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Home Makeover Ideas for Mother’s Day, How to Make Sure Your Lights Are Off When the Room Is Empty, Learn Ways to Find and Save Money for Home Improvements, and more

  • Transcript

    TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is 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: Here to help you get your projects done around your house. So take a look around. There’s something that’s got to be done. It’s a beautiful day, beautiful weekend. Time to get out, tackle a project inside the house, tackle a project outside the house. We are here to help you.

    Whatever is on your mind, if you’re going to do it yourself, great. If you’re going to direct it yourself, hire somebody, we can help you know what the right questions are to ask. And we can especially make sure that if you’re a do-it-yourselfer, you don’t become a do-it-to-yourselfer by taking some steps in the wrong direction. But you’ve got to help yourself first by calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Coming up this hour, is the mom in your life one of the hardest people to buy gifts for? Well, if so, why not give her the gift of home improvement? We’re going to highlight a few affordable Mother’s Day projects that are sure to please, just in time for her special day.

    LESLIE: And here’s something I know your mother probably bugged you about as a kid: how many times have you left a room and forgotten to turn off the lights? Daily, I bet. We’re going to tell you about a light switch that does the thinking for you, so you never have to remember to turn the lights off again.

    TOM: And if you’re thinking about buying or selling a home this spring, we’ve got a great set of money-saving tips coming up from the experts at Kiplinger’s. Pat Esswein is going to be here. She’s the housing writer and she’s going to have some tips on buying homeowner’s insurance, reducing property-tax assessments and even how to get the best deal on a mortgage.

    LESLIE: Alright. And we’ve also got a great prize this hour. We’ve got an awesome set of tools from Stanley, which could be a terrific gift for Father’s Day, which is next month. But let’s not forget Mother’s Day because if more moms had awesome tools, then people wouldn’t be borrowing mine all the time.

    Now, the Stanley prize pack includes a FuBar Demolition Bar, which is menacing and amazing; a FatMax tape that’s 25 feet long; an AntiVibe hammer; a utility knife; a tool box; a flashlight; much, much more. It’s worth 235 bucks.

    TOM: So, give us a call right now. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. One caller to the show this hour – and it might be you – will get that prize package.

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

    JOANNA: Well, what I have is two large septic tanks and I used RID-X for the last 15 years on these particular two tanks. I’ve never had to have them cleaned. Don’t have any problem with them but the question I have is: would it be advisable just to go ahead and have them cleaned or should I continue with what I’m doing and wait until the time comes?

    TOM: Now, it is advisable to have your septic tanks pumped and cleaned probably about every five years. So if you’ve not done that, it’s not a bad idea for you to do that now.

    JOANNA: Uh-huh. OK. Well, I was a little concerned about that. And then, would you recommend using the liquid or the granules? Liquid is something new that they have come out with and I always like to stick with what I’ve – what works, you know?

    TOM: Well and you’re doing pretty well with it. So, I think companies come up with products just so they have another SKU to sell, another item to sell.

    JOANNA: Right.

    TOM: But if it’s working, why change it?

    LESLIE: Charles in Ohio is on the line and is dealing with some dogs that like to just eat away at the yard. What’s going on?

    CHARLES: I was wondering if there’s an economical way to fix my problem I’m having in my backyard. I have a fence that’s square-shaped in the back of my yard, if you count the back of the house. I have two dogs and they like to run from one side of the house to the other, leaving a mud path – hard-baked path – from one side of the house to the other. And I’m looking for a way to fix that that would be easy on my pocketbook.

    TOM: OK. So, can we control the dogs so that they won’t wear it out again if we restore the lawn?

    CHARLES: No. The dogs, they – any time they see anything come across in front of our house, they like to run from one side to the other. So without chaining them up, which defeats the purpose of our fence, we like to let them run free.

    TOM: You know what? A couple of things come to mind, one of which is that the kind of grass that you have there – I was thinking, Leslie, that something like a zoysia grass might be a little bit tougher.

