Hang Shelves to De-Clutter, Learn to Light Your Landscaping, Simple Tricks to Add Curb Appeal, and more
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: We are here for you, to help you get started with your spring-into-home-improvement projects. We know that you’ve got some on your to-do list. Let’s move those to the done list. Give us a call; we’ll help you take that first step, 888-666-3974.
Speaking of spring, one of the first things that most of us do this spring is clean up and get rid of all of our clutter. And if that is on your to-do list, we want you to think up and take advantage of those vertical spaces to organize. We’re going to tell you how, in just a bit.
LESLIE: And also ahead, now that the snow is finally melting out there and the days are getting longer, you might realize that what’s been under all that snow out there is kind of boring. We’re going to get tips to add some drama to a ho-hum exterior with simple lighting, when This Old House landscape contractor Roger Cook stops by to tell us how.
TOM: And speaking of landscaping and lighting, if that’s done well, it also leads to curb appeal, which adds to the value of your home. But that exterior dress-up doesn’t have to be expensive. We’re going to give you some simple and affordable ideas to dress up your front entryway without spending a whole lot of cash.
LESLIE: And also ahead this hour, we’re giving away a must-have kitchen appliance, especially if you’ve got small kids. We’ve got an Amana countertop microwave oven worth 250 bucks.
TOM: So give us a call right now. That prize is going out to one caller drawn at random from those we speak to on today’s show. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. Let’s get right to it.
Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Doug has got a wallpaper question. What can we do for you today?
DOUG: My parents live in an old Victorian mansion, southwest Iowa, built around 1919. And this is not original wallpaper but it’s starting to kind of peel away from the top of the roof – the ceiling line. And I didn’t know what was a good way to, I guess, re-adhere that to the wall. And what would you recommend?
LESLIE: So it’s just where the top section of the wallpaper meets that wall/ceiling joint?
LESLIE: Hmm. Now, does it seem like it’s happening all across the entire wall or is it just a piece here and there? Is it just at corners? What’s the situation?
DOUG: Pretty much just at this one where these two strips meet. And I’m not sure why it was – why that occurred there but the wallpaper is just starting to peel back a little bit.
LESLIE: OK. Well, there is a glue that you can buy and I want to say it’s called Seam Fixer or Wallpaper Seam Fixer. And it’s sort of like a bottled version of wallpaper paste. And it really is the best solution that I’ve seen for smaller fixes of wallpapering. I just recently used it, because my four-year-old has become fascinated with our foyer wallpaper and has started to peel at areas. And as much as I love him, I’m like, “Dude, let’s not do this.” And it really does seem to do the trick.
DOUG: Yeah, that sounds great. I’ll look into that.
TOM: Alright. Well, good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now we’re going to Iowa where Kathy is on the line with a flooring question.
Kathy, how can we help you with your project?
KATHY: Well, my son is purchasing his first home and the home was built back in 1930. And the carpet that is in the home is newer carpet but the owner was a heavy smoker. And we are going to have to pull the carpet out and we found that the backing that is underneath of it is probably original carpet padding from 30, 40 years ago. And it’s adhered to the wood floors.
TOM: And they’re like hardwood floors?
KATHY: They are hardwood below, yes.
TOM: OK. So a couple of things. First of all, you need to pull the carpet up, you need to pull the tackless up. That’s the nail strips that hold it down. You’re going to have to scrape up the old padding that’s sticking to the floor as best you can. And you would use floor scrapers for that or a paint scraper for that or even sometimes a spackle knife or a putty knife will work. And then you’re going to have to refinish that floor.
Now, if some of the pad sticks to it, if you really can’t get it clean, then I would use – and actually, I would hire somebody to do this, because sanding a hardwood floor is a tricky business if you’ve not worked with the equipment before, because you can easily ruin the floor. The belt sanders that the professional floor finishers use for these are very heavy and hard to maneuver and they take a lot of material off very quickly. So if you don’t know how to handle it, you can dig through the floor, you know, before you know it and you’ve ruined it.
