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Garage Safety Check, How to Find Where Mold Hides, Tips on Returning Electronics, Post-Holiday Cleanup 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: Here to help you in this new year of home improvement that is upon us. Yes, we look at everything through a home improvement lens. And so, we’re thinking about what projects we’re going to do in 2015 and we know you are, as well. And if you’re not, well, let us help you get there. It’s a team effort. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    So what are you planning this year? Are you planning to do an outdoor room? Planning some paint, some wallpaper, some décor? Maybe need a new roof? Maybe you’d like to add some insulation, add some ventilation, get a new kitchen? Whatever is on your to-do list, give us a call right now. Let’s talk it through, 888-666-3974.

    Now, if you dread making New Year’s resolutions because of your track record with actually keeping them, well, we do have some good news for you. There are some resolutions for your house that are much easier to keep. And first on the list is a garage safety check. We’ll tell you what to look for to make sure those overhead doors are working, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: And also ahead, if you think you don’t have to worry about mold in your house because you are a little OCD when it comes to cleaning, I’m telling you you’re going to be in for a shock. You know, mold can actually find places to hide and grow, even in the cleanest of homes. We’re going to tell you where to look, a little later.

    TOM: Plus, electronics are a hot holiday gift item but what happens when you need to return them? We’ll have some tips on how you can make sure your holiday returns are happy.

    LESLIE: And this hour, we’re giving away a portable workspace: The Palit. It’s designed like an artist’s palette and it fits right over your pedestal sink so that you can lay makeup and your styling tools on it. Because this happens to me all the time: I’ve put my makeup bag in the sink and my kids have walked up and then turned the faucet on and now my makeup bag is filled with water. Or I’ve had the makeup brushes fall in the sink and then they get all wet and then you can’t put your blush on.

    I know, Tom, you can relate to this.

    TOM: It happens to me all the time, which is why I’m so happy that we have The Palit to give away. It’s worth $249. It goes out to one caller drawn at random. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Renee in North Carolina needs some help weatherproofing. What can we do for you?

    RENEE: I just recently moved into a brand-new apartment complex. So, the windows are pretty good windows but what I’ve found is that it is freezing in here now that the temperature has dropped. So I’m looking for suggestions on how to put up temporary fixes to the windows leaking air in. And also the sliding door. I have a big, sliding-glass door that I’m not sure how to weatherproof that.

    TOM: Alright. Renee, first of all, as far as the windows are concerned, one of the things you might want to look into is weatherstripping caulk. There’s a certain type of caulk that’s designed to be removable. And one of the products is called Seal ‘N Peel with the letter N – Seal ‘N Peel. And I think that one is by Red Devil or DAP. Both manufacturers have a version of this.

    And the way it works is you essentially can caulk the windows shut. So you can caulk around all those gaps. And then in the spring, you can grab the caulk bead and peel it off. And it comes off like a piece of rubber.

    LESLIE: Just make sure you leave one window unclosed, unsealed because – just in case you need it for an egress in the event of an emergency. Because it comes out but it just doesn’t come out that fast.

    TOM: Now, as far as the door is concerned, I would just use shrink film for that. So the shrink film – basically, you put a two-sided adhesive tape around the door and then you attach the film to that. And then you take a hair dryer and warm the film and it shrinks and gets nice and taut and crystal-clear.

    RENEE: OK. So the film would actually prevent the door – the sliding-glass door – from opening?

    TOM: Correct. You would not be able to use that door in the winter, mm-hmm.

    RENEE: OK.

    TOM: I mean if you have to be able to use it, then you’d just have to use weatherstripping. But it’s probably not going to be as effective.

    RENEE: OK. Well, this has been very helpful. I’ve just been afraid to put up anything that was going to destroy the window or the paint.

    TOM: I know. You want to get that security deposit back, eventually, right?

    RENEE: Definitely. Or not pay more.

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

    LESLIE: Claire in Maine, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    CLAIRE: Yes, I have a little problem with my water softener. I seem to have nice, soft water with it. The soap lathers good and everything. But when I wash my vehicles and then one of those is black, after it dries, wherever there were any of the droplets of water, when that dries off I get all these little white deposits all over the vehicle. And I was wondering why, if it’s soft water, why I’m getting those.