    LESLIE: I mean it is very, very durable.

    Now, the other thing I was thinking – is this directly in the front of your house or is it on the side of your house?

    CHARLES: The fence is in the back of the house, so basically it’s a big smiley face from the left side of the house to the right side, because they run around the – my deck.

    LESLIE: I was going to say if there’s a way to make a slate pathway or some sort of stone that obviously would change the look of the yard itself but would give you an area that’s not going to be constantly scratched away at.

    CHARLES: That sounds very feasible.

    LESLIE: And that’s not difficult to do. You can completely create a pathway using some edger or you can get remnants of slate at any sort of stone yard. You can think about a ton of different ways to do it. Pavers. You can pick a price point and stick to it.

    CHARLES: That sounds great. Will the dogs, because I put stone back there, stay off of that and create a new path or will that not affect the dogs at all?

    TOM: I don’t think so. I think the dogs want to run against that fence, so they’ll probably try to get as close to it as possible.

    CHARLES: That sounds great. I sure do appreciate it. I’ll look into some stone work then that – where I can make a smiley face going – back of my house.

    TOM: Alright, Charles. Good luck with that project. 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, are you still in need of a Mother’s Day gift but maybe a little short on cash? Why not give her the gift of home improvement? We’ll highlight a few, simple projects that you can do for your mom, after this.

    (theme song)

    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: Got a great set of tools giving away this hour to one lucky caller from our friends at Stanley. It’s a medley of their most popular products and it’s a set of products that would be a terrific Father’s Day gift that’s coming up next month. It includes the Stanley Stud Sensor 150. I like this stud sensor because it is designed to read multiple depths. It can read as deep as an inch-and-a-half into the wall, so it could really help you figure out what’s going on behind that wall.

    We’ve also got the FuBar Demolition Bar, which is a really cool tool for tearing things apart so you can start rebuilding projects in your house, and a whole bunch of other products: a tape measure, an AntiVibe hammer, a retractable utility knife. The whole kit and caboodle worth 235 bucks. That package going to go out to one caller, drawn at random, who reaches us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Michelle in South Carolina, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    MICHELLE: I was curious. We just bought a house; it’s a fixer-upper and it has six exterior, sliding-glass doors on the interior of the house.

    TOM: That’s kind of weird, isn’t it?

    MICHELLE: Yeah, I think that the people who did the house had – they were an elderly couple and they did a few additions.

    TOM: OK.

    MICHELLE: And when did they did the – they didn’t really renovate; they just added.

    LESLIE: Added on and kept everything as it was and sliding door and all.

    TOM: OK. Right.

    MICHELLE: Yep. But I appreciate it because I’m a creative person, so I loved the collection of spaces and what it could be.

    TOM: OK.

    MICHELLE: My question is: can I take the sliding-glass doors from the interior and put them in an exterior wall?

    TOM: If they are, in fact, exterior-grade doors, I don’t see why you couldn’t. But if they’re an older sliding door, you – the work in doing this is so much so that the expense of buying a new sliding-glass door would – may be insignificant compared to it. So I wouldn’t want you to …

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Plus the energy efficiency.

    TOM: I wouldn’t – that’s right. I wouldn’t want you to go through all the work of pulling out an old door, having to reframe it open to fit this old door and then put in an old, inefficient door. I’d rather, if you’re going to do all that structural work, that you put in a new, modern, energy-efficient door that’s going to really save you some money.

    MICHELLE: OK. Is there anything to do with old sliding-glass doors?

    TOM: No.

    LESLIE: I mean are you taking them out?

    MICHELLE: I eventually will have to take them out, just because they’re just cumbersome and don’t make good use of the space.

    LESLIE: What you could do is contact your local Habitat for Humanity. Because if they’re in good condition and truly functioning and are exterior doors, they could use them on products and they also have sort of a warehouse that they’ll use to keep this stuff and sell off items that they’re not using anymore. So it might be just a good place that you know it’ll actually get used and not end up in a landfill.

