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How To Choose the Right Kitchen Cabinets for You, Get Advice on the Best Options for TV service in Your Home, Learn Why a Safe Is Important and more

  • Transcript

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And what are you working on on this beautiful summer weekend? And yes, it is now officially the start of summer. So if you’re taking a break out of your summer day to tackle a summer home improvement project, hey, we are here to help. We’ve got the tools ready, we’ve got the advice ready. Call us at 888-MONEY-PIT and let’s get started, 888-666-3974.

    Hey, if you’re working on a big project this summer, like kitchen cabinets, you might need some tips on styling. We’ve got it this hour, because kitchen cabinets are really the key to good style in the kitchen. So we’re going to have some tips to help you step that up, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: And also ahead, there have never been more options out there for getting a TV signal to your house. So, do you pick satellite or cable or fiber-optic? What’s the best choice for you? We’re going to help you weigh the pros and cons of each option.

    TOM: Plus, if there was fire or water damage in your home, would all of your most important documents survive? Well, they could if they’re stored in the correct type of safe. We’re going to have tips on how you can pick that one for your house, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: And this hour we’re giving away the Vivitar DVR 787HD Action Camera. This is super-awesome because it’s perfect for all of your summer outdoor adventures. I mean you can attach it to a helmet, put it on your wrist. Whatever you’re doing, you can take awesome video of like going down a waterslide or playing tennis or going dirt-biking – you know, all fun, summer American things – and make awesome YouTube videos. That’s something my five-year-old would do.

    TOM: Yeah, absolutely. It’s worth $119. Going out to one caller drawn at random from those that reach us on today’s show. So pick up the phone; let’s get to it. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Leslie who’s first?

    LESLIE: Debbie in Illinois is on the line with a cleaning question. How can we help you?

    DEBBIE: My question is about ceramic tile. What is the very best way to clean the grout? We have a house that’s been – it’s about nine years old and I just need to clean my grout.

    LESLIE: So what color has the grout turned? Do you think it’s like a mold or mildew situation or do you think that it’s just dirty?

    DEBBIE: I think it’s dirty – just dirty – yeah.

    LESLIE: And was it white to begin with?

    DEBBIE: No, it was tan. And it’s just a little darker tan. The ceramic tile is tan and so it’s just – it was a coordinating tan that went with the tile.

    TOM: So there are a couple of options. You can get grout cleaner or grout stripper, which are commercially available products. And the stripper is a little more aggressive. And you can put it on, let it sit and then you work it with a brush until you get the grout to the color that you want it. But the key, final step is to make sure that once you get it clean and it’s really dry – is to seal it at that point, because that will keep it cleaner longer.

    The sealers are silicone-based and they sort of soak into the grout and they stop it from being quite as absorbent. And they help you shed some of the dirt and grime that will follow.

    DEBBIE: OK. So, I’ve also seen it advertised that a steamer is a good way to do that. Would you not recommend a steamer on it?

    TOM: I don’t think a steamer is going to help you by itself. Warm/hot water and steam is not going to make the difference. What you need is the right product to lift the dirt and the debris out of the grout that’s there.

    DEBBIE: OK. And would you recommend a certain type of grout stripper?

    TOM: You might want to take a look at the products by TileLab – Tile-L-a-b. Those are sold at The Home Depot.

    DEBBIE: Alright. Awesome. Thank you so much. I appreciate your help.

    TOM: You’re welcome, Debbie.

    LESLIE: Robin in South Dakota needs help keeping a basement dry. Tell us what’s going on.

    ROBIN: What we’ve got going on is I’d like to insulate the basement but before we do that, I’d like to seal it from water. Several years ago, I had dug up all around the outside of the house and put on that tar substance and that didn’t do it. So, I was just seeing if that spray-on poly spray would do both for me: both seal the basement up from some water coming in and also to insulate for me.

