- Laundry Room: Doing the laundry is less of a chore with a well-designed laundry room. Here are things to consider when planning that place.
- Cast Iron Radiators: You can’t beat cast iron radiators for adding both comfort and charm to old homes. We’ve got ideas for refurbishing old radiators.
- Rental Deposit: When your lease ends, how can you be sure to get your security deposit back? Make your rental look its best with these 5 tips.
Plus, answers to your home improvement questions about:
- Refinishing Old Wood: Susan wants to refinish the old wood that was behind the sheetrock of her walls. She’ll need to sand, seal, and stain the wood pieces before adding varnish.
- Installing a Steam Room: Can you convert a shower into a steam room? It’s a great idea that will add value to Victor’s home and we offer info about a steam shower generator.
- Insulating a Roof: After a peaked roof is installed over a flat roof, should you add insulation? We agree Monica can add insulation and remind her to have enough ventilation, too.
- Structural Support: Brendan bought a home that’s raised on piers and was made level after sagging in the middle. Should he add sand to prevent further erosion? He’d be better off installing gutters to direct water away from the foundation.
- Electrical Wiring: Does electrical wiring need to be replaced when a new electrical box, outlets, and switches are installed? As long as it’s not old knob and tube wiring and it’s been wired correctly, Christine can leave it alone.
- Laminate Flooring: Frazier is putting laminate flooring over terracotta Mexican pavers. Floating floors with foam underlayment attached should be easy to install and keep things level.
- Crawlspace: Is it a good idea to dig out a crawlspace to make more room? We warn Sara it’s a bad move because the soil can shift and undermine the house foundation.
- Light Switches: Russ says his three-way light switch has stopped working correctly. The failure can be at any point and it’s a good idea to have an electrician trace the wiring.
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 we are here for you, to help you get stuff done around your house.
I can’t wait. I feel like spring is right around the corner now and I’m already thinking ahead to all the stuff I want to do outside my house, because I’ve had about enough winter right now. Even though in our part of the country it wasn’t terrible. And you know why it wasn’t terrible, Leslie? Because I bought ourselves a brand-new snow blower. And because I did so, we had virtually no snow. So, it worked pretty well. I think it was well worth the investment and you know, I’d recommend that to everybody.
LESLIE: Can I ask you to return it for next year so I can ski more?
TOM: I know, right? Can we try that again?
But listen, if you’ve got a question, a project you want to get going on, you’re in the right place. Reach out to us by going to MoneyPit.com/Ask. You can post your question there or you can actually send us a voicemail through our website at MoneyPit.com/Ask or call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Got a great show planned for you guys. Coming up on today’s episode, adding a new, well-designed and organized laundry room is a very popular project that can make laundry a lot easier. But because laundry-room remodels involve plumbing, they involve electrical work, they involve carpentry, it really does need careful planning. So we’re going to have some smart planning tips to help, just ahead.
LESLIE: And if you’ve got an older home, you know that cast-iron radiators are really the gold standard for warm, moist and even heating. So, just ahead, we’re going to share tips on easy ways to make old radiators look as good as they work.
TOM: And if you’re a renter, do you worry about getting your security deposit back when it’s time to move out? We’re going to share the most commonly overlooked items that stand between you and getting all of that cashola returned, just ahead.
LESLIE: But first, if you can dream it, you can build it and we can help. Reach out to us with your questions, right now, at MoneyPit.com/Ask. Whatever you are working on this March weekend – oh, my goodness, it really is almost spring. I can’t believe how quickly this year is going. So, guys, you’re running out of time to get everything ready for Memorial Day, right? We’re just rushing to it. So, give us a call so we can get your house spring-ready.
TOM: And you can do that by calling 1-888-MONEY-PIT – 888-666-3974 – or once again, just go to MoneyPit.com/Ask.
Let’s get to it. Leslie, who’s first?
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 in 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: Victor in Massachusetts, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
VICTOR: I’m considering making the walk-in shower a shower steam room.
VICTOR: I had the house – our house built in 2007 and at that time, I called your show for advice on bathroom tiles and tankless hot-water system. That worked out perfect for your advice.
TOM: Oh, good. So we got that right.
VICTOR: Yeah, you did. Got it all perfectly right. OK.
TOM: How big is this shower that you want to turn into a steam bath?
