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How to Avoid Kitchen Design Mistakes, Get Kids Involved in Home Improvement, Build a Home Theater in Your Backyard, 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: Standing by to help you with your home improvement projects. So help yourself first. Pick up the phone and call us at 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Coming up this hour, if you’re enjoying the summer with your kids at home, now is an excellent time to think about some summer home improvement projects that you could do with them, including perhaps their very own room makeover. We’re going to have some ideas to make that project simple and fun, coming up.

    LESLIE: Also ahead, kitchens can make or break a home. If you’re redoing yours, we’ll be talking to the author of Kitchen Magic about the two biggest mistakes in kitchen design. Find out what they are and how to avoid them, a little later.

    TOM: Then we’re going to take it outside with some simple tips to create an outdoor theater on a budget. This way, you can watch your favorite summer movies, under the stars.

    LESLIE: And one caller we talk to this hour is going to win a signed copy of our book, My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure.

    TOM: It’s an encyclopedia of do’s and don’ts for all of your do-it-yourself projects. So, give us a call right now. Let’s get started. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now, Hugh is on the line from Texas and needs some help with brick repairs. How can we help you with the project?

    HUGH: Got a house down in Houston and every – I’ve forgotten how many bricks but every so often, it’s got a vertical slot between the ends of the brick, as if it’s – I guess it’s a slot for air to be able to ventilate going up. And then up in the attic, it’s – the air can come up there. And I was wanting to find out, would we be better off to seal that up to keep the scorpions and such out? Or do you – does the house need that?

    TOM: The answer is no because you do need that air for ventilation. I’m going to presume that this is a brick façade, so it’s probably over a wood-framed wall. And those weep holes in the brick help the brick to breathe; otherwise, you can trap moisture behind the brick and that could cause the exterior wood surfaces in the structure beneath them to rot.

    So it’s there for a reason, Hugh. You really should use it and find some other way to keep those scorpions away.

    HUGH: OK. Now, what about insulation? Now, I don’t know that this house had any insulation in the walls. It was built back in the early 70s or something and we bought it secondhand. But would that be where you’d normally put insulation? In between the brick …?

    TOM: No, it would not be, so – and here’s why: because you don’t want to, again, insulate that space because that’s there for ventilation. If you were to insulate it, it would be in the wall frame itself and even though 1970s sounds like a very old house, I can assure you they were definitely using fiberglass insulation – insulated batts – in walls that were constructed at that time. So you may very well have it.

    And in addition to that, if you’re going to add insulation to a house anywhere, the best place to add it is to the attic because that’s where you have the most heat loss, not the walls, not the floors. So the order of priority, in my mind, would be attic first, followed by floors, followed by walls.

    HUGH: OK. Well, we’ll leave them open then. I sure do appreciate it.

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

    LESLIE: Lucy in Kansas is on the line and would like some help refinishing some cabinets. Tell us about your project.

    LUCY: Yes. We have a home that is about 17 years old. I just moved here about three years ago. And we have solid-oak cabinets and the overall finish is just looking dull. It isn’t awfully bunged up or anything but there are areas, like along the upper edges of the drawers, where the color looks faded. And so, I don’t know what to use to clean them and I don’t know what to do to make them have some sheen.

    TOM: A couple of things. First of all, you can clean them with Murphy’s Oil Soap; that’s a good, mild soap for cleaning any kind of wood surface, including floors and cabinets. So that’s the first thing. The second thing is you can – if it’s just the finish that’s kind of worn a little bit, you can take those doors off, take the drawers out and lightly sand them and then put another coat of urethane on it. You’re probably going to want to use a satin urethane but make sure you sand them first. And use an oil-based, satin urethane. I would not use water-base.

    LUCY: I see.

    TOM: Even though it’s easier to use, it’s not as durable. So, use the oil-based urethane. And I would dry it on maybe one drawer front or someplace that’s the least obvious in your kitchen, just to make sure you like the way it came out, and then go ahead and do the rest.

    LUCY: Mm-hmm. OK. You know, I think that’ll just fix us right up.