KATHY: Yeah. I don’t even know if the floor below is salvageable or what condition or type of wood – hardwood flooring – it is.
TOM: Well, you may find that it is salvageable. Very often, those old homes had good-quality flooring underneath and then the first thing people did was put carpet over it, which made for a great drop cloth in the last 80, 90 years. So you may find it’s in good shape.
You might also find that it’s not oak but Douglas fir, which is equally beautiful although it’s a bit softer. But in either event, have the floor sanded professionally. If you can restore them, I think you’ll be very happy with the results.
KATHY: OK. Well, thank you.
TOM: You’re welcome, Kathy. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Now you can call in your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Up next, it’s time to get organized and start your spring-cleaning projects. We’re going to have tips on how you can safely and securely build up some shelves to help declutter your space, after this.
MIKE: Hey, this is Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs and I’ve just been told that Tom and Leslie might have a dirtier job than me? I find that hard to believe but then I heard they worked in a pit. It’s a money pit but it’s still filthy.
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: And we are standing by to take your calls at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. And in fact, one caller who gets on the air with us this hour is going to win a beautiful, new countertop microwave oven from Amana. It’s a 1200-watt unit with recessed glass turntable, so you can heat or cook larger items.
It comes in black, white and stainless. It’s worth 250 bucks. Going to go out to one caller drawn at random from those that reach us for today’s program at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. If you want to see it, you can check it out at Amana.com.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Joe in Illinois on the line with a plumbing question. How can we help you today?
JOE: We just got through renovating the kitchen or – well, we’re almost through with renovating the kitchen. And the brass fitting inside the wall, when they put everything together, the galvanized nipple was cross-threaded into it.
JOE: And so when I went down – and I mean I cleaned out an unbelievable amount of corrosion. Had to use naval jelly to get all the rust out and finally got the threads cleaned up real good. And got the galvanized pipe and doped it up and went to screw it in and it would only go so far. When I backed it out, cleaned it back up again and took a look, it’s cross-threated, because that brass is softer.
TOM: Huh. Right.
JOE: And what I wanted to find out, is there any kind of a thread repair tool that I can get? I’m fairly adept with construction stuff. My dad was a general contractor and he didn’t like giving kids money but he’d let you earn all you wanted to. So, as a consequence, I got a little bit of working knowledge.
TOM: Well, look, if you were a plumber, you would probably have a tap that was big enough to clean that up, but that’s a pretty expensive piece of equipment. Now, you’re trying to connect a piece of galvanized to a piece of brass and you can’t thread them together, so the other option that comes to mind is a Fernco, which is like a rubber boot with two radiator clamps on either side. And a lot of times, when you’re using – when you’re trying to attach dissimilar drain pipes like that, you can use a Fernco. You get them together as best you can using a Fernco around the outside and strap them up and that keeps it nice and tight and it’s really easy to do.
JOE: Is that a readily available – and how permanent is that?
TOM: It’s very permanent. I would go not to a home center for that but I would go to a plumbing supply center and explain the situation. And make sure you measure the pipes, because they come different sizes based on what you’re trying to connect.
JOE: I do appreciate the advice, sir.
TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Cindy in Delaware is on the line with some plumbing odors.
Tell us what is going on, Cindy.
CINDY: I have dual sinks in the master bathroom.
CINDY: And every once in a while, I get a strong sewer smell.
CINDY: I don’t know what’s causing it. It doesn’t matter if I run the water or flush the toilet but the left bowl connects the – underneath the pipe connects to the right one and it goes down into the – you know, under the house.
TOM: OK. Well, assuming that they were plumbed correctly – and that you, in fact, have a plumbing trap there, which I’m going to presume you are – the odor is probably the result of something called biogas, which is – basically happens when you get a lot of debris over the years. And it lines the inside of the pipe and it lines the inside of the connections, the drain and so on. And then that material will start to produce a pretty strong odor.
