Go Green and Make Money, Edging Your Landscaping, Kitchen Design Trends and More
(NOTE: Timestamps below correspond to the running time of the downloadable audio file of this show. Text represents a professional transcriptionist’s understanding of what was said. No guarantee of accuracy is expressed or implied. ‘Ph’ in parentheses indicates the phonetic or best guess of the actual spoken word.)
BEGIN HOUR 1 TEXT:
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: The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Pick up the phone and call that number right now with your home improvement question, your do-it-yourself dilemma, because we are here to help you solve it. We know there’s a project that you’d like to do around your house or perhaps you want to hire it out; get somebody to come in and do it for you. We can help you on both topics. Just call us with the project; we’ll give you some tips and advice to get that done once, get that done right and then you can kick back until it’s time to start the next one (Leslie chuckles), because we are all serial renovators on this show and we love …
LESLIE: And there’s always something to fix.
TOM: There’s always a project to do around our money pits.
Got a great show planned for you this hour. Well, March is here and that means that spring is around the corner and we’re going to celebrate everything green this month. So from gardening to St. Patty’s Day, how green are you? With all this green talk, you may not be surprised that many more Americans than ever are taking steps to be eco-friendly. But coming up this hour, we’re going to have a tip that can actually put some green cash in your pocket with all those improvements.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And when it comes to the green outside of your home, edging is the key to creating a nice, neat look for your landscaping. You know, there are a few different types and they all have their pros and cons, so we’re going to walk you through them with This Old House landscaping expert, Roger Cook, in just a bit.
TOM: Also ahead, kitchen trends for 2010. We’re going to have tips on the best improvements for probably what is the busiest room in your house, coming up.
LESLIE: And this hour, speaking of kitchens, we’re giving away a Delta faucet with Touch 2O Technology, which is really cool because you can actually turn the faucet on or off with just a touch of the hand.
TOM: Yeah, it’s a really cool product. I actually saw it demoed recently and I said to the guy that was showing it to me, “What happens when the cat jumps on it?”
TOM: And he said …
LESLIE: And then doesn’t pass back to turn it off.
TOM: No, it actually – if you grab it, it doesn’t come on; you have to actually just touch it. So it literally is designed to only work with a touch, which I thought was pretty cool. Really a high-tech faucet; a good looking piece of equipment to have in your kitchen. Worth 525 bucks; going to go to one caller that reaches us with their home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. And you must have a home improvement question and come on the air and ask us. Let’s get right to it.
LESLIE: Ed in North Carolina needs some help with a crawlspace. What can we do for you?
ED: Hello. Hey, I just wanted to get your take on this encapsulating service that some companies offer, to basically encapsulate a crawlspace to keep the humidity out. I got an estimate a couple years ago when it was kind of expensive but I just wanted to know whether it’s worth the cost.
TOM: Yeah. That’s one approach. In fact, that’s an approach that they use a lot in Canada and it’s starting to work its way down into the states and it certainly does work. It’s got to be done very, very thoroughly because you can’t have any, you know, gaps in the encapsulation. But basically, it’s an alternative way to seal a crawlspace, where you seal all the surfaces.
Having said that, the old-fashioned, inexpensive vapor barrier with fiberglass insulation and good drainage conditions on the outside of your house works well. Now, are you going to get a return on investment because of the difference between the two? Frankly, probably not but if you want to go with the encapsulated insulation, then go for it.
ED: OK. Is it – let me ask you, is it durable? Once they lay down that plastic encapsulating – if you’ve got to go down there and change out the water heater or just do normal routine maintenance, is that something …?
TOM: Yeah, routine maintenance it should be fine for. Yep.
ED: Alright. Hey, thanks a lot. I appreciate it.
TOM: Hey, you’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Jennifer in South Carolina is having some trouble with a painting project. Tell us what’s going on.
JENNIFER: Hi. Last spring – about nine or ten months ago – I painted several pieces of wooden furniture with latex paint and I have done this in the past many times.
TOM: (overlapping voices) OK.
