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Find Hidden Storage Space, Take the Chill Out of Cold Rooms, and Make Life Easier with Home Improvement Hacks

  • Transcript

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And we are so glad to be here with you today to talk about your house, your home, what’s going on in your money pit. We want to help turn it from house to home to castle. Look, we all know that the money pit is a term of endearment. If you feel like your house is this space that you are constantly pouring money into and perhaps not getting the best return on that investment, let us help. Pick up the phone and call us with your home improvement project at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    If there’s something going on with your house, something that is perplexing you – perhaps it’s a leak, perhaps it’s a squeak and I guess it could be the floor-squeak kind or the rodent-squeak kind – we can handle them both at 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Coming up this hour, have you ever wished you had more space for all your stuff? Well, there’s a good chance you already do if you know where to look. We’ve got tips on how you can find hidden storage in your home that’s just waiting to be used.

    LESLIE: And if you ever feel like no matter what you do you just can’t get your house warm enough, then buy a sweater. No. We’re going to share solutions for heating even the coldest rooms, in just a bit.

    TOM: And we are all about making life easier, so we love life hacks. You know those little tips you see in your Twitter or Facebook feeds? So we’re going to feature some of our favorite home improvement life hacks, including a tip for hammering a nail and not your thumb.

    LESLIE: And one caller that we talk to on the air this hour is going to win a Dremel Micro 8-Volt Max Lithium-Ion Cordless Rotary Tool Kit. That is a mouthful but let me tell you, it’s probably as many words as is many things as that tool can do, because Dremels are amazing. And you will find that this one is cordless, it’s light, it’s easy to transport. You can really use it wherever you’re working on and you will probably go about trying to find a use for the Dremel, because you’ll have that much fun with it.

    TOM: Absolutely. It’s a prize worth $89 but it’s going out to one caller we talk to on the air this hour. Make that you. Pick up the phone, give us a call, right now, with your home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Alright. Mark in Maine is on the line with an electrical question. How can we help you today?

    MARK: Yes, I have a couple of rooms. Our house is from around the 1930s and some of the rooms, the three-way wiring isn’t quite right. Like to turn on the light as you enter the room, you turn on one switch. You can’t go to the other side of the room where the other switch is and turn the light off; you have to go back to the original switch, turn the light off. Then you can …

    TOM: Oh, OK. So do you know that it was originally designed to be a three-way switch?

    MARK: I do not know that.

    TOM: Listen, you’re going to have to have an electrician open up the wiring and test it, trace it out and figure out what’s going on. It’s either that a switch has gone bad or more likely, it’s just not hooked up correctly.

    MARK: OK. OK. Now, I had been told that there are switches that are specific to three-way and that is probably the problem but I’m – to be honest, I don’t know.

    TOM: Yeah. Well, that’s entirely possible but it’s got to be opened up and take a look at what switch device is in there and then also determine if it’s wired correctly. Because it sounds like, most likely, it was incorrectly wired. It might have been that somebody replaced one of those switches at one time and just hooked it up wrong.

    MARK: OK.

    TOM: I mean I’ve done that myself, just inadvertently. When I was painting, I recall, I took a switch apart to replace it from a toggle switch to a décor switch that’s the kind of flat-panel kind.

    MARK: OK.

    TOM: And I swore that I had gone wire for wire and got it right but I didn’t; I got it wrong. And it did exactly that, so I had to reverse some wires to get it working back again.

    MARK: Yeah, that’s pretty much it. I’ve got some research to do.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’re going to Missouri where Tammy is having issues with her new furnace. What’s going on? Let’s talk you through this.

    TAMMY: I replaced the furnace here before the beginning of winter. And since then, I’ve had a buzzing noise in my breaker box every time it kicks on. I would like to say that the furnace that I replaced was about up to my knees. And the newer furnace is about chest-high. Would that have something to do with the pulling of the amps or …?