    TOM: I think so. Lucy, 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. You’ve got a few weeks of summer left and we want to help you get all of your home improvement projects done. That’s why we’re here for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Still to come, we’ve got advice on home improvement projects that you can do with your kids, like letting them help redo their very own rooms. We’ll be back with more, 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. If we answer your question on the air today, we will throw your name into The Money Pit hard hat and choose one winner at random. And we’re giving away a copy of our book: a signed copy, an autographed copy, a graffiti-covered copy of My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure. In it, you’ll find tons of tips and advice and info on all things DIY. The number, again, is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Bob in California is on the line and dealing with some plumbing issues. Tell us what’s going on.

    BOB: It is in regards to the water hammer that you get in the plumbing normally. I would say it’s either in the walls but mostly in the ceilings.

    TOM: Right.

    BOB: And what I understood is – and correct me if I’m wrong – is they run the plumbing in the attic and then they’ll run an extension up a foot or so that just goes up and deads (ph). And it’s to carry a volume of air, so instead of working as a hammer when you turn the water on and off and it hits hard, it uses that air.

    TOM: That’s true. That is a way to create a water-hammer arrestor with air in the pipe. That’s sort of the old-fashioned way to do it. The high-tech way is with these sort of small diaphragms that are sort of stretched across the pipe, with compressed air on one side, that can actually be adjusted depending on the bang. And the rubber expands into the chamber and then pulls back again. So either is a viable option.

    BOB: Ah, I never heard of the other one. But what my question was, being old-fashioned – and my question is: about how often would you put them and how tall? And would they be larger, such as like a hydraulic ram would be or would they just be the normal-size pipe? And I would think, as a preventive measure, you’d do that. The reason I ask is just recently, they changed the plumbing in the attic in the apartment and it developed a water hammer when they changed it.

    TOM: So, the answer is they’re usually not very tall, the times that I’ve seen them. But today, I would use a water-hammer arrestor. So just look that up at the plumbing supply house – a water-hammer arrestor – and have your plumber install one of those on each line and that should deal with it permanently.

    BOB: I appreciate it. I just thought maybe there was a rule of thumb on how often and how tall that extender was.

    TOM: Yeah, you can do that but that’s the hard way. I would use the water-hammer arrestor and that will take care of it the easy way.

    Bob, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

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

    BARBARA: We’re restoring my mother-in-law’s 130-year-old home. Not that she’s 130 but this home is.


    BARBARA: And I’m having a problem with the carpenter. I want to put in pocket doors and for some reason, he keeps telling me not to do that. He doesn’t want to do it. It’s not structural; it’s just he doesn’t want to do it.

    TOM: Yeah. And you know what, Barbara? I mean a pocket door is a lot of work. And maybe that’s why he’s trying to talk you out of it. It will be far more expensive than a normal door to install because, essentially, it’s not just a door; it’s a wall, too. You have to put in the pocket side of it in addition to the door side of it. And that means that you have to kind of re-drywall that whole section so that it truly is a disappearing door.

    That said, I’ve got a pocket door in my office and I love it because I don’t have room for the swing. And we’ve got a full-size, 30-inch by 72 or – I’m sorry, 30-inch by 80-inch door in this pocket and it swings into the wall. But I remember the process of getting this thing in and it is a lot of work. So that might be why your contractor is a little reluctant to take it on.

    BARBARA: Do you have some words of wisdom I can share with him to encourage him to do that?

    TOM: Yeah. Yeah, tell him to expand his horizons, that the customer is always right and you want your pocket door and you’re willing to pay for it, pay him to do it. And he’s probably working by the hour, “so stop whining and get to work.”

    LESLIE: And phrase it exactly like that. No, don’t.

    TOM: Just like that. “Stop whining and get to work.”

    BARBARA: I like it. That’s great.

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

    LESLIE: So, if your kids have the midsummer blues right about now, you might want to inspire them to spend some of their summer vacation sprucing up the old money pit. Now, even elementary-aged kids can help pull weeds, sweep walkways, clean out the garage. Heck, Henry is in charge of the dishwasher. He said he wants to be in charge of something; I put him in charge of the dishwasher.

