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The Benefits of a Home Sprinkler System to Protect Against Fires, How to Get Organized for the New Year, Learn to Make Your Home Safe for People of Every Age and more

  • Transcript

    TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: What are you working on today? We want to help you get that project done. You trying to fix up your house? Trying to improve the décor? You’ve got a home improvement repair that’s on your to-do list? Let’s move it to the done list. Pick up the phone; we’ll help you get started. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Coming up this hour on The Money Pit, every year, firefighters respond to more than a million home fires. But a home sprinkler system can take that number down dramatically. So, this hour, we’re going to help you find out if a home sprinkler system is right for you.

    LESLIE: And also ahead, if you’re looking to get organized and you’re just simply overwhelmed with the idea of even where to start – because most people who are unorganized just can’t figure out where to start. So, we’re going to help you. We’re talking to a professional organizer, a little later this hour, and she can sort it all out for us.

    TOM: And also ahead, if you’re like most Americans, you want to stay in your own home for as long as possible. Or maybe you have older relatives living with you. But in either case, there are some things that you can do to make your home safe and secure for seniors. We’re going to tell you how, coming up.

    LESLIE: And this hour, one caller that we talk to on the air is going to get a signed copy of our book, My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure. And if you’re one of our unorganized listeners, please don’t just add it to a pile. Actually read it. You’ll find some tips to help you get your money pit in great shape for 2014.

    TOM: So, let’s get to it. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    The phones are lighting up so, Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Alright. We’re heading over to Virginia now where Greg is dealing with a hard-water situation. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.

    GREG: I have a little farmhouse up in Virginia and very hard water. And was looking at some of the options of how to address that – salt-based, salt-free, reverse osmosis, magnetic, et cetera – and it’s all confusing. What’s real and what’s reasonable, from a price standpoint?

     TOM: Alright. So, you’re on well water, I presume, correct?

    GREG: Correct.

    TOM: And have you had the water tested for other contaminants?

    GREG: When we first bought it, it’s safe to drink. We haven’t tested it in the last several years but …

    TOM: OK. So, the first thing I would do is I would have the water tested so that you know exactly what you’re dealing with. Because if there’s some contaminants in there, that’s going to change the type of system that you put in.

    Now, if the water test reveals that your only problem is hard water, then I would try what you’re calling the “magnetic option.” And there’s a product called EasyWater – E-a-s-y-Water.com – that I have had good success with. And what EasyWater does is – essentially is installed at the pump or actually where the water enters the building. And it charges the hard-water particles and then gives them a charge so that they don’t stick together and they pass through the plumbing system without causing all of the types of issues that are associated with hard water: hard-water deposits, iron stains and that sort of thing.

    And the reason I’d suggest EasyWater is because if you don’t like it, they have a money-back guarantee. And they seem to be good people and I think the science behind it is solid. There’s a lot of folks out there that once they saw the success that EasyWater was having, copied or tried to copy the technology. But I think if you go to E-a-s-y-Water.com, try that product, see what you think, I think you’ll be good to go.

    But again, test first because we want to make sure that there’s no other contaminants.

    GREG: Excellent. And it’s not a permanent process. So the water from downstream, this process reverses itself. But from the time it comes into your house until it’s out …

    TOM: Yeah. From the time it comes in until the time it leaves, that’s when it’s your responsibility, right?

    GREG: Hey, I agree. Very good.

    TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project, Greg. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Betty in Texas, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    BETTY: We live in a ranch-style home and we have several bedrooms and bathrooms where the door frames, up above the door frames on just one side, are cracking. And we have repeatedly had contract workers out here to repair them and it has not held.

    TOM: Feel like it’s Groundhog Day? You’re fixing the same thing over and over again?

    Yeah, it’s pretty common. Around the door frame and around windows, those are the weakest portions of the wall. So if you have some movement from a normal expansion and contraction, that’s where it’s going to show. Typically, what happens is you’ll have a painter or a handyman come out and they’ll spackle the crack and paint it and it seems to go away for a while. But of course, as soon as the wall moves again, it shows up.

    What you really have to do here is sand down the area around the crack.

    BETTY: OK.

