DIY Wainscoting to Add Elegance to Any Room, Online House Hunting Tips, Best Flooring Options for Basement Rooms, Instant Backyard Ambience with Torches and more
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    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 here to help you with your home improvement project. Help yourself first: pick up the phone, give us a call. We’d love to hear what you’re working on in your money pit. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. Whether you are doing it yourself or directing a project that you’re going to, perhaps, have a pro do for you, we’d love to hear about it. We’d love to give you some tips, some suggestions, some advice to help smooth away to successful projects for you.

    Coming up this hour, is one of your projects to finish a space below-grade? If you do, you’ve got to be careful in the materials you choose. We’re going to have some advice on the best type of flooring to use for those basement rooms.

    LESLIE: And also ahead, the first place that potential homebuyers should go when they’re house-hunting is online. But many of those sites are not updated that quickly and they make the information that they present not that accurate. So we’ll talk with the president of the National Association of Realtors about what his group is doing to help.

    TOM: Plus, one of the easiest ways to bring sophistication to your dining room is with wainscoting. We’ll have tips on how to get that project done, in just a few minutes.

    LESLIE: And one caller that we talk to on the air this hour is going to be sipping the freshest homemade soda this summer. We’re giving away a SodaStream Starter Kit. It’s worth $99 and it will help you make your own homemade soda fresh, fruity and fizzy.

    TOM: So, give us a call right now. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Don in Wisconsin is dealing with a window-well retaining wall that’s coming apart. Tell us what’s going on.
    DON: We have a window-well retaining wall that has – have railroad ties in there. Been there for quite a few years. Has started to deteriorate and I’m just now – I’ve been trying to check on what to do and been told to try to use retaining blocks and put blocks on there. And then you have to put some kind of a pea gravel in front of the block to hold the sand back, because we have sand here; it’s a sand country.

    And I’m not sure. I never did this before. And I was just wondering if it’s something that a person – because I’m handy – be able to do myself or is it something that you should actually have a professional landscaper do?

    TOM: At the highest part of the wall, from the distance between the ground to the top of the wall, how high is that?

    DON: Thirty-two inches.

    TOM: OK. So it’s fairly low to the ground. Alright. I think this is project you can do yourself. Concrete blocks – the interlocking, retaining-wall blocks – are a terrific option because they’re very easy to install. Because it’s only 32 inches off the ground, it’s not a lot of soil for you to deal with. You’re going to take the wall apart one sort of area at a time and build the blocks as you go.

    The thing that’s going to be different about the concrete blocks, though, is you’re going to have to have them on a bit of a solid footing. Now, that’s one that you might want to create yourself. You could probably create that out of stone that’s well-tamped down. But you’ve got to get them sat nice and level; you can’t just put them right on the dirt, OK?

    And then as – after you assemble them, then you can add the pea gravel behind it and the sand behind that. But I do think that that’s a good option and it’s going to be – literally, if you do it right, you’re going to get a lifetime’s worth of satisfaction out of that because, of course, the blocks are not going to rot.

    DON: Oh, OK. It sounds great.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Janet in Georgia on the line who wants help with a decking project. What’s going on at your money pit?

    JANET: I just had a deck built last month and already, some of the boards are kind of shrinking because it’s been raining on and off a little bit.

    TOM: Right.


    JANET: And I was wondering when it would be the best time to stain the wood. Is it that I’m staining it against the water or I’m just staining it in general?

    LESLIE: OK. Do you know what material your deck was made out of?

    JANET: We bought the wood at Home Depot. It was supposed to be a pretreated wood?

    LESLIE: So just a pressure-treated lumber.

    JANET: Pressure-treated. That’s correct.

    LESLIE: OK. So, really, what I always do with a pressure-treated lumber, just because of the fact that they inject a different type of chemical into the wood itself to make it weather-resistant – so it can be a little wet. And since you’re dealing with a high-moisture situation in your weather anyway, you might just want to give it the summer season to sort of dry out as best it can. And then in the autumn – when you’re dealing with some drier, low-humidity weather – it could be a great time to put a finish on it.
    Now, you do want to let it dry out. So if you’re dealing with some wet weather as you’re getting into a weekend that you want to work on the project, wait until you’ve had a good few days of dryness and you know it’s going to be dry the day you’re working, so that that wood does get a chance to dry out. And then, depending on how it looks and the look that you want, I definitely wouldn’t paint it, because paint is just going to sit right on top of that lumber and then just peel off throughout the winter season and you’ll have to do something again in the spring.

