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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 tackle your home improvement projects which, this time of year, are probably your spring home improvement projects because it’s finally here. Hooray! So, is this going to be the year that your lawn and garden is going to be your best and your greenest ever? Well, it can be. We’ve got some tips on that this hour. With just a few easy steps, your lawn and garden can be full and green. We’ll have those details, just ahead.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Considering all of the snow and coldness we’ve had this winter, I’m sure it did a great job preserving what was in the ground. So we’re all looking forward to the greenness that’s coming soon.

    Also ahead, guys, could your bathroom use a pick-me-up? Cleaning the grout between your tiles can actually do wonders for the space and really make a huge difference. So general contractor Tom Silva from TV’s This Old House is here to tell you how to do it.

    TOM: And home automation is hot these days but if you think you need to be an IT genius to pull it off, well, you probably don’t. Learn how simple home automation actually is, starting with the biggest part of your home’s exterior: your garage door.

    LESLIE: And one caller this hour is going to win a Brillo Prize Pack and that includes the new Brillo Sweep & Mop. It’s got 3-in-1 technology, which means it will multitask in less time.

    TOM: It’s a prize package worth $50. Going out to one caller drawn at random from those that reach us for today’s show, so give us a call. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Alright. We’ve got Sal in Georgia on the line with a water heater that doesn’t want to deliver hot and cold when he needs it.

    What’s going on, Sal?

    SAL: Hey, my situation here is I installed a Whirlpool hot-water heater.

    TOM: OK.

    SAL: I’ve got plenty of hot water but it doesn’t maintain the temperature all the way through. I have turned it up from 120 to – which was factory set – to 140 so I could get a little more hot water. But it still doesn’t maintain the temperature. I have to continuously, every four minutes or so, turn it over – turn the hot water up just a little bit.

    TOM: Is this an electric hot-water heater?

    SAL: Yes, sir.

    TOM: OK. Are you running out of hot water quickly, Sal?

    SAL: No, I’ve got plenty of hot water. I can take a 15-, 20-minute shower without running out of hot water. It just won’t maintain the temperature.

    TOM: So, when you say it won’t maintain the temperature, will it not maintain the temperature while you’re taking the shower? Is that when you get sort of the hot and the cold?

    SAL: Correct. Correct. Yeah, yeah. It just – it keeps going cold on me where I’ve got to keep turning the hot up just a little bit.

    TOM: It may not necessarily be the water heater. Because what happens is if there’s water being consumed anywhere else in the house while this is happening, you may end up with an imbalance in the mix between hot and cold. And there’s a simple solution to that and it’s called a “pressure-balance valve.”

    And basically, you replace your shower valve with a pressure-balance valve and what that does is actually maintains the mix between hot and cold, regardless of what the pressure is in either line. Does that make sense?

    SAL: Yeah, it does. But it’s just me and the wife at the house. So when I’m showering, she’s not using the hot water, so that’s the only thing – it doesn’t make sense to me, either, because it just – it seems like it would maintain it. I replaced the original water heater that was in the house – which was an old, beat-up water heater – but it maintained the temperature. It did run out of hot water a lot quicker.

    TOM: Do you notice this in any – at any other fixture but the shower?

    SAL: I have not noticed, no. I mean the shower is the only one that it would really be noticeable. But yeah, no, I haven’t noticed.

    TOM: Something like – for example, if you had a very slow leak in your toilet and it was filling up, like ghost-flushing, and you may not even notice that this is happening, that can spill some water. If you’re running a dishwasher, if you’re running a washing machine, anything could be going on in the house that could be pulling water. Or even at the street, there could be an imbalance in pressure at the street that could be causing this.

    But the condition that you’re describing is very common. Commonly associated with an imbalance of pressure. So I would start there, Sal. I would start there. And if that doesn’t solve it, then we can talk further, OK?

    SAL: Alright. Sounds great. I thank you for your time.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Melanie in California on the line with a decorating question. What can we do for you today?

    MELANIE: I have untreated, (inaudible at 0:04:35) knotty pine throughout the house. I would like to continue into an 8×12 bathroom with the same. Is this the best application for the bathroom or will untreated wood hold up to condensation?

    LESLIE: Now, where are you seeing this? On the walls? On the celling?

    MELANIE: Oh, well, I’d like to do the whole bathroom. Yes, walls and ceiling.

    TOM: I would say, Leslie, that knotty – untreated, knotty pine is a really bad idea for a bathroom.

