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Home Improvements In A Tough Economy, Cleaning Window Screens, Consumer Reports Best Washers and Dryers

  • Transcript

    (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.)
    (promo/theme song)

    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, 888-666-3974. Before you pick up the tools, pick up the phone and call us right now because we are here to help you with your home improvement projects, your do-it-yourself dilemmas, the improvements that you’d like to make to turn your money pit from house to home to castle.
    Got a busy show planned for you this hour. First up, making home improvements in a bad economy is actually a great idea because it helps keep the value of your home up, but the key is making the right improvements. So how do you know which ones are really the best for your house? We’re going to give you a simple checklist, in just a bit.
    LESLIE: That’s right. Plus, as the weather gets warmer, you’re going to have your windows wide open and you might actually, at this point, want to take a few minutes to clean those grimy screens. Because a winter’s worth of dirt, dust and maybe even salt from all of the snow that pretty much every state except for Hawaii has seen this winter is probably caked on there. So we’re going to share with you the easy way to clean those screens, a little later.
    TOM: And speaking of cleaning, washing machines and dryers are cheaper and more energy-efficient than ever before. That, plus the so-called Cash for Clunkers appliance rebate program that’s going on right now, it’s making it a pretty good time to replace your older appliances. But how do you know which ones to buy? We’re going to find out which washers and dryers made the cut at Consumer Reports magazine when we interview one of their editors a little bit later in the program.
    LESLIE: And this hour, we’re giving away a great prize. We’ve got a Granitex concrete finishing kit worth $150.
    TOM: Going to go to one caller who reaches us with their home improvement project, their do-it-yourself dilemma at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974, let’s get right to it.
    Leslie, who’s first?
    LESLIE: Mike in North Carolina has a tub question. How can we help you take a dip?
    MIKE: My question deals with these prefab, vinyl bathroom or tubs that are put in houses and I’m getting ready to buy one.
    TOM: OK.
    MIKE: That the drywall matches up against the top of the tub.
    TOM: Yeah.
    MIKE: And I’m 6’3″, my son is 6’3″ and when you take a shower water splashes and I’ve noticed that (inaudible at 0:03:06.8) all these bathrooms have like water damage where the drywall has been rotted or fall apart. So I’m trying to find out what’s the best thing I can do to prevent this? Tile it and then grout it or is there some other solution?
    TOM: Well, how old are the houses that you’re looking at, Mike? When were they built?
    MIKE: Oh, they’re five, six years old. They’re not very old at all. They’re pretty new houses but they all have the same type of vinyl tub in them.
    TOM: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, that’s exactly what I expected. Anything that’s between five and ten years old, they may have used greenboard; it’s like a “waterproof” or water-resistant drywall. But it absolutely isn’t because, as you’ve noticed, the water hits it and it eventually disintegrates.

    So what you’re going to end up doing is taking the drywall down and putting up a tile underlayment product like Dens Armor or something like that that is water-resistant and then retiling on top of that. That’s option one.
    The second option is to put in a liner. And even though some liners can look really cheap and kind of junky …
    LESLIE: Like the vinyl surround liners?
    TOM: Yeah, but what I was going to say is you can buy a high-end liner made of Corian and, if that’s the case, that can go on top of the existing drywall; as long as you have enough of it to sort of secure it, which doesn’t take that much. And it’s pretty thin, Corian, too.
    LESLIE: And it’s actually really beautiful.
    TOM: It is pretty.
    LESLIE: And all of them make it. Silestone, CaesarStone, Corian; they all have a tub surround.
    MIKE: Great. OK. Well, I appreciate that. That’s very helpful and I really enjoy your show and thank you very much.
    TOM: You’re very welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
    LESLIE: Alicia in Rhode Island has some pipes that are sweating. Tell us about the pipes: when do you see the sweating on it; how often it’s happening.
    ALICIA: Well, actually, I’m not calling about the pipes; I’m calling about the outside water leaking into my house.
    TOM: Oh, OK.
    TOM: Where is the water leaking from? Where’s the leak?
    ALICIA: It’s actually – we noticed it in the garage when we recently had a lot of rain in Rhode Island.
    TOM: Yep.