    MICHELLE: Oh, that’d be great. Will they come get them?

    LESLIE: I’m not sure. I know it varies from state to state but if you check out their website, they’ll help you out with all of that.

    MICHELLE: Great. OK, thanks.

    TOM: You’re very welcome. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, if you can’t decide what to get the special mom in your life, why not think about a home improvement? That will surely put a smile on her face. You should really give diamonds and a home improvement? Come on. These ladies work super-hard for you.

    But here’s what you do. A home improvement truly is a great gift. What you have to do is ask her what’s bothering her most about her house and then fix it. Now, if you’re lucky, it could be simple as a leaky faucet or doing some work in the garden. Or it could be painting the entire exterior of the home. Whatever it is, the options are endless. And you don’t have to pick just one; you can do them all.

    TOM: That’s right. So what about maybe just cleaning the outside of her house? You can mix up a simple solution of 20-percent bleach and 80-percent water and attack any mildew or mold spots on the exterior.

    Now, if you do this project, you want to do it when it’s sunny outside. Why? Because the sun helps to kill the mold spores. Just apply the solution, let it sit for about 10 minutes before giving it a good scrub with a stiff brush to get rid of those spots. Then you can rinse it off using your pressure washer. Just remember not too much pressure, because we don’t want to poke holes in Mom’s siding. That would make her very, very sad for Mother’s Day and we’re trying to make her happy.

    Now, if you want some more simple ideas just like that, go to MoneyPit.com and search for “spring home improvement projects.”

    LESLIE: Bob in North Dakota, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you?

    BOB: Yeah, I’ve got 10 years of cigarette suds (ph) on top of my ceiling here and I’d like to know how to take care of that. I’ve got a textured ceiling and what do I have to do to repaint it to make it look new again?

    TOM: Wow, it’s tough because you’ve got a textured ceiling. So what we’re going to tell you to do is to use an oil-based primer on the textured ceiling. You’re going to need a very thick roller and they sell special rollers for that that have slits in them, so it’s designed to get in …

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. They look like a spiral ham.

    TOM: Yeah. It’s designed to get in those nooks and crannies of the textured ceiling.

    BOB: Oh, yeah.

    TOM: But you’re going to have to use an oil-based primer and that will seal in all of that cigarette smoke. Because it’s just so darn hard to clean a textured ceiling. You’re going to have to repaint it with an oil-based primer. It’s as if the house was in a fire, you know? It’s the same kind of thing.

    BOB: Exactly, yeah.

    TOM: You’re sealing in all of that old smoke. And then once you do that, you can use a latex ceiling paint on top of the oil-based primer. But you need to use a really good-quality oil-based primer underneath first. That’s the only way you’re going to have a half-of-a-chance of sealing in that smoke smell and not having to live with it over and over again. OK, Bob?

    BOB: OK. Thank you.

    TOM: You’re welcome. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Trudy from Colorado Springs, Colorado on the line with a bathroom-refinishing question. How can we help you today?

    TRUDY: I have a bathtub that’s kind of an old bathtub and it’s got some chips and dings in it, so not a pretty color and things like that.

    TOM: OK. OK.

    TRUDY: So I’ve been sent a lot of flyers on something called Miracle Method and they say that you can make it look like new. But my question is, does it look like new for a week and then it looks as chipped and nasty as before?

    TOM: Yeah, well, a lot of the refinishing/reglazing products that – certainly the ones that you can do yourself don’t last very long. They look sort of like a glorified paint project when you’re all done. I think what you’re talking about is a franchise system and I think their website is MiracleMethod.com. And with all of these franchisees, it really just comes down to who’s behind it and the workmanship behind it.

    So I would tell you that what you should ask them is for – is a comprehensive list of references, of folks that they’ve had this done – this work done for. I would ask for references that go back not a week, not two weeks but six months, a year, two years even. And then I would call those folks and ask them what their experience has been. And if they cannot provide that list, for whatever reason they give you, or you call them and get bad information then, of course, you have your answer right there.