    TOM: Good. Wise move. Start him young.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Sometimes he forgets to start it but I take care of that after he goes to bed.

    Now, the older kids can lend a hand in planning a redesign of their bedrooms. Think about letting them choose paint colors and accent pieces. Older kids can get in on the painting and maybe even touch up other areas around the house.

    TOM: You can teach kids the basics of home ownership while you’re at it, like where the electrical box is, how to turn the water main on and off and how to use a fire extinguisher. Well, I wouldn’t necessarily show them how to use it. I would explain it, just in case.

    LESLIE: Show them where it is.

    TOM: Show them where it is, right.

    And also let them try out some simple hand tools. Older kids can even try out tools like a drill or a drill driver or an impact driver. All great information that your kids will be armed with when they are ready to invest in a home of their own. Because remember, the days when you go to school and you get a class in industrial arts or woodshop or metal shop or something like that, they’re long gone. Schools don’t have the money for those programs anymore, so teaching kids about tools and taking care of the house, it really falls to you, the parents. And now is a great time to do just that.

    LESLIE: Robert in Florida needs some help staining cabinets. Tell us what you’re working on.

    ROBERT: I had bought some cabinets – kitchen cabinets – from one of the major hardware stores.

    TOM: OK.

    ROBERT: And they are natural wood, oak face. And I’m looking to stain them like a mahogany color, the dark red.

    TOM: Mm-hmm. Right.

    ROBERT: And I’ve tried it on – like the Minwax or whatever stain. I’ve tried that on a spare piece and it doesn’t come out the way I want.

    TOM: OK.

    ROBERT: It doesn’t absorb the color or something. It’s like a brown color instead of the red mahogany-type.

    TOM: OK. You know, the color is going to depend on the species of wood. So, what they might call a mahogany stain is going to look different on oak versus birch versus pine. So what you want to do is – what I would do is – I’m trying to get just the right color – is I would buy those – the tiny cans of Minwax. And I would buy two or three that are closest to the color. I would try them on and also pick up some oak. So you could buy a piece of oak trim or something like that from a home center, that you can play with.

    ROBERT: Right.

    TOM: I would put it on, let it dry. And then – and this is an important step – put a clear finish on top of it. Because it looks very different when the finish is over it than when just the stain color is there.

    ROBERT: Oh, for once you put the seal on it?

    TOM: Correct. Well, the finish. So I would get a small – like I said, two or three cans of the different colors that you’re considering, just to test it out. Buy some oak, go ahead and stain them up and then put a couple of clear coats of urethane on top: satin urethane, so you don’t have a lot of sheen to it.

    ROBERT: Right. I don’t want the shiny, yeah, right. I’ve done two, three, four coats of stain. You wipe it off, you put the clear coat on it and everything. It’s just not right; it doesn’t keep that deep, rich color.

    TOM: Well, typically, you don’t put three or four coats of stain on it. It sounds to me like you’re just not finding the right color. So maybe we need to go to a different manufacturer until we can find the color that you’re looking for, if Minwax isn’t doing it for you.

    ROBERT: Right, right. Because I want it to look professional; I don’t want it to look like I did it in my garage. But of course, I am but …

    TOM: You are doing it in your garage.

    So if you’re not finding the color that you want, that’s available off the shelf with the Minwax products, what you could do is you could use a tintable stain. So, for example, Sherwin-Williams. Do you have a Sherwin-Williams store near you?

    ROBERT: I would have to look it up but …

    TOM: They have a line of stains called Wood Classics. These are oil stains? But the difference is that they mix them for you right in the store. So you can go into the store and you can bring one of your doors and show them the color you’re trying to get to and they can work with you to mix up exactly the right color. So you don’t have to really find one off the shelf; they’ll mix up pretty much anything that you need.

    ROBERT: That’s what I’m looking for.

    LESLIE: Joe in Illinois is next up with a tedious organizational project. My favorite! What can we do for you?

    JOE: Hi, Leslie. I’m calling because I have unsightly surround-sound speaker wire going throughout my living room and halfway through my house. I kind of want some suggestions on that.