    JANET: Right. I really didn’t want painting because I just like the look of the wood. And I know that there’s something that I have to do every so often. They tell me every year I’d have to stain it or something.

    LESLIE: It really depends on what manufacturer’s stain that you buy. And keep in mind there’s solid-color stains and there’s semi-transparent stains. So if you want to see the grain in the wood, you’ll want to go with something more semi-transparent so that you’ll actually get some color or just some natural tone. And you’ll be able to see that grain through it.

    And you want to apply it just in the way that the manufacturer says. And you’re probably going to get about three years on horizontal surfaces, maybe five on vertical before you’ve got to tackle it again. Depends on how dry that lumber is on that decking when you do put the stain on.

    JANET: OK. That sounds good.

    TOM: Alright. 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 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.

    Still ahead, would you love to finish your space below-grade but don’t know which materials can survive the dampness? We’ll have options for basement-floor choices that can stand up, after this.

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    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Chamberlain Garage-Door Openers, with a battery backup for when the power goes out and MyQ technology that alerts you when your door is open, so you can close it from anywhere. Discover smarter possibilities at

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    One caller we talk to on the air this hour is going to win a SodaStream Source Starter Kit worth $99. This can help you make carbonated water and soft drinks very simply and very easily. You just turn tap water into sparkling water in under 30 seconds, with no cleanup. That means zero cleanup. That’s fantastic.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you can enjoy the freshness and convenience of homemade soda and protect the environment at the same time. You’ve got no heavy bottles to carry, store at home or try to figure out how to recycle. You can create the fizziness to your taste and then add the flavor of your choice to make your favorite drink.

    TOM: Visit and give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT for the answer to your home improvement question and your chance to win.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got John in North Carolina.

    Welcome to The Money Pit. What can we help you today?

    JOHN: I’d like to ask a question about a product that is one of your sponsors, I guess: the Wet & Forget Mold and Mildew Remover.

    TOM: Yes. OK. How can we help?

    JOHN: OK. Hearing what you have said and reading the label on it, I’m wondering if it’s appropriate for my application. I have a second-floor balcony, which is supported underneath by floor joists that are pressure-treated wood.

    TOM: OK.

    JOHN: Alright? That is exposed to the point where it’s starting to get a little mold and mildew on it and I would like to remove that and then stain it. It had never been stained. It’s about three years old.

    TOM: OK.

    JOHN: I have the Wet & Forget product but a couple things about it – it said and you have said, as I’ve heard in one of your programs, that the direct sun is one of the activators for it and also that it kind of depends to do its work on rainwater. Well, in that situation, those joists underneath are always in the shade and the water that it gets is not direct rain but it’s just sort of bleed-through between the decking above.

    TOM: Right.

    JOHN: Also, it is a vertical application as opposed to a horizontal one. And in that situation, they say if it is not fully exposed to rainfall or is vertical, some assistance may be required. Can you give me some idea of what that means and if I’m just barking up the wrong tree in trying to use this product?

    TOM: Well, I suspect when they say “some assistance might be required” means that you may have to wet it down from time to time if it’s not getting the moisture that it needs to activate. Now, do you have any sun in this particular area or is it totally in the shade all the time?

    JOHN: Well, there’s lots of sunlight in the area but because it’s underneath that deck, it doesn’t get any direct sun.

    TOM: Yeah. Right. But I don’t think it has to get – it has to get sunlight; it doesn’t have to get direct beaming, the heat of the sun.

    JOHN: OK.

    TOM: I’ve never – in all the times I’ve talked with these folks and interviewed some of the chemists, I’ve never heard that it has to be fully exposed. Because, frankly, a lot of areas aren’t fully exposed and secondly, a lot of mold and mildew and algae situations happen because areas are covered.

    JOHN: Sure.

    TOM: And so it’s always good for driveways and sidewalks and areas that get like that. And a lot of times, that happens because they’re under trees and that sort of thing.

    So, I think it would probably work. I think it’s a low cost of entry for you to give this a try.

    JOHN: Yeah.

    TOM: I wouldn’t do anything aside apply it and following label directions. And then if you find, after a week or two, that you’re not seeing much difference, then you might want to try to get into a situation where you perhaps wet it down from time to time.

    JOHN: OK. Any problem with it on pressure-treated wood as a surface?