    TRUDY: Oh, well, perfect. Well, thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Richard in Texas on the line, who is possibly pretty mad at his son about this question he’s about to ask. What happened, Richard?

    RICHARD: My son changed his oil on his car and made a mess underneath of it and didn’t ever tell me about it. And unfortunately, he parked his car over it, for the most part. And now that his car’s gone, the oil stain is still there and I can’t seem to find any solution to getting it out. It was a new concrete and we put a sealer down and it didn’t – apparently, it didn’t work.

    TOM: From what you’re telling us here, you’ve done a lot. You’ve pressure-washed it, you put a degreaser, you used muriatic acid, you used kitty litter. It may be so into that concrete now that you’re not going to draw it out.

    The only thing that we can suggest that sometimes works is TSP – trisodium phosphate. And you buy this at a paint store and you mix it up like a paste and then you trowel it on over that stain and let it sit for a while. And that might, might pull some of it up.

    LESLIE: Get some of it up.

    TOM: But unfortunately, you’ve got this to the point now where it’s so embedded in there that I don’t think you’re going to be able to totally bring it back to the way it was. So you may want to think about using a concrete stain and restaining the whole surface or even an epoxy paint. They have epoxy paints that go on driveways today that are very durable, that can give you some protection against this ever happening again.

    RICHARD: Right. Well, I have some of that in my garage floor, where you roll it on and you put the little glitter over the top of it?

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Exactly.

    TOM: Yeah.

    RICHARD: And that seemed to work pretty good in there. Is there anything that I have to specifically pretreat that concrete with so that it will stick and not come up?

    LESLIE: Generally, the kits, when you purchase them, they’re sold in sort of stages and steps. And one of the first steps is an etching process, which will do the cleaning and prepping of the surface. But you definitely want to make sure that you clean the surface. Make sure that you get whatever dirt and dust are just sitting on top of it off of it.

    And if you do use some water to give it a good cleaning, let it dry out very well before you apply anything. And then check your forecast, because you want to make sure that this has proper curing time and that there’s no chance of rain.

    TOM: Exactly.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now I’ve got Sharon on the line who is dealing with a grouting issue. What’s going on there?

    SHARON: Well, I have grout in my kitchen, around tiles. They’re about 5-inch tiles or so and …

    LESLIE: Are they counter tiles or backsplash?

    SHARON: Both.


    SHARON: Countertop and backsplash. And the problem, Leslie, is just the flat countertop.

    TOM: OK.

    SHARON: Since it’s so old, I don’t know if it was sealed correctly. It’s kind of stained and dirty and I was wondering the best way to clean it out. Would you have to chip it all out or can you clean it with something and then regrout it and reseal it? What can I do?

    TOM: Yeah. Well, yes and yes. So, you can try cleaning it and what you might want to try is a grout stripper, not a grout cleaner. It’s a little more aggressive in terms of its ability to pull out stains. However, if that doesn’t work to your satisfaction, you can get a grout knife and – or a grout saw, I should say – and cut out the grout that’s there and then simply put in some new grout, which is a very easy home improvement project to do.

    SHARON: OK. And then, how do you go about – once you put the grout in, how do you go about sealing it?

    LESLIE: Well, you want to let it dry – cure – really well and before it actually cures, you want to clean the tile surface very well. You want to sponge away any of that clouding that you see from the grout because once that sets, you’ll never get it off of the tile. So really do a good job of cleaning off your tile. Let that grout properly cure and then you need to get a grout sealer and apply it.

    And the best way is they sell these little applicators. They look almost like small, squeezy bottles and they have a little foam roller-top or a little nail-polish brush. And that helps you just apply it right to the grout. And then put that sealer on and that’ll really do a good job of helping you keep that grout looking clean for a while.

