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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 for you, so pick up the phone and call us with your home improvement question. Let us help solve your do-it-yourself dilemma. What project are you working on? What do you have planned for spring? What’s the one thing that you want to get done when the weather warms up a bit? Or maybe you’re sick and tired of paying high energy bills and you want to cut down on those costs? Whatever the project is, pick up the phone and call us. Let’s talk about it, 888-666-3974.

    Coming up on today’s program, if you’re like most of us, you probably have at least one or two poorly lit rooms in your home. We’re going to solve that problem with some expert lighting tips to help brighten your day, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: And here’s some good news for you and your energy bills: you know, new stats are showing that energy use is down among homeowners across the country. We’re going to tell you why and give you a few tips to cut it even further, a little later.

    TOM: And are you sick and tired of the ice around your house right now? Especially if it freezes – and has this ever happened to you? It can freeze your garage door shut. We’re going to tell you how to get out of that jam safely, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: And also this hour, we’re giving away a beautiful area rug worth $500 from Loloi Rugs to one lucky caller who’s drawn at random.

    TOM: It’s a great prize, so call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT for the answer to your home improvement question and your chance to win.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Preston in Kentucky is on the line who needs some help with a painting project. What’s going on at your money pit?

    PRESTON: I was just curious why – I’ve gotten a few estimates on getting the inside of my home painted. And I was curious why they – why there’s such a wide gap in between the prices that I’ve gotten. Is one job different than the other?

    TOM: Well, it depends. When the first painter comes, did you have sort of your blue jeans on and dirty shirt and when the second guy came, you were all dressed up in a suit and tie like you had just walked out of the bank?

    LESLIE: Dressed from work?

    TOM: They bid you as much as they bid the job.

    LESLIE: Briefcase handcuffed to your wrist?

    TOM: Yeah. Yeah, don’t wear the fake Rolex now when the guy comes over to give you a price.

    Listen, the thing is what you want to do is make sure they’re comparing apples to apples on these estimates. So there could be a lot of things that they’re doing differently. I would check that first, starting with the brand of paint – because the better paint is going to be worth it; it’s going to be more scrubbable – how many coats they’re going to apply.

    LESLIE: Are they priming? What’s the prep work? Is it plaster? Do they need to skim-coat? Is there any repair work that needs to be done to the existing drywall?

    TOM: And also, you’re just going to have to – because it’s so labor-intensive, you’re absolutely going to positively have to do your homework on all these guys and get references and talk to people that they did work for recently.

    And I like to ask people for references of somebody that they worked for at least a year ago, so we can see over time what their reputation has been. Because you definitely need to have someone who’s careful about their – working inside your house and who’s also a skilled painter. So I would dig in on the references and I would make sure that we’re comparing apples to apples in terms of what the project is that they’re actually doing.

    And then another thing that you can do is always go online. And I like to search “complaints against” and the name of the business. And believe me, if there is anybody who’s had a problem, they’re going to pop up in a Google search. So if you search the word “complaints” and the name of the vendor, you’ll find out right away.

    And keep in mind, there are complaint sites out there. The only reason people go to them is to complain, so you don’t always get a balanced view. But if you see a lot of complaints on a lot of different sites, then you know maybe it’s an issue and you should steer clear. Does that make sense?

    PRESTON: OK, great.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Claire in Alaska on the line who’s dealing with a first-time basement. What can we do for you?

    CLAIRE: Well, I have purchased a 1900 house and it has this basement that is getting moisture. It has this sticky, black paper on the outside but it is not functioning properly, apparently, because there’s a lot of moisture coming in.

    TOM: Right.

    CLAIRE: And it would require digging out on the outside to do the outside. Is there any way to address it from the inside?

    TOM: Well, there’s another way to address it on the outside and that is to pay attention to the angle of the soil around the house. So when it does warm up and you have the opportunity to regrade the foundation perimeter and make sure that the angle of the soil, the angle of the grade slopes away from the building.

    CLAIRE: I put French drains in all around the property and sloped it and put gravel.

