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Black Out Survival Tips, Should You Go Solar?, How to Organize Your Home and Create Clutter Free Landing Zones and more

  • Transcript

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And we are so happy that you are here. And we are here to help you with your home improvement projects. So, if you’ve got a project on your to-do list, think about it. We know there’s something that you want to get done. Have you resolved in 2014 to get better organized? Do you want to take on a painting project? Is the heating system on its last legs? Do you want to plan a project for spring? Now is a great time to think about what you’re going to need to get that job done. All great questions. Pick up the phone and call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Coming up this hour, winter can be wicked in much of the country about now. It packs not only a punch but you’ve got powerful storms that, as we just saw over the holidays, can quickly lead to power outages. What a terrible, terrible time that folks had in the Midwest, and in other areas, with hundreds of thousands of folks not having power.

    So this hour, we’re going to give you some blackout survival tips to help you get through those times if it happens to you.

    LESLIE: And speaking of power, solar panels are a common sight on rooftops these days but does it really pay to install them? Well, it all depends on the return on investment. So, we’re going to sort out the options.

    TOM: Plus, we’re going to tell you how one household item can improve your home’s organization by helping get rid of clutter and keeping things where you need them.

    LESLIE: And this hour, we’re giving away a Rugged Rukus. It’s a solar-powered Bluetooth speaker from Etón. It’s great to take on a camping trip or even on a job site.

    TOM: It’s a prize worth 100 bucks, so call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. Let’s get to it.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Ann in Missouri is on the line with an insulation question. How can we help you?

    ANN: Hi. I don’t have very wide walls in my home. And so the – there’s not much insulation between the outdoors and the indoors. And what I was wondering – I want to add to it and so I was wanting to extend the walls out a little bit. I didn’t know whether I should just leave the covering up and put a line of 2x4s on it or if I should take the wall covering off for the insulation.

    TOM: The walls do have some insulation in it now and you’re wanting to know how you can actually …?

    ANN: Yeah, I want to add to it but I didn’t know whether I should just take the wall covering off …

    TOM: Ann, what kind of walls do you have right now? They 2×4 walls and are those 2×4 wall cavities filled with insulation? When you say they have a little bit, how do you know how much they have and how much they don’t have?

    ANN: I’ve looked in between them. I’ve looked in the outlets and it’s just cold in there.

    TOM: OK. Mm-hmm, OK. Well, look, I don’t think adding more insulation to the walls is going to be the solution to why it’s cold. There’s probably another reason it’s cold.

    Now, the places to add insulation are in ceilings or floors – those are easy to access to – but most importantly ceilings. And if it’s just plain cold there, you may not have enough BTUs of heat getting to that space. How is that area of your house heated?

    ANN: It’s just a furnace, gas.

    TOM: Ducts? What, like …?

    ANN: Ducts.

    TOM: Ducts, OK. And is this an addition?

    ANN: Nope. It’s just my regular domain. So probably underneath more than any – and up above would help tremendously.

    TOM: That’s where you would add insulation: in the floor structure underneath and in the ceiling above but not the walls. The walls you can seal, you can caulk. You can replace windows or doors that are drafty. But that’s a difficult place to add insulation. The easy place to add it is in the ceiling or the floor below, OK?

    ANN: OK.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Frank in North Carolina on the line who’s dealing with a flooring project. Tell us what you’re working on.

    FRANK: Yeah. I had some flood damage to a building and I had ¾-inch waferboard in it and I replaced it with ¾-inch plywood. I wanted to put down wood-plank flooring and I’m wondering if I need to put down underlayment before I put down the wood plank or just use adhesives and nails on it.

    TOM: You want to put down prefinished or raw wood-plank flooring?

    FRANK: Raw.

    TOM: So you want to put down unfinished wood flooring? Well, typically, all you do is lay down rosin paper. You know what that is?

    FRANK: Rosin paper, OK.

    LESLIE: It’s like that pink roll of paper that you find in – it’s usually in the flooring or the roofing section, somewhere in the home center.

    TOM: Yeah, just because it gives you a clean surface to start on. And then you’ll nail right through that. You don’t glue the flooring down; you nail it down with a – you can rent a nail gun – a flooring gun – so you get the nails in. Because the nails have to be driven at an angle into the tongue of the floor. So, you rent a nail gun and go from there.

    FRANK: OK. Thank you so much.