VICTOR: Eight by five.
TOM: Alright. Perfect, perfect. So, it’s definitely a good project. It’s going to add some value to your house and make a nice, beautiful room for you to enjoy. And you can do that by adding a steam-shower generator.
Now, these generators are very small: about the size of a briefcase. Take a look at the generators from Mr. Steam – MrSteam.com. These guys are the leaders in this space.
TOM: And they give you all the information there, on the website, on how to do this. But you can basically locate this steam generator. You don’t even have to put it in the bathroom. It can be up to 60 feet away. And then when you call – they have all the controls. And when you call for steam, it comes on, it generates the steam and comes right through the ports that you will install into that shower space. It really sounds like a perfect setup for something like this.
VICTOR: Is that M-i-s-t-e-r or Mr. – M-r?
TOM: Mr. – M-r-S-t-e-a-m.com. MrSteam.com. Check it out. They’ve got all the information right there. It’s a great product.
VICTOR: So, overall, the concept is OK to do?
VICTOR: OK, great.
TOM: That’s exactly the space you want to have to do something like this. Fantastic opportunity. I would go for it.
VICTOR: Thank you so much.
TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Monica on the line with a roofing question.
Tell us what’s going on.
MONICA: Yes. My daughter had just purchased a home and originally, apparently the house had a flat roof. And then they put a peak roof over the top of it. I was just wondering if on that flat roof – if you should go into that space and insulate over that flat roof.
TOM: It’s a good question. So, first of all, the idea of covering a flat roof with a pitched roof is not unusual. Folks do that for a number of reasons, both architecturally because they like the appearance of the pitched roof and because they’re just sick and tired of dealing with flat roofs and the leaks that can happen more frequently as a result of them.
Now, typically, you would have insulated inside that ceiling under the flat roof. So, therefore, there’s no reason you cannot add additional insulation over that. You could do something as easy as laying fiberglass batts right on top of that roof: side-by-side unfaced fiberglass. It would add additional insulation to that space.
MONICA: Oh, that was what I was wondering. That would help keep some of the heat from getting on the tarring of the flat roof and help cool the lower level, right?
TOM: Well, yeah. I mean it would – more importantly, it’s going to keep the heat or the coolness inside the house. So, yeah, it will help separate some of that heat. And there should also be ventilation in that new pitched roof. That will be necessary for the insulation to work well.
MONICA: I think that – the house is actually a three-layer house. Both roofs, apparently, were flat and they peaked both of them.
TOM: What you can do in that situation is you can add a ridge vent to the peak and you can add some roof vents lower on the roof and that will improve the ventilation dramatically.
Monica, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re going to head to New Orleans where we’ve got Brennan on the line who’s dealing with a structural image or two at his brand-new home. Well, new home for him. First-time homeowner. What’s going on?
BRENNAN: So, it’s a raised house, kind of typical of New Orleans construction. Solid concrete piers and we bought the house knowing that there was a noticeable sag in the middle. A home inspection didn’t say there was any other really untoward problems and it was kind of factored into the cost. I’ve had a shoring company, with a lot of experience in New Orleans, come and basically shim it with cement planks and cement blocks and they really brought up the middle about 3 inches. Got it pretty level.
TOM: Wow. OK.
BRENNAN: The question I had was – they recommended getting a lot of sand underneath the house to prevent further erosion.
BRENNAN: You can see in the middle they had a plumbing issue years, years back that led to a big washout down the center, which caused the main sag.
TOM: OK. To drop, yeah.
BRENNAN: So now I’m wondering – yeah, a big drop. Now I’m wondering, should I get buckets and loads and loads of sand under there? Are there issues and reasons why that would be a problem or not?
TOM: I don’t understand why they’re recommending that. That’s not – your problem is not erosion. Your problem is settlement of the footing holding up that center pier. And yes, if you had major leak there, that would weaken the soil under the pier and it can make the building move.
TOM: It’s encouraging that they were able to restore this home to level and that – to the best of your knowledge, has it sunken any further since then? Or has it remained pretty much where they left it.
BRENNAN: It’s pretty much where they left it. It’s only been a few weeks, so (inaudible). I’m kind of just waiting and seeing.
BRENNAN: But they’ve – I feel like they’re pretty reputable. I’ve gotten a lot of other companies to basically saying the same thing that the piers were strong, they didn’t need to be replaced.
