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Home Remodeling Recovery, High Efficiency Washers that Save Money, Easy Bathroom Upgrades, and more

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    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: Welcome to this hour of the program. We are standing by to help you with your next home improvement project or your décor project.

    Leslie, I feel like we don’t give décor its due.

    But décor is important, especially in the winter when you’re stuck inside and you want to brighten up your space. So if you’ve got a décor project, a repair project, an improvement project or you’re thinking about planning a project for the spring or the summer ahead, give us a call right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT and we will help you do just that.

    Coming up on today’s show, you know, for the last several years, February has been pretty gloomy for remodelers but that is no longer the case. In fact, remodeling is now up about 13 percent over last year, so we’ve got some tips on how that fact can help brighten your winter and possibly your home.

    LESLIE: Also, what seems like a bargain appliance in the store isn’t a bargain at all if it costs a lot to run. Find out which appliance you should spend a little more on now to save money in the long run.

    TOM: And do you want a quick bathroom update that won’t cost a fortune? Well, you could be sitting on the solution. We’re going to explain why the latest in toilet seats can really step-up an otherwise blah bathroom.

    LESLIE: And this hour, we’re giving away a $50 prize pack from Greased Lightning, which includes both cleaning supplies and the right gear to get it done.

    TOM: So give us a call right now. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. Let’s get right to those phones.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Roy in Illinois is on the line and there seems to be a crack in the front of the garage.

    What is going on? Are you getting water in the garage? Is it on the door? What’s going on here?

    ROY: When the house was built about 21 years ago, they brought in a cement saw and they cut marks in it to control the cracking.

    TOM: OK.

    ROY: Well, the first cut is 4 feet from the garage door. Well, now, that part next to the garage has settled down so when it rains, the water runs towards the garage, which is making it worse.

    TOM: Ah, OK.

    ROY: And I saw a commercial on TV for this mudjacking outfit and they say for a little more than half what it costs to replace the cement, they could jack it back up in place. But you will see the marks where they drill the holes to put the cement in and will it last? Should we do the whole driveway over or is there some way we can do something to make it look good and last? It’s a beautiful place. We have no problems with anything except you drive in the driveway and you see that.

    TOM: Yeah. So when you get close to the driveway, that last slab, so to speak, tilts in towards the garage and it’s running water up against the house? Is that correct?

    ROY: Yes.

    TOM: Yeah. And that’s going to – could affect the foundation that’s holding the garage up because you throw a lot of water under it, it becomes less stable and you get a lot more movement. So I do think it’s an important thing to fix.

    Mudjacking will work and it can replace that area as long as they can lift that slab nice and even so it doesn’t crack and become worse. I would just try to get their guarantee that they’re not going to crack the slab in the process. But if they can get the mud underneath it – they’re basically filling in the low spots, bringing that slab up and then it’s not going to collapse anymore, because the concrete they put under it – the mud, so to speak – takes up that void.

    So, I wouldn’t be afraid of doing that. And if it turns out that that’s less expensive than breaking that one piece out and just pouring that one piece new, then I think you can do that. If you decide to break that out, I don’t think you have to do the whole driveway; you can just do that one piece.

    And make sure the soil below is properly tamped. You’re going to have to replace that with fill dirt and stone and get it tamped down. Tamping is really key so it’s really solid. What’s happened is water has gotten over there over the years, it’s softened the soil and that’s what’s caused that slab to sort of rotate with the car going back and forth.

    So I think either option is OK. It becomes an economic choice. My only concern is that you commit to spending money on mudjacking and end up breaking the slab and then you’re kind of almost back to the beginning.

    ROY: OK. Sounds great. Sounds like you’ve got the answers.

    TOM: Yeah, well, we try. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

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

    DANA: Well, I have a shelf that needs to be cut down so it’ll fit in the base of our A-frame cabin that we just bought in the Ozarks. And so it’s about 20 inches tall and it’s about 3 feet long and it kind of has those baskets that fit in it. And so, what I’d like to do is I’d like to cut it at an angle so that it fits back in there and it’s not just sticking out into the flooring space.