    TOM: Well, the size of the – physical size of the unit may or may not be related to this. It’s more like how much power is it pulling and how is it wired into the breaker box? But if you’re getting a vibration in the breaker box itself, that’s not a good sign. The breaker could be deteriorating internally and what you’re hearing are the early stages of that or perhaps the advanced stages of that. I don’t know.

    I would tell you that if you’ve got that kind of a signal, I would definitely have it checked out by an electrician. Open that panel up, have him pull out those breakers, look behind them. Make sure they’re – it’s sized properly. Make sure nothing is over-fused, for example, where the wrong-size fuse is being used on a wire and therefore not protecting it from overheating.

    It’s definitely not a good sign and shouldn’t be happening and you need to get it checked out further. OK, Tammy?

    TAMMY: Alright. Thank you.

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

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com.

    Well, we’re, what, almost three weeks into the new year? Have you already given up your home improvement resolution for your money pit? Don’t give up. We can help. We’re here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, have you ever had a chill that you just can’t get rid of no matter how high you turn up the heat? We’ve got a solution for warming up the cold rooms in your home, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. And if we talk with you on the air this hour, we’ll toss your name in The Money Pit hard hat because you could win the Dremel Micro 8-Volt Max Lithium-Ion Cordless Rotary Tool Kit.

    LESLIE: Yeah. It’s small and it’s portable, so you can bring it to any workstation or any work site and you’re not going to sacrifice a drop of power.

    TOM: And the Dremel Rotary Tool Kit’s docking station keeps its battery charged so it’s ready to go at a moment’s notice.

    It’s a prize worth $89 available, right now, at The Home Depot but it goes home with one lucky caller, so make that you. Pick up the phone, give us a call, 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re heading over to Iowa where Chad has a question about condensation on a bay window.

    What’s going on, Chad?

    CHAD: Hi. I have a – well, it’s a bay window that’s three windows. The center one is larger than the other two on the outside. And on the center one, I get a condensation problem in the – it’s kind of an oval shape directly in the center of that window. Can’t seem to figure out why it’s doing that.

    TOM: So, Chad, is this window a thermal-pane window or a double- or triple-pane window?

    CHAD: It is double-pane.

    TOM: And the condensation, of course, is in between the panes of glass?

    CHAD: Correct.

    TOM: Yep. So what’s happened here is the seal between those panes of glass has failed and it’s allowed warm, moist air to get in there. So as – especially as it gets cold outside, you have that warm, moist air striking the cold glass on the exterior. And then as the air chills, it releases its moisture and it condenses, much as what would happen, say, in the summer if you were outside with a glass of iced tea or soda and you got moisture on the outside of the glass. That’s the condensation that you’re seeing.

    Now, there’s not really a great solution here because once the window panes fail like that, you have to pretty much replace the entire window pane. Now, it’s possible that you could have a pro take this window apart and replace just that one section but it’s just not easy. If there is good news it’s this: it’ll have a minor impact on your energy efficiency, so it’s mostly a cosmetic problem that you’re experiencing. So if you can live with the look, just live with it. It may get a little bit worse, it may get a little bit better depending on the temperature difference between outside and inside. But it’s not going to affect the window in any other way.

    CHAD: Yeah. OK. I appreciate it.

    TOM: 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 mossy roof. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.

    MARY: Well, we have a 10-year-old roof – asphalt shingles, I believe they are – and the sections between shingles are beginning to be filled up with moss.

    LESLIE: It’s like a mossy grout line.

    MARY: Yeah, that’s right. I’d like to know how to get it safely clean and keep it from growing back again. It isn’t the entire roof. We are in an A-frame house, so it’s very sharp, very steep roof. And it’s just about the 8 or 10 feet closest to the edge.

    LESLIE: OK. Do you see it all the way around or do you just see it on, say, the north-facing side or in the area …?

    MARY: It’s just on this north-facing part.

    LESLIE: OK. So that’s the area that gets the least amount of sunlight.

    MARY: Right.

    LESLIE: Do you have a large tree that’s adding more shade to this area?

    MARY: We have a lot of trees, yeah.

    LESLIE: A lot of trees.

