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Home Warranties to Supplement Insurance, How to Repair Formica Countertops Yourself, How to Find Fresh Christmas Trees, and more

  • Transcript

    TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Pick up the phone, give us a call right now, because we are here to help you with your home improvement project, your do-it-yourself dilemmas, your holiday home fix-ups. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    It is the holiday season and a time when kitchens get a real workout. So we’ve got tips that can help if the peeling and chopping have left a scratch or a gouge in your countertop. We’re going to get solutions this hour for an easy fix when we welcome our friend, Tom Silva, from TV’s This Old House.

    LESLIE: And speaking of the holidays, it’s holiday-shopping time. Something to consider when you’re buying a gift is the warranty that comes with it. Now, most won’t cover normal wear and tear but we’ll tell you about one that will, coming up.

    TOM: And do you look forward to buying a Christmas tree each year only to see it quickly turn into a naked mess with a brown pile of needles on your floor? Well, this hour, we’ve got a solution. We’re going to tell you how to make sure you’re getting absolutely the freshest tree possible and how to keep it that way.

    LESLIE: And also this hour, one caller who makes it on the air with us is going to win a way to have some sparkly clean kitchen counters or any other natural-stone surface in or around their home. We’re giving away the Granite Gold Cleaning Essentials Kit worth $55.

    TOM: So for your chance to win and the answer to your home improvement question, pick up the phone right now and give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. Let’s get right to those phones.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Robert in Alaska is on the line with a crawlspace situation. Tell us what’s going on.

    ROBERT: Basically, what I’ve got going on is we had a lot of rain this summer, so I had water kind of penetrate the foundation. And I was wondering if there is anything I could do from the inside to maybe stop some of that penetration from coming in and getting on the wood that’s holding up the, I guess, the floor.

    TOM: Yeah, absolutely. Now, are you talking about concrete-block walls?

    ROBERT: Yes.

    TOM: OK. So a couple of things. First of all, we want to make sure that you are doing what you can to slow the collection of water from outside moving inside. So that means looking at your gutter system, making sure you have gutters and that they’re diverting water away from the house, not just a couple of feet from the foundation but well away. And make sure that the angle of the soil around the foundation slopes away and that will do a lot to move the water away from that backfill zone.

    Inside the crawlspace, you can add a vapor barrier to the soil and that will stop moisture from evaporating up. And on the blocks themselves, you can apply a product called Ames’ Blue Max, which is a rubber paint. It’s very stretchable and it adheres really well. And when you apply it to the block, it stops any moisture from coming through the block. Ames is spelled A-m-e-s and the product is called Blue Max. You can search for it online. Their website is AmesResearch.com.

    ROBERT: OK. Good deal. Yeah, I’ve got a company coming in to, I guess, dig the outside of the foundation and lay some drainage this spring – this coming spring – so …

    TOM: OK. Well, let me stop you right there, OK? Because that’s not likely going to help you and it’s not necessary.

    ROBERT: Oh, OK.

    TOM: If that moisture is consistent with rainfall – in other words, you get a lot of rain, like you mentioned, and then you get leakage, then putting all those drainage pipes and disturbing all that soil is really not the way to go. If you improve your gutter system and you improve the grading – the angle of the soil around the foundation perimeter – that stops the majority of that surface water from getting in.


    TOM: The only time we recommend drainage systems, like what you’re describing, is when you have a rising water table which, if you did, you wouldn’t be getting leakage that’s consistent with rainfall.

    ROBERT: Ah, OK. Well, good. That’s important to know then.

    TOM: Yep. So now there you go; saved you a bunch of money.

    ROBERT: Oh, yes, you did.

    TOM: You’ve got it, Robert. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now, Libby from Missouri is on the line and has some issues with a hardwood floor. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.

    LIBBY: I really think my hardwood floors need to be redone. They’re very faded where there’s traffic and a lot of gap.

    TOM: OK.

    LIBBY: And that house is about 60 years old. It’s very noisy. Lots of just wear and scratches. And I’m trying to decide whether I should just, you know, not try to redo them and – or maybe there’s something that I can do to them to make them look better without totally refinishing them. I don’t know. You have any suggestions?

    TOM: Well, sure, Libby. Let me ask you about the condition of the floors. You said that they’re scratched but are the scratches just in the finish or are they sort of deep scratches in the wood boards themselves?

    LIBBY: No, they’re not deep scratches. Just from like – just everyday wear, mostly. They’re in really good shape. One room that’s not used very much is in I mean excellent – it looks almost brand new. But the other, there’s – it’s just normal, everyday kind of wear.

