I would definitely have an electrician look at this because I suspect that the ground fault is doing its thing. They rarely go bad. And if it’s tripping, it’s probably tripping because something is going on elsewhere in the circuit.
The ground faults will cover everything that’s on that circuit. So if you had, for example, a loose wire somewhere down the line and that was causing some sort of an arcing condition, that could trigger the ground fault to go off.
So, contact an electrician. This is the kind of job that you should not do yourself, because I want to make sure that the problem is what you think it is and it gets properly fixed.
LESLIE: Jessica in Missouri is dealing with a floor that’s sinking in on itself. What is going on over there?
JESSICA: Hi. I live in a 128-year-old house and my kitchen floor has settled, maybe, in the middle. If everything is not strapped to my walls, it will go towards the middle of my floor.
JESSICA: Yeah. So I didn’t know if you guys had any thoughts about a repair on that, if you think maybe it’s like a joist underneath there or …
TOM: Yeah, is this on a basement or a crawlspace, Jessica?
JESSICA: No, it’s dirt.
TOM: It’s dirt. So you can’t really get under it?
JESSICA: I have a crawlspace that I can get underneath it but it’s in the opposite side of my house.
TOM: OK. So, can you get down there and physically examine the beams to see what’s going on?
JESSICA: Yes. But it would take the size of a small child to get underneath there.
JESSICA: So, there lies another problem – is how to see what’s going on, where the best place would be to go in at to try to get that …
TOM: Listen, I had to do a plumbing repair project on my own home, in a crawlspace that was about 6 inches taller than me flat on my back. So, I know how tough it is to work in spaces like that. You’ve got to kind of shimmy in to get there.
But the thing is, I am concerned with this sagging, that somebody has a look at that – those beams – to make sure there’s nothing structural going on, like a termite infestation or something of that nature. If it’s just normal sagging, well, there are some things that we can do from the top side to address that.
One of which comes to mind is that you could use a floor-leveling compound on this old floor. To do so, you are really talking about the entire kitchen floor, including the cabinets. Because to do it just in the middle might not be enough. You really have to go wall to wall on this room. And because it’s a kitchen, it becomes very, very complicated to do that.
But the first thing is to evaluate the structure to make sure that there’s nothing going on there. And then the second thing is to look for a solution above it. It’s generally not possible to raise up a floor that’s already sagged, especially in a really old house, because it took 120 years to get in that position and you’re just not going to bring it back up again. Sometimes you can reinforce it a little bit with some additional beaming and stiffen it up a bit. But generally, if you want to level it, you’ve got to do that from the top side and not from the underside in an old house, OK?
JESSICA: OK. Alright. Well, thank you very much. I appreciate you guys’ time.
TOM: You’re very welcome.
Well, Arrow Fastener makes a lot of really handy tools and we’ve got one to give away on today’s show. It’s the Arrow E21 Cordless Electric Staple Gun. It’s going to go out to one listener drawn at random.
Now, the E21 is pretty much a must-have for any DIYer, a woodworker or a pro. It’s battery-powered. The battery life is 3 hours and it can fire as many – a thousand staples on a single charge. That’s a lot. One charge, a thousand shots. That’s pretty cool.
It’s perfect for general repairs, upholstery, decorating projects, craft projects. It’s going out along with a supply of staples. So the whole package of the E21 Cordless Gun and the staples is worth 50 bucks.
It’s going to go out to one listener drawn at random. You’ve got to be in it to win it. So pick up the phone, call us with your home improvement question now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or post your questions at MoneyPit.com or Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Trent in Florida on the line who’s dealing with a falling-apart popcorn ceiling. How can we help you?
TRENT: Well, my popcorn ceiling is actually in my bathroom. I guess, on one night or something, my son had gotten it wet and when it dried, it started flaking off the ceiling. And now it’s just continuing to do it.
LESLIE: Well, it’s funny because when you get a popcorn ceiling wet, that’s actually the way to remove it. You would spray it with some sort of garden sprayer and then scrape it off. So if you want it gone, he’s got you on the correct path.
TOM: Now, is the time, right.
But if you don’t want it gone, what I would do is this: I would take maybe a stiff-bristle brush and gently brush away – maybe like a dry paintbrush and just brush away all the loose stuff. And then you’re going to pick up some popcorn-ceiling patching material. There’s a number of different manufacturers of this. I know that Zinsser makes one, Homax makes one. It comes both in a trowel-on finish and also in a spray-on finish.