JENNIFER: In the past, I’ve used semi-gloss and flat paint. This time, the only thing I did differently was I used satin and because I live in a very humid climate, I did even do this in a room there was a dehumidifier running 24 hours and waited a long time between coats.
TOM: (overlapping voices) OK. OK.
JENNIFER: Here I am almost a year later and everything is still sticking.
TOM: Oh, that’s weird. Was it new paint?
TOM: It was brand-new paint.
TOM: What was the finish? Was the finish consistent amongst all the pieces?
JENNIFER: Yes. I did probably four to six – I think probably more like six coats.
TOM: Oh, wow. That’s a lot of coats.
LESLIE: Yeah. (Jennifer laughs)
TOM: I never put that many coats on.
JENNIFER: You think that’s the problem?
TOM: I think you … (chuckles)
TOM: That might be part of the problem. Usually, one to two coats – a primer coat and a top coat – is all you need. I think you overdid it here.
JENNIFER: Well, I’ve never used primer. Maybe that’s my problem. (laughs)
JENNIFER: Because I had to ….
TOM: It’s always a good idea. You know, primer is the paint that makes the top paint stick, especially when you’re painting furniture or something of that nature.
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Yeah.
TOM: It’s a good idea to sand lightly and then prime the whole thing. You get a really good solid surface to adhere the top paint to; then, one more coat and you’re done.
TOM: I think, in this situation, she’s going to have to strip it down, Leslie.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Especially if, Jennifer, when you painted that piece of wood furniture, there was already, say, a finish on it. You need to make sure that you either sand that finish off or use a liquid sand.
JENNIFER: I did use a liquid sander.
LESLIE: Sometimes the liquid sander isn’t aggressive enough, depending on what’s on there – especially if it’s, you know, like a super-high gloss; almost like an enamel but it’s a clear gloss on it, almost like a resin coating. So you really need to make sure that you get down to some sort of raw wood and that you can feel it.
I think the best thing for you to do now is to buy a chemical stripping agent. Spray it on or roll it on – whatever the proper application is, per that manufacturer that you pick up – and let it do its job and then scrape off that old finish and start from scratch. And I really would not do more than two coats.
JENNIFER: Mm-hmm. OK. Well, wonderful. That’s why I called you all. Thank you so much. (chuckles)
TOM: Alright. You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show, on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Now, you can call in your home repair or your home improvement question, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Just pick up the phone and give us a call. And you know what? If we’re not in the studio, it gets forwarded right to Tom’s cell phone (Tom chuckles), so you can reach him at any time at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
TOM: 888-666-3974. Yeah, you want to be my cell buddy? (Leslie chuckles)
Up next, kitchen trends for 2010. We’ve got the design tips you need to help your kitchen into the next decade.
ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Therma-Tru Doors, the nation’s leading manufacturer of fiberglass entry and patio door systems. Therma-Tru doors are Energy Star-qualified and provide up to five times the insulation of a wood door. To learn more, visit ThermaTru.com. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.
TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show, on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Pick up the phone, give us a call right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT because one caller we talk to on the air this hour is going to win a fantastic prize from Delta. It’s the Pilar Pull-Down Kitchen Faucet with Touch2O Technology, which allows you to tap anywhere on the spout or the handle to get the water running. Great for kids or busy cooks or even do-it-yourselfers who often have messy hands. All you need is one clean spot like an arm or an elbow and one gentle tap and the water is flowing. The prize is worth 525 bucks; going to go out to one caller who reaches us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT with their home improvement question.
LESLIE: You know, that’s really great because whenever I’m cooking – and especially if I’m doing anything with like poultry – I’m always so worried about bacteria and I’m always at the end of my cooking adventure, cleaning the faucets with bleach and water and making sure I disinfect. But that’s great because your hands are always so messy. (chuckles) I’m like, “What a fantastic faucet.”
And you know, guys, adding a faucet like that one, not only is it super-great for keeping your kitchen nice and clean but it actually keeps your kitchen up-to-date. And in fact, it’s one of the trends that we’re seeing for 2010, according to the National Kitchen and Bath Association.