    TOM: Alright. So here’s what you can do, Libby. You don’t have to belt-sand the floors, which is the way – when you totally refinish them, you take all the old finish off and you grind down an 1/8-inch of material. You don’t have to do that. What you can do is you could just lightly sand the upper surface of the finish and then put another layer or two of urethane over that.

    The best way to do that is with a floor buffer and a sanding screen. Now, you can go to a tool-rental place and you can rent a floor buffer and then you can purchase sanding screens, which are these screens that are about 18 inches in diameter. Looks kind of like window-screen material but it’s abrasive.

    And there’s two sides to it, so you can use one side, flip it over, then use the other side. And you position it underneath the floor buffer and as you use the buffer in the room, it lightly abrades the surface of the old floor. That takes out the dirt and the grime. It takes off some of the old – any old wax, that kind of stuff. And it’ll start to take out the scratches and that kind of evens it out and cleans it up. Then you vacuum it or damp-mop all that dust up. And then you can apply two layers of urethane.

    Now, I’ll give you a trick of the trade. The first layer should be a high gloss, because the glossy urethane is harder than satin. So put the first layer of high gloss and maybe even a second layer of high gloss but your last layer could be satin. And that will give you a nice, even, soft finish and still be as hard as possible.

    LIBBY: Oh, OK. I will see if I can get someone to help me with that.

    TOM: Alright. Well, 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.

    Happy December, everybody. Are you guys getting your tree this weekend? Are you doing something fun and Christmas-y and holiday-like? Well, if you are, we can help you with any home improvement project, to get your home ready for the holidays. Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. We’re here for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, have you ever been given a holiday gift that breaks, only to learn the warranty doesn’t cover it? We’re going to tell you about a way to make sure you aren’t out of luck, after this.

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

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Taking your calls right now at 888-MONEY-PIT. Pick up the phone, give us a ring, because one caller who makes it on the air with us this hour is going to get a cleaner home. We’re giving away a cleaning-essentials kit from Granite Gold. You’re going to win their popular Daily Cleaner and four other handy products including the polish, which is nice because you can use it weekly to bring out your stone-counter natural beauty and to guard against water stains. Learn more at GraniteGold.com.

    Pick up the phone right now and call us at 888-MONEY-PIT for the answer to your home improvement question and your chance to win. Going to give that kit away to one caller drawn at random at the end of today’s program. It’s worth 55 bucks.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Charlotte in North Carolina on the line who has got a popcorn ceiling that doesn’t have butter on it.

    Charlotte, tell us what’s going on.

    CHARLOTTE: Well, what happens now – we have a brown stain on the ceiling from the leak but we’ve had the leak repaired, of course. And it’s a popcorn ceiling. I’ve always hated this popcorn ceiling; I’m not opposed to getting rid of it. But I’m just wondering, what’s the best way to make the repair here? Because I’m afraid if we just take off the section where the stain is, it’s not going to match anymore and it’ll – you can – it’ll be like a repaired look. What would be your suggestion?

    LESLIE: Now, is it truly a popcorn ceiling? Like when you reach up, you sort of end up with remnants of it? Or is it like a textured stucco ceiling?

    CHARLOTTE: Whatever that drywall is that they kind of make and they spray on the ceiling.

    TOM: Yeah. So, here’s the thing. You’ve had the roof leak. The roof leak is now repaired?


    TOM: Has it physically damaged the ceiling or is it just the stains you’re concerned about?

    CHARLOTTE: It mostly looks like the stains. To me, it looks like there might be one small section that might have a little bit of a bulge in it.

    TOM: Alright. Well, let’s ignore that for the moment. What I would suggest you do is to use a good-quality primer and repaint that ceiling.

    Now, if it’s just a very limited area, you could prime just the stain and leave the rest. If it’s a bigger area, you’ve got to prime the whole ceiling. But if you use a good-quality primer there, like a KILZ or a B-I-N or something like that, then that should seal in the stain and you could put paint on top of that. You will have to paint the whole ceiling if it’s not been done recently but if you seal with a primer and then paint it, that’ll make the ceiling stain disappear and preserve the popcorn.

    Removing the popcorn, at this point, is just a whole lot of work but it sounds like it’s really not necessary for you to do, unless you just don’t like the look of it.

    CHARLOTTE: Thank you very much. That’ll help a lot. I appreciate it.

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

    LESLIE: Michael in Kentucky is on the line and he’s got a question about a gazebo. What can we do for you today?

