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Extended Warranties: Do You Need One? Vinyl Tile Installation, Measuring Tips for New Carpet and More

  • Transcript

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Pick up the phone, give us a call right now with your home improvement project, your do-it-yourself dilemma. Now is the time to tackle those simple improvements just before the holiday hordes begin to arrive once again. Things just settled down from Thanksgiving and now, they’ll be back. So, if you want to get your house ready – you learned your lesson over the first holiday; now is the time to work it on the next one – give us a call right now. We will help you through it. The number is 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Now, if you have shopped for an appliance lately, you know that whether it’s a toaster or TV, you’re probably going to be offered the opportunity to buy an “extended warranty.” Question is: is this an opportunity for you or just a way for retailers to make a few extra bucks for a service you’ll probably never need? We’re going to tell you how to decide, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: And also ahead this hour, a new generation of vinyl tile is making this do-it-yourself job easier. But even though they’re as popular as ever, success of this project really depends on how they’re installed. So we’ve got This Old House contractor, Tom Silva, stopping by to tell us how to do it problem-free.

    TOM: And if carpeting is your cover of choice, you know that measuring can be a bit tricky. If you get it wrong, you could end up paying for way too much carpet or worse, you could fall short. So we’re going to give you a trick of the trade to help you figure out exactly the right amount before you head out to the carpet store.

    LESLIE: And if you want to shed a little light on any of your home projects, we’re giving away a flashlight this hour that any do-it-yourselfer would love. It’s a Stanley 3-in-1 Tripod Flashlight.

    TOM: It’s worth about 30 bucks. Going to go out to one caller that reaches us with their home improvement question, so let’s get right to it. The number is 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve Bob in Oregon on the line who’s dealing with a water situation. Tell us what’s going on.

    BOB: Well, what happens is that when I turn on the hot water, I get this smell that smells like rotten eggs.

    TOM: OK.

    BOB: And I’m on a well. The cold water, I don’t get that aroma but it’s just the hot water. And I’m wondering if I should worry or just be inconvenienced.

    TOM: I think the cause is the sacrificial anode inside your water heater.

    BOB: OK.

    TOM: If that wears out, you can get …

    LESLIE: That’s such a serious name.

    TOM: What, the sacrificial anode?

    LESLIE: Yes.

    TOM: It’s supposed to be sacrificial.

    But the sacrificial anode, as it wears out, can lead to this sulfur odor happening inside the water heater itself.

    Now, how old is your water heater?

    BOB: Oh, I’m not sure. I think it’s probably in the neighborhood of seven or eight years, though.

    LESLIE: OK. That’s around the end of its life.

    TOM: OK. So, it’s – yeah, well, it’s really borderline whether or not you want to replace the anode. You may find that it’s probably better, since it’s closer to the end of the life than the beginning of the life, just to replace the water heater. But I suspect that that’s what happening.

    BOB: OK.

    TOM: If you go Google “sulfur odor in water heaters,” I’m sure you’ll find the multi-page, detailed explanation. But trust me when I say it’s inside the water heater and it has to do with the anode. And if you replace it, it’ll probably go away but I’m just worried about the cost versus benefit, because the water heater is already past its half-life.

    BOB: Tom, should I be alarmed about drinking the water?

    TOM: It is well water and because it’s well water, it should be thoroughly tested.

    BOB: Yeah.

    TOM: And if you’ve not had that done, you definitely need to do that.

    BOB: No, I haven’t and I live on the coast and it’s been my experience that coastal underground water is worse than it is in a lot of other places.

    TOM: Well, listen, you’re living on a dream there, my friend. You need to have this tested. We need data to figure out what’s going on. So I mean it might not be the sulfur that’s harmful; there could be some other contaminant in that water.

    So I would definitely get the well water tested and then I would look into replacing the water heater. Make sense?

    BOB: I’ve been thinking about it but you – I think you’ve just given me the boost that I needed.

    TOM: Alright. Well, get her done, man. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Linda in Arizona has got an issue with the stove. Tell us what’s going on.

    LINDA: I have an electric range and I had a recent power outage. And when the electric came back on, the top of the range worked – the burners – but the oven does not. And the little, lighted keypad on top? That does not come on.

    TOM: Hmm. That doesn’t sound good.