    TOM: No, none at all. In fact, it’s supposed to work on pressure-treated wood.

    JOHN: Yeah.

    TOM: Look, I used it on a porch that was completely covered by a roof.

    JOHN: Yeah.

    TOM: And open on the sides but it had a total roof. And it did a great job.

    JOHN: OK. Alright. Alright. Now, the fact that it’s a vertical surface, even though they say that that may require some assistance, that’s still, in your experience, a good application.

    TOM: Well, absolutely. There’s a lot of photos I’ve seen of tests that they’ve done with the stuff, like on railing systems, for example, which are always vertical, where it seems to work pretty well. In fact, these guys are now working on a new product that’s going to take mold out of a bathroom. It’s specifically designed to work on tile.

    JOHN: Oh, OK.

    TOM: So I don’t know how they figured this out without the sunlight component but I’m looking forward to giving it a try, because it’s a constant battle.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And it’s a special formulation for the interior, as well.

    TOM: Yeah. It’s a constant battle.

    JOHN: Alright. Thank you, Tom.

    TOM: Well, there’s nothing as refreshing as a nice, summer rain until, that is, the rain flows right into your basement. Now, something as simple as a tennis ball getting stuck in a gutter can cause a basement to flood in a heavy storm. And that’s why you really need to make sure that you use the right materials when you’re finishing basements, including the choice of flooring.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Now, the number-one question you should be asking yourself when planning your basement flooring is: does it dry out? Now, with carpet, the answer is no. We know that carpet warms up a basement and it’s really nice on your tootsies but it holds moisture and becomes a breeding ground for allergens, like dust, mold and mildew.

    TOM: Now, with some of the new finishes that are available, just plain, old concrete is also a great way to go. I mean look, it’s inexpensive, it’s durable and it can actually be really attractive when it’s stained or stamped.

    Another good option is laminate floor. Now, laminate floor can look like wood, like vinyl, like tile or even marble. But it’s really durable and it can definitely handle the damp conditions.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Now, another option is hardwood flooring but not the kind that you might put in those upstairs areas. For the basement, you can use engineered hardwood, which is just like real hardwood but the basis of it is actually made from many layers, like a plywood. And that will give the flooring dimensional stability.

    TOM: And of course, tile is always a perennial favorite. But don’t forget about cork as an option. It’s very comfortable to the feet. It’s softer than concrete and it doesn’t rot.

    If you want more tips on basement-floor choices, you can visit

    LESLIE: Gayla (sp) in Washington is on the line looking for some cooling solutions. How can we help you today?

    GAYLA (sp): So we’re looking at installing air conditioning into our home. We’re wanting to seal all the areas so it doesn’t get hot here too much – maybe like one to one-and-a-half months out of the year – but we really need it during that time. And so, we’re not sure if we really want to go the central-air route to get a full system or if – like if we could – we have a gas furnace. If we could get a gas one – or they also talked about heating pumps. We just don’t really know what the options are and what’s going to be the best investment in our money but also going to be effective during those hot months.

    TOM: OK. How big is your house, Gayla (sp)?

    GAYLA (sp): It’s about 2,700 square feet.

    TOM: Oh. And you want the entire house cool and comfortable and done evenly?

    GAYLA (sp): Yeah, pretty much. The downstairs is already relatively cool but not the upstairs at all.

    TOM: And you have a forced-air system right now?

    GAYLA (sp): Yes.

    TOM: Look, there’s no easy way to do this. You’re going to either get a central air-conditioning system or you’re not. If you had a smaller house or you had maybe just some limited, uncomfortable areas in the house, then what we might recommend is called a mini-split ductless, which can be used for zones in the house and big zones, like a two-room combination kind of a thing. But I don’t think – you’re not – certainly not going to be able to evenly cool the entire first floor or the entire second floor of the house with a mini-split ductless. And frankly, you’d end up needing so many of them that it would be more expensive than putting in a central A/C system.

    So, what we would tell you to do is to go ahead and install a traditional central air-conditioning system, to make sure that the home is sized properly. And so the HVAC contractor can do a heat-loss calculation and figure out exactly how many BTUs you need, in terms of cooling power, to deliver cool temperatures on the hottest days of the summer.

    You also want to make sure that the system that you use is an ENERGY STAR-certified system, because that’s going to make a big difference in how much this is going to actually cost you to operate. The good news is is that the system is probably going to last twice as long as any other system in another part of the country, because you’re going to use it half as much.