BRENNAN: Just sort of re-shifted. And you can look at them and see, obviously, that they had moved.
TOM: Right. Right.
BRENNAN: And I questioned with the sand or the dirt how to prevent it from moving in the future.
TOM: I mean the best way to prevent it from moving for the future is to make sure it – water’s the enemy here. If you get a lot of water in there, that’s what’s going to weaken the soil. It’s just like this. If you think about it, if you’re walking across that dirt field and it’s a dry, sunny day, you may get some dust but you don’t sink into the dirt, right?
TOM: But if it gets a really good rainstorm, you sink in. What’s the difference?
TOM: Wet dirt doesn’t hold your weight like dry dirt does. Same thing with a house. If it gets wet under that footing, it’s going to shift.
TOM: And if you had a major plumbing issue that forced a lot of water in there, that would make perfect sense. It would disturb the soil and then over the next several years, it probably moved and sagged like that.
I don’t understand, though – why are they recommending the sand? The only other thing that you might do in a crawlspace is you may put plastic sheeting over it. And the reason you do that across the soil floor or the sand floor that’s there – the only reason you’d do that is to reduce the amount of moisture that will evaporate up from the ground and potentially get into your insulation, which makes the insulation a little more efficient. But in terms of adding more sand? I don’t see what the reason is.
BRENNAN: Yeah. I think more, if anything, we get a lot of rain here. Sometimes we get very heavy rain.
BRENNAN: And I’m going to wait and see if it does look like it’s washing out, maybe. But I would be more interested if – it doesn’t have gutters. This is a house from the 50s with gutters and I thought it might be better to keep gutters.
TOM: Ah. Now, that’s good investment. Yeah, that’s a good investment. If you don’t have gutters – you know, all these problems are water-management problems – and by managing that water and getting it away from the house. So, yeah, definitely put in gutters on all sides of the house.
TOM: And make sure that the downspouts …
TOM: Most gutter companies will drop those out about 6 inches or a foot. Make sure they’re extended out a good 3 or 4 feet so you’re moving that water away from the foundation. The less water that collects around the outside like that, the better off you’re going to be. It’s going to protect the foundation from shifting. You’ll have less moisture and humidity inside that will get into the insulation.
BRENNAN: Great. Well, that’s a reassuring nod to what I thought might be a better idea than sand.
TOM: Alright. Well, good luck with that project. That’s very exciting – your first house – and call us any time you have a question.
BRENNAN: OK. Thank you all very much.
LESLIE: Well, adding a new, well-designed and organized laundry room to your home is a very popular project that can make laundry a heck of a lot easier and less stressful to do.
TOM: True. But while a laundry-room makeover may be a small-space remodeling project, it requires a heck of a lot of smart planning to get it done. And you also need the help of some skilled pros to handle the plumbing, the electrical work and sometimes even the carpentry.
LESLIE: Well, the first thing you’ve got to think about, guys, is the location. Now, you can build a laundry room into something as small as a closet or even as large as your utility room, a spare bedroom or a basement. But as you think through the location possibilities, you’ve got to consider things like the distance between your laundry room and the bedrooms because, generally, that’s where you’re storing up your laundry. So the greater the distance, the farther you’ve got to travel back and forth to get that laundry done. So, you kind of want to make it the most convenient.
Now, you also want to think about the distance to the utilities. Does that laundry area already have access to plumbing and electrical connections? If not, how far do you need to run them to get them there. And is there a way to run an exhaust to that dryer vent? And for gas dryers, what about a gas line? There’s so much involved in getting this room up and running. Now, utility connections can be very costly to run, so you’ve got to pick a place that’s easy to access, so you can kind of keep those costs to a minimum.
TOM: And then, let’s talk about space. Is there going to be enough space for all of your laundry-room activities? Not just washing clothes but folding, storing, detergents and bleach and even ironing laundry. What about storage space for the dryer sheets, the stain removers and all those other laundry supplies? They really do add up.
So the bottom line is: you’ve got to make some smart choices when you plan a laundry-room project. But if you do it right, you can really help bring that project in on time and on budget and set you up with a space that can serve your family well for many, many years to come.
My problem is it always looks super organized the first week and then it all falls apart. So, I think it’s also got to be easy to reorganize. I’m going to add that to the tips.
