Home Maintenance Musts, Keep Kids Safe from Window Falls, How to Remove Smoke Odors from Your Home 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: Happy Spring, everybody. Hope it’s getting warm in your neck of the woods. If it’s not, it’s just around the corner. We’re going to help you get ready this hour.
LESLIE: What, you’re Mother Nature all of a sudden?
TOM: I think so, because I’m done with chilly weather. I was done with winter about, mmm, November.
LESLIE: December 26?
TOM: Yeah, that’s right. We got that big storm the day after Christmas. Who could forget that, if you lived in the Northeast? And it stayed around for about two months but we are far, far past that. That is all in our history. There is nothing but beautiful days and lots of happy home improvers ahead. And if you’re not, well, you need to pick up the phone and call us because we will help you get the job done. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
Coming up this hour, if tight budgets have you putting off home maintenance altogether, well, that’s probably a bad move. We’re going to tell you why maintaining your home is the smartest money you can spend in a shaky economy.
LESLIE: And also ahead this hour, warmer weather means it’s time to open up those windows and finally let in that fresh air. Thank goodness.
Oh, my gosh, I’m just so over it like you, Tom.
But every year, in this country, dozens of kids die and thousands are injured in falls from those open windows. So this hour, we’re going to teach you the steps to window safety, just in time for Window Safety Week, and that’s coming up.
TOM: And if you’ve just quit smoking or perhaps moved into a home or apartment that was once owned by a smoker, we’re going to have some tips on how to get rid of that smoky, stale odor that seems to permeate every inch of your home. It’s a tough one but it’s not impossible and we’ll tell you exactly what to do.
LESLIE: That’s right. Plus, this hour we’ve got a great prize that we’re giving away. We’ve got, up for grabs, the Duracell myGrid USB Charger, plus a Duracell Charger Pad to one caller who gets on the air with us. It’s a pretty cool prize.
TOM: It is because once you set this thing up, all you’ve got to do is drop your cell phone or your Blackberry on top of the pad and it charges.
LESLIE: Like on that pad.
TOM: It’s, you know …
LESLIE: And you can fit as many of the items onto it as you can.
TOM: Exactly. It’s a prize worth $115. Going to go out to one caller that reaches us with their home improvement question, chosen at random at the end of today’s program. So, why not let that be you? Pick up the phone and call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Leslie, let’s get to those phones. Who’s first?
LESLIE: Ann in Iowa is working on remodeling a kitchen. Tell us how your project’s going.
ANN: Well, we haven’t started it yet but I have high hopes.
LESLIE: OK. OK, good.
ANN: I had a question. I was looking – my husband and I, we’re remodeling to have an open floor plan between the kitchen and the dining room and the living area.
ANN: But we’re having some differing ideas on where to locate the sink. And I just wondered what type of things – what considerations you guys might have for us, as far as – my husband is thinking put it on the counter against the wall, looking out a window. And I’m wondering if maybe it would be better on the island, overlooking the room.
TOM: For the sink? I think because most of the work you do at your sink is sort of the small, day-to-day stuff, it’s always nice to have it near a window.
Some folks like to have a second sink in an island but that’s more for like vegetable prep and that sort of thing, right, Leslie?
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Or like a bar type of sink.
LESLIE: The main thing that you need to keep in mind is the functionality of the kitchen itself, Ann. And generally, people go by what’s called a “working triangle”: going from the fridge to your sink to your stove, so that it sort of triangulates between the three. And it doesn’t have to be a perfect, normal triangle – it can be any sort of access of the three points – but it’s just made for convenience.
An island is great. Some people put a cooktop in the island; some people will put a smaller sink. A lot of people also use the island as an additional eating, sort of sitting/dining area. You need to think, since you’re in that open plan, the other thing is in the open plan, your sink tends to get kind of messy. You’re going to have dishes building up there.
If you’re like me, your husband never puts the dishes in the dishwasher, so you’re going to be dealing with things sort of just building up and sitting around in that area, even if it’s just for a minute, which could be kind of distracting should it be in the center of the space.
LESLIE: So it might be better to have it off on the counter but think about how you’re going to traffic between the three areas. And put it really where it’s going to best work for you guys.
