In this episode…
Tom & Leslie share tips for holiday decor, highlight handy American made tools and offer tips to fix weak or broken steps and railings before holiday guests arrive:
- Are you jumping into holiday décor? First impressions last the longest, so we’ve got tips to help decorate the first thing your guests see: your front door. From classic to contemporary decor, we’ll help make yours stand out.
- Learn about the interesting history behind a tool that over 50 million people own and use for everything from home decorating to adding insulation: The T-50 staple gun, made by Arrow Fastener who’s been making great tools right here in the USA for over 90 years!
- Stairs are often the are often the most dangerous part of your home. Before holiday guests arrive, learn what to look for to make sure yours are safe.
Plus the team answers questions about quick fix for squeaky floors, stopping sink odors, best way to prevent mice from getting in, and more.
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: We hope your holiday weekend is going fantastic. If you are busy fixing up your house or maybe you’re just shopping or maybe you’re thinking about projects you’d like to get done for the year ahead, those are all great things to call us about. So why don’t you do just that? The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Because Leslie and I are here to help you with décor dilemmas, maintenance chores, fix-ups, repairs, trying to get organized. Whatever is going on in your money pit, slide it over to our to-do list by calling us at 888-666-3974.
And this weekend, you might be jumping into holiday décor. If you are, keep in mind that first impressions last the longest. So, we’ve got some tips to help you decorate the first thing your guests are going to see: your front door. Whether it’s classic or contemporary, we’re going to help you make yours stand out.
LESLIE: Plus, we’re going to talk about the interesting history behind a tool that over 50 million people own and use for everything, from home decorating to adding insulation: the T50 Staple Gun made by Arrow Fastener, who’s been making great tools right here in the U.S.A. for over 90 years.
TOM: And before holiday guests arrive, it’s a good time to make sure your stairs are safe. They are often the most dangerous part of your home. But they can be even riskier without the right types of railings. We’re going to tell you how to make sure you’re good to go.
LESLIE: But first, we want to hear what you are working on this holiday season. Lots of stuff to take care of at everybody’s money pit, especially this time of year. So let us give you a hand. We’re here anytime, 24/7, at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Let’s get to it. Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Carol in Texas is working on a painting project. How can we lend a hand?
CAROL: We are painting our bathroom cabinets. They are – they were put in the bathroom in 1980-something. I’m not sure about the date. We bought this house – the people lived in it 28 years and we’ve been here almost 9 years. And they’re kind of a maple color and they’re not very attractive. I’ve used that Orange Glo on them trying to make them look better. I don’t know what they used on them. Probably Liquid Gold or something trying to bring out the sheen.
But it’s just almost beyond the point. And I’d like to have new cabinets but when we do, we’re probably going to have to redo the whole bathroom, so we decided we would paint them kind of an off-white color.
What we want to know is: what’s the approach to making that paint stay on?
LESLIE: Now, you said that the cabinets are a maple color. Are they actually wood and they’re stained?
CAROL: Yeah, that’s the stain on them. They’re stained.
LESLIE: So they’re stained wood. It’s not like a Thermofoil that looks like wood or a laminate? It’s wood.
CAROL: No, it’s real wood. They’re real wood cabinets.
LESLIE: Now, if they’ve been stained and restained over the course of a couple of years and you’ve got a lot of coatings of a cleaner on there, your best bet would be – and this is how I would kind of tackle it. I would remove the doors and the drawer fronts, being very careful about labeling which goes where, you know? A little piece of painter’s tape on the back side and a little piece on the hinge saying, “A-A,” or “1-1,” just so you know exactly where things go back.
And I would leave the hinges either on the door or on the box. It’s kind of easier to leave them on the box, just for painting issues. And this way, you know exactly where everything goes back; that just kind of keeps things tidy.
And then, you really need to get some of that sheen off. So you could do it a couple of different ways. You could use something that’s like a liquid sandpaper that you wipe on that gets rid of some of that sheen. But if it’s a super-high gloss and they’ve been oiled or polished over the years and they’re very sort of gunked up, almost, with a lot of finish on them, you may want to sand them down a little bit. Because you need to get down to something that’s a little bit not so glossy and so built up from years of cleaning and just the yuck that happens in the bathroom, just so that you’ve got a surface that the paint’s going to stick to.