    LESLIE: Yeah.

    TOM: I actually do have a bathroom that’s got pine wainscoting but it’s completely sealed. And it goes up about halfway up the wall. I would definitely not put unfinished wood in a bathroom because it’s going to soak up the moisture. It’s going to grow mold or mildew and just is not going to look right. You can’t clean it, either. So, a bad idea for the ceiling.

    That said, if you like the look of wood, there are many ceiling-tile products that do look quite a lot like wood.

    MELANIE: OK. We’re limited. We’re in a small area, so we’re limited as far as hardwares go and paneling. We checked out our local hardware stores. And where’s the best place to find, oh, say, ceiling paneling and …?

    LESLIE: Well, now, a clever, creative idea – which, you know, you might be able to source online and perhaps you haven’t looked at some of this in the local places to you – would be a laminate flooring that’s a plank that looks like a knotty pine so that we could utilize that in the same application that you’re talking about. But it’s made to withstand high-moisture situations because it’s a manufactured product and not a natural product.

    MELANIE: Sure, sure.

    LESLIE: And that, because it’s sold in planks, if you do have to order it online or if somebody has to order it from the vendor directly through your local stores, it ships really easily because of its packaging. And being plank size, you’re not going to have a hard time getting it in, rather than a sheet product.

    MELANIE: Oh, OK. Very good. And I think that would look far better than a sheet product. We just – I think that’s why I don’t care – the wainscoting or coating, how do you pronounce that?

    LESLIE: Oh, absolutely.

    MELANIE: Is that …?

    LESLIE: I say “wainscoting,” but I think everybody says it every way they feel like. Tomato, tomato.

    MELANIE: OK. It’s just very attractive. But we need to do this complete, up the walls.

    TOM: You don’t have to. You could go partially up the walls and then trim off the top edge of it.

    MELANIE: Hmm. And then would – OK.

    TOM: It depends on what look you’re going for.

    For example, Leslie, you’ve often given the suggestion that you can take an old door, turn it on its side and that could be a wainscoting.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. That works out beautifully, especially because it gives you the paneling sort of built right into the door. The only issue there is that anywhere you’ve got an electrical outlet or something that might protrude from the wall, you’re going to have to bump that out to accommodate the extra thickness of the door. Not a big deal but it’s an extra step.

    MELANIE: Boy, it sure is. Oh, boy. OK. Well, thank you so much. That’s a lot to think about and I really like that plank-flooring idea. That was a thought that never even crossed my mind, so – nor my husband’s.

    TOM: Alright. Well, good luck with that project.

    MELANIE: Thank you so much. And thank you for taking my call.

    TOM: You’ve 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.

    Well, woohoo! I’ve got spring fever. At least the calendar says it’s spring and that is a start, guys. So we can only hope that nice, warm, happy, sunny, beautiful days are ahead of us. So let’s get your home improvement calendar filled up so you can keep nice and busy and get outside and enjoy that sunshine. We’re available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Still to come, learn how easy it is to make your home a smart home with no IT skills required.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Vigoro. The Vigoro brand offers quality products for your lawn and garden at the ultimate value. Available exclusively at The Home Depot. Visit your local store today.

    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: Hey, you heard the saying “work smarter, not harder”? Well, you can clean smarter, too, with this hour’s giveaway. We’ve got a prize pack of Brillo products worth 50 bucks.

    LESLIE: Yeah. It’s full of supplies that’ll do the job right, including the new Brillo Sweep & Mop. It has 3-in-1 technology that will really change the way you clean your floors.

    TOM: Learn more at Brillo.com and give us a call now for your chance to win. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Cody in Kansas on the line who has a sheetrock question. What can we do for you today?

    CODY: Well, we’re actually renovating our kitchen and first renovation. We’ve never done this. We have wood-paneling walls and I’m wondering, can you sheetrock over the wood paneling? Do we need to do a complete teardown and tear it out before we sheetrock?

    TOM: I mean you could drywall on top of that but I don’t think it’s a good idea. I think you’re better off taking that old – those old, wood walls down. You’re going to get a much cleaner look when you’re done and I just don’t think it’s a good idea to have all that extra material on your wall.

    CODY: OK. Is there – should I go with ¼-inch drywall? Should I go with ½-inch?

    TOM: Is this regular paneling that’s like an 1/8- or ¼-inch thick?

    CODY: Yes.