    TOM: Do you have more water problems when you get a heavy snow melt or a big rainstorm or something like that?

    ROBIN: Yeah, that is what’s coming in. It’s the rain. Actually, the rain hitting the foundation wall coming in is what causes it. It’s not groundwater coming up.

    TOM: Well, typically the reason the basements leak is because when you have a heavy rain, water collects around the foundation perimeter. And many folks do try to seal walls from the outside or from the inside but we found it far easier and more effective to simply take some steps to divert that water away from the walls.

    If you take a look at our website, MoneyPit.com – in fact, on the home page, this is – we have the list of the most viewed articles. This is constantly in the top 10 articles and that is the step-by-step advice on how to stop a wet basement.

    But generally speaking, you’re going to do a couple of things. First of all, you’re going to examine the foundation perimeter of your home and look carefully at the grade. You want the soil to slope away about 6 inches over 4 feet. So you want kind of a 10-degree slope. And you want to make that slope happen with clean fill dirt, not top soil because it’s too organic.

    Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, you want to take a look at your gutter system. First, you need to have enough downspouts. You need 1 downspout for every 600 to 800 square feet of roof surface. Next, those gutters obviously have to be clean and the downspouts have to be extended 4 to 6 feet away from your house.

    Now, most of the time when downspouts are installed, they turn into a splash block and go out maybe a couple of feet. But what happens is the water runs down there, does a U-turn and just saturates the foundation and leaks through the block wall, which is very hydroscopic, very absorbent and will show up as a leak inside.

    We’ve seen situations where just one downspout can cause an issue of flooding. And that water can either come through the wall and fall or it can go under the floor and come up. But if your basement is leaking consistent with rainfall, it is always, always, always due to grading and drainage on the outside. So address that and your problem will go away.

    ROBIN: OK. Sounds good.

    TOM: 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. We are here for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to help you with whatever home improvement project you are tackling right now. So give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Coming up, the style, the color and the look of your kitchen cabinets can reflect your home’s personality. We’ll have some tips on how to choose the cabinets that are right for your home, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by the Chamberlain MyQ Garage. If you forget to close your garage door, it alerts your smartphone so you can control it from anywhere. Works with most garage-door openers. Discover smarter possibilities at Chamberlain.com.

    TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: 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 very cool prize. We’ve got Vivitar’s DVR 787HD Action Camera. Now, this is one of the most versatile digital video recorders ever made. It’s waterproof and includes a mount for bikes, ATVs, you name it.

    LESLIE: Yeah, it’s lightweight and compact so the recorder does not impact the performance or restrict your movement in any way. So you can still skateboard as awesome as you would, because I know most of us home improvers are totally on skateboarding.

    But think about it: you can attach it to a hard hat and maybe film whatever home improvement project you’re working on, if you’re working on a roof or something. How cool is that? You’re going to get high-definition video quality and it has a touchscreen display, a waterproof case – so it is waterside friendly – and a remote control.

    Now, this is a prize worth $119. If you think it’s awesome and you want some more info, go to their website. It’s Vivitar.com. And give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT for your chance to win.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Cheryl in Texas on the line who’s looking to redo a bathroom and make it more modern with just a shower. How can we help you?

    CHERYL: Well, I am the mother of four sons and as they get bigger, they no longer like to get in the bathtub.

    LESLIE: Right.

    TOM: OK.

    CHERYL: And we find that they are always in my room, in my shower. We’re wanting to take out the tub that’s in their bathroom and turn it into a shower. My issue is I don’t have a lot of space. It’s a Hollywood bath and then the tub and toilet are in a separate little room that you can close off. And the door facing – of that little room sits right next to the tub itself.

    So, my question is – when I pull that tub out, the plan was to put a shower pan down and tile the area and then put a glass door – either a sliding door on there. Will that be a wide-enough space if it’s only the width of a standard tub?