ANN: Right. OK, OK.
LESLIE: With an island, sometimes people will – and I’ve done this for clients before – sort of build a two-level island. And I’m not talking about a crazy height difference but maybe a 6-to-an-8-inch step-up, so you’ll have your work surface at the lower height, where you could have a sink.
ANN: Right. Right.
LESLIE: And then on that little step-up will be your overhang for your stools or your counter-service area. So that this way, if you’re looking it at from the open-plan area, it does hide that mess a little bit. So if it’s really something that you just have to have in the island, that helps.
ANN: How would that be, even if we didn’t have a sink there? Would it be – the uneven island – would that be a good idea, even if we didn’t have a sink or …?
LESLIE: It definitely helps, only because then you have an area to be a little bit messy and not be on showcase; the mess or the utensils sticking around or your kids’ projects.
ANN: Right, right.
LESLIE: It sort of gives you a little place to hide things from the main area.
ANN: Right, OK.
LESLIE: I think it’s definitely beneficial. Think about – when you’re planning the height, think about the stool height. You’re sort of stuck at 28 inches and 30-something inches, so make sure you pick a height for that step-up, that works with seating. And then also think on the kitchen side, you’re going to need something on that backsplash. So if you’ve got a certain tile in mind, think about two or three runs of that tile to give you the height that you need or whether you’re continuing your granite or whatever your surface is, as the backsplash. Because those are some things to consider.
ANN: You’ve helped me make my decision, so I really appreciate it. I love your show, too.
LESLIE: Thanks, Ann.
TOM: Good luck with that project, Ann. 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. Well, since it is officially spring, I’m hoping that you all have spring fever and not in the sense of you’re going crazy from I don’t know what. Let’s make it excitement for the home improvement season, which we all know spring fever should really be about.
So give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and we will help you get all of your spring home improvement projects done right the first time.
Still ahead, every year, as many as 20 children die in falls from windows and 15,000 are seriously hurt. We’ll tell you what you need to know to make sure this doesn’t happen to somebody in your family, next.
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. And we would love for you to be part of the fun, so pick up the phone and give us a call right now at 888-MONEY-PIT, because we’re going to help you out with your home improvement project. But we’re also giving away a great prize this hour. And one lucky caller who asks their question on the air could win the Duracell myGrid USB Charger and the myGrid Charger Pad.
Now, it’s a prize that’s worth 115 bucks and it’s really cool because the USB charger, it’s a portable device that you can use to charge dozens of different gadgets with the USB port, from phones to e-readers to iPods. And you can recharge it along with any other rechargeable, battery-powered device by just laying it on the Duracell myGrid Charging Pad.
That’s so awesome. It’s like you just take your Blackberry, pop it right on top and it’s charging away. So pick up the phone and we would love for you to be that lucky caller. Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, Window Safety Week is coming up; a time of year that’s devoted to keeping folks of all ages safe at home but especially the kids, who are vulnerable to one of the most devastating accidents that can happen at home. And that is a fall from an open window. To make sure this doesn’t ever happen at your house, here are some safety tips that we gleaned from the experts at Simonton Windows.
First up, you want to keep furniture away from windows. This includes cribs. Now, it might seem like a long shot for your toddler to be able to get to a window that’s blocked by the bars of a crib but you would be surprised at how ingenious those little ones are. And most importantly, you need to remember this: they learn new skills every day, making it very, very difficult to stay on top of it.
LESLIE: Indeed. And believe me, one day they’ll finally realize, “Oh, if I stand on that stuffed animal, I can actually reach over the top of the crib.” Hence, toddler beds. So just be careful when you’re placing your furniture in a room.
Also, when you’re opening windows in a kid’s room, you want to use the top sash of a double-hung window. This way, there’s no access to the open area. And you want to teach your kids that the window screens that are present are really only there to keep bugs out of the house and that they’re not designed to hold the weight of your child or your pet pushing or leaning against them. You know, one slight push and that screen can pop out, so you’ve got to be really careful.