    TOM: So there’s – well, OK. Now, if he sloped it with gravel, then he didn’t really do you a favor, because the gravel is porous. So the water goes through the gravel, back to the dirt underneath and into your basement. So if you’re going to slope it – yeah, give him an A for effort but it’s not going to be successful. You have to grade it with clean fill dirt so that you can tamp it and the water will run away from it. Water is not going to run over gravel; it falls through it.

    But there’s a second thing to check and that is: do you have gutters on the roof?

    CLAIRE: No, because the snow pulled them off.

    TOM: Right, OK. Well, look, if you can collect the water at the roof edge – and even if you have deep gutters or if you use the type of gutters that have the warming cables up on the roof, if you prevent water from running off the roof and against that foundation perimeter, you’ll prevent a wet basement, because most of the water collects at the outside.

    Protect the perimeter; keep it as dry as possible. And a lot of wet basements are caused because gutters are missing or gutters are clogged and the water rolls off the roof right against the foundation. Soil is flat, so the water has got nowhere to go and it just sits there and leaks into the basement.

    CLAIRE: OK. So I’ve got to work on that.

    TOM: 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. Now you can call in your home repair or your home improvement questions 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, do you have a room in your house that’s drab, despite the bright colors on the wall? Well, it might simply be the position of your lights. We’ve got the step-by-step lighting tips to help brighten your day, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Arrow Sheds, the leader in steel storage sheds and buildings. Steel sheds are durable, secure and a great value. Arrow Storage Products, available at national home centers, hardware stores and online. See a complete line of products at Sheds.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. And we are taking your calls, right here, at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Now, if you get on the air with us and we answer your home improvement question, one of you lucky callers is going to win a 5×8 luxury rug of your choice from Loloi. And you can choose any rug from their Encore Collection. The rugs are in a plush, shag style but they have a varying pile height, so it gives them kind of a really sleek, sophisticated look. So it could really work with any décor. You know, check them out online.

    They’re really beautiful rugs, aren’t they, Tom?

    TOM: They are. You can see them for yourself at LoloiRugs.com and that’s spelled L-o-l-o-i – Rugs.com.

    And call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT for the answer to your home improvement question and your chance to win.

    LESLIE: Dottie in Nebraska is on the line and needs some help with a flooring project. What can we do for you today?

    DOTTIE: I’m replacing – will be replacing a vinyl floor in the kitchen. And I’ve never had a wood floor. I love the look of wood but I’m confused as to whether to go with wood or with laminate, because I want easy care.

    LESLIE: OK. And this is strictly for your kitchen or does it …?

    DOTTIE: We will be going into the dining room, too, we’ve decided. We’ll be taking up carpet in there to extend into the dining room.

    LESLIE: OK. So it’s – is it an open plan or is there a threshold or is there a division between these two spaces?

    DOTTIE: There is a counter between the two.

    LESLIE: OK. Now, for kitchens, hardwood floors are beautiful but generally, even if they have a commercial type of coating on them, they’re not really meant to stand up to the wear and tear and perhaps the moisture that could occur in a kitchen environment. I think a laminate is probably a better choice for you, just because of the way they are made. And the finishes on top of them make them more easy to clean, easier to deal with any spills that might occur and certainly more durable and of course, can look like anything.

    I actually just put a laminate, in a home I redid in California, that was a 6-inch-wide plank that had a hand-scraped finish on it. So it certainly had that warmth and look and a quality of a traditional hardwood that you’re probably looking for. And depending on the quality of laminate, you could get kind of close to a hardwood price but I think you can still keep it in your price range.

    DOTTIE: Yes.

    LESLIE: But you can find, certainly, beautiful options in the laminate. I think that’s probably the way you want to go for a kitchen.

    DOTTIE: OK. And see if you agree with this: I’ve been told that we have oak cabinets that are OK and not to try to match those. Is that right to go lighter or darker?

    LESLIE: Absolutely. What color is the oak? Is it sort of natural? Has it been stained a different tone?

