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Home Improvements Tax Deductions, Small Living Spaces, Snow Removal Tips, 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: And we’d like to wish you a happy holiday season. Hope you’re enjoying it. Hope you had a nice Christmas, looking forward to a fantastic New Year’s. And if your new-year plans include a home improvement project, you are in exactly the right place, because we are here to help you get that done. But you’ve got to help yourself first by picking up the phone and calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Coming up on today’s show, it’s almost time to ring in the new tax year, as well, and a good reason to keep tax deductions in mind when you’re planning your home improvement projects. So we’re going to help, with some tips on the top-five most overlooked tax deductions for your home.

    LESLIE: And if you’ve ever found your home to be too crowded, how would you feel about living in just 89 square feet? Not 800 but 89. We’re going to talk to a man who’s done it and enjoys it and is really at the forefront of the living-small trend.

    TOM: Yeah. But that’s a bit too small.

    LESLIE: Right? That’s tiny.

    TOM: Unless you live in New York and you call that a “condo.”

    LESLIE: Now, my first apartment in New York City was 200 square feet. And that was actually livable.

    TOM: Also ahead, unless you live in a tropical climate year-round, you’ve probably felt the back-break of shoveling snow. So we’re going to have some tips on how you can ease the strain on both your back and your wallet when it comes to getting rid of nature’s white stuff, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: And speaking of backs, we’re giving away a treat for your back and your feet. One lucky caller this hour is going to get a NewLife Ergo Comfort Rug by GelPro. And they are great on any hard flooring that you’ve got.

    Now, we’re giving away one beautiful area rug from the Artisan Series and it’s worth about 80 bucks.

    TOM: So, give us a call right now for your chance to win. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. We will draw one name of today’s callers from The Money Pit hard hat and if it’s you, you’ll get not only the answer to your home improvement question but the Comfort Rug by GelPro.

    888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Nathan in Texas on the line who’s got a concrete-stain question. What’s going on?

    NATHAN: Just wondering, we have a place on our stained concrete floors that a chair has sat at and rolled around a lot and it’s faded all the stain away. Didn’t know if you knew of any way to make it look any better or should we just leave it alone?

    LESLIE: So the floor itself is not damaged, just that the color has gone away.

    NATHAN: Right. Just from a roll-around chair being – sitting in front of a computer, moving around a lot.

    TOM: And what kind of stain color are you working with right now, Nathan?

    NATHAN: It’s a rust-type brown with a little bit of – almost a kind of slight maroon-ish tint to it.

    TOM: Alright. Well, I mean I’m glad that it’s darker rather than lighter, because it seems like that might be a bit easier to match, right, Leslie?

    LESLIE: Yeah. I think you’re going to have to try to mix up some new stain. And I say “mix up” only because if you’ve got any of the original color left, you might need to add, you know, a little bit of a darker stain to it just to sort of get it to match the current color situation for the rest of your floor? And you should be able to sort of blend that in to make those bald spots, for lack of a better word, go away: that faded area to sort of come back to life.

    Now, as far as repairing it or making it more robust or sturdy, I should say, for that future rolling-around on it, have you done any sort of clear coat or protective coat to the top of the stain? Or is it really just like a dry, matte surface finish?

    NATHAN: It is dry. We did have a clear coat initially when we built the house. But what happened with that is any type of – if a dog walked on it, the paw prints showed and you couldn’t get them off, so we had to buff it all out.

    TOM: So it never really – it sounds like it remained tacky.

    LESLIE: It never cured.

    TOM: Yeah, that can happen if there’s moisture under the slab.

    NATHAN: And that’s probably what happened. We had a little bit of a problem with our contractor and never really got it right.

    TOM: Well, look, you could always try this in an inconspicuous area but I think if you were to get the color right and then clear-coated it again with satin, it would stand up a little bit better. But I guess the good news is that this is obviously under a desk or an area where a chair is, so it’s not going to be terribly noticeable. But why not just put some sort of protective mat under that chair this time, after you get it right?

    NATHAN: Yeah, I agree.