    TOM: And then you have to cover it with a perforated spackle tape. And that usually looks like netting and it’s a little sticky. You put it across the crack and then you spackle over the tape. And that does a permanent repair, because it actually sort of melds one side of the wall with the other and it should not separate again the next time the wall moves.

    BETTY: OK. Well, that sounds wonderful. Thank you so much. I appreciate your help.

    TOM: You’re very welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Now you can call in your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. Up next, did you know there are over 1.5 million fires reported in the nation every single year? Wondering how you can make sure that your fire is out before it causes major damage or even death? Well, you can invest in a home sprinkler system. How they work and if they’re right for you, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Lutron’s new Maestro Occupancy-Sensing Switch. Never ask “Who left the lights on?” again. Starting at around $20, this motion-sensing light switch turns the lights on automatically when you walk into a room and off when you leave and works with all types of light bulbs. Learn more at LutronSensors.com.

    TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    One caller that we talk to on the air this hour is going to win a copy of our book, My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure.

    TOM: And we’ll even sign it for you, so give us a call right now for your chance to win it. It’s 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Alright. Going out to Tennessee where Jack is dealing with some rust on a toilet. What is going on, dude?

    JACK: Well, I’ve got a toilet-bowl problem with a stain that I’m unable to do anything with.

    TOM: OK. What have you tried so far?

    JACK: I’ve only tried the normal thing with Ajax or Comet, one of the scrubbing powders.

    TOM: What kind of stain is this? Is it like a rust stain?

    JACK: I think it is sort of – the plumber said it was a rust stain. I had the tank – all the works in the tank.

    TOM: Replaced? Mm-hmm.

    JACK: I was talking with him about it and he said it’s a rust stain and says, “Never use Brillo or any of the other scrubbing wires,” and suggested a sanding pad. It’s a soft pad. And I did use one of those and got a tiny bit of result but not what I’m looking for.

    TOM: Alright. Well, here’s a suggestion. First of all, you’ve got commercial products like CLR or Lime-A-Way that can work. Or you’ve got some sort of do-it-yourself products or mix-it-yourself products that you could put together. But the most important thing is to start with a dry bowl. So you want to turn the water off at the toilet and flush it and dry out that bowl. Because you’re going to be able to get more of the cleaning product onto the surface.

    You can use lemon juice. That’s an acidic-based rust remover. White vinegar also works well. Borax works well. You can mix Borax with hot water and that works pretty well. And here, right from The Money Pit Engineering Department, my crack engineering team tells me that they’ve had good success with Coca-Cola. And I’m sure they wouldn’t be making that up. So, again, any of these acid-based products can do a pretty good job of pulling that rust out of the toilet bowl. But you want to flush it and dry it first so that it really has a chance to get to work.

    And in terms of the scrubbing pad you mentioned, something like the Scotch-Brite pad is a good thing to use on that. It’s not going to destroy the surface.

    JACK: Thank you so much for taking my call. And I’ll get on it this afternoon.

    TOM: You’re welcome, Jack. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, each year, fire departments respond to more than 1.5 million fires. But the Home Safety Council says that only a fraction of Americans have taken any steps at all to improve their fire safety and actually protect themselves and their family.

    Well, one way that you can add a layer of protection is to install a home fire sprinkler system in addition, of course, to working smoke alarms. And a fire-escape plan that you practice with your family is the best way to stay protected from fire.

    TOM: Now, a lot of homeowners don’t even know that fire sprinklers are an option for their home. But sprinklers detect high heat from a fire and they put water on the flames as soon as that fire starts. And this limits the smoke and poisonous gases that a fire produces.

    Now, fire sprinklers are also there to protect your property and your belongings, because they’re going to put the fire out before they’re totally burned up.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Now, if you’re buying a home or moving to a new apartment, you want to make sure that you choose one with a fire sprinkler system, if you can. If you’re building a home or remodeling your existing home, you should consider having a home fire sprinkler system installed then because at least it would be an easier process, since you’re opening things up.

    Now, you should talk to your local fire department if you want some help finding a qualified home fire sprinkler installer or even the local fire marshal, because they are usually a wealth of information on how to properly get these things done.