    TOM: Yeah, therein lies the problem.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Now, I mean the best solution here is – can you trim out or thin out those trees in any way to get more sunlight onto that portion of the roof? Because if you can do that, sunlight really is your best weapon in getting rid of this moss and keeping it away. Now, you’ll have to do some work to get it to be gone in the first place but if you can add more sunlight, you’re going to help it stay away.

    MARY: Alright. Very good. Thank you very much.

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

    Well, winter has arrived and there’s a good chance that a room or two in your house just won’t get as warm as you wish it would, no matter how high you turn up that thermostat.

    LESLIE: Well, if you’re looking for a solution that’s safer and more permanent than a portable space heater, you might want to consider an electric heater.

    TOM: Yeah. You know what? They’re more expensive to run than conventional gas or oil systems but they’re less expensive to purchase and install.

    Now, there are several types of electric heaters available but the two most common styles are wall heaters and baseboard heaters.

    LESLIE: Now, the electric wall heaters and the electric baseboard heaters work the same way but the difference is how they deliver the heat. Now, an electrical wall heater will have a fan that blows air across the heated elements. Now, baseboard heaters, on the other hand, will warm thin metal fins and then radiate that heat into the room without the use of forced air.

    TOM: Well, whichever one you choose, a lot of people swear by their electric heaters. You know, they are less expensive to install but if you’re heating just a very strategic space, they can be less expensive to run than heating the entire house to put heat into that very small, strategic place.

    Keep in mind that if you’re installing these from scratch, they’re hardwired. They’re going to require a permit to do and they may also require their own circuit. If you’re going to use one that’s more of the portable style, you also need to be cautious about which outlet you plug them into, because some circuits just won’t be big enough to handle them. But if it works for you, it’s a great option.

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got Robin in Kentucky who’s noticing an odd odor. What’s going on at your money pit?

    ROBIN: Well, purchased a house last February and about two months later, the house developed an odor.

    LESLIE: Wait, the whole house? Like inside, outside? Where is this odor that you sense?

    ROBIN: It appears to be coming from the ductwork. It’s slab construction and the people in the area say that it’s – the house was built in ’55. They say that they used ceramic ductwork under the slab and they’re thinking that the ductwork has cracked and is letting an odor from underground come up.

    TOM: Eh. Maybe not. But go ahead.

    ROBIN: Well, we’ve had a number of people into the house to look at it and they’ve taken air samples and stuff and no one can really say what it is. All they can say is, “Well, we suggest that you replace that ductwork with overhead ductwork through the attic.”

    TOM: That’s a pretty big change. Have you ever had a duct inspection done with cameras?

    ROBIN: No. I’ve tried a number of people to get that done and no one in the area can do it. We called Roto-Rooter because we know they do it but they said they wouldn’t do it for ductwork. They would only do it for pipes.

    TOM: Well, Robin, as you’ve probably discovered, tracking down odors that are associated with heating and cooling ducts is a very tricky business. And part of the reason for that is because there’s so many possibilities: it could be mold, it could be other forms of organic matter, it could be sewage gases that are somehow working their way into those ducts.

    What I’m going to do is send you to a resource guide where every conceivable cause of duct odors is presented and explored and lets you research this a little bit better on your own. And maybe you’ll put two and two together based on what you read here and what you’re experiencing in your home and come up with a solution.

    Alright. So, I want you to go to a website called InspectAPedia. InspectAPedia. It’s a website actually put together by an old friend of mine named Dan Friedman. He’s one of the best home inspectors in the country. He’s gone through a lot of trouble to collect information on problems just like this. And if you go to InspectAPedia – so it’s Inspect, A and P-e-d-i-a -and you search “how to find and remove odors in heating ducts,” you’ll find this guide. And it’s thousands of words long. And you should be able to go through and see if you can get to the bottom of it.

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

    LESLIE: Shawnie (sp) in North Carolina needs some help with a backyard problem. What’s going on at your money pit?

    SHAWNIE (sp): And on my roof, I knew it would rain. All the water would drain toward the back, since it’s on a downslope.

    TOM: Right.