    SHARON: OK. So do you have any suggestions on how to keep it looking good? I mean is the sealer going to keep all of that nasty stuff out or do you just kind of scrub it a little gently after you’ve sealed it, once it’s sealed?

    TOM: Well, there’s two kinds of grout: there’s sand grout and epoxy grout. And if you use the epoxy grout, it’s a lot harder to install but it does stay stain-free a lot longer. So that’s another option for you, too.

    SHARON: OK, OK. Very good. And I like your zippy hold music. It makes you want to do aerobics.

    TOM: Alright. Well, we hope it’s a tune for you to work by.

    SHARON: Yes, wonderful.

    TOM: Alright.

    SHARON: Thank you so much for your help and have a wonderful day.

    TOM: You’re very welcome. Good luck with that project. Thanks again 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. Let’s face it: when you own a home, you know it’s a bottomless pit of expenses. But there are ways that you can pay less for your homeowner’s insurance or even lower your property taxes. We’re going to fill you in on some secrets, after this.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Kleer Decking, the high-quality, low-maintenance PVC decking solution that will look as great in 25 years as it does today, thanks to superior stain- and fade-resistance and a lifetime warranty. So you can rest easy on your beautiful, brand-new deck. Learn more at KleerDecking.com.

    TOM: Where home solutions live, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Well, all of the economic indicators are pointing to one thing: homeowners, they are ready and willing to spend money on their homes again. Hooray!

    TOM: Hooray!

    LESLIE: Some are even ready to sell. After waiting out a terrible housing market, things are really starting to look up.

    TOM: That’s right. So, if you are going to spend some money, how do you make sure you get the best value for your dough? Whether it’s selling your home or even fixing it up, joining us now with that answer is Pat Esswein. She’s the housing writer for Kiplinger and she’s got great ideas on finding and saving money for home improvements.

    Thanks for being with us, Pat. Welcome to the program.

    PAT: Hi. How are you?

    TOM: Pat, let’s start by talking about reshopping your home insurance. How much could you actually save by taking a look at your home insurance policy?

    PAT: Well, for example, if you increase your deductible from $500 to $1,000, you could potentially reduce your premiums by up to 25 percent.

    TOM: Well, that makes a big difference.

    PAT: Another thing that you should do is just to take advantage of discounts for improvements like security systems, smoke alarms, fire extinguishers, sprinkler systems, weather-related renovations like installing an automatic backup generator or adding stormproof shutters. Those kinds of things could trim your premiums by 5 to 10 percent each.

    And then, finally, you should take the opportunity to shop your homeowner’s and auto policies from the same insurer. And that can typically save you 10 percent on each policy.

    TOM: So a lot of places to save.

    PAT: Yes.

    LESLIE: You know, I would think another place to save would be when it comes to your property taxes. It seems like I’m always getting something in the mail about – “OK, this is what your home has been assessed for.” And then I get something else in the mail that says, “Hey, do you think your property has been assessed for the right amount? Let’s reduce your taxes.” How do you know things are correct?

    PAT: Well, the only way that you can really do it is to research your assessment. So the first thing that you want to do is go to the – either the website or the office of the local tax assessor to see – to look at the property record for your house and make sure they have the correct information. Then you’re going to have to look at comparables of the information of homes that are similar to yours in your area and make sure that you’re not overassessed.

    TOM: Good point. And coming off of the recession with reduced housing values, you say here that about 30 percent of properties are assessed at higher values than they’re actually worth. We experienced that – my wife and I – ourselves and we actually filed our own request for reevaluation. And through the online systems that were available through local and the county tax assessor’s office, we were actually easily able to get that tax amount reduced. So this is something that could be a do-it-yourself project.

    Finally, let’s talk about scoring the cheapest mortgage: another thing that we don’t look at too often. Is now a good time to think about refinancing? And how do you know when the cost associated with refinancing is really going to pay off in the long run?

    PAT: Well, first of all, there is probably never going to be a better time to either refinance or get a purchase mortgage for a new home. Rates are at historically low, low rates.