    TOM: Yeah, because it doesn’t sound very soft; it sounds more like hard water. You’ve got a lot of minerals in that.

    Now, the water that you’re using to wash the vehicles, this is coming from the water softener?

    CLAIRE: Yes. All my water – my hot and my cold – go through the softener.

    TOM: Including the hose bibbs that you’re hooking up to to wash the car?

    CLAIRE: Yes.

    TOM: Well, obviously, the water softener is not working correctly. You’ve got a lot of minerals in there and that’s what’s showing up on your beautiful, black car.

    CLAIRE: Well, I know I had the hardness checked about three years ago and they gave me a number, 23, and they set it at that and that’s what I’ve been going with ever since.

    TOM: Well, maybe it’s time to have it serviced again and have it checked again, because things can change. And that’s got to be what’s causing it, though.

    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. Give us a call, 24 hours a day, with your home improvement, your repair, décor, whatever-you’re-working-on question and we’ll lend you a hand, 888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, getting gifts is great. Returning or exchanging them is less fun, especially when those gifts are electronics. We’re going to have some tips and advice on how to make sure those holiday electronic returns are stress-free, when The Money Pit returns, after this.

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

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. And the number to call is 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Now, one caller that we talk to on the air this hour is going to win The Palit. And this really is an ingenious idea. It’s 100-percent bamboo and it’s a cover for your pedestal sink that’s going to give you instant counter space where you don’t have any. So you don’t have to balance styling tools or makeup on the edges of your sink or put your super-hot hair dryer in between your knees to hold it while you’re brushing your hair. I don’t know who would do that but I’m just saying.

    TOM: I guess it happens. The Palit has a silicone well to hold those hot styling tools and a handle, making it portable and stowable. It’s a prize worth $249.

    You can learn more at NYCVanity.com. It really is a very impressive product. We’ve seen it, we’ve handled it. It’s extremely well-made and well worth the $249 price if you’d like to pick one up. But we’ve got one to give away, so call us, right now, with your home improvement or repair question. The number, again, is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Heidi in Oregon is dealing with a stinky shower. What’s going on?

    HEIDI: We have a two-story house. The one shower is in the basement downstairs. It’s a daylight basement but it’s built back into the side hill. And what I’ve noticed is that after showering, you know, you leave the bathroom and you come back in and there is this sour-towel smell. It’s not a sewer smell or a septic smell but it smells like a towel that has been left damp somewhere and it’s just been left to kind of mold or do whatever. But I’ve changed the towels and I come back in the bathroom and I’ve located the smell with my nose and gone right down to the drain. And it’s coming out of the drain in the shower.

    TOM: What this might be is something called “biogas.” And when the water drains and it takes with it the soap scum and everything else, you can get germs that are going to grow in that. And that biological material off-gasses and can make horrible smells. So …

    HEIDI: Well, that’s what we thought, too, because it’s in both showers: upstairs and downstairs. And we only smell it, obviously, after someone has showered and it was wet. So we’ve taken the grates off, we’ve cleaned with a bottle brush. I look with a flashlight down there and those pipes are – they’re spic-and-span clean all the way down to the P-trap.

    TOM: Have you used any kind of an oxygenated bleach down those traps?

    HEIDI: No, we don’t do that because we’re on a septic tank and we don’t want to kill all the good bacteria in the septic. And so I’ve been afraid to use anything.

    I’ve tried vinegar. I’ve used Lysol spray.

    TOM: Well, not so much vinegar, yeah. Well, OK, why don’t you use Borax?

    HEIDI: Borax. OK. And pour it down into the drain? Because …

    TOM: Well, no, what I want you to do is I want you to get a solution of hot, soapy water with Borax in it. And I want you to scrub the inside of that drain, all the different parts, with a big, thick bottle brush. Get as much of that trap cleaned as you can and see if that reduces it.

    And by the way, do you have ventilation in those bathrooms?