    ALICIA: And we just bought this house. It was a foreclosure. And we spoke to the neighbors. They said that the people that had owned it before had said that they were complaining of water in the first floor. It’s a walk-in – there’s no basement – and the walk-in on the first floor is the same level as the garage. And we noticed about a good inch, inch-and-a-half of water in the garage after this last rainstorm that we had.
    TOM: So do you think that the water is running down a driveway or where do you think the water is sourcing?
    ALICIA: Well, my husband said, when he was using the wet vac to clean it, he could actually see the water coming in from the foundation on the outside wall in the garage.
    TOM: (overlapping voices) OK. And opposite that wall, are there any drainage issues? Do you have downspouts? Do you have gutters? Is the neighbor’s lot …?
    ALICIA: We do have gutters along the garage; I’m looking at them right now. On top of the garage there are gutters and downspouts on – I know there’s one on one side that I’m actually looking at right now. I’m not too sure about around the corner from that.
    TOM: OK, well look. If you get drainage that’s coming through a wall or up under the floor, it almost always is caused by drainage conditions on the outside foundation perimeter. So, you want to make sure that the gutters are clean and free-flowing and the downspouts are well extended out away from the house; even run them out underground so that the water is discharging far away from that foundation.
    The second thing is you want to make sure that the soil slopes away from the wall. It’s really critical that the soil slopes away so that any rainfall runs away from those particular walls and doesn’t collect in the backfill zone, which is the dirt right around the foundation there. Because if you collect a lot of water in there, it can pull up through the walls because concrete block is very hydroscopic, it’s very absorbent and it will pull up and actually trickle out into the floor. So you need to do a little bit of investigation as to where the water is collecting around the outside because that’s undoubtedly how this is getting into that space.
    ALICIA: OK, thank you very much.
    TOM: 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 at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
    TOM: 888-666-3974.
    Up next, spring cleaning secrets. We’re going to have cleaning tips for those grimy window screens, after this.

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    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Fiberon Horizon decking and their new tropical hardwood colors. Ensure your deck stays as beautiful as the rest of your home. Insist on Horizon decking. To learn more, visit FiberonDecking.com.
    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.
    Hey, give us a call right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT because one lucky caller that we talk to on the air this hour is going to win a concrete facelift kit from Granitex. Now, this is an acrylic, stone-like coating and it really does look amazingly like stone and texture-y. And it can be applied to indoor or outdoor concrete surfaces like your patios or your porches or balconies; even pool decks and garage floors; your walkways, steps and driveways.
    Now, after it’s applied, the surface is extremely durable and super easy to clean. Granitex comes in four colors and you can mix them, match them, make patterns. They really do work very well together and it’s a very easy kit to follow and it could be yours for free. It’s a prize worth $150, so give us a call right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT for your chance to win.
    TOM: 888-666-3974.
    Well, it is spring cleaning time but before you throw open those windows to let in some springtime air, you want to make sure that you carefully clean your screens; otherwise, you might be sending a winter’s worth of grime right back into the house.
    To start this project, you want to remove the screens from the frame; place them on a flat surface, like a driveway or a patio; and then use a soft, bristle brush with some mild soap and water to remove the dirt and the grime and clean both sides of the screen before you rinse them off.
    LESLIE: And remember that you never want to pressure wash those screens because the force of the spray of the pressure washer itself could actually damage the screens. And most importantly, remember that those windows screens, they’re actually only meant to keep insects out of the house and provide good ventilation; they’re not there to support the weight of a pet or a child. So you want to properly protect your kids and pets when you’ve got your windows open. And make sure that they’re not pushing on the screens because they’re not like the screens that were on the house when I was a kid, which were super-durable metal that I remember you could poke at, push and nothing would happen to them.
    TOM: (overlapping voices) Exactly.
    LESLIE: So really, be careful with your kids around windows.
    If you want some more tips on window screens and windows, visit Simonton.com. And if you’re thinking of replacement windows, good thinking because there are great tax incentives going on right now and you can learn all about them when you download Simonton’s free window replacement guide at MoneyPit.com.
    TOM: 888-666-3974. Give us a call right now with your home improvement project. Let’s get right back to the phones.
    Who’s next?