    SHAWNIE (sp): And then I had some – a contractor come in and connect all my downspouts and all to this black pipe. And they connected all of it and ran it out to one source toward that little creek. And in doing so – I mean everything was fine; it worked fine. And they thought where I was having such water problems, they sort of made a horseshoe out of the black pipe, with the Styrofoam peanuts and all of that in it.

    But what they did, when they dug around the horseshoe area, they found that that was dry. Because they figured if it was wet, it would drain and take care of the problem. But when they put that horseshoe in, wherever they put it, it was completely dry and it was further down that they realized that I had an underground spring.

    So all of my drain pipes, everything is draining perfectly but it’s one little problem I had with that underground spring.

    TOM: But is that underground spring rising up to the point where the yard is flooding? And how much flooding are we talking about here?

    SHAWNIE (sp): It’s not necessarily flooding but it stays so wet I can’t mow it.

    TOM: It’s just wet?

    SHAWNIE (sp): And there’s a place about – I’m going to say 12-inches square-ish, maybe, that is – has puddled.

    TOM: I don’t think this is a problem worth solving. I think it’s a fairly small area of the yard. And areas of the yard that get soft like that, yeah, the grass can be hard to cut sometimes; sometimes, you have to cut it by hand instead of using a power mower on it. But I don’t think it’s worth you doing anything about it. You would have to do some major, major work to try to take the water that’s collecting there, run it downstream and have it sit somewhere else. So, I don’t think it’s necessarily a big issue.

    Shawnie (sp), thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re heading over to Patty in Illinois who’s got a toilet that is running constantly. Tell us what’s going on.

    PATTY: Well, it doesn’t run constantly but it runs about five seconds, several times an hour. And it’s gone to the point that my water bill has gone up quite a bit and I’m needing to know if I need a new toilet or if I need new seals or a new handle pump or – what would you think?

    LESLIE: It’s actually an easy fix and this tends to happen kind of regularly. Unfortunately, people don’t realize that there’s actually some level of toilet maintenance, because it’s just an appliance in your house that’s there and you use it and you expect it to work.

    But inside the tank itself, there’s a fill and a flush valve. And those need to be replaced not that often but every couple of years or so. And of course, now that you’re dealing with this water-running issue – Tom, is it Fluidmaster?

    TOM: Yeah, Fluidmaster is sort of a mainstay of replacement valve parts.

    And they just wear out, Patty, over time, so this is a pretty easy fix.

    LESLIE: And it’s probably 10 bucks to get both of them. But if you go to Fluidmaster’s website, the only reason I recommend that is because on their website, they’ve got a really great how-to video. So you can actually see what the fill valve is, what the flush valve, the flapper valves – you know exactly what you’re looking at and how to replace it. And it’s a really easy do-it-yourself project that you can do confidently and definitely decrease your water bill.

    PATTY: Thank you. That sounds wonderful. I appreciate it and thank you so much for taking my call. Love your show.

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

    LESLIE: Hey, do you feel like you’ve got so much stuff but not enough space to store it? Well, there’s a good chance you’re overlooking lots of storage opportunities that are hidden right in plain sight. Well, where are they? We’ll tell you, coming up.

    RICHARD: This is Richard Trethewey from This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS and from the longest-running home improvement show on TV. We want to send a big congrats to Tom and Leslie from The Money Pit for being the most downloaded home improvement podcast on iTunes.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Leviton, the brand most preferred by builders for wiring devices and lighting controls. With a focus on safety and convenience, Leviton products are the smart solution for all your electrical needs.

    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: Hey, do you feel like you’re in a constant battle with your house and your house is winning? Well, don’t fret. The Money Pit can help. Just head on over to MoneyPit.com for tips and answers to your home improvement dilemmas big and small. And while you’re there, sign up for our free e-Newsletter and stay ahead of home maintenance year-round. It’s all online at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Elaine in Florida is on the line and is looking for some help with a flooring project. How can we help you?

    ELAINE: Yes, hi. I’m in the process of – I purchased some Home Legend wood laminate.