Now, standard kitchen faucets will become less standard this year, in favor of more convenient models like pull-out faucets and pot fillers. And the trend report also has traditional as the most popular kitchen design style, with contemporary following closely behind. And the Shaker-style cabinet door is seeing a surprisingly strong resurgence and I have to agree with that, because I’ve been working – designing a lot of kitchens in the New York area and I would say eight out of the last ten that I’ve done have all had Shaker-style door fronts.
TOM: (overlapping voices) Yep.
LESLIE: Some with beadboard; some with flat panel on the inset but I mean, really, they’re back and they’re gorgeous.
TOM: It’s a very attractive style. And when it comes to choosing the woods, cherry remains the most popular for kitchen cabinets, followed closely by maple. And distressed finishes are also losing popularity.
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Yeah.
TOM: And for floors, hardwood is now dominating the kitchen landscape more than ever. Isn’t that kind of cool? So, no more vinyl, no more tile; now, hardwood is it. And you might not think of hardwood flooring for your kitchen but there’s absolutely no reason not to; it’s durable, it’s gorgeous and it really stands up well to that space.
LESLIE: Yeah. And you know what? I’ve seen a lot of really wide planks going in in the kitchen, as well.
TOM: And if you don’t want to put down hardwood, you could always put down laminate that looks like hardwood and you’d have the water-resistance to boot. 888-666-3974. Let’s get back to those phones.
LESLIE: Susie in Connecticut needs some help with electrical wiring. What can we do for you?
SUSIE: I was wondering how you – when you change the wiring from the old, non – three-wire wiring to the new three-wire where you can ground it and you replace the old with the new, how do you ground that box?
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Knob and tube?
TOM: Are you replacing the panel?
SUSIE: The whole thing because it’s all fuses and all old wiring.
TOM: And you’re going to be converting it to a circuit-breaker panel?
TOM: Well, the ground wire goes from the ground bus through a wire to, usually, a stake in the ground outside; the ground stake. And if you have a metal, main water pipe, it could also ground to the main water pipe. If you have a plastic, main water pipe, of course, that’s not going to work, which many of us do today.
So, it’s either going to ground to the main water pipe or it’s going to ground to a ground stake, which is simply a metal rod – long, metal rod – that’s driven into the soil and then the ground wire basically bolts to that with a very solid, electrical connection. And that’s how the power is diverted back to ground, if it ever has to.
SUSIE: So you can do it outside?
TOM: Yes, you can do it outside. In fact, many of them are done that way. I hope you’re not doing this yourself, Susie.
TOM: Well, because it’s not a DIY project; it’s something that only a licensed and experienced electrician should do, after getting an electrical permit from the town that you live in. It’s not a home improvement project for a do-it-yourselfer. You’re talking about major work here. If you get it wrong, it could be very dangerous or it could set your house on fire.
SUSIE: That is correct. Well, thank you very much. I appreciate your help.
TOM: You’re welcome, Susie. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Charlie in Texas has a question about a water heater. What can we do for you today?
CHARLIE: Yes. I’m looking at replacing my water heater with a tankless water heater and as I understand, it needs to be installed outside near the gas line from the meter and …
TOM: (overlapping voices) OK. It doesn’t have to be; it could be outside or inside. If it’s inside, of course, it has a direct vent to the outside or it could be installed outside, as well.
CHARLIE: Right. They said the best way would be to put it outside near that gas line. But my question is, we’ve had a lot of cold weather – unusually cold weather here in Dallas this year – and with that water – cold water line going outside the house, is there any chance that that could freeze?
TOM: (overlapping voices) Right.
CHARLIE: Should I worry about a problem with freezing?
TOM: No. All the water lines are insulated and the units that are mounted on the outside are usually freeze-protected. Now, that said, typically in a really cold climate, you wouldn’t install it outside because there’s a big system loss. But for Dallas, where you just may have the unusually cold snap, I wouldn’t worry about it; I think you’ll be fine.
CHARLIE: OK. Thank you.
TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Scott in South Carolina has a mold question. Tell us what’s going on.