    LESLIE: Do you have a girlfriend or a wife?

    JOE: Yes, I do have a wife.

    LESLIE: And is she super-mad about this mess of wires and that’s why you’re calling?

    JOE: Yes, she is.

    TOM: Yeah. Leslie feels your pain because she’s got a husband that’s got a really great, awesome stereo system which I appreciate but women, they just don’t get it.

    LESLIE: Ugh. Men. I swear.

    JOE: They do not get it.

    LESLIE: But I tell you, Joe, I think our hearing is different because I don’t get it. The surround sound freaks me out; it makes me constantly feel like we’re about to be arrested. I’m like, “Great for paranoia.” I’m like, “What is that? Who’s outside? What’s happening?” I don’t know what a subwoofer does and why is that so important? I can’t tell. My husband thinks I’m crazy. Maybe I have a hearing issue.

    But what I can tell you …

    TOM: But you can hide wires.

    LESLIE: Exactly. Is how to hide those wires.

    First of all, any base molding, trim around windows, doors, those things are going to be your best friends. You have got to figure out a way to sort of group these wires together, get them from coming out from behind – and really start from behind your entertainment center. And whatever you can group together neatly, you are going to have to use plastic zippers or zip ties. I’m not sure what you might call them but Radio Shack, Staples, they’ve got them in black, clear, bright colors, whatever you like. But small ones so that you can really tidy up these wires and get them linked together.

    And at this point, when I’m doing this, I might label things because I know how tedious it is to properly install all of this stuff and to make sure that things go back into the right place, should you have to disconnect something or if something comes unplugged or you move or what-have-you. This way, you know exactly what goes where. You might want to take that time, since you’re going to be back there organizing all of this nonsense.

    JOE: OK.

    LESLIE: So, definitely get all of those wires as thinly grouped together as you can. And then depending on where the variety of things are going around the room, you’re going to want to sit things very neatly and contained along baseboards. And use little clips that will group all of those wires together, that you nail into the top of the baseboard and around door frames and trims.

    And the neater and tighter and closer to that wood that you can make it, the better because that’s going to do its best. I mean granted, it’s still going to be wire sitting on top of some wood trim that’s going to be a different color: black upon white. So you will see them but if they’re tidy, it’s not as annoying.

    There are little covers that you can get and foam covers and different types of molding that then you could put on top to go ahead and hide all of that. I don’t know how anal your wife is about hiding these things. I know, for me, I like to just not even know they exist. So start …

    JOE: Exactly. She’s the same way.

    LESLIE: Yeah, so I would really …

    JOE: Hopefully, I was hoping that you had a suggestion of the wireless theater system you guys were talking about (inaudible at 0:17:54).

    LESLIE: Oh, you want to buy more audio equipment.

    JOE: Yeah. The new – yeah.

    TOM: He wants us to tell him to do it, too, give him permission.

    LESLIE: I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m not doing it. Audio equipment, kibosh. Not doing it.

    Tom, you’ve got …

    TOM: You’d better buy something nice for your wife, first, buddy. That’s all I’ve got to say.

    JOE: OK. Yeah, I heard Saturday morning about the drawing for the chance to win the audio system – the wireless speakers that I talked to …

    TOM: Yeah, the AudioBulbs, yeah.

    JOE: Yeah. I was hoping I could kind of call in and see how we could do that. It could kind of solve both problems there.

    TOM: I don’t think you’d be happy with that. It’s a – I think you want a much bigger system than what’s going to come out of that light-bulb design.

    JOE: I don’t know. I’m pretty easily happy.

    TOM: It could work, huh? Alright.

    LESLIE: Listen, this is an issue between Mr. and Mrs. and I’m not getting in the middle. I’ll just help you tidy it up.

    JOE: OK. You help me tidy it up, I think we – Jim over there, he could help me just solve the whole problem by just giving me the light-bulb system.

    LESLIE: Alright. Shout out to Jim, our engineer.

    TOM: Alright.