    TOM: You’re welcome. 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 on air and online at MoneyPit.com.

    Well, we are just about a month into the new year. You guys enjoying 2014 so far? I know I am. So far, so good, as I’m knocking on my head. Well, are you guys working on any projects that maybe you need some help with? You getting ready for your tax return and you’re wondering what kind of home improvement things you can put against that? Don’t ask us; ask your accountant. But we’ve got ideas.

    Anyway, give us a call. We’d love to give you a hand with your home improvement questions 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, if you lose power, are you often left to stumble around in the dark because you have no idea where you last left the flashlight? Not good. We’re going to give you some blackout survival tips, 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: Standing by for your call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    One caller we talk to on the air this hour is going to get the answer to their home improvement question and perhaps will win the Rugged Rukus Speaker from Etón.

    Now, this weighs about a pound and it measures about a ½-foot in length. But it’s pretty cool because it’s a solar-powered, portable, wireless sound system and it really has this amazing, booming audio to it.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And it’s got a splash-proof, durable design and Bluetooth compatibility. And the solar panel charges the internal lithium-ion battery, so you will have endless supply as long as the sun continues to shine.

    TOM: Yeah. And you can also recharge your smartphone with the same thing, so that’s kind of cool.

    Anyway, the Rugged Rukus Speaker from Etón is worth 100 bucks. Going to go out to one caller whose name we will draw at random from those that reach us for today’s program. So, what are you waiting for? Pick up the phone and give us a call. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Barbara in Florida is on the line and has a pool-cleaning question. Well, really, the screen. How can we help you, Barbara?

    BARBARA: Yeah. I’m here in Northwest Florida and I have a very large screen enclosure that’s just covered with green mold on it. So I’m looking for something. I’ve tried just a pressure washer and it’s not taking it off, so I need something – some ideas of cleaning it that’s also environment-friendly, because I do have plants around the screen enclosure.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And probably because of the height, you want to do it once and not have to do it again for a long time, right?

    BARBARA: Absolutely.

    LESLIE: You know, Barbara, Tom and I have worked with a product called Wet & Forget. It’s actually perfect for your type of environment, because you have high mold growth because of the humidity in Florida.

    And what it is – it’s a product that you put on and I bet in your application – Tom, it’d probably – best for her to roll it on or can she spray it on?

    TOM: Well, she’d probably spray it on with a garden sprayer.

    But you apply it and basically, that’s it. Mother Nature, wind and rain do the rest.

    LESLIE: And it’s not going to make it go away that moment you put it on but give it a week’s time and that mold and mildew is gone.

    BARBARA: OK. And you think with spraying it on the screen it would still – the screen would catch some of the product?

    TOM: Yes, absolutely. It’s designed for any exterior surface so, certainly, screening is fine.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And it won’t damage the pool or any surrounding plants.

    TOM: Or the plants.

    BARBARA: OK. Well, that sounds like a perfect solution then.

    TOM: Take a look at their website. It’s WetAndForget.com.

    LESLIE: And the results will last for a long time.

    BARBARA: Well, that’s great to know. Yeah, it’s something I don’t want to have to do. Well, I don’t mind doing it once a year but that would be the max on it.

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

    LESLIE: J.C. in North Carolina is on the line with a question about radon. How can we help you?

    J.C.: If your home is built on a concrete slab, then are you in danger of radon effect?

    TOM: Well, you could potentially be in danger of it but the risk, that would be a far smaller chance of you having an elevated radon level on a concrete slab than if you had a basement. Because radon is a gas that emits from the soil and typically, it gets into the home at the basement level through concrete-block walls and the concrete floor and the gaps around it, builds up in the basement. And it’s typically highest in the basement, then it gets far less on the first floor, second floor and so on.

    J.C.: Yes. And I would assume it would be more dangerous with a crawlspace then.

    TOM: Actually, I think it’s less dangerous with a crawlspace and here’s why: because crawlspaces are open to the outside all the time, so they’re completely ventilated. So the highest risk would be if A) you were in an area that was prone to radon and B) you had a basement. Then you would definitely want a test.

    Now, in North Carolina, there are three different Radon Zone levels: 1, 2 and 3. Very little of the state is in the Radon Zone 1, which is the highest risk. I’d say about 30 percent, maybe 25 percent is in Radon Zone 2 but the rest of the state is all Radon Zone 3, which is the lowest risk.