SCOTT: Well, we bought a house about six months ago and we got a pretty good deal on it because there had been some water problems in the basement. We fixed the water problems – we’re not getting anymore – but at the time, there was some mold on the baseboards.
SCOTT: We cleaned it up and now my wife – six months later, my wife is worried because we didn’t do all the treatment and all that stuff. And my question is: do I really need to get all the vents cleaned and have all that mold treatment done or is it just good enough to take care of the water?
TOM: I think if you cleaned up the surface mold there and you don’t see any growing back and you’ve dried it out, I would just go enjoy your basement, Scott. What kind of floor did you put down there?
SCOTT: Well, it’s got a cement floor and we put – what’s that?
TOM: (overlapping voices) OK. Just don’t put carpet.
SCOTT: Oh, don’t put carpet down?
TOM: Don’t put carpet. Did you do it already?
SCOTT: Yeah, I sure did. (chuckles)
TOM: No. That’s about the worst choice for a floor; especially one that’s had mold, because carpet is mold food. Never ever carpet your basement. Use a hard surface flooring like laminate or vinyl tile or – you can even use engineered hardwood floors. But never carpet your basement.
SCOTT: Ah, well, that’s good to know. A little late. (Leslie chuckles) I guess that’s why they call it the money pit, right?
TOM: (overlapping voices) A little late. A little late but …
LESLIE: Just make sure you keep everything nice and dry and properly dehumidify and if you get a leak down there, get that carpet up.
TOM: (overlapping voices) Keep it dry. Yeah. Yep.
SCOTT: OK. OK. Well, so you don’t think I need to go through all the expense of cleaning and all that stuff?
TOM: (overlapping voices) No, Scott. I don’t think so. I think you’re OK for right now.
SCOTT: As long as it doesn’t come back, right?
TOM: As long as it doesn’t come back. But when it does, there’s going to be plenty of mold food there with that carpet to feed it.
SCOTT: Well, we’ll put something else down next time, then. (chuckles)
TOM: Scott, thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Diane in Missouri needs some help with windows at her money pit. What can we do for you?
DIANE: I have double-hung, dual-glaze windows in my living room; the kind that slide down and they have a little latch on the bottom.
DIANE: The windows won’t slide down far enough to latch.
TOM: That’s probably because they’re out-of-square. So, you really need to push them – push the bottom window down and the top window up enough where you can lock them together. And if they’re not locking, then something is swollen or out-of-square; it might need to be adjusted, Diane.
DIANE: OK. Now, I have brick veneer on the outside of my house and then, obviously, the drywall on the inside. And we’re concerned that the windows might need to be replaced, so that would mean, basically, tearing out the windows. So, is there any way to try to adjust the windows without taking the whole thing out?
TOM: Well, the first thing I would do is I would very slowly close the bottom window and I would look to see if it looks like it strikes the sill parallel. If it strikes one edge first and then there’s sort of a gap at the other end, then the window frame is out-of-square. It might be possible for a carpenter to do some adjustment of that or certainly some trimming of the window to give you enough clearance to be able to close it and lock it.
Because you mentioned possibly replacing the windows, you would use a replacement-style window if you did that and that would fit inside the wood frame of the existing window, minus the sashes. So you wouldn’t have to tear out the brick work to do that.
DIANE: Oh, good.
TOM: And today, if you replace them, you can qualify for a 30 percent tax credit to the end of the year, which will cut down on the cost, if you use qualifying windows.
DIANE: OK. Well, thank you very much. I appreciate your help.
TOM: You’re welcome, Diane. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
LESLIE: David in Wyoming is shopping around for some insulation. How can we help you with that?
DAVID: Yes. I’m very interested in making a comparison between two similar products – the pros and cons of each and, of course, the comparative values; one being a water-carried, open-cell, spray-in foam insulation; the other one being a closed-cell, spray-in type of insulation.
TOM: (overlapping voices) OK.
DAVID: The open-cell, I believe, is a vehicle carried by water; the closed-cell is, I believe, carried by some form of urethane.
TOM: Right. Mm-hmm. And where are you thinking about using this insulation, David? Is this in a new house?