LESLIE: Yeah. And to maintain that organization, that’s the trick.
TOM: And maintain, right. Exactly.
LESLIE: Christine in Ohio, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
CHRISTINE: We have a 1930s home and the owner, he built it for himself and lived here for a while. The electricity has been replaced since then and it’s a new box with the on-and-off switches and a lot of labels, including one that says, “Gutter heater,” which I’m curious about.
CHRISTINE: But my question is – we’re painting the whole house and all the outlet boxes are being replaced and the switches. And we’re replacing the switches but the wires look like they’re original to the home. Do those need replaced, as well?
TOM: How old is the wiring? When was the home built?
TOM: Is it knob-and-tube wiring? Do you know what that is?
CHRISTINE: Well, I thought that meant what was in the box. So I guess I do not because the box in the basement is just the switches.
TOM: The panel may have been fuses and then upgraded to circuit breakers but what you’re concerned about is the wiring in the wall. I’ll say this, if it’s knob-and-tube wiring – which is the original form of central wiring that was added to homes around that time, by the way – that type of wiring has to be replaced because it’s not grounded and it’s not groundable. If it’s really any other type of wiring and as long as it’s wired correctly – and your electrician can check all that – then you could probably keep it.
TOM: But knob-and-tube wiring is easy to spot. It’s a black rubber coating. It is strung along the sides of wood beams from ceramic tubes. And whenever it goes through a beam – it’s strung from the side of beams with ceramic knobs. And whenever it goes through the beams, there’s a ceramic tube that goes through it. And that type of wiring is very unsafe.
So, other than that, I think as long as everything’s wired properly, you should be good to go. It’s not a do-it-yourself project, by the way. You need to have a professional electrician do this work for you, Christine, OK?
CHRISTINE: Is it possible that the wiring – because I didn’t see anything that looked like what you’re describing. But I don’t see how they could not have – how they could have replaced it if the wiring that I’m seeing – it looks like it’s just coming out of the light switch, say, under the box plate. It’s got a cloth covering all around it.
TOM: You should not be doing this work yourself, Christine. This is not a difficult thing to assess for a professional electrician. There are a lot of places, aside from inside those boxes, where you can see the type of wiring. Any exposed framing in the attic or basement, for example, you’ll see this wiring, OK?
CHRISTINE: Thank you so much.
TOM: We’d love to tell you to do it yourself. This one I’m telling you don’t do it yourself, OK? Alright. Good luck. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now it’s time to help Frasier who’s on the line with a question about flooring, looking to add one floor over another.
What can we do for you?
FRASIER: I was wondering what your thoughts were regarding putting laminate flooring down over Mexican pavers. Does the vapor barrier take up the difference in elevations at the grout lines? Or what are your thoughts regarding that?
LESLIE: So, Frasier, if – what I’m getting here is that you want to see how you can sort of level out that flooring from the terracotta tile and the grout lines to put a new one on top. Adding that sort of layer of Visqueen, that’s not really going to do anything for you. It’s not going to fill in those gaps. It’s just going to be another layer that sort of, you know, follows all of those rises and falls between the tile and the grout.
Now, depending on the type of flooring you pick, you might find a plank or a tile, per se, in a vinyl or a laminate that has a backing on it that sort of acts as that underlayment and will level that out as you install it. So, it’s a good way that you can achieve that level and still go over the floor.
TOM: Yeah, I totally agree. And there are a lot of great flooring choices that are sort of stiff right now and they don’t really require any underlayment whatsoever. For example, the luxury vinyl planks, they don’t require an underlayment. And the laminates? Yeah, they do have underlayments that are built into it. They’re usually – they’re like a foam that’s maybe, I don’t know, an 1/8-inch thick or a little bit less that helps them sit nicely.
But remember, we’re talking about floating floors here, too. You don’t have to attach these to the old floor. You just lay them right on top, you get up to be within a ¼- to ½-inch of the walls and then you put some trim on top of that to cover that gap and you should be good to go. So, it’s actually a really easy floor to install and you definitely don’t need to put any plastic sheeting under it because, as Leslie said, you’re not buying anything with that. It’s not adding to the moisture resistance. You really don’t need to do it.