    TOM: OK.

    ELAINE: Seven millimeters, I believe it is.

    TOM: OK.

    ELAINE: And my question is – I’ve got conflicting views on what type of underlayment to use and how to lay it over tile – over ceramic tile.

    TOM: Elaine, the Home Legend’s people on their website recommend an underlayment with a combination of a 6-mil vapor barrier and a cushioning foam. But that’s only on concrete subfloors. I think because you’re putting this over tile, the best thing to use is just the cushioning foam.

    ELAINE: OK, yeah.

    TOM: It’ll make the floor lay nicer. It will make it a little bit more comfortable for you to walk on, as well.

    ELAINE: Alright. Thank you so much. I appreciate your help.

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

    LESLIE: Well, we all need as much storage as we can get in our homes or they begin to quickly look very cluttered. You know, there’s nothing like the feeling of a place for everything and everything in its place.

    TOM: Ah, yes. But if you’re feeling like you’ve exhausted storage solutions in your home, there might be some places you hadn’t thought of. Here to talk about those hidden storage spaces is This Old House general contractor Tom Silva.

    Welcome, Tommy.

    TOM SILVA: Well, thanks. It’s nice to be here.

    TOM: So, by virtue of the way a home is built, there ends up being sort of a lot of nooks and crannies for storage. And some of those could be hiding in plain sight, right?

    TOM SILVA: Absolutely. I think the biggest place that I can get a lot of storage out of is under stairways.

    It’s amazing that people don’t utilize that space more. I remember years ago, they used to put the phone in the desk under the stairway because people would talk on their phones. But now, who uses a phone that way?

    TOM: Right.

    TOM SILVA: But a staircase, you can make all kinds of storage opportunities. You could put drawers. We build – we’ll close the wall in a little bit but we make drawers that are deep and they’ll run right across the whole length of the stair and they pull out. You would be amazed at what you can store under a stairway.

    TOM: So you can, essentially, have a drawer that’s 2 or 3 feet deep.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah. Absolutely.

    TOM: It’s almost like the bins that you slide under beds.

    TOM SILVA: And you can make the front of the drawers angled with the stairs so that it could be a paneled wall, for example, and you don’t even notice it. Or it can be a flat wall with flat surfaces of the drawers so all you see are the little lines. And the drawers can be touch so when you hit the drawer, they open up.

    TOM: Very cool.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah.

    LESLIE: That’s pretty fancy.

    Now, obviously, when it comes to storage, we think about putting things up on our walls. But not every wall is suitable for storing some of the things that we want to put up there, right?

    TOM SILVA: No, absolutely not. But they have great units, shelf units, hooks and all those kinds of things for putting on walls. Like it gives you extra floor space if you get it up off of the floor. And that’s great if you think about garages, for example. Where do you put all the stuff in the garage?

    But these cabinet companies have come up with some great solutions where you can hang the boxes on the wall, you can hang hooks on the wall, you can put your skis on the wall, bikes you can drop from the ceiling. We did an Ask shoot years ago where people had five bicycles and they had a very small garage. They didn’t know where to put them, so we put these pulleys on the ceiling and all five bikes are up out of the way.

    TOM: Lifted up right out of the way.

    LESLIE: That’s so great.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah, yeah.

    TOM: Speaking of up and out of the way, the attics are up and out of the way but I think there’s a tradeoff now because we need so much insulation in our attics.

    TOM SILVA: Right.

    TOM: The attic insulation is almost always thicker than the floor joist that we’re walking on.

    TOM SILVA: Right.

    TOM: So is it kind of a balance between maybe carving out some space for storage and then letting the insulation do its job in the rest of the attic space?

    TOM SILVA: Well, it’s very important that you don’t compress the insulation. So that’s always a key factor but we’ll go back to garages for a minute. They actually have these electric lifts that you can put in your garage. And so you can push a button and out of the ceiling will drop this box that you can load up, push it and it goes back up and you have complete storage, out of the way, in the attic.

    LESLIE: You have to have clear space below it, though, to accommodate it coming down.