    TOM: Yeah, that should come down fairly quickly. Once you pull all the electrical cover plates off the boxes, you should be able to get that going at the seams and pull that right off. And then just lightly sand the walls, if there’s any imperfections there, and then you can apply new drywall on that.

    You could use probably – if you have existing drywall there, you could use 3/8-inch drywall as your second coat. And if you glued it, make sure you can – you’ll need fewer fasteners but make sure you overlap the seams. So don’t use the same exact seams as exists in the original wall. Does that make sense?

    CODY: Yes. And the original wall, I believe, is the – it’s lath and plaster; it’s not actual drywall.

    TOM: Oh, plaster lath? Yeah. I would definitely go on top of that. I would not pull down the plaster lath. I’ve done that job both ways and it’s a lot cleaner if you just go over it. But keep in mind you’re going to have to extend the electrical boxes and perhaps trim around windows and doors and that sort of thing to compensate for the additional thickness.

    CODY: OK. Alright. I appreciate it.

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

    LESLIE: Amy in Iowa is on the line with a question about a dirt basement. Tell us what’s going on.

    AMY: Hi. I recently have purchased an old farmhouse and in the basement, it has a dirt floor. And I was wondering if I should lay concrete on it or if I can lay that thick plastic and put gravel on top to help with the radon and try to keep some of the heat in there.

    TOM: Do you know that you have a radon problem?

    AMY: Well, I don’t. They talk about it in Iowa being an issue. And with it being a dirt floor, I didn’t know if that was something I should have tested first or go ahead and just leave the plastic and the rock and be …

    TOM: I would definitely test because you don’t know what you’re dealing with. You may have to put stone down and then put a concrete floor and then do a ventilation system where you draw the gas up off from underneath the concrete. So, the first thing you have to do is test.

    So, do it yourself or hire somebody. And do it right. The testing has to be done under closed building conditions with all the windows and doors closed, except for normal exit and entry. And find out what you’re dealing with and then you can take the appropriate steps after that. But don’t just put it down thinking that if you have a radon problem, it’s going to solve it. Because frankly, it may not.

    AMY: OK. Alright. Well, thank you so much for your help.

    LESLIE: Well, the smart-home trend is definitely here to stay. And one quick way that you can get in on it is with your garage door.

    We learned about how one garage-door company is embracing home automation, recently, at the International Builders’ Show.

    TOM: Yep. LiftMaster is one of the top brands of professionally installed garage-door openers. And I got a chance to talk to Paul Accardo from LiftMaster about what the company is doing to stay on top of the home automation movement.

    PAUL: LiftMaster has developed several great, new partnerships over the last year with key players in the home automation industry, like Apple, for instance, with their home kit, Nest with their learning thermostats, as well as security providers like Alarm.com. So, I think many people in this industry want to partner together to create the smart home and not have everybody do things separately. And so we are actively looking at partnerships and ways for consumers and builders to make things easier.

    TOM: Now, one of the first products you came out with was MyQ – MyQ Technology – and MyQ Garage, specifically. How did the builders respond to that?

    PAUL: Builders are excited about MyQ because it’s an opportunity to offer homeowners, home buyers a less expensive way to automate their homes. It gets them into that sort of smart-home zone very quickly and very inexpensively through a product that is ubiquitous: the garage-door opener. Everybody has one.

    LESLIE: Yeah, I love that MyQ allows you to open or close your garage door from anywhere in the world where there’s Wi-Fi. And it will also alert you if you leave it open or if it gets opened when nobody’s home and it’s not supposed to be open. I mean it really is like having an extra set of eyes on your house.

    You can learn more at LiftMaster.com and listen to all of our top-product podcasts at MoneyPit.com.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. Give us a call, right now, with your home improvement question.

    LESLIE: Hi, Roger from Pennsylvania. You’ve got Tom and Leslie from The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    ROGER: I was wondering – I live in a house. It was built in 1958. It was a model home. I have a crack in the ceiling and it’s hard plaster. I was wondering if there’s an epoxy or something I could shoot up in under that and push it up in before it falls down.

    TOM: So, is the plaster separating from the plaster lath, which is between that and the framing?

    ROGER: Yeah, just a little, wee bit. You can see the crack and you can see where it’s coming down just a little bit.

    TOM: Just a little bit? Because, typically, Roger, what I would tell you to do in a situation like that is to not reglue the plaster but simply pull it down all the way and then replaster it, then prime it and paint it.