    LESLIE: Hmm. Sounds like there was a short somewhere.

    TOM: Yeah, it does sound like a problem with the control circuit. I’d be concerned about that. You’re getting some burners that work and some that don’t. You didn’t take it apart? Like nothing was cleaned or …?

    LINDA: No, nothing. But the entire top works; all the burners work.

    TOM: Right.

    LINDA: So, because that happened – you know, the outage – I was thinking maybe there’s a reset button somewhere but I can’t find it.

    TOM: No, I’m not aware of any reset buttons on electric ranges.

    LINDA: OK. So it’s just a short somewhere.

    TOM: Yeah. I think that there’s – I think there’s a problem with the range. Was there – was it a storm-related thing? Did you have a lightning or electrical storm that could have caused some damage?

    LINDA: No, there was nothing like that. It just went out and then after a short while, it came back on again.

    TOM: So the power in the entire house went out. Were you using the range at the same time?

    LINDA: No. No, I wasn’t even here but yeah, the entire house went out.

    LESLIE: Weird.

    TOM: That is very strange.

    LESLIE: I would start by reaching out to the manufacturer just to see what the steps might be to repair something like this, because it could be something that they might service free of charge or have a recommendation or know of this reset.

    We had a power outage and I happened to be using the dryer. And I guess there was a surge and it completely fried the entire dryer, because the surge happened while the dryer was in operation. And that was it: dryer in the garbage.

    TOM: There’s also an excellent repair site for appliances that has experts and all the parts that you need to fix things. It’s called RepairClinic.com. They’ve been around for a long time, a very good site. Great information there and they sell all of the parts that you might need to make repairs and have the advice to actually install them, too.

    LINDA: OK. Well, I’ll give them a try. That will tell me what I need, I guess.

    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 MoneyPit.com. This is the holiday festive time of year, guys, and we are here to give you a hand with all of your projects, inside and out, during this busy season. So give us a call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, have you ever had an appliance totally melt down just as the warranty expires? We’re going to have some tips, in this season of gift-buying, to help you sort out whether an extended warranty is worth the extra cash. That’s all coming up, next.

    MIKE: Hey, this is Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs and I’ve just been told that Tom and Leslie might have a dirtier job than me? I find that hard to believe but then I heard they worked in a pit. It’s a money pit but it’s still filthy.

    (theme song)

    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.

    TOM: Call us at 888-MONEY-PIT, because one caller who makes it on the air with their question may win the Stanley 3-in-1 Tripod Flashlight.

    LESLIE: You know, this really is a great stocking-stuffer idea for pretty much anybody on your list. It’s got an ultra-bright, long-lasting LED light. And the collapsible tripod, guys? Get this: it not only makes it hand-free but it’s also a breeze to store. And it breaks up into three separate flashlights. It’s super-awesome. Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT for your chance to win and check out MoneyPit.com for our holiday gift guide, because we’ve got a ton of great ideas there.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. Call us right now with your home improvement question.

    And if an appliance is on your holiday shopping list, you might be wondering if buying an extended warranty is worth it. It’s a question we hear a lot. Now, the Federal Trade Commission says that millions of consumers pay for protection they don’t need. So to keep you from wasting money, you have to do your homework.

    First, you need to compare the coverage. Know what the basic warranty covers to see if the extended warranty really provides you with enough additional coverage. And secondly, know your appliance. It’s important to check its repair reputation. It’s easy to do online at sites like Consumer Reports or the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers at AHAM.org. These sites can tell you how likely it is that the appliance may break down.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. You’re also going to want to check for hidden costs in buying that extended warranty. Like insurance policies, extended warranties, they often have deductibles for service fees or even cancellation charges. You need to find out whether a technician is going to come to you or if you’ve got to take in whatever it is to wherever it might be to be serviced. And a repair location might not be exactly around the corner; it could be a bit of a drive. So think about it and ask a lot of questions.

    If you want some more tips, just Google “money pit appliance service contracts.”

    TOM: Or pick up the phone and call us right now with your home improvement question. The number is 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Josie in Pennsylvania needs some help with a flooring project gone awry. What happened?