LESLIE: Well, if you live in an old home, like both Tom and I do, and you’ve got some cast-iron radiators, you really know that there’s no better way to get warm. And you get nice, even heat all winter long, no matter the temps.
TOM: True. But they definitely provide a level of comfort that you just don’t get with forced hot air. The radiators themselves, though, can really be hard to incorporate into your décor.
LESLIE: Yeah. And this is definitely one of those elements that adds that kind of old-world charm to any older home. And I’m kind of shocked when we get these calls that – people are calling into the show, they want to replace them because baseboard radiators are just the best. I mean I can’t even believe we get them, those calls.
TOM: Yeah. But you really can’t beat the mass of a cast-iron radiator. The sheer weight holds a lot of heat and distributes it cleanly and quietly. And some of those baseboard radiators can make a real racket, because the metal is always expanding and contracting and makes sort of a creaky sound. Plus, the cast-iron radiators – hot-water heat is just a moist that’s a lot more comfortable than forced air.
LESLIE: Yeah. If I could ever find the people who, at some point in my home’s 100-year-old life, replaced all of the radiators on the first floor with those baseboard aluminum ones, I would just like to ask them, “What did you do that for?”
LESLIE: Because you’re right: they’re noisy, they just don’t hold heat that great. And the first floor is always chilly compared to the second floor with the real, beautiful radiators that’s always perfectly cozy.
So, it’s obvious, guys: we love cast-iron radiators. They look good, they function really great. But what is the best way that you can refinish them? Well, this is a project that you can definitely do yourself. You just need a wire brush and that’s going to strip away any loose paint. And then make sure you vacuum up all of that loose paint and then wash the radiator down with a solution of trisodium phosphate. That’s TSP. You’ll find it in the paint aisle.
TOM: And next, you want to mask it off. So, mask around it, like the wall. Mask under it. I usually use newspapers and cardboard and masking tape to really kind of create what’s almost like a paint booth that surrounds this and protects the walls and the floors. That’s definitely the easiest way to get the paint in all of those small spaces – is to mask that sort of chamber around it and then just use spray paint. Spray paint designed for metal, like a Rust-Oleum or something of that nature. And use very light coats, but several of them, and it will last a really long time.
LESLIE: Yeah. Another option, guys, is to install a vented radiator cover. And they can be really beautiful and there’s a lot of different options to the style and sort of finishing details that you can put together on these covers. A lot of different ways that you can build them. You can look them up online for a bunch of different inspiration ideas. If you’re not handy, you can have a carpenter come and build one for you. They’re definitely lovely.
But you have to remember, you might need to run that radiator a little longer to get that heat over and through those covers. So maybe you just want it in some of the rooms but not all of the rooms. We have them on all the radiators upstairs. They’re lovely. They really just are so cute and so perfect for the age of the house and just the functionality of the radiator.
So, if you’ve got them guys, don’t get rid of them.
TOM: In a house we bought recently, there were a couple of radiators missing – two or three – and I was kind of bummed out by them. I didn’t really think I needed them because it was feeling like the house was overheated. But guess what? I was really glad to find them up in the attic. So, whoever took those out many, many years ago was smart enough to know – “Hey, we might want to put these back in or use them somewhere else.” And they saved them. And the nice thing about old radiators? They’re just as good as the day they were first put in.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Sarah on the line who’s got a question about a structural issue at home.
What’s going on?
SARAH: My husband and I are thinking about digging out some of our crawlspace. So, right now it’s really shallow. It’s more like a belly crawlspace and we were thinking about digging it down 3 or 4 feet. We have about 12 feet from the foundation wall to the center support wall and there are no other supports that are in there at this time. So we’re thinking about cutting into that center 4 feet and digging down about 4 or 5 feet, just so that working on items would be a little bit easier and getting around under the house would be a little simpler.
But is there anything that we should aware of or is it something we should even attempt? I don’t know, we just wanted your opinion.
TOM: Hey, Sarah, you know, digging out that crawlspace like you’re suggesting would be a really bad move and here’s why. You can’t just take that dirt away, because the foundation is supported by that dirt right to the side of it, right? And that center wall going down the crawlspace, that – the foundation under those beams is being supported by the soil that’s there. And if you take a big chunk of soil out from the middle of that, you could get some shifting where the dirt will sort of fill that in, especially if you had weather or a leak or something of that nature. And it could actually undermine that foundation for the crawlspace.