    You know, you could possibly squeeze something like LIQUID NAILS in there but then you’d have to support it while it was drying. But then it’s just going to break somewhere else. So if you’ve got an area of loose plaster like that, I would just tell you to just gently break it out of there and then simply respackle that, sand it nicely, then prime it and paint the whole surface. I think it’s a much more permanent and cleaner repair in the long run.

    ROGER: That’s what I was wondering. I can do drywall but I never did hard plaster.

    TOM: Yeah, it’s not that hard to do. If you can handle spackle, you can handle plaster. Remember, a little bit goes a long way. You’re better off putting it on in thin coats, then putting successive coats on top of that.

    And by the way, a house built in 1958, that was a very good year for home construction. You’ve probably got excellent Douglas-pine framing in that home. You probably have hardwood floors, copper pipes. That was a great year for construction. If you’ve got plaster-lath walls and ceilings, you know – already know they’re very hard and very durable. Yeah, they crack once in a while but you can feel good about the structure of that home.

    ROGER: Yeah. Yeah, we do have hardwood floors. We’re actually redoing them a little bit at a time and it is all copper.

    TOM: Yeah, the nice thing about those houses that were built in the late 50s and early 60s is people put in these beautiful hardwood floors and they promptly covered them with wall-to-wall carpet. So for the next 20 or 30 years, they were protected from any wear and tear.

    ROGER: Yeah, that’s what happened in here. We’re tearing up room by room.

    TOM: Alright, Roger. Well, good luck with that project. It sounds like a great house.

    LESLIE: Alan in Idaho is on the line with a crack in a foundation. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.

    ALAN: When I first bought the house, a contractor buddy of mine said it was no big deal and he gave me some epoxy. Said to drill some holes in it and squirt it in there until it mushed out all the way through and then just go and smooth it off. Well, I didn’t seal it but it’s cracked right again beside it.

    TOM: OK. So you have a crack in the foundation that you filled with epoxy and it’s continuing to crack. Is that the case?

    ALAN: Correct.

    TOM: How old is your house?

    ALAN: Sixty-seven is when it was built.

    TOM: Alright. So it’s concrete-block wall or cinderblock wall, correct?

    ALAN: It’s concrete.

    TOM: Now, do you have any drainage issues around the house?

    ALAN: Not that I know of.

    TOM: Have you had any moisture in the basement or signs of that?

    ALAN: The only time I’ve ever had any moisture in the basement is a previous owner drilled a hole in the floor and ran the condensate drain through the air conditioner into the floor.

    TOM: Alright. That’s not the kind of moisture we’re concerned about. The reason I asked that question is because it sounds like your wall is a little unstable and that’s continuing to move. And the first thing to do when that happens – if it’s not a serious crack, not one where the wall is being displaced – is to make sure that your grading and your drainage conditions are absolutely letter-perfect. Because the more water that soaks around the outside of that house, the more water that comes off gutters and gets discharged against the wall, the weaker that foundation gets.

    It’s kind of like this: when it’s rainy and you walk across a field, you sink into the mud because wet dirt is not as strong as dry dirt. So we want to try to keep the dirt around your house – and specifically, under your footing – as dry as possible. So drainage control is important.

    Now, beyond that, if this is just sort of a hairline crack that’s forming – is that what we’re talking about here?

    ALAN: Yeah, yeah, it is. Well, the original one was a pretty good-sized crack but …

    TOM: Well, what I would do if it’s a hairline crack is I would fill it with silicone caulk, because it will expand and contract and won’t – epoxy is pretty stiff if it’s going to break and crack through it. So I would just fill it with silicone caulk; that will just keep out some moisture and drafts from coming through it.

    ALAN: Alright. And now, if I dig down – I know it doesn’t go clear to the footing because I’ve been down that far. I dug down to see how far it went down. And so, dig down and suggest maybe tarring it up below grade?

    TOM: I wouldn’t go through all that. I mean right now, it’s – I would just improve the drainage conditions and seal the crack from the inside where you can.

    ALAN: OK.

    LESLIE: Hey, is your bathroom looking a bit drab and dingy these days? Well, Tom Silva from TV’s This Old House is here with a budget-friendly pick-me-up that makes the perfect weekend project, when we return.

    JONATHAN: Hey, this is Jonathan Scott, host of HGTV’s Property Brothers. Don’t let your home become a real-life money pit. Listen to The Money Pit Home Improvement Show with Tom Kraeutler and Leslie Segrete.

    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.