So what you need to do is take the drain apart and use a bottle brush to scrub the inside of it. You can’t just run something down there. You physically have to scrub it – those pipes – out. And that usually will eliminate that material and therefore the odor.
CINDY: OK. OK. Because I had used – tried vinegar and baking soda.
TOM: Yeah, that’s all good stuff but if it’s really building up like that, you’re going to have to remove the scum, so to speak, that’s containing all that bacteria that’s producing the odor.
CINDY: OK. Alright. Thank you very much.
TOM: You’re welcome. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, spring-cleaning season is in full swing and the number-one enemy of a clean, well-organized home is, of course, clutter.
Now, if you’ve gone through all the things in your home that you can donate or dump and you’re still left with a storage issue, maybe it’s time to think about going up. Installing shelving is a basic do-it-yourself project and you can do it in a weekend.
TOM: But before you attach anything to those walls, you do need to find the studs so that what you put up won’t fall back down. That could be a very bad thing.
So for that part of the job, you should look at the new line of stud sensors from our sponsor, Stanley. All of the Stanley stud sensors allow you to quickly find studs so you can safely and securely mount shelving. And the Stanley stud sensors can also detect live current up to 2 inches under the wall, so you won’t drill or nail into any electrical wires.
You can see the complete line of Stanley tools at StanleyTools.com.
LESLIE: Now, hanging shelves is a great project that can help you stay organized because too many times, we tend to use up our floor space and of course, that clogs up really easily and then you’re not using your walls, which is really such an obvious choice of where you can put things.
Now, besides shelving, you want to think about hanging a closet organizer in your garage. You can create tool storage and you can mount all kinds of hooks and different components. If you look at a variety of different organizational stores, websites, companies – just Google “organization” or even go to MoneyPit.com and look “garage organization.” You’ll find so many different attachments, for lack of a better word, that you can use to get things up off of your garage floor. And that’s really important, because you want to store bikes and sporting equipment in one area and lawn-and-garden equipment in another area.
And then you’re going to see by just freeing up the floor space, spaces, regardless of their interior or exterior, will feel much larger, they’ll be safer, they’ll be easier to get around and it’ll be easier to get to your stuff. So, start organizing today and maybe by next winter, you’ll have everything in check.
TOM: Good advice. It always occurs to me that a garage is the one place in a house where toys and toxins are stored side by side. Because you’ve got all the kids’ toys and you’ve got all the lawn chemicals and that kind of stuff, so you really need to be careful to keep them separate and up and safe, away from those little hands.
888-666-3974. We are standing by with our hands, to lend some help to you and your next home improvement project.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Gary in Maryland with some wall cracks. Tell us what’s going on.
GARY: The cracks are along the one outside wall – or the one wall on the short side, on a 26-foot side. And they’re both on either side of the bathroom, which is between two bedrooms.
TOM: So what you’re describing is a pretty normal scenario. We typically get movement in walls of homes and where you have seams between walls and ceilings, one wall and another wall or above a window or above a door. That’s where the movement tends to evidence itself.
Now, the solution here is going to require that you redo the seam between the cracked areas. What you’ll do is you’ll pull off the old drywall tape, if it’s loose. If it’s not loose, you could probably leave it in place. But if it’s loose or if it’s wrinkled or anything like that, I would pull it out. And I would replace that with fiberglass drywall tape.
Fiberglass drywall tape kind of looks like a netting and it’s sticky, it’s easier to handle. And so you press it into the seam. And then once it’s pressed in place, then you’re going to add three layers of spackle on top of that, making each one as thin as possible. So you start with the first one, try to keep it pretty narrow and just cover the tape. And then the subsequent two, you go a little wider and a little wider and try to feather out the edges. And that actually will bridge that gap between the two surfaces and the crack will not form again.