Typically, if you have a house that’s on a crawlspace and you want to dig out a basement, you essentially have to create retaining walls inside of that perimeter and that’s called, in the business, a “Yankee basement.” I don’t know why they call it a “Yankee basement.” It was really popular up in New England at one point but typically, there will be an additional foundation wall that’s built there for the sole purpose of holding that soil in place. Because if that outside soil that’s under that original crawlspace depletes, you’re going to have nothing holding up the house. And then you could get a major shift and a big structural problem, so don’t do it.
You want to scrape out a little bit of that soil so you can kind of wiggle in there to make a repair? Fine. But a really bad idea it would be to take out 4 feet or 4 or 5 feet deep of that all the way.
LESLIE: Well, if you’ve been renting, you definitely want to get your security deposit back when your lease ends.
TOM: Ah, yes. But for that to happen, landlords want to see that their property has been taken care of and left in good condition for the next tenant.
LESLIE: Yep. So, to help, guys, here are five simple things that tenants often forget to do, that can leave their rental home looking its best and make a good impression on the landlord when it’s time to go.
First of all, you want to clean the stovetops and the oven. Now, burner guards collect lots of food buildup and there may be burn marks. So give them a good scrub with bleach or even a kitchen cleanser. And then, if you’ve got baked-on residue inside the oven, you can make your own oven cleaner with a baking-soda mixture or use one of the chemical oven cleaners that you can buy.
Now, also think about wiping down vertical surfaces like mirrors, walls, doors, windows, cabinets. You can use vinegar or you can use alcohol wipes. That’s going to remove the dust, the streaks, any scuff marks that may have gone previously unnoticed. It really just does a wonderful job of kind of freshening things up.
And also use a duster, rags, even a vacuum to get rid of the dust that collects on the blinds, the ceiling fans, the vents, the window sills, molding, baseboards. I mean you thoroughly want to give the house a deep cleaning.
TOM: Now, if you’ve got a washer or a dryer, you can leave them sparkling, both inside and out, by wiping off any splotches on the exterior and then running an empty load in the washing machine.
Now, couple of ways you can do that. You can run that just with vinegar instead of fabric softener to leave it fresh and clean. Or if you want to kind of really detox the machine – because sometimes bacteria builds up in all of those seals – you can run hot water and just bleach and that will clean and kill any bacteria that’s in there and leave the machine super clean and ready to go for the next time.
I think what I would do if I did that is I would run it twice. I would do it once with the bleach and I’d do it once just with water to make sure I rinsed all that bleach away and then we would be good to go.
LESLIE: Yeah. And don’t forget to look at those hidden areas behind and under those moveable appliances and even the furniture. Take a look all around the stove, the microwave, the refrigerator and any furniture that’s definitely staying behind to see if anything’s fallen behind there. And remember, sweep up any dirt and debris. It’s just those little things, which I know is a big project but it makes a huge difference.
TOM: Yeah. And when it comes to doing that final walkthrough with your landlord, you’ll leave a good last impression, which is just as important as making a good first impression. Except now you get some security-deposit money back for all of your hard work.
LESLIE: Heading up to New Hampshire where we’ve got Russ on the line who’s dealing with some tricky electrical issues going on over there.
RUSS: Bought a new home 2 years ago when my wife and I moved here to retire. And for the same 2 years, a 3-switch light circuit in my hall, leading from the kitchen to the bedroom, worked just fine. Any one of the three switches would turn the lights – the can ceilings – on or off. And about a month ago, that stopped working such that the second and third light switch would only operate if the first light switch was in the down position.
Well, I’ve done some troubleshooting. I’ve replaced light switches. And when that didn’t solve the problem, I took them back out and put the old ones in. Can’t get it to work properly and would like some guidance, if you can think of some things that I should do before I put a spend a couple hundred bucks to get an electrician in the house.
TOM: Hey, Russ. Yeah, well, wiring a three-way switch is tricky enough. You’ve got a four-way switch, so the fact of the matter is that you could have a failure at any point in that wiring. It may not just be the switch itself. It might actually be at the fixture end or at a splice somewhere else. And if it’s feeding multiple lights, like high-hat lights in the ceiling, it could be at one of the lights but not more of the lights.