You also want to think about window guards. They’re great; they’re easily installable. You can do it yourself; you can have a pro do it. That’s going to keep your kids from even getting to the screen. And then when you’re thinking about – God forbid, the worst happens – whatever goes on underneath that window, think about soft landscaping like shrubs, plants, bark and mulch. This way, should anything happen, at least you’re sort of cushioning the disaster. Just be careful, guys.
TOM: Now, if you’ve got older windows, maybe if they’re even painted shut or maybe they don’t work right or they’re very inefficient, you might also want to think about replacing those windows. There’s never been a better time to do that and there are so many benefits to new windows today.
For example, for added safety, you can get these multi-point-lock windows. Those are very cool because they’re incredibly secure and the little ones won’t be able to open them that easily. Now, for seniors, you can consider easy-to-operate windows that are like crank windows, for example. And if you’re worried about burglars, you might want to think about ordering impact-resistant glass. Now, for ease of maintenance and other reasons, vinyl windows are definitely the way to go.
Now, if you want more tips on window safety and the latest in window technology, you can get that from our friends at Simonton Windows. Their website is Simonton.com. And if you’re thinking about purchasing replacement windows, do check out The Money Pit’s guide to replacement windows. It’s a free download from our book, on the home page right now, at MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Rich in Pennsylvania, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
RICH: Hi. Well, I have a problem with condensation underneath my metal door, going to my basement. I’m in Pennsylvania, so we get quite a lot of cold and it accumulates and it drips off every time I open it.
TOM: Right. So, you’re talking about a Bilco door?
TOM: Mm-hmm. And it gets very wet and it drips down to the staircase and that sort of thing?
TOM: Now, the door that you have that actually is sort of the weather door – the one that’s on the basement; not the Bilco, which is sort of the basement-stairwell door but the actual door to the basement – what is that? What kind of door is that?
RICH: That’s made out of air right now. I haven’t put one on.
TOM: Oh. And therein lies the problem, sir. I suspected as much. I’m thinking you’ve got a really lousy door in that basement, because what’s happening is the warm air from the basement is going up and striking the underside of the cold, metal door – cold, metal, Bilco door.
RICH: And condensing.
TOM: And so, you’re not going to be able to stop this unless you get a proper door in that basement. Those Bilco doors are not made to be weatherproof, in the sense that they’re going to keep any heat that’s in that basement out.
RICH: I understand.
TOM: So that is an enormous energy loss for you right now. So you really need to get that sealed up; get a proper door in there. I mean look, you can go to a home center; you can buy an inexpensive, Therma-Tru door, for example, at Lowe’s. Put it in that opening, frame it in and it doesn’t have to be anything fancy. You’re really just putting in there – something there for energy. And seal off that basement, because you’re losing a boatload of heat, as evidenced by that moisture. Every time you see that water drip off, just think about all the heating dollars that it took to create that moisture.
RICH: Yes, yes. Very good.
TOM: Alright, Rich?
RICH: Thank you very much. Have a wonderful day. Bye.
TOM: That’ll do it. Alright. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Yeah, he’s describing this and I’m thinking, “Man, he’s got a really lousy door in that basement.” “Oh, yeah. I’ve got no door.”
LESLIE: “Oh, that explains it.”
TOM: That’ll do it.
LESLIE: Bud in Illinois, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
BUD: I’ve got – this house is built probably in ’38 – something like that – and it has a floored attic but with blown-in insulation. I think they’re about 2x6s or 2x8s. But the problem is I’d like to know if I need more insulation up there. And I have one window – a regular-size window – in the gable end.
BUD: And over the last 48 years, I have closed that thing up entirely in the winter and then put a screen over it, because of an exhaust fan.
TOM: And your winter just wouldn’t be right if you didn’t close up that vent, Bud.
BUD: Well, it gets kind of cold, yeah. Well, what I had was a builder told me to put a louvered window in there, so that the fan can take care of the heat.
TOM: OK. Because of the ventilation issue. Right.
BUD: And to leave it open.
BUD: So I’m just wondering what I should – should I go ahead and close it up completely in the winter?
TOM: Alright. So the attic is an unfinished attic. You use it for storage, correct?
BUD: Right, right.
TOM: You have – you think you might have 2×8 ceiling joists and they’re insulated but the flooring is above that, correct?