    DOTTIE: It’s pretty typical, warm oak: kind of a golden – kind of a medium brown.

    LESLIE: I like the idea of a darker floor in a kitchen. I feel like it’s more forgiving. I feel like it makes the cabinets sort of jump off and create a more put-together look for a kitchen space. I think with a lighter floor, you’re always going to be trying to clean it and care for it, cover it up.

    DOTTIE: OK. And as far – I have a friend who put – I think she said hers is cherry but I love the look. It’s kind of a – the planks are a different shade; they’re not all the same color. Is that something you think that I could find or would that look nice with the oak?

    LESLIE: Now when you say “different shades,” is it strikingly different? Does it look sort of patchwork-y or is it more tonal?

    DOTTIE: No. No. More subtle than that.

    LESLIE: More subtle. I mean I think it could be a very good look if you’ve got the right look for your kitchen. That tends to be a more – not a hippie-dippie but Bohemian, free-spirited sort of eclectic look that’s very popular right now. So if you’ve got that look going in your lighting fixtures and in your tile work and in your countertops, then it could really tie it all in together.

    DOTTIE: OK. And one last question. That floor that I like is laid on the diagonal. Do you do that much and do you recommend that?

    LESLIE: Depends on the size of the space. Because if it’s a tighter or a narrow kitchen, it could look very busy. But if you’ve got a good expanse and the kitchen is fairly wide, then it could play very nicely.

    DOTTIE: Well, that’s wonderful. That’s what I wanted to know. I thought probably the laminate was better. I want it to look beautiful; I don’t want it to look fake.

    TOM: I’ll tell you, Dottie, I have laminate in my kitchen and I’ve had it for about 10 years now.


    TOM: It looks like stone floor and it’s beautiful.

    DOTTIE: Wonderful. OK. And no particular brand tips or anything like that? Maybe you can’t do that. I’m really a novice here.

    TOM: Well, I’ll tell you, you might just want to – a good place just to kind of shop for it is LumberLiquidators.com, only because they have good prices and they have a whole bunch of manufacturers there on their website.

    DOTTIE: Sure.

    TOM: So that might be a good place to start.

    DOTTIE: OK. I will do it. Thank you so much.

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

    LESLIE: Well, if you’re like most of us, there are likely some areas in your home that are just not well lit. And good lighting is super-important. Not only is it going to make your home look bigger but it actually can make your home safer.

    First of all, in living and reading areas, you obviously need plenty of floor lamps and table lamps. But here’s a common mistake that leads to injury. You want to make sure that those lamps point toward the activity and not towards you.

    TOM: And one area where direct lighting is super-important is the kitchen. If you have one main, overhead light source, you want to consider adding an additional pendant fixture above the work surface.

    LESLIE: Now, if you’ve got a room that’s tough to fill with natural light, like maybe it’s only got one window, an easy fix for that is to place some mirrors in strategic places. And that’s going to help bounce the light around the room. It’s going to make it feel bigger and it’s going to be brighter.

    TOM: And if someone you love has vision problems, you might want to take advantage of high-contrast colors. For example, you could put a dark switch plate on a light wall and choose bright colors for fixtures and accessories.

    If you’d like more easy lighting tips, we’ve got them online, right now, at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: William in North Carolina is dealing with some sticky doors. Tell us what’s going on.

    WILLIAM: Well, I’ve got this problem going on now. It’s been, oh, many years since we moved into this house, in 1992.

    TOM: OK.

    WILLIAM: It seems like some doors stick and the others don’t. And then when the doors that were sticking don’t stick anymore, the ones that were not sticking stick. So I can’t figure it out. I’ve been wondering, is it the paint job that they put on the doors when they built the house or is it something doing with – dealing with the climate or what?

    TOM: Well, it has to do with the climate, William, and it’s the fact that when it gets moist out, when it gets humid out, the doors will tend to swell more than when it – in the wintertime, when things are drier.