    MICHAEL: Oh, well, I wanted to try and find a way to use my gazebo during the winter. It gets kind of cold here in Kentucky and the gazebo is made out of wood. And I’m looking to put a fire-pit kind of thing but I don’t want to use the wood, because it’s made out of wood; I don’t want it to go up in flames.

    TOM: Mm-hmm. OK. That’s wise. But your gazebo probably has a roof on it, right?

    MICHAEL: Oh, yeah, it has a roof.

    TOM: Yeah, so you can’t really put a fire under it. You just – because unless it’s a tepee with a big hole in the top, there’s no place for the smoke to go. You’re going to collect a lot of heat up there and it’s really generally a bad idea.

    So really, the question is: how can you heat your gazebo in the winter months? And there’s a good reason we don’t heat gazebos in winter months, because they’re not really designed to be enclosed.

    MICHAEL: So, I guess it’s kind of an out-of-the-question kind of thing then.

    TOM: It would seem. Typically, if you want to put some sort of a heating system onto your deck, then you could use a fire pit. And you could design it or even have a – like we have a fire – a portable sort of fire pit that we wheel out onto the patio and put a couple of logs in there. But when you’re in a gazebo like that, you can’t create a fire because you’re going to burn the roof down.

    So it’s a hard space to use. If you had an open patio area or maybe an open area of your yard, Michael, that would be a smarter place to create a gathering place where you could actually really build a true fire pit.

    There’s a great article online on our website on how to build a fire pit. There’s also a radio show that we did with Roger Cook from This Old House where he gave us his tips on how to build a fire pit.

    MICHAEL: OK. So, basically, it’d probably be a better thing to put maybe outside of my gazebo.

    TOM: Yeah, exactly. Gazebos are just not intended to be enclosed.

    MICHAEL: Well, that sounds like it answers my question pretty well.

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

    Well, with shopping underway, it’s more important than ever to read the fine print on product warranties for the gifts you intend to purchase. You know, you’ll probably find that warranties don’t cover things like normal wear and tear or rust, for example.

    LESLIE: Recently, we’ve teamed up with a new sponsor here at The Money Pit who offers a solution. The company is called Cross Country Home Services and what they offer is a new kind of total home warranty that covers things that your homeowners insurance and manufacturer warranties do not.

    TOM: That’s right. It’s called TotalProtect and it covers household items and systems that fail because of normal wear and tear. And if the appliance is just too old or it can’t be fixed, it also covers the cost to replace it.

    LESLIE: It’s a really good idea. If you want to learn more about how this new kind of policy does work, go to their website. It’s BuyTotalProtect.com.

    TOM: That’s BuyTotalProtect.com.

    LESLIE: Alright. Well, I’ve never said that guys are good at doing laundry and here’s some proof. We’ve got William in Iowa on the line who’s having a laundry issue. Tell us what’s going on.

    WILLIAM: Well, we wash our clothes and dry them and the dark clothes, if they’re damp or even in a room that’s a little bit damp, they get really, really musty and (inaudible at 0:13:52) smelling. Well, I want to know what’s going on.

    TOM: So the light clothes don’t smell; only the dark clothes smell.

    WILLIAM: Only the dark clothes.

    TOM: OK. And when you wear your dark clothes, do you get really good, heavy-duty workouts where you really sweat and get messy and …?

    WILLIAM: No, not really. I used to. I used to work on cars but not anymore.

    TOM: I’m just wondering if the dark clothes are dirtier than the light clothes.

    That’s a really odd question, William. I don’t have any idea why that would happen except to say that if they’re heavier clothes, of course, they’ll take longer to dry than the light clothes. And are you on a well there?

    WILLIAM: Well, it’s rural water, so it’s basically the same.

    TOM: Rural water, OK. Because sometimes, depending on the minerals that are in the water, if you don’t dry them right away, they can really develop quite an odor. And then the other thing to check is to check the water hardness and make sure that your water is not hard.

    And then after that, I would also check the venting for however your washing machine drains. Because if there’s a problem with the venting system, then you’re going to get sewage gas that backs up and really, it may not have anything to do with the color of the clothes, which would make sense, of course. It’s more a problem with the way the plumbing system is vented itself.

    So, it’s going to be one of those possibilities, William. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Karen in Ohio is on the line with an insulation question. How can we help you?

    KAREN: Hi. We live in an older home, built around 1925. And in our dining room and living room, we have wood floors. And I wondered if we should put – and we do have a basement underneath.

    TOM: OK.

    KAREN: And now we wondered if we should put insulation on the ceiling of the basement, which would be underneath the dining room and living room floors.