TOM: So, you do not have enough insulation based on current standards. Current standards would be 19 to 22 inches. Are there spaces in that attic floor that you’re not using for storage?
BUD: No, no.
BUD: It’s a little Cape Cod house; it’s got a small attic.
TOM: Alright. Well, then, you’re pretty much going to be giving up the opportunity to put additional insulation in there, because you’re using every square inch for storage. I was going to tell you, if you didn’t have storage all over the place, you could lay unfaced fiberglass batts on top of the floor and have them do the job.
BUD: Oh, OK.
TOM: But if you have that kind of a storage that sort …
BUD: Well, maybe I could move everything to one end.
TOM: Yeah, well that’s what – generally, what we do recommend is that you carve out a space for storage.
LESLIE: Like one, specific storage area.
TOM: Right. And the rest of it, you can lay fiberglass batts on top of the flooring and see if you can …
BUD: OK. And what thickness on that?
TOM: Well, 19 to 22 inches total. So if you’ve got 8 now, I would try to use at least 10 or 12-inch-thick batts and lay them right down, end to end, right on top of the existing floor.
BUD: Just lay them down?
TOM: Lay them down.
Now, in terms of your friend/builder advice, the guy is actually correct, because attics are supposed to be ambient temperature; they’re supposed to be the same temperature as the outside. We don’t insulate them; we try to let a lot of fresh air blow through them. And in doing so, they cart away moisture in the wintertime, which can affect the insulation. Because if your insulation just gets slightly damp, it becomes very ineffective. In fact, if you add 2 percent moisture to insulation, it reduces its effectiveness by about a third.
BUD: So what am I going to do, though, if it blows in rain and that sort of thing on top of the insulation?
TOM: Well, if your vent is designed as such where if you don’t cover it, it’s going to get wet, then that’s a problem; then you do need to cover it. But you just need to make sure you have enough ventilation.
BUD: I do have roof vents.
TOM: OK. And do you have any evidence of condensation on the underside of the roof sheathing? Do you ever see rusty nail tips or anything like that?
BUD: None. No.
TOM: Well, if you’re not getting any condensation, then you might just have enough ventilation with the way it’s configured right now. But the guy is technically correct, because you don’t want to close-in vents.
BUD: Well, we’ll go from there.
TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project. Bud, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Carol in Texas, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
CAROL: Hi. Well, I have a heat-pump system and to save energy, I’ve been turning it down at night and up in the morning; probably 6 or 8 degrees.
TOM: OK. Hmm. How’s that working out for you? Because I bet you’re not saving much energy.
CAROL: Well, that’s what I just found out. I didn’t – and someone had told me something, that I shouldn’t be doing that and I don’t know why.
TOM: Yeah. I can explain to you why. A heat pump is really a combination of two systems: it’s a heat pump, which is essentially an air conditioner that runs the refrigeration cycle backwards, and an electric furnace, where you just have electric heating coils that come on and the air blows over them. And they work together in the same box.
So here’s what happens. If the temperature in your house is – let’s say you have it set to 70 degrees. If it falls to 69, the heat pump will come on; it’ll try to bring the temperature up to 70. If it falls to 68, the heat pump will stay on. If it falls to 67 or more than a 2-degree difference between what you would like it to be and what it is in the house, the heat pump communicates to the electric furnace and says, “Whoa. I can’t keep up with this. Bring on the electric furnace and bring me up to temperature,” and then the heat pump will take over again.
So if you turn your heat down at night and spring it back up in the morning, obviously, you’re moving it more than 2 degrees. You’re essentially forcing the heat pump – oh, excuse me – you’re essentially forcing the electric furnace to come on all the time and that costs about twice or more to run than the heat pump.
So the way to do this is with a special type of setback thermostat, which mechanically brings it down very slowly and brings it up very slowly so it protects that 2-degree separation and never requires the electric furnace to come on. So if you buy a heat-pump setback thermostat, specially designed for heat pumps, you can have the convenience of turning your heat down at night and up in the morning without triggering the electric furnace. Follow me?
CAROL: Yeah. I see what you’re saying. Is this a special kind of thermostat? Is that something you put in …?