    LESLIE: So, Dana, what you need to do is that – I mean really what you have to do is sort of resize this piece so that it will fit into that open-bay portion so that it’s not, as you say, sticking out into the room. And you really need to be creative with the angles to sort of figure out what needs to come out of where.

    Can you tell me a little bit more about this A-frame and the size of the shelf?

    DANA: Well, the A-frame is just a regular A-frame; it goes all the way from the top to the peak, all the way to the ground level. And so I was trying to figure out, how do you figure the angle so that I know what angle to cut this shelf on?

    LESLIE: Well, there’s a tool that you’re going to want to get: T-bevel.

    TOM: Yep.

    LESLIE: And it’s like a plastic handle with this sort of a tic-tac, oval-shaped blade that’s got a slide set in the middle of it.

    TOM: Blade. Mm-hmm.

    LESLIE: And you’re going to open that up. You can get that at any tool area at the home center.

    DANA: OK.

    LESLIE: And you’re going to want to open it up and you put that right in the corner at the angle and then lock it in that position. And then you go ahead and put that at your T-square and that’s going to tell you exactly the angle that you need to cut at. Or you can then take that T-bevel and go right up to the bottom of your shelf, put it exactly where you’re going to want to put that cut and mark that line.

    DANA: OK.

    TOM: Yeah, it’s like an adjustable square and it’s called a T-bevel. And you should be able to find an inexpensive one, like Leslie said, at home center.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. It really is going to save your day and make this the easiest project.

    DANA: Ours …

    TOM: I use that all the time for different types of fancy mitering cuts in, too, because there’s a couple of tricks of the trade where you can measure an angle and then divide it so that you can make a miter that ends up perfect on both sides.

    And we also use it sometimes to set the angle on saw blades, so I think you’ll find that it’d be a very handy tool for this particular project. OK, Dana?

    DANA: Alright. Thank you very much.

    TOM: You’re welcome. 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. Pick up the phone and give us a call. We’re here for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to help you with whatever home improvement project you are working on, thinking of working on or even just dreaming about. Give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, remodeling is hitting an all-time high. We’re going to have the details and the most popular projects, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. Pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. One caller we talk to this hour is going to get a $50 cleaning prize pack of products from Greased Lightning. It includes a supply of Greased Lightning Super Strength, which is a great cleaning product that you can use on carpets, in your laundry and even in the kitchen.

    TOM: Plus, the winner gets some cleaning gear to get the job done. You can find Greased Lightning at Walmart, Dollar General, hardware stores and Greased-Lightning.com. And you can find the answer to your home improvement question by calling us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Howard in South Dakota, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?

    HOWARD: I’ve got an older, cement-block garage and it’s got a bunk house in there, too. But it’s got a cellar under one corner and I guess I’ve – the dirt had saddled on the outside, so those – the wall on the north and the wall on the east in that cellar was starting to push in. And it made some pretty good-sized separations in the block above the ground.

    TOM: Right. Cracks?

    HOWARD: And we dug it out and then put – just right in the corner, we put a foundation there and then put cement up and then took two strips of metal, one on each side, with bolts in them. And we got it pulled back pretty good together but there’s still some of those cracks on the outside, in those blocks. And I don’t know whether just putting mortar back in them – I had a guy tell me if he used carbon fiber to tie those together where they would stick to the block …

    TOM: Well, look, first of all, Howard, you’re talking about a do-it-yourself structural repair and I can – I appreciate your willingness to attempt this on your own. But that said, it’s not for the faint of heart.

    Now, what’s most important to understand is that the structural stability on this is being loaded from the top down. So, a vertical crack doesn’t bother me so much. A horizontal crack, where the wall has the potential of being sort of pushed in, does bother me. It sounds like you’ve dealt with the horizontal crack but you still have some vertical cracks.

    What I would do is I would simply seal those vertical cracks as best I could. Mortar is not going to work. You’re going to need to use a sealant that can stick to concrete, like a silicone or something like that. QUIKRETE has a number of products that will work for this. And then once you get that sealed, then you put the soil back.