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

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

    LINDA: We bought the house next door to us, when the man passed away, and he had dogs and a cat. He apparently let them use his house as a bathroom.

    TOM: Oh, no. That’s terrible.

    LINDA: Oh, yeah.

    LESLIE: Never a good thing.

    LINDA: And the smell of urine was really bad. And my husband took up all the subfloor and put it outside, let it air out.

    TOM: You took up the plywood floor?

    LINDA: Yeah. It was boards – small boards.

    TOM: OK.

    LINDA: Like 1-inch boards or something.

    TOM: Alright. It probably was 1-by. Yeah, alright.

    LINDA: Yeah. And he had to take that up to fix the floor joist.

    TOM: OK.

    LINDA: So we put it outside hoping to air out the urine smell and then he put it back down. And he put ¾-inch OSB on top of that. But sometimes when you walk in there, you still smell the urine smell.

    TOM: Yeah.

    LESLIE: Especially on a humid day.

    LINDA: Yes. So is there anything you can buy to put on there to get rid of that smell?

    LESLIE: I mean there are several things you can do. The OSB – have you put any actual flooring on top of that yet or can you still take that up?

    LINDA: No. We were wanting to put laminate on top of it.

    LESLIE: OK. So before you do that, pick up the OSB.

    LINDA: Right.

    LESLIE: And what I would recommend – at this point, because you’re dealing with 1-by – now, Tom, they essentially don’t need the 1-by, correct? The OSB could go directly on top of those floor joists and get rid of that …

    TOM: No. You didn’t have to put the 1-by back down again but the problem is you’ve already covered the problem with OSB. And what Leslie is leading to is that you – what you should have done is primed all of that subfloor with a good oil-based primer, because that would seal in the wood. And so now that you’ve put the OSB on top of that, I’m afraid even if you were to prime the OSB, the odor will still somehow work its way through.

    LESLIE: Right. So I’m thinking pick up the OSB, pull up the 1-by, put the OSB down and just get rid of the 1-by.

    TOM: Well, these animals are long gone but their smell has lingered on. And I think that if you take up that old flooring – and I know you tried to probably save a few bucks by putting it back. But if you either prime it or just replace it with the OSB, you’ll be much better off for it.

    Linda, 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.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, make sure you keep Uncle Sam in mind when you plan home improvements. We’re going to tell you the five most commonly overlooked tax deductions for your home, 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: Happy Holidays. Give us a call right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. If you do, you’ll get the answer to your home improvement question and an opportunity to win a cool, new product. It’s the NewLife Ergo Comfort Rug by GelPro.

    These rugs actually combine the look of a designer rug with the comfort of a supportive, therapeutic mat. They’re also stain-resistant and they’re great for kitchens and bathrooms. You can see them online at GelPro.com.

    It’s a prize worth 80 bucks. Going to go out to one caller that reaches us with their home improvement question, so pick up the phone and call us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Joe in Georgia, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today with tankless questioning? What’s going on?

    JOE: Based on the high capital cost and the fact that natural-gas prices seem to be at an all-time low, what is the return on investment or payback period and does the federal government still offer tax credits? Second part of that question, is the annual maintenance contract that the installers offer really needed?

    TOM: OK. Well, first of all, the tax credits are less and less today. I believe there are some still: some small tax credits.

    I do like tankless water heaters for a number of reasons, though. First of all, they last a lot longer than a standard tanked water heater. Secondly, they’re really energy-efficient and you never run out of hot water. Very important to me since I’ve got two teenagers in my house. If I’m the third one to get in the shower, forget it; it’s not going to happen. So I like the fact that they never run out of hot water.

    And I think if you compare the cost of tankless against not a standard, inefficient, tank water heater but a high-efficiency tanked water heater, you will find that the difference is not that far apart.

    The contractor’s service contract? Look, you need to have this thing serviced like anything else. I don’t think it needs a big, expensive contract. What it’s typically going to need is a yearly service. And so I would have to probably judge that against what this contract covered. If the contract covered all of my gas appliances in the house and I felt like it was reasonable, I might do that only for the reason that we know that these gas appliances need service, because they burn dirty and they eventually have to be cleaned. But I will say that these newer, more efficient ones need a lot less maintenance than the older, inefficient ones ever did.