    TOM SILVA: Well, you have to – yeah, you don’t want it to come down onto the car. But that’s true: you do have to have space below.

    TOM: And of course, the attic is generally not insulated, so you don’t have to worry about running into insulation conflicts.

    TOM SILVA: Right. Exactly. Sometimes, people have rooms over the garage and those won’t work.

    TOM: Now, just like the staircase, the alcoves in the corners, those dead spaces that are a result of the framing of a home. Good idea to take advantage of that?

    TOM SILVA: Yeah, you can definitely take advantage of it. And sometimes, the alcoves are where there’s a chase or something.

    TOM: Right.

    TOM SILVA: You may be able to fill that chase, open it up, put some shelves and boxes and open shelves for displaying things into. We’ve actually taken walls where – an interior wall where you’ve cut the wall through the stud and you’ve exposed the back side of the plaster, where you put built-ins into there where you can display little ornaments or you can actually have a hidden cabinet door. Well, actually, for example, you take like a bathroom vanity mirror; they recess into the wall.

    TOM: Right.

    TOM SILVA: You can do that in other rooms but it doesn’t have to have a mirror on it; it can have a door on it.

    LESLIE: That’s really smart. Because there are a lot of bays all around your house that you can fill up with a whole bunch of things.

    TOM: Every interior wall that doesn’t have insulation, there’s no reason you can’t kind of go in on that wall.

    TOM SILVA: Right. We’ve actually taken bedrooms where people want to hide things in their bedroom. We’ve actually cut sections of the floors out and made a hidden door in the floor. And you’ve got, in some cases, 8 or 10 inches of floor height that you can make a box to put in there. And you can hide your stuff in there and make it slide left and right …

    LESLIE: What are your clients hiding, Tommy?

    TOM SILVA: Oh, you never know. You never know.

    TOM: You don’t ask that question.

    TOM SILVA: I don’t ask. It’s none of my business.

    LESLIE: This is amazing.

    You know, the other thing, I think, is that sort of open space above upper cabinetry in kitchens. That to me is very dated and begs for chachkies to just get covered in dust.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah, exactly.

    LESLIE: So why not go all the way up to the ceiling with an extra storage cabinet up there, as well?

    TOM SILVA: Exactly. That’s why my pet peeve is make the cabinets tall. Make them go to the wall and that’s when you get into a custom cabinet or a semi-custom cabinet, where you could take a 30-inch cabinet and maybe put a 12- or an 18-inch cabinet on top of it, that you put the Thanksgiving cans up there and the cookware and stuff like that, the Christmas stuff that you’re not going to use all the time except when the family’s over. You break out those Christmas dishes and stuff but they’re not out of the way. You may need a little stepping stool to get up there but it makes a big difference.

    TOM: I saw a cabinet design, not too long ago, where it was an existing home and they took a 12-inch wall cabinet, turned it on its side with the hinge on top, glass doors and that was across the entire top of the wall cabinets and it looked great.

    TOM SILVA: Yep. Yeah.

    TOM: It looked like it was always designed to be there and it was really an afterthought.

    TOM SILVA: Right. And they make the hardware now that, actually, when you pull that door up, it stays up.

    TOM: It’ll stay up?

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: Great.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah. And it’s – they actually make an electric one that you could push that button, it’ll open the door and it’ll come down.

    LESLIE: You’re so fancy.

    TOM: Well, the storage surrounds you. You’ve just got to know where to look. And now we’ve got a few more places to squeeze in some more of our stuff.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah, right.

    TOM: Because you can never have too much stuff.

    LESLIE: Can’t have enough stuff.

    TOM SILVA: Can’t have enough.

    TOM: Tom Silva, the general contractor on TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    TOM SILVA: Well, thank you. It’s nice to be here.

    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 and Ask This Old House are brought to you on PBS by The Home Depot. More saving, more doing.

    Up next, are you sick of feeling like every project will take hours? We’ll have shortcuts to help you save time and money, after this.