    TOM: Cheryl, I think you definitely can find a shower pan that can fit the width of that tub, sort of elbow to elbow if you’re standing in it. Think about it: if you’re in the tub, you’re taking a shower, right? You’ve got room on – to the right and to the left of you. So we want a shower pan, essentially, that’s the same size.

    Now, when it comes to residential, prefabricated shower pans, they start at around 24×24, so that’s 2-foot-square. You know, that would be probably the smallest that you would need but you might be able to go up even bigger.

    But a little trick of the trade: if you were to find, for example, that for whatever reason – the way this room is configured – a 24×24 would not work, then you should shop for a smaller shower pan, which you will find, sold for RVs – recreational vehicles. Because they have tiny showers in them, right? And there’s a whole host of RV shower pans that are smaller than 24×24. I don’t think you’re going to need it. I think you’ll be fine starting there, maybe even going up.

    But the size of the shower pan is what you want to figure out first. Then you can basically build around that, OK? Does that make sense?

    CHERYL: Sure, sure. That’s what I want to do. OK.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Trent in Florida on the line who’s dealing with a falling-apart popcorn ceiling. How can we help you?

    TRENT: Well, my popcorn ceiling is actually in my bathroom. I guess, on one night or something, my son had gotten it wet and when it dried, it started flaking off the ceiling. And now it’s just continuing to do it.

    LESLIE: Well, it’s funny because when you get a popcorn ceiling wet, that’s actually the way to remove it. You would spray it with some sort of garden sprayer and then scrape it off. So if you want it gone, he’s got you on the correct path.

    TOM: Now is the time, right.

    But if you don’t want it gone, what I would do is this: I would take maybe a stiff-bristle brush and gently brush away – maybe like a dry paintbrush and just brush away all the loose stuff. And then you’re going to pick up some popcorn-ceiling patching material. There’s a number of different manufacturers of this. I know that Zinsser makes one, Homax makes one. It comes both in a trowel-on finish and also in a spray-on finish.

    LESLIE: It looks like cheese in a can when it comes out.

    TOM: Yeah, exactly. It looks like Cheez Whiz. And you can spray that on and recreate the popcorn effect that way. And then, lastly, you’re probably going to have to paint that ceiling and paint the entire ceiling to blend it in.

    But you’ve got to get rid of the loose stuff, add the patching material and then repaint the ceiling and you’ll be good to go.

    TRENT: OK. Well, great. Well, thank you very much.

    TOM: Now you’ve got options. You’re very welcome.

    LESLIE: Well when it comes to kitchen cabinets, the styles and finishes that you select are going to set the stage for your entire kitchen. So whether you want create a modern, a traditional, a cottage or a super-sleek look, the cabinets will tell the story.

    TOM: Now, according to the experts at CabinetsToGo.com, shaker-style cabinets are one of the best options for clean design. And they come in both traditional and modern styles. The doors have a raised center panel with a surrounding profile or a contour. And these cabinets work really well with traditional or transitional designs.

    LESLIE: Now, if you want a more modern look, you should consider frameless or European-style cabinets, which are sleek with clean lines. Now, when you add the right hardware to any style cabinet, you add your personality and really set off the design statement that you’re trying to make.

    TOM: And regardless of which style you like, consider picking up those cabinets at CabinetsToGo.com, where you’ll get premium-quality cabinets for less. You dream it, they design it and always 40 percent less than the big-box stores. Online at CabinetsToGo.com or visit your local showroom where a Cabinets To Go designer is always available.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Carol on the line from Oregon. How can we help you today?

    CAROL: Well, I’ve got a problem. I should know better but I have rented to people with – who brought in a puppy.

    TOM: OK. Oh, that’s terrible.

    CAROL: And now I’ve got to deal with lots of urine, fecal. It’s damage that’s probably been on there too long, too deep. Gone through the carpet to the pad to the subfloor. So, my question is: can the stain ever be removed? I’m thinking I should just take everything up. My question would be what to put down new. Replace the subfloors? Solution? People have said something about KILZ and something like Zenix (ph) or something like that.