    Now, you can fix this by adjusting the swings – the door installation. You may have to reset the hinges to make a little bit more room around it. One of the things that you might also want to check is you could take the door off the hinges and look at the edge grain; that’s the very top and the very bottom of the door. If that wasn’t sealed, then that kind of acts as sort of the open door for all the moisture to get into that door and cause it to swell.

    So if you were to seal the top and the bottom of the door – I bet the sides are: the hinge side and the striker side. But the very top and the very bottom tend to be left untouched very often. And if you were to seal those with a clear finish, for example, or just to paint them – I don’t know if your doors are clear or not – then that will have an effect on stopping the doors from absorbing as much moisture.

    So it’s really a carpentry problem. It’s nothing mysterious about it; it’s just the doors are swelling, getting stuck in the openings. And you can rehang the door to address that. You can also seal the top and the bottom to slow it down, OK?

    WILLIAM: OK. Thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Mary in North Carolina is on the line with a squirrel situation. Tell us what’s going on.

    MARY: Well, I have three porches in my house and my husband found that the squirrels were eating all the porch columns. Well, he went – he replaced them all and lo and behold, they came back and they started chewing again. So, I don’t know what to do. He’s painted them and I’m thinking is there something he could put in the paint or some other product we could use to put – to fix these columns with?

    LESLIE: Stop using lamb legs to hold up your porch, geez. Oh, my goodness. I don’t know why they seem to really like your porch posts but they do. And you want to kind of get rid of them in a humane way that’s just going to deter them from chewing on your porch and maybe send them to somebody else’s or just send them back into the wild to eat a tree.

    But are you familiar with the company, Havahart?

    MARY: Havahart. No, I’ve not heard that.

    LESLIE: They have all sorts of humane animal traps and animal repellants and wireless dog fences. And it’s actually H-a-v-a-h-a-r-t.com.

    MARY: Oh, OK.

    LESLIE: And they’ve got a product that should work for you. It’s called the Critter Ridder Animal Repellant? And it’s a spray and it’s all-natural, so you don’t have to worry about – around kinds or pets. But it will repel nuisance animals: squirrels, raccoons, dogs, cats, groundhogs, really pretty much anything.

    MARY: Oh, great.

    LESLIE: But it only lasts for about 30 days, so you will have to reapply it. But it has things like black-pepper oil, things that they’re not going to like. And it’s not something that you’re going to be bothered by. So if you’ve got even like a birdfeeder that the squirrels are getting at, you can try this on that.

    But give it a whirl. You can find it online. I think it’s about 12 bucks a bottle; it’s not too expensive.

    MARY: OK.

    TOM: Mary, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Bill in Tennessee on the line who needs help with some sinkholes.

    Bill, tell us what’s going on.

    BILL: I’ve got a patio in the backyard and at the end of my patio, I’ve got two huge sinkholes and then another sinkhole at the corner of my house. And this has been going on for about a year, year-and-a-half. They’re about 5 feet deep and, I don’t know, the circumference of about a manhole cover.

    And just wanted to know what’s the cheapest and best way to take care of it where it doesn’t keep on happening. My patio is actually cracking where it’s sinking down a little bit.

    TOM: So over the course of a year, these holes have revealed themselves?

    BILL: For about the last year-and-a-half is when they started happening.

    TOM: So very slowly but surely. And how old is this house?

    BILL: About 15 years old.

    TOM: Well, I mean it could be the result of loose fill that was put in these areas around the house when the home was finished – created, when it was done.

    BILL: Right.

    TOM: It could be the result of that. It could also be the result of some decaying material, like old trees or things like that that are in there.

    Do you have any concern about it continuing to happen or do you think it’s pretty much done?

    BILL: It’s pretty much done, it looks like, and …

    TOM: So what I would do is I would fill those areas with clean fill dirt and that’s the most inexpensive dirt that you can buy. And then you want to tamp it down really well. So you put a little bit in, you tamp it, you put some more in, you tamp it. And then you finish it off with topsoil. And because it’s a sunken area, I would almost overfill it a little bit, because it’s going to settle down flat.

    BILL: And what if it – like a year from now, it starts happening again?