    LESLIE: Jo in North Carolina has some concerns about a gas fireplace. What can we do for you?
    JO: Yeah, I moved into this house about 12 years ago and the gas logs were already here. And I was under the impression that when I operate the gas logs, that I need to have the chimney flue slightly open.
    TOM: No, not slightly open; all the way open.
    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Open.
    JO: Always open, would you say?
    TOM: All the way open. Absolutely. Because you’re burning – you know, you’re burning natural gas; that’s going to convert to carbon monoxide. You’ve got to make sure that vents (ph) up the house; it’s not slightly open, it’s all the way open. And in fact, in some gas log situations where it’s conversion from a wood burner to a gas-burning log, they put a bracket on a damper to prevent you from ever being able to close it because that could be very dangerous.
    JO: Oh. Well, she said something about – this neighbor of mine was saying some are vented and some are not vented and …
    TOM: That’s true. But you have a standard gas log in a fireplace that used to be a regular fireplace; used to be a wood burner?
    JO: Yeah.
    TOM: Yeah, an unvented gas fireplace is a manufactured unit – you know, a steel unit – that’s made under very careful controls; and, frankly, even though it is designed to be unvented, we don’t like them.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. They really should always be vented.
    TOM: We would much prefer that they always be vented. But in your case, those gas logs are pretty big burners. Those are usually like 60,000 or 80,000 BTU burners. They use a lot of gas and they need a lot of venting, so make sure you leave the damper open at all times when that’s being used.
    JO: Hmm. Oh, OK. Alright.
    TOM: Alright? Not the answer you wanted to hear but that’s the answer that’s going to keep you safe, OK?
    JO: Yeah. She said it’d be warmer if I just closed the flue but now that I …
    TOM: No, it would be warmer and you would be deader. OK?
    JO: Yeah. (chuckles) OK.
    TOM: Don’t do it.
    JO: Alright. Thanks a lot.
    TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
    I mean most neighbors are very well-intentioned but, you know.
    LESLIE: (chuckles) Maybe not so much in this case.
    TOM: Not so much in this case. (chuckles) You’re going to have a gas …
    LESLIE: (chuckling) Maybe she’s got a really nice house and they want to buy it.
    TOM: Yeah, I know. Yeah. Neighbor is hoping to buy it, obviously; from her estate.
    LESLIE: Ah, that’s terrible; shouldn’t joke about that.
    TOM: (chuckling) Really. You know? You must have that damper open if you’re going to use a gas-burning log. It’s very, very important.
    LESLIE: Dennis in Arkansas has a plumbing question. What can we do for you?
    DENNIS: Yes, ma’am. I have a house that’s five years old; sits on a slab. It’s got two toilets on the drain system; they’re on the first part of it and the last part and everything else is in between them and they drain fine. But the toilets occasionally will overflow. This will happen two or three times in a row and then they won’t do it again until ten days or so and then they’ll do it again.
    TOM: How old are these toilets, Dennis?
    DENNIS: They’re five years old. The house has been …
    TOM: Oh, are they the original – are they the original low-flow toilets?
    DENNIS: They’re full-flush toilets.
    TOM: Yeah, I know they’re full-flush but are they 1.6-gallon toilets?
    DENNIS: Yes.
    TOM: And the reason I ask is because around five years ago, we were still seeing a lot of the first-generation low-flow toilets and they just didn’t work that well.
    TOM: And that may be what you’re seeing here. See, here’s what happened. Originally, we had toilets that used three to five gallons and they worked great but they wasted a whole lot of water. And the government came in and said, “We need you to make low-flow toilets.” So the toilet manufacturers said, “Fine,” and they just made a smaller tank that had less water. But that water didn’t have the pressure necessary to flush the toilets properly. It flushed but if there was a little bit of obstruction, it would just back up.
    And so now, those toilets have come so far so fast that they work extremely well. But to get them to work well, what they had to do was completely redesign the bowls and redesign the trap – which is the part that’s under the toilet; sort of the internal plumbing – to make the traps wider and also to put glazing on the inside so they were smoother and wouldn’t have as much restriction.