    TOM: Now, there’s also a common misconception that home fire sprinklers can trip unnecessarily like, for example, when you burn toast. That is just not true. The technology is solid and we highly recommend them.

    LESLIE: Susan in Georgia is on the line with a cleaning question. How can we help you today?

    SUSAN: Hi. My husband and I have purchased a 1920 Craftsman house.


    TOM: That’s a beautiful home.

    SUSAN: Oh, it is stunning. Well, it will be. It’s been neglected and all the interior walls that we’ve exposed so far have antique heartwood pine.

    TOM: OK.

    SUSAN: And so my question is not only cleaning, it’s kind of threefold. First, I need to clean it – it hasn’t been cleaned in years – and what is the best way to do that? As well as – after I clean it, I was thinking – what is the best way to restore it – the wood is dry – and maintain it?

    TOM: So, when you say “restore it,” do you want to refinish these pine walls?

    SUSAN: Yes, I do.

    TOM: OK.

    SUSAN: They are – I mean they’re – it’s antique heartwood pine – I mean they’re – they can be really, really pretty.

    TOM: Yeah, they can be.

    SUSAN: But because the house has some – it had old, coal fireplaces, so they are just really grungy.

    TOM: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

    LESLIE: So they’re dirty.

    TOM: Well, I would say clean it first; then we know how much more work you have to do.

    Right, Leslie?

    LESLIE: Yeah.

    SUSAN: What do you clean it with?

    TOM: Well, because it’s wood, you can’t use a lot of moisture. But I would try something like Murphy’s Oil Soap.

    SUSAN: And that’s OK to do on unfinished wood?

    TOM: Yeah. Doesn’t it – it probably has some sort of base finish on it, does it not?

    SUSAN: No, it does not.

    TOM: It has no finish on it at all.

    SUSAN: No. We actually – when we purchased the house, they had put up wallpaper on it.

    TOM: New idea. If it’s completely unfinished, then you’re going to have to sand it. So I would start with one section and I would lightly sand it and see where it goes. I would use a medium grit, like a 100-, 150-grit and take it from there.

    Now, I would sand it very carefully by hand to start with, just to kind of see what I’m working with. If it looks like it’s going to work out for you, then I would definitely rent or even buy – they’re not that expensive – a vibrating sander. And you …

    SUSAN: I actually tried sanding it in one area that’s going to be a water-heater closet and it didn’t work so well. There is so much, I guess, tannic acid or – in it. It wasn’t working very well.

    TOM: If you want to try cleaning it with something else that’s a little more heavy-duty, you could try TSP. And since you’ve got this water-heater closet, this could be your experimental room.

    SUSAN: Right.

    TOM: But you could use trisodium phosphate, which is something that you can buy in a home center. It’s usually near the wallpaper and paint section.

    LESLIE: In the paint prep.

    TOM: And you mix it up with water and it’s pretty good at pulling stuff out of – pulling stains out of things. But I’ve never used it on raw wood. I don’t see why you couldn’t give it a try, though.

    SUSAN: Yeah. It hasn’t – it actually – you know, I didn’t know if mineral spirits or …

    TOM: No. No, no, no, no, no, no, no. That’s going to do nothing but set it. I would try the TSP but if that doesn’t work, you’re just going to have to sand this.

    SUSAN: OK, that’s fine.

    TOM: And you’re going to sand enough to eventually cut through it. It’s not black all the way through, so eventually you’re going to cut through to fresh wood.

    SUSAN: Right.

    TOM: And then once you sand it, what you’re probably going to do is stain it and that’ll even out the color. So I would use a Minwax stain – an oil-based Minwax stain – and I would stain it to even out the color. And then I would finish it with a clear finish.

    SUSAN: Perfect. You have answered my question and I’m so glad I talked to you. I didn’t realize the mineral spirits would set it. So, thank you, guys, so very much.

    LESLIE: Mike in Georgia is on the line. What can we do for you today?

    MIKE: Hey, guys. Thanks for taking my call.