    When you’re ready to shop, you can take a look at websites like MortgageMarvel.com, where you can get rate quotes anonymously. Or you can go to LendingTree.com or websites like QuickenLoans.com or INGDirect.com. In those cases, lenders will contact you, so you won’t be anonymous and you will hear from them.

    TOM: Well, that sounds good. So it’s a good time to think about saving some money in your house, whether it’s reshopping your home insurance, fighting an excessive property assessment or even considering a re-fi. Now is the time to do it.

    Pat, thanks so much for filling us in.

    Pat Esswein, the housing writer for Kiplinger. Take a look at their website at Kiplinger.com. You can follow Pat’s articles right there.

    Thanks, Pat.

    PAT: Thank you. Take care.

    LESLIE: Alright. Imagine how much money you could actually save if you never had unnecessary lights on. We’re going to tell you how to do that, after this.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Flood. Know how to open a can of wood stain? If it’s Flood Wood Stain, you’ve already mastered the hardest part. From the first board you brush to the last, Flood products make it surprisingly simple to protect and beautify your deck, fence and more. Find a retailer at Flood.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: Giving away a great set of tools from our friends at Stanley this hour. Going to go out to one caller who reaches us with their home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    This set of tools will make a terrific Father’s Day gift. It includes the FuBar Demolition Bar. Now, I love this tool because it’s got a cool name. Plus, let’s face it, before you rebuild, you have to tear things apart, right? I mean if you’re going to redo a wall, you’ve got to take the old drywall off first.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And that’s the fun part.

    TOM: Really fun. And the easiest way to do that – it’s just so perfectly designed for projects like that. And they’ve also got the Stanley IntelliSensor Plus Stud Sensor, which is a great stud sensor because it helps you see deep into the wall and avoid things like plumbing pipes that you don’t want to hit. And it can also find wood studs, where you want to hang heavy pictures and things like that.

    So, anyway, the package is worth 235 bucks altogether but we’re going to give it out to one lucky caller who reaches us with their home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Jane in Missouri who’s dealing with some tornado damage. How can we help you?

    JANE: Well, we have – we lost all three of our big trees. They were, I don’t know, probably 50, 60-foot-tall trees.

    TOM: Wow. OK.

    JANE: And there was a little bit of tree left; they were 85 percent on the ground.

    TOM: OK.

    JANE: And we had an arborist come and tell us that the tree is going to get diseased and die if you try to save the – what’s left of it. And we had them cut down.

    TOM and LESLIE: OK.

    JANE: But now we want to replant and there are a lot – there are probably 59 different people coming through here and going, “Can we grind your stump?” And I’m wondering, is it worth the extra money to pay for a backhoe to come and dig it out before I try to replant?

    TOM: I don’t think so. I think if you just grind it below to the surface of the ground and then replant around it, that you’ll be fine. I don’t think you have to go through the destruction of having a backhoe come in and totally tear up your yard just to get those stumps out in full. If you get it just ground down to within a foot – a few inches to a foot or so – below the surface of the ground, Mother Nature will do the rest.

    JANE: OK.

    LESLIE: Alright? And good luck with everything you need to do.

    TOM: Yeah, Jane. I guess you consider yourself lucky, though, if all you lost was a few good trees.

    LESLIE: Trees are the issue. You’re fine.

    JANE: Yes, we had to have a new roof put on but that’s been done and we have other little minor damage. But we consider ourselves very fortunate that we still have our home and all of our family.

    LESLIE: Great.

    JANE: And everyone in Joplin cannot say that, so we are very fortunate.

    TOM: Yeah. Alright. Well, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT and if you need any more repair help – you and your neighbors in Joplin – don’t be afraid to call us again.

    JANE: OK. Thank you very much.

    TOM: You’re welcome.