    TOM: Is the basement finished?

    LESLIE: Is the basement finished? Jinx.

    KAREN: It’s not finished but it does have a cement floor.

    TOM: OK.

    KAREN: I mean it’s not a dirt floor.

    LESLIE: But is it heated?

    KAREN: Our furnace is down there. We don’t really – it’s definitely …

    TOM: Yeah, it’s not heated. It’s an unfinished basement.

    LESLIE: So it’s not a conditioned space in any way.

    TOM: Yeah. You know, it’s not a bad idea to put insulation into the ceiling of the basement. It’ll make that floor much warmer and more comfortable.

    KAREN: That’s what I was wondering. Because a couple people had told us, “No, you don’t want to do that.” But there’s nothing underneath the wood floor. If you go down to the basement and look up …

    TOM: There’s no reason. Basically, the reason we asked you if the basement was finished is because you don’t want to put insulation between two heated spaces. But the basement is unfinished and so there’s no reason – the heat is really not designed for the basement; the heat really covers the finished side of the house, which is the first floor. So insulating the floor is not a big deal and it’s going to make that first floor that much more comfortable, Karen.

    KAREN: Oh, OK. Good, good. OK. That’s what I needed to know.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Steve on the line who’s dealing with a vinyl-siding issue. Tell us what’s going on.

    STEVE: I bought a house last summer and was further looking at it closely. I noticed that the siding is severely oxidized and I was – I tried a little baby oil on a section of it and it looked good for about a month but I just was …

    TOM: Baby oil?

    STEVE: Yeah.

    TOM: Baby oil?

    STEVE: Yeah.

    TOM: Well, is your house your baby?

    STEVE: Yeah.

    TOM: And a house is certainly as expensive as children, that’s for sure.

    STEVE: Like I say, it looked good for about a month. It brought all the color back to it.

    TOM: When those oils dry out, of course, that’s going to be the end of it. Vinyl siding is not really designed for oil but I will tell you this: there are paints that you can put on top of vinyl siding. So it is possible to paint a vinyl-sided house.

    That said, you know what comes after paint, don’t you? Repaint. So once you start this process, you’re going to end up having to paint it again, Steve. But you can paint vinyl siding. You just need to make sure – I would go to a Sherwin-Williams or a good-quality paint supplier like that and make sure that you pick up a paint that is rated for vinyl siding.

    STEVE: Does it peel pretty easy?

    TOM: No. It’s designed to adhere. That’s why it has to be special for vinyl.

    STEVE: Oh, I see.

    TOM: OK?

    STEVE: OK. Thank you.

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

    LESLIE: Jo from Kentucky is on the line with some help with a bathroom cleaning project. What can we do for you?

    JO: Yes. I have an old bathtub and where the water has leaked, I have some porcelain – I guess it’s a porcelain tub. I have some orange spots in there and they look like they’re going to eventually just give way on me. I want to know how I could patch that up.

    LESLIE: Are they super-tiny or are they, you know, an inch or so?

    JO: Yes. Oh, yes, they’re very small.

    TOM: There are touch-ups but you know what? They will show.

    LESLIE: Yeah. I’ve used one. When we bought our house, there was a tiny – I mean super-tiny – little rust spot in our tub. And I used a product called Porc-a-Fix? And you can get it in pretty much in any home center. It comes in a variety of whites and off-whites, so you kind of have to guess which one is going to work close enough to your exact white or bisque or whatever you want to call it.

    JO: Right.

    LESLIE: And it almost looks like it’s a nail-polish bottle, kind of.

    JO: OK.

    LESLIE: And you apply it in gradual layers, letting it set up and then going back the next day and putting another one on until you build it up. And it’s done a fairly good job. We’ve been in the house eight years and it’s still there, it’s still covered up. But I know exactly where it is.

    JO: OK. Well, I thank you very much.

    TOM: You’re very 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. Up next, laminate countertops may be inexpensive and functional but they can become damaged over time. And if it happens to you, you don’t need to call a pro. We’ve got an easy fix for you, after this.

    NORM: Hi. I’m Norm Abram from This Old House and when we’re working on our projects, we listen to The Money Pit.

    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 to find the perfect holiday gift, 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: And now that we are heading in December, you’re probably thinking, “I can put the tools away and stay out of home repair until spring,” right? Well, no, not exactly. You can go to MoneyPit.com and search “weekend home improvements for the holidays” and you’ll find a list of to-dos that could be keeping you busy and your home in tip-top shape for the cold winter months ahead.