If you try to spackle over a crack without doing that, it’s just going to show up. I mean you could spackle it and paint it but it’s going to come out every winter or every summer, depending on whether it’s swelling or shrinking that’s causing the crack. It’s going to pop open again.
GARY: Good. Thank you very much. Good show, too.
TOM: You’re welcome, Gary. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now we’re talking to Pauline in New Jersey who needs some help with a countertop. How can we help you today?
PAULINE: I have a lot of counters in both bathrooms and the kitchen. And from the – I have backsplashes, as well. And where the backsplash and the counter meet, it’s coming up white and it looks like dry paste. And also, what’s happened over the last few years – at first, I took a little bit off with my nail but now it’s getting really bad. And it’s – there were splash marks, as though when they put the counter in, they didn’t clean off the – whatever they used. And it looks like you splashed something on and it dried up.
And I don’t want to use anything that isn’t right for the granite and ruin it. So I was wondering if you had a suggestion that might be easy for me to use and get rid of this stuff.
TOM: How long have you had these countertops? When were they first installed?
PAULINE: Seven years ago.
TOM: And they’ve never been sealed since?
PAULINE: No, no.
TOM: Well, granite tops do take quite a bit of maintenance. People think that they’re fairly maintenance-free because they’re somewhat indestructive. But they really do need a lot of care and they need to be resealed from time to time.
And it sounds to me like the white stuff that you’re describing is most likely mineral salt. And what happens is the countertops, when they lose their seal, they absorb more moisture. Then the moisture evaporates off and it leaves behind the mineral-salt deposits that’s in the water. And that forms that white sort of crust; it’s like a grayish-white crust.
Now, what are you using to clean them on a daily basis?
PAULINE: Generally, just water and a little – they told me to use the Windex.
TOM: Yeah, you can make a homemade granite cleaner with rubbing alcohol – standard rubbing alcohol – mixed with maybe a half-a-dozen drops of dishwasher detergent.
PAULINE: OK. Thank you so much.
LESLIE: Joe in Pennsylvania is on the line with a plumbing question.
JOE: When the kids are taking a shower, what happens is you pull the tub up – you know, the drain thing? You pull it up and then what happens is when you pull that up, then they – you can take a bath and it shuts it off. Well, then when you get – they get done or whatever, to let the water out, you’ve got to push it down. Well, it doesn’t stay down and then it pops back up. And so with – sometimes, we wet a washcloth and we’ll put it on the end of the little knob to push the thing down. And sometimes, that’ll hold it but sometimes it just pops up and then you’re stuck waiting on it for it to drain unless you sit there and hold it down with your hand.
TOM: Joe, in that type of situation, what you need to do is to disassemble the assembly of the stopper. And that usually starts by loosening the screws which hold the overflow assembly in place. Is there a metal plate on the back of the tub?
TOM: So that metal plate, usually you take that apart and you pull the assembly out and then clean it. And sometimes, you’ve got to scrub it with a toothbrush to get everything working properly again. Because it’s getting hung up and that’s why it won’t open again and drain the tub out without you holding that thing down.
You’ll often get like a calcium deposit on there from the water stains or sediment or soap scum. There’s a lot of gunk that gets in there. But if you take that apart – remember how you took it apart, because you’re going to put it back together the same way – and clean it, that should solve it.
JOE: Alright. Thank you.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Up next, does your outdoor space lack a bit of pizzazz? Well, landscape lighting can help. We’re going to tell you how to complete that project, 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: And hey, if you love listening to us on the radio, remember, you can take The Money Pit with you on any mobile device. You can fan us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, pin us on Pinterest and check out our iPhone app. Just go to our homepage at MoneyPit.com. You get access to Money Pit to go.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re heading on over to Michigan where Terry has a water-heater question. What’s going on at your money pit?
TERRY: I was wanting to know if $800 is a reasonable amount of money to pay to have a hot-water tank replaced. But actually, the tank was free and the labor was free and the plumber said that you need to pay $800 for parts only to replace a hot-water tank.