    TOM: And we are coming up on one of our biggest annual events here at The Money Pit: the National Hardware Show in Las Vegas. We will be bringing you the inside scoop on the best of the best from our Top Products Pavilion, right on the show floor.

    Now, this is an industry event only, so it’s not open to the public. But you get to go behind the curtain with us. You can check out our top products online at MoneyPit.com and follow along on Twitter with the hashtag #TopProductsNHS.

    LESLIE: Yeah. You know, I know I love the show and Tom loves the show. And all the pros out there really love going to the National Hardware Show, because we get to bring you the first look at the newest products that manufacturers are getting ready to roll out for the new season.

    For example, Krylon has a really fantastic, new spray paint called Covermax. And what’s really cool about this paint is that it dries in 10 minutes or less. And it has excellent adhesion to wood, metal, even plastic, which is why they say Krylon Covermax is where color meets performance.

    TOM: Check it out online with our Top Products Gallery and follow us @MoneyPit on Twitter.

    LESLIE: Well, grout is the material that you use to fill your spaces between tiles. And when it looks dirty or drab, it can drag down the look of an entire room.

    TOM: Well, the good news is cleaning or replacing weathered grout has an equally powerful effect on a space. Here to tell us how to do it the right way is Tom Silva, the general contractor on TV’s This Old House.

    Welcome, Tom.

    TOM SILVA: Thank you. It’s nice to be here.

    TOM: So, let’s start by determining whether you should clean the grout or replace it completely. Is it ever possible that the grout is just so dirty it’s not worth it?

    TOM SILVA: Absolutely. Lots of times you want to replace the grout. You’ll see signs if it’s falling out in areas that get a lot of movement, usually against the backsplash in a countertop.

    TOM: Right.

    TOM SILVA: It starts to get loose in there because of different expansion and contraction.

    TOM: So, structurally, too, it could be falling apart. But if you do want to clean it, does the choice of cleaner really depend on the type of tile you’re dealing with?

    TOM SILVA: It sure does. Let’s say, for example, that glazed tile – well, a glazed tile, you may want to opt for a commercial cleaner and a bristle brush or a non-metallic scouring pad.

    TOM: Right.

    TOM SILVA: Put the cleaner on there and you’re just going to scrub it really well.

    LESLIE: Because that tile can really stand up to it.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah, exactly. It’s tough stuff. Unglazed tile, where it’s a natural cleaner, is a better way to go because the tile isn’t as tough. You can use a baking soda and water, mix it up as a paste and put it on there. Apply and then use a softer brush to clean it.

    And then there’s the natural stone. You don’t want to use any acid cleaners at all. They could damage the surface of the marble, the granite or any travertine or anything that’s around it, so you’ve got to be careful with that.

    TOM: So with all of these, a good idea to maybe start small and see how it goes before you start spreading the cleaner on the entire surface?

    LESLIE: Any spot?

    TOM SILVA: It’s always good to try an area that’s not so obvious, first, to make sure you don’t ruin anything.

    TOM: Yeah.

    LESLIE: Now, are there any tips to a successful cleaning job? Because sometimes you want to make a paste and let it sit on there and draw out the dirt. Is there a good trick of the trade here?

    TOM SILVA: I guess the only trick I can say is take your time, make sure you use the right material. And if you’re unsure, ask somebody.

    TOM: Yeah. Because you don’t want to do it twice or ruin the tile.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah, yeah. Or ruin it. And then you’re going to have to drag out all the grout and replace it.

    TOM: Now, if the grout is dragging out on its own and falling apart and we end up having to replace that grout, it seems like it could be a challenge to get all the old stuff out. How do you approach that project?

    TOM SILVA: Well, there’s a few different ways you could do it. You can cut it out with a saw – a grout saw – with a very thin blade.

    TOM: OK.

    TOM SILVA: You’ve got to be careful of that because you don’t want to cut the tile.

    TOM: Now, is that a hand tool, a grout saw? Or is it a power tool?

    TOM SILVA: It’s a power tool. They have a battery-operated saw that you can get in there and cut it.

    TOM: OK.

    TOM SILVA: Another tool is an oscillating saw. You can actually hit it with your finger and you won’t be cut but it will cut the grout.

    TOM: Oh, interesting.

    TOM SILVA: Pretty interesting. Then they also have a little tool. It looks like a utility knife but it has a flat blade.

    TOM: OK.

    TOM SILVA: And you just drag it back and forth on the grout.