    We’ve got carpet in the basement. We just bought this house about six months ago and they’ve got some kind of mold issue and I’m not going to mess with it. I’m just going to rip it out. I don’t want to re-carpet it and I don’t want concrete floors. I’ve heard laminated wood, engineered wood, plastic wood. Could you give me a nickel education on this?

    TOM: Well, absolutely. First of all, you’re really smart to tear out carpet from a basement, for all the reasons you stated. I mean carpet is like – it’s a filter and you put it down in the basement, it traps dust, dust mites and allergens. It holds moisture in and it can be a very unhealthy situation. So removing that, going down to concrete and thinking about a hard-surface flooring is a wise move.

    You do have options. The two best options would be laminate flooring and engineered-hardwood flooring. A good source for both products is Lumber Liquidators. They have good products, good prices, great experts there. We’ve had them on the show a number of times.

    And whether or not you go with laminate or hardwood, the installation’s going to be really important. You’re going to follow their directions on that and make sure you have the appropriate vapor barriers down.

    Now, engineered hardwood is just like regular hardwood except that it’s made kind of like plywood, with different layers that overlap. And this gives it dimensional stability, which is the reason you could put it in a damp area like a basement.

    LESLIE: Right. But then the top layer is actually the hardwood veneer of the hardwood that you’re looking at, so it’s truly a beautiful floor.

    MIKE: OK, cool.

    TOM: Now laminate is also an option and the laminate flooring today is absolutely gorgeous. And I’m telling you, in many cases, you cannot tell that it isn’t hardwood floor because it looks so good. If you decide not to go with that hardwood look, you could get a laminate.

    Like I have Lumber Liquidators laminate in my kitchen. It looks like stone and it’s beautiful, it’s tough. We’ve raised three kids on it. You just can’t kill this stuff. So, I would take a look at LumberLiquidators.com. Take a look at either laminate or engineered hardwood. Not solid hardwood, because that will move if it gets damp or wet, but only engineered. Does that make sense, Rich?

    MIKE: That makes great sense. Thank you so much.

    LESLIE: Don in Pennsylvania is on the line with a lighting question. How can we help you today?

    DON: Now, we’re going to redo our kitchen ceiling this year and we have these 6-inch pot lights up in the ceiling.

    TOM: OK. Yeah, the can lights?

    DON: Yeah.

    TOM: OK.

    DON: And we were wondering if we would take them out, if we put the LED lights under the cabinets, if it would give us as much light.

    TOM: No, I wouldn’t take them out. I would keep them in.

    Now, one is for area lighting, one is for task lighting. So the LED lights that could go under the edge of the cabinet could give you task-specific lighting for food prep. And they also look darn cool when you dim them at a party or something like that.

    DON: Yeah.

    TOM: But I would keep the lights in the ceiling.

    But by the way, you have a lot of options in the type of bulb that you can put in those ceiling lights. You could actually put in LED bulbs into those ceiling lights, too. And you may find the quality of light is better than what you have with the incandescents.

    DON: Take them out and put maybe like 4-inch ones in smaller ones or just leave the 6 ones in there?

    TOM: I would leave them. I think that – I think you could use the 6-inch ones that you have. I don’t think that’s part of the project that’s going to give you a good return on investment. But if you change the bulbs out, I think you’ll find that that will make a difference.

    Take a look at those Philips bulbs. I’ve got several of those now in my house, including in the kitchen, as can lights. They’re LEDs and we matched them up with Lutron dimmers where you can adjust the dimming range. And they’re super-bright and they cost a heck of a lot less to run than the incandescents. And they last a lot longer. We used to replace those incandescents all the time and these have been – I’ve never had to replace them and I think they say they last over 20 years.

    DON: Where would you find the (inaudible at 0:18:40) on that?

    TOM: You can get them at Home Depot.

    DON: OK.

    TOM: I know that I’ve gone there. They’re really interesting looking, Jack. They’re the ones that look – they look like yellow. They kind of look – I always think they look like bug lights.

    DON: OK.

    TOM: But you’ll be amazed when the thing comes on how bright it is.

    DON: OK.