    LESLIE: Heading over to Wisconsin now to chat with Dorothy. How can we help you?

    DOROTHY: In the wintertime, we get cold air around our windows.

    TOM: OK.

    DOROTHY: And so we put plastic. Some of them, we plastic the outside up the windows and some inside of the house. I’m wondering which is better or if we should plastic both the inside and the outside.

    LESLIE: It depends, really, on the functionality of the window. When you’re feeling the draft, is it on the glass itself? Does it seem to be on the operable parts of the sash, where the window unit goes up and down, or is it around the trim work?

    DOROTHY: On a couple of them, it’s actually on both: the glass and around the trim work, yeah.

    LESLIE: OK. Well, there’s a couple of products out there that maybe you’ve not heard of and there’s one that’s a weatherstripping caulk. And basically, what you would do is you would close your window and around the sash – you know, the operable part of the window itself – you would caulk, essentially, that window closed, sealing out that draft. And then what happens when springtime comes and it’s warm again, you peel it right out.

    Now, the issue with that is if it’s a window that, say, is in the kitchen that you want to open and close while cooking or a window that should be used as an exit in the event of an emergency, you want to make sure that you consider those before you seal off all of those windows.

    Now, DAP makes one. It’s called Seal ‘N Peel. Red Devil makes one? Did I make that up?

    TOM: Yeah. And you may not find it in the hardware store aisle; you may have to ask for it. But it’s temporary caulk so – and it goes on and then you peel it off in the spring.

    DOROTHY: So it comes off real nice.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. It just pulls right off. And you want to make sure that it’s actually a temporary caulk, because you don’t want to go put a latex caulk in there that’s not meant for this purpose. Because if you try to remove it, it’s not going to come out.

    TOM: Yeah, the weatherstripping caulk peels off; it feels like you’re peeling a strip of rubber off in the spring.

    LESLIE: Like the backing, when you get a new credit card and it’s stuck to that paper?


    LESLIE: Like it’s got that sticky consistency.

    DOROTHY: And I can do that and maybe still put plastic on the outside or inside, right?

    TOM: Well, yeah, if you feel like you need it. But you might find that if you seal away those gaps, you don’t need to do that, Dorothy, OK?

    DOROTHY: Oh, I appreciate that very much.

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

    LESLIE: Well, laminate countertops, they’re inexpensive and they can give you the look of natural stone, of course, without the price tag. And they certainly can last a long time but they aren’t quite as durable as stone.

    TOM: That’s right. And the good news is, though, that some of the most typical problems can be repaired. Here to talk about that is Tom Silva, the general contractor for TV’s This Old House.

    Welcome, Tommy.

    TOM SILVA: Thank you. It’s nice to be here.

    TOM: You know, inadvertently laying down a hot pot or scratching the surface can definitely be one of those sort of “oh, no,” “holy cow,” and other-words-that-I-can’t-say-on-the-radio moments.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah. Absolutely. Yeah, I …

    LESLIE: Which is what you’re saying.

    TOM: Right.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah.

    TOM: I mean how do you get out of those problems? Are those types of things fixable?

    TOM SILVA: In some cases, if the hot pot is down there and it’s just bubbled the countertop, you may be able to reheat it. Sounds silly. The hot pot loosened it; now you’ve got to reheat it to put it back down.

    TOM: Right.

    TOM SILVA: But you’ve actually got to soften the adhesive underneath; it’s a contact adhesive. And sometimes, you can actually refasten it. If you have a roller, take out your old roller. You roll in the dough and roll that countertop until it cools down. And sometimes, you can refasten it.

    TOM: Even without getting additional adhesive in there.

    TOM SILVA: Right.

    TOM: Just if you get it to restick itself sort of right away.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah. Yeah, exactly, exactly.

    LESLIE: So this is a sort of – you’ve got to react as it’s happening.

    TOM SILVA: Well, no, you can eat and then heat up the pan again and put it down. But it’s smarter to do it right away.

    TOM: Smart advice.

    TOM SILVA: “Oh, my God, I get the roller.”

    TOM: What if you have physical damage in the countertop? Is there a way to kind of do selective surgery and just replace one chunk of it?

    TOM SILVA: Yeah, you can cut in a cutting board. It’s probably the easiest way if it’s – if the cutting board is in a good location.

    TOM: Right.

    TOM SILVA: But …

    TOM: So, basically, you’re essentially cutting out that area of laminate and replacing it with a cutting board.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah. And they have different kinds of cutting boards. You can get a solid-surface cutting board. You can get – what do they call – like a Pyrex board? You can get a wooden cutting board.