    And so if you’ve got one of the original low-flow toilets, I’m not surprised they’re giving you a hard time and you might want to think about …
    DENNIS: OK, so I need to replace …
    TOM: You may want to think about replacing them. I’ve got in my house that’s by American Standard. I picked it up at Depot. It’s called the Champion and it’s one of the low-flow toilets; has sort of a new flush valve design called a flush tower. And I’ve got to tell you, the thing has never, ever clogged from the day I put it in.
    TOM: I’ve got three kids. They put it through its paces. (chuckles)
    LESLIE: (chuckles) To put it nicely.
    DENNIS: (chuckling) OK.
    TOM: (chuckling) Alright? Alright, good luck.
    DENNIS: Alrighty. Thank you.
    TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
    LESLIE: It’s always such a delicate balance between disgusting information and important information when you’re talking about toilets. (laughs)
    TOM: Hey, we have to stress test around here; make sure the products work properly before we recommend them on The Money Pit.
    Alright, Leslie, who’s next?
    LESLIE: Pam in Missouri needs some help fixing up I guess some damaged left by tenants at a rental property. What happened?
    PAM: Well, I believe they were part animals. I’m not real sure. (Leslie and Pam chuckle)
    TOM: OK.
    PAM: We have got like a huge hole in the hall; I mean where the boarding is just gone. And the end of the living room, everything is gone; you know, you can see where the carpet is bowed and if you try to step on it, I’m afraid we’ll go right through. So what is the most economical way that we can get the floors fixed up? That’s what we’re going to start with.
    LESLIE: And you say you’ve got carpeting currently in the living room and the rest is hardwood?
    PAM: It’s the laminate stuff.
    TOM: Oh, it’s laminate; it’s not hardwood.
    TOM: Oh, OK. Alright.
    PAM: Yeah, yeah. So it’s going to all have to come up and be redone.
    TOM: Well, look. I mean if you’ve got to replace it, there’s no cheap way to replace it. You want to put in a good-quality product so it stands up. I can give you a little bit of background information on how to choose the right product.
    First of all, when you have tenants, carpeting, if you can avoid it, you know –
    LESLIE: Especially in a light color. Bad idea.
    TOM: – yeah – is a really good idea. Laminate floor is probably a good choice but if you buy a cheap laminate floor, it’s not going to stand up to moisture or abrasion resistance. The finishes on them are aluminum oxide base, which is really tough; that’s the same thing that sandpaper is made out of. And so if you buy a commercial-grade laminate floor, you’re going to have the best durability and the best resistance to anything a tenant can sort of dish out. It also happens to be a lot easier to install them today because it used to be you had to glue them together; now they all lock together and they float on top of whatever floor is there, so there’s no attachment to the floor.
    LESLIE: You’d have to remove the carpeting and go over the sub-floor, but everywhere else you could probably go right on top.
    TOM: Exactly.
    PAM: Right. Right. OK.
    TOM: And the prices are coming down, too; so I think laminate, in your situation, is probably the best choice.
    LESLIE: With the commercial finish.
    TOM: Yeah. And then if you – if they want to put throw rugs over it and area rugs over it, they can do that and they’re not going to hurt it.
    LESLIE: Micki in South Carolina, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
    MICKI: I have two outside bedrooms and a den area.
    TOM: OK.
    MICKI: And it seems like the carpeting near the wall, on the outside, has black on it.
    TOM: Right. Mm-hmm.
    MICKI: And in a few areas, it has come into the room a little bit further.
    TOM: Yeah, you know why that is?
    MICKI: No.
    TOM: Here’s why. What happens is you get warm, moist air inside your house; it hits the cold, exterior wall and it falls. As it does that, it picks up the dirt that’s in the air and it brushes it against the carpet. And carpet, of course, is a great filter material. So that’s why you get this black staining sometimes on walls or on carpets near the room edge, because of the normal convective loop of hot air rising, striking cold windows and walls and cold air falling. It sort of washes the dirt, sort to speak, against the carpet. Sometimes it sticks and it looks kind of nasty. So this is really just a cleaning problem. It’s not indicative of anything more than that.