    JOSIE: Well, the floor was – I had linoleum laid down and it looked real good and over a period of time, I wax it with that floor – wax and shine stuff. And after a while, the – it started looking dingy-looking and I just wanted to know how I could clean that up. It stood very well, because it wasn’t a real expensive linoleum.

    LESLIE: OK. And you’re sure it’s linoleum and not vinyl?

    JOSIE: It’s linoleum.


    JOSIE: It’s the – yes.

    LESLIE: Because there’s two different sort of home-spun methods, depending on the type of flooring. And for linoleum, if you want to remove some or all of the wax buildup, what you want to do is you’re going to need white vinegar – a gallon of it – and a cup of cream of tartar. And you want to mix that solution until the cream of tartar is completely dissolved.

    And then you’re going to take a scrub brush and dip it in your solution and apply it to the linoleum floor, sort of gently and kind of in a rotating motion. And you’re going to do that until the entire area that you’re working on is covered. And then you can sort of scrub behind the areas that you’re working on and wipe them up with cleaning towels, like older bath towels. White is better but whatever you’ve got that you use for cleaning.

    And you dip those in warm water and you don’t really keep them very wet. You kind of wring them out just so that they’re warm and damp. And then you sort of scrub that floor and that will actually dissolve the old wax. And you might need to go over some areas that have more buildup just a little bit more thoroughly to get that off. And once you’re happy, rinse that floor thoroughly with fresh, clean water and then dry it.

    JOSIE: Oh, wow. It’s a lot of work, huh? But I’m willing to do it.

    LESLIE: It is.

    JOSIE: Do you need a scrub brush?

    LESLIE: And it’ll do the trick, though. Yeah, you need a scrub brush, a large bucket, a gallon of white vinegar, a cup of cream of tartar and a whole bunch of towels.

    JOSIE: OK. Very good. OK. Thank you so very much.

    LESLIE: Alright. Good luck with that.

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

    LESLIE: Al in Florida is on the line with an attic-insulation question. How can we help you today?

    AL: Well, it’s a real pleasure talking with you guys, you experts who provide so much needed advice to your listeners.

    LESLIE: Thanks.

    AL: And I have a question for you on insulation for the attic. I want to add a little more insulation in because through the years, everybody tripping through the attic has kind of stepped on it and squashed it down a little bit.

    TOM: OK.

    AL: And I have heard of a thing called TAP Insulation.

    TOM: OK.

    AL: TAP – T-A-P.

    TOM: Right.

    AL: Stands for Thermal Acoustical Pest Control.

    TOM: Right. It’s a treated insulation is what it is.

    AL: Yes. Supposed to be for bug control and also for fire.

    TOM: Right.

    AL: Well, my question is: is that actually better to have it blown onto my insulation that I have now – my fiberglass – or should I just have fiberglass reblown on?

    TOM: Well, I mean I don’t know that just adding another layer of this other type of insulation is going to give you the full effectiveness that it promises you. I think the concept for this type of insulation is that when you use it for all of your insulation, then you have sort of this layer of …

    LESLIE: Then you get all of the benefits.

    TOM: Yeah, you get all the benefits. In your case, since you’re just really just adding on, you’re supplementing what you have, I would just add additional fiberglass in that situation. I think that’s a very simple solution, probably the least expensive solution. And I think that’s going to do it.

    LESLIE: Is there a reason why you were looking at this TAP Insulation? Is there a pest issue?

    AL: Well, no, there’s not really a pest issue but I have a pest-control company that comes and takes care of me every year for termites and stuff.

    TOM: Yeah.

    AL: And they are the ones around here that actually add this. And the guy, when he went up in the attic recently, he said, “Ah, we need to blow about 5.8 inches of insulation back into your attic to bring you up to an R-38. And if we use this, it will do this for you.” And I said, “OK, cool.” He’s talking about 1,875 square feet for $1,640.

    TOM: I’m sure it’s a good product but the thing is, all of these pest-control operators are looking for things that they can sort of bolt onto their services.

    AL: For sure.

    TOM: They’re new lines of businesses, OK?

    AL: OK.

    TOM: They’ve all got to make a living. But in your case, I don’t see any reason to necessarily use a different type of insulation than what you have right now.

    AL: One other thing, though. You get up to a $500 tax credit if you use this stuff.

    TOM: Well, you’ll get a tax credit if you use any type of insulation.