    But there’s no inexpensive way to do this, even though you’re only using it for two months of the year. You’re still going to have to put in a central system with all the work that goes with that: buying the compressor, buying the evaporator coil, the condensing coil, the condensing pump, all that sort of thing. It’s a job, you know? So it’s going to be several thousand dollars to do this. But I would encourage you to make sure that you do it right and use the most energy-efficient system possible so it reduces your operating cost.

    And also find out from your local utility whether or not there are any rebates available to you for using energy-efficient equipment. There very well may be; there’s an awful lot of them scattered about across the country.

    GAYLA (sp): OK. Great. Thank you.

    TOM: Alright, Gayla (sp)? Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got Ron in South Dakota who is dealing with a bee situation. What’s going on with these busy bees?

    RON: So I’m trying to repair my roof on a cinder-block outbuilding. And these bumblebees are all around and I’m having trouble. I’d like to not kill them but I don’t know. Can I do something to make them relocate?

    TOM: Yeah, you can. I think what you’re talking about are not bumblebees but carpenter bees.

    RON: Oh, yeah. I’m from Memphis, originally, and we had big bumblebees there and one stung me last year and it felt the same way.

    TOM: Well, those are carpenter bees and they’ll bite but they don’t – they’re not as bad as getting stung by a wasp or something like that. But what they do is they look for usually the soft trim, like around a porch or a fascia or a soffit. And they’ll drill into that trim, usually from the edge grain, drill up and then they’ll turn 90 degrees and then kind of go with the grain, go in 2 or 3 inches and nest. And that’s where they’ll actually nest.

    So, to get rid of them, a couple of things you can do. Of course, you can have a pest-control pro come out and they can put a powder insecticide in and around where those carpenter bees are and that will take care of the problem.

    The second thing you can do is you can actually eliminate some of the wood and replace it with composite. So, for example, on my garage, I had pine fascia board behind the gutters. Started to get a big carpenter-bee problem with them, so – and actually, it had done quite a bit of damage because they didn’t get to it for a while. So I pulled the pine fascia down and I replaced it with AZEK – A-Z-E-K – which is extruded PVC. Looks like wood, cuts like wood, doesn’t taste like wood to the carpenter bees. And so they left it alone after that because there was nothing left to eat.

    And so, I think you need to figure out where they’re nesting. They’re going to be drilling in somewhere and the thing is, if you get close to where they’re drilling, you can hear them; they make noise. They kind of make a grinding noise into your porch deck or …

    RON: Yeah, I think my wife heard that.

    TOM: Yeah, she probably did. So I think that you’ve got a carpenter-bee problem and you can either have them treated or get rid of some of the food source, one way or the other.

    RON: OK. They’re going in a small 1×3 opening in the cinder block. There’s not that much wood right there but I’m sure they’re getting into the eave. If you’re …

    TOM: Yeah. I think they may be going in and out of that but there’s probably some wood somewhere in that path that they’re traveling, Ron, OK?

    RON: OK.

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

    LESLIE: Still to come, the first place that potential homebuyers should go when they’re house-hunting is online. We’re going to tell you how to make sure the listings you see are the most accurate and reliable, after this.

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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: In today’s tech-savvy world, the search for a home or even a neighborhood, for that matter, starts online. But when you’re doing your research, you want to know that the info you’re finding is accurate and up to date.

    LESLIE: And that’s where comes in. Here to tell us about all the site has to offer and why it’s superior to other real estate websites is Steve Brown. He’s the 2014 President of the National Association of Realtors.
    Welcome, Steve.

    STEVE: Leslie, Tom, it’s great to be with you.

    TOM: So, Steve, there are many real estate listing sort of websites out there. And so many of us are doing our research online. But what I think frustrates a lot of consumers is just because you see a house on any one of these sites, it may no longer be available for sale. Isn’t that the case?

    STEVE: Well, that’s the case. You know, I guess it’s like any media that you would be reading or watching. You’ve got to realize that not all reports are accurate. And certainly, that’s certainly true on the internet. Not every site provides accurate, up-to-date information.

    And of course, that’s the advantage of, you mentioned, Because it is up to date, it is accurate and it’s updated, in fact, every 15 minutes. So it is the most accurate website in pertaining to real estate, without question.