    And in your area, which is Lee County, you’re in Radon Zone 3. So you’re in an area that has a low risk of radon, you’re on a concrete slab. I’d say the likeliness of you having a radon problem is very small but the only way to know is to test, J.C. And you could do that with a charcoal adsorption canister very inexpensively.

    J.C.: Alright. Well, I do thank you.

    TOM: You’re very welcome. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Well, you no doubt saw all the news stories over the holidays about the hundreds of thousands of people who lost power due to winter storms. Now, if that were to happen to you, there are a few do’s and don’ts to consider.

    First off, don’t use candles. You want to invest in good flashlights and keep them handy and always in the same spot. And also remember to check the batteries so they’re good to go when you need them.

    Think about turning off and unplugging all your electrical equipment. This way, you won’t get a power surge when you turn it back on again, which could damage it. And also, disconnect any appliances, like stoves or any electronics that you were using – like computers, especially – for the same reason. And leave at least one light turned on so you’ll know instantly when the power has, in fact, been restored.

    LESLIE: Yeah. You also want to keep your refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as humanly possible. First of all, you want to make sure that you use up your perishable food first from the fridge.

    And remember that if you don’t open your refrigerator, it can keep your foods cold for about four hours. Then once you’ve gotten through everything in the fridge, you can use the food from the freezer. A full freezer is actually going to keep its temperature for about 48 hours – 24 if the freezer is half full – if you keep that door closed. So, kind of do a mental inventory of what’s in there. No opening and browsing. Alright, guys?

    You want to use your non-perishable foods and staples after you get through what you’ve got in the fridge and freezer. And if it looks like your power outage is going to continue beyond today, prepare a cooler with ice for your freezer items. Keep food in a dry, cool spot. And keep it covered at all times and that should get you through until the power comes back on.

    TOM: Yeah. And most importantly, this is something all too common when we have power failures and that is you need to be mindful of carbon-monoxide issues. A lot of folks will use portable generators, which is fine except you cannot use them in the house, obviously. And you can also not use them even in an open garage, because those fumes will work their way back into the house and it could cause a very dangerous situation.

    And if you want to be totally prepared against power outages, do consider installing a standby generator. It makes total sense and your home will be repowered within 10 seconds of losing power from the utility company.

    LESLIE: Bob in Washington is on the line with a roofing question. What can we do for you today?

    BOB: I’m looking at putting a roof on the home and in the Yellow Page ads, there’s – one advertises against the other. There’s two; they’re larger contractors here. And one suggests that he’s better by using a hand-nailed technique versus air-mechanical. And I’d like your thoughts on that.

    TOM: Well, I think it makes no difference whether the roofing product is nailed by hand or nailed with an air gun. Both are completely acceptable ways to fasten roofing products to the house.

    I think what makes the difference between one pro or the other is really their workmanship. So I would not be confused by competing claims of how a roof is nailed. I can see somebody using that as – it’s kind of like hand-cut, hand-finished, hand-nailed. You have this sort of vision of something that’s quality in craftsmanship involvement, right? But I really don’t think it makes a difference.

    But what makes all the difference when hiring a roofer is the quality of that work and how well the roof is put together, especially when it comes to those intersections that have to be flashed. So, if all else looks good with these two roofers, I would do a deeper dive on their references and perhaps check online sites like ServiceMagic or Angie’s List, sites like that, to just double-check what their reputations are, talk to past customers.

    Last time I had to hire a contractor that I did not know, I did get a list of references. And I’ve got to say, I think the contractor was quite shocked when I actually called these folks. So get their references and call them and you’ll find people are generally very willing to talk to you about their experience with the contractor. So, I think that’s the best way to proceed. Workmanship makes all the difference when it comes to hiring a roofer.

    BOB: On the roofing material, up in the Northwest where I am now, would – is there – and I’m looking at a conventional, three-tab, asphalt-type composition roof. Is there a better grade of material or something that I should be looking for? As you can tell, this is a first-time roof for me, so …

    TOM: Are you in a high-wind area?

    BOB: We do get quite a bit of wind up where I’m at, up – kind of up on a hill.

    TOM: I would consider the wind-resistance but a product like an Owens Corning shingle is excellent. But I would definitely consider the wind-resistance and buy a product that’s weighted for – that’s rated for wind. Some of those – I know some of those OC shingles are rated for over 100 miles an hour.

    LESLIE: I think it’s even up to 150.