    JOE: But thank you very much.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Still to come, we’ve got the basics of good kitchen design and two big no-no’s that many do-it-yourselfers make. Find out what they are and get info on the right way to design a kitchen, 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.

    Well, if you’re thinking about getting a new kitchen or maybe you’re just making a few updates to the kitchen you’ve already got, you really need to watch out for mistakes. Because when it comes to working on a kitchen, those mistakes can be very expensive.

    TOM: Our next guest will tell you exactly how to avoid the common kitchen-design mistakes. She’s seen a lot of kitchens and says having a kitchen your family wants to be in is key to having a great home. She is designer, builder and author of the new book, Kitchen Magic, Sabine Schoenberg.

    Hi, Sabine. Welcome to the program.

    SABINE: Thank you for having me.

    TOM: Now, you say there are two really common but huge mistakes that people make when they think about designing the kitchen. What are they?

    SABINE: Well, two huge mistakes are – design the kitchen that really helps you and your lifestyle. Figure out what your kitchen doesn’t have and then give you that element. May it be a center island, may it be drawers that you want to pull out of your existing cabinet so you can reach to the back and really store all the stuff you have.

    Lighting is another one that you really can do a lot with. Give yourself good lighting in kitchens. Don’t make the mistakes of just general lighting but give yourself good under-cabinet lighting, for example, that is good-quality task lighting for yourself.

    TOM: Yeah. You know, Leslie, what I like about the lighting idea is that kitchens are used not only as the place we prepare our food but they’re kind of a hangout place and they’re the party spot. And when you have lighting that’s really customizable, you can really tweak it to match those situations.

    SABINE: Yes. Dimmers are big. Dimmers are another one that for the decorative lighting, it can give you any number of moods that you want to create in your kitchen space. And then, of course, augment that or offset it with under-cabinet lighting when you really want to have good lighting quality. So give yourself the xenon lights – the kind of lights that cars now come with – or LED lights. It’s really a worthwhile thing to do.

    LESLIE: Now, Sabine, I think a kitchen is such a personal choice into how it looks, how it feels, how it works. When you’re planning a space, are there any questions you’re supposed to ask yourself or thought processes that you’re supposed to have to create a space that’s going to work for you and your family?

    SABINE: Yes. And that’s a really, really important part in the planning part of it all. It’s so important that I actually put a questionnaire in Kitchen Magic. Because you’ll ask five kitchen designers and they just about all tell you that people don’t like their kitchens but they really don’t know what they want to have. So, you really want to go through and tease out from yourself – “What is really important? What matters to me? And my ideal kitchen is what?” Fill in the blank.

    TOM: We’re talking to Sabine Schoenberg. She is a designer, builder, founder of SabinesHome.com and author of the new book, Kitchen Magic.

    Now, Sabine, kitchens, let’s face it, the renovation is probably one of the more expensive projects that people tackle around the house. It’s probably more costly than a roof, it’s more costly than a deck, it’s more costly than a basement renovation. Does it always have to require big money or are there smaller changes that can give you a big impact but maybe on a reduced budget?

    SABINE: There are definitely small changes you can make. I think of the kitchen backsplash, for example, as the big fashion statement in your kitchen. Think about it: you can paint it, paint it different colors, have a glass backsplash. You can have maybe – mosaics are really hot and trendy. And have some fun with it; go far out with it because it’s fairly simply to also change it over time. Don’t hesitate to really go with what you love there.

    LESLIE: Sabine, I think islands have really grown in popularity and certainly serve a purpose in a kitchen. How do you go about creating one that doesn’t cost a ton of money?

    SABINE: Center islands are a really wonderful addition in most kitchens. It’s where everybody kind of comes and gathers, cooks but also hangs out. And it becomes that hub, that focal point in the kitchen. And it’s not that difficult to do.

    So we just, for example, posted a video on Sabines Home that talks about just that: how do you create a center island? Not very difficult to create for yourself and your kitchen.

    LESLIE: And Sabine, kitchen islands, they’re so popular and I think it’s important to point out that it doesn’t have to be constructed to match your cabinets. It could be a piece of furniture, right?