And once you’ve done that to the doors or drawer fronts and the boxes themselves in the bathroom, you need to prime it very well with a high-quality primer. I would use KILZ or Zinsser – one of those that’ll stick very, very well – let that dry very thoroughly and then go ahead with your topcoat paint. And because it’s in a bathroom and because it’s a high-moisture area and it’s something that you’re going to want to be cleaning a lot, I would go with a glossy finish and an oil base if I can get my hands on one. If not, a glossy latex will do the trick but more durable, of course, would be the oil base.
CAROL: Thank you and I appreciate your help.
TOM: Carol, good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re heading over to John in Iowa who’s dealing with a leaky shower. Tell us what’s going on.
JOHN: Well, I’ve got a shower on my main floor, where it basically leaks onto the floor in the basement. And when I removed the 2-inch trap – this is a home that was built in ‘41 but it’s been remodeled recently, probably within the last 10 years or at least the shower has – I noticed there wasn’t a whole lot of room between the tile and the flooring or the main wood behind it, as well as they sealed up the drain. It was basically just a 2-inch PVC sealed with some sort of cement and then a drain popped on top of it.
And I’m curious – I mean how can I remedy this issue? Obviously, it needs a proper drain. But I couldn’t find anything to fit the hole that they had.
TOM: Alright. Well, first of all, it’s still leaking and you’re in the middle of this project? Is that correct, John?
JOHN: Well, I just bought this home and I basically said, “OK. We’re not using this shower. We have an upstairs shower that we can use during the remediation process.”
TOM: Is this a tile shower?
TOM: So, with a 1940 tile shower, the first thing I would expect to leak is the lead pan. And the way those showers are built is there’s a lead pan put in against the drain, then the tile is put on top of the lead. And so, over the years, those pans would crack. And the way you test a lead pan is simply by blocking the shower drain and then filling up the bottom of the shower with as much water as you can get in there – usually 4 or 5 inches of water – and then wait and see what happens.
So if it’s possible for you to test the pan, I would do that before I start assuming that the leak was at the drain. Because it might very well be that the drain is not leaking; the pan is leaking. And if that’s the case, then you have to tear out the shower base and rebuild it.
JOHN: Ah, I see. Alright.
TOM: It’s the lead pan. Because a pan that’s 60, 70 years old, they just don’t last that long.
TOM: OK? So seal it off, test it off. You know what works well? One of those – you know those rubber jar openers that are about 6 inches in diameter?
TOM: Put that across the drain, fill it up with water and then watch for a leak.
JOHN: Alright. I’ll try that.
TOM: OK, John. Good luck. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
You know, Leslie, in the 20 years I spent as a home inspector, I used to check those pans for leaks all the time that way and we got – you get smart after the first time this happens to you. You never let that water sit very long. You fill it up, you go downstairs immediately and see if it’s leaking.
LESLIE: It’s that fast when you’ve got a crack in the pan?
TOM: Sometimes, yes. Because if it’s going to leak – if it’s a bad crack, you – it may never have been discovered or it might have been so slow. But by filling the whole pan up with water, you prove it very quickly that it’s leaking. So that’s why we always check very quickly to see if there’s a leak. And then if not, fill it up, let it sit there for a half-hour and go back and check again.
But it’s a very, very common area for a leak and unfortunately a very expensive one because – think about it: you’ve got to tear out all that tile and you’ve got to rebuild that pan. And today, of course, we don’t use lead; we usually use fiberglass. But it’s a pretty big renovation. Probably a couple thousand bucks worth of work.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Linda in Pennsylvania on the line with an insulation question.
LINDA: We have a two-story house built in the late 1980s. In the winter, it’s colder upstairs than downstairs and especially in the summer, it’s just really hot upstairs. We also – we have a whole-house fan and it’s – I don’t want to get rid of that. The one person that came and talked to us about insulation said we should get rid of that. I don’t know whether the fan has blown some of the insulation over that blocks the soffit vents, that we’re not getting enough circulation. So I guess I just don’t really know what to do about adding more insulation.