    TOM: You know what the beautiful thing is about doing that? And somebody else will come into your house the next week and go, “Wow, I didn’t know cutting boards were available. What a great idea. How do you get one of those?”

    LESLIE: “What a great idea.”

    TOM SILVA: Yeah. Yeah, exactly, exactly. Well, all you do is put one of the pans on your countertop that’ll ruin it and then you can cut one in.

    LESLIE: Is it sort of done as a drop-in tray, almost as a drop-in sink would be installed?

    TOM SILVA: Yeah.

    LESLIE: And then the cutting boards sits in top of – in that?

    TOM SILVA: Yeah, some of them, they have this little metal ring that goes around it.

    TOM: Right.

    TOM SILVA: And you put the metal ring in. Some of the counter boards just – cutting boards fit in that little ring. Drop it in. You can actually pop it out and flip it over, so when you wear it out – if you’re using a wooden one.

    LESLIE: You know, one of the other common things that I’ve noticed – when we first bought our house, we had a lovely Pepto-Bismol pink laminate countertop. And while we lived with it for a while until we could afford the granite, the edge just kept popping off.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah.

    LESLIE: And I feel like that’s always one of the areas that fails first.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah.

    LESLIE: So what can you do to make that sort of either reattach or replace it?

    TOM SILVA: Well, lots of times you can take an edge – it’s usually the corner. You’re dead-right on. It’s usually the corner, because you’re running by that counter and you catch it.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. You get stuck on it.

    TOM SILVA: Once you’ve caught it, you’ve got to either try to heat it back on with an iron, soften it gently – the glue – and then push it back on with a roller or something firm. And if that doesn’t work and you can’t get it or your piece is broken-out, you’re going to have to replace it

    And you’re going to have to find a piece somewhere in the kitchen, usually beside the stove or the refrigerator or in a dead corner – you can – may be able to steal a piece right out of that corner and patch it right into that piece that’s been damaged.

    LESLIE: And you don’t use any buffer between the iron and the laminate itself? You don’t need a towel just to prevent further burning?

    TOM SILVA: You’ve got to make sure that you don’t overheat the iron. You don’t – what’s – I don’t iron clothes but I mean there’s got to be …

    LESLIE: I’m like, “I sew. Full steam, high heat.” That’s …

    TOM SILVA: Oh, (inaudible at 0:26:58).

    LESLIE: I get an iron, I go crazy with it.

    TOM: Look, you can always go hotter. Start medium and work your way up from there, right?

    TOM SILVA: That’s true, exactly. That’s good.

    TOM: Yeah.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah. See, I sew but I don’t iron.

    LESLIE: So low heat, no steam, be careful.

    TOM SILVA: Right. You don’t need that steam. Right.


    TOM: What if you have more minor scratches? Is there such a thing as a scratch filler or a seam filler?

    TOM SILVA: There is, there is. But you know what? I find that they don’t really work that great. It’s a temporary fix. If you’re going to eventually change it, you may be able to do it. But you can even try those sticks that they use in – wood fillers, like a (inaudible at 0:27:32).

    TOM: They look like the freezer pencils a little bit.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah. I mean …

    TOM: But they’re – they have stain in them. Yeah, OK. Sometimes, though, that almost just highlights the scratch, right?

    TOM SILVA: Exactly. Yeah, yeah. I’d find a good cookie jar or something like that. Put …

    LESLIE: A mixer, some sort of large appliance.

    TOM SILVA: A mixer. A knife, a spoon. Just leave it – “Oh, no. I forgot to put that away.”

    TOM: Good advice. Tom Silva from TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    TOM SILVA: My pleasure.

    LESLIE: Alright. You can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For your local listings and some step-by-step videos on how you can repair a laminate countertop, visit ThisOldHouse.com.

    TOM: And This Old House is brought to you by Lumber Liquidators. Lumber Liquidators, hardwood floors for less.

    Up next, did you ever buy a Christmas tree only to have it turn into a dry haystack well before the holiday even arrived? Well, we’ve got a solution and we’ll tell you how to pick a fresh tree and keep it that way, next.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by TotalProtect Home Warranty. Get total protection against unexpected home repair or replacement costs for appliances, air conditioning, heating, plumbing and electrical. Visit BuyTotalProtect.com to see if you qualify for a special offer. That’s BuyTotalProtect.com.