    HEIDI: Yeah. There’s windows, uh-huh.

    TOM: Do you have fans that you could leave on after? Bath fans?

    HEIDI: Yes, yes. And we always turn the fan on when we shower.

    LESLIE: And keep it on when you’re done?

    HEIDI: Well, no. We usually shut it off when we’re done.

    TOM: So, yeah, that’s another thing I would change. That behavior I would change. What I would do is I would replace the bath-fan switch with one that’s on a timer or a humidistat. So that after you are done showering and leave the bathroom, it stays on for another 15 or 20 minutes.

    HEIDI: But we’ll go ahead and try that, then, and see what happens.

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

    Well, you tried your best but you ended up giving a gift that the recipient just can’t use. We know it’s disappointing but it’s even more so when the gift is an electronic item, which is often hard to return or exchange. That’s why we’ve got a few basic tips you can follow to help make sure those products go back stress-free.

    LESLIE: Yeah. First of all, you’ve got to check the return windows. Now, many stores are going to have a regular return policy of about 60 days or longer but you don’t often have that long of a time to return electronics.

    Now, if you’ve opened the software – and that’s kind of including video games, CDs and movies – that really makes them not returnable, unless you’ve opened it and something’s wrong with it.

    TOM: Now, tearing off the wrapping paper is a part of the holiday, so have at it. But in most cases, even torn shrink wrap shouldn’t be a problem. However, you don’t want to show up at the returns counter missing some of the accessories or the owner’s manual. A definite no-no.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And a receipt is absolutely essential when it comes to returning electronics. You may even need to show some form of ID, so make sure you’ve got that on hand. And if you’ve already gone and put any of your information onto the new device, make sure you delete it.

    Now, if the item comes with a mail-in rebate, don’t tear the UPC code off of the box until you are sure you are keeping it. Otherwise, you’re not going to be able to return the item at all, even if you never sent that rebate in.

    TOM: Finally, watch out for restocking fees. More than with other types of gifts, stores are quick to charge restocking fees of 10 to 25 percent or more for returned electronics if they’ve been opened.

    888-666-3974. However, there is no return policy here if you call us at 888-MONEY-PIT, because you’re not going to want to return our advice. It’s always going to be good, it’s always going to be helpful, it’s always going to save you money. So what are you waiting for? Call us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Mark in Florida, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    MARK: Well, I am going to be putting down an engineered-hardwood floor.

    TOM: OK.

    MARK: And I’ve got the manufacturer’s instructions and I’m going to tell you, the tolerances for the floor are really tight. They want the floor – so the plywood subfloor, off-grade house – they want the floor to be no more than 3/16-inch over 10 feet or an 1/8-inch over 6 feet deflection.

    TOM: I haven’t seen a house yet that has that little deflection, right?

    MARK: I know. Exactly. Yes.

    Anyway, my question is – I’ve taken a 10-foot 2×8 and confirmed it was straight and put it on the floor.

    TOM: OK.

    MARK: And I’ve got a Sharpie and I’m kind of marking off what is within tolerance. And there are some sections that are and ones not in tolerance. So my question to you is: how do you meet that specification that they call out for? For instance, some of the load-bearing walls, you can see where the subfloor has actually dipped down from the weight of the home. The house is about 23 years old. And I’m just wondering, how do you meet that? It’s extremely tight.

    TOM: How close are you, Mark?

    MARK: It depends. Some of the areas, we’re talking probably half – maybe a ½-inch in some of the bad places.

    TOM: OK. So what you want to do in those areas is you’re going to fill in with a floor-leveling compound. You don’t have to do the entire floor but if you have the areas that are really down, you can fill those in.

    The thing here is you want it to be reasonably flat. And the reason it wants to be reasonably flat is because with engineered-hardwood floor, the panels lock together. You know, I’ve got an 1886 house and I put in a laminate floor when it sort of first came on the market. And this is similar to the engineered-hardwood floor except that when laminate floor first came on, you had to glue it together; it didn’t lock together.