TOM: Alright. Well, first of all, a 1980s house probably has a minimal amount of insulation. What you really want is 15 or 20 inches of insulation.
Do you have decent space in the attic? Can you walk around up there?
TOM: OK. So how is it constructed? Is it made of trusses, where it’s hard to get around?
LINDA: Yes. And it’s not real high in the center. You can get around but no, it’s not very high up there.
TOM: I would have blown-in insulation installed, because you can easily – a professional can get that where it has to go. Professionals are also good at making sure that the baffles are in place, which keeps it out of the soffits.
And then when it comes to the whole-house fan, you should have a cover for that for the wintertime, just to kind of seal it up a little bit. Perhaps cover it with some sort of an insulation blanket and then you can pull that off in the summertime. It will be a source of energy loss, so you have to kind of take that additional step. But I agree: it’s a great thing to have. But I will say it must have good exit venting, though, too.
Do you have big gable vents on the side walls of the house? Because when you turn that fan on, you don’t want to pressurize the attic. You want to make that air go out.
LINDA: No, we have the ridge vent. And when they replaced the roof a couple years ago, they did put in – they said there is a slightly larger-size ridge vent and that’s what they put in.
TOM: Alright. Well, then, that’s probably big enough to handle the exhaust venting.
So that’s what I would do. I would use blown-in insulation. Now, around the fan itself, what the installer will do is put sort of a wall around that made of sort of like a stiff cardboard or some type of material like that, so that they can pile the insulation up higher against that opening and keep it away from the operation of the fan.
TOM: It’s done all the time, Linda, and it’ll definitely make a big difference in how comfortable you feel in that house, OK?
LINDA: Alright. Thank you very much.
TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor. You can find top-rated home service pros and book appointments online, all for free.
Still ahead, are you short on decorating time this season? Well, we’ve got one decorating idea that packs the most punch, when The Money Pit returns.
TOM: Where home solutions live, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor.com. Never worry about overpaying for a job. You can use the HomeAdvisor True Cost Guide to see what others have paid for similar projects, all for free at HomeAdvisor.com.
Scott in Alaska needs some help with energy-efficient lighting. How can we help you?
SCOTT: Yes, I’m currently changing over my house to all LED lighting. And I also – I have, currently, a few rooms with fluorescent-tube lighting and I’d like to change those over to LED. And I live up here in Alaska and I just haven’t been able to find the tubes with LED.
TOM: Yeah, they’re available. You can probably find them online and have them shipped to you. But they’re made in the same exact shape as the standard fluorescent bulbs. They’re not inexpensive but they do have a very long life. Those kinds of lights will typically last like 50,000 hours or something crazy like that. I think the bulbs themselves are probably, I would guess, $20 or $30 a piece.
LESLIE: And the shipping is probably going to be a hundred.
TOM: Yeah, exactly. But they’re going to last a lot longer. At this point, though, I would also price out replacement fixtures. Because you might find by the time you buy all those bulbs, it might be cheaper just to replace the fixtures. Plus, I don’t know how much energy is going to be wasted, because all those fixtures have the transformers built into them. There may be some system waste, in terms of the fixture itself.
SCOTT: OK. I’m just looking. I’m very impressed with the LED brightness and of course, the energy savings over a period of time. And I just want my whole house to be energy-efficient and save me money in the long run, so – but I just can’t seem to find them up here in Alaska yet. I do like going to Home Depot and they did have some LED tube – fluorescent tubes – but not in my size, currently.
TOM: Yeah. I would order them online and have them shipped. That would be the way to get them to your door, OK?
SCOTT: Alright. Well, thank you very much for your time.
TOM: Well, are you short on time and wondering what to decorate? Why not go with the thing that guests see first? And that’s your front door.
LESLIE: Yeah. And because it’s the first thing that the guests see, your door – and really, the whole entryway – leaves big impressions.
Now, you can easily dress that door up for the season with a classic Christmas wreath or silver bells or glass ornaments, whatever. But the door is where you start.
TOM: Or you can hang a set of sleigh bells in the doorknob or the knocker. They’ll give a good, festive jingle every time guests pass through. Anything that can be hung over the knob or even over the top of the door that doesn’t impact its operation works.