    TOM: Yeah, well, if that’s the case and it starts happening again, then at that point I would have to recommend that you got an engineer in to take a look at it, to see if we could figure out what was going on with the soils. You may need to do some borings around there to try to determine what’s in the ground and why it’s sinking.

    BILL: OK. Well, that sounds great.

    TOM: Alright. Well, 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. Still ahead, a new study is showing that energy usage is down. Find out why and how you can cut down the amount of energy that you use even more, after this.

    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: Give us a call right now with your home improvement question. We are standing by to help at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Laurie in Illinois is on the line and needs some help cleaning a bathtub. Tell us what’s going on.

    LAURIE: We have had problems cleaning the surface – the bottom surface – of our bathtub since we moved in. All of our bathtubs have a rough surface. And I’ve tried every product I can think of and we cannot clean them.

    TOM: OK.

    LAURIE: So I need some help with that.

    TOM: OK. So, is the surface still rough now or is it – just seems to be stained?

    LAURIE: No, it’s rough.

    TOM: It’s rough. Is it textured or do you think it’s like an adhesive kind of a roughness?

    LAURIE: Well, it’s – I think it’s textured.

    TOM: What you might be seeing here, Laurie, is a change in the color of the porcelain just from years of sort of wear and tear.


    TOM: Sometimes, it will look like a stain but in reality, the surface is really just worn. And you can clean until the cows come home and it’s not going to get any brighter.


    TOM: So what are your options? So, you could refinish the tub but when you try to refinish a tub in place, it’s kind of a temporary fix. It can look bright and clean for a while but the refinishing just doesn’t last as long as the original porcelain.


    TOM: Or you can consider a process like BATH FITTER, where they come into your house and in one day, they sort of create a whole new tub for you by dropping a custom-formed insert into that tub.

    LAURIE: Right.

    TOM: It covers all of the surfaces kind of like a glove. They seal the walls. It’s all one piece. It looks great and it’s kind of easy to clean and you’re pretty much done with it after that.

    LAURIE: OK. So there’s no cleaner that would actually clean it, you don’t think?

    TOM: And the reason – because I don’t think it’s dirt. I think it’s most likely to be evidence of the finish itself wearing.

    LAURIE: OK, OK. Well, I guess that I’ll have to go that route, then. And I certainly thank you for your help and I’ll see what I can do.

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

    LAURIE: Thank you.

    TOM: Well, for decades, heating and air conditioning accounted for more than half of all residential energy use. But new estimates from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, well, they’re showing that heating-and-cooling costs have dipped below the halfway mark. That’s down from 58 percent in 1993 and that’s a very good thing.

    And it’s probably mostly due to the availability of more efficient heating-and-cooling equipment and also because of smarter building practices that include better insulation and more efficient windows. If that is not your situation, there are some small things that you can do that can help you save energy, no matter how old your home is.

    LESLIE: Yeah. You know, one of the most single important home improvements that you can actually make is to seal out the drafts in your home. And just sealing those drafts will go a hugely long way.

    Now, another easy step is always running your dishwasher without the heated drying cycle on. And if you add an adjustable thermostat so that your heating-and-cooling cycles can be timed for only when you actually need them, you’re going to save a ton of money.

    TOM: And we’ve got more tips – in fact, a whole list of energy-saving tips – online, right now, at MoneyPit.com. 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got Mike from Tennessee calling in. And what’s great is that Mike tuned into us on Facebook and knew that we were in studio and gave us a call through our Facebook fan network.

    Hey, Mike. Welcome.

    MIKE: Our house is on a slab and we’re wanting to change to possibly some type of wood flooring but trying to decide what type would be best and how to go about that decision.

    TOM: OK. Well, it’s very easy. Because your house is on a slab, there’s only one type of wood flooring that you can put down and that’s called engineered floor. The reason it’s called engineered floor, Mike, is because it’s put together in layers, kind of like plywood where you have alternating layers of wood? And that’s necessary for it to be dimensionally stable.