    And so I was able to glue this together. It actually worked in my favor because by gluing it together, it had a lot more ability to stretch and bend and twist over my very roly-poly floors. But if you’re just going to rely on the joint of the hardwood floor to lock together, then you can’t really stress it that much. If you try to twist it, it could crack or pop up.

    MARK: I see.

    TOM: And so, what I would do is I would get floor-leveling compound. DAP makes one that works very well. It’s called Flexible Floor Patch and Leveler.

    MARK: OK.

    TOM: And so, if you go to the DAP website at DAP.com – D-A-P.com – just search for the Flexible Floor Patch. You’ll see a picture of it there; you’ll know exactly what you’re looking for. And then you can order that from, I’m sure, your home center or your hardware store or find it online. And that’s designed specifically to work on wood floors or under wood floors and level them out.

    LESLIE: On subfloors, especially.

    MARK: OK. Well, great. Thank you very much. I really enjoy your show and look forward to maybe meeting the two of you one day.

    LESLIE: Oh, thanks.

    Beverly in Nebraska is on the line and is looking to do a flooring, I guess, tiling project. Tell us what’s going on.

    BEVERLY: Well, I have a brick fireplace that I would like to reface with ceramic tile.

    LESLIE: Oh, great. It’s a fireplace question.

    BEVERLY: Yes. I want to know if what – if I need to do any special steps to prep the brick. I’ve heard yes and I’ve heard no, so thought I might call somebody that might have a real answer.

    TOM: As long as the brick is not dirty or doesn’t have loose paint on it or anything of that nature, I don’t think there’s a lot of prep involved there. What’s going to be really important is that you get a good coat of adhesive underneath it. And you can use a tile mastic on top of that brick to attach the tile to.

    LESLIE: And what size are the tiles that you’re looking at, Bev, to put over this?

    BEVERLY: Twelve by twelve, probably.

    TOM: OK.

    LESLIE: Tom, are there any concerns with the difference between the brick and the mortar line for unevenness? Or because the tile is so large, it’s going to …

    TOM: No, because you know what? Think about it. When you put tile down, you use a notched trowel, right? So you never have a complete 100-percent contact of the tile with the substrate. So the fact that there’s recessed mortar on this brick fireplace is not of a concern to me. It’s just more of a concern that we get a good, solid coat of adhesive there and that they dry well, they’re nice and stable.

    And really, you want to make sure that you plan this out carefully, Bev. I mean frankly, it’s really small spaces to get that to fit right, to look right, to make sure the corners are done properly. If it’s sloppy, you’re going to be kicking yourself because it’ll be obvious to anybody that looks at this that it wasn’t done by a pro. So just make sure it’s done really well so that it looks like it was almost intended to be that way the first time the fireplace and the hearth was envisioned, OK?

    BEVERLY: OK. One thing that I’d heard about, the brick mortar line sucks up the moisture out of the mastic quicker. Is that something I need to worry about or just …?

    TOM: Nah. Nope. Wouldn’t worry about it at all. That makes no sense to me. Look, people put concrete – put tile down on concrete and will tell you the same issue. Just plan it correctly, Bev, so that you have all the corners line up right, you have the right pieces, the right – the types of tile that you’re choosing are the ones that, for example, have closed corners where they wrap around the outside.

    And make sure it’s going to work. You may find that 12-inch is too wide for that; it might be easier if you use a smaller tile because you’d have a little more flexibility.

    BEVERLY: Like maybe a six or eight?

    TOM: Like a six, yeah, or an eight. Yep, exactly.

    Depending on the shape, right, Leslie?

    LESLIE: Yeah. It really depends on what look you’re going for. And with a ceramic tile, think about the finish on them. A glazed tile is going to clean better when you get dirt and debris from the smoke in the fireplace itself. But an unglazed one might have a more hearth-y, traditional look. So think about the overall look you’re trying to get.

    And you can also – a 12-by is kind of large. So if you’re looking to put a decorative tile, say, as cornerstones around your mantle or something, think about adding in little detail pieces and then you can size your tiles accordingly.

    TOM: So does that help you out?