    JOE: OK. I guess what I’m hearing out there on the installers is these are stand-alone service (audio gap) and if you compare that to a traditional hot-water heater, you typically don’t see any service required. And I think the capital is maybe 10x difference. I mean it may be $800 for a – maybe 900 for a hot-water heater and you’re looking, I think, upwards of $4,000, I should say.

    TOM: Yeah, that sounds a little crazy. I’m not seeing that. What I’m seeing is if you bought a high-efficiency tank water heater, it might be 1,500 bucks. And if you bought a tankless water heater, it might be 2 grand or something of that nature. I’m sure you’re going to run into contractors that are really driving the prices up and trying to charge you crazy money for service contracts and things like that. You just might not be talking to the right guys, Joe.

    JOE: You endorse any particular manufacturer?

    TOM: Yeah, there’s a bunch of good ones out there. Rinnai makes a good one. Rheem – R-h-e-e-m – makes a good one. I’d take a look at those. We’re talking about gas, right?

    JOE: Yeah, natural gas.

    TOM: Yeah, I would take a look at Rinnai and Rheem.

    JOE: OK. Excellent.

    TOM: Well, if you’re not writing-off home improvements for 2012, you might be throwing away some money. While not every home improvement is deductible, you could be missing some very common tax-saving improvements.

    LESLIE: So here are the top-five deductions that homeowners forget. First of all, basically anything that saves you energy could be a deduction: for example, a new, high-efficiency heating or cooling system, new windows, insulation, solar panels and so forth. You can get specifics at EnergyStar.gov.

    Also, home offices can be the home of even more deductions. For example, if your home office takes up 10 percent of the space in your house, that’s a percentage of expenses that you can deduct from your gas, oil and even your electric bills.

    TOM: Now, this next one is a little harder to understand: Uncle Sam defines a home improvement as any expenditure that increases the value of your home or extends its life. But you can’t write them off the year you make them. Instead, they go under a capital-improvements category that increases the value of your home over time and they’re deductible when you sell your home.

    Now, here’s a deduction for those of us that have been, unfortunately, in the path of a major storm this year. If you suffered any damage from a natural disaster, the cost of that repair, however, is fully deductible.

    LESLIE: Finally, here’s one that surprises a lot of people: moving expenses. If you’re moving 50 miles away or more for a new job, you can write off the cost of that move. So, keep improving and keep track of those expenses so that you and your accountant can claim them when it comes to tax time.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. If you need some help planning your next home improvement project, give us a call right now.

    LESLIE: Elaine in Delaware needs some help with a flooring project. What can we do for you?

    ELAINE: I’m mainly concerned about the fact that I have some rescue animals and some kids. And every time I try to think of what I can do – when I lift up this rug and put a surface down, I need something durable. And I thought of wood and then I thought of Pergo and everybody says, “No, the dog will scratch it or the kids will scratch it.” And then I saw something at a hospital the other day – actually, you know, like an x-ray area, where it takes a lot of traffic?

    TOM: Right.

    ELAINE: And it looked like a heavy-duty plastic, plasticized type of imitation wood. And I tried to find out where they got it from but it’s nothing I can find in going to the local shops, like Lowe’s and Home Depot.

    TOM: Right. It might have been luxury vinyl, although I doubt that in a hospital. What I think you might want to consider is laminate. Pergo is just one brand of laminate. But remember that there are different finishes on these floors and you want to find one that has a commercial finish.

    LESLIE: That will make it the most durable.

    TOM: Yeah, really super-durable.

    I think the best option here and the one that’s most accessible is to think about using laminate flooring. Laminate flooring can look like wood, it could look like tile, it can look like vinyl. And if you get one that has a commercial-grade finish on it, it can clearly stand up to the kids and the dogs.

    ELAINE: I appreciate that very much.

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

    LESLIE: Mike in Georgia is on the line with a question about a dimmer. How can we help you?

    MIKE: My kitchen is in the center of my house, so I get very little light from the windows.