    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, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. One caller who gets on the air with us this hour is going to win a Dremel Micro 8-Volt Max Lithium-Ion Cordless Rotary Tool Kit, which translates into very cool and useful tool.

    LESLIE: Yeah, that’s right. You know, it’s lightweight but it’s big on power, so it makes it really easy to handle for detailed projects and even to get into some really tight spaces. And it’s designed to be handled like a pen or pencil, so you really get a lot of control.

    TOM: Yep. The Dremel Rotary Toolkit is worth $89 and it’s available at The Home Depot. One caller we talk to on the air this hour wins it. Check out Dremel.com to learn more and give us a call, right now, with your home improvement questions at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, some home improvement projects are fun and you really want to tackle them but others you just want to get done as quickly and inexpensively as possible, which is where hacks or clever solutions and time-savers can really help.

    TOM: That’s right. So here’s some of our favorites. If you’re hammering a nail, you know that if you’re not careful you can end up hammering your thumb instead. So, use a clothespin to hold the nail in place. This way, you’ll never have to worry about a smashed finger. Now, for really small nails -like brads or picture-frame nails, things like that – you can press the nail through a piece of cardboard, like a matchbox cover, and then hold the cardboard instead of holding the nail. If you miss, no pain.

    LESLIE: I like that one. I usually go for needle-nose pliers with those really tiny ones but I like the cardboard trick.

    TOM: That works, too.

    LESLIE: Now, how about a very cheap and 100-percent natural solution to fix scratches in your wood furniture? All you need to do is remove a walnut from its shell, then rub it up and down along the ding or scratch. Then hold your finger against the blemish for about five minutes afterward and that’s going to let the nut oil set in. And then you buff the area with a soft cloth and that scratch should be sealed.

    TOM: And here’s a trick for hanging picture frames or small pieces of artwork. If you have trouble lining those up, what you should do is photocopy the back of the frame. Then you can position those photocopies on the wall, including the exact spot that the nail needs to be driven. Once that’s all done, you can drive the nails in place, remove the photocopies, hang up the pictures that you’re trying to align and everything will be perfect.

    And for that matter, this sort of transfer trick works for anything you need to put on a wall or a ceiling, even smoke detectors or carbon-monoxide detectors. So there you have it: home improvement hacks to save you some time.

    888-666-3974. Do you have a home improvement project on your to-do list? Well, let’s move it over to the done list. Take the first step and call us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Gayla in California is having an issue with a countertop. Tell us what’s going on.

    GAYLA: I am. About four-and-a-half years ago, I remodeled my kitchen and installed Corian countertops. And I used the pattern called Savannah; it’s one of the light ones. So I’m getting ready now to sell my home and looking at the countertops, they’re really – there’s tons, like thousands of hairline scratches. And I’m wondering, how can I bring back their luster? They never were shiny but they were lustrous.

    LESLIE: Yeah, they do have a satin finish that looks very rich and nice but obviously, over time, just from normal wear and tear, they are going to dull and not look so great.

    There’s a good website that generally specializes in granite and marble care – it’s called StoneCare.com – but they do have some products for Corian. And there’s actually a spray. It’s made to reduce a residue on the surface. I’m not sure it’s going to help you with the scratches but it could be a good starting point. It’s called their Deep Cleaner for Corian. And that might be a good place to start, at least.

    GAYLA: OK. Yeah, I don’t know that they’re that dirty. I do keep them quite clean but it’s just a question – it’s just those hairline scratches. And when the sun comes through the window, you really see them.

    TOM: What that product does is it will also pull out any residue from all the cleaning that you have been doing so religiously, which is a good thing. The other nice thing, though, about Corian is the scratches can be repaired. And if you – the Corian can be repolished, basically lightly sanded, so to speak and …

    GAYLA: Oh, I was wondering about that.

    TOM: Right. To actually pull those scratches right out. So that’s not something that I would recommend that you do the first time out.

    GAYLA: No, I don’t think so.

    TOM: But if you contact a kitchen-cabinet company, for example, they might have an installer and for a reasonably small fee, they might come out and repolish those tops for you. They’re going to have all the tools and the equipment, as well. And probably they can pull many of those scratches right out.