    SABINE: It can be a piece of furniture and any type of furniture that you really feel adds something to your life. Don’t complicate it. Go with what you love.

    TOM: Great point. Sabine Schoenberg, author of Kitchen Magic, great advice. Thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    SABINE: Thank you for having me.

    TOM: And you can find Kitchen Magic on Amazon.com.

    LESLIE: Alright. Still ahead, depending on the age of your house, you could have lead paint lurking under the layers. Learn what you need to know if your home contains lead-based paint, 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. And the number to reach us is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Now, one caller we talk to this hour is going to get a signed copy of our book, My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure. In it, you’re going to find tons of information and lots of inspiration.

    TOM: And one of my personal favorite chapters is the one on 30 maintenance projects that take less than 30 minutes to complete. Folks always think that these projects around their house are going to take forever. Nope, “30 Under 30,” one of the chapters you’ll find in My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure.

    Give us a call right now. The number is 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Clara in Minneapolis, Kansas is on the line with a dryer-venting question. How can we help you?

    CLARA: Our dryer is in the basement, is the beginning part of the problem. So when we hook it up to the vent, the vent goes straight up.

    TOM: How far up does it go?

    CLARA: Well, it’s probably 8 foot.


    CLARA: And then it goes vertical – I mean horizontal – probably about 25 feet to the back side of the house.

    TOM: Wow. OK.

    CLARA: And then that’s where the exhaust comes out of the house. And we can get part of it cleaned.

    TOM: Is it a metal exhaust duct or a plastic exhaust duct?

    CLARA: It’s a metal.

    TOM: OK, good. Perfect. We’ve got a solution for you. It’s called a Gardus LintEater. And it’s a special brush that fits inside the dryer exhaust ducts and it’s on fiberglass rods. And as you …

    LESLIE: So it’s flexible.

    TOM: It’s flexible. And so what you do is you start with like 3 foot or 6 foot of the fiberglass rod, you hook it up to a drill and the drill is what spins it. You run it into the duct, pull it out a couple of times. Then you add another length of fiberglass and another length of fiberglass rod and so on.

    LESLIE: And it’s the coolest thing, because you will be amazed – both, I should say, amazed and disgusted – at the amount of lint that is going to come out of your vent the first time you do it.

    TOM: Yeah, it’s fun.

    CLARA: I imagine.

    TOM: Just Google it – LintEater, Lint-E-a-t-e-r – and you’ll find it.

    CLARA: OK.

    TOM: It’s a really handy tool to have. Once you have one, you can use it a lot. You can do it from the outside. They’ve got other attachments that help you get in closer to the dryer and so on but it’s a great product, OK?

    CLARA: OK. OK.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And you know what? If you don’t do it, you really need to be careful because all of that lint is sort of just building up in there and it could be a fire hazard. So you really do have to get on this.

    CLARA: Yeah. That’s what we were concerned about.

    TOM: And that’s actually their website, too: it’s LintEater.com. So check it out.

    CLARA: OK. That sounds great.

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

    You know, that’s such an important thing to do, Leslie, because there’s a lot of fires that happen in homes because of dirty dryer-exhaust ducts. So, a good idea to keep it clean.

    LESLIE: It’s funny, I was just noticing the lint buildup in my driveway again and I was like, “Ah, it’s time. Time to get out there.”

    TOM: It’s time again.

    Well, if your house was built before 1978, there’s a pretty good chance that it might contain lead-based paint. Undisturbed lead paint is harmless but if dust or paint chips get created during paint prep or other remodeling projects, these can be health hazards, especially to young children.

    LESLIE: Anytime you’re prepping a surface that may have lead paint, the debris and the dust you create must be contained and thoroughly cleaned up. And whoever is doing the work has got to wear protection to prevent them from breathing in any lead dust. To find out if your home has lead paint, you can have it professionally inspected. A lead inspector is going to be able to give you results on the spot.

    TOM: And if there’s lead paint in your house, new rules say that anyone who works on your house should be specially trained in techniques to help minimize any spread of the lead particles or the dust. Lead can be very harmful to kids and it can impact brain development, so be careful. And if you’ve got an older home, consider having your child tested for lead exposure. This can be done at most pediatricians’ offices.