TOM: So, he’s saying the labor is free but the water heater is 800 bucks? Is it a regular, standard, gas-fired water heater?
TERRY: The water heater itself was also free, because it was a warranty item.
TOM: That sounds pretty ridiculous for a warranty repair. If the labor is free, then he was already paid for a good portion of the work it took to take the tank out. Now, if he had to add an additional part – I don’t quite understand his explanation. But if he had to add something additional or re-plumb something, I mean $800 is a bit of a crazy price for a little bit of additional plumbing work, considering he was paid for the bulk of the project through the warranty. That sounds like you’re getting gouged.
TERRY: Right. We’ve already contacted the warranty company and the plumber, as well.
TOM: Yep. Right.
TERRY: And the warranty company says, “Contact the plumber.” The plumber says, “Contact the warranty company.” Do we really have any recourse at all to try and recoup some of that money?
TOM: So you’ve already paid this?
TOM: Well, unfortunately, what I think you’re going to have to do is take them to small-claims court. And I would take both of them to small-claims court. Both. Because then they’ll fight it out amongst themselves, because it’s going to be more expensive to defend it than it is to settle it with you.
TERRY: OK. Well, I thank you very much for taking the time to give me a call back.
TOM: You’re welcome, Terry. And I’m sorry that happened to you. Good luck with that project.
LESLIE: Well, if you spent many hours landscaping your home to make your lawn and garden picture-perfect, why leave it in the dark after the sun sets?
TOM: Well, there’s no need to do that when you can use landscape lighting or what we like to call “lightscaping” to show off your home’s dramatic beauty at night, as well as help make it more safe and secure. Here to tell us more about this fun project is Roger Cook, the landscape contractor on TV’s This Old House.
ROGER: Glad to be here.
TOM: So, Roger, to make the most of your outdoor-lighting design, you really need to do sort of an assessment of what you’re starting with, correct?
ROGER: Right. The first thing I think of are the things that – you need light to get in and out of the house, like a doorway or a walkway or a garage and then maybe something for security’s sake, where you want to make sure there’s light there.
TOM: So those are the basics: the safety and the security. And then we can get more into the beauty aspects of lighting after that, right?
ROGER: Right. Where we take an individual tree and we light that up so you can see it at night.
LESLIE: But I think it’s important when you’re thinking about lighting what you’ve landscaped or different beds or different areas of your property, you need to sort of consider what naturally happens with light and trying to replicate that, yes?
ROGER: Right. It’s a great thing when you can hide the fixture and all you see is the light, the glow, like a moonlight rather than have a beam and a fixture just shining down so they look like a ray coming out of the sky. You want it to look natural, you want to look soft, you want it to look like it’s been done naturally.
TOM: And there’s a couple of techniques to do that. The first is called “downlighting,” right, where you bring – I guess from the top down, kind of like moonlight?
ROGER: I really like downlighting, because you can use it to highlight specific things. But think about it: in the wintertime, when you have 2 or 3 feet of snow, an uplight doesn’t do you much good until it melts through; a downlight will always usually be there.
TOM: Mm-hmm. Yep. And then, of course, you’ve got uplighting when you do light it from below. And that could probably make things look taller, I would imagine, right?
ROGER: Yeah. A lot of that, we use on a building to bathe the side of the building, to give it a glow and then highlight plants that are against the building. It’s a neat way to put it in the middle of a mass of plants and just have the whole thing light up.
TOM: And then a real cool technique that you use is called “backlighting,” where you just sort of light behind the landscape, correct?
ROGER: Right. And it’s just enough to give the plants a shadow, a visibility, that it really works out well.
LESLIE: It seems like you’ve got to have the right combination of all of these elements, to make it look beautiful and make it look authentic or natural. So, is this something that a homeowner should be thinking, “Oh, I’ll pick up this light kit at the home center and do it myself,” or really go ahead and hire a pro?