    Well, hey, do you remember when your mom would yell at you for leaving the lights on in an empty room? Or in my case, it was always my dad. But now that you pay the electric bill, you know what she was talking about, right? Well, wouldn’t it be cool if you had a switch that would automatically turn those lights on and off for you? You would have avoided all that angst as a kid. But the nice thing – that your kids don’t have to suffer through the same sort of abuse, because there is a switch that does that.

    LESLIE: We’ll still find something to complain about, I’m sure.

    TOM: Yeah, we’ll complain about something else.

    And it’s made by Lutron, one of our sponsors. We love this product. It’s the Maestro Occupancy Sensing Switch.

    Let me tell you how this works. The sensing switch automatically turns the lights on when you walk into a room and off when you leave. You got that? On, off. Isn’t that cool?

    Because every time we leave the house at night, Leslie, I always look up at our second floor and invariably, one of the kids has left the lights on in their room.

    LESLIE: Oh, I’m sure. And if anybody is like my son, he doesn’t want to go in anywhere that’s dark, so lights are on everywhere.

    Now, what’s cool about this sensing switch is that it’s going to work with all types of light bulbs. And it will also only turn the lights on when there is not enough daylight in the room, so there’s not going to be any wasting of power in the middle of a super-sunny day.

    You can find out more about the Maestro Occupancy Sensing Switch when you visit ChooseLutron.com.

    TOM: That’s ChooseLutron.com.

    LESLIE: Nathaniel in Colorado is dealing with a floor that’s kind of in disrepair. Tell us what’s going on.

    NATHANIEL: I’ve got a floor problem. I was – had removed some shelving and it appears underneath the shelf, the floor has started to just rot out. And actually, when I step on it, it kind of crumbles away. And we’re kind of trying to find some advice so I wouldn’t have to replace the whole floor but maybe just replace that segment somehow.

    TOM: What’s the floor made of? Is it – is this a strip floor, like a hardwood floor? Or is it a plywood floor? What kind of flooring you got?

    NATHANIEL: It’s a hardwood floor. It’s got little cubes of wood laid over top of particle board.

    TOM: Does it look like somebody put a bunch of puzzle pieces together?

    NATHANIEL: A little bit, yes.

    TOM: Yeah, I think he’s got parquet floor.

    LESLIE: Yeah, that’s a parquet.

    TOM: Alright. Well, here’s the thing. That’s the hardest floor to patch. But what you’re going to have to do is – first of all, you have to – in order to repair the rotted section, you have to remove the parquet layer in the area that’s damaged.


    TOM: And before you do that, of course, you’ve to see if you can find replacement parquet for it so that once you get the structural part repaired, you can replace the parquet part. So that’s going to be a lot of work but it can be done if you can identify the product and see if you can get replacement parquet flooring for it.

    How big is this room?

    NATHANIEL: It’s approximately – the section I’m replacing is a lot smaller but the room itself is probably 20 feet by 15 feet.

    TOM: Alright. Well, I think this is going to be a lot of work to try to find the replacement to preserve that floor. Is the floor so nice it’s worth preserving the rest of it?

    NATHANIEL: Not particularly but just having to replace that much of it – I’m OK with replacing just a segment, even if it looks a little odd, just so that – because it’s a lot of floor to replace.

    TOM: Because what I was going to say is if you just did the structural repair, you could probably put a second layer of flooring on top of that.


    TOM: And you could put engineered floor, you could put laminate floor or something of that nature. And that would make the whole room look terrific.

    NATHANIEL: Right, right. I did see some laminate floor that wasn’t too expensive, that looks like it’s wood.

    TOM: Right, exactly. And it can look like wood. And like I said, as long as the floor isn’t really structurally damaged, you might even be able to go over what you have. But if it is completely rotted through, then you would just cut that area out, rebuild it and then put the laminate on top of the whole thing.

    NATHANIEL: Oh, OK. That’s a good idea. Well, thank you. I just need a direction to head.