    LESLIE: That seems like a lot of work.

    TOM SILVA: A lot of work.

    TOM: Yeah. Well, that would probably be good if you’re getting in the kind of nooks and the crannies, you know, up against the wall or something.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah, hard-to-get spots and stuff like that.

    TOM: Yeah.

    TOM SILVA: But you can drag it. And they also have one that’s just a hook and you can get in there and drag the grout. But you’ve got to be careful that you don’t damage the tile with any of those.

    LESLIE: This all sounds like teeth flossing.

    TOM SILVA: Oh, yes. That’s another chore in itself.

    TOM: Now, if you’re going to regrout, you’ve got to decide now what kind of grout you want to go back in with. And you can choose sanded or unsanded. How would you determine the difference?

    TOM SILVA: By the thickness of your grout line.

    TOM: OK.

    TOM SILVA: The thinner the grout line, the harder it’s going to be to get a sanded grout into it. So, that’s when you want to choose an unsanded grout.

    LESLIE: Because the sand is sort of like the filler. And I generally think of that for a floor when you’ve got a bigger tile with a bigger joint.

    TOM SILVA: Exactly, exactly. And all you want is – unsanded, it’s really like a peanut butter; you just push it right in there.

    TOM: Right.

    TOM SILVA: And it will fill up that joint nicely.

    LESLIE: Any tricks for when you’re reapplying that grout? So often you get a haze as you’re cleaning off all of the remnants of the grout. And that haze sort of reappears. Do you address that right away? Do you let it sort of set up a little bit? Because I’ve seen haze not disappear.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah, well, you just keep wiping it. The biggest problem is you’re using a dirty sponge and dirty water. A little trick that I’ve used over the years is you put your grout in, let it set a little bit. Don’t let it set too long. Wipe it with a clean sponge, change the water a couple of times and then get a piece of burlap and then wipe the whole wall down with a burlap bag. And then it just falls right off.

    TOM: Oh, (inaudible at 0:25:04). Great idea.

    TOM: And then, clean sponge again, couple more times and you’re in business.

    LESLIE: That’s great.

    TOM: Now, once you’re all done, do you recommend sealing the grout?

    TOM SILVA: You can seal the grout. Depends on if it’s in an area that needs to be sealed like, for example, the back of a stove or a range where it can get dirty. But it’s tricky. You want to make sure you only seal the grout and not the tile.

    TOM: Good advice. Tom Silva, the general contractor on TV’s This Old House, thank you so much for stopping by and brightening up our day with some tips on grout cleaning.

    TOM SILVA: Always a pleasure.

    LESLIE: Alright. 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 on PBS by State Farm. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.

    Up next, warmer weather is just about here. Do you have the lawn and garden to go with it? We’ll have tips to make sure your yard is the greenest ever, 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.

    TOM: And now that it’s getting nicer outside, you probably want to spend less time cleaning and more time doing the things you love.

    LESLIE: That’s right. Let the new Brillo Sweep & Mop help. It’s got 3-in-1 technology, which will not only eliminate the need for a separate broom and a separate mop, it actually means no more getting on your hands and knees just to get your floor clean.

    Now, one caller that we talk to this hour is going to get to experience for themselves the super-fun and really thorough cleaning job that the Brillo Sweep & Mop will do. We are giving away a Brillo Prize Pack and it does include that Sweep & Mop.

    TOM: It’s a prize pack worth $50. Could be yours if we answer your question on the air. So give us a call, right now, with your home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Heidi in North Carolina is on the line with an electrical problem. How can we help you today?

    HEIDI: Well, I have kind of a two-part question. I have an older home; it’s about 68 years old. We paid an electrician to come in when we converted over to a heat pump from an old furnace to up our service. And we have an old fuse box that are the screw-in type fuses. And when he put the system in – the new electrical box – he was supposed to convert everything over into the new electrical box. And he left the little electrical box – the little fuse box – in my kitchen.

    And unfortunately, he put the new electrical box on the outside of my house. That would be OK, except I’m a single woman and I don’t – safety reasons, I don’t think it’s really smart considering I have a full-size basement it could have easily been put in.

    LESLIE: Right.

    HEIDI: So do I need to – I mean I would never call this guy again, for lots of reasons. But do I need to pay somebody else to come in and convert that last part of my home into this other fuse box or – these little fuses are hard to find and when they blow …

    TOM: So, it’s definitely an active panel, right? The fuse panel?