Yeah, I remember last season somebody gave us a beautiful evergreen wreath. So, I didn’t have any way to hang it and my door – I didn’t want to drill into it because it was fiberglass. So, I got some coat-hanger wire and with a pair of pliers, I pretty much created my own bracket that would slide over the top of the door, allowed the door to close perfectly. But then, on the flip side, we were able to hang the wreath right there. So, sometimes, you’ve got to get a little creative.
LESLIE: Now, another fun, easy holiday update is to actually wrap the front door in decorative paper. And this is really a great project in a house with kids. They love to help you do it and it really makes the house look fun.
And if you just crisscross that wrapped door with some wide ribbon, it does resemble a huge, gift-wrapped package. But just don’t tell the kids that the house is the gift.
TOM: Now, once the door is good to go, you can extend those holiday touches to your entranceway, too. You can do some container gardening with pots that have some seasonal greens. You can add some holiday welcome mats. You could add some vases and dishes full of pine cones and greens.
Get creative. Make that first impression your guests see this holiday season a great one.
LESLIE: Harriet in Georgia is on the line with a painting question. What are you working on?
HARRIET: I have a brick house and the trim is wood. My house was built in ‘78 and originally, the trim was painted with oil-based paint. And since then, it’s been painted with latex paint. And I felt like the oil-based paint lasted better, longer. And I wondered, which do you all recommend?
TOM: Well, certainly, oil-based paint is more durable in terms of sort of wear and tear because it’s harder. But if you have latex on it right now and you want to go back to oil or back to solvent-based paint, you’re going to basically have to sand that to make sure there’s no loose paint left. And then you’re going to have to prime it and then put your topcoat over that.
Because my concern is that if it’s not prepped properly, that you might get a situation where it delaminates, Harriet, and starts to peel off. You’ve got to get rid of that top layer of paint by sanding it to make sure that whatever is left is really well-adhered to the surface that it was originally applied to. Does that make sense?
HARRIET: Yes, it does. Well, if I did the oil-based paint and did sand it, would – is that a better paint than latex or does it really matter that much?
TOM: Well, it’s maybe a little bit more durable but there’s plenty of good-quality latex paints that are out there today. The thing about paint is you don’t want to kind of cheapen out on it; you want to use the best paint from a good manufacturer. Because if you use like, for example, a Benjamin Moore or Sherwin-Williams, you’re going to have good results. The only time I really suggest oil-based paint these days may be on a floor, if you’re going to paint a floor, because it’s really durable for that or perhaps on something like kitchen cabinets, where the doors are getting banged around a lot.
But for trim, for the most part, you can use a latex-based paint.
HARRIET: OK. I’ll do that. Thank you so much.
TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Heidi in Oregon is dealing with a stinky shower. What’s going on?
HEIDI: We have a two-story house. The one shower is in the basement downstairs. It’s a daylight basement but it’s built back into the side hill. And what I’ve noticed is that after showering, you leave the bathroom and you come back in and there is this sour-towel smell. It’s not a sewer smell or a septic smell but it smells like a towel that has been left damp somewhere and it’s just been left to kind of mold or do whatever. But I’ve changed the towels and I come back in the bathroom and I’ve located the smell with my nose and gone right down to the drain. And it’s coming out of the drain in the shower.
TOM: What this might be is something called “biogas.” And when the water drains and it takes with it the soap scum and everything else, you can get germs that are going to grow in that. And that biological material off-gasses and can make horrible smells. So …
HEIDI: Well, that’s what we thought, too, because it’s in both showers: upstairs and downstairs. And we only smell it, obviously, after someone has showered and it was wet. So we’ve taken the grates off, we’ve cleaned with a bottle brush. I look with a flashlight down there and those pipes are – they’re spic-and-span clean all the way down to the P-trap.
TOM: Have you used any kind of an oxygenated bleach down those traps?
HEIDI: No, we don’t do that because we’re on a septic tank and we don’t want to kill all the good bacteria in the septic. And so I’ve been afraid to use anything.
I’ve tried vinegar. I’ve used Lysol spray.
TOM: Well, not so much vinegar, yeah. Well, OK, why don’t you use Borax?