DAVID: New home construction, stud-wall cavities and ceiling joist.
TOM: (overlapping voices) Right. OK. Well, David, that’s a very good question. One product that we’ve had a lot of experience with, that is a spray-foam insulation, is Icynene. And it’s a product that’s manufactured out of Canada, distributed in the United States, and they actually have a very green formula that has, as its basis, linseed oil.
And so, I think it’s a very eco-friendly product and then one that does a very good job because it both seals and insulates at the same time. So I would add that to the mix and I think that rather than decide whether it should be open or closed-cell, look for a product that’s got a good reputation and one that’s very eco-friendly. And let the manufacturer worry about what the carrying system is to get it to your walls.
If you look at one that’s got low-VOCs, very eco-friendly, I think you’ll be very happy because, again, it seals and insulates at the same time.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you know what? The website for Icynene is I-c-y-n-e-n-e.com.
You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show, on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Well, it’s nearing the time of year when things start to bloom – thank goodness all of the snow will go away – and it’s the perfect time of year to get your landscaping under control. So, up next, we’re going to have tips on edging, to create clean lines and neat beds in your yard.
TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show, on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And you can keep The Money Pit with you wherever you go, when you download our podcast. It’s free and updated weekly. Visit MoneyPit.com and take us to go, wherever you need, for your home improvement projects. We travel well. And then we’re sort of there to help you. We’re not going to pick up the hammer (Leslie chuckles) but we’ll give you some tips; kind of go on location.
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) We’ll be your – we’ll cheer you on as you swing the hammer. (chuckles)
TOM: 888-666-3974. Pick up that phone and give us a call right now if you need some cheering on for your next home improvement project, because we are here to help.
LESLIE: Al in Massachusetts needs some help identifying some of this drywall we’ve been talking about, from China, that’s not so good for us healthwise and for the homes, as well.
Al, what are you doing? Are you looking to purchase a house in the South?
AL: Yeah. I’m down in South Carolina and North Florida, looking to pick up a place to hide when the weather gets too cold up on the Cape. And I know toward the end of the building boom, we got some really bad sheetrock and the only way I know to identify it, they say, is the smell of rotten eggs; hydrogen sulfide.
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Right. And I think, at that point, it’s already pretty bad.
AL: Yeah. Yeah. So I’m looking for any other way that you can find – figure out that this is bad sheetrock.
TOM: Well, you’re very right to be concerned because this is one of the largest problems in residential construction that we’ve seen in the last 10 years. In fact, the CPSC – the Consumer Product Safety Commission – launched their largest investigation ever, to try to get to the bottom of it.
The best resource for this is a website that the CPSC built for this problem. So I would tell you to go online and search “Consumer Product Safety Commission drywall information center.” Once you get there, you’re going to get to a page that says “Frequently Asked Questions”; one of which is: how do I know if my home has problem drywall? And they give you some really great photographs and some things to look for.
In particular, you want to look on the back of the drywall to see if it says, “Made in China.” There’s your first clue. Secondly, the drywall can be slightly gray in color compared to the whiter drywall that we see in his country. And the most telling clue is what’s happening with everything around the drywall. You see blackening of electric circuits. If you see tarnishing of light fixtures and plating and things like that, that can mean that the sulfur in the drywall is getting out and causing this reaction and could be a potential problem for you.
I would not buy a new house today unless I had a professional home inspector do that inspection, that is very familiar with the drywall problem. And I bet that if you go to the website for the American Society of Home Inspectors – search for inspectors in your zip code; you’ll be presented with a list of home inspectors that are certified members of ASHI – and call down that list, you’re going to find some people that specialize in this and perhaps have even written about it.
AL: Wonderful. That was just exactly what I wanted; a place to look it up.
TOM: (overlapping voices) Alright.
AL: Thank you very much. You guys are wonderful.
TOM: (overlapping voices) You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, did you ever notice that the nicest-looking landscaping on your block has neatly-edged beds and paths?