    TOM: Yeah. The good news is the roof will be there; the house, not so much.

    BOB: Well, thank you so much. That’s been enlightening to me to hear what you have to say.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Jackie in Colorado on the line with a wood-paneling question. How can we help you today?

    JACKIE: Well, I’ve got this old, medium-colored wood paneling, which is really light, that was put over concrete walls. It’s the one that’s got the black stripe in it.

    TOM: OK.

    JACKIE: I just want to know how – the best way to clean it. Years ago, I used Murphen (ph) Oil.

    TOM: You mean Murphy’s Oil?

    JACKIE: Uh-huh.

    TOM: Yeah, Murphy’s Oil Soap is the best way to clean wood. Have you used that again?

    JACKIE: Well, I just used maybe a tablespoon with a bucket of warm water. Would that be OK?

    TOM: Yeah, I think you can actually use a little more than that. Follow the label directions. But when you’re trying to clean old wood paneling like that, Murphy’s Oil Soap is really the best way to go because it’s not going to dry out the wood and damage it. It’s very, very gentle. Just follow the instructions but I think that’s the best product to use for that situation.

    JACKIE: OK. I really enjoy your program. It’s just very enlightening for me and I’m not – you know, if I need to find something else, I’ll just call you guys.

    TOM: Alright, Jackie. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Dorothy in California is on the line and she needs some help with a wall texture. Tell us what you’re working on.

    DOROTHY: Well, what we had – we have the wall and it was a heater there. We took the heater out; it was – it’s in the hallway. And then we finished everything and now we’re trying to find a way to kind of match the texture that was there originally.

    TOM: And what kind of texture would you – how would you describe this texture, Dorothy?

    DOROTHY: Well, it would have – like some of them will be a round shape and the other ones like an oval shape. And then they would have little, tiny circles. And then, in some cases, you would have – like they went over with a brush or something. So they’re kind of a different type of shape and sizes of circles or oval shape.

    TOM: OK. So, one of the things that you can do is you could – once that’s all patched and repaired – is you can apply some spackle to the surface of the drywall, like we used to do when it was Plaster of Paris?


    TOM: And then you can take a wallpaper brush – which is a big, heavy, bristled brush – and twist that brush with your hand. Twist it and it makes circles in that wet spackle. And if it’s a big circle, use a bigger brush. If it’s a smaller circle, use a smaller brush. And you can twist it and try to sort of match the pattern as closely as you can to what was there before. And then just paint the whole thing the same color and it’ll probably blend in pretty nicely.

    DOROTHY: Alright. Thank you so much for your help.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Up next, if solar panels are becoming common in your neighborhood, have you wondered if it’s a good idea for your home? We’ll shed some light, 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: Where home solutions live, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And if you want to know how to get in on the great prize giveaways we do here on The Money Pit and also online at MoneyPit.com. Check out our Facebook page. Please follow us on Facebook and on Twitter because we post all of our weekly giveaways, with info on how you can win. You’ll be the first to find out about what’s new and what’s hot and what’s going out the door here at The Money Pit.

    LESLIE: Erica in Illinois is dealing with a paint situation. Tell us what’s going on. You’ve got peeling and bubbling?

    ERICA: Yes. I had my paint – my ceiling painted by someone probably about three years ago. And just recently, the ceiling has started peeling and the walls have started, oh, crackling almost. Like it looks like underneath, there’s a crackle to it that if I pressed it hard, it would flake off.

    TOM: OK. So I suspect that when it was painted last time, the walls may not have been prepped properly. They clearly were not primed. I think now is an opportunity, Erica, where you’re going to have to get rid of all of that old, loose paint. Sand the ceiling down, sand the walls down and apply a primer. The primer is going to be key here because whatever that unknown surface is underneath that layer, we want to make sure we have something that can attach to it. And primer you should think of as sort of the glue that makes the paint stick.

    So, prep what you have, prime it thoroughly, then put a second top coat on. And that last coat, make sure you use a really good-quality paint and make sure it’s flat for the ceiling. And that will hide any imperfections that might be left behind. Does that make sense?

    ERICA: Yes. Now, as far as my wall, do I need to try to scrape it off so I don’t have any of this crackle looking – on my wall?

    TOM: Yeah, I definitely would. I would definitely try to get rid of as much of that loose paint as possible and the same thing goes: prime them and then do a top coat after that.

    ERICA: OK. Alright. Sounds like a job but I’ll take it on.