HEIDI: Borax. OK. And pour it down into the drain? Because …
TOM: Well, no, what I want you to do is I want you to get a solution of hot, soapy water with Borax in it. And I want you to scrub the inside of that drain, all the different parts, with a big, thick bottle brush. Get as much of that trap cleaned as you can and see if that reduces it.
And by the way, do you have ventilation in those bathrooms?
HEIDI: Yeah. There’s windows, uh-huh.
TOM: Do you have fans that you could leave on after? Bath fans?
HEIDI: Yes, yes. And we always turn the fan on when we shower.
LESLIE: And keep it on when you’re done?
HEIDI: Well, no. We usually shut it off when we’re done.
TOM: So, yeah, that’s another thing I would change. That behavior I would change. What I would do is I would replace the bath-fan switch with one that’s on a timer or a humidistat. So that after you are done showering and leave the bathroom, it stays on for another 15 or 20 minutes.
HEIDI: But we’ll go ahead and try that, then, and see what happens.
TOM: Alright, Heidi. Thank you so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT. Good luck with that project.
LESLIE: You can reach us anytime at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor, the fast and easy way to find the best home service pros in your area. And you can read reviews and book appointments all online.
TOM: And just ahead, we’re going to talk about the interesting history behind a tool that over 50 million people own and use for everything, from home decorating to adding insulation. And that’s all coming up, after this.
Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Well, back in the early 1900s, people had jobs that were a lot different than what we have today. And in 1929, the career chosen by one Morris Abrams was that of a staples salesman. That’s right. All Morris Abrams sold were staples. Not staplers, just the staples. But from that humble beginning was launched one of the most successful tool-manufacturing companies in our nation’s history: Arrow Fastener, who now celebrates their 90th anniversary.
LESLIE: Well, with us to talk about some of their most successful products is Bill Sokol, the VP of marketing for Arrow Fastener.
BILL: Hi, Tom and Leslie. It’s great to be back.
TOM: Bill, it’s good to have you. And it’s really such an impressive way that Arrow Fastener got started. Such a truly humble beginning. And from that, you really have set the world on fire in terms of the innovative products you guys have made.
And I want to first start by talking about what I consider sort of the standard in any home tool kit and that is the Arrow T50 Stapler, especially right now because it’s a tool that comes in darn handy when you’re putting up all those holiday decorations.
BILL: Yeah, it sure does. You know, that tool’s been around for more than five decades. And it’s still the best-selling staple gun in the world. To date, we’ve sold over 50 million units of that tool. And you can find them everywhere, from garages to workshops to trucks all across the country and in a lot of other countries, as well. We sell it, actually, in over 20 countries around the world. So it is a truly iconic product that’s been around for a long time.
And one of the things that’s really cool about it, for us, is we get people all the time showing us their grandfather’s tool that they’ve had since the 1950s and 60s.
TOM: Oh, yeah. Mm-hmm.
BILL: And they last forever. So they really become an item that gets passed down from generation to generation.
LESLIE: And they get passed down because they still truly function. But what I think is so amazing is that you have such a fantastic tool in the T50, yet you continue to innovate and make something already awesome better.
BILL: Yeah, that’s true. We’re celebrating our 90th anniversary, so it’s not just about what we’ve done but we’re always pushing the business forward.
Currently, we measure something called our “vitality index.” And it’s how fresh is our product range? And we currently get about 30 percent of our sales from products that have been introduced in the last three years.
BILL: So, although we have the standard products, like the T50, that have been around forever and sell great, we’ve got a lot of new stuff we’re constantly bringing to the market, as well.
TOM: One of your sort of successes and challenges is that the T50 doesn’t wear out. So it’s not like you have to replace it every five years.
BILL: I know. A little product obsolescence would be a good thing there probably. But you’re right: it never does wear out unless you lose it or somebody borrows it and doesn’t return it.
LESLIE: And doesn’t give it back.
TOM: I saw an interesting stat about not so much the T50 but the staples that you guys make for the T50 and all of your tools. Do I have this right? You guys make something like 35 billion staples every year?
BILL: Yeah, that’s true.
TOM AND LESLIE: Wow.