    If you were to try to put down solid hardwood floor on a concrete floor, that concrete is so damp and moist that the solid hardwood would very quickly warp and twist and it just wouldn’t work. So, you want engineered hardwood and that can be installed as a floating floor, which means the floor pieces themselves would lock together but they don’t really attach to the floor. They just kind of float and they go down over an underlayment which is usually, with engineered, like a thin foam, so it even gives you a little cushion when you walk on it. And you cut it to fit the room and you cover the exposed edge with some molding when you get out to the baseboard.

    So it’s pretty straightforward, pretty easy project to do. I would buy the best-quality engineered that you can afford, because it really counts on the finish. If you get a commercial-grade, for example, finish, it’s going to be far more durable, because it is almost impossible to refinish. So you really do want to have a good-quality finish first time out of the box.

    MIKE: Well, that’s great information. I appreciate it.

    TOM: You got it. 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, one of the joys of winter, getting stuck in your garage thanks to your garage door being frozen shut? Well, we’re going to tell you how you can get out or get into it, whatever you need, in one piece without losing your mind, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Stanley Tools, your trusted name in quality hand tools. To learn more about their complete line of quality tools and everything for your tool box, visit StanleyTools.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. And we are taking your questions, right now, at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    We’re also giving away a great prize to one lucky caller who gets on the air with us. We’ve got up for grabs a $500 rug from Loloi Rugs. They’re machine-loomed rugs from Turkey. They’re going to work with pretty much any décor and any style. You get a 5×8 rug of your choice and you can check them out, right now, at LoloiRugs.com. And that’s L-o-l-o-i – Rugs.com.

    And give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT for your chance to win.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Sonya from Illinois on the line with a foundation question. What’s going on?

    SONYA: Well, I have a – I live in a two-story house with a basement underneath. And attached to that house is a garage and behind the garage is a family room.

    TOM: OK.

    SONYA: And the family room is on a crawlspace. Now, the foundation between the garage and the family room has shifted and cracked due to settling of the house.

    TOM: Alright. Sonya, let me stop you right there. What’s the crack look like? Is it vertical or horizontal?

    SONYA: Vertical, actually.

    TOM: OK.

    SONYA: But it goes down for quite a few of the cinder blocks.

    TOM: Blocks, blocks. OK. Is it hairline or is it opened up?

    SONYA: Part of it is opened up.

    TOM: Oh. And the rest of it’s hairline?

    SONYA: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: I wouldn’t worry too much about it. That’s a very typical kind of crack and it probably is from settlement.

    So I would do two things: first of all, I would seal the crack with a silicone caulk; secondly, I would reassess the drainage conditions at the foundation perimeter. Because if the soil around the outside of the house and the outside of the foundation is allowed to get overly wet – how would that happen? Well, if it’s flat, if the soil is sloped back to the house, if the gutters or the downspouts are overflowing or the downspouts are dropping a lot of water there, that tends to make the soil wet, which makes it weak, which makes the house settle. So I would just take a look and make sure that the soil is as stable and dry as possible. I would fix the crack and then I think that that probably will solve it.

    Now, if the crack continues to move after all of that and you have some pretty good evidence that it continues to move, then at that point – and only at that point – would I suggest bringing in a home inspector or a structural engineer to take another look. But if it’s a hairline to 1/8-inch-or-so crack, it’s not displaced, that’s probably pretty typical. That may have happened a long time ago, too. I don’t know if this is something that you’re recently noticing.

    SONYA: This is recent, because the door frame of the door between the garage and the family room actually shifted, also, to the point where we could not close the door.

    TOM: Listen, if you want to be absolutely sure that you don’t have an ongoing problem here with movement, you could have it looked at by a structural expert. But I would encourage you to make that expert not a contractor and here’s why: contractors are going to sell you a repair, whether you need it or not. You want to have it looked at by an independent professional that’s an engineer or a home inspector and then make a decision based on that advice.