    You need to be very, very, very careful about grading here. The reason this happened is because you had too much water that settled against the foundation. It froze, it expanded and pushed that wall in. If you get the drainage right, that won’t happen again because most of the runoff will be away from the wall and that soil against the exterior wall will stay relatively dry.

    So the drainage is going to be really important when you put it back, both with the angle of the soil, which should drop about 6 inches over 4 feet. And with any gutter system that you have on it, you want to make sure that you extend the downspout. Does that make sense?

    HOWARD: Yep. I thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Well, this news is like music to our ears: remodeling is expected to be way up this next quarter. In fact, it’s forecast to hit an all-time high and we think it’s mainly because of you guys, our busy listeners. You’re taking our advice and you’re tackling those projects.

    TOM: It’s very exciting. The National Association of the Remodeling Industry is the group that’s tracking this. And experts say that the remodelers are indicating big growth in their industry because their clients are feeling more stable in their financial future. They’re predicting a 13.1 percent jump from last quarter and that is really huge.

    LESLIE: Definitely . And a key indicator is also the type of project that people are taking on. In a poor economy, people repair and maintain but in this economy, we’re starting to see new additions, new kitchens, baths, decks, big home improvements. And that spells confidence.

    TOM: And we’ve got the details spelled out on those projects, including a prediction of the return on investment you can get from building each one, in our blog at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re heading over to Patty in Illinois who’s got a toilet that is running constantly. Tell us what’s going on.

    PATTY: Well, it doesn’t run constantly but it runs about five seconds, you know, several times an hour. And it’s gone to the point that my water bill has gone up quite a bit and I’m needing to know if I need a new toilet or if I need new seals or a new handle pump or – what would you think?

    LESLIE: It’s actually an easy fix and I mean this tends to happen kind of regularly. Unfortunately, people don’t realize that there’s actually some level of toilet maintenance, because it’s just an appliance in your house that’s there and you use it and you expect it to work.

    But inside the tank itself, there’s a fill and a flush valve. And those need to be replaced not that often but every couple of years or so. And of course, now that you’re dealing with this water-running issue – Tom, is it Fluidmaster?

    TOM: Yeah, Fluidmaster is sort of a mainstay of replacement valve parts.

    And they just wear out, Patty, over time, so this is a pretty easy fix.

    LESLIE: And it’s probably 10 bucks to get both of them. But if you go to Fluidmaster’s website, the only reason I recommend that is because on their website, they’ve got a really great how-to video. So you can actually see what the fill valve is, what the flush valve, the flapper valves – you know exactly what you’re looking at and how to replace it. And it’s a really easy do-it-yourself project that you can do confidently and definitely decrease your water bill.

    PATTY: Thank you. That sounds wonderful. I appreciate it and thank you so much for taking my call. Love your show.

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

    LESLIE: Greg in Iowa is on the line and he’s dealing with a radon situation. Tell us what’s going on.

    GREG: Well, my wife and I are in the process of buying a home and we’re in the process of closing on this home. And when we – gone through the whole process of buying it and everything, we had to have an initial – we decided to have an inspection done. And then at the end of this inspection, where they go over everything mechanical and about the house and everything, they then offered a radon test to be done. And I had heard about the test and read about the test and figured it was a good idea to have it done; it was $100, which was pretty cheap compared to what we found out.

    And I guess what I’m trying to find out from you all is – in Iowa, they say that there’s 70 to 71 percent of the homes in Iowa have a radon problem.

    TOM: OK. Now, you had a radon test done. What did the level come back at?

    GREG: It came back at 18.

    TOM: OK. So 18 picocuries?

    GREG: Yes.

    TOM: So 4.0 picocuries is the action guideline. Remember, I spent 20 years as a professional home inspector; I got this, OK?

    GREG: Yes, sir.

    TOM: So 4.0 is the action guideline. So you have a radon problem. It’s not unusual. It depends on the area. And certainly not the worst that I’ve ever seen. I’ve seen homes that had levels of upwards of 100 picocuries.