BILL: Every year – they come in these wire rolls and every year, we process over 600 million meters of that wire.
BILL: That’s enough, if you stretch it out in a straight line, to go from here to the moon and halfway back every year.
TOM: Oh, boy.
BILL: Yeah, it’s a lot of wire, a lot of staples.
TOM: And you’re doing this from your facility in the United States, too. This is not an overseas product.
BILL: No, you’re right. We make it right here in Saddle Brook, New Jersey, in the shadow of the Empire State Building. We’re not far from Manhattan, actually. It’s an odd place to have a factory. It was put here years ago but it works for us. And we’ve been here for, in this location, since 1966. The company was actually in Brooklyn before this when it started in 1929.
TOM: We’re talking to Bill Sokol. He’s the vice president of marketing for Arrow Fastener, a company celebrating their 90th anniversary.
So, Bill, you mentioned some new products – I want to give you a chance to talk about that – including one that I know Leslie is going to be all over. You’ve got a new, cordless glue gun coming out.
BILL: Yes, we do. Yeah, two of the big trends that we have in our product development these days are …
LESLIE: I’m listening, Bill. Let’s go.
BILL: Well, the first big trend is power. Everybody wants power, you know. So battery-operated tools are becoming extremely popular across the whole spectrum of the tool industry. We have a new battery-operated glue gun – the GT30Li; the Li stands for lithium ion – and it runs on a 3.6-volt lithium-ion battery. It heats up super fast. There’s no cord.
You, Leslie, you probably know when you’re doing craft projects or repairs that cord can get in the way. It can limit where you can go with the tool. So the lithium-ion battery takes the whole thing off the cord and makes it 100-percent portable.
LESLIE: I mean that’s really fantastic. I have to tell you, Bill, we have this sort of decorative piece on top of the banister at home. And the kids have sort of rocked it back and forth so many times that the double-end screw that I use to hold it in place has just – the hole is too big. I can’t back the thing out. And I had to seriously heat the glue gun, unplug it, run to the stairs, glue that thing in place and then run back all before it cooled.
BILL: Yeah, right.
LESLIE: So a cordless glue gun is a crafter’s dream.
BILL: I’ve got a puppy at home who’s making a mess of some wicker chairs. And so I’m constantly pulling it out to reattach the pieces of wicker that he’s pulled off the chair legs.
TOM: Well, that’s the nice thing about your tools. They’re the kind of tools that are really great to have around because you never fully know when one of those repairs is going to come up. But when it does, you’re sure glad that you have that tool and it’s just right there in your toolbox or in your kitchen drawer, wherever you like to keep this stuff. And you can whip it out, get the job done and move on.
BILL: Yeah. Part of our brand promise, for a number of years now, has been that we help people complete projects quickly, cleanly and with pride. And so, for us, it’s all about getting it done, getting it done right and getting it done quick and easy.
TOM: Well, it must be the right formula because you guys have been doing it for 90 years. Congratulations on nine decades of making great tools. What a success story. Bill Sokol, Vice President of Marketing for Arrow Fastener.
Thanks so much, Bill, for once again stopping by The Money Pit.
BILL: Thanks, guys.
LESLIE: Bill, it’s always so great to have you here at The Money Pit.
Up next, we’ve got tips on how to take the danger out of one of the most dangerous areas in your home – your stairs – in today’s Pro Project presented by HomeAdvisor.com, next.
TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor. Find out what it costs to do your home project before you hire a pro and instantly book one of HomeAdvisor’s top-rated pros for free.
TOM: Call us, right now, with your home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Claire in Maine, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
CLAIRE: Yes, I have a little problem with my water softener. I seem to have nice, soft water with it. The soap lathers good and everything. But when I wash my vehicles and then one of those is black, after it dries, wherever there were any of the droplets of water, when that dries off I get all these little white deposits all over the vehicle. And I was wondering why, if it’s soft water, why I’m getting those.
TOM: Yeah, because it doesn’t sound very soft; it sounds more like hard water. You’ve got a lot of minerals in that.
Now, the water that you’re using to wash the vehicles, this is coming from the water softener?
CLAIRE: Yes. All my water – my hot and my cold – go through the softener.