    LESLIE: And it’s really great because it gives you so many pertinent details about the property that’s available. You can look up what the schools are like, where it’s exactly located so you can see if it’s on a busy street. I’m not in the market for a house but I always find myself looking on the website, because I just love to look at the houses that are for sale. Because I feel like you never know.

    STEVE: Well, you don’t – you never – you’re right. I guess we never know when a home purchase or a sale might be in our future. But certainly, does give you all of that information. And of course, it’s loaded with photos, so you can really take a walk through the house and understand the property. You get a good feeling for neighborhoods, you get a great feeling for neighborhood values. So it’s a great learning place.

    It’s a great place to start your home search and again, it’s certainly information that you can rely upon. Because it’s information that’s generated from the realtors who know that market the best. These are their listings on this site and they are delivered to through our multiple-listing service. So, it’s a direct feed that gives you that accurate, up-to-date information.

    So when there’s a price change, for example, that information is generated immediately to So you know the latest and information on every property.

    TOM: We’re talking to Steve Brown – he’s the president of the National Association of Realtors – about the accuracy of real estate listing websites and some of the advantages that has to offer.

    I think, technologically, it’s quite impressive, Steve, that the way works is that you pull these listings from 800 separate multiple-listing services. And that covers almost 100 percent of all of the properties that are for sale across the United States. I mean, technologically, this was a heck of an accomplishment.

    STEVE: Well, it sure was. And again, it facilitated the home-buying process for the consumer. And that’s, ultimately, what the realtors are all about: providing the easiest, most accessible information to the consumer as they’re starting in their home search.

    So it’s a tremendous site, as I mentioned earlier, not only to begin your search but to learn about the market, to understand the market and also become acquainted with the agents who work in the markets that you’re most interested in.

    LESLIE: Steve, I think it’s really interesting. When I’m always sort of perusing the market to see what’s out there, inevitably my next question is: can I afford this house? And I love that you offer different types of calculators so that I can really get a sense of what it might cost.

    STEVE: Right. That is a very handy tool that you can get an idea of your down payment, what the down payment would be on a specific selling price of a property. You can get an idea of the interest rate. You can put in the different interest rates that you know, in general, are available in the marketplace. And you can generate some very good, practical information.

    But this is – Leslie, I would emphasize this is a good starting point. At the same time, this will give you a framework for what you can afford. But you really do need to talk to your realtor to understand and to interpret, if you will, some of this data, some of these price points and some of the information that this tool is generating.

    TOM: Steve, I think one thing that the internet has done, in terms of the buying and selling process, has impacted the way we present properties. Prior to listing your home on the internet, we were also – you were mostly primarily concerned with curb appeal, making sure that when you drove by the house or up to the house, it looked good. Today, that curb appeal has to start with that little, small thumbnail photograph that often accompanies the online listing. Has that changed the way some folks are presenting their properties?

    STEVE: With the multiple photos online that the consumer can look at, you do want to make each and every room look as best as it can. So, decluttering a home is always important, turning on lights, making it show brightly. And people just love photos. It’s like going to an open house online every Sunday.

    TOM: Great advice, Steve Brown, the 2014 National Association of Realtors President. Thank you so much, Steve, for stopping by The Money Pit and teaching us all about

    STEVE: It’s my pleasure. And good luck in your home search.

    LESLIE: Alright. Well, would you like to dress up your dining room with just one, simple project? Adding wainscoting can do just that and make it look gorgeous. We’re going to share some tips, next.

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    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by the Chamberlain MyQ Garage. If you forget to close your garage door, it alerts your smartphone, so you can control it from anywhere. Works with most garage-door openers. Discover smarter possibilities at

    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. Pick up the phone, give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    One caller that we talk to on the air this hour is going to win a SodaStream Source Starter Kit worth $99. You can make carbonated water and soft drinks super-simply with this kit. You can turn tap water into sparkling water in under 30 seconds, with a super-cool swishing sound and no cleanup.

    TOM: Enjoy the freshness and convenience of homemade soda and protect the environment at the same time. There’s no heavy bottles to carry, to store at home or to throw away. You can fizz to your taste and add the flavor of your choice to make your favorite drink.
    Visit but give us a call, right now, if you’d like to win a SodaStream kit. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Catherine in Michigan is on the line with a basement-window question. How can we help you with this project?

    CATHERINE: Yeah. I’m just wondering if block windows are the best option for basement windows, as far as security and energy efficiency?

    TOM: Well, block windows are – they may be secure, because they’re block windows, but they’re certainly not energy-efficient. And most importantly, they’re not ventable; they don’t open.