    LESLIE: Still ahead, if getting organized was your New Year’s resolution, well, you’re a month late but you still have time. You know, it’s hard because I imagine with people who are unorganized, you just don’t know where to start. So we’re bringing in the big guns. We’re going to have some tips from a professional organizer, next.

    TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Well, there’s no time like the beginning of a new year to get organized at home. It can help you save time and money. Have you ever had to buy something that you have but you just can’t find? Well, if you get organized, that won’t happen to you.

    LESLIE: That’s right. So here to tell us how to get organized is pro organizer Barbara Reich.

    Welcome, Barbara.

    BARBARA: Thank you.

    TOM: So, getting organized is something that I think people get overwhelmed with. They kind of get frustrated, things get a little crazy. How do you get started? Where do you tell people to kind of jump right into it?

    BARBARA: I think what happens to a lot of people is they’re paralyzed. And what I suggest is blocking out enough time to make a difference. So instead of spending five minutes here and five minutes there – so you never really have an impact – pick an area, dedicate a block of time and then just dive in.

    So, if it’s your closet, if it’s a drawer, if it’s a corner of your living room, it means taking everything out, purging and then putting back the things that you want, in a neat way.

    TOM: So, basically, breaking it down into smaller parts so that it’s not too overwhelming. Just start small and build from there?

    BARBARA: That would definitely be one way to approach it.

    LESLIE: Barbara, what are some of the benefits of getting organized?

    BARBARA: Well, first of all, life is less chaotic. The second thing that happens is that you save money. So, for example, if you organize and all of your batteries in one – are in one place and then you actually take a label maker, such as the Brother P-touch Label Maker, and label the area “batteries,” and there’s only now one place in your house where the batteries are, you won’t waste money buying batteries when you have batteries. And everyone in your house will know where to go to get batteries. And that eliminates so much chaos from everyday life.

    So, start with batteries and multiply that by magic markers, phone chargers, black sweaters, Tupperware containers or anything else in your house. And the effects of all of that really make a big difference.

    LESLIE: Barbara, you’ve been doing this a long time. Have you noticed a pattern? Is there a room in the home that just tends to be the number-one unorganized space?

    BARBARA: I think it’s generally the room people live in the most. So, a kitchen, a great room. That’s where the mail will accumulate. That’s where people put their magazines, their homework, the briefcase. And then that’s where a lot of the hanging out happens. So, often it’s the kitchen counters that are really a messy spot.

    TOM: We’re talking to Barbara Reich – she is a professional organizer – with some tips on how to get organized now as we jump into the new year.

    You are working with the folks at the P-touch company and you’ve got something going on called the 25 Days of P-touch. What’s that all about?

    BARBARA: They’re great stories. They’re 25 stories online of people who have really used the label maker in very innovative ways. There’s a beekeeper. I mean I really encourage people to go to the website, www.Brother-USA.com/Ptouch25 so you could read these stories. Because they’re really – they’re very entertaining and very instructive.

    TOM: So do you keep yourself organized, Barbara, or is it kind of the shoemaker’s kids go barefoot? I know that counts for me.

    BARBARA: Oh, no. I’m crazy. I will not go to sleep at night unless my house is perfectly organized.

    TOM: Alright. Barbara Reich, professional organizer, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    If you’d like more information, perhaps some more tips, you can read how other folks are getting organized. Head on over to Brother-USA.com/Ptouch25.

    Thanks, Barbara.

    BARBARA: Thank you.

    LESLIE: Alright. And still ahead, advice on how decluttering your home can make it less of a trip hazard. Plus, tips on how you can make your home more comfortable for the seniors who come to visit, so stick around.

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    TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Hey, pick up the phone, give us a call right now. We are here to help you with your home improvement projects. And one caller we talk to on the air this hour is going to win a graffiti-strewn copy of our book, My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure.

    Now, if you prefer for us to not sign it so maybe you can sell it on Amazon or (audio gap), well, we’ll send you a blank one, as well. Either way, we’re here to give you the home improvement tips and advice that you need to get the projects done on your money pit, 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Deb in Missouri on the line who needs help with a flooring question. How can we help you?

    DEB: Yes. Well, we replaced our flooring but we destroyed most of the molding trying to get it off along the mopboard.