LESLIE: It looks like cheese in a can when it comes out.
TOM: Yeah, exactly. It looks like Cheez Whiz. And you can spray that on and recreate the popcorn effect that way. And then, lastly, you’re probably going to have to paint that ceiling and paint the entire ceiling to blend it in.
But you’ve got to get rid of the loose stuff, add the patching material and then repaint the ceiling and you’ll be good to go.
TRENT: OK. Well, great. Well, thank you very much.
TOM: Now you’ve got options. You’re very welcome.
LESLIE: Julie in Missouri, which is probably freezing, just like everybody else in the United States of America has been this winter.
JULIE: Yeah, like way below freezing. So, that’s part of my question. We have a couple of huge hot-water heaters: an 85-gallon and a couple of 50s. We have a bed-and-breakfast and the hot-water heaters are in the basement. And it seems like it’s always the people on the third floor that get up first. And so there’s a lot of water going down the drain of all that hot water. Plus, over the past couple of years, we’ve had frozen pipes and not the outside walls; it’s been in the middle of the room. Because the house was built in the 1800s, so they’re pretty drafty walls.
So, I remember somebody telling me once about some recirculating hot water so the pipes always have hot water in them. Maybe those hot-water pipes wouldn’t freeze.
TOM: Well, first of all, hot water is only half of the equation here. You know, you’re going to be running cold water up to those rooms, as well, correct? Like for a bathroom?
JULIE: Well, I guess. That’s why I’m calling you, because you’re the man.
TOM: Yeah. So I mean I would think recirculating hot water is not the solution here.
Look, if you’ve got frozen pipes or pipes that are – that tend to freeze, there’s really only a couple of things that you can do about this. And the most sensible thing is to insulate them.
Now, if it’s in an interior wall space and you know where that wall is, one thing that you could think about doing is adding blown-in insulation to the interior wall. Now, normally, you wouldn’t do this, right? Because why insulate an interior wall? But that would be a lot easier than tearing a wall open. You’ve got to get insulation on these pipes if they’re prone to freezing. And nothing else short of that is going to solve this.
I have, in my house, a kitchen sink that had a pipe that ran up the exterior wall. And invariably, in the coldest winters, it would freeze. The only solution there is to insulate the pipe. And when we couldn’t get to that pipe to insulate it, what we ended up doing was actually moving the lines to a different location so they would be less likely to freeze.
So there’s always a solution. It’s not always easy but you’ve got to insulate those, as a start. And if it’s an interior wall, I would simply blow insulation into that wall. That’s the fastest way to get some warmth around those pipes and stop them from freezing.
In terms of recirculating hot water, yes, there are ways to do that. But it tends to be very wasteful and I don’t think it would be cost-effective when you consider all of the electricity it takes to run that water 24-7. Plus, when you’re running that water back to the water heater, remember, your water heater is going to run more frequently, too, because it’s actually going to be heating a lot more water: not only the water that’s in the water heater but all that extra water that’s running through the pipes.
So I don’t think, from a cost-effective perspective – even though it seems like you’re wasting resources and wasting money and wasting water, I don’t think you’re wasting so much that it would be anywhere near a break-even for you to put in the equipment it would take to recirculate it.
JULIE: OK. Alright. Well, thanks. I appreciate it.
TOM: Julie, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, if you’re planning a new tile project, you’ll probably start your selection by narrowing down your tile colors and designs. But before you even get that far, it really is a good idea to understand the types of tile that are available. Now, for most projects, you’re going to be deciding between two types: ceramic tile and porcelain tile.
So let’s start with ceramic tile. It’s going to be made from a mixture of special clays and natural materials that are mined from the earth, then formed into shapes and then heated in kilns. Now, ceramic tile can be naturally colored or left unglazed, like terracotta, or they can feature colored or highly-designed surfaces, which can be glazed.
Now, most ceramic tiles either have a white or a red body coloration underneath that glazed-color top layer.
TOM: Now, porcelain tile is actually a form of ceramic tile and it’s really popular among homeowners. These porcelain tiles are made of higher-quality clays. They’re fired at a much higher temperature than ceramic tiles. And this causes the porcelain tiles to be a lot harder, a lot less porous, making them more water-resistant. And they’re more resistant to stains than ceramic tiles are, because they have an absorption rate of less than a half-percent, all reasons most porcelain tiles are very popular. And they’re suitable for both indoor and outdoor projects.