    LESLIE: Nor are they an egress. You know, you need to have a window that you can escape out of from a basement.

    TOM: Well, if you have living space down there, you need a window that you have to escape out of. But if it’s a traditional basement window that’s a small window, it’s never going to be an egress window but it sure is nice to have one that you can open to – and you can get some ventilation when you have to, so …

    CATHERINE: But we would get the vents that they put in the middle of the block window.

    TOM: Yeah, still not very big. I don’t know. I’m not crazy about block as an option for windows. I would recommend a traditional basement window. You can get a thermal-pane basement window. Very energy-efficient. If you need security, then you can install window bars. But just make sure they have an escape mechanism that you can activate from inside so that you can get out through that window if you had to.

    So I mean that’s our two cents. If you like the block windows and you think you’re going to get enough ventilation out of it, then go ahead. But for me, I would never put a block window in a basement; I’d always use a traditional window. I think that’s what people expect in homes. I think doing something different like that could adversely affect my home value. I think I’m going to get the best overall results by doing just that.

    I hope that helps you out. Catherine, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Well, if your dining room is more of a space that you kind of just pass through to get to the kitchen than a showplace, you can change that pretty easily by adding wainscoting. It doesn’t take a lot of DIY skill to add wainscoting and it can be done in a weekend and enjoyed for years to come.

    LESLIE: That’s right. You can buy precut panels of wainscoting that are ready to go right up on your walls. There are even some PVC options that will cut down on the maintenance you have to do. But if you choose real wood, it’s a good idea to let it acclimate in your home for about 48 hours before you install it. This is going to allow it to acclimate to the space so it’s not going to shrink up and expand after you’ve installed it.

    Now, when you’re ready to install your wainscoting, you want to apply a ¼-inch bead of construction adhesive along the back edges of the panel, about an inch below the top edge. Then make an X with the adhesive to support the center of the board. Press it into place, wait about a minute, press it again and that’s it.

    TOM: Yeah. It’s really pretty easy. And if you want to finish it off further, you can add a decorative trim piece on top, like a chair rail, using pretty much the same method or just a few fasteners. It’s a project that you can probably get done and enjoy in one weekend, which is my favorite part. Easy projects, little disturbance and it really changes the look of the entire room.

    LESLIE: Jason in Delaware is on the line and needs some help with an electrical update at their money pit. Tell us what’s going on.

    JASON: Hi. Well, let’s see. We bought an older home, probably like 1940, 1950. It’s a great home, no doubt about it. We thought we were going to have a bunch of problems: we thought we were going to have to replace the roof, we thought we were going to have to replace the foundation. But it’s pretty much like somebody built the house and never really lived in it.

    TOM: I think we’re getting to a “but.” Everything’s great but what’s happening?

    JASON: But the breaker box is outdated. And the total cost of replacing that – hiring a certified and professional contractor and everyone – or the electrician to do it – is going to cost us around $5,000.

    TOM: Alright. Why do you say it’s outdated? What’s wrong with it?

    JASON: It’s a 100-amp box.


    JASON: And you can’t run more than two air conditioners in the house at one time.

    TOM: Take a breath. I’ve got great news for you, alright?

    JASON: What’s that?

    TOM: You don’t have central air, right? You’re running window units?

    JASON: Window units.

    TOM: You do not need a new panel. A hundred amps is way more than enough power to run that house. What you need …

    LESLIE: Unless you’re planning on making those updates.

    TOM: Yeah. What you need are some new circuits, which are easier to run.

    JASON: OK.

    TOM: You see, the reason you’re tripping those breakers is because whatever circuit those air conditioners are on is pulling more power than that one circuit can handle.

    Now, most circuits that go to bedrooms, for example, are 15-amp circuits. You put an air conditioner or two on a 15-amp circuit, it’s going to pop, especially an older air conditioner that’s not as energy-efficient, because it’s going to start pulling more power. And if you happen to have those two air conditioners on the same circuit, there’s not a chance that you’re going to be able to run that when you have to.

    What you do is you add more circuits. So you add another circuit that’s just for that air conditioner, from the point where it’s installed to the panel. Put that on its own 15-amp circuit and there you have it; you’re done. No $5,000 for a new panel.

    See, this is another example – when electricians come in and they size you up and they give you a price on doing a job that you really don’t need. A hundred amps is a lot of power. I doubt in a house that’s probably gas-fired – is that right? It’s gas-powered?