    GREG: OK.

    TOM: That said, you do need to put in – or more accurately, the seller ¬- is a sub-slab mitigation system where you have pipes that go into the slab and they pull the radon gas out. Now, has that process been started?

    GREG: Yes, sir.

    TOM: Alright. So then you’re on your way. But when you’re done, it’s very important that they test out of this and get a successful number. I will caution you, though, because this is a real estate transaction, remember that you are not in control of that house.

    And one of the biggest concerns that I had as a home inspector doing radon tests was I couldn’t necessarily trust the sellers to leave my test alone. And if they opened the windows or doors during the test, they’re going to vent that house and get that number to be down. So, it’s really important that when you’re doing a mitigation system, you would probably step away from doing charcoal absorption canisters and you would do other types of radon testing.

    There’s one called a “working level monitor” where it basically takes samples on an hour-by-hour basis. And you can look at the results that come off of this and what you look for, as a tester, is a normal pattern. And you’re going to see a pattern that sort of climbs throughout the day and is really high at night when the house is completely still, starts to drop during the day. A good tester can tell if the test has been compromised.

    So just proceed cautiously. Not an unusual situation. Sub-slab ventilation is the way to go and when they’re done, this test should be down to near zero.

    GREG: Thank you very much.

    TOM: You’re very welcome. And I think you’re doing all the right things. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Sandra in North Carolina is on the line. How can we help you today?

    SANDRA: We’re trying to decide which quality of filter to use for our furnace filter ¬- switch out? Should we use the ones that are cheaper, like the 4-for-$2 or should we use the HEPA-filter quality ones that are like $20 for your furnace filters, when you change them out?

    LESLIE: Well, with filters, you’re definitely getting what you pay for. And it really depends on what the situations are with everybody in your house.

    Now, the less expensive a filter, the thinner that membrane is going to be and of course, the wider that webbing is, if you will, so it’s really not going to stop very much. You know, Tom and I always joke that they’re called “pebble stoppers,” because that’s really the only thing that’s not getting through there.

    TOM: Exactly.

    LESLIE: So it really depends. The less money you spend, the less things that are getting trapped. If you’ve got somebody with allergens in the house, you want to spend a little bit more money, because you’re definitely going to get what you pay for.

    SANDRA: OK. So I need to go to a quality filter, because I have a lot of allergies. And the people that built the house say to go with a cheaper filter so you can let air circulate.

    TOM: Yeah, well, look, a good-quality filter does not block the air, whether it’s one that’s designed for better filtration or one that’s designed for lesser filtration. None of these things block the air. So if you have allergy issues, you have asthma issues, you definitely want to use a good-quality filter.

    And if you want the ultimate in filtration, what you might want to think about doing at some point is installing an electronic air cleaner. This is a device that’s built into the HVAC system right near the furnace, generally. And these are incredibly efficient at taking out 95-percent plus of the contaminants that are in the air. I mean these electronic air cleaners today can take out microscopic-size particles.

    SANDRA: OK. Well, I really appreciate your information. You’ve been very helpful.

    TOM: You’re very welcome, Sandra. 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, sometimes, you’ve got to spend some money to save some money, especially when it comes to washing machines. We’ll explain, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Standing by for your calls about your home improvement projects, your decorating dilemmas. Call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Alice in Illinois is on the line. Alice has got a hard problem: she’s got hard water. How can we help you today?

    ALICE: I have well water and on the well water, I have iron, hardness and manganese. And I do have filters that I use with [salt packs] (ph). But I’m looking for something else besides those [salt packs] (ph).

    TOM: There’s another option that’s an electronic option and it’s called EasyWater – E-a-s-y-W-a-t-e-r. And essentially, what EasyWater does is it installs to your main water pipe and it sort of causes the hardness in the water to polarize in the sense that it doesn’t stick to the fixtures anymore. And there’s a lot of people using it now. It’s been pretty effective and it’s an alternative to using a salt-based solution for this particular water problem. They’ve been around for about 25 years. They seem to be a good company, do a good job.