    TOM: And I know you can do it, Erica. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: No doubt you’ve seen them on rooftops in even the most remote areas of the country by now. We’re talking about solar panels.

    Now, solar power is a very attractive option when you consider that not only will your electric bill be drastically reduced, you might even be able to sell some of that power you harness back to the electric company.

    TOM: Ah, yes. And there does seem to be some poetic justice in that opportunity. But going solar can require a big, upfront investment. And the question is, of course: is it worth it? Here to help us sort out the options is Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House.

    Welcome, Kevin.

    KEVIN: Hi, guys. Great to be back.

    TOM: And it seems like we are seeing solar panels pop up pretty much everywhere these days, even on schools and other public buildings. So, what’s the scoop? Have we gotten to the point where these really do make some sense?

    KEVIN: Well, I would have to agree that the popularity is increasing. And I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that there are tax breaks available now. There are discounts and rebates and grants available for some homeowners. So, in those cases, it makes a compelling case to go solar.

    LESLIE: So, Kevin, how does a solar energy-collecting system really work?

    KEVIN: Well, if it’s a photovoltaic system, then there are actually panels, typically, up on your roof and they are collecting sunlight and turning them into electricity. So that means you have to have the panels. You also have to have something called an “inverter” so that you can convert direct current to alternating current and then wire the house.

    And photovoltaic systems are actually the most popular form of solar power.

    TOM: Now, does that mean that we are cutting our grid sort of to the main utility? Or can we kind of have the best of both worlds?

    KEVIN: Well, it’s not an either/or. I mean you don’t have to say, “I’m going to go all solar and won’t rely on the grid,” or, “I’m going to rely on the grid and can’t rely on solar.” You can do both, which is great, which means that you can rely on solar to make some of your electricity and the grid can provide the rest.

    And in some situations, if your municipality is set up to do this, as you guys said, you can actually take any excess electricity that you make up on your rooftop, send it back to the grid and they’ll pay you for that. So you become a little power station and that could substantially lower your electric bill.

    TOM: Now, that’s some deal.

    KEVIN: That is some deal, right?

    TOM: If you can get that deal, that’s a great deal.

    KEVIN: When you sit there and you look at your meter and you see it going backwards, that’s money in your pocket, right? If it’s going that way, it’s great.

    LESLIE: Now, it seems like solar panels or solar energy would be, you know, kind of a no-brainer choice in places like Arizona or Florida. What about areas that don’t see as much sunlight? Do you think it’s still a cost-effective or viable option in a place like, say, Massachusetts or New York?

    KEVIN: Yeah, well, you would think, right, the sunnier it is, the better off you’re going to be because after all, it’s making electricity out of the sun. And while you can make more electricity in places like Florida, let’s say, than Massachusetts, the affordability of this system actually depends more on your local utility rates and the incentives that are available than the actual sunlight that you are exposed to.

    So, for example, a standard, 2-kilowatt system in New Mexico – a place that’s really sunny and produces 25-more-percent electricity than that same system in Massachusetts, where I live – but the energy savings are greater here in Massachusetts because our electricity rates are so high. So you’re offsetting higher costs and it makes good sense.

    TOM: And you really have to look at all of the options in your particular part of the country, because you really have to consider the electricity rates and then all of those rebates and incentives, which there are just a ton of these days, and try to figure out if the cost versus benefit is there.

    KEVIN: And a lot of installers should help you, actually, navigate all of those rebates and discounts and show you a pretty comprehensive plan of what everything’s going to cost and everything you can save.

    TOM: Now, let’s talk about those installers because there’s another way to get solar these days. And I have seen where the installers sort of use your roof as the home of these panels but you don’t really own the panels. It’s kind of like a revenue split sort of deal where you’re sharing some of that benefit with the installation company. Is that correct?

    KEVIN: Yeah, it is. And I actually think this is the sort of the hottest thing in solar right now. And they’re called “power purchase agreements.” So if you wanted to install a full array of panels up on your roof, that might cost as much as $30,000. And that’s a lot of upfront cost. But there are some solar companies that have sort of reversed the equation. And they said, “We’re going to install those panels for you at low or no cost at all. In exchange, we’ll make the power, collect the power and sell it back to you.” And you enter into a long-term agreement with them.

    And what’s great is the price you’re paying for that electricity is often lower than the electricity cost from the grid. So you come out a winner in the end and you can avoid those big, upfront costs.