    Sonya, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, storing your car in a garage can help keep your car frost-free but the same can’t be said for garage doors that often become stuck in super-cold weather, which either trap you in your car inside or trap you outside from your car. It depends on what kind of situation you’ve got but either way, you’re stuck.

    TOM: That is just the worst. And if you find yourself frozen in, the first thing you want to do is to try to adjust the pressure setting on your door opener. A little extra pressure might just be enough to dislodge it from the ice.

    Now, if that doesn’t work, you can disconnect the automatic opener and try to open it manually.

    LESLIE: In either case, you don’t want to force it or you could actually damage the door.

    Now, if the ice is too thick to open it by hand, you could actually defrost your door. You can spray a lock deicer along the bottom of the door or even WD-40 would work if you don’t have a deicer.

    TOM: WD-40 works for everything, does it not?

    LESLIE: I know. It really does. I’ve never seen something that can remove JELL-O or a Kool-Aid stain from a rug and also deice your garage door. It’s kind of amazing.

    You know, another option is you can pour lukewarm water along that base and then slide a putty knife, if your putty knife is not in your garage and, say, is in your junk drawer in the house.

    TOM: A lot of this depends on what side of the garage you’re on. I mean if you can’t get in the garage and get the WD-40 or the putty knife, then you’re pretty much stuck.

    LESLIE: Right. So, what you can do is you can do some lukewarm water, putty knife, butter knife, something along those lines and kind of just wedge that putty knife along the bottom of the door to break away any remaining ice. And that’ll kind of loosen it between the concrete floor and the door and hopefully, something will work to help you get in there. But take it with a grain of salt. That’s kind of funny.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Sean in Ohio is on the line and needs some help with a moist basement. Tell us what’s going on.

    SEAN: Yes. My basement, I finally got the outside fixed. I heard you guys say if it’s a rain event, that’s usually drainage. So I got that done and now there’s some kind of ceramic – or some waterproofing on the walls and it is flaking off onto the floor.

    TOM: Oh, great.

    SEAN: And it’s been there – the house was built in the 70s and I was wanting a good way to clean that up or what I could put on the walls to re-waterproof it.

    TOM: OK. So, I think what you’re talking about are mineral-salt deposits. Is it sort of like a whitish, grayish, powdery substance?

    SEAN: Yeah, yeah. This is like it’s been spackled on, though.

    TOM: Oh. So somebody put something on the walls and it’s releasing and falling off the block?

    SEAN: Right.

    TOM: Hmm. OK. What do you plan to do with these walls?

    SEAN: I just want to just waterproof them again, get the mold off of them and clean them up.

    TOM: So, I don’t know that you have mold on the walls. It sounds to me like you’ve got some sort of a finish that’s separating. So, can you scrape it off? Will it release easily?

    SEAN: Yeah, yeah. I just didn’t know, being the 70s, whether it might have asbestos in it or is there a good – better way to clean it up?

    TOM: I would say not likely. Of course, you could have that tested, too. But if it’s coming off easily, I would remove it and if I put anything on the walls at all, it would simply be a damp-proofing material, like a Thompson’s WaterSeal.

    And remember, the purpose of that is not to waterproof your walls; it’s to slow down the evaporation of moisture from the soil outside into the walls and any mineral salts that will be drawn through because of that. You’re not going to waterproof simply by painting your walls; it just doesn’t happen that way. You waterproof by redirecting the water away from the house, which it sounds like you’ve already tackled on the outside.

    SEAN: Yeah. It took me about 15 years but I finally got it done.

    TOM: Yeah. If it scrapes off easily, I would continue to take the rest of it off. I’d clean it up, I’d put a couple of coats of damp-proofing paint on it and I’d call it a day.

    SEAN: Oh, OK. Well, thank you very much.

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

    People tend to think, sometimes, that everything that’s black and dark is moldy and it’s not always the case, especially when you’re talking about concrete-block walls. The walls themselves don’t grow mold; it’s what’s attached to them that grows the mold. And those home test kits are notoriously inaccurate and they can be misleading.