    AL: Oh, OK. I did not know that.

    TOM: That’s a federally-mandated tax credit.

    AL: So the thing about the fire retardant and the pest control really doesn’t matter.

    TOM: If your house is going to catch on fire, the one, thin, 5-inch layer of insulation I don’t think is going to make a big difference.

    LESLIE: Is not going to help.

    AL: Yeah. I agree with you.

    TOM: Yeah. Alright?

    AL: But I just wanted to get you guys’ opinion, because you are the experts and really help us out here.

    TOM: Yeah, well, we’re happy to do that and appreciate you listening. And I hope that does help you out.

    LESLIE: Sarah in Iowa is dealing with a storage issue. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.

    SARAH: I have a basement storage room that is underneath my garage.

    TOM: OK.

    SARAH: And the ceiling in that storage room is metal.

    TOM: OK.

    SARAH: I have been told it’s the metal that actually was put down to pour the garage floor.

    TOM: That would make sense.

    SARAH: The metal is rusting, badly.

    TOM: OK, right.

    SARAH: So, chunks of rusted metal and rust drop down on the things that we have stored.

    TOM: Yep, yep.

    SARAH: Clearly, that’s a problem.

    TOM: That could be a problem.

    SARAH: So I’m just thinking I need to, you know, scrape the rust off and put some Rust-Oleum paint or something on it. But I had a contractor guy look at it and he said he thought moisture is coming down through the garage floor.

    TOM: Well, look, the garage floor is going to be damp and it’s going to be hydroscopic and so when you get rain in there – and yeah, it’s going to come down and it’s going to be against the metal and you’re going to get rust. But I think you are on the right track.

    I would scrape off as much of the rust as I possibly can. I would use an oil-based primer. I think Rust-Oleum is a good choice. A couple of coats of that, then maybe one top coat and I think you’re good to go and that’s just going to be normal maintenance for this from here on out.

    LESLIE: Type of ceiling, yeah.

    SARAH: Now, he was suggesting to me that I get my garage floor sealed, so that moisture can no longer go down through and I was wondering …

    TOM: Well, you’re always going to have some level of moisture in there, Sarah. But if you want to paint your garage floor with a good-quality epoxy paint, then that will help, as well.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Like one of those kits.

    SARAH: Do you think that would reduce the chance of the rust coming back?

    TOM: Maybe a little bit. But I think it’s not been ever painted before and it’s probably a number of years old now, so this is pretty much normal wear and tear. I wouldn’t panic over this; this is a pretty straightforward project.

    SARAH: OK. Well, I hope that works, because it’s a mess.

    TOM: Be confident, Sarah. It will work. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: John in New York is dealing with some hard-water stains. Tell us what’s going on.

    JOHN: I’ve got some hard-water stains in my toilet bowl and I get rid of them and they come back.

    TOM: OK.

    LESLIE: Well, that’s because you’re not correcting the hard-water situation; you’re just cleaning the evidence of one.

    TOM: Right. Exactly.

    JOHN: Yeah. I’m basically renting so …

    LESLIE: Yeah.

    TOM: Alright. Well, because you can’t put any money into the – solving the problem, you’re going to end up putting money into hard-water toilet-bowl cleaners, OK? Because the solution is to deal with the hard water.

    And there’s a couple of ways to do that but it’s not the kind of thing that a renter would do because it requires an investment in the plumbing system of the home itself.

    JOHN: Right.

    TOM: How about CLR? Have you tried that? That seems to work pretty well as a cleaner. Calcium, lime, rust remover?

    JOHN: Yeah, I’ve seen a commercial for that the other day. Does that work pretty good?

    TOM: Yeah, that’s a good thing. It works pretty well and it should make it somewhat manageable.

    JOHN: OK. I’ll try that.

    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 MoneyPit.com. Does the thought of laying a new floor make your back and your wallet ache? Well, we’re going to tell you why the very affordable vinyl tiles are making a comeback as a darling of the do-it-yourself world, after this.

    (theme song)

    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.

    Hey, how many of you are sweating just because you don’t have your holiday shopping finished or perhaps even started yet? Well, don’t panic. I’m talking to you, my husband. I know you haven’t started shopping and pretty much every other dude out there.