    Take a look at their website at EasyWater.com. I know they’ve got a pretty good guarantee, so if you don’t like it, you can send the unit back.

    ALICE: Yes, great. Well, thank you very much.

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

    Well, here’s a quick tip if you’re in the market for a new washing machine. You might be tempted to buy the cheapest model out there to save some money but you’re going to get better savings in the long run when you buy a high-efficiency washer.

    Here’s why. High-efficiency washing machines use about half of the energy of a conventional washer and a third less water and that adds up.

    LESLIE: Now, the spin cycle is super-fast, as well, so your clothes really don’t need as much drying time, which is also going to save you a lot of energy with the dryer. You’re also going to use about two-thirds less detergent in a high-efficiency washer. And these machines can even handle large, bulky items like your comforters, blankets, sleeping bags super-easily. And that’s going to save all of those special trips that you used to have to make to the dry cleaners or the laundromat.

    TOM: And as the parent of a Boy Scout and a Girl Scout, I can attest to the fact that those high-efficiency machines come in really handy with those big, bulky sleeping bags.

    888-666-3974. If you’ve got a big project or a small one, we want to talk to you and help you get it done, so call us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Don in Pennsylvania is on the line with a lighting question. How can we help you today?

    DON: Now, we’re going to redo our kitchen ceiling this year and we have these 6-inch pot lights up in the ceiling.

    TOM: OK. Yeah, the can lights?

    DON: Yeah.

    TOM: OK.

    DON: And we were wondering if we would take them out, if we put the LED lights under the cabinets, if it would give us as much light.

    TOM: No, I wouldn’t take them out. I would keep them in.

    Now, one is for area lighting; one is for task lighting. So the LED lights that could go under the edge of the cabinet could give you task-specific lighting for food prep. And they also look darn cool when you dim them at a party or something like that.

    DON: Yeah.

    TOM: But I would keep the lights in the ceiling.

    But by the way, you have a lot of options in the type of bulb that you can put in those ceiling lights. You could actually put in LED bulbs into those ceiling lights, too. And you may find the quality of light is better than what you have with the incandescents.

    DON: Take them out and put maybe like 4-inch ones in smaller ones or just leave the 6 ones in there?

    TOM: I would leave them. I think that – I think you could use the 6-inch ones that you have. I don’t think that’s part of the project that’s going to give you a good return on investment. But if you change the bulbs out, I think you’ll find that that will make a difference.

    Take a look at those Philips bulbs. I’ve got several of those now in my house, including in the kitchen, as can lights. They’re LEDs and we matched them up with Lutron dimmers where you can adjust the dimming range. And they’re super-bright and they cost a heck of a lot less to run than the incandescents. And they last a lot longer. We used to replace those incandescents all the time and these have been – I’ve never had to replace them and I think they say they last over 20 years.

    DON: Where would you find the (inaudible at 0:23:28) on that?

    TOM: You can get them at Home Depot.

    DON: OK.

    TOM: I know that I’ve gone there. They’re really interesting looking, Jack. They’re the ones that look – they look like yellow. They kind of look – I always think they look like bug lights.

    DON: OK.

    TOM: But you’ll be amazed when the thing comes on how bright it is.

    DON: OK.

    LESLIE: And they’re super-efficient.

    DON: Well, that’s what we’re looking for.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Up next, one small change to one of the busiest places in your home can make a big design difference. We’ll have tips on toilet makeovers, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Give us a call right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. One caller we talk to on the air this hour is going to win a $50 cleaning prize pack from Greased Lightning, a great cleaning product that you can use on grease and grime pretty much anywhere in your home.

    LESLIE: And you’re also going to get some cleaning gear to help with your heavy-duty cleaning projects. Visit Greased-Lightning.com and you’ll get some more information there. Or pick up the phone and give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT with your home improvement question for your chance to win.

    TOM: All callers to The Money Pit this hour will have their names tossed in The Money Pit hard hat. And if we choose yours, you’ll get that prize pack from Greased Lightning.