TOM: Including the hose bibbs that you’re hooking up to to wash the car?
TOM: Well, obviously, the water softener is not working correctly. You’ve got a lot of minerals in there and that’s what’s showing up on your beautiful, black car.
CLAIRE: Well, I know I had the hardness checked about three years ago and they gave me a number, 23, and they set it at that and that’s what I’ve been going with ever since.
TOM: Well, maybe it’s time to have it serviced again and have it checked again, because things can change. And that’s got to be what’s causing it, though.
Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, building new stairs and railings or just updating the ones you have can be a really important home improvement task, especially as we get ready for the holiday season when there are so many visitors arriving. We have tips on how to do just that, in today’s Pro Project presented by HomeAdvisor.com.
LESLIE: Now, stairs and railings are not only a decorative part of your home, they serve an important job keeping both occupants and visitors safe.
For existing homes, stairs take a lot of wear and tear. And the treads can loosen, the railings can get wobbly and spindles can even fall out.
TOM: Yeah. And after all those years of use, many wood stair rails begin to come loose. The railing can feel wobbly or just seem slightly loose when force is placed on it. And you also might find that you have one squeaky, wooden stair that announces to the world that you are arriving or walking up and down. So, these are not things, though, that you have to live with. They’re relatively simple to fix.
LESLIE: Yeah. First of all, you want to do a safety check. Now, stairs with at least three steps should have a handrail mounted securely to the wall. For open staircases, spindles should be installed no wider than 6 inches on center. And that’s to prevent small children from squeezing in between those railings.
And you also want to look carefully where steps are uneven, particularly in older homes. Now, you might have developed a second-nature instinct in navigating them. But your guests? They have had less practice and it can trip them up pretty quickly.
TOM: Now, let’s talk about some common repairs. The first one would be a repair to weak or broken railings. When those wood stair railings are first installed, they’re pretty sturdy although they may have a little bit of give to them. But after years of use, those railings can become less sturdy through basic wear and tear and strain on the wood. So, a professional carpenter can evaluate why your railings are weak and make sure to do the right kind of repairs.
Now, those – to these annoying, squeaking steps. If you think about it, steps take many, many parts to build. And every joint, every seam is a place where you can get some movement and a squeak can develop. So while these squeaks rarely mean the steps are unsafe, they can create quite a racket. A pro can identify exactly where that noise is coming from and make the fix to restore that peace and quiet.
And now let’s talk about broken treads because these can be really unsafe. Because every step in a staircase really has two parts: the tread and the – which is the board you walk on and then the riser. And that’s the vertical board that links each pair of treads together. And the structural integrity of the whole staircase is really dependent upon every step and every riser being properly secured. So if one’s broken, it can kind of start to come apart like a house of cards and they can make the entire staircase unsafe. And that’s why it’s a really important repair for a pro to get to as quickly as possible.
LESLIE: Now, the cost of a stair-and-railing installation and repair will always be based on the complexity of the stair’s layout. Now, a simple, straight staircase would be less expensive to update than, say, a spiral stair. But for the safety of you, your family and your guests, it’s an important part of your home to pay attention to.
TOM: And that’s today’s Pro Project presented by HomeAdvisor.com. With HomeAdvisor, you can get matched with top-rated home service pros in your area and book appointments online, all for free. No matter the type of job, HomeAdvisor makes it fast and easy to hire the best local pros.
LESLIE: Sherry in Texas is on the line with a siding question. How can we help you today?
SHERRY: We have this little cottage moved in that has siding on it. But we want it to look like the other outbuildings and put redwood siding on it. To put siding over siding, do you use a special nail? Is it possible to do that or do you use screws?
TOM: Well, first of all, the siding that you have right now, is it flat or is it clapboard? What does it look like?
SHERRY: It’s flat siding.
TOM: So, like a plywood kind of a surface?
SHERRY: Yes, yes. It’s an ugly siding and we want to go with a redwood siding.
TOM: Alright. So here’s what I would do. And this is for a shed?
SHERRY: Yes, uh-huh.
TOM: So what I would do is I would take building paper – tar paper or even Tyvek but it’s really not necessary but just tar paper. I would put that up first and then I would attach the siding on top of that, driving the nails into the original siding. You do not need to remove the original siding.