    Don’t panic, guys, seriously. Just check out MoneyPit.com. We’ve got tips and tricks of shopping online. Just search “shopping for bargains online” and you won’t have to leave your home to finish or start your shopping.

    TOM: Yeah. And while you’re there, check out our home improvement holiday gift guide for some great suggestions on gifts for the DIYers on your shopping list.

    LESLIE: Well, a new tile backsplash can really wake up a tired kitchen. Or what about a tub surround that really just wows with every soak?

    Tiling projects are not that difficult and they really can deliver instant appeal in your home.

    TOM: Well, that’s right. But with the variety of adhesives to choose from, it can be tough to know which works best for your particular project. Here to tell us how to choose is This Old House general contractor, Tom Silva.

    Welcome, Tommy. And the products that are available today are actually making this process a lot easier than it used to be, aren’t they?

    TOM SILVA: Oh, yeah, it’s a big difference today. They have all kinds of thinset mortar, they have mastic, they have all kinds of different things. And they have additives that go with them, too, to give them a lot more adhesive and a lot more flexibility, too.

    LESLIE: Well and I think there’s a lot of confusion as to the type of adhesives and when to use which one where. So how do you know where to start in selecting the adhesive for your project?

    TOM SILVA: Well, you’ve got to think about what you’re going to be doing. If you’re going to be doing a floor – let’s say you’re going to be using like an exterior tile, for example.

    TOM: OK.

    TOM SILVA: Then you’d want to use a thinset mortar. There’s not a lot of flexibility in it, so it doesn’t move with the floor. So if you’re going over a floor that has some flex in it, like a wood floor – the subfloor isn’t strong enough; there is deflection between it – then you probably don’t want to be using a thinset mortar because what’s going to happen, the tile is going to break away from the adhesion over time.

    TOM: Now, we get calls on that all the time where folks are complaining about a couple of loose tiles. And the problem is that even if you pop those up and fix it, it’s just the beginning of what could be a long line of that happening over and over again.

    TOM SILVA: Absolutely. But another mistake that people make when using a thinset mortar or any – almost any kind of adhesive is they put too much on, they wait too long before they cover it. So what happens is the air dries the surface. Although it still may feel soft, it’s skinned over. So that adhesive that you’re applying the tile to isn’t going to hold.

    TOM: It’s only sticking to one side at that point.

    TOM SILVA: Exactly, exactly.

    TOM: Now, when it comes to thinset, you can get the dry, powdered type, which is a fair amount of work to mix, or the stuff that’s already premixed itself. Do you have a preference on that?

    TOM SILVA: Well, I mainly use the dry powder because I have the tools to mix it: the buckets and the quantity, so I can mix up just what I need.

    TOM: Right.

    TOM SILVA: The premixed thinset stuff, I must say it works pretty good; it works great. I mean if you need a little bit or a lot, you can get it that way. It is a little more money than the dry powder, though. I’m basically cheap; I’m a Yankee.

    LESLIE: Now, when it comes to mastic, that’s really the best application if you’re doing a wall-tiling project, correct?

    TOM SILVA: A wall tiling like a backsplash or something like that, it works great. Yep. It’s flexible, it goes on quick, it’s easy to clean up.

    TOM: When you put the tiles on, they’re going to stay stuck pretty much when you use the organic mastic?

    TOM SILVA: Yeah. It dries quick so – and you can usually grout the same day, too, which is nice.

    TOM: Yeah. Well, that saves a lot of time.

    LESLIE: Yeah.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah.

    TOM: Now, what about brick mortar? That’s a very, very coarse type of mortar compared to the thinset. What do you use that for?

    TOM SILVA: Well, the sand is thicker or sometimes there’s even like a small pebble in there.

    TOM: Right.

    TOM SILVA: And that’s more or less for setting brick or a real thick tile, like if you’re going to do a slate floor and you need really some …

    TOM: Or like a Mexican tile or something like that, that is very thick and heavy? Mm-hmm.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah. Anything like that that needs like – we’ve set tile that we needed a 1×1. Most of the time, you see a 1/16 or a ¼ x ¼ . Well, we’ve actually had to make a trowel where we set 1×1 and we’ve used a real thick thinset with that.