    TOM: Where home solutions live, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. And the number here is 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Well, we’ve got a great prize up for grabs this hour. We’re giving away the Cleaning Essentials Kit from Granite Gold. Now, this kit includes the best-selling Daily Cleanser plus four other products, including an outdoor-stone cleaner that can attach to your garden hose.

    And this really is a great prize, because it solves the problem of taking care of the most beautiful and most popular countertop option out there: granite. So give us a call with your home improvement question and get a chance to win this great prize.

    TOM: The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. This prize kit is worth $55. You can learn more about the products at GraniteGold.com or call us now for your chance to win. And we’ll give you an answer to your home improvement question at 888-666-3974.

    Well, if you celebrate Christmas, the annual outing to buy a Christmas tree is no doubt a family tradition. But if your tree withers and shrivels up every year before the holiday even arrives, the solution is to choose the freshest tree available.

    So, here’s how you do just that.

    LESLIE: That’s right. Now, when you get to the lot, start by looking at the color of the needles. They should be shiny, they should be green and they should be able to bend at the branch itself without snapping. And you want to give the branches a little tug to make sure that a bunch of needles don’t just fall right to the floor.

    You also want to make sure – and this is really important – that you measure the tree, not just vertically. I’m talking about the circumference: you know, how fat that Christmas tree is. Because you don’t want to have to smash limbs or end up reshaping it to get it into your home. And I always buy a tree that’s way too fat but I think that’s fun.

    TOM: Well, you also want to look for a species of tree that has strong branches. A Fraser or Noble fir will hold those very heavy ornaments. And if possible, when you take the tree home, lay it down inside your car.

    And finally, forget what you might have heard about additives that claim to keep a tree fresh. I mean we’ve heard about aspirin and bleach and all kinds of crazy things over the years. The best way is to just make sure that the base of the tree has a fresh cut on it and then keep it filled with fresh water.

    You can read more about how to buy a fresh Christmas tree and get some additional tips on MoneyPit.com. Just search “Christmas tree.”

    LESLIE: Michaeline in Wisconsin is on the line needing some help insulating a crawlspace. Tell us what’s going on.

    MICHAELINE: Well, I hung some plastic and insulation from the ceiling of the crawlspace and all the way around. And I’m still getting drafts and air coming in into the bedroom that faces the north, by the wall.

    TOM: So you’re getting drafts up through the walls? Is that where you feel like it’s coming up?

    MICHAELINE: Yeah. And up through the crawlspace. There’s half a basement, half crawlspace.

    TOM: OK. Now, what kind of insulation did you use, Michaeline?

    MICHAELINE: Well, I used the black plastic and I used the R-stuff with the …

    TOM: The R-stuff. Let’s back up for a second, OK? The insulation that you put in, is it – was it unfaced insulation? Did you press it up into the floor joist, like nice and fluffy?

    MICHAELINE: No, I didn’t press it into the floor joist.

    TOM: How did you hang it?

    MICHAELINE: I went with what the Reader’s Digest said, to hang it from the ceiling of the floor, down to the flooring of the crawlspace and let it …

    TOM: So, where is the – the insulation that goes up in that floor should be unfaced: should have no paper face, no plastic face; it should be unfaced. And it should be big and fluffy and it should be as thick as the crawlspace floor.

    But here’s the steps. And if you had called me before you started this, here is what I would have told you to do. First of all, I would say the area on the outside of your house, where we have what’s called the “box joist” – that’s the beam that goes around the outside perimeter.

    MICHAELINE: Right.

    TOM: In that area, you want to seal the gaps with an expandable foam, like GREAT STUFF or a product like that, so you …

    MICHAELINE: On the inside?

    TOM: On the inside, right. You seal that, you spray it. Because you get little gaps that – where air can come in around that. Then once that dries, it gets nice and hard. Don’t try to scrape it away or cut it; it doesn’t matter. Just spray it, let it dry, stop right there, don’t cut away the excess. Then, add some insulation and the insulation would be unfaced fiberglass batts. If your floor joists were 2x10s, I would put 10-inch fiberglass batts there.

    How do you support those? You use insulation hangers. They’re like pieces of wire that stick in between the joists. And let it hang there. And then, on the crawlspace floor – is it a dirt floor?


    TOM: So if it’s a dirt floor, then you want to add the plastic right on the dirt floor. Now, that’s not for drafts; that’s to stop moisture from coming up.

    LESLIE: That’s for moisture.


    TOM: And those things – that’s the best you can do for that crawlspace.

    LESLIE: And Michaeline, when you’re putting the plastic on the floor of the crawlspace, if you for some reason have to use more than one sheet, make sure you overlap by 2 or 3 feet so that you’re not getting any moisture releasing into it. Because, as Tom said, the moisture can really reduce the effect that the insulation is going to have.