    TOM: OK.

    DEB: And we were wondering, what’s the best way to put new on? What would be the best to use? The walls are all plaster. It looked like the nails had been set before the plaster was dry, because we had to cut them off.

    TOM: And so how high up the walls did the molding go? Because usually with plaster walls, the molding is a lot taller than a standard 3½-inch base molding.

    DEB: It’s 3½ inches.

    TOM: It is 3½ inches?

    DEB: Yes. But we could go a wee bit higher and it still look nice.

    TOM: Right. OK. Do you want the molding to be painted or natural?

    DEB: Well, I don’t think we’ll ever match the doors. It’s all wood and I don’t think we’d ever match that.

    TOM: OK. So do you want the molding to be painted, then?

    DEB: Yes. We’ll probably go painted, yes. But adhering it to the walls is going to be a real pain because of that plaster.

    TOM: Hmm. Yeah. Well, you’re going to do it with a combination of trim screws and LIQUID NAILS. So you’re not going to nail it, OK?

    What you’re going to do is – probably the least expensive thing to buy is something called finger-joint Colonial baseboard molding. It’s a very straightforward molding with a little bit of a fluted edge on top. It looks nice; it looks finished.

    Is it – does the thickness matter? Does it have to be a certain thickness to cover a gap between the wall and the floor?

    DEB: At least a ¼-inch, yes.

    TOM: Quarter-inch? OK. So all you’re going to need is the molding then. Because you could put the molding and then shoe molding over that, which would extend it out to almost an inch. But no, you’re going to buy finger-joint baseboard molding. Finger-joint means it’s ready for paint.

    Now, before you apply it to the walls, I would prime it so it’s a lot easier to paint this molding. In fact, I would prime it and I’d put one finish coat of paint on it because it’s a lot easier to paint it when it’s up on some sawhorses than when it’s attached to your house.

    And then when it comes to installation, you’re going to – and you know what? You might want to get a carpenter that knows how to do this because, frankly, it’s just a lot easier if you know how to make a corner joint, which is called a “coped joint.” And you do it with a coping saw.

    But the way you attach it is with – after it’s all cut to fit, you apply some LIQUID NAILS to the back of the molding and then you put in only as many trim screws – and trim screws are kind of like drywall screws except they have a really tiny head, like a finish nail. But you only put enough of those in to hold it while it’s drying. So you’re not going to have nearly as many trim screws as you will nails. And it’ll be really solid.

    And the last thing you do is fill those holes. And you put one finish coat of paint on when – and then you’re completely done. So by putting the paint on ahead of time, you’re halfway there. All you do is touch it up, fill the holes, one more coat of paint, you’re good to go. OK?

    DEB: Awesome. Thank you so very much.

    TOM: Deb, good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Well, keeping seniors safe at home has become a top priority for millions of Americans. And according to a survey by AARP, most seniors want to remain in their homes as long as possible. But this desire to age in place means that you need to make some improvements to keep them safe, comfortable and secure in the golden years.

    LESLIE: Yeah. First of all, you need to avoid falling or tripping by getting rid of any cluttered areas that you’ve got around the house. You also want to provide some wider pathways between your rooms. And high-traffic rooms tend to be the ones that are most prone to accidents, so you want to check the bathroom, the bedroom, your kitchen, your staircase and even your dining room carefully so you can improve safety with an eye toward eliminating obstruction.

    It’s most important, though, to get rid of those small scatter rugs. Because what happens as you age, you’re not picking up your feet as much as you used to, although my husband always said I would drag my feet and I’m only in my 30s. So where am I going to be when I’m 70?

    But really, that’s the problem. You want to make sure that you’re really removing any of those trip hazards.

    TOM: Now, you want to watch out for unstable furniture, broken chair legs, that sort of thing. Repair or replace any of those types of pieces in your house. If you happen to have an elevated platform bed, this is a very difficult type of bed to get into and out of and it can lead to an unexpected fall, so use a bed only as high as necessary. And if you need a stepstool around the house for hard-to-reach places, make sure it has a firm-footed design. Never use a chair or anything like that to reach those high spots.