    LESLIE: Well, there’s so many different kinds. I think you’re bound to get some sort of reading …

    TOM: And it’s normal to have mold in a house. You’re always going to have some level of mold. So it’s – as I said, it’s very misleading and really should only be used in the hands of a professional.

    You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Up next, don’t let these last, dreary days of winter drag you down. We’ll tell you how to add some early spring cheer to your home, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Arrow Sheds, the leader in steel storage sheds and buildings. Steel sheds are durable, secure and a great value. Arrow Storage Products, available at national home centers, hardware stores and online. See a complete line of products at Sheds.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. And why not make sure that you “like” us on Facebook? Because if you do, it’s going to open the front door to the best home improvement advice around.

    Now, you’ll also learn about our exclusive weekly prize giveaways, you’re going to get instant access to the newest Money Pit show articles and videos and you’re going to get priority access to ask your question right here on the radio.

    TOM: Just go on over to MoneyPit.com and find the Facebook logo and start clicking.

    And while you’re there, why not stop by the Community section and ask a question, just like Will did?

    LESLIE: Alright. Will in Texas posted: “I was thinking of adding a stainless-steel backsplash to my kitchen counters. I recently saw some sheets at a big home improvement store that looked like brushed steel but were actually plastic with an adhesive backing. I was wondering if you thought this was OK for a very busy kitchen with a lot of big messes. And they were very affordable.”

    TOM: I think it’s probably a good option.

    Now, Leslie, for years, we used laminate for backsplashes. But the thing is, I guess, you can’t put the laminate right on the wall; it’s got to be on something. I mean typically, it was on medium-density fiberboard or something like that. But have you seen sort of sheets that already have the backer board attached, like what he’s talking about?

    LESLIE: I have. Well, these are actually a plastic laminate; they don’t have the backer board attached. They’re just a plastic laminate that you could then put onto a backer board or put onto something that would work as the backsplash. I think it’s a good option, because you’re dealing with a lot of water, you’re dealing with kids, you’re dealing with a lot of things that could potentially cause a big mess in a kitchen area. So I think it could be good and given the affordability, if it doesn’t work out or if it doesn’t wear well, you haven’t lost a lot.

    Where if you put it in actual stainless, it’s not that easy to clean. It kind of does take a specialized touch when you want it to look a certain way. If you do it wrong, you can really mess it up – the look of it. And also, you have to be careful with what you use or put on it, because a lot of it does change the look of the stainless. So I think this is probably a good, affordable option that’s going to give you the look of stainless, give you the feeling that you want without costing a lot of money and without a lot of upkeep.

    TOM: Yeah. And like you said, if you decide that you don’t like it or you damage it, you could put another layer on top of it. No harm, no foul; it works really, really well.

    So, Will, we hope that that helps you out.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And don’t go too crazy with the stainless. You don’t want your kitchen to look like a diner.

    TOM: Well, the long, dark days of winter tend to give project-loving homeowners the blues. But you don’t have to wait for spring to add that cheer. A few dollar-wise home improvement projects can spruce up your home and your spirits. Leslie has got some tips on how to do just that, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    LESLIE: That’s right. You know, it might sound obvious but the first thing that you can do is just turn on some lights. This might be a good time to add a lamp or even some sconces to a room, because adding warm light throughout your home actually makes a big difference.

    Also, think about planting an indoor garden. Now, you can plant some colorful flowers or something edible and that will just remind you of springtime.

    And I always like to pay special attention to front doors. They can be a great welcome from when you’ve been out in the dreariness. Or if you’re not going to paint or get a new door, why not just polish your hardware? That really does a great job of just improving the look of a door.

    You can also get a new, inexpensive doormat. And why not boost your lighting on the front porch to the maximum wattage allowed by the fixture? All of these things are going to make you feel a little cozier as you hibernate in your home through the rest of the winter.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up next on The Money Pit, your pipes might be trying to tell you something. If you’re hearing banging and jackhammering or even shrieking, they’re all signs that your home’s plumbing needs some attention. We’ll tell you how to fix that noisy plumbing, 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 2013 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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