    TOM: Now, I think it’s interesting. We all spend so much time picking out the appropriate tile but we really need to make sure we pick out the appropriate mastic, too.

    TOM SILVA: Mastic and tool.

    LESLIE: And I think a lot of times, people just interchange the words: mastic, thinset. They sort of interchange them without realizing they’re two very distinct products for two very different projects.

    TOM SILVA: Exactly. Or they call it the generic when it’s really not …

    LESLIE: Right.

    TOM: But they all better stick, that’s for sure.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah, that’s right. That’s right.

    LESLIE: Now, what about epoxy thinset? I think that’s sort of the last category when it comes to adhesives. Where is that best used?

    TOM SILVA: In areas where you want that sucker to really hold well. Can I say “sucker”?

    LESLIE: Yeah, of course.

    TOM: Absolutely.

    TOM SILVA: You want that sucker to really hold well and you want it to set up quick. Epoxies do work fine but you’ve got to work fast for it.

    TOM: Now, work is the theme throughout this entire discussion but there is actually a new product on the market that comes in a mat format that glues tiles. And we’ve actually used it on countertops ourselves and it’s called Bondera Tile MatSet. Have you seen this stuff?

    TOM SILVA: I have done and I have used it. And you can actually use it in wet areas, too.

    TOM: Yeah.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah, it’s pretty good. They actually – but you have to tape the seams. So you put the – you put this – basically, it’s a roll. It’s like two-faced tape.

    LESLIE: And it’s super-sticky.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah. Two-faced tape. You roll it out on the wall. Once it’s in place, you peel off the face and you put your tile right on it and you can grout it the same day.

    LESLIE: We were doing the backsplash and the counter and the countertop sort of face for a project with the AARP – Tom and I – and I was putting all of the Bondera on the backsplash of the counter and the facing and …

    TOM: And I had to go get Leslie off the backsplash.

    LESLIE: And I would peel it all off and then my belt would get stuck and I was stuck across the top and I was like, “Alright. This is awesomely sticky but I need to figure out a better process.” Because I was literally stuck in place.

    TOM SILVA: All this time, I thought you were coordinated.

    LESLIE: No, not that coordinated. But it’s funny. We found out later that I was actually pregnant on that project, so no wonder why I was such a doof.

    TOM: But the Bondera had nothing to do with …

    LESLIE: No, no, no. No, no, no.

    TOM: It’s good stuff, though. I mean it comes in a roll. You can – with the adhesive. You can peel off both sides, stick it to the wall and stick your tile. And again, it’s a situation where you can grout same day.

    LESLIE: Right away.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah. We did an Ask project with it where I basically did a backsplash, in a town local from here, and it was great. Roll it on a wall, stick the tile.

    LESLIE: And it even has sort of a grid laid out on it, so it helps with cutting and laying out your tiles if you’re trying to do something a little bit more detailed and make sure everything’s square.

    TOM SILVA: We did an Ask This Old House project using that and it was great.

    TOM: So bottom line: take some time choosing that tile but even take just as much time choosing the adhesive, whatever it might be. You want to get it right; otherwise, you’re going to be trying to do that job again and again and again as time goes on.

    Tom Silva from TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    TOM SILVA: My pleasure.

    LESLIE: Alright. You can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For your local listings and some great step-by-step videos on projects that you can tackle, visit ThisOldHouse.com.

    TOM: And This Old House and Ask This Old House are brought to you by Home Depot. The Home Depot, more saving, more doing.

    Up next, one easy way to waste a boatload of money is to measure incorrectly when you’re buying new wall-to-wall carpet. We’re going to tell you a surefire way to get it right, after this.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Skil. And now you can easily cut through the most difficult projects with ease, with a Power Cutter from Skil. With powerful, lithium-ion technology and an auto-sharp blade system, Skil’s lightweight Power Cutter will soon become your favorite tool, too. The Skil Power Cutter. It cuts just about anything.

    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.

    Hey, give us a call with your home improvement question at 888-MONEY-PIT, because one lucky caller this hour is going to get a nifty device from Stanley. It’s a 3-in-1 tripod flashlight that stands on its own, so no more having to ask somebody, “Hey, can you hold this light for me?” Especially when no one wants to help you with the project. But with this awesome flashlight, you can actually do it yourself.