    HEIDI: Oh, it’s active. Yes, sir.

    TOM: OK. So that’s called a sub-panel and that’s going to be a sub-panel from the main panel. You said the main panel is now in the basement or the main panel is outside?

    HEIDI: It’s outside. We have a full basement and why he put it outside, I have no clue. But he put the main panel …

    TOM: Yeah, that makes no sense. Because the only time you usually see full panels outside is maybe a condominium situation and then they’re in utility closets. So I can’t imagine why that was done that way. It doesn’t make sense. It sounds to me like you do need a better electrician to come in and take care of this.

    If it makes you feel any better, the fact that you have a fuse box does not mean that it’s unsafe. Fuses are actually quite safe if it’s the right-size fuse matched against the wire that’s hooked up to that circuit.

    And so, to know if that’s the case, somebody has to open the panel and say, “OK, this is Number 14 wire, so it’s a 15-amp fuse. And this is Number 12 wire, so it’s a 20-amp fuse,” and so on and physically write that right above the fuse on the panel so you know what size to put in there. Because it’s too easy, with a fuse box, to put in a 20-amp fuse on a wire that’s only rated for 15 amps. Then, of course, that’s potentially unsafe.

    So, it does sound like you need another electrician. It’s obviously not a do-it-yourself project. And unless there’s some compelling code reason in your part of the country to put that outside, I don’t understand why they would have done that. And you could consider rerunning it back to the inside and unfortunately, that’s kind of where we’re at. It’s not an easy fix; it’s one that’s going to require the investment of a good electrician.

    HEIDI: Alright. Well, thank you very much.

    TOM: Well, are you ready to put winter behind you and get going for a lush spring lawn? Before you bust out the garden gear, we’ve got some advice on exactly what to do for a great-looking yard, with this week’s Lawn-and-Garden Tip, presented by Vigoro.

    LESLIE: As part of a well-designed and maintained landscape, a full, green lawn increases a home’s property value by 15 to 20 percent.

    In spring, you’re going to get a lot of growth. This is the perfect time to put down your first round of fertilizer. Fertilizer will add nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium to soil where these naturally occurring nutrients have been depleted.

    TOM: Now, the key to applying fertilizer is to cover every inch of your lawn evenly. You want to use a spreader and make sure not to overlap the rows too much. Fertilizer should also be applied every 8 weeks during a lawn’s active growing season.

    LESLIE: And that’s your Lawn-and-Garden Tip presented by Vigoro. With Vigoro’s lawn fertilizers with Assurance Particle Technology, the particles are now smaller and more uniform and cover more evenly. And best of all, it’s green in 72 hours.

    With Vigoro, you’ll also get the even feeding, even greening, no-burn guarantee.

    TOM: Vigoro offers high-quality lawn-and-garden products at the ultimate value. Find the entire Vigoro line only at The Home Depot, including Vigoro weed-and-feed products, also with Assurance Particle Technology. Visit HomeDepot.com to learn more.

    LESLIE: Clyde in Missouri is on the line and needs some help with a water heater. What can we do for you?

    CLYDE: I’m adding a room on in my house and the water heater I’ve got, it’s electric, 30-gallon. And it’s taking up too much room I don’t have to spare. And my question is: is one of those in-line water heaters – would that be advisable for a resident?

    TOM: You mean an on-demand, tankless water heater?

    CLYDE: Yes.

    TOM: The problem is that you have electric. Do you have gas there – natural gas – or propane?

    CLYDE: No. I can get propane alright. I don’t have a tank.

    TOM: If you want to have an on-demand tankless water heater, you need to have that be fossil-fueled with either natural gas or propane. There are electric, on-demand systems but they’re very expensive to use and I don’t think there’s any efficiency in going with that. So, if you want to have propane added to the house, you can consider a tankless water heater.

    Now, if you want to go back with what you do have now, of course, you are going to need the room but you could save some costs if you put a timer on that water heater so that it only heats water when you need it. Technically, you only need it a few hours in the morning and a few hours in the evening. All day long, it’ll stay warm for hand-washing and that sort of thing and then it can be off in the middle of the night. And that actually cuts the energy costs associated with heating the water.

    CLYDE: Uh-huh. Well, I’ve got a timer on it now but I haven’t been using it because I really couldn’t figure out the right time to be doing it.

    TOM: Well …

    CLYDE: It seemed like it was always cold when I needed hot and hot when I didn’t need it, so one of those kinds of deals.