    LESLIE: Now, in the bathroom, you could actually raise the height of a toilet seat and install grab bars, which come in all kinds of designs so you don’t have to make your bathroom look like a hospital room. But it really is very helpful and really a safety necessity when you’re not so stable on your feet.

    TOM: For more tips, check out our article, “How to Keep Seniors Safe,” online, right now, at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Robert in North Carolina is on the line and is dealing with a dryer that – guess what? – just is not drying. That’s the worst. Tell us what’s going on.

    ROBERT: Well, I’ve got a dryer; it’s about five or six years old. And here, lately, for about the past six or eight months, it’s taken sometimes three cycles to dry a medium-to-large size load of clothes.

    TOM: Oh, that makes no sense.

    ROBERT: Yeah. And the heating element was replaced maybe a year-and-a-half, two years ago. We just don’t know what’s going on with it.

    TOM: Do you get good airflow when the dryer runs, where it’s pushing warm air out the exhaust duct?

    ROBERT: Yeah. I went up to the roof one time when it was running and it was coming out of there fairly decent and the air was warm.

    TOM: You just may have uncovered one problem. When you take a dryer vent and you push it up against gravity – and so it’s driving all the way up to the roof from, I presume, the second floor – a dryer is not really designed to do that. And I know that a lot of times, folks install them that way but trying to force that hot air to go up all of that distance to the roof can sometimes be problematic.

    Look, if your dryer’s not heating properly, there’s only a few things that could be causing that. One is the heating element. So, let’s presume that this is working correctly, although it certainly seems – sounds like it’s not. There could be multiple heating elements and one could be burned out. This is a reason you feel some warm air.

    The next thing is the ductwork and you want to make sure that that’s clean: not only the external ductwork but even internally. Sometimes, if you get something stuck in the internal ductwork in the dryer, that can block some of the airflow itself.


    TOM: And the other thing that can happen is sometimes it can overheat and then cycle. So, if it’s overheating, what’ll happen is it’ll get really hot and then it’ll overheat and the heating element will go off. And then it’ll cool down and then it’ll come on again, it’ll get really hot and it’ll go off. And that kind of cycling of a thermostat can be a problem, as well.

    I mean at this point, it sounds to me like you’ve done almost everything that you can do on your own. You might want to either replace it or get it serviced.

    How old is the dryer?

    ROBERT: Probably no more than six years.

    TOM: Yeah, well, you know, six to eight years is not a terribly short period of time for a dryer. So, you might want to think about replacing it or getting a pro to fix it. Because I think it’s probably one of those three things that’s causing the issue.

    ROBERT: Yeah. And another thing, it’s got about between 20, 25 feet of – it has the corrugated duct. And we were thinking about changing that to the smooth, stovepipe kind of duct. Would that help, also?

    TOM: Where is this 20, 25 feet? You mean from the discharge port all the way up to the attic where it discharges?

    ROBERT: Yes.

    TOM: That’s a long way and certainly a solid metal duct is going to be better. Can you go up into the attic and then go sort of across the attic floor and down towards the soffit and install a vent right there?

    ROBERT: It’s possible. It’s just a single-story house, so I’m sure I could do that. But the laundry room is in the middle of the house.

    TOM: I’ve got to tell you, even if you had that venting perfectly, three – running this thing for three loads to dry one load of clothes sounds like it’s something else and not necessarily totally venting.

    ROBERT: OK. Yeah, we were thinking about – just don’t think it’s worth it to call somebody out there to fix it. We’ve got – we found a fairly decent dryer. We know somebody that runs a childcare center and uses the one we’re thinking about getting. And they run it five, six times a day and they’ve had theirs for three years.

    TOM: I think that makes sense. Unfortunately, these products today are almost disposable because the cost of repair is so high. I will give you one other suggestion. There’s a website called RepairClinic.com that’s pretty good at helping you identify problems with appliances and then selling you the parts you need to fix it.

    So, you may want to take a look at that. They have a little tool there where you can put in your model number and it’ll walk you through the scenarios. And who knows? It might be a common problem with that particular model.

    Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Still to come, wood stoves. They’re a great way to help cut those heating costs if they’re installed safely. And that is really super-important here. We’re going to help a listener tackle that challenge, next.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Alright. We’re going to jump into our e-mail bag of questions from people posting on the Community section. And we’ve got one here from Bridget in Florida who writes: “We’d like to get a wood stove but wonder what kind of material you can use behind and under to make sure that it’s installed safely.”

    TOM: OK. Well, the short answer is that in the absence of information from the manufacturer of the wood stove, you go with the rule of 3 feet. You want to have 36 inches of clearance all around the sides and of course, the top of the wood stove even more than that. However, those distances can be shrunk based on what type of heat shields that you put in.

    Now, what I would suggest you do is to follow the National Fire Protection Association guidelines, which will spec out exactly what you can and can’t do to make sure that wood stove is installed in such a way as to assure that it can operate safely, regardless of the size of the fire that you built inside of it.

    LESLIE: Yeah, that’s really nothing to mess with, guys.

    TOM: Well, furniture shopping can be an overwhelming experience, especially if you’re trying to figure out which type of furniture is going to be most durable for your family situation. Leslie has some tips on how to solve that dilemma, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    LESLIE: Yeah. You know, when you’re buying furniture – especially if it’s an upholstered piece, like a sofa or a side chair or even dining chairs – you really want to keep in mind that this is a purchase that you’re probably going to spend a good bit of money on. Regardless of what your budget is, it’s a good bit of money.

    And it’s something that you’re going to want to keep for the long term, so you want to make sure that when you’re selecting the fabrics, whether it’s fabric or leather for whatever type of upholstered piece you’re getting in your house, that you pick something that’s going to be durable, that its style is going to maintain and that it’s going to be something that you’re going to like for as long as you’ll like that piece and as long as that piece is going to last. So there’s a lot of things to consider because it is a piece that you’re investing in.

    Now, when it comes to leather, leather is a great choice. It’s super-durable, it’s wipeable to clean. It can dry out in certain homes, so you have to make sure that your indoor-air quality – you’ve got a good moisture level there. And occasionally, they do need to be oiled just to keep up that luster and that softness. Some people don’t like them because they feel like they get stuck to them in the warmer months or they’re colder in the winter months. But leather is beautiful. It’s kind of got a mod look but you can also get an age-y, rustic look when it comes to leather.

    Now, when it comes to fabric, people just get overwhelmed because you look at a wall of swatches and there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of choices. So, here’s my biggest takeaway tip: if you’ve got small kids, if you’ve got pets, if you’re an adult who’s simply accident-prone and like to spill things by accident, you really want to look at a fabric. And if you go into a fabric showroom or if you’re in a furniture store, ask them for their indoor/outdoor fabrics.

    I know it sounds crazy. You’re thinking, “Is it scratchy? Will I like it?” Indoor/outdoor fabrics are not just the umbrella fabrics of 15, 20 years ago. There are fabrics today that are beautiful, soft, even feel like velvet but they’re made for indoor/outdoor use, which means they can get wet, they can be scrubbed, they can be cleaned. And if you’ve got small kids or kids that are older and just have friends over a lot or pets, you’re going to want something that you’re going to be able to clean. And an indoor/outdoor fabric is going to give you that range, so that’s really something to look into.

    Now, if you’re having a piece custom-made, you might want to look into the cushions having removable cases so that they’re easier for the entire case to have cleaned. Because you can get a style that’s a tight seat or a tight back, which means the fabric is on, it’s there, you can’t ever remove it from the sofa body itself.

    But keep in mind indoor/outdoor fabric. Open your eyes to that area. If you’re just closed-minded there, look at a microfiber. Those are easy to clean, as well. Microsuedes. You just want to make sure that you get something that will last and that you can keep clean. This way, you can enjoy it for the long term.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up next time on The Money Pit, winter means being indoors a lot. But if you’re worried about breathing that same stale air over and over again, you’re not alone. Because the EPA reports that indoor air can be even worse to breathe than outdoor air. There’s a scary thought.

    Now, the solution might be a whole-house air cleaner but there are a lot of options to sort through. We’re going to tell you all about those, on the 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 2014 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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