    BEVERLY: Yeah. We’re just trying to make it look a little more modern.

    TOM: Yeah, I think that’s definitely a good idea. I think it will look more modern; I think it’ll be very attractive. Just take your time, do it once, do it right and you won’t have to do it again.

    BEVERLY: Thank you very much.

    LESLIE: Hey, your garage is often the most overlooked part of your home. Why not make a New Year’s resolution to give your garage door a safety checkup? That’ll be one we are going to help you keep, next.

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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: Well, this is the time for New Year’s resolutions but promises about things like diet and exercise can be difficult to keep. What’s easy to keep? Making a New Year’s resolution for your home. And one of those resolutions should be a garage safety check. Here to tell us more about that is Christy Domanski. She’s the head of the safety program at LiftMaster.

    Hi, Christy.

    CHRISTY: Hi.

    TOM: So when people say, “How’s your job?” you say, “Up and down,” right?

    So, listen, I spent 20 years as a home inspector and I was always surprised how many times we would find garage-door openers that did not work correctly. We would test them and they wouldn’t reverse or they would not behave properly when you blocked the electric eye and do simple tests like that. You guys now have kind of consolidated that process into an issue that I think’s really good. It’s called LiftMaster’s “Don’t Chance It. Check It.” Garage Safety Initiative.

    Because let’s face it. It’s a mechanical device. It needs to be checked; it needs to be tested on a regular basis to make sure it’s working right, because things can happen. It can go out of adjustment. Consumers, perhaps, don’t maintain them as they should. And this is a good way to kind of make sure that it’s running correctly, right?

    CHRISTY: Right. That’s correct.

    TOM: So, if we are going to test it, you’ve got this broken down into three easy steps, I understand. So, what are we telling consumers to do first?

    CHRISTY: It’s very easy. Step one is to check along the sides of the garage door to make sure that you have photo eyes. Those are those black sensors that are about 6 inches off the floor, on each side of your garage door.

    TOM: Right. Now, I find those – always find those when I end up hitting them with something, moving in and out of the garage. They’re always on sort of a flexible bracket. And if you smack it a little bit, they don’t line up. And then you try to close your garage door and it doesn’t work, because that’s what it’s supposed to do. If they’re not sort of talking to each other, it’s supposed to stop the garage door from opening. So you want to make sure they’re aligned properly. And then, I guess, you test it by breaking the beam?

    CHRISTY: What you want to do is you want to block the photo eye with an object that’s about 6 inches tall.

    TOM: OK.

    CHRISTY: And just simply put something in front of it. And you want to hit the control panel and make sure that the door does not close.

    TOM: Right. Because that would signify something being in the way, like a person, child’s bike, your car, that kind of thing. So it’s important to test the photo eye.

    Alright. What about sort of the reversing mechanism on the door. Is that also part of the check?

    CHRISTY: It is. It’s the third and final step. So you want to take a book or a 2×4 and you want to lay it flat off the floor.

    TOM: Right. OK.

    CHRISTY: The key is it should be about 1½ inches high. Once you put that on the ground, you want to press the control panel again. And the door should come down and reverse very quickly up.

    TOM: And it’s simple as that: one, two, three. So you check the photo eyes, making sure they’re aligned properly. You try to block it, make sure the door does not go down. And then you lay something in the path of the door that’s, like you say, about an inch-and-a-half tall, close the door and again, make sure it reverses easily. And if it passes those tests, I guess you’re good to go.

    How often should you be rechecking your garage-door opener to make sure that happens?

    CHRISTY: We would recommend that you check it monthly. It’s very important that those photo eyes stay aligned and there are no obstructions in the path of the door. And it’s very easy, I hope you’ll agree, to be able to do this on a monthly basis.

    TOM: We’re talking to Christy Domanski. She’s the senior marketing manager and head of the garage safety program at LiftMaster.

    So, Christy, as we move forward into 2015, what kinds of innovations are we going to see from LiftMaster?

    CHRISTY: Just recently, we’ve launched a new product line that allows you to monitor and control your garage door from anywhere in the world.