TOM: No, it’s a very common thing that you can buy. In areas where a lot of the homes are heated by heat pumps, you’ll even find them in the home centers. But you just want to make sure you buy one that’s rated for a heat pump; not a standard setback thermostat but one that’s set up for a heat pump.
This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Up next, as you try to cut costs at home, you might be tempted to let some of your home improvement plans go. But whatever you do, don’t let that home maintenance slide. It’s not a smart way to save you money. We’ll explain why, next.
ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Therma-Tru Doors, the nation’s leading manufacturer of fiberglass entry and patio door systems. Therma-Tru doors are Energy Star-qualified and provide four times the insulation of a wood door. To learn more, visit ThermaTru.com. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.
TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And you can head on over to MoneyPit.com right now to get a jump on all your spring projects. We’ve got home-maintenance musts, project suggestions and more. Just search “seasons” at MoneyPit.com and you will find your answers right there.
LESLIE: Kurt in Ohio has a house that’s cracking up. Tell us about it.
KURT: Yeah, I have this house I bought – purchased it – about five years ago. The house is about 16 years old. When I purchased the house, I noticed that the second floor had cracks in the ceilings, around the walls and everything.
KURT: And just the other day, I started noticing that they’re downstairs, as well, and I never saw them before, so I’m just kind of curious. Is this because the house is still settling? Is it because of something else? And how can I stop it and fix it and prevent it from continuing to do so?
TOM: Well, cracks that have not been attended to are pretty common in a house of that age. If you don’t – if you’re not seeing any foundation cracks or any evidence of real significant movement, I wouldn’t think that they’re necessarily indicative of a structural problem.
The way to fix a crack to make sure it doesn’t come back is to use a perforated drywall tape. There is some tape out there that looks kind of like a gauze. It’s sticky-backed and it sits on top of the drywall and then you spackle through it and into the drywall underneath. And we often recommend that type of tape to use for crack repair because it’s really strong and it doesn’t open up.
But the fact that you’re getting cracks in the walls and the ceilings at the corners, that’s pretty typical in a 16-year-old house. And if it’s never been attended to, that’s probably why.
KURT: OK. That’ll work then.
LESLIE: Well, if you’re tightening your belt, you may be thinking about slashing your home-maintenance budget and that could be a huge mistake.
TOM: That’s right. It’s never a good idea to slack off on taking care of your biggest investment. And don’t be chintzy with it, either. Here to explain why is This Old House host, Kevin O’Connor, who’s a guy that’s never been known to be chintzy.
KEVIN: Hi, guys.
TOM: So, Kevin, when it comes to just about any project that you know you have to do, even though you may not feel like it, the hardest part is just getting started. Any tips to help us just get going and make it a bit easier?
KEVIN: Well, I think you’re 100-percent accurate. Most people want to spend their weekends out on the golf course or biking around with the kids. And the thought of getting back into the house and fixing leaky faucets or scraping paint is not all that exciting for folks.
But that being said, you know, you do have to understand that your house is one of the biggest assets you’re going to own, so it makes sense to take care of it. And it’s also where you spend so much of your time, so you owe it to yourself to make it a comfortable place.
And there are a lot of home improvement projects out there, ranging in all different sizes, but so far as I’m concerned, every single one of those is really just a group of smaller projects. And if you break it down into the little pieces, it’s a lot easier to get started, knowing that you just have to start with a little, tiny project and then move on from there.
LESLIE: And is it best to sort of prioritize the importance of the project itself? Make a list that’s like, “I have to do this. This can wait a couple of weeks”? Should you tackle it in that sense?
KEVIN: Yeah, sure. A list of must-dos and should-dos and then the kind of I’d-like-to-dos is a great way to go about it. And there are things in your house that if you don’t address, they’re just going to get worse. If you’ve got plumbing that is leaking, it may not seem like that drip is that big of a deal but it’s dripping somewhere. And next thing you know, a leaky pipe’s going to turn into a rotted wall that’s going to turn into damaged sheetrock.
TOM: Well, that’s right. I mean look, your toilet’s a perfect example of that. If you’ve got a very slow drip-drip-drip under that wax seal, pretty soon you’re going to be looking at the need to rip out your bathroom floor.