    MICKI: OK. So I have a lot of allergies and I wanted to make sure that it wasn’t something that was kind of …
    TOM: Well, if you’ve got a lot of allergies, Micki, carpet is not the best choice for you because it really does harbor just about everything that is bad for you: dust, dirt, dust mites, things like that. If you’re going to have carpet, though – you have a forced-air heating system, right?
    MICKI: We have gas heat.
    TOM: Yeah, but you have ducts, right? You have hot air ducts?
    MICKI: Ducts, yes.
    TOM: OK. So what you want to do is you want to get a good-quality electronic air cleaner. There’s a product by Trane called CleanEffects and it’s excellent at filtering out all of the dirt, all of the dust, even down to virus-sized particles of dirt. You really want to invest in a good-quality electronic air cleaner when you have allergies and, if at all possible, try to minimize carpet in your house because it just is a big, fat filter for all kinds of dirt and dust and mold and dust mites.
    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show.
    Up next, Cash for Clunker appliance rebates are making it a really good time to trade in your old washer and dryer for a more energy-efficient pair. We’ll find out which ones made the cut, from the experts at Consumer Reports, next.

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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.
    Well, washing machines and dryers, they’re cheaper and more energy-efficient than ever before and that’s the big headline from the recent consumer reports testing. Now, price tags that are a third lower than just last year, plus the so-called Cash for Clunkers appliance rebates, are making this a great time to replace your older machines.
    TOM: So, which models are worth the investment? We’re going to find out right now from Celia Kuperszmid Lehrman, who is the deputy home editor of Consumer Reports Magazine.
    Hi, Celia.
    CELIA: Hi, there.
    TOM: Nice to have you back again. You guys have been very busy. Technology is changing quite fast when it comes to washers and dryers, isn’t it?
    CELIA: Yes, it is. Doing laundry may be pretty humdrum but the machines themselves aren’t. They’ve got a lot of new features and what we like to do is to see which ones you actually need to spend the money for and which ones you can just sort of forego.
    TOM: And that’s important. I see that the prices have dropped significantly over the last year. You guys are reporting as much as a 33-percent price drop compared with a year ago. That’s quite dramatic.
    CELIA: Yeah, that was something that actually surprised us because we went back in to do all of the pricing and looking at it and we said, “Wow.” And to some extent, it’s not that surprising. Appliance sales have been hurt by the recession.
    TOM: (overlapping voices) Soft. Sure.
    CELIA: So they’ve been down significantly. So I think that the manufacturers are trying to get people in the stores; they’re trying to get people to, you know, instead of nurse their washing machine along, to go and buy a new one. And the government has helped with that Cash for Clunkers for appliance program, too.
    LESLIE: Now how does that work? I know that the program really varies state by state but do you, as the appliance purchaser need to sort of do the investigation as to what you would qualify for or do the appliance sales persons really know what’s going on there?
    CELIA: Well, I would never rely on the sales person. I mean the basic thing is it usually has to be an – must be an Energy Star model to qualify. And some states actually have much more stringent rules than that. So what we suggest – what we’ve done is we’ve created an interactive map on our website, which you can access at ConsumerReports.org/Clunkers, and you can click on your state and find out what the exact requirements are. So I would say you should know what the requirements are before you go into the store and don’t rely on the sales person. But it also means you’re going to be responsible for filling out all of the paperwork.
    TOM: Right.
    CELIA: Because with the cars, the dealers filled it out. Here, you’re going to be filling it out and some states offer an additional rebate if you have proof that the appliance was thrown out or recycled. So, there are some sweeteners in there for people to not just keep the old appliances or sort of recycle them to another family member.
    TOM: We’re talking to Celia Kuperszmid Lehrman. She’s the deputy home editor for Consumer Reports.
    So, Celia, what were your recommendations based on the research you did on – let’s start with washing machines.
    CELIA: Well, I think what we – what was really nice is we had recommendations for people whether or not they wanted to get a front loader or a top loader.
    TOM: Right.
    CELIA: Because people seemed to have pretty strong preferences for one or the other.
    TOM: Do they perform differently? Does one perform better than another?
    CELIA: The front loaders tend to perform ever-so-slightly better at washing and they tend to be more energy and water-efficient. However, the top loaders have gotten much more efficient. They’ve gotten – they have high-efficiency models; those often don’t have a center post agitator in them …
    TOM: Right.