    TOM: OK.

    MIKE: And I tried an LED light. I have five 60-watt cans in there. I had heard you mention about a dimmer that would work with the LEDs? My question is: is there a particular kind? I need one that works with a three-way.

    TOM: Yeah. You can go to The Home Depot and you can pick up the Lutron Skylark Contour CžL Dimmer. That’s the Lutron Skylark Contour CžL. This is a dimmer that’s designed specifically to work with energy-efficient bulbs. It works with CFLs and it works with LEDs. And specifically, it’s adjustable so that you can get the lowest level and then the highest level of light. And therefore, when you move the dimmer up and down, it controls that.

    Typically, with standard dimmers, you can get a flicker because at some point, you’re going to be not putting enough power in to bring that bulb on. So you get this sort of flickering effect?

    MIKE: Right.

    TOM: But with this Skylark Contour CžL line of dimmers, you can adjust the low end and this way, it’ll always be on when you turn the switch on. And then you can bring it up from there.

    MIKE: Yeah, I was afraid with five cans in the middle of the house, it would look like Yankee Stadium at nighttime.

    TOM: No, actually – I actually have one of these dimmers in my kitchen and I’ve got five cans on this dimmer, so I have exactly that situation. And I have LEDs in the lights. I have the Philips LEDs in there: the ones that are yellow. And they turn really super-clean white light when you turn them on. And I’ve got that Skylark dimmer controlling the whole thing. Now, that’s not a three-way but I’m sure it will work on a three-way.

    And the thing that’s cool about Lutron is as you’re putting this together, if you have a question, they have an 800 toll-free, tech-support number. You can call them and there’s somebody always standing by to kind of answer your wiring questions. If you can’t figure out where the extra wire goes, they’ll tell you.

    MIKE: OK, great. Thanks a lot.

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

    LESLIE: Art in Pennsylvania is on the line working on some storm repair. Tell us what happened.

    ART: About a month ago, we had a wind storm and it took off three sections of shingles off of the roof. And I was able to retrieve them. They were, ironically, in pretty good shape.

    But I remember seeing a program on PBS where they were redoing homes down in Florida, in the section where they get a lot of storms down there. And I think there is a requirement for the way that shingles are to be installed down there and I’m thinking, if I remember it right – and I didn’t have a chance to see the whole program. But on mine, when I took mine off, there was only like three nails in each of these shingles there. And I think, if I remember correctly, that down there they were requiring that there be more nails than that used to install shingles.

    TOM: Well, Art, your goal now is to replace the shingles that you lost. And did you save the shingles? Were they intact enough to use the actual shingle for the repair? Because this way, the color will match.

    ART: Yes. Yes, they were; they were in very good shape, yes.

    TOM: Alright. So then what I would do is I’d get back up there and – assuming you can do this safely – and you’ll nail the new shingles back in. You want to put nails – you can put them pretty much where the old nails were but of course, not in the same holes because they’re going to be broken-through now.

    You can’t really put too many nails on them. If you want to put an extra nail or two, that’s fine. But the key is after you get done nailing all of these down again, what I want you to do is to get an asphalt cement. And you can get it in a caulking tube and put a little dab under the loose end of the shingles so that the tab presses down and reseals. Because when shingles are new, they have an adhesive on the back of the tab that seals it to the shingle below. But when they’re torn off, that adhesive is gone. So you put a little dab of asphalt cement in there and that will keep it in place and stop it from sort of lifting up the next time you get a strong wind that comes across. Does that make sense?

    ART: OK. Well, I thank you very much. You’ve been very helpful.

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

    This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Up next, have you ever felt your home was perhaps a bit cluttered? Well, we’re going to talk to a home builder who says that a single person doesn’t need more than 89 square feet to live. And he’s turned that into a big business. Learn more, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Roxul, manufacturer of fire-resistant, water-repellent and sound-absorbent home insulation products. Keep your home efficient and comfortable this winter and all year long with Roxul ComfortBatt and Roxul Safe’n’Sound insulations. www.DIYWithRoxul.com. Roxul. That’s R-o-x-u-l.