    LESLIE: Now, do you think there’s any sort of stigma of solar panels? Like maybe people think they’re not attractive and therefore will reduce the resale value of their homes?

    KEVIN: I do. I think a lot of people are resistant to do it because it ruins their curb appeal or they just say, “I don’t want those panels up there.” But I don’t think that is a fact across the board.

    A lot of people, when they buy a home – and a lot of people, when they’re in a home – are significantly concerned with the operating costs. “What are the costs of my utilities: the heat, power and all these types of things?” And there’s actually been some studies done out there. There was one by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that suggested that home values rise an average of – get this – an average of $20 for every $1 reduction in the utility bill. So if you can bring down your utility bills, you’re actually putting real value into that house.

    TOM: And moving forward, there’s more and more ways to work these solar panels into the design of your home. I’ve seen solar roof shingles where you really almost don’t know that there’s solar collectors on the roof.

    KEVIN: Even though it’s been around for a long time, I think the industry is still in its infancy and I think it’s got a bright future.

    TOM: Absolutely. Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House, great advice. Thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    KEVIN: Always good to be here.

    LESLIE: Alright. You can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For local listings and step-by-step videos of many common home improvement projects, visit ThisOldHouse.com.

    TOM: And This Old House is brought to you by Lumber Liquidators. Hardwood floors for less.

    Still to come, is your New Year’s resolution to be more organized already out the window? Well, we’re going to help bring it back home, with one tip about a household item that’ll make organization a slam dunk, next.

    TOM: 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. And the number here is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Now, one of you lucky callers that we talk to on the air this hour is going to win the Rugged Rukus Speaker from Etón. I love the name, love the product. And it weighs only about a pound and it measures about 6 inches. And it’s a solar-powered, portable, wireless sound system. And it actually gives you some great sound quality. Plus, it’s got a splash-proof, durable design and Bluetooth compatibility.

    And the solar panel will charge an internal lithium-ion battery. So if you’ve got some sunshine, you are going to have continuous power.

    TOM: And the USB port also allows you to charge a smartphone, as well. The Rugged Rukus Speaker from Etón is worth 100 bucks. Going out the door to one lucky caller who reaches us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT with their home improvement question. So give us a call right now.

    LESLIE: Well, as you look around your room, do you see piles of clutter everywhere? I mean it’s amazing how a pile of things suddenly becomes a design choice like, “That works.” Well, it doesn’t. So, when your stuff doesn’t seem to have a home, it can actually affect your mood. And it’s really easy to feel overwhelmed and then you just don’t know where to keep it. And it’s especially true for the things that you need and use every day. Can’t just hide them away in a drawer.

    But there is a simple solution. It’s the one household item that I can’t live without, seriously. And once you try it, you’re not going to be able to, either. I’m talking about baskets, all shapes, all sizes. It truly is the easiest way to store things away that look unsightly and unkempt when they’re out in the open. And yet you’re still going to have easy access to them when you need them.

    You know, I have a nice basket that I put underneath the bench in our foyer. And it’s filled with all of our shoes. It truly is the easiest way to get the kids to put their shoes away, put them on quickly when we’re inevitably going to miss the bus. And they’re right where you need them.

    TOM: In our house, we have two baskets under the coffee table in the living room, so we have all of the remotes and some magazines and some kids’ toys in there. Also, on the kitchen counter, a great place to throw a basket. You can put your keys, your electronic chargers, that sort of stuff.

    Hey, you can even assign a basket to each member of the family. They can all keep their stuff straight. Think about it: it’s a super-easy way to get organized for the new year.

    LESLIE: Brian in Ohio is dealing with a settling house. Tell us what’s going on.

    BRIAN: Ah, well, I have a real nice, 1930s, brick Colonial. And in a number of areas, you can see that the house has settled so that the doors aren’t square in the door frames. And the tile on one wall in the bathroom is about an inch below where the tile line on the other wall is. And there’s some cracks in the outside of the brick structure.

    And I just wondered if it – if there’s a way to fix this to sort of square up the house. Because, among other things, if I redo the bathroom, I’m afraid that if the house is moving or twisting, so to speak, and I put new, beautiful tile on the floor or the wall, that it’ll crack that next.

    TOM: Brian, did you have a home inspection done when you bought the house?

    BRIAN: Well, I’m in the real estate business, so I kind of knew what I was getting into from the standpoint of the structure. So I did not have a home inspection done, no.