    LESLIE: It’s actually standard when they draw blood, I believe, at one year and five years, I know, at the pediatrician we go to. So, you may even want to check with your pediatrician. It could be something they’re already doing.

    TOM: Makes sense.

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

    PETE: Well, I’ve got lime deposits in my toilets and I’ve got probably five toilets in my house that I’d like to get them out of it. They’re around the upper part of the rim where the water comes out and then down in the bowl.

    TOM: OK.

    PETE: And I’ve tried LIME-A-WAY and I tried a vinegar soak. Maybe I just didn’t do it long enough but I’d like to find a way to get the – those lime deposits out of there and get my toilets looking nice.

    TOM: Have you tried CLR?

    PETE: Yes, I have.

    TOM: You have tried CLR and CLR didn’t do it either?

    PETE: Didn’t do it, no.

    TOM: Well, Pete, if the commercial cleaners like CLR and LIME-A-WAY are not working, there’s a couple other things that you can try but you have to be very careful. One of them is to use something that’s abrasive, like pumice or a rubbing compound. And you can try to abrade away the deposit.

    Theoretically, these abrasives are softer than the porcelain but you have to do it very carefully. You don’t want to rough the surface of the porcelain because if you do, it’ll get dirtier that much quicker the next time around.

    Some folks also use muriatic acid. I don’t like to recommend that because it’s pretty harsh stuff and you’ve got to be super, super careful when you use it.

    PETE: Yeah.

    TOM: But it is a possibility, as well.

    And then, the other thing that you can try is you did use vinegar but I don’t know if you mixed it with baking soda.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Because that helps.

    TOM: And that helps, as well. You kind of make it into a paste and let it stand for a while and then you rinse it.

    PETE: OK.

    TOM: So, there’s a couple of additional things that you can try.

    I also found a great article online. Whenever you find an article from a university or an extension service, it’s usually pretty well-researched. And if you just Google “removing mineral deposits and North Carolina Cooperative,” you’ll find it. And it’s an extensive article that’s a little old but has a lot of great suggestions in it. And specifically, it has solutions for the different types of deposits that you get on these fixtures, whether it’s rust, iron, copper, what kind of stain it is and so on.

    PETE: That sounds great. Thanks so much. I really appreciate it.

    TOM: Good luck. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Al in Texas has got a house that tends to move a lot. Now you can’t close your darn doors. Tell us what’s going on, Al.

    AL: Well, here in this part – side of town – our soils are not very good and they tend to shift all the time.

    TOM: OK.

    AL: So it’s a constant battle with the doors not locking properly. And so my question has to do with – there’s a male and a female side and so, should I change – adjust the door or do I need to go to the female side to adjust that so that the door locks properly?

    TOM: The place you make the adjustment, Al, really depends on what’s the easiest way to do this, so let me give you a couple of examples.

    Let’s say that the door itself was hitting the door jamb a little bit low and you had to pick it up a bit? Well, if you went to the upper hinge and was able to tighten it, that will actually sort of twist the door upwards in its frame and move that striker up higher, perhaps enough to actually make the connection on the strike plate. And if you had to move it down, you could tighten the lower hinge. So you can do a little bit of movement by shimming the hinges or moving the hinges or tightening the hinges in the door.

    Beyond that, the easiest thing to do is to actually reset the striker plate on the door jamb itself, to move that up or down to align properly with the door itself. And you could actually have a striker that’s a little bit wider than perhaps what you really need, in terms of the actual striker hole, so that if the door was to shift a little bit throughout the year because of swelling and expansion and contraction, it would still continue to operate properly. Does that make sense?

    AL: It does. Now, let me ask you one last thing. On the – not on the door but on the other side, would I need to change that piece of wood? And why I say that is because, typically, that little metal piece is actually almost encrusted onto the wood. I mean there’s always like a little square and if it’s like perfectly in there, would I need to replace all of that or could I just maybe …?