    GAYLA: Well, thank you. That sounds like the way to go for me.

    TOM: Alright. Well, good luck with that project and good luck selling your house.

    GAYLA: Well, thank you and best to you both.

    LESLIE: Hey, have you ever spotted a leak and you’re just wondering where the heck is it coming from and you’re trying to figure it out? Well, we’ve got some tips to help you find those sneaky leaks, after this.

    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.

    Hey, do you ever wish Tom and I could be there with you right as you’re tackling those home improvement projects? Well, you can get the next best thing. You can get Money Pit on your smartwatch whenever and wherever you are working.

    Now, owners of Android wearable smartwatches can download the iHeartRadio app for their Android smartphone and then sync it to the Android Wear smartwatch and you get Money Pit on the go. Plus, you look extra cool with your super-futuristic watch, kind of like James Bond, doing your home improvement projects.

    And if you want to be a little bit more low-tech – via the regular interweb, regular smartphone, computer, what have you – post your question in The Money Pit Community section, just like Kevin did from New Hampshire who writes: “Today, during a heavy rain, I discovered a leak: a steady drip of water coming in from the first-floor powder-room ceiling. It only lasted about 20 minutes despite the fact that the rain continued for another hour, which I thought was strange. Any advice for figuring out how rain made its way into the first floor of our two-story home?”

    TOM: Yes. That is seemingly tricky but it’s actually quite straightforward. And what happened here is that the rain hitched a ride on your plumbing vent pipe. Whenever you have a leak that is above a bathroom, it’s invariably caused by the vent pipe that goes from your plumbing system, up through the ceilings and the walls above, straight through to the roof. If you stand back and look at your house from the street, you’ll notice where these pipes come through and they have this piece of flashing called “plumbing-vent flashing” that sealed the space between the roof shingle and the vent itself.

    And what happens is there’s a rubber sort of lip around that. And that rubber will wear out, it will crack and it will let water into the space right against the pipe, where it will run quickly down the pipe and usually to the point where it hits your ceiling in your bathroom. And then it will show up as a leak.

    So, when you have that kind of a tricky leak, it has a very simple solution and that simply is that you need to head up to the roof, you need to replace the plumbing-vent flashing and that will solve it. And maybe it’s not you that will do it. Maybe you’ll have a pro do it but anyway, one way or the other, that’s the source of it. You don’t need a new roof; it’s not that complicated. It’s an easy fix.

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got one from Jason in New Jersey who writes: “Our home was built in 2001 with tilt-in vinyl windows. Recently, several of the windows have become hard to open. I don’t see any screws to adjust inside the window sash. I’m guessing they were probably nailed around the flap during construction. I have two other windows that, once opened, don’t seem to want to stay in place. They slide down a little. Any advice for fixing this?”

    TOM: You know, it sounds like – well, first of all, the difference between windows – vinyl replacement windows – that were built in 2001 and those that were built now – 14, 15 years later – is pretty dramatic in terms of the efficiency and quality. They’ve just gotten better and better and better. It sounds like these are wearing out a bit, because the sashes are sliding down. And the ones that are stuck, well, perhaps they – the building has shifted. And it’s really hard to fix this is what I’m trying to tell you.

    And so, I would think here that the real solution is a replacement window. The good news is that the costs have also come down a lot, so you may be able to replace these windows for as little as $300 or $400 each. I think I’d focus on that rather than trying to put any more money into fixing up the ones that you already have.

    LESLIE: And you know what, Jason? It’s perfect to do a window replacement because you might qualify for a federal tax rebate. Just make sure you do your research and that the window you pick qualifies.

    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.

    Hey, if you’ve got home improvement questions, we know they hit you kind of any time of the day or night. That’s why our phone lines are always open. Our screeners are always standing by to take your questions. And if we’re not in the studio, we’ll call you back the next time we are. So call us, 24/7, at 888-MONEY-PIT and you can also post your question to The Money Pit’s Facebook page.

    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 2015 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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