    LESLIE: Jay in North Carolina is dealing with a supreme oopsie on a countertop. What happened?

    JAY: Well, I don’t know. I purchased the property about a year ago and actually, I have my son living there. He’s graduating from a college in the Raleigh area and he’s living in that – in the apartment and it’s wonderful. The only problem is there’s a burn hole on the laminate countertop.

    TOM: Now, Jay, there’s a story behind that but of course, your son hasn’t – yeah, your son hasn’t coughed it up yet, I’m sure.

    JAY: No, well, no, no. This was before he moved in but hey, it’s OK.

    TOM: Alright.

    JAY: My point is it’s right out in the middle of the thing, so it’s this big burn hole. And I was just wondering, is there a way I can cut it out and then put another patch of laminate over it? It’s in butcher-block style.

    TOM: Well, the good news is that you could do a built-in countertop and – a built-in cutting board or a built-in piece of marble. And if you do it in something that’s complementary – look, it may be a little bit weird to have a cutting board on the finished side of the countertop like that but it’ll certainly look like it was always intended to be there and you’ll get away with it.

    The other thing that you could do is you could relaminate the countertop. You can’t fix the burned surface, because the plastic’s been damaged, so that’s not something that’s possible. You can’t cut in a new piece of laminate, because it’ll be patchy and it’ll look lousy. What you could do is you could put a new piece of laminate across the entire surface. So you’re keeping the structure of the countertop but you’re gluing a new piece of laminate on top of that.

    Installing a laminate is not that difficult if you have some basic DIY skills. You would scuff up the original surface, you would apply contact cement to both the new laminate and the old laminate. You would lay it down and you would press it from the middle on out to get out any air bubbles and rub it all out. And then with a router and a special laminate-trimming bit, you would trim the laminate edge very clean to the existing edge of the top and you’d have a brand-new laminate surface when you were all done.

    It’s best if you can take the old top off temporarily to do this so that you don’t have to work around walls and that sort of thing. But it’s not hard to do and that’s one way to have to – to get it repaired without having to physically replace the whole thing. Does that make sense?

    JAY: Excellent idea. Thank you so much. Appreciate your help.

    LESLIE: Well, if you’re looking to make a modest home improvement for less than $200, that you’re able to enjoy immediately, why not upgrade your toilet seat? You can actually treat yourself and your family to a little luxury without taking a big financial kick in the behind.

    For example, you can trade out your current seat for one that has a quiet, soft-closing lid.

    TOM: Manufacturers also make heated toilet seats to take the chill out of a cool winter morning. And there are seats that are designed to be a little roomier, for more comfort. You know who we’re talking about that might take advantage of that.

    And if your bathroom doubles as your reading nook, well, maybe you might want to upgrade to a padded toilet seat. Or for the ultimate in luxury, consider a toilet seat with a built-in bidet. Kind of a one-stop shop, if you know what I mean.

    LESLIE: You know, we have a special toilet seat that we got when we were potty-training Henry that has a third seat that folds down with a smaller hole, if you will, for a child’s behind.

    TOM: So is that the opposite problem, like if you forget to pick that up?

    LESLIE: Well, it’s ridiculous because in the middle of the night, if I go in to use the bathroom and I sit down on that, I feel like a giant.

    Well, seriously, guys, all of these upgrades cost less than 200 bucks and they’re going to have an immediate impact. So if you’re looking for some more ideas, just search “luxury toilet” at MoneyPit.com.

    TOM: That’s MoneyPit.com, 888-666-3974.

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

    SUSAN: I was calling because I have a large room that was converted from a garage into a living room but it’s got some dark, ugly paneling on it. And what’s the best way to remove it or how do you undo paneling?

    LESLIE: I mean it really depends on how much work you want to do and how that paneling that’s there was attached to the existing structure.

    Now, it was the garage previously?

    SUSAN: Yes. And it was ridiculous. It was paneled and – like it was a really elite garage when we moved in. It was crazy.