KEVIN: Yeah, absolutely.
TOM: It takes a very small project …
LESLIE: And possibly the ceiling below.
TOM: That’s absolutely true.
But you’re right, Kevin. It all starts with the first step and those small projects are the way to get going, because the first one always seems like it’s going to be 100 pounds to lift that weight. But once you do that, you build up a bit of momentum.
KEVIN: No, absolutely. And I think if you break it down, in my mind, the priorities for me are basic maintenance. If something is broken and it’s starting to deteriorate, you go after those first, right? So stop the leak before it gets worse.
After that, the things that have the big effects, so far as I’m concerned, are curb appeal. You can get outside and get around the house. The things that you see and touch every day, how the house looks, cleaning up paint, scraping off some old chips and stuff like that, that’s good. Then move to the bigger projects and then even start thinking about where does your work stop and the work of a professional begin. Because you do have to call those guys in at some point.
LESLIE: So, Kevin, when it comes down to the time that you actually have to hire a pro, is it best to sort of lump a group of projects together before you bring that person in or should you really just tackle the important stuff and let whatever happens down the road happen?
KEVIN: I think it depends on your relationship with the professional. If you’ve got a good relationship with someone who’s come to your house time and time again and has served you well, then I don’t think it’s any problem having these things done piecemeal. “Joe, will you fix this for me and just that? We’ll have you back in a couple weeks or a couple months to do something else.”
If you’re going out and going to spend your time trying to find just the right person and it’s going to be a pretty big investment, well, then you probably want to have them there and do several things at once. Because as you guys know really well, getting them to come is not always easy and there’s a lot of work and time in the setup and the breakdown of all these things. So make it efficient for them and save yourself a couple bucks.
TOM: It’s also important to find one that doesn’t charge you more just because you started it first.
KEVIN: That’s true.
TOM: Kevin O’Connor, host of This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
KEVIN: My pleasure, guys.
TOM: And for more tips just like that, you can visit ThisOldHouse.com.
LESLIE: And you can watch Kevin and the entire This Old House team on This Old House and Ask This Old House on your local PBS station.
TOM: And both This Old House, as well as Ask This Old House, are brought to you by The Home Depot. More saving, more doing.
Still ahead, are stale, smoky odors stinking up your house? Learn how to air out and freshen those tough odors, next.
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: Give us a call right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. If you do, you will get a charge out of this prize. Ba-dum-bum. Because one caller we talk to on the air is going to win a Duracell myGrid USB Charger and the myGrid Charging Pad, a prize worth115 bucks.
Let me tell you how this thing works. If you’ve got any kind of cord …
LESLIE: Oh, I thought you were going to apologize for that joke.
TOM: Yeah, I will apologize, too. If you’ve got any kind of device – electronic device, cell phone, Blackberry, et cetera – and you’re used to having to plug it in, well, you won’t have to do that anymore because this myGrid charger pad thing is cool. You just drop it right on top of the pad and it charges through the pad and you could have multiple devices.
So, like in my case, my wife and I are always fighting over the Blackberry charging cable, because we had two …
LESLIE: Oh, it’s not an outlet issue? It’s the actual charger?
TOM: We didn’t – no, we had two. We had two and now we only have one. I don’t know where the other one is, so we had to share. So now we don’t because we’re going to get the myGrid Charging Pad.
It’s worth 115 bucks. Going to go to one caller that reaches us with their home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT and it might just be you, so pick up the phone.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. You know, that truly is a great prize. For us, it’s an outlet issue. In the kitchen, it’s always like my iPod, Ed’s iPhone, my Blackberry and we’re like, “Where do we plug everything in?” So this truly would be a game-changer for any Money Pit family out there.
Well, since it’s the spring season, we’ve decided to share some great, new ideas with you guys. And we are kicking off a brand new segment this week, on The Money Pit, right now that we are calling Fresh Ideas. And it’s being presented by our friends over at Citrus Magic.
And on tap for today, a question that we occasionally get about a house bought from a smoker or maybe from a former smoker who’s decided to go smoke-free but can’t deal with what’s going on in the house. So the question is: how do you clear the air from years of cigarette smoke that’s permeated everything from your furnishings to your rugs to your walls?