    And it’s also got three flashlights that you can use separately or combine them for one super-powerful LED light. It’s a fantastic gift idea for just about anyone on your list and you can check it out on our holiday gift guide at MoneyPit.com. And we’ve got a ton of great ideas on that list for you. But give us a call now at 888-MONEY-PIT for your chance to win.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Well, we find that almost all DIYers love to talk about their home improvement projects, whether it’s sharing tips, sharing horror stories or getting advice. And one great place to do that is Hometalk.com. It’s an online community of regular folks and pros that Leslie and I are happy to say we’re joining the site as featured panelists.

    LESLIE: That’s right. We’re kicking it off this week with a little tip on how to best measure how much carpet you need.

    Now, the rule of thumb is to multiply length times width and divide it by eight to get the yardage. Now, you may wonder why eight when there’s really nine square feet in a square yard. Well, that’s going to allow you for the waste. So you divide by eight and not nine.

    Also, keep in mind most carpets come in 12-foot widths. So if your room is wider than 12 feet, you’re going to have to plan where the seam is going to be or perhaps try to find a wider carpet.

    TOM: Now, if you do need to have a seam in the room, you want to avoid having it in the middle of a traffic pattern or down the center of the room.

    Carpet yardage for hallways and the landings is calculated by doing the math. But for stairs, you want to count one full yard for every step and you’ll be good to go.

    Now, if you have a home improvement question for us, Hometalk.com is another great place to post it, because you’ll get help not only from us but from lots of other home improvement experts, as well, that hang out at Hometalk.com.

    LESLIE: Alright. Bill is on the line with an electrical question about a three-way switch. Tell us what’s going on.

    BILL: I am replacing some switches in my kitchen. I have three-way switches.

    TOM: OK.

    BILL: And now I can’t get it to work properly. I’ve got – I can turn – but if I turn them both on, they’ll – it’ll come on. I can turn it off at either location then but it won’t work like it’s supposed to work, you know?

    TOM: Yeah.

    BILL: I can’t exit from either door and turn it off or on.

    TOM: Yeah, well, I mean somewhere, you put the wires back a different way than when you took them off, didn’t you?

    BILL: For sure, yeah.

    TOM: Yeah.

    BILL: I can’t figure it out.

    TOM: Doing electrical work is not a DIY project. However, if you go wire for wire, then you can sometimes get away with it. But I can’t diagnose it from my location to yours. As good as we are, I can’t tell you which wire you got wrong. But the behavior that you describe indicates that something is wired backwards.

    BILL: Right.

    TOM: And it shouldn’t be difficult to figure out where it is. Did you change the lights, too, or just the switches?

    BILL: Only the switches.

    TOM: Only the switches.

    BILL: Yeah, I just put some modern – [a bay of] (ph) switches in my kitchen and didn’t get it wired back correctly.

    TOM: Right. Yeah. Are they dimmers or are they just regular switches?

    BILL: No, they’re just regular switches. Just three-way switches.

    TOM: Yep. Yeah, well, I think you have two of the power lines reversed. I can’t tell you which ones and I can’t tell you which switch but if you did it on one side, it could affect the whole thing.

    BILL: So, you think if I go in and change just the power lines on the switches …?

    TOM: Nah. I don’t want you to do it, because I can’t tell you exactly what to do. You need to get somebody that does this all the time to take a look at it for you or you need to bite the bullet and call an electrician and swallow your pride and get it fixed.

    BILL: Sad but true. It was worth a shot.

    TOM: Alright, Bill?

    BILL: I appreciate it.

    TOM: It’s one thing I won’t diagnose from afar is electrical work. But it’s probably a pretty simple mistake. And you know what you might want to do, if you think about anything else that’s small in electrical improvements or repairs that you have to do at the same time, because it’s probably not going to take them more than a couple minutes to fix this and you could probably use the service call to do a onceover on anything else that you need fixing – needs fixing inside the house.

    BILL: Yeah. It’s such a small problem. We had an electrician in, gosh, just several months ago and had him fix some other things and I didn’t even think about it when he was here. But I won’t forget it again.

    TOM: Yep. Ah. See that? Make your list. Get him back.