That said, remember, if you’ve got doors or windows, you may have to build out the edge a little bit around to make up the difference. Because the siding is going to be thicker than the old stuff.
SHERRY: OK. Alright. Put tar paper under it. Thank you so much.
TOM: You’re welcome, Sherry. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: You can reach us with your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week right here at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Still to come, cork floors are trending and are eco-friendly, too. But are they good for every room? We’re going to highlight the pros and cons of this very eco-friendly material when The Money Pit continues, after this.
TOM: Where home solutions live, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: You can call us with your home improvement question or post it to The Money Pit’s website at MoneyPit.com, which is what Annie did.
LESLIE: That’s right. Now, Annie writes: “I’m wondering what your advice would be regarding putting a cork floor in a bathroom. Good choice or should I pass?”
TOM: I mean I think it’s a great choice. Cork is a very eco-friendly flooring because cork grows very quickly. It’s getting really popular. It’s attractive. It’s soft underfoot, which makes it nice when you step onto it with those bare feet. And it looks good. You know, it’s completely waterproof. And I’ve seen cork in homes that are 40 or 50 years old that are still in relatively good shape.
What do you think about the décor of it?
LESLIE: I really like the look of cork. Cork has a very distinct look to it but it comes in a lot of different color tones. And it comes in a bunch of different styles, as well. So what you think might not be cork could actually be cork. And it’s super comfy. I always think it’s a great choice and I do enjoy having it. And it’s nice to specify for a project.
Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post here from Rob. Now, Rob writes: “My garage is heated by a furnace. When snow melts off of the vehicles, the water pools in the front corner of the garage and doesn’t dry. Over time, this water is soaked into the block that makes up the exterior wall. There is a drain in the garage floor but the water seems to go everywhere except towards it. How do I fix it so the water runs toward the drain?”
TOM: Well, resloping the garage floor, Rob, would be difficult because you’d need to repour it. This isn’t something you can really repair. I would suggest painting the floor and the bottommost block walls with an epoxy garage paint. That’s going to greatly reduce the absorption of water. It’s going to inhibit frost damage that can result from the situation you’re describing.
You could also consider adding flooring in the form of garage tiles. They’ll give you at least ½-inch of space above the floor and they’ll be less expensive than repouring. Just look for tiles that are self-draining so the water, essentially, would run down and sit under tiles. But with a concrete floor, it’s not easy to reslope it. Even putting a second layer on there could be risky. It just might not work very well.
LESLIE: And you know what, Rob? Let’s look at the bright side here: you are going to have a chance to empty the entire garage, which will then give you a chance to organize all the things. I know it’s not ideal but it’s kind of forced tidying up? Good luck.
TOM: Well, it’s time to deck those halls with holiday decorations. If you are getting ready to decorate, no doubt you’re about to get up on some type of ladder. Maybe it’s for the first time since last year, which is why Leslie has some great safety tips to help you not get hurt, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.
LESLIE: Yeah. You really better check that ladder before you even take one step onto it. Worn or improperly used ladders can cause hundreds of thousands of serious injuries every year. So to stay safe, you want to make sure that your ladder has slip-resistant rungs and feet. You want to inspect it for cracked uprights, split rungs or loose rivets. And when using an extension ladder, you’ve got to make sure that the bottom is pulled away from the wall by at least one-quarter of the height that you need to work at.
Finally, never stand on that top rung of any type of ladder. I know so many people ignore this but it’s there for a reason, that sticker that says, “Not a step. Do not go above.” You can so easily go off of balance if you go above that step that’s specified.
So take good care. Use some ladder-safety steps, guys, and just be careful out there.
TOM: Otherwise, the next decorating project your family might be doing is to decorate your cast. You can break it.
LESLIE: Ooh. You can paint it with bright colors, you can draw pictures on it.
TOM: Break a leg, yeah.
LESLIE: Don’t do it, guys.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Speaking of Christmas, the perfect Christmas tree may still be out there waiting for you but would you know it when you see it? We’re going to have tips for picking the ideal tree for your family and the space you have to enjoy it in, 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.
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(Copyright 2019 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.)