    One of the greatest things about this new line is say you’re away from home and you’ve let somebody in and you’re wanting to close the door back up? You can actually send an audible alert by closing the garage door. It’s called Alert-2-Close. What happens is when you push the button on your smartphone, it will send an audible, as well as a visual, alert that the door is about to close

    TOM: Wow, that’s really cool. Because how many times have you left home and even wondered if you left your garage door open? Now you don’t have to wonder anymore. That’s terrific.

    Christy Domanski from LiftMaster, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    CHRISTY: Thanks for having me.

    TOM: And if you’d like more information about garage safety, take a look at LiftMaster.com. And if you’d like to see a video of the three-step safety check, that’s available on YouTube. And you can also view it at LiftMaster.com.

    LESLIE: OK. And still ahead, even if you’re OCD about cleaning – and I know a lot of people are out there – your home may still be at risk for mold. We’re going to tell you where mold hides, even in the cleanest of homes, and how you should be cleaning it, after this.

    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, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: One caller we talk to on the air this hour is going to win The Palit. It’s an ingenious idea. It’s a 100-percent bamboo cover for your pedestal sink that adds counter space where none existed before.

    LESLIE: Yeah. You are not going to have to balance styling tools and makeup on the edge of your pedestal sink. And The Palit has got a silicone well in it so it’ll hold those hot styling tools and a handle, which makes it super-portable and stowable.

    TOM: It’s a prize worth $249. Learn more at NYCVanity.com and call us, right now, with your home improvement question. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Don in Pennsylvania has got a question about windows. What can we help you with?

    DON: These windows are mid-1700s. That’s before the Revolution. The ones I’m working on, there is – the building actually had a date on it: 1746.

    TOM: Wow. That’s impressive.

    LESLIE: Wow.

    DON: And the glass on these was like poured glass; it wasn’t manufactured the way they make them now. And I’m trying to save the glass and I’m trying not to damage the wood at all. But I’m scraping and painting and weatherizing these windows. And the reason I’m doing that is because a lot of the glaze is falling out and the paint is flaking away and everything. But some of that glaze that’s on there – and this hasn’t been done, I would say, for more than 30 years. Because we’ve lived here 30 years and have never done it to this window.

    And so that – some of the glaze is falling out but others are really tenacious and stuck to that wood and that glass. And I don’t want to ruin the glass or ruin the wood, so what’s the best way to get that old glaze out of there?

    TOM: Are you using any heat to help you here?

    DON: Not yet.

    TOM: So, what you want to try to do is get a heat gun, which kind of looks like an industrial-size hair dryer.

    DON: Yeah, I have an electric heat gun and I’ve used that to help remove some of the paint. But I don’t know the temperature of that heat gun but …

    TOM: Well, you want to use it cautiously, you know. I wouldn’t lean into it with the nozzle but I would try to warm that old putty. Generally, if you warm it, it loosens up.

    Now, some guys that do windows all the time will actually use steam to soften the putty. And I’ve seen guys create almost like steam chambers, where they kind of build a box, fill it with warm steam and then slide the sashes in there and then pull them out. And now they’re warm and they strip them off.

    One way that you could try to do this without sort of building that chamber might be to get a wallpaper steamer. And then use some of that steam – use it against the window, warm it. That warm, moist steam may also help to loosen it up.

    But if you’ve already got the heat gun, I would try trying to warm it up gently and see how the old glazing reacts to that.

    DON: Oh, OK. I will. Thank you.

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

    LESLIE: Well, if you don’t pay much attention to stories about mold because you think you keep a super-clean house, it’s time to listen up, people. Mold is not just limited to messy homes. Even if you are OCD about the cleanliness, mold has a sneaky way of finding those little pockets where growing conditions are ideal.

    TOM: Now, your basement is definitely one of those places. You have a below-grade space there. Especially if it’s finished with drywall or wood, mold loves to grow on those spaces and needs to be inspected and perhaps thoroughly cleaned if you find it.