    CELIA: … so that they use different means to get the – sort of to move the clothes around, which is more space-efficient and also more energy and water-efficient. So these days, the differences have narrowed quite a bit. So whether or not you want one or the other, you’re really going to be able to find a model that’s going to wash your clothes well and be pretty efficient.
    LESLIE: Now since so many people do tend to be drawn to the front-loading models of the washers, I know we’ve reported previously that there have been mold issues with these front-loading washing machines. Did you guys do any testing on that to see which models sort of were more resistant to mold growth than others?
    CELIA: Part of the problem with a mold issue is it’s not an issue that comes up pretty quickly.
    TOM: Right.
    CELIA: It’s usually one that’s had after months and months and months of use and, honestly, we don’t keep the machines that long. But we do know that – readers have been telling us, both through our forums and also in our frequency-of-repair data, our reliability data, that eight percent of front loaders’ problems are caused by mold or mildew. And with a front loader, gravity is not your friend …
    TOM: Right.
    CELIA: … because the gasket is making – water is getting caught in that gasket and it’s just sitting there because the water – you know, from gravity, it’ll just sit toward the bottom end of the gasket. So what you’re going to need to do is you’re going to need to sort of go in there and wipe it dry. You might want to leave the door ajar, if you don’t have young children in the house, in between loads so that it gets a chance to really dry out because it’s the moisture that’s the problem.
    TOM: Before we let you go, Celia, what models do you recommend?
    CELIA: We were, for front loaders, recommending a GE WCVH6800, which was only $750.
    TOM: OK. OK.
    CELIA: There was also a Frigidaire Gallery – GLTF2940F, at $650. And if you are looking for a front loader, one of our best buys is a GE WJRE5500G, which was only $480. And there are also a number of other Consumer Reports best buys and recommended models in the report.
    TOM: And those are listed in the report and also on your website at ConsumerReports.org.
    Celia, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit and for the great story that you’ve just completed on selecting a washer and a dryer.
    CELIA: You’re very welcome.
    LESLIE: Alright, so a new washer/dryer, that might be a great investment for clean clothes, but not all home improvements add up. We’re going to tell you which improvements will make you money and which ones will waste it, after this.

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    ANNOUNCEMENT: The Money Pit is brought to you by Bondera TileMatSet, the fast, easy way to add the style and value of tile to your home. For more information, visit BonderaTileMatSet.com.
    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: Do you have an old, dirty or boring husband or wife? (Leslie chuckles) No, I’m only kidding. Do you have an old, dirty or boring concrete patio that perhaps is looking a little worse for wear? Well, I’ve got a prize this hour that can fix that; it’s the Granitex product. It’s an acrylic, stone-like coating that can be applied to indoor or outdoor concrete surfaces but not your spouse. (Leslie laughs) And after it’s applied, the surface will be extremely durable and easy to clean. It’s available in four colors. It’s a package worth 150 bucks. One caller we talk to on the air is going to win the Granitex, so give us a call right now with your home improvement question for your chance to win. The number, of course, is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
    LESLIE: And that sounds like a project that’s a really great way to increase your curb appeal, which we know is an absolutely recoupable investment.
    Now, when you’re planning your home improvements, you want to consider the long and short-term values in dollars and common sense. Now, wall treatments, flooring and energy improvements, those are all fantastic investments. But before a big project like an addition or a new roof, you want to decide how long you’re going to be living in that house and if the improvements will price your house out of the neighborhood range.
    So you really do want to make sure that before you dive headfirst into a home improvement project, that you’re not building the most giant house on the smallest-house block and suddenly that house doesn’t quite fit in and are people going to buy it and are you hurting your chances when it comes to resell. So really think about all these things, not just what’s good for you at that moment; even though you should consider yourself first, I say.
    TOM: 888-666-3974 is the number you need to call; the first number you need to call for the answer to your home improvement project. Let’s get back to the phones.
    Who’s next?
    LESLIE: Keith in New Hampshire has some drywall that’s cracking up. Tell us about it.
    KEITH: Yes, well right at the seams …
    KEITH: … at the corners of the walls, the drywall is cracking and, in some places, there are actually pieces of the drywall that are falling off and exposing the underneath. So really, what I’m looking for is some sort of product or simple method to take care of that problem.