    BILL: I appreciate (audio gap). Thanks so much.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Up next, strange odors lurking in your home? We’re going to tell you how to get rid of those household odors and keep your home smelling fresh all season long, next.

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    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Hometalk.com. Join Tom and Leslie on Hometalk.com and log on to become part of the community of folks who love taking care of their homes, at Hometalk.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.

    Hey, are you all sealed up for the winter yet? Well, drafts this time of year can cost you a small fortune in your heating bills. Why not go to our website at MoneyPit.com and search “sealing drafts” and we’re going to give you some tips on keeping that cold air out and that expensive, warm air in.

    TOM: That’s right. And while you’re at MoneyPit.com, if you’ve got a home improvement question, you know you can call us 24-7 at 888-MONEY-PIT. But the other option is to post it at MoneyPit.com. And Mya in Connecticut did just that. She says, “I bought my house a year ago and it had a funny odor, which I attributed to the old carpets and it needed to be painted. I’ve since removed the old carpets, painted, cleaned and it still has that funny odor I cannot pinpoint. Any ideas? The house was built in the 1950s, if that matters.”

    LESLIE: Yeah, well, you know, Mya, 1953 was an exceptionally stinky year for homes.

    Right, Tom?

    TOM: That’s right. Well, actually, the 50s is a really good time to buy a house if it was built in that era, because the quality of lumber was great. They had copper plumbing, they had hardwood floors, so you probably have a good house there.

    I will say – and I’m not sure if you’re living in this house yet, at this point, or you’re still in the renovation stage. But once the heating system kicks on through the first winter, the return air duct starts to pull air and circulate it around, it will tend to dry everything out, because the dampness tends to bring those odors out of everything.

    LESLIE: Oh, my gosh, it really does.

    TOM: Now, the other thing that you could do is you could use a product like Citrus Magic. That is a phenomenal air freshener. It comes in a spray or in a solid and you don’t really notice it but it kills the odors.

    LESLIE: And it truly does kill the odors; it doesn’t cover anything up. So that’s a good option.

    But Tom, I wonder if it has anything to do with the sinks perhaps not being used. You’ve got a dried trap. These are some options that can cause mystery odors in a home.

    So since you’re just moving in, you might be correcting this as you’re using things more often, Mya.

    TOM: Yeah, that’s a good point. Because sometimes you get like a biofilm that sticks to the inside of the traps of sinks in bathrooms and kitchens. And so, if you find it’s particularly stinky in those areas, what you might need to do is actually get a scrub brush, perhaps even take the trap apart and clean that out. Those are all sort of the hidden places where odors can form inside your house.

    So we hope that one of those solutions will work for you, Mya, and congratulations on that new house.

    Up next, we’ve got H. in Colorado who says, “My old kitchen carpet needs to be removed. It will be replaced with vinyl plank flooring. Can you tell me how to remove the old glue in a way that’s not totally toxic, as it’s 20 degrees here in the mountains, so open-air ventilation is difficult?”

    Well, old kitchen carpet, if it’s indoor/outdoor carpet that was glued down, yeah, you do have glue to remove. And there are a fair number of very non-toxic orange-based or citrus-based glue removers right now that work for something like that. I will say that even if it works and works well, it’s a boatload of work, H. So you might want to wait until the summer and you’ve got plenty of time to tackle that project.

    Now, since you are replacing this with vinyl plank flooring …

    LESLIE: Do you even need to get that all up?

    TOM: Well, I was going to say that the vinyl plank flooring is fairly unforgiving for inconsistencies in the floor. So, what you might want to do is get as much out as you can but then put a layer of underlayment down.

    LESLIE: Ah, true.

    TOM: Just thin, ¼-inch luan plywood might just be the simplest solution here. And then you can lay the vinyl plank on top of that. If you use laminate floor or engineered hardwood, then you may not have to put any underlayment; you can go right on top of the old surface, even if it’s a bit uneven.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Just make sure, H., that if you are putting this underneath or you’ve got a dishwasher in there, that you pull the dishwasher out, put the new flooring underneath, adjust the legs. Don’t butt up the flooring to the appliance, because you’ll never get it out and it becomes a huge problem. But good luck with that project. That’s going to be great.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. The show continues online, right now, 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.

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    (Copyright 2011 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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