    Also, light fixtures. Mold can grow in the insulation that surrounds recessed lighting. And the grossest of places for mold? We’ve all seen it before: your refrigerator. I mean everyone, at some point, has had some leftovers that turned into a science experiment. But those little spores can spread into the nooks and the crannies of your fridge and voilà, you’ve got yourself a mold infestation.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Mold can also gather on the coils and other air-conditioning components that come into contact with moisture, which then travels in your direction via the cooled air.

    Same thing goes for humidifiers. Now, elevating the relative humidity of a room is an invitation for the sneakiest forms of mold. And a humidifier that goes a long time between cleanings can actually harbor and then spread the mold.

    TOM: Now, if you think you might have mold but you can’t track it down, bring in a pro to find the source, remove the mold and prevent it from returning.

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

    LESLIE: Lane in Arkansas is looking to do some countertop updates with a cement countertop. How can we help you with that project?

    LANE: I’ve been wanting to get granite countertops forever and I can’t really afford it, being a single dad and paying the mortgage and everything. So, I was looking at the concrete method. I’ve watched some videos on YouTube and whatnot and I really like how it looks, because it looks a lot like the granite.

    And my question kind of – or is it pretty simple for a guy that knows a lot – not a lot about concrete but a little about it? And the edging stuff that they sell on websites, do you need to buy that or can – is there a way that you can do it with just normal wood, where you can form it up yourself?

    TOM: So, first of all, concrete countertops are beautiful but they’re a lot of work to build, as you’ve learned if you’ve watched all of those YouTube videos, which I commend you for doing.

    In terms of the edging, you certainly – having those tools certainly makes it a lot easier. But if you’re crafty, you probably could make your own edging tools to get an acceptable edge to that concrete surface.

    LANE: OK.

    TOM: The good news is that the material itself is fairly inexpensive. So if you really screw it up, you could break it up, throw it in the garden and start again.

    LANE: Right.

    TOM: But the key is really the prep and making sure that you’ve got the form built correctly and you’re totally ready to go, you know exactly what you’re going to do once you start to pour in that concrete. Because you don’t get a second chance.

    LANE: Would you recommend a certain type of concrete?

    TOM: QUIKRETE makes a commercial-grade countertop mix.

    LANE: Alright.

    TOM: So I would just go buy that.

    LANE: OK.

    TOM: You could pick that up at a home center/hardware store and just go for that.

    LANE: Well, that sounds good.

    LESLIE: Jan in Kansas is on the line with a home that seems to be cracking up. Tell us what’s going on.

    JAN: Well, I’ve got a lot of problems. It’s an old house; it’s over 50 years old.

    TOM: You have a lot of opportunities, Jan, not a lot of problems.

    JAN: Yeah. I’ve got some cracks in the wall.

    TOM: OK.

    JAN: And I have one crack that is going from the dining room to the kitchen and I believe it’s cracking on both sides of the wall. Same crack.

    TOM: OK. You said it’s 50 years old. Do you know if it’s plaster lath?

    JAN: It’s sheetrock.

    TOM: It’s drywall? OK. So, fixing that is not a big deal. The thing is that most people usually fix it incorrectly. What they’ll do is they’ll try to spackle it. And by spackling it, you’re pretty much guaranteeing that it’s going to re-crack. What you have to do is sand down the area so you get rid of any glaze from the paint or dirt or anything like that. And then you’re going to cover it with drywall tape. And you want to use the mesh type of tape that’s sticky.

    So you put a strip of tape across the crack and then you spackle right over that tape. And you’ll use three layers of spackle and the easiest way to apply this is if you buy the plastic spackling knives. You can buy one that starts at around 4 inches, then you go to 6, then you go to 8. And they’re pretty inexpensive and you use that to apply the spackle and you sand in between each coat. And then you prime and paint and you’re done. So those are the proper steps.

    Where most people go wrong is they just try to do a quick-and-dirty spackling job and they wonder why it cracks again and again and again. Because that’s basically an expansion joint right now. And unless you spread the repair across both sides of it with new drywall tape, it will continue to show up.