LESLIE: And that’s today’s Smart Spending Tip presented by the Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit Card. We’re all shopping for essentials online these days. Get rewarded for it with the Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit Card. You can choose to earn three-percent cash back on online shopping.
TOM: Visit BankOfAmerica.com/MoreRewarding to apply.
LESLIE: Tim in New Mexico is on the line with a question about windows. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.
TIM: Well, I am considering – my wife and I are considering putting in some energy-efficient windows and so we’ve been shopping that a little bit. And it seems that there’s quite a myriad of available products in that market.
And one thing that I was looking at was the – just the air void-type windows versus the gas-filled windows. And one salesperson told us that he recommended that just get the air void because the gas-filled – that gas, after a year or two, will dissipate out of the window, which I had never heard that before. But in essence, you’re just left with an air void.
So, anyway, I’m just looking for some guidance in that subject.
TOM: Alright. So, when you say air void, what exactly do you mean? Because I’m not at all familiar with that term.
TIM: Well, basically, the double-paned window with just dead space in it and there’s – it’s not gas-filled, per …
TOM: So instead of argon, it’s just got air?
TOM: That’s not going to insulate. The reason to use those gases is because the gases are insulating gases. And I don’t buy at all the fact that the gases leak out; that’s just not true.
LESLIE: The only way the gas will leak out is if you have a seal that fails.
TOM: Yeah. These good-quality windows, these seals will last a long time. Twenty years is not unusual for these glass seals to last that long. So this sounds to me like you’re getting advice from a salesman that wants to move his product over another one. It’s not a given that this gas leaks out in a year. That’s ridiculous.
I would buy a good-quality window from a name manufacturer, you know? Buy a Marvin, buy an Andersen, buy a Pella. Stick with a good name brand and you’re going to get a good-quality glass panel there that’s going to last a long, long time.
TIM: OK. OK. I believe these were – Henredon, I think, was the brand of these?
TOM: Yeah. There’s a lot of really small brands out there that are basically made for the remodeling industry and for the replacement-window industry.
LESLIE: And they’re just manufacturing a replacement window in their own brand. They’re just putting the whole thing together but there’s not a super manufacturer behind it that, should you have a problem down the road, would have your back.
TOM: Yeah, I would look at the name brand and I would look at, also, at ENERGY STAR-certified windows.
TIM: OK. I appreciate it.
TOM: Tim, good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Learning something new every day, Leslie.
LESLIE: An air void. I’ve never heard that term.
TOM: That’s a new one. They turned un-insulated glass into something that sounds good.
LESLIE: Right. It’s an air void.
TOM: Oh, no. That’s an air void.
LESLIE: I mean you’re going to end up with an air void, anyway, at some point.
TOM: Yes. And this window is insulation-free. So you’re not going to have to worry about any of that pesky insulation getting in the way of your view.
LESLIE: Joan in California needs some help with a kitchen remodel. How’s it going?
JOAN: Yes, well, we haven’t started yet and I just need some advice on how to get started. Do you start with an architect or what do you do?
TOM: That’s a good question. So, planning makes perfect. You want to start with a plan. Now, are you essentially going to replace the kitchen in sort of the same layout that you have right now, Joan? Or are you thinking about really changing things up a lot?
JOAN: Well, it’s a very small kitchen and I just want to know how to maximize everything.
TOM: Alright. So if it’s a small kitchen, you can probably do this inexpensively by perhaps starting with a home center. A lot of the home centers have designers that work on the – work on designing kitchens for the cabinetry that they sell. And for a very small fee, they can help you lay that out and take advantage of all of the latest options.
If you want to do more than that, what you’re going to do is hire a certified kitchen-and-bath designer. But this is sort of like hiring an interior decorator that works just on kitchens and baths. And that’s going to cost you a few bucks.
But if you want to just do this an easy way, I would start with a home center, in the kitchen department, and see if they’ll lay out some options for you using the type of cabinets that they sell. Those cabinets are usually pretty affordable at that level and they’ll be able to give you some ideas on things, perhaps, you haven’t thought about.
LESLIE: You know what, Joan? I think it’s really smart to keep a notepad in the kitchen. And everybody and anybody, yourself and your family who use the space, as you walk through and notice little areas where you’re tripping over one another or things that just don’t make sense or you wish that X was here and not there, sort of jot all of those down. So when you do go sit down with – whether it’s a certified kitchen-and-bath designer or someone in the home center, you sort of have all of these issues that could be addressed or might be able to be addressed.