    LESLIE: Now, do you know, is the paneling just attached directly to the studs of the wall? Or is it attached by glue to drywall? Have you had any clue what’s behind it?

    SUSAN: I don’t.

    LESLIE: I wonder if there’s a place where you can lift up a piece of trim or remove a switch plate and see what’s sort of going on with that? Because it could be that it was a garage. It could just be that the paneling was put directly onto those studs and then you could pull that off and have a clean slate and just go ahead and put some drywall up. And while you’re at it, add some insulation. Because if it was a garage, there’s a good chance there wasn’t any there before.

    Now, if you do find that it was attached to some drywall, it’s probably glued on and everything behind it’s going to be a mess. So you’ve got two choices there. You can either just make that paneling look attractive by painting it. And you know what? When paneling is painted like a glossy white or a glossy neutral color, it actually doesn’t look so bad. It can kind of be that great, interesting base texture with sort of a modern country feel, if that makes sense.

    But if that’s something that you’re like, “Oh, God, no, I don’t even want to see it,” you can easily go over it with ¼-inch drywall. The only thing is where you’ve got switches or outlets or trimming, those things are going to have to bump out a little bit. So that requires a little bit of carpentry but it’s not the end of the world and it is a do-it-yourself project.

    SUSAN: OK. So it really depends on what it’s over.

    LESLIE: Depends on what it’s over, how it’s attached and how involved you want to get.

    SUSAN: OK. Well, I guess the first thing I will need to do then is take a piece off or figure that out and go from there.

    LESLIE: Don’t sound so down; it’s not a difficult project.

    SUSAN: OK. Well, I appreciate the advice.

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

    LESLIE: Robert in Oregon is on the line and is having an issue with some plaster walls at his home. How can we help you?

    ROBERT: Well, I was finishing a room in my bedroom and after applying the plaster, some of the plaster was coming off after I painted it. But originally, I did the living room, which was my first job, and I mixed it – a bunch of the plaster – Imperial plaster. And of course, I mixed too much and it got hard, you know? So I learned not to mix so much, because it only – you can only use so much during a certain time before it sets up.

    So, anyway, in the next room, I drywalled it, finished it and then I used a product called Plaster-Weld, which is supposed to be a primer for the plaster.

    TOM: Right. Plaster-Weld is a bonding agent.

    ROBERT: Right.

    TOM: And you used this on top of drywall? Is that correct?

    ROBERT: Yes.

    TOM: Was it new drywall?

    ROBERT: Yeah, new drywall.

    TOM: OK.

    ROBERT: But I’d primed the walls first and then put the Plaster-Weld over that.

    TOM: OK. Hmm. OK.

    ROBERT: And then mixed up my plaster – it was Imperial plaster – and applied it and finished it all up and troweled it to the texture I wanted. And then we went back – my wife and I – and touched up a few spots and then let it dry overnight. Then we put a primer on it and while putting the primer on it, some of the plaster was coming off.

    TOM: First of all, I would not have primed the drywall. I don’t really see a reason to do that. You prime the drywall to control adhesion and to stop the absorption, I should say, of the new paint – the top coat of paint – and to get an even sheen. But you weren’t really concerned about sheen because you intended to do a plaster coat.

    You were basically building what’s called “plaster lath.” This is the way homes were done in the 50s, where you have a drywall base and then you put a plaster coat on top of that. The bonding agent was the right thing to do but that should have gone directly onto the drywall. Now you put the drywall on, then you put a primer over that and then you put the bonding agent on top of that. So now you have to get the bonding agent to stick to the primer and that’s a little more difficult than getting it to stick to the raw drywall.

    So I think you’ve got a situation now where you’re going to have this problem potentially repeating itself. So I hate to tell you this but what I might do is put another layer of drywall over this – a real thin layer – and start again.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Up next, home theaters cost big bucks, right? Wrong. We are going to tell you how to design one on a dime, after this.