ROGER: It’s how comfortable you feel. It’s not something that you would just go get a kit, because everyone’s house is different.
ROGER: They can’t customize it to your house. A better bet would be to buy a transformer if you’re doing low voltage. Get individual lights and set them up in different areas in your house and see how they work. And then you can figure out which ones you need and how many and how to run it off the transformer you have.
TOM: And that’s a nice thing about those kits: they’re very, very modular, so you can start with just a few lights and kind of build it out from there.
ROGER: Right. And that’s an important thing because as we said, not everyone’s house is going to be the same. They don’t need 10 uplights and 2 downlights. It just doesn’t work that way.
LESLIE: And because it’s a low-voltage system, that really makes it easier to work with as a homeowner.
ROGER: Low-voltage system is very, very simple, that anyone can install.
TOM: What do you think about solar lights? They’ve kind of come a long way but they don’t really help you if there’s snow on the ground or it’s a cloudy day, right?
ROGER: They don’t use any energy and when they work, they’re great, especially along a pathway in the summer. It’s just a really nice highlight. And if you have to, you go and brush the snow off them and they’ll still work.
TOM: Good advice. Roger Cook, the landscape contractor from TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit and helping us sort of show off all the hard work that we put into making our yards and lawns beautiful.
ROGER: Yeah. I think we lit up that …
Alright. You can 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 by State Farm Insurance. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.
Up next, want to get a leg up on the competition in the housing market? The answer might be in your front yard. We’ll explain, after this.
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TOM: Where home solutions live, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. Pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Now, one lucky caller this hour is going to get a beautiful, new addition for their kitchen. We’ve got up for grabs a countertop microwave oven from Amana. And it’s a 1200-watt oven that’s got a recessed glass turntable. Comes in black, white or stainless steel, so it’s going to match whatever your kitchen looks like. And it’s a prize worth 250 bucks.
Now, you can see it and all of Amana’s appliances at Amana.com or pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT for your chance to win.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re going to help Bud in Oregon avoid a hair-raising electrical situation.
What’s going on, Bud?
BUD: I’ve got 3 banks of the 2 bulbs each, 4-foot long mounted up in the ceiling, built into a box directly over my cooktop. And during the summertime, when the humidity is higher, if I get any moisture up there, it can take sometimes days before those lights will come on reliably on the first flip of the switch.
Now, in the winter, when I’m burning a wood stove, which means I’ve got lower humidity inside the house, if I’m cooking on the cooktop and don’t turn the lights on before, I get the same problem. Except as soon as the moisture stops going up there and I’ve got 10, 15 minutes, then the lights will start coming back on regularly and be reliable again.
So, what I need to know from you, if you’ve got some suggestions, is before I get up there and start looking for how to do something, I want to know what I need to have in stock. Is there something – a lubricant, a cleanser or whatever – to do something with contacts or got any suggestions?
TOM: I would give up on those fixtures.
BUD: I would, too. I think you’re right.
TOM: I would just give up on them. They don’t sound safe to me. I’m not quite sure what exactly is going wrong with them but they certainly shouldn’t be behaving that way. And I would worry about them getting worse and potentially causing a fire.
The cost of a 4-foot, doable fluorescent fixture is not very much today. And so I would simply take this on as a project and replace each and every one of them. I wouldn’t try to change the ballast out, I wouldn’t try to clean it, I wouldn’t try to do anything like that. I would just replace them. It’s just not worth it.
BUD: It’s not what I wanted to hear but it’s a good thing and it’s probably cheaper in the long run to spend the $8, $10 per what you – put up 3 brand-new ones.
BUD: OK. I’ll just look for a good time when I can do it without breaking my neck.
TOM: That’s always important. Bud, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, spring is always the hottest time of year for the real estate market. And if you’re planning on selling your home, you want to make sure that your house is putting its best foot forward.