    MICHAELINE: Do you – do I tape it then if I’ve got to use more than one sheet?

    LESLIE: If you overlap them by 2 or 3 feet, they’ll stay.


    TOM: Yeah, they’ll stay. Gravity will hold it in place.


    TOM: Alright? And that’s it. Alright, Michaeline? 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. Lowering your thermostat when you’re not at home, did you know it can actually save you big bucks? But how low is too low? We’ll tell you, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Lutron Sensors. Tired of reminding your family to turn off the lights? Install a Lutron Maestro Occupancy Sensor and you’ll never have to remind them again. It works with all bulb types and takes only about 15 minutes to install. For easy upgrades with big impact, choose Lutron. Visit ChooseLutron.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.

    Now that your heating bills are coming in like clockwork, you’re probably looking for some ways to lower them. Well, we can help you do just that if you go to MoneyPit.com and search “tips to lower home heating costs.” You’re going to find some really easy advice that you can follow. And it really adds up or, should I say, “down” on your bill. You’re going to see a lot of energy savings here, folks. And that’s what we all really want, especially during the holidays.

    And if you’ve got a question, you can head on over to our Community section and post it, just like Phil from Wisconsin did, who’s also looking to lower his bill. He says, “My wife turns the thermostat down to 50 degrees when we’re all at work, about nine hours a day. Then it takes a while for the house to heat up when we get home. Am I actually saving money by turning the thermostat that low if my furnace has to work so hard to bring it back up?”

    TOM: I’ve got to say that 50 is a bit low, especially in Wisconsin. Because remember, it may be 50 at the thermostat but at the outside walls or the walls closest to where the water pipes are, it can be a lot colder. And you’re only 20 degrees away from freezing, roughly, at that point, so I think 50 is low.

    Typically, if we’re going to turn the heat down when we’re away, I probably wouldn’t turn it any lower than about 62 or 63. I think 50 is pushing it.

    And in terms of you having to wait for the house to heat back up, why don’t you just get a clock setback thermostat, Phil, and then you can have it happen automatically? So, it can automatically turn down when you leave for work and you can bring it on an hour before you get back home so the house will be comfortable. So, I’d pick up the temperature a bit and use a clock setback thermostat to do the work.

    LESLIE: Alright. I hope that helps. Yeah, that is cold.

    Next up, we’ve got one from Brad in Colorado who posted: “I had contractors in recently to smooth some walls. I realized too late that they cleaned joint compound off their tools in my kitchen sink. What is this going to do to my pipes?”

    TOM: Hmm. Well, if it’s – if this was a day or two ago and you’d been using that sink, I’d say, “Nothing.” Spackle or joint compound is water-soluble and even if it’s dried, it will tend to loosen up if you – if it gets wet and soaks in there for a while. So if you’ve not had an issue right now, I wouldn’t worry too much about it, Brad. Probably wasn’t the best thing for them to do but if it’s not causing a problem at this point, then I think you are probably in good shape.

    One thing to keep an eye on, though – and this is not what you asked about but I am presuming that they probably used that spackle on top of your existing walls. Probably wasn’t the best choice, because spackle doesn’t usually adhere very well in a situation like that. You have to use a paint that’s textured or something that’s specifically designed to stick. Spackle sticks really well to raw walls but if they’re painted, might be an issue. So keep an eye on that and watch for cracks or any separation.

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got one from Brenda in Louisiana who wrote: “During the colder months, we use our garage as a workshop. It still gets pretty cold in there. I was thinking about adding heat and wondered if you had any advice.”

    TOM: You know, we’ve got a story on all the options for garage heating, on our website at MoneyPit.com. Just search for “garage heating.” But I think a garage space heater is probably the best way to go.

    If you’re really going to use that as a workshop, then you’re going to want to spend a little bit of money and put in a proper heating system. What you would do is you would put in, most likely, a gas-fired space heater. It hangs from the ceiling and it’s vented up through the roof and out. And that’s going to run on a thermostat just like your regular heating system inside your house. And it will keep it warm and toasty in there and most importantly, safe.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And they work amazingly well, so – you know, in Louisiana, you’re not going to be freezing but I’ve been there in the winter months. It gets pretty chilly, so it’ll definitely come in handy.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. Happy Holidays, everybody. Hope your prep is well underway. If we can help, you can reach out 24-7 at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. And always log on to MoneyPit.com for answers to your home improvement questions.

    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 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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