    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: Well, how many of you have complained that your closets, perhaps, just aren’t big enough to hold all your stuff? Our guest today would suggest: why do you really need that stuff? He’s been living in a home smaller than most people’s closets and he apparently likes it.

    LESLIE: That’s right. Jay Shafer is not only a proponent of living small, he’s also the owner of the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company that sells really small homes.

    But Jay, you really enjoy living in such a small space, right?

    JAY: Yeah, I do. You know, it feels really essential to me. Like when everything around me is necessary to my existence, then life itself feels more essential.

    TOM: So, do I understand correctly that you actually live in a house that’s 89 square feet? Well, I mean that might be a nice, sizeable apartment in Manhattan but for the rest of us, that’s a pretty small space. How do you get by?

    JAY: Yeah, it’s very small. I actually had lived in an 89-square-foot house for about 10 years before getting married and also purchasing a 500-square-foot palatial house for my wife and two kids just four years ago.

    TOM: Wow.

    JAY: So, yeah, I’ve been living small all my life. Well, not all my life but all my adult life and I love it.

    TOM: So let’s talk about the trend. More and more people are going small. What do you attribute that to?

    JAY: Since the bust and the economic downturn, things have really picked up in terms of interest because at this point, not all that many people are interested in – well, the idea of owning more house than you can actually afford is not so popular as it used to be.

    LESLIE: And you’re a dad of two, so you’re a family of four. How big is your home with your family and is it divvied up? Does everybody have their own space? Are you sharing spaces? How do you make it work, because I know with two kids and a spouse, it’s tough.

    JAY: Yeah, everything changed when I got married because all of a sudden, not everything is up to me as far as space goes. So, we bought a 500-square-foot house. Actually, the smallest we could find in the county – really affordable, too. And moved in and divided it up so that it would accommodate more than it would have otherwise. It came with just one bedroom, so we split that in half and had two bedrooms.

    And just making a lot of storage space helps, because now we don’t have to look at a lot of stuff lying around. Everything’s orderly and that helps. Well, it was orderly before we had babies. If we can keep the toy being down to a minimum, it doesn’t seem to be a problem. It’s a good space for a family. I certainly wouldn’t want to live in my tiny house with all three of those guys, so …

    TOM: Now, I understand that these homes – these Tumbleweed homes – are also available in DIY kits. So you can either build it for the customer or you provide them, what, the plans?

    JAY: Yeah. I’m actually starting a new company – Four Lights Tiny Houses – that is focused on kits and on plans and on filling finished houses, too. So, people can get them pretty much any way they want. In fact, what I’ve done lately is I’ve hollowed out some of them so that if people want to design the interior themselves, there’s a – you can buy this kitchen that slides through the door that I designed. Or the bathroom actually slides through the door and the stairways and all that kind of stuff. You can basically just arrange your interior layout to meet your needs.

    TOM: Jay Shafer, owner of the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, well, thanks so much for filling us in on all your little spaces.

    JAY: Oh, thanks for this chance, you guys. I really appreciate it.

    TOM: If you’d like to check out Jay’s houses, take a look at his website at TumbleweedHouses.com. TumbleweedHouses.com. Lots of really cool, neat designs on his site.

    Thanks, Jay.

    LESLIE: Alright, guys. Coming up, everybody loves snow, right? Well, when it’s on a ski slope, you might but not so much when it’s on your walkway. We’re going to have tips to help ease the snow-shoveling pain, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Stanley Tools, your trusted name in quality hand tools. To learn more about their complete line of quality tools and everything for your tool box, visit StanleyTools.com.

    TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show where home solutions live. Happy Holidays. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. Pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. One lucky caller who makes it on the air with us this hour is going to get a treat for your feet. We are giving away a NewLife Ergo Comfort Rug by GelPro. It’s a soft, therapeutic mat that really goes perfectly on any hard flooring you’ve got at home. It’s from their Artisan Series and that comes in some great contemporary designs. They’ve also got a non-slip bottom, so they’re going to stay put.