    LESLIE: Now when you say you can see the drywall underneath, is it just in that corner or are you seeing chunks of the surface falling off mid-wall as well?
    KEITH: Oh, no. It’s just right at the corners. It’s right along the seam.
    LESLIE: Where the two walls meet or where a wall and a window meet.
    KEITH: Right, but mostly at the corners of the wall where the two walls meet.
    LESLIE: Well, generally, what’s happening there is you’re getting normal movement in the house and things are just moving as they should normally in your home. So what’s happening is the spackle or the joint compound that’s on top of the tape is drying out and the tape is cracking and that’s why you’re seeing this sort of opening at the space where the two pieces of drywall are meeting. And there’s a really simple solution.
    If you do have some sort of bumps there where you get like ridges, I would try to sand that down just a smidgeon just to make it so that it’s not jutting up so much and then I would get fiberglass drywall tape, which is that meshy kind that’s kind of sticky …
    KEITH: Oh, sure.
    LESLIE: … and go over the corner; you know, surround the corner, split the tape in half and run the center right down the corner and then meet on both sides. And then you want to cover that with spackle and what you want to do is start out thin, cover the tape. Be thick on your application but stay the same width of the tape.
    KEITH: OK.
    LESLIE: Cover that up, let it dry, sand it down. Then you want to add more and you want to go wider and wider and wider. It’s going to be a little bit more difficult because you’re dealing with a corner but you want to go wider and wider and wider, sanding in between each coat so that you get a smooth transition and you don’t see that lump from the fiberglass tape.
    KEITH: Sure, sure. And will that give you a nice, sharp edge as well?
    LESLIE: It can. It can give you a nice, clean corner, depending on how well you are at applying spackle, but that’ll do a really good job of covering that up. And because you’re going with that mesh tape, it’ll allow for movement within that wall itself and not crack out of that corner.
    Mary in Ohio is needing some help with a painting project. What can we do for you?
    MARY: I removed wallpaper off of my stairway going upstairs. Now I would like to know what to use to wash it real good because I took off the wallpaper with vinegar but I couldn’t get all of it off. So what would I use to prepare it for painting?
    TOM: Do you still have some of the paste on there or is it pretty flat?
    MARY: I think probably.
    TOM: OK. Well, what I would do is I’d first wash it with trisodium phosphate – TSP; available at home centers, hardware stores, paint stores, that sort of thing.
    MARY: (overlapping voices) Mm-hmm, I have some.
    TOM: OK, good.
    LESLIE: Oh, good.
    TOM: So do a good job of washing that out. Make sure you rinse to get all of the old soap off and then it’s going to be really important, Mary, that you prime the walls.
    MARY: Should I sand it first? I’m going to have to patch some of the holes.
    TOM: Only – well, OK. Do all your patching and stuff and, yes, do all your sanding; but don’t sand too hard, now, because if you’ve got drywall there you’ll go right through the paper surface.
    MARY: Oh, no. I have plaster, which is good.
    TOM: Oh, yeah; plaster. Sanding it lightly is not a bad thing but it’s real important that you prime it. You can use – probably an oil-based primer would do the best job. When you have a somewhat unknown and inconsistent surface, you’re usually better off using an oil-based primer. But you can also use the alkyd primers, which dry very fast. But the only thing I don’t like about those, Leslie, is they tend to leave brush marks or roller marks because they do dry so quick.
    LESLIE: Yeah, you get a lot of brush marks or roller marks.
    Another thing, Mary, to keep in mind is since you’re dealing with possibly an uneven surface or you know areas where you might have some of that sticky stuff still there that might show, if you go with a flat finish on your paint, any sort of inconsistencies on that wall surface really won’t stand out. If you went with any sort of gloss or sheen, it would really make it obvious; so go flat to sort of hide those imperfections.
    MARY: OK. So the best thing to do is to wash it with the TSP.
    TOM: Exactly.
    LESLIE: Mm-hmm, then prime then paint.
    MARY: Yes. OK. Thank you. I was going to do that, so I wanted to make sure I was doing the right thing.