    TOM: Hmm. Yeah. Or not.

    OK, well, as a former professional home inspector, my first advice would be to determine if the home is still actively moving. And that’s the type of observation that takes a bit of a trained eye. You want to see if there’s anything that tells you that those cracks are active or not. It may very well be that in a 1930s house, this is just normal settlement that’s happened over time.

    In terms of re-squaring the house, really bad idea; you never want to put a house back where you think it belongs. Because it took many, many, many, many years to get into that sort of skewed, settled state. If you try to lift up different pieces, you’ll end up cracking more walls, breaking wires, breaking pipes and that sort of thing.

    So, what you would do, if you redid the bathroom, is basically just live with that. Chalk it up to another real estate word, “charm,” and just live with it, OK?

    BRIAN: Nice. Great. Great insight, OK.

    TOM: Alright? There you go. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Alright. Still ahead, when your bathroom has no exhaust fans, what should you do to keep all of that moisture that we generate in the bath at a minimum? We’re going to answer that question, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Here to help you with your home improvement projects, 24-7, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or online at MoneyPit.com, where you can post your question to the Community section.

    And I was – I laughed when I read this, Leslie. We have a post from the username Moneypitter. Great idea.

    LESLIE: Alright. Moneypitter writes: “I own a small home built in 1960. There are no exhaust fans in the bathrooms. I would like to put up crown molding and would like to know if there is a certain type I should use. Will the crown molding swell?”

    TOM: So, I think your focus on whether or not the crown molding will swell is not exactly your biggest problem. Let’s put it that way. That moisture is doing a lot more damage than just swelling crown molding.

    Will the crown molding swell? Listen, any wood trim – any wood anything – in that bathroom is not going to do well because of the moisture. So your first challenge should be: “How can I get an exhaust fan into that bathroom space?”

    And remember, you can go up. And if you’re lucky enough to have an attic above, you can go up into the attic space and then duct it to the outside. If you have no attic space, you can simply duct it through the ceiling joists and get it outside. And if you don’t have that, you can stick it in the exterior wall with a proper damper and have ventilation that way. So, it’s real important to have a bathroom ventilation in that space.

    Other things that you can do, though, would be to avoid using natural wood products. So you could use a faux wood product. There are different types of faux, perhaps plastic or foam moldings, that work well in a damp space like that. But really, I would concentrate on getting the moisture out of the room to begin with; then you don’t have to worry about that.

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post from Nichols who writes: “We live in a 138-year-old house with original, heart-of-pine wood floors and we need to refinish them. Since pine is a soft wood, what is the best way to go about this project?”

    TOM: Good question. You know, because it is a soft wood, you want to be very cautious about the sanding process. We rarely recommend that you rent sanding equipment or even have a professional use the heavy-duty sanding equipment, which is usually a 12-inch-wide belt sander. And on a pine floor, it would absolutely ruin it very, very quickly.

    So, what we would recommend would be for you to use a machine called a U-Sand machine. And if you simply Google “U-S-a-n-d,” you’ll see this thing. It’s basically an oscillating sander with four heads that spin. And it has a ducted system, so it draws the sawdust back into a bag. Very clean, very easy to use. And it takes off a very minimal amount of wood, which is what you want here. So a very minimal amount of wood taken off. Just enough to be able to freshen up that finish. Then three coats of polyurethane applied with – not with a brush but with a lambswool applicator; gives you good coverage. And you’ll be good to go and that floor will look fantastic.

    LESLIE: Yeah, Nichols. And you know what else? If you have some extra-wide gaps between planks on your flooring and it really bothers you, you can pick up some jute roping, which is sort of like a natural rope that’s sort of woven in a way or put together in a way that you can unravel it to different thicknesses. And you can push that using a painter’s knife or a putty knife, rather, and really wedge that into the gaps in the flooring. And that’ll do a good job because that will also absorb whatever color stain or urethane or whatever you’re putting on there, so it’ll match the color of the flooring. And that can help with that.

    Just make sure that whenever you are doing this project, you want to give yourself ample drying time so that you do get all of those layers of your flooring to dry. And make sure that one coat is super-duper-duper-dry before you go and put the next one on.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. We hope we’ve given you a few tips, ideas, some advice to help you take that next step on the home improvement project you have planned for your money pit, to help turn it from house to home to castle.

    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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