    JASON: Yes.

    TOM: So you have a gas-powered house, so you’ve got gas heat, gas stove, gas water heater. You know, if you pulled 30 amps when everything was running in that house, I’d be surprised. So you don’t need a new box; you need more circuits.

    JASON: OK. Well, thank you, guys, so very much.

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

    LESLIE: Coming up, are you tired of the wallpaper in your house? Are you wondering if you can or should paint over it? We’re going to answer that question, next.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Cabinets To Go, where you get premium-quality cabinets for less. You dream it, they design it and always 40 percent less than the big-box stores. Visit them online at

    TOM: Where home solutions live, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    And if you’ve got a DIY project that you want to share, why not share it with the world? You can join The Money Pit community and share your masterpiece. You can also post your project or your question on The Money Pit’s Facebook page at

    And we’re going to jump into those questions now. We’ve got one here from Sylvie in Kansas who writes: “Everyone seems to have a different opinion on this: can you paint over wallpaper? I swear the previous owners of my home put wallpaper straight on the drywall with no primer, making it really difficult to remove. What’s the worst that could happen if I do paint over it?”

    TOM: Well, if the wallpaper eventually does release, it gets really nasty-looking.

    But I don’t know, Leslie, I mean it is – there are some times when you put wallpaper up – especially if there’s no primer; it’s on raw drywall – that it’s almost impossible to separate it from the paper face of the drywall. You end up damaging the drywall. And in that case, you end up having to basically replace the drywall, put a second layer on, whatever.

    So, what’s the most horrible thing? Well, it does look a little tacky, I have to say, when you paint over wallpaper. But if you’re just looking for a quick fix, I don’t necessarily have any problem with it. Certainly, there’s no structural reason not to do it.

    Do you have any other sort of decorating concerns or tips that might help in that situation?

    LESLIE: I’m personally against it.

    TOM: We’re both personally against it but we hear their pain.

    LESLIE: But I hear you.

    TOM: We hear your pain, Sylvie.

    LESLIE: And I’ve seen people do it. And I’ve even done it on an episode of $100 Makeover. I’m not going to lie. I’ve done it. But you need to make sure that the seams are properly adhered. You want to make sure that you get seam glue, specific for seams of wallpaper, and go ahead and make sure those are stuck down properly.

    If it’s got a weird texture on it – the wallpaper – that’s what you’re going to see through the paint. If it’s got areas of odd sheen to it, you want to make sure that you prime over it regardless. There’s extra steps you have to take so it doesn’t just look weird.

    TOM: Yeah, that’s a good point. I would definitely not skip the primer step, because you don’t know what that material is. And if you put paint on it and the paint peels and leaves the wallpaper behind, that’s even worse.

    LESLIE: And here’s another idea, Sylvie: if the wallpaper is in good condition and it’s stuck well, as you seem to think it is, you can wallpaper over that. And there’s wall coverings out there that look like different paint finishes and different textures of wall coverings. So, I love wallpaper. I wish you would have a more open mind to it. Why don’t you try that before you paint over it, which you really can’t do anything with after?

    TOM: Well, would you like to make sure that your backyard gathering turns into a memorable event? Then consider adding torches. Leslie has tips on how to do just that, safely, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    LESLIE: That’s right. When you add an open flame of any type to your backyard, you will get instant ambiance.

    Now, if you add a citronella torch, you’re going to keep away those nasty bugs that tend to bother people during the evening hours. And they’re actually widely available and one of the easiest ways that you can add pizzazz to your yard.

    But here’s some safety things to keep in mind. Any time you’ve got an open flame, you have to practice fire safety. So it’s a good idea to search to make sure that the torch you’re using is considered safe and hasn’t been recalled. Because there are a lot of recalls on these open-flame citronella-oil or oil-burning devices. So you have to make sure you’re getting a safe one.

    Now, if you’re looking for some added safety features, you can actually find battery and even solar-powered torches. Not going to keep the bugs away but they’ll add that same ambiance that you’re looking for. And some of them will actually turn on automatically at dusk and flicker like a real flame.

    So it is possible to light up your night without throwing caution to the wind. Have a wonderful and safe summer and do it safely.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up next time on The Money Pit, would you like to make your home stand out from the crowd? Why not create a beautiful, decorative driveway marker for your house? We’ll have tips on how to do just that, 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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