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

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Well, if you were one of the smart ones this winter and bought a portable generator before you needed it, well, you probably patted yourself on the back. But having one is only half the battle if it’s not also ready to go. Find out how to store your portable backup generator so it’s ready when you need it, on MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And maybe you were one of those people who bought one immediately following Superstorm Sandy, so now you’re ready for the next go-around.

    Listen, guys, while you’re online, you can post your question in the Community section of Money Pit, just like Michelle in Pennsylvania did. And she writes: “How long is latex paint good? I bought quite a lot about four years ago and I’ve kept it in my garage.” It’s probably frozen many times over.

    TOM: Buying a lot of paint, if you got a good deal and you needed it, is probably wise. But I’ve got to tell you, if you stored a lot of it over the years, it’s definitely bad.

    Latex paint cannot freeze. Now, it will stay good for a couple of years if it’s sealed properly and it really, really has to be sealed properly. And of course, it has to be in a place that actually has heat. But the garage, not so much. So, Michelle, unfortunately, your next project is to toss all that paint away and make sure you do it properly and pick up some fresh paint.

    But moving forward, we generally advise that you buy enough paint for your project, plus just a little bit more for touch-up. Even if it’s a great deal, it doesn’t make sense to save it for an extremely long time. So, if I think I’m going to need a gallon of paint, I might buy a gallon and perhaps an extra quart just so I’ve got the same color sort of stored and ready to rock and roll, because I’ve got kids and I know they’re going to tear up the walls and I know I’m going to need it. But I’m not going to buy 3 gallons if I just need 1.

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got Tucker in Alaska who writes: “Is there any reason to insulate my shed? I plan on keeping my lawn mower, gas, electric snow blowers and some power tools out there. They’re all in my attached garage now and that has heat and insulation.”

    TOM: There’s no reason, really, to insulate the shed, because you’re never going to have heat in that shed. If you’re going to have heat in the shed, you’re going to use it as a workspace, then you would insulate it. That said, if you’re going to take those tools and put them into that shed, remember you’re going to have lower temperatures, you’re going to have more moisture and you’re going to have more corrosion.

    So you want to make sure that you treat those tools right. Clean them really well. With the shovels, you want to spray some oil on there, rub them down with some oil to preserve them so you keep the rust to a minimum. With the gas equipment, make sure the gas is drained out and make sure you have run some fuel stabilizer through there. You have to really treat them a bit differently if they’re going to be, basically, in 0-degree temperature or below than they would be if they were in your sort of quasi-heated garage.

    But I don’t think insulation really makes any sense, Tucker.

    LESLIE: Yeah. But I wouldn’t go sleeping out there. I mean it’s Alaska; it’s freezing.

    TOM: Well, would you like a way to enjoy great acoustics with a home theater that won’t bug the neighbors? Leslie has the details on an awesome idea for a home theater design element that has a practical purpose, too, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    LESLIE: Well, if you’re really going all out with a home theater, upholstered wall panels are a great fit for this space.

    Now, from a design standpoint, the wall panels are just plain gorgeous to look at but from a practical point of view, the fabric panels actually help to soundproof the area for optimal audio quality when you’re watching a movie at home.

    Now, you can do this in a traditional way. It’s the same way that you would do an upholstered headboard: with batting or foam over plywood or even luan. Or if you want to go with a wall-mounted fabric panel specifically made for this purpose, there’s actually companies out there that you can find online. They make these for real theaters and they’re surprisingly affordable. They look gorgeous and they absorb sound for a great home movie-watching experience. Plus, having installed them for clients, for my sister, they’re actually super-easy to do. A couple of simple tools, a little bit of know-how. Once you do the first one, you’re just banging through them all.

    So definitely try tackling it. It’s a great project and it can make a huge difference for sound absorption.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up next week on the program, would you like to take your curb appeal from barely noticeable to wow? Well, you need to start with a good landscape plan. We’ll tell you how to do just that, 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.


    (Copyright 2013 Squeaky Door Productions, Inc. No portion of this transcript or audio file may be reproduced in any format without the express written permission of Squeaky Door Productions, Inc.)

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