Well, this is what you need to know. You want to start with the fabrics. First of all, getting the rugs steam-cleaned is going to help a tremendous amount. It’s going to lift up the odors that are down deep in the carpet and in the pad and that’ll help get that out.
Now, if you’ve got upholstery, what you want to do is on your steam cleaner, get that upholstery attachment, because that works great on your furniture. And it’s going to do the same thing to get that smoke odor that’s just sort of sitting down way deep in all of that padding and stuffing and everything that’s built into your furnishings.
Also, draperies, window treatments. If you can, wash them. If you can’t wash them, get them professionally cleaned or laundered, whatever it takes, because that really helps, as well. Because the fabrics just absorb that odor and then sort of rerelease it every time there’s humidity in the air or it warms up.
Now, with your walls, you want to wash down your wall surfaces with a solution of TSP and that’s trisodium phosphate. You can find it in pretty much any home center; it’s usually in the painting aisle. And once you’ve washed down those walls, you want to repaint them. And you want to make sure that you start with a primer, because that’s going to seal in any of those odors that are left behind.
And then lastly, when you’re choosing the new top coat of paint, you want to choose a low-odor paint or even one of those new line of odor-absorbing paints. And if you take those steps, that’s really going to make a tremendous difference in your home.
TOM: Now, another thing that you can do that will impact the entire house is to consider installing an electronic, whole-house cleaner. These are much more advanced than the simple air filters and they can keep all kinds of contaminants to a minimum. In fact, the good ones can even filter out virus-size particles in the air.
And that’s today’s Fresh Idea, presented by Citrus Magic. To keep your home smelling fresh and clean all the time, I highly recommend Citrus Magic’s natural, odor-absorbing, Solid Air Freshener. It’s all-natural and it works very well to remove even the toughest odors from your home. It comes in several scents, including Citrus, Crisp Linen and Island Spring, which is my favorite.
And one Solid Air Freshener can absorb odors for 6 to 8 weeks in a 350-square-foot room. Visit CitrusMagic.com for more info on this and other great, all-natural products from Citrus Magic.
LESLIE: Now I’ve got Randy in Wisconsin, who is dealing with a wet basement. How can we help you today?
RANDY: Oh, well, I’ve got a problem with water leaking into my basement. And the situation is I’ve got a cinder-block basement and the – right where the rain gutter comes down on one corner of the basement, I’m getting water. It’s just coming in in one little, tiny spot. And it’s always in that same spot and it only seems to happen if we get a lot of rain, a really fast thaw; something like that.
And so, what I’m trying to figure out – I know that there’s companies out there that – they’ll do your whole basement and that costs thousands of dollars. And I’m just looking for a fix that would probably go a foot or two either way out of a corner.
TOM: Well, the good news is, Randy, you don’t need to hire any of those companies that charge you thousands of dollars. A very, very simple problem with a very simple solution.
TOM: As you mentioned, it happens whenever you get a heavy rainfall; it’s right near where you have some rainwater running off. So, do I understand that you have a guttered spout down here, as well?
TOM: OK. So what you need to do is this. First of all, take a look at the grading, which is the angle of the soil, in that area. Make sure that you add enough clean fill dirt to slope it away, so that you have a drop of about 6 inches over 4 feet, because you want to create proper run-off.
Secondly, and this is the most important thing, you need to make sure that all of your gutters are perfectly clean and free-flowing, that you take that downspout and you extend it out about 4 feet from the corner. If you do those two things, you will keep that soil around the house dry and you will stop the leak, 100 percent, from happening again.
TOM: Alright? Very simple.
RANDY: Well, that sounds good. I’ll try that.
TOM: Alright, Randy. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
And yet we saved one more homeowner from wasting money on basement waterproofing systems.
LESLIE: But it seems so easy to just give your money away. Come on. You just want to give your money away.
TOM: You want to give your money away, give it to a good cause. Give it to the Boy Scouts or the Girl Scouts. Don’t give it to the waterproofers, because you don’t need to.