    LESLIE: Hey, I know that getting the house all Christmas-y was a super-duper-lot of fun. But getting it back to normal is not so much. Coming up, we’ve got storage and organizing tips that will help make this chore productive and efficient, so stick around.

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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: Hey, would you like to make sure your house is both clean and green? Then try out Shaklee’s Get Clean Kit at GreenMyMoneyPit.com. The concentrated Shaklee products work really well. Plus, if you try the Get Clean Kit today, we’ll send you a copy of The Money Pit Guide to Green Remodeling absolutely free. Start shopping today at GreenMyMoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Alright. And while you’re online, you can post your question in The Money Pit Community section. And I’ve got one here from Jewel in Wyoming who writes: “How can you tell if you have too much snow load on your roof? And what’s the best way to remove it?”

    TOM: Listen, if you’ve got more than a foot on your roof, I think that’s probably too much. And even that could be a lot, depending on how strong your roof structure is. The best way to remove it is with something called a “snow rake.”

    Now, a snow rake is a rake that looks kind of like an iron rake you might use in a garden but it’s really light and really wide. And it’s made out of aluminum and has a telescoping handle. And it makes the job of moving that snow pretty easy.

    Now, the best time to remove it is right after the snowstorm. Because if you wait, it kind of ices over and gets sort of hard and crusty and it’s a lot harder to pull out. So if you get out there quickly right after the snowstorm, you get that snow rake up on the roof and start pulling down the piles, you’re going to find it a very quick and easy way to get the snow off your roof. And then you’ll be putting it down where you’re going to have to shovel anyway, so at least you won’t need to do it twice.

    LESLIE: Next up, we’ve got one from Tyler in Oregon who writes: “I have a very large tree between my house and garage, so large that cutting it down doesn’t seem like an option without removing the structure. What’s the best way to do this?”

    TOM: Well, you have to think of removing the tree not so much as cutting it down in the traditional sense, where we sort of fall the entire tree. Think of it more like taking the tree apart.

    Now, a tree surgeon can get up there inside that tree and start cutting it apart from the top down. Taking it apart bit by bit is the safest way to remove a large tree without damaging the buildings around it.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Hire a pro because getting up there with a chainsaw is scary.

    TOM: Well, it’s a lot of fun getting out the holiday decorations and setting them up. But putting them away? Perhaps not so much. If, though, you organize and plan, the storage chore can be both productive and efficient. Leslie has tips on how to do just that, in this week’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    LESLIE: Yeah. You know, this is the best time to get ahead on the holiday for 11 months from now. First of all, as you take down the décor, you want to check for any signs of damage. Now is the time to make sure that all of your lights are going to be in good working order for the next holiday season.

    Now, you can replace burned-out bulbs and make sure that there aren’t any frayed wires from the holiday festivities. Plus, if you do find any damage and the string is just not going to work for you, you can actually buy new stuff, right now, while it’s half-off at all of those amazing, post-holiday sales.

    Now, to store your holiday lights, you can cut some cardboard into 12×9 pieces and then wrap the lights around it. And that’s going to keep them tidy and at the ready for next year. You can also use a paper-towel tube, but I find that sometimes that makes them a little tight when you unravel them and it’s harder to get them where you want on the trees or the bushes.

    You just want to make sure that you store your decorative items in clear plastic bins. So this way, when you’re looking through the mass of holiday items that you’ve got stored in your garage or closet, you know exactly what is in there. And it also makes sure that moisture doesn’t deteriorate any of your holiday cheer.

    Finally, you want to place all the stored items at the back of your storage area. This way, it’s going to give you the current seasonal items more to the front, more easily accessible. And next year, you’ll be one step ahead when it comes to your holiday decorating.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up next time on the program, is one of your New Year’s resolutions making over your basement? Well, if you want to make it into a livable space for your home, you need to take everything, from building codes to utilities, into consideration. We’ll have the basement-finishing checklist to help you do just that, on the next edition of The Money Pit.

    I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …

    LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.


    (Copyright 2014 Squeaky Door Productions, Inc. No portion of this transcript or audio file may be reproduced in any format without the express written permission of Squeaky Door Productions, Inc.)

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