    TOM: You’re welcome, Nathaniel. Good luck with that project and thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Well, if you have kids and you’ve put together a beautiful backyard jungle gym, it might look fantastic. But it could be unsafe if you don’t have a really soft base under that. We’ll tell you what to use to keep kids happy and safe as they play, after this.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Bostitch. Professional-quality hand tools. Pneumatic and cordless nailers and staplers.

    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: Well, vampires can be very popular movie heroes but energy vampires can do much more than scare you: they can cause horrifying electric bills. We’re talking about cell-phone chargers, televisions, computers and more that use electricity, especially when they’re turned off.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And these aren’t the cute, attractive Twilight vampires we’re talking – you know, we’re really talking about these energy vampires. And in fact, the Department of Energy says that 40 percent of the electricity used to power electronics is actually consumed when they’re off. Unplugging potential energy vampires, whenever possible – because even something as small as that plugged-in charger drains energy when it’s not even charging a phone, tool or appliance.

    TOM: That’s right. And we’ve got a whole host of energy-saving home improvements just like that, that are put together as part of our Go Green at Home Series, which is sponsored, in part, by the Philips Lighting Company. That’s online right now at MoneyPit.com.

    Philips has created products that can save energy in all of your lighting fixtures while making your home look great. See what light can do at Philips.com. And for more great, eco-friendly ideas and products, take a look at our green guide on MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: And while you’re there, head over to the Community section and you can post your home improvement question there. And I’ve got a post from Greg who writes: “How can I figure out how much paint I should buy to paint my very large living room? I’m using a very similar light color, so no extra coats will be needed.”

    TOM: Greg is a very optimistic fellow, right?

    LESLIE: Seriously.

    TOM: Well, first of all, Greg, the rule of thumb is 400 square feet for every gallon of paint. I’d figure it at 350. No sense going to the last drop. And secondly, if you want to get away with one coat, you’d better buy really good-quality paint. Because if you don’t, it’s just not going to cover it and you might end up doing multiple coats anyway.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And if this is a very large living room, it sounds like you guys are using it a lot. So you want to spend the money on good paint that’s got a good finish, that’s eco-friendly and one that’s scrubbable. Because kids’ hands, they get on everything and you’d want to make sure that you’re able to clean it and not damage the finish.

    And you know what? I just painted my son’s room and a good gallon of eco-friendly, scrubbable, matte paint was 50 bucks a gallon. So don’t be afraid to spend the money because if you don’t, you’re going to be painting again in two years as opposed to five or more.

    TOM: Well, each year in the United States, more than 200,000 children, ages 14 and younger, get treated for playground-related injuries. This should get your attention if you have a backyard playset, because it can be really dangerous. Leslie has got some tips, though, on how to make sure your kids can play safe, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    LESLIE: That’s right. You know, the last thing you want in your backyard is a danger zone that can injure your kids or even the neighborhood children. But worse – I mean think about it – it could get you sued. Everybody is so litigious these days; you’ve got to be so careful.

    Now, most injuries happen from a fall onto a hard surface. So, you’ve got to coat the ground under your playset with at least 9 inches of wood chips, mulch or shredded rubber for equipment that’s up to 7 feet high. If you’re going to use sand or pea gravel, you need about 9 inches for equipment that’s even up to 5 feet high. Or you can use mats made of safety-tested rubber or rubber-like materials.

    Now, the most important thing is that whatever safety material you do decide to use, it’s got to extend 6 feet in all directions from the play equipment. So you don’t want it just underneath the equipment, because this is what happens: you get a kid, they climb up to the top; next thing you know, they think they’re Superman and they want to leap off of something.

    It always happens. I broke my leg when I was three; I thought I was Wonder Woman. I’m telling you, it’s going to happen. So you need to extend about 6 feet in all directions from the play equipment so when kids do decide to launch themselves, they can land as safe as possible.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up next week on the program, would you like to have some extra lighting over, say, some select work areas in your house, like maybe kitchen countertops or something like that? We’re going to teach you how you can add drama and style by installing pendant lights yourself, on the next edition of 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.

    (theme song)


    (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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