Now, you may want to pay attention to your front yard, because that’s going to really make your house stand out. You know, a recent RealEstate.com survey found that creating curb appeal is a huge factor in buying a home.
TOM: And the best part of that? Landscaping. It can be a very inexpensive and thrifty way to get your home looking fantastic.
So, start off with a good cleaning: the siding, the walks, the driveway. Trim back the trees and shrubs. Keep the lawn trimmed, get it nice and green and then think about planting a few flowers. And if you don’t have a garden or space in front of your house that you can do that, just think about container gardening and adding those blooms right around your front door.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you want to get rid of any eyesores. Store your hoses, your garden tools, even your kids’ toys and sporting equipment out of sight. Clutter at your front yard can quickly turn off potential buyers before then even set foot in your house.
Yes, I know: it’s your things; it’s not coming with the house. But people really have a hard time getting past it, so if you can clean up all of that mess from the front of the house, you’ll find that these simple tricks will really help you quickly change that sign from “For Sale” to “Sold.”
TOM: 888-666-3974. And if there’s a home improvement project on that to-do list to get your house ready for the market, give us a call right now. We can help, 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Gwen in Wyoming, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
GWEN: Well, we’re working on a kitchen remodel and I’m looking at sinks. Right now, we have a stainless-steel sink that has three compartments in it. And it just doesn’t seem to hold the water hot for very long. And I was wondering, are different things more insulated or how could we insulate a sink?
TOM: Well, sinks are generally not insulated.
TOM: What should be insulated is the wall behind the sink. And if the wall behind the sink is not insulated, then the cabinet gets that much colder and then, of course, the water doesn’t stay warm in the sink very long. It’s an interesting question, though, Gwen, and I’m thinking about how could you possibly insulate a sink.
I mean one idea comes to mind is to spray the whole thing with expandable foam insulation, because it would be under the cabinet. And once you got it done – it would be kind of a messy job but once it was done, you’d be finished. Except that you would want to make sure you keep it away from all the plumbing connections because, eventually, you’re going to want to replace the faucet and you don’t want to have to cut through all that mess. Or you could just wrap it with some other type of insulation: one that’s perhaps encapsulated, like a batt insulation.
But I’ve never actually had anyone ask me how to try to keep a sink warmer but I see why it’s important to you, because it would make sense, as you’re doing the dishes, to try to keep that water as warm as possible. But I would first want you to concentrate in making sure the wall underneath there is properly insulated.
GWEN: That makes sense. So when we pull it all out and – we’ll double-check to make sure that wall has good insulation.
TOM: Yeah, that might be part of your problem. And if you get it warmed up – insulated and warmed up - you may not have to deal with trying to insulate a sink.
GWEN: OK. Well, great. Thank you.
TOM: You’re welcome, Gwen. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Mary in New Jersey on the line who’s got a kitchen question.
MARY: I have Revere pots. The interiors are very, very darkened from water boiling out of them.
MARY: And I’m wondering how I could brighten the interiors.
TOM: Hmm. So the inside. What about the outside? Is it copper-bottomed?
MARY: Oh, I have a household item – an old one – that I use and it works fairly well. I use vinegar and salt on the bottoms.
TOM: Oh, good for you, yeah. Vinegar and salt or vinegar and lemon juice is a great copper polish.
MARY: Oh, good.
TOM: Now, in terms of the inside, I think what you’re seeing is the actual change of the metal color itself. I don’t think that’s a stain that you can remove, Mary. So I think you’re just going to have to live with that.
MARY: Oh, OK.
TOM: That’s just good, old-fashioned wear and tear. But it hasn’t affected the structure of the pots, OK?
MARY: OK. Thank you so much.
TOM: You’re very welcome, Mary. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Up next, having a pipe leak is bad enough but hiding the stains that it leaves behind, well, that’s another project you’d probably like to avoid. We’ve got tips to help simplify that job, 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.