JOAN: One thing I really want is more electrical outlets, so that’ll have to definitely be in the plan.
TOM: Well, it’s definitely in the plan and you’ll do these things in order. The first thing you’ll do is rip out the old cabinets and the next thing you’ll do would be to rough-in new wiring and new plumbing to have it exactly where you want it. And then, of course, you’ll start the installation of the new cabinetry as almost the last step.
It’s also a good time to think about universal design in the kitchen, maybe having countertops of different height. So as you get older, you could sit down and work at the kitchen counter as opposed to just standing up. So, think of the sort of accessibility issues when you design this kitchen, as well.
JOAN: How much time should I allow for something like this?
TOM: Well, it depends on whether you have sort of all your ducks in a row. Sometimes it takes a while to get all the cabinets delivered. But if everything is accessible and on site, you can tear out this kitchen and rebuild it inside of a week.
JOAN: Oh, wow.
TOM: If you have everybody lined up and everybody is there when they need to be there and the plumber shows up on time, the electrician shows up on time and so on, sure, I don’t see any reason you can’t get it done in a week.
JOAN: Well, thank you very much.
TOM: You’re welcome. Good luck with that project, Joan. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, many products in our homes can contain VOCs, which stands for volatile organic compounds, and they can impact your health. Now, VOCs are tough to completely eliminate but not so tough to reduce your exposure to if you know where to look. So we’ve got some tips to improve your indoor-air environment.
TOM: First, what products exactly do contain these VOCs? Well, the answer is a lot. A heck of a lot. I mean there are ingredients in hundreds of household products that you use every day, from insulation to air fresheners to cleaning solutions to paint. These all have VOCs. Even baby powder can have VOCs in it. And they’ve been linked to health problems, from headaches to asthma or worse. So, it makes sense to keep your exposure to an absolute minimum.
LESLIE: Now, whenever possible, you can look for products that say low VOC. It might be a different version of the same product but they’re out there. And there are more and more green versions of products coming onto the market every day. And these are really quickly becoming the norm, meaning that they won’t cost much more than the original formulation.
Now, you want to keep anything that’s super smelly outside. Products like paint thinners, pesticides and gas cans are a big source of VOCs. So the further away they are from your living space, the better.
And if you’re taking on a project like painting and the odors are strong, ventilate, ventilate, ventilate, even leaving windows open for a couple of hours after the project is complete. You’ve got to get that fresh air in and turn over those VOCs and get them out.
TOM: Now, you can also check for GREENGUARD certification. That GREENGUARD certification means that a product has met some of the world’s most rigorous and pretty comprehensive standards for low emissions and low emissions of volatile organic compounds, in particular, into the air.
So, be aware this is half the battle, guys. If you know what to look for and you know what to check, you could definitely limit your exposure.
LESLIE: Give us a call, let us know what you are working on and you might just win a pretty awesome tool this hour. We’ve got, up for grabs, the Arrow E21 Cordless Electric Staple Gun.
Now, the E21 Cordless Electric Staple Gun really is a must-have if you are a DIYer, if you’re a woodworker, even if you’re a pro. It’s got a battery life of up to 3 hours and it can fire as many as a thousand staples on a single charge. Perfect for repairs, upholstery, decorating, crafts.
It’s a great tool worth about 50 bucks and it’s going out to one listener drawn at random.
Robert in North Dakota, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
ROBERT: I have a friend who’s planning on building a horse arena – an indoor horse arena, the place where we board our horses. It’s going to be a very large arena. I’m sure they’re going to insulate it well. There will probably be some stalls inside. Dirt floor, so – for riding. So there will probably be some Bobcats in and out of there, occasionally, changing the dirt out.
And my question is as far as heating – she’s doing some research to try to find the best, cost-effective and efficient way to heat this. So far, I think she’s kind of narrowed it down to coal. I mentioned to her about solar. I also mentioned geothermal. What, in your opinion, would be the best efficient and cost-effective way to heat this arena?
TOM: And so, first of all, when you talk about solar and coal, you’re talking about fuels. What kind of heating system does she want to use?
ROBERT: Well, I think I suspect she might be using water, I’m thinking, under the dirt. Possibly a water-type …
TOM: Yeah, I don’t know how that’s possible if you’re going to have Bobcats driving over that. I would think that’s too heavy.
ROBERT: What about some sort of blowers?
TOM: Well, yeah, like a forced-air system. I mean that’s probably going to be something in line with that approach.