So I think in this case, you’re wise to actually hire an electrician and trace out each part of the circuit until you figure out what’s going on. The one thing I would do before is just to double-check to make sure you put the wiring back in the right place, because it’s kind of tricky sometimes. And what I usually recommend is people take photographs before they do that. But if you’ve rewired it correctly when you switched out those with the switch that you thought was bad, then that’s about all you can do and I would go to a pro and get it straightened out.
LESLIE: Keith wrote in to Team Money Pit and he says, “I’ve got a question about the best way to turn the water back on after it has been off for a year. I’m concerned that there may be leaks. What’s the best way to turn the water back on while preventing any undiscovered leaks from creating a real mess?”
TOM: In a word: carefully.
I used to do this, actually, on a pretty regular basis as a home inspector, because sometimes we did inspect vacant homes where the water was turned off. And I’d need to turn it back on just to check the plumbing systems.
So, typically, what I would suggest is to start slow. Open the main water valve up partially, let the pipes fill slowly and then check them regularly. So, usually you want to start upstairs and work your way downstairs and look for leaks along the way. Once the pipes are sort of fully charged, open that valve all the way up and then – there’s another part of this – you have to check the drains, right? So, you have to run the sinks, run the vanity sinks, run the tubs, run the showers. It’s a process but you do it deliberately, you do it slowly.
For example, if you wanted to check a vanity sink, what I typically would do is I would put the stopper in the sink, I would run it up to the rim and let it overflow, because sometimes the overflow channels were rusted out and we’d find leaks that way. If you wanted to check a shower, what I would do is put a washcloth across the drain, fill it up with a couple of inches of water and quickly go downstairs to make sure nothing is coming through. But if you do it slowly and deliberately, if you pay attention to the flow of water so you don’t let anything get out of control – and get a friend. Get a couple of people to help you keep an eye on the place while you’re turning that water back on. You know, 9 out of 10 times, it’s fine. It’s that one time where it doesn’t go well that you want to catch quickly.
LESLIE: Yeah. And I mean it could be a big, gigantic mess if it doesn’t go well. So, definitely enlist the help of some friends and good luck with the project.
Now we’ve got Irene who’s got a leaky Kohler toilet but not the kind of leak that you’re probably thinking of. She says that the problem is condensation is forming on the outside surface of the toilet and then it’s dripping on the wood floor. And she’s wondering if the toilet is the issue.
TOM: A-ha. It’s not the toilet. What’s happening here is good, old-fashioned condensation. The same condensation that forms on the outside of an iced-tea glass in the summer on your patio, it’s that moisture that’s forming on the outside of the toilet tank. And it happens because of two things. Number one, you’ve probably got very cold water. Maybe you have very cold groundwater coming in. And secondly, you’ve got some humidity in that bathroom space. Maybe your ventilation is not working properly. Maybe you don’t have a vent fan. And when you have humidity striking the cold tank, what you get is condensation and drips. And if you’ve got a wood floor, then it could be real damaging.
Here’s a little trick. If you’ve done the normal things, you’ve got fans and you can’t get rid of the humidity, you could add a mixing valve, which will mix in a little bit of hot water into the cold-water supply for the toilet. That will warm it just enough not to be terribly wasteful but to avoid the condensation issue. And that ought to solve it.
LESLIE: Alright. Now, that seems smart. But Tom, explain this to me: I’ve seen people put a brick in the toilet tank. What the heck is that about?
TOM: Oh, yeah. That’s an old toilet tank that’s really big and they’re trying to use less water so they put a brick in it. Problem is, all those little pieces of the brick break off and they ruin the seals and it leaks really quickly. So that’s definitely not something you want to do.
LESLIE: Alright. Good to know.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Hey, guys, thank you so much for spending part of your day with us. We hope that we have given you some good tips and ideas and information to avoid the perspiration when it comes to the stress of taking on projects around your house. Remember, if you’ve got questions as you tackle these jobs, you can reach out to us, 24/7, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Or better yet, go to MoneyPit.com/Ask and record a voicemail for us. We will get it and insert you into the very next show we do.
Until then, I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …
LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.
(Copyright 2023 Squeaky Door Productions, Inc. No portion of this transcript or audio file may be reproduced in any format without the express written permission of Squeaky Door Productions, Inc.)
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