    TOM: Well, you’re absolutely on the right track, Mary. 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.
    Up next, the best way to clean that dirty, grimy, old bathtub; so stick around.

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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.
    TOM: Do you need a solution for a vacation you can’t afford? Why not stay home and take a staycation instead? We’ve got lots of ideas for backyard makeovers that can make that a space you really want to hang out in for at least a couple of easy weeks this summer. That’s online at MoneyPit.com.
    LESLIE: That’s right. And while you’re surfing the web, why not head on over to MoneyPit.com and e-mail us your question? You can click on the Ask Tom and Leslie icon. And I’ve got one here from Tim in Montana who writes: “My wife and I recently inherited a 70-year-old home from her grandmother. We’re having a devil of a time cleaning the tub. Her grandmother used a lot of bath oil and the dirt appears to have stuck to the tub. I’ve tried Ajax and Comet with little luck. Do you have any suggestions and/or a product suggestion that could help?
    TOM: Hmm. Well, if it gets to be a really tough stain, I like to make a paste out of Bon Ami.
    LESLIE: Oh, that’s true.
    TOM: Yeah, I like that better than Ajax and Comet. It works best on my Corian sink and I think it works best in tubs as well. So you could make a paste with Bon Ami and apply that and let it sit there for a while, 10 or 15 minutes, and then scrub it away. If you still have stains after that – and because this is a 70-year-old house, I’m going to guess that this is an enamel tub – you can rub …
    LESLIE: Rather than acrylic, right?
    TOM: Right. You could rub it down with a pumice stone. It’s a very, very fine abrasive stone that will take the stains off but probably won’t damage the tub if you do it very, very carefully. However, if you have an acrylic tub, you can’t use pumice because it will scratch it.
    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Alright, and that should work. And congratulations on the house and good luck with all the projects. A 70-year-old home, I imagine you’re going to have a lot to work on there.
    TOM: Absolutely.
    LESLIE: Now I’ve got one here from Annie in New Jersey who writes: “I need help with my kitchen sink. It’s so annoying to hear the pipes vibrate and shake. It’s both the hot and cold water and the only way for me to stop that noise is to use a lower stream of water. What is it?
    TOM: The problem here is that you have a bad washer in your kitchen faucet. Now you could probably replace the valve seat or the washer itself but, frankly, by the time you go through all the time it’s going to take to find the right replacement part, the cost of those faucets have come down so much right now that you may be better off, Annie, replacing it.
    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Might as well just replace it.
    TOM: And if you are going to replace it, make sure you buy one that is WaterSense-certified because WaterSense-certified faucets use 30-percent less water than a typical faucet and the better ones do so without losing any flow whatsoever. It’s an EPA program similar to Energy Star but it’s called WaterSense; it applies to faucets, sprinklers, toilets, all kinds of plumbing fixtures out there, and it really does add up and saves you a lot of money in the long run.
    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And it’s a really great and simple way to be environmentally friendly in your home without even having to think about it.
    TOM: Well, home remodelers have taken quite a hit because of the recession over the last couple of years but there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel. Leslie has got the scoop on today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.
    LESLIE: That’s right. Researchers at Harvard, they are sharing some good news with us. They say that home improvement and fix-up business should pick up this year after a 25-percent drop since 2007. That’s amazing. But fancy fix-ups are not the way that most of you are going. Now homeowners in the market for a redo are being very cautious. More than half of those planning to spend money will do so on repairs and maintenance and energy-conserving or environmentally-friendly upgrades are still on many homeowners’ must-have to-do lists. So go ahead and choose wise home improvements to keep up the value of your money pit.
    TOM: Good point. And Leslie, just a few weeks ago – actually, a couple of weeks ago – Warren Buffett was out with his prediction that the end of the real estate slump is in sight. By the end of the year, it will be all over and we will be good to go for 2011.
    LESLIE: That’s great to hear.
    TOM: So let’s hope that old Warren is correct.
    You are tuned to the Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com.
    Coming up next week on the program, if spring cleaning has you getting up on a ladder, don’t take that first step without taking some advice on ladder safety. That’s coming up next week on The Money Pit.
    I’m Tom Kraeutler.
    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
    TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …
    LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.

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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.)

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