Now, in terms of solar, what I would do is if I was building a barn, I would make sure that I designed it to take advantage of passive solar energy. So, essentially, you will design the windows in the barn so that it captures the sun in the winter and protects from overhead sun in the summer, so it doesn’t overheat in the summer but traps some of the heat in the winter. The idea of passive solar energy as a design concept is something she definitely should look into.
In terms of fuel, it doesn’t – the fuel is only part of the equation. It’s really what kind of system you’re going to use. So if you were going to use coal, I doubt that you’re going to be using a forced-air system.
TOM: You’re probably, with a forced-air system – I don’t know that I’ve seen it coal-fired. I’ve seen forced air with wood fire and I’ve also seen wood-fired boilers, where you have a wood-fired boiler that would convert to a hot-water coil that air is blown over, in the sense it’s an air-to-air heat exchanger that way or a water-to-air heat exchanger.
ROBERT: OK. So you don’t think that coal, as the energy source, could maybe somehow work with the forced air combined?
TOM: It depends on what the heating system is. It’s got to be properly matched with the heating system.
TOM: If coal is readily available and there’s a system that’s designed to work with it, then it could be a fine fuel. But it really depends on what the system is.
ROBERT: It is readily available. It’s about probably 10 miles down the road from where she’s going to build this facility.
TOM: Ah, I see why she’s interested in it then, yeah. If I was you, I would focus on the system first and the fuel second. And if you want to use coal as the fuel, just make sure you have a good, efficient system in which to burn it.
ROBERT: Alright. Thank you, guys. I appreciate it and love your show.
TOM: Well, if you keep telling yourself that you don’t have time to do anything around the house, we’re going to ruin your dream here because we’re going to call your bluff. If you’ve got 30 minutes or maybe less, there are a lot of home improvements you can get done to your house. So, here are three to start.
You’ve got a stuck window? Thirty-minute project. If that window hasn’t opened since ever, it’s probably because it’s painted shut. So the solution is this: grab a putty knife and run it between the window sash and the window jamb. The sash is that part that slides up and down on a double-hung window and the jamb is the part that it slides in. And if you run that putty knife between the window sash and the window jamb, you will break the paint seal.
If it still doesn’t budge, what you can do is close the window and put a block of wood on top of the lower sash window and then tap it towards the outside ends, where the seam is in the sash, where the window panes come together. Just give it a quick tap with a hammer as if you’re trying to close the window. What that will do is it drives it down just enough to, again, break the paint seal and get it moving all over.
LESLIE: Now, here’s another one: exercise. You know it’s good for you but it turns out exercise is also good for your circuit breakers. About every 6 months, turn each breaker off and back on again. Then, every month, push the test button on the GFCI to make sure it stays flexible and strong, just like you after a good workout.
TOM: You can also check for water leaks in less than 30 minutes. Turn off all running water and then check your water meter. If it’s moving, you’ve got a leak. You can also check your fixtures and faucets for leaks. You can run water in the sink to test the overflow. Just block the drain, let it go up in your bathroom sink to the overflow and then look under the cabinet to see if there’s any leaks there.
If you want to test a shower pan for leaks, take a washcloth, put it in the shower pan, block the drain and then put in about 3 or 4 inches of water. Let it sit for about 10 or 15 minutes. Keep an eye on the area underneath that. So if it’s the second floor, watch underneath in the first floor. If the shower pan is cracked, you will find that leak very, very quickly. So just be prepared to go let the water out of the pan and then you can go about the business of actually replacing it which, by the way, is not a 30-minute project. You’ll find it in less than 30 minutes but fixing it is going to take a little bit longer.
LESLIE: Susan in Texas, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
SUSAN: OK. My house is approximately 100 years old and it’s pretty much been redone. But I was taking some sheetrock off one of the walls in one of the rooms and I know that on my walls – behind the sheetrock, on the walls and ceiling are 1x6s, very close together. And so I was thinking about taking the sheetrock off, I guess, staining or doing something with the 1x6s. But I want to know how you seal the cracks where the 1x6s join each other. They’re small cracks.
TOM: So, the 1x6s, are they on top of plaster or something like that? It sounds like there were furring strips that were put into place to hold the sheetrock. Is that correct?
SUSAN: No. Behind the sheetrock are the 1x6s and then on top of those 1x6s is old-timey wallpaper.
TOM: Oh, OK. So these are the original walls of the house? Alright. Interesting.
TOM: So you wouldn’t seal the cracks. You would basically celebrate the cracks. You’re not going to hide them. So, what would you like to do with the one-by? You want to paint it or stain it or what?