    It’s a rug worth about 80 bucks. You can check out all their styles at GelPro.com. And give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT now for help with your home improvement projects.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Rich in West Virginia, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    RICH: Hi. I’ve got a drywall question. My house is only about nine years old but a lot of the seams between the sheets of drywall have – where the tape was – the tape is cracked and it’s curled up a little at the edges.

    TOM: Yep.

    RICH: It’s especially bad out in my garage – the unheated garage – on the ceiling pieces but even some in the house. You know, I don’t know if – I’ve heard different things: that they could have put it in when it was cold and it froze before it set or …

    TOM: Let me tell you what’s going on, Rich. Nine years ago, as they do today, the builders will drywall the garage for one reason and one reason only: because they’re required to to maintain the fire separation between the garage and the rest of the house.

    But being builders, they only do what they absolutely have to do to get past code. I always tell these guys, “It’s like you guys are proud of being – of getting a D, not an F. You want to get a D. Nobody really strives for an A.” It’s like how would you feel if your kid came home from school and said, “Guess what, Dad? I got a D. Ain’t you proud?” The builders just do the absolute minimum.

    So in the drywall situation in the garage, that means this: they put on the tape and one coat of spackle. Only one. Where in the house, they put on three because that’s the normal thing you do. So they save a few pennies by only putting on one coat of spackle and you’re faced with tape that – what a surprise – falls off over the years.

    RICH: OK. Yeah.

    TOM: So, in this case, Rich, if it’s loose and separating, you really can’t put spackle on top of that, because it’s not going to get between the paper tape and the drywall underneath. I would cut off any loose tape and then I would put another layer of tape on top of that or in lieu of that. And I would use perforated drywall tape, which is very forgiving, especially for somebody who’s an amateur spackler, because you don’t have to worry about getting the paste underneath the tape. It actually goes through the tape; it’s more like a netting.

    RICH: OK.

    TOM: And then you do that with three coats and sand it out in between. Take your time; it’ll take you a little while to kind of get used to it. But that’ll do the trick there. Then prime and paint.

    And as for the areas inside the house, it’s not at all unusual for a nine-year-old house to get some cracks in the seams or where corners come together or above windows or doors. And you pretty much handle those the same way. If the tape is absolutely loose, you have to take it off and replace it. But if it’s just cracking, you can actually put that same type of drywall tape on top of that, three coats of spackle, prime and paint and you’re done, OK?

    RICH: OK. Sounds good.

    TOM: Well, winter snow can be beautiful, that is about until the time you need to get it off your walks and driveways.

    Now, snow blowers are always the best bet and if this is the year you are finally ready to get one, we’ve got a great article on MoneyPit.com called “How to Choose a Snow Blower,” that can actually walk you through the steps to determine which type is best for your situation.

    LESLIE: Next thing you want to think about is deicers. Now, they’re going to melt ice very well but you’re going to have the most luck if you put out a thin layer before the ice actually starts to form. Now, the best type to keep your concrete sidewalks and driveways from falling apart is potassium chloride, not sodium chloride.

    Potassium chloride is a less hazardous type of deicer that’s safe for your pets and your wood floors because, remember, friends and family are going to come into your house, they’re going to forget to wipe their feet and it’s going to ruin your floors. But this one, potassium chloride, will not. And it also won’t cause concrete or your sidewalks to get that pitted sort of deteriorated look.

    TOM: Now, you can’t forget good, old-fashioned shoveling. It’s not a lot of fun but of course, it does work. So you might want to stretch before you do it. Also, move the snow the shortest distance possible.

    And the old adage is true: lift with your legs and not with your back. And when that snow is finally clear, you can relax. At least, that is, I guess, until the next snowfall comes.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Larry in Illinois on the line who needs help with a cleaning question. Tell us what you’re working on.

    LARRY: Yes. Working on some floors that I refinished but I even washed the floor down, after I sanded them originally, with mineral spirits. And then I stained them and put two coats of stain on them – I believe it was at least two coats – and then put clear poly on the top of it like that. Three coats of it and sanded in between. Now I’m getting kind of a white haze coming up like that. And I don’t know if it’s from the original wood or what; I was just curious. Can I just sand that area down and will it blend into the rest of the floor, without having to redo the whole floor?