LESLIE: Coming up, are unwanted visitors making themselves at home in your home? Well, you might think a few squirrels in your attic are harmless but they’ve got the potential to do some pretty serious damage to your house. We’re going to tell you how to get rid of them, next.
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. And we love the fact that we get a lot of questions from listeners who want us to repeat what we are talking about. It means that you’re actually listening. Well, maybe only with a half an ear but you’re really listening to us.
And you want to know the answers, the tips, the advice, the product recommendations. Well, if you didn’t get a chance to write it down or you missed it or you were only half-listening, there’s actually a super-easy way to get your answers to whatever you were looking for. Just search on our website our show archives, over at MoneyPit.com. Click on the thing that says “show archives.”
It’s all right there. It’s for your reference and it’s all free at MoneyPit.com. I mean you can even search by topic, so just type in whatever you might be looking for and it’s going to pop right up and you’ll get the answer that you’re looking for.
And while you are on the website, we’ve got a fantastic, new Community section and everybody is really having a great time posting their questions, their projects and you can do the same.
And we’ve got a post here from NJ. I was going to say New Jersey but I’m assuming this is just their initials. So the post from MJ – NJ – who writes: “How do you get rid of squirrels in the attic?”
TOM: You let them out.
LESLIE: Open the window and let them out.
TOM: Sometimes the same way you let them in. A couple of things you can do, MJ. First of all, you want to figure out how they got in there and obviously, repair, seal in. If there’s a hole, you can cover it with something like chicken wire. You want to block whatever entrance they may have carved out for themselves.
Secondly, the – probably the best way to get rid of any type of a rodent like that in the attic is with something called a Havahart trap. It’s a trap that – it’s a live trap, so it doesn’t hurt them. And the way to use the Havahart is to wire your bait into it so that those very sneaky squirrels can’t extract it without triggering the paddle that drops the door on them.
Typically, what I will do is take an apple or a pear or sometimes even a tomato or something like that – some fruit or vegetable – and I will wire it with a stiff piece of wire to the back of the trap. So if they go in the front, they have to go all the way to the back and they can’t grab it, because you kind of threaded the wire through it.
And then once you catch these guys, then of course you can take them down, take them out to the woods somewhere and let them go. And believe me, you point that door away from you, lift it up, they are going to go pa-ping, shoot right out there and just take off like a bat out of you-know-where.
LESLIE: Because they’ve had some time to plot against you, at that point.
TOM: They’re very happy to get away from you and that’s how we’ve done it in the past. It’s worked very well.
LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post from Charles in Brooklyn who writes: “My wood, parquet floor in our dining room is about 10 years old. One area is bubbling up. I think it’s from a leak I had in my radiator. The leak is fixed. How can I save this section of the floor or do I have to replace the floor?”
Now, with parquet, that’s where it’s sort of like four short boards making up a square and then put in in different directions, so you sort of get this fun, little pattern, correct?
TOM: Yeah. It’s almost like a mosaic, with wood.
LESLIE: Exactly. Are those done as an individual tile, to make up each area? Can you pop up a piece?
TOM: You know, the way they make the parquet is all of those little pieces are assembled, usually, into a 12×12 or 8×8 sort of tile. And there’s a lot of little pieces to it and typically, they’re glued on top of a net-like mat.
TOM: And it’s very difficult to repair this, I’ve got to tell you, Charles, because what happens is once the water gets into that wood, it swells. It causes it to detach from the mat below. Sometimes it swells and causes the other pieces to push up. So really, what you have to do is remove the damaged piece of parquet and then try to find something that’s close and rebuild it.
Now, if you can’t find something, keep in mind that you could always go deep into a closet and extract some flooring from an unseen area and use that as your patch material. But it’s very, very difficult to repair this in place unless you can sand it down, fill it, get it to lay flat and reglue the pieces. But it’s really difficult, because there’s so many pieces involved.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Alright, Charles. Really, get into your one closet in the borough of Manhattan – in Brooklyn. Look in your one closet, look at your floor.
TOM: Because you know you only have one.
LESLIE: Take a piece of your flooring and repair it. It’s really not a difficult project if you can find the piece to work with, so good luck with that.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. You now have our permission to pick up the tools, go outside and get to work on your house. 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 2011 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.)