TOM: Absolutely. And nothing gives landscaping a professional look like that edging. There are different types; some are more do-it-yourself than others. Here to tell us all about that is This Old House landscaping expert, Roger Cook, and the show’s host, Kevin O’Connor.
And Kevin, it’s all about clean lines, isn’t it?
KEVIN: You’ve got that right. One sign of a well-maintained landscape is a clean border between the plant beds, the lawn and the hardscaping. That’s where edging comes in.
Roger, what are the options?
ROGER: Well, one option is plastic edging but that seems to move in a freeze/thaw cycle and requires a lot of maintenance to keep it in place. You could use steel edging but it can be a bit pricy. Stamped concrete is OK but it’s not exactly DIY-friendly.
Sometimes, I’ll use jumbo cobblestones lined up side-by-side about halfway in the ground and held in place with a wedge of concrete behind them.
KEVIN: Ah, it’s going to look great but man, it sounds like a lot of work.
ROGER: It is but maybe the best solution is no edging at all. What I’ll do is I’ll cut an edge on the lawn, using a long-handled, half-moon edger. Now that’s simply a long, wooden handle with a sharp blade on the end of it. And I cut and remove some of the grass, leaving an air space and that air space will stop the grass and roots from growing into the beds.
KEVIN: Alright. And we’ve actually got a video with several different types of edging on our website, which is ThisOldHouse.com.
TOM: Roger Cook, Kevin O’Connor, on the cutting edge of home improvement. (Roger and Kevin chuckle) Thanks for stopping by The Money Pit.
KEVIN: Glad to be here, Tom.
ROGER: Never thought I’d be on the cutting edge of anything. (Tom laughs)
LESLIE: Yeah, great tip. And you know, this is the time of year to do it, folks. So get out there and give your home some curb appeal.
TOM: And for more great tips, you can watch Kevin and Roger on This Old House, which is brought to you by Cub Cadet. Cub Cadet, you can’t do any better.
Up next, it is easy being green and you can make some cash, as well. We’re going to tell you how, after this.
ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Generac and the Generac Automatic Standby Generator. Be protected and never worry about power outages again. Visit your favorite home improvement center or call 888-GENERAC or visit Generac.com. Your home will stay on the next time the power goes out. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.
TOM: Where home solutions live, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show, on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. And the number here at Team Money Pit is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Now, one lucky caller that we talk to on the air this hour is going to win a very cool prize. We’re giving away the Delta Pilar Pull-Down Kitchen Faucet with Touch2O Technology. Now, it’s really cool because with this faucet, it doesn’t matter if your hands are full of whatever: ground chicken, lots of paint, messy goo from cleaning up your toddler’s messes around the house. I’m speaking from experience.
TOM: (overlapping voices) Or holding a small child.
LESLIE: Exactly. (Tom chuckles) Or holding a squirmy child and something else. You’re able to just tap anywhere on the faucet or on the handles and the water comes immediately on.
Now, this Touch2O Technology can actually help you conserve water, because imagine just how easily you can start and stop the water with a touch, that you’re going to be less-inclined to be like, “I’ll just leave it running while I turn around for one second,” which none of us do, of course.
So, it’s a great prize and it’s worth $525, so this is a great upgrade to your kitchen. So give us a call now for your chance to win and the answer to your home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
TOM: 888-666-3974. Well, with all the talk about going green, do you ever feel like you’re suffering a little green guilt because you’re not doing your part? We’re not talking about your lack of St. Patrick’s decorations; we’re talking about the feeling that you’re not doing enough for the environment.
But there is good news: you are doing more than you think. According to a recent study, folks are using compact fluorescent bulbs, recycling and reusing more than ever. Just take a look at how many folks are in the grocery store these days that bring their own bags.
And if you still think that there’s more you can do, here are a few ideas. You can use a powerstrip to stop energy vampires; that’s the energy that leaks out of like cell phones, even when they’re in the off position or when they’re fully charged or even computers. Use a power strip and just turn the whole circuit off that way and this way, anything that has an LED on it will not leak electricity.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And also, when it comes to being green, I know a lot of people start thinking about yard care, what kinds of things we’re putting into our flower beds, how often should I mow, what do I do with the clippings?