    TOM: Yeah, I hear you. I hear you.

    CLYDE: So I thought, “Well, I’ll just leave it.” Is there anything …?

    TOM: You know, they only work – the timers only work well if your family is on a regular schedule where you can really rely on it for certain hours of the day. But if your schedule varies a bit, then maybe not so much.

    So, those are your options, though.

    LESLIE: Well, good home design is all about having focal points. But scuff marks on your floor shouldn’t be one of them. We’re going to tell you how to get those scuffs up without causing more damage, when The Money Pit continues.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by QUIKRETE Concrete & Cement products. QUIKRETE, what America is made of. Like us on Facebook and visit online at www.QUIKRETE.com for product information and easy, step-by-step project videos.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Hey, if you can’t remember that home improvement advice you heard while you’re driving, you can find it online at MoneyPit.com. Just search by topic. You’ll find transcripts from all our past shows.

    You can also subscribe to The Money Pit podcasts while you’re there. Just click on the Radio and Podcast section of the home page and you can listen to The Money Pit when it’s good for you. It’s all online at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Alright. And you can post a question, just like James from Iowa did who writes: “I rearranged my living room last week. It looks great except for the scuffs left behind from moving that furniture. How do I remove them from the wood laminate floor without damaging it further?”

    Well, it’s funny because a scuff mark – I mean if he’s talking about a proper scuff mark and not some sort of scratch – a scuff mark is just really like a leftover of rubber or paint from the two materials sort of rubbing against one another. And truly, the best thing that you can do to get rid of them is if you pick up a Magic Eraser – and you can find them at the supermarket. It’s by Mr. Clean. It’s white, it looks like a sponge. There’s ones for heavy-duty application, there’s ones for cleaning the bathroom. I don’t know what’s on it. I don’t know how it works.

    TOM: But it works.

    LESLIE: Yeah. You get it wet and you rub it on whatever the problem is and it’s gone. And you don’t want it to be too wet; you kind of just have to dampen it but wring out the rest of the water.

    And you can use it to get rid of scuff marks on the floor, any sort of scuff mark on a wall from moving a piece of furniture, or when you’re hanging a piece of art or you brush up against something and it kind of rubs against the wall and makes the same sort of scuff mark. They’re amazing. They get your sneakers clean.

    You can find a thousand things to do with a Magic Eraser. And that will do the trick for you, James.

    TOM: Alright. Jennifer writes from Cincinnati and says, “Are there any problems associated with having a whole-house surge suppressor, individual surge suppressor, backup battery and standby generator all working at the same time?”

    Well, first of all, it sounds like Jennifer is covered six ways from Sunday against a power failure.

    LESLIE: Seriously.

    TOM: She has every piece of equipment imaginable there in Cincinnati.

    But I will say that in my experience, there can be conflicts between individual surge suppressors and backup batteries. But I don’t see conflicts between these and a standby generator. In fact, the standby generator should really be your first line of defense. You really want to look at the technical details and sort of the fine print of the backup battery and the surge suppressor to discover if there could be potential conflicts.

    But I have personally experienced conflicts between those two devices. They don’t seem to get along because, frankly, they do – they have sort of an overlapping service. You know, they’re monitoring the quality of the electrical power and if they both sense the problem, they’re both going to react to the problem and that causes them to be in conflict with one another.

    But the first step is really the standby generator. So if you’ve got that, you are good to go.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got one from Mike in Boston and he writes: “I’m in the process of refreshing my kitchen and intend to paint walls that were previously wallpapered. Thanks to a steamer, the paper is coming down pretty nicely with just a few spots where the backing paper has come off the sheetrock. Once it’s all down, what’s the best way to prep the walls for paint? I intend to use a matte finish, probably a light tan color.”

    TOM: Well, you’re smart to use a matte finish because the paint surface will no doubt be – it’s not quite as smooth as it would be if it was new work. And matte tends to hide a lot.

    But first off, you are clearly smart to use the steamer; it’s the easiest way to remove wallpaper. But the next step is to touch up any areas where the sheetrock is damaged and then prime all of the walls with a good primer. And you want to use a latex or an oil-based primer. It’s going to seal in the surfaces, give you a nice, great base upon which to add your top coat of paint. And then once you apply that paint, you will have a brand-new room to admire.

    LESLIE: Yeah, Mike. Make sure you take some pictures and post them on our Facebook page. We love to see successful projects and not-so-successful ones, too, so we can help.

    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.

    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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