SUSAN: I want to stain it. I want natural wood.
TOM: OK. So you’ve got a big sanding project in front of you but you can do it. You’re going to have to use a pretty coarse sandpaper to cut through whatever’s there. You’re going to have to sand them down and then you can seal that wood and you can stain it and you can put a varnish on it or urethane on it. I wouldn’t use anything with much of a sheen to it. I’d probably use flat or semi-gloss. You can stain it but then you could use a flat polyurethane. It has no sheen to it.
SUSAN: OK. Well, thank you.
TOM: Alright. Well, good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Give us a call, post a question. Whatever you like, we’re here to lend a hand.
Grace in Rhode Island posted a question saying, “I have a two-bath house and I’d love to have a laundry room closer to my kitchen. Presently, there’s a bathroom just across the hall that would make a great spot for this. Should I give up that bathroom and convert it to a laundry room?”
Ooh, a two-bathroom house and losing one?
TOM: I don’t like that at all. You know, I understand her frustration but I think training the kids to not let laundry pile up in the hall is probably the best bet for a whole lot of reasons.
The biggest one is this: home value, right? It’s determined, in part, by the number of bathrooms and bedrooms you have in the home. And if you eliminate a bathroom, your home value will definitely go down and probably by a lot.
And if you’re in a development of homes that are similar to yours, which most of us are, and if you’ve got the one with a single bath, you may have a much harder time finding a buyer. Your home could end up being sort of that odd man out, so to speak. So, even though it would cost less than neighboring homes, many home buyers won’t even consider it.
So I would definitely stick with the current layout you have now and perhaps invest in some better laundry-room organization and a stern talking-to with the kids about where that laundry belongs, aside from the hallway.
LESLIE: Yeah. Everybody in their room needs to have a laundry basket. It’s got to be the appropriate size for the amount of laundry those kids produce. I know my boys produce a tremendous amount of laundry. So if you can give them the space to sort of contain it and remind them that it goes in there – and let me tell you, Grace, if you figure out a way to get your kids to actually turn their clothes right-side out when they put them in the laundry basket, just call me back. I’ll give you my number.
TOM: Call you.
LESLIE: Call my directly, because that’s what I need.
But you’ve got to get organized. Have spaces in the laundry room that’s available for sorting. Keep your laundry supplies – detergents, et cetera – all in an accessible spot. Maybe you get one of those wall-mounted shelves that you – I don’t know what the layout of this space is but if there’s a spot on a wall for a shelf with some sort of pegboard storage underneath or something that maybe you can create a pullout drawer or a cabinet – you’ve got to send us pictures, because there’s so many solutions for tiny spaces.
And you can find the right piece for that spot that’ll allow you to keep that laundry room organized and keep your sanity, more importantly, and keep that bathroom. Because as a lady who’s only got one bath with two kids, you don’t want that. You want the bathroom.
TOM: Exactly. Especially when they become teenagers.
LESLIE: Oh, God. We’re there. I just want the bathroom. I want my own bathroom.
TOM: Well, if you’re like most of us, there are probably some areas of your home that are just not lit very well. Good lighting is key. Not only does it make your home look bigger, it can also be a lot safer. Leslie has got tips on how to brighten your spaces, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.
Leslie, take it away.
LESLIE: Well, first of all, in living and reading areas, you obviously need plenty of floor lamps and table lamps. But you just need to make sure that those lamps point toward the activity and not towards you.
Now, one area where direct lighting is super important is the kitchen. If you’ve got one main overhead light source, consider adding additional pendant fixtures above work surfaces and then even task lights mounted underneath your cabinets.
Now, if you have a room that’s tough to fill with natural light, like maybe it only has one window, an easy fix is to place mirrors in strategic places to bounce that light around the room. And if someone in your family has vision problems, you can take advantage of high-contrast colors. Put a dark switch plate on a light wall and choose bright colors for furniture and accessories.
And lastly, don’t forget about using natural light. Replacing solid curtains with a sheer is a great way to allow softened sunlight into the room but still gives you a bit of privacy.
If you want some more easy lighting tips, visit MoneyPit.com.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Coming up next time on the program, did you ever notice that grout is the one part of your bathroom that never, ever looks clean? I mean maybe the day you put it in but after that, not so much. We’re going to share some grout-cleaning secrets to make that dull disappear, on the very next edition of The Money Pit.
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 2021 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.)
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