Well, here’s the key: don’t obsess over your lawn. Grass that’s actually cared for less than usual is actually greener in more ways than one, because when you keep your grass about two-and-a-half inches, you’re mowing less. And then you can go ahead and just leave the clippings be, because they’re going to add nitrogen to the soil and that’s also going to discourage weed growth.
Finally, here’s something you can do, which I don’t think enough of us are doing: you can recycle your electronics. Now, the average American household has three cell phones stashed in a drawer that you’re not using. So take advantage of it; sell those unused cell phones to GreenPhone.com. You’ll make about $35 and then the phones will be refurbished and resold. So get them out of your drawer and put them to good use.
TOM: 888-666-3974. Put that number to good use. Pick up the phone and give us a call right now with your how-to question.
LESLIE: Isabelle in New York needs some help with a flooring question. What can we do for you?
ISABELLE: How can I effectively remove the soot in – that is inside the grain of a wooden floor?
TOM: OK. You have – your building had a fire, Isabelle?
ISABELLE: Yes, yes. I live in an apartment building and was a fire in the apartment below and the smoke went through the floors and the walls.
ISABELLE: And the restoration company already went and did some cleaning. They cleaned it with a dirty mop with warm water and a few drops of Murphy’s Oil.
TOM: That doesn’t sound like it’s going to work at all.
ISABELLE: I know, I know. I mean, I [inaudible at 0:28:25.7].
TOM: Isabelle, does the restoration company – are they working for your insurance company or is it the landlord’s or what?
ISABELLE: Well, my insurance company.
TOM: OK. You know what I would do? Do you have a private insurance adjuster working for you?
ISABELLE: Yes. The one that is working – well, for me or with the insurance company?
TOM: No, no, listen to me. The insurance company themselves will send in their own adjuster but that adjuster has the insurance company’s needs in mind.
ISABELLE: (overlapping voices) OK.
TOM: If you hire a private adjuster, they’re there for one purpose and one purpose only and that is to make sure that you are taken care of.
ISABELLE: (overlapping voices) OK.
TOM: They work on percentage of the claim, so they’re going to try to get you as much money and as much services as possible.
TOM: Isabelle, the key when you’re cleaning a wood surface is you have to be very gentle because you can’t overwhelm it with too much water because you’ll cause water damage; you’ll cause the wood to swell and so on. So usually, it’s done through repeated, gentle cleanings.
Now, there are probably also some applications that can take out some of the smoke smell but it’s a matter of physically removing the carbon first and then sealing in what’s left.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And because soot is so greasy, you need some sort of detergent that’s a degreaser.
TOM: I would recommend that you go back to the insurance company. If they want to try a different restoration company, go ahead and do that. You know, I know that Service Magic does a lot of smoke restoration; they have a pretty good reputation in the business. You may want to see if there’s a Service Magic franchise in your area.
But again, to go back to my earlier point, I think that if you get a private adjuster that’s in charge of this project for you, you’re going to be a lot happier because you should not be the general contractor on this job, which is essentially what you’re having to do because the job is not being done for you. So I would get a private adjuster to supervise it and make sure the job is done once, done right and you can get back to enjoying your apartment.
ISABELLE: OK. Thank you so much.
TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Connor in Rhode Island needs some help with landscaping. What can we do for you today?
CONNOR: Hi. I have nosy neighbors and (Leslie chuckles) [inaudible at 0:30:33.7]. But I was wondering what I could do – what kind of shrub I could put up so they could stay out of my house.
LESLIE: Are you looking for a shrub that’s going to get really tall or do you just want something that’s really thick or do you want both?
CONNOR: Mostly tall, though.
LESLIE: Mostly tall. The two things that are going to grow like weeds – pretty much in every climate and in shade or sun – are arborvitaes or Leyland cypress. We put in the three-to-five-foot-height Leyland cypress. We’ve been in our house five years and they are close to 20-feet-tall at this point. They’ve all interwoven together; they do fantastically.