Hey, why don’t you join The Money Pit community? And guess what? You will be instantly in contact with a ton of other do-it-yourselfers, just like yourself. You can find out what everybody else is working on, you can get expert advice from Tom and myself or you can just run an idea by the home improvement community at MoneyPit.com and see if they think it’s a good idea. Or maybe they’ve got some tips because they’ve done the project before. You can share pictures of what you’ve been working on. It really is a great community section where you will feel part of a team.
And while you’re there, you can post your question, just like Ryan from Alabama did who writes: “I had a pipe leak in an upstairs bathroom. It was fixed with very little problem except I have a brown water stain on my ceiling downstairs. What do you recommend I use to clean it?”
TOM: That’s an interesting question and one that we hear a lot. The brown stain that you’re seeing is not really a stain in the sense that you can clean it. It’s not like dripping tomato sauce on your countertop and you want to wipe it off. That’s a chemical reaction between the water and the paper and the drywall behind.
So what you need to do is to seal that in and then paint over it. You can’t just paint over it, because what’ll happen is that stain will sort of bleed through. This is a situation where you need to use a primer.
Now, you don’t have to prime the entire ceiling; you can just spot-prime that stain if it’s not too big. If it’s an enormous stain, you are going to want to prime the entire ceiling, because what will happen is that the paint will absorb differently over the primer compared to not over the primer. And so you’ll get a slightly different sheen. So, if it’s just a little bit of a stain – you know, maybe something less than 12 inches – in that situation, you can just spot-prime that, repaint that and you’ll be good to go. But you have to prime. If you don’t, that stain will come through and you’ll be looking at it over and over and over again.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And that’s really the best way to just keep it gone forever.
Alright. Next up, Nick in New Hampshire writes: “I have a half-bath right inside of my back door. The floor leans backwards, leaving about a ¼-inch gap at the back wall. This lets cold air stream in. How can I seal the draft that comes in under the floor?”
That sounds like a pretty big gap, even though a ¼-inch really isn’t.
TOM: It does. And I think this is a situation where an expandable foam sealant product would work very, very well: a product like GREAT STUFF or a similar product to that where you spray the foam into the gap and then you let it dry.
Now, the secret to this is that once you spray it, it probably will expand out into the room. Do not try to clean it up while it’s wet. Let it dry. It gets nice and hard and it’s easy to cut with a utility knife or a saw or something of that nature. You do not want to try to clean it up while it’s wet, because it’s really gooey and sticky and gets all over everything.
So, if you spray it in there, let it expand, let it puff out into the room a bit. Then you can cut it clean with a utility knife. Add some trim if you have to and you’re good to go. And that should make that a lot warmer space.
LESLIE: Alright. Now, Jamie in Montana posted: “I have to hold down the handle on one of my toilets to allow it to flush completely. Is there a way to fix this?”
TOM: Yeah. Simply replace the flush valve and the fill valve, Jamie. Very inexpensive. About $15 or $20 in parts. Totally do-it-yourself. Just follow the instructions that come with the valves. But this is the part of the toilet that does wear out. And when you have toilets that run like that or that don’t flush properly, that’s going to be very expensive in terms of the amount of water it wastes, so go ahead and replace them. It’s something you can easily do inside of an hour.
LESLIE: Fluidmaster.com. Their website is fantastic. There’s all sorts of how-to videos. They’ve got every part you need.
TOM: Yeah, exactly. They really do a nice job of kind of walking you through, step by step. Most of the time, we would tell you not to hire a plumber for a plumbing project. This one, though, is pretty straightforward. If you can turn the main water valve off of the toilet, you should have no problem replacing these valves.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. It’s a good, plumbing confidence builder, if you will.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. We hope we’ve given you a few tips, some ideas and a bit of inspiration to help you get started on your spring home improvement project.
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 2013 Squeaky Door Productions, Inc. No portion of this transcript or audio file may be reproduced in any format without the express written permission of Squeaky Door Productions, Inc.)