    TOM: Well, you might be able to but I want to make sure it’s really super-dry before I tell you to do that. How many days has it been sitting around now?

    LARRY: Oh, it’s been about four years. Three or four years.

    TOM: Oh, well, I guess it’s dry.

    LARRY: Yeah.

    LESLIE: It’s cured.

    TOM: Yeah.

    LARRY: Yeah.

    TOM: Here’s the way to do this. Instead of sanding it, what you can do is buff it with a sanding screen. You could head out to a rental-supply house and pick up a floor buffer and a sanding screen.

    LARRY: OK.

    TOM: So, the sanding screen kind of looks like window-screen material but it’s a very fine abrasive.

    LARRY: Yeah, uh-huh. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I’ve used that before.

    TOM: OK. So you know what I’m talking about. So that just takes off the upper surface of the floor itself; it doesn’t really dig in and damage the wood.

    LARRY: OK.

    TOM: It won’t cause you to have to restain or touch-up anything. And I would try using that machine and then buffing out the whole surface with that. And then you can use a damp mop and very carefully lift up and vacuum up all of the dust.

    And if you want – when that’s done, since you have all the furniture out of the room – you could maybe put one fresh coat of urethane on it. And that should restore the surface.

    LARRY: Now, can I use 220 DA sander? That’s what I’ve used in between the coats like that if they recommend.

    TOM: Yeah. You could do that, as well. It’s just I think that the floor buffer is not an expensive piece of equipment to rent and a very easy way to do a large area. Get down there with a floor sander, even if it’s a half-sheet sander, that’s important to have to get into the nooks and the crannies in the corners. But the floor buffer with a sanding screen is just a real easy tool to use once you get it picked up and back to the house.

    LARRY: OK. Thank you.

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

    ANNA: Well, I have a problem with a painted banister. We have a white staircase – white banister – painted and after a while, we’ve been cleaning it and it gets a lot of dirt into the paint and the paint has become sticky. I need to know what to maybe seal it with or some suggestion.

    TOM: Well, at this point, if you’ve gotten kind of a sticky mess on your hands, there is no sealing. You’re going to have to go back to the …

    LESLIE: Yeah, you’ve worn through the finish.

    TOM: Right. You’re going to have to go back to the raw wood and get as much of that old paint off as possible. So I would use a paint stripper first. There’s a pretty good product called Rock Miracle that we like, that does a good job. Get as much of that paint off as you possibly can, then use a good-quality primer – oil-based is best – and go up from there. There’s nothing at this point – if you’ve got a goopy, sticky, yucky surface – that you should put on top of that. It’s only going to make the matters worse, Anna.

    ANNA: It’s not (audio gap), it’s more just sticky and it gets grime into it. It’s the only thing I can tell you.

    TOM: Yeah. Right. And …

    ANNA: I was hoping I could maybe save it but it’s an awful lot of stripping.

    TOM: Yeah, I understand that. But the problem is that anything you put on top of that is just going to make it worse right now. When the paint gets to be that – in that kind of condition, you’ve got to really start taking off some layers. I mean you may not have to go down to raw wood but you’ve certainly got to get off the upper couple of layers and go from there.

    ANNA: Oh, OK. Alright. Well, was hoping you had a magic but …

    TOM: Sometimes we do but not always. Sometimes, the only magic is the hard elbow grease that has to go into a project.

    ANNA: OK. And what kind of paint would you suggest? An oil-base, I know that.

    TOM: Well, for priming, yeah. Just an oil-based primer. At least you get better adhesion with it.

    LESLIE: And then it’s better to use a glossy finish, because anything with a glossy finish has more layers of that finish in it to achieve that high gloss or a semi-gloss. And then it’s more cleanable or easily wipeable.

    ANNA: OK. Alright. Thanks so much.