I find that ours did better in the sun than they did in the shade. We lost one in an area that was too shady but both the arborvitae and the Leyland cypress will give you excellent coverage. They’re not terribly expensive. They’re evergreen all year long – so you’ll have something nice to look at – and it truly does keep the neighbors away.
TOM: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show, on air and online at MoneyPit.com.
Up next, have you been seeing a lot of condensation inside your house lately? That’s not good for your home or your health but we’ve got the solution, after this.
TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show, on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Speaking of which, if you’d like to follow us on Facebook, you can simply by texting “Fan The Money Pit” to FBOOK at 32665 from your cell phone and you’ll be instantly added to our fan page. And we would love to have you do just that.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And while you’re online, you can e-mail Tom and I your home improvement question. We’ve got one here from Amanda who writes: “We built a house with structurally-insulated panels and decided to stain our concrete in the bathrooms, kitchen – and instead of laying tile there. We are having a real problem, in our master bath, with condensation on the floor along the baseboards. The floor along the wall is also very cold. What is the cause of this and what will help fix the problem? Do we need to put down floor covering and if so, will we still be getting moisture under it?”
TOM: Yeah, you’ve got a couple things going on there. First of all, you need to reduce the amount of water that’s around the exterior of that part of the house, because I suspect there’s some sort of a drainage problem. If you have a lot of water collecting around the foundation and it’s a solid concrete foundation, which is what this is, it will draw through the concrete and sort of suck its way right through and come up into the floor. So you need to look at the grading and the gutters and make sure that you get that area as dry as possible.
The second thing that you can do is you can dig down around the foundation, in that corner of the home, and you can put in foam insulating panels right between the dirt and the foundation. And that actually makes a big difference in stopping some of the transference of the chilly temperature from the outside into that concrete space and it will keep it a little bit warmer. And between those two things, I think that your moisture problem will most likely go away.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Alright. Now, I’ve got one here from Myra in California who writes: “I have a pine dresser that is weather-exposed and want to do decorative painting on it. What kind of paints and brushes do I use and where do I find design patterns?”
Hmm. I guess she’s leaving this out-of-doors; maybe in a covered porch or something. I would use any sort of latex paints. You can either go with quarts of paints that you have tinted at your local home center or in the crafting store like a Michaels or an A.C. Moore; whatever you have in your area. In the painting aisle, you’ll see a ton of different acrylic paints that are there – lots of different color options; assorted-size tubes there – so you can go with something small, depending on the amount that you want to use that color.
And once you’ve selected your pattern and painted everything on there, I would use a good polyurethane; something clear just to cover over it so that your hard work …
TOM: Seal it in.
LESLIE: You know, seal it in, cover it up; make sure that it really stands up.
TOM: (overlapping voices) Yeah.
LESLIE: And can you still get oil-based polys, Tom?
TOM: Yeah. And I would make sure that I got an exterior-grade poly because it’s going to have UV-inhibitor, which is going to stop the fade of that paint.
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Yeah. Mm-hmm.
TOM: Otherwise, it could fade quite quickly. I mean, the other way to go with this, Leslie, is just to use house paints.
LESLIE: Yeah. I mean, I generally use – depending on the application – I would use house paints but if I’m not using a lot of it, it makes no sense to buy a quart. Like if I know I only want to paint a swirl in turquoise and I can only get a quart at the home center, I’m going to try to save money there.
TOM: (overlapping voices) Right.
LESLIE: And the acrylics are about $1.19 at the crafting store. And then if you seal it really well – now, as far as patterns, there are a ton of different websites online that sell stencils. At your crafting store, you’ll find stencils, as well. But I say, go free-form; do something that you find inspiring to you. Look through magazines. If you find a pattern that you want to create, use tape to lay it out – if it’s especially linear – to help you with that.
And you can also – when using stencils, they make a spray that’s sort of tacky; will hold your stencil in place and then you can peel it away when you’re done. This way, the paint doesn’t seep under and you get a nice, clean finish.
So, good luck with that excellent and creative project.
TOM: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show, on air, online at MoneyPit.com and available 24/7/365 at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. The show continues online.
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 2010 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.)