    TOM: Not necessarily replace it but what you would do is you might open it up a little bit. So, for example, you would take off the striker and then with the chisel, you would widen out the hole a little bit and then you would put it back together.

    AL: That makes sense.

    TOM: OK?

    AL: Thanks very much. I appreciate it.

    TOM: You’re welcome, Al. 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. Well, there’s nothing better than an old movie, unless you can watch that old movie under the stars in your very own backyard. We’re going to tell you how to do that, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by the new Chamberlain Garage Power Station, an air inflator, utility cord, and LED task light all together in a new, 3-in-1 tool. Exclusively at The Home Depot.

    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: Hey, are you thinking about a renovation? Make sure you pick the right project. In this market, over-improving your home will hurt more than it helps. If you need some great ideas, check out “Home Improvements For Under 1,000 Bucks,” online at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: And while you’re online, you can post your question in the Community section, just like Trevor in Minnesota did who writes: “I love your show and I’ve been inspired to tackle more and more projects on my own after listening. I’d like to know if there’s a resource that would help me sort out home improvement repairs into sort of a priority checklist for future projects. I thought of hiring a home inspector but I’m wondering if his efforts would be of any benefit to me or if he would just tell me what I already know.”

    TOM: Well, as a guy who spent 20 years as a professional home inspector, I would tell you that it’s almost impossible for somebody that’s a good home inspector to inspect a house thoroughly and not find something that you didn’t know about. We did it all the time as home inspectors. Unfortunately, the homeowner was the last one to learn. The buyers learned first and the homeowners had to pay for it.

    So, home inspectors are really good at figuring out what’s wrong with homes and help prioritizing the repairs that will be needed now and in the future. And certainly, as a homeowner, getting an independent assessment by a home inspector is smart. Because, look, if you hire a contractor, they’re going to look at your house as an opportunity for many, many different projects and they’re going to recommend the ones that are going to be most profitable to them potentially.

    Home inspectors don’t do contracting work so they’re there only to find the information. So what I would do is I would list out some of my concerns. I would hire a home inspector, spend time going through the inspection with the home inspector. It should take two-and-a-half to three hours. See what comes up and then get lots and lots of information from that home inspector that’s going to help you set those priorities.

    And then one other thing that you could look into is a home energy audit. Check with utility companies because in many areas, those audits are done at no cost to the homeowner.

    LESLIE: Yeah, that’s really smart, Trevor. And you’d probably be even very surprised about how much money you’d actually save by things that you can do. And once you start tackling things on that inspector’s report, it’s really a good thing to do.

    TOM: Well, if you love movies but don’t want to waste any of your warm summer months sitting inside a theater, Leslie has the answer, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    LESLIE: Well, has your town ever shown a movie in a park on a summer night? Usually, they’re too late for my kids but it really can be one of the coolest things ever, especially because a lot of kids today have no idea what a drive-in movie is. And this really is the best way to sort of recreate it. You know, you can pack a picnic and sit under the stars while you watch your favorite movie. But you don’t have to wait for your town to do it. You can have that experience in your very own backyard.

    Of course, you’re going to need a screen but a canvas drop cloth or even a white wall will do the trick. So you can dust off your old projector or invest in one from a local garage sale or maybe even commandeer that office PowerPoint projector, just for the evening. But make sure you get permission first. You can use your own stereo speakers for sound and just hook up your DVD player to the projector.

    And if you’re interested in a more high-end version, there are so many manufacturers out there right now making TVs designed especially for outdoor use. And you can really find a full list of equipment and options. Head on over to MoneyPit.com and Google “money pit home theater.” I know that at my son’s nursery school, at the end of the year they would always show outside a little movie in the evening at a cocktail party for the parents: a fundraising event, pictures of the kids all doing their thing throughout the year.

    And there’s actually an inflatable outdoor movie screen. It’s kind of like in the same manner as a bouncy castle would be except this is a giant, white movie screen. It’s great, it’s affordable, so that’s another option.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up next week on the program, if the summer heat has caused your A/C to feel the strain, we’re going to have tips on how to shop for a new system that will cut energy costs and increase comfort, 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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