    TOM: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Up next, if you think that you have the cleanest house on the block and as such, you don’t need to worry about mold, well, you are wrong. Mold grows in the cleanest of homes and we’ll tell you where to look, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by TotalProtect Home Warranty. Get total protection against unexpected home repair or replacement costs. Choose from a full line of plans as low as 19.95 a month. For a free quote and to find out if you qualify for a $25 gift card with purchase, call 800-737-1010. That’s 800-737-1010.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Hey, do you want the look of a new kitchen but don’t have the budget for it? We’ve got some ideas to give new life to the busiest room in your house. Just go to MoneyPit.com and search “kitchen remodeling and décor on a budget.” You’ll get low-cost ways to keep up with the trends.

    And while you’re there, pop on over to the Community section and join the discussion, just like James from Illinois did.

    LESLIE: Alright. And James writes: “I’m new to my condo and wondered if you had any suggestions on reducing noise. The neighbors below me play music and it’s coming through the floor. I’m putting a new floor in anyway. Is there something I can do to muffle the sound?”

    TOM: You know, sound deadening is a pretty comprehensive project because to do it right, you really have to start before the floor goes down. There are so many nooks and crannies where sound will get through.

    That said, you may be able to somewhat reduce the floor by installing what’s called a “sound-deadening floor underlayment.” This is either a board or a mat. There’s also versions that are cork that would go underneath whatever that new floor is going to be, if it’s carpet or if it’s hardwood or engineered hardwood or even laminate. It’s a layer that goes down first and the new floor goes on top of that and it’s designed to absorb sound. But just don’t expect miracles. If you’ve got a really loud neighbor downstairs, you’re still going to get some sound through but it might be a lot less.

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up, Dale in West Virginia writes: “My basement is very dark. It’s so dark at night that I can’t see the light switch. I’m worried about my mother going downstairs. Do you have a solution that wouldn’t involve major rewiring?”

    TOM: Oh, sure. There’s a number of things that you can do. First of all, if you can’t see a light switch, you can change the type of light switch to one that has – that’s illuminated. They have light switches that have – that are illuminated like night lights, so the switch actually glows when the switch is in the off position. Makes it easy to always see it.

    But a more practical solution might be for you to simply install a motion detector. So every time someone opens the door to the basement or moves in that direction, the detector will sense that and bring the lights on. It’s a very easy thing to do. It’s actually a perfect scenario for something like a Lutron Maestro Occupancy Sensor, which is really state-of-the-art and can really handle that particular situation.

    LESLIE: And you know what, Dale? These occupancy sensors, they really have come a long way. They’re super-efficient and I think what’s awesome about them is that if you’ve got your hands full, you don’t have to worry about grabbing for a switch. And in a situation where your mom might be coming down the stairs and can’t find the switch, that light is going to know she’s on her way, turn everything on, so you guys will all have peace of mind. And it really is an easy fix.

    TOM: Well, if you don’t pay much mind to stories about mold because you figure, “Hey, I keep a super-clean house,” it’s time to listen up. Mold is not limited to messy homes, as Leslie explains, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    LESLIE: That’s right. Even if you’re OCD about your cleanliness, mold has got a sneaky way of finding little pockets where those growing conditions are ideal. Your chimney is one of those places. Mold loves the moisture that collects in the nooks and crannies of the chimney. Now, a professional cleaning is going to take care of that.

    Also, light fixtures. Mold can grow in the insulation that surrounds your recessed lighting. And the grossest of all places for mold? Your refrigerator. Everybody, at some point, has had some leftovers that really turned into a science experiment. And you know it’s something you leave in the back of your fridge and then you find it and you’re like, “Aughh!” Now, those little spores can actually spread into the nooks and crannies of your fridge and voilà, mold infestation.

    I blogged about this on MoneyPit.com, so you can check it out. And there’s a whole bunch of other places that mold likes to lurk, so check it out today and get investigating.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up next week, are you planning out your projects for 2013? Well, you want to make sure you take into consideration the top-five remodels that pay off. We’re going to get the lowdown from This Old House host Kevin O’Connor, on the next edition of The Money Pit.

    Happy New Year. 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.

    END HOUR 2 TEXT

    (Copyright 2012 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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