    LESLIE: Well, I mean it really depends. If you even want to attempt salvaging the rug that’s there – generally, with a rental situation, you’re probably better off with a tile or a laminate floor just because of cleanability. And then let the folks bring in their own area rugs. But if you want to attempt to sort of get the stain away, get the odor away, there’s a product that I used when I was training our dog, who was untrainable for the first year. And it’s on a website called JustRite and it’s R-i-t-e.com. And it’s called 1-2-3 Odor Free.

    And it’s like a series of different products. One’s a stain remover, one’s an odor remover and it sort of neutralizes through enzymes. And there’s an injector that you use to get through the carpet and into the padding and into the subfloor. And I kid you not, it works. Because there was a spot at the top of the steps that Daisy just loved and no problems to this day.

    So, you might want to try that. However, if there is a lot of stuff to deal with, your best bet is probably to just pull everything off and you’re right about wanting to seal that subfloor. Because if you don’t put a primer – a good one – on top of it, whatever you put on top, get a humid day and you’re going to notice it.

    CAROL: Right.

    TOM: Yeah, so that’s why, Carol, what you want to do is use an oil-based primer like a KILZ or a B-I-N. There are a number of different primers out there but I would use the oil-based ones for a problem like this, because they’re going to do a better job of sealing in odor.

    CAROL: OK. And if I do decide to put down a rug – because this is a house I would like to sell future forward; it’s a nice house – is there a type of rug that can better be cleaned?

    LESLIE: OK, yeah. It is from Mohawk and it’s a carpet that they call SmartStrand. And it’s got built-in stain- and soil-resistance that’s never, never, never going to wear off or wash off or clean off. And it feels soft. And it’s environmentally friendly because it’s made in part with a recycled plastic.

    And I think it was last year at the Builders’ Show – Tom and I were at the event – and they were just launching this SmartStrand product. And they had taken carpeting and carpeted the pen of an elephant at the zoo and left it in there for a year and then took it off, cleaned it and brought a patch in and had half under the cover of glass and half out. And there was a little door that you could open up to the dirty side and you opened that up and of course, I didn’t smell just because I always do strange things like that. And it like reeked horribly. And the side that was cleaned was beautiful, clean, soft, smelled fantastic.

    So, I’m not really sure about the price point but it is an amazing product and available in a lot of different looks, different piles. So I would start with Mohawk, their SmartStrand.

    CAROL: OK. Thank you so much.

    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.

    LESLIE: OK.

    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. Yep.

    LESLIE: Well, when it comes to TV watching there have never been more options available to you. You’ve got satellite, cable, fiber-optic, so many choices. So how do you know which one is best for you?

    TOM: We’ve got the pros and the cons of each, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by QUIKRETE Concrete & Cement Products. QUIKRETE, what America is made of. Like us on Facebook and visit online at www.QUIKRETE.com for product information and easy, step-by-step project videos.

    TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Here to help you with your home improvement projects. So call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    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 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 kinds 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: Elaine in Delaware is on the line and is looking to redo a kitchen completely. Great project. How can we help?

    ELAINE: I have a house that was built in like 1955, OK? So I have the arch entrance going into the dining room. I also have a door going into a basement. I have a door going outside and I have two windows, OK?

    LESLIE: And this is your kitchen we’re talking about.

    ELAINE: Yes. And the kitchen is only 18×12 feet with a 4-foot bump-out for the basement door.

    LESLIE: OK.

    ELAINE: OK? So I was wondering, number one, if I take out that archway – because I have several other entrances in the house that have the same archway. If I take out that archway and take out that whole wall there that opens up into the dining room …

    LESLIE: Do you want to see your kitchen all the time from the dining room?

    ELAINE: I like that open concept, yes.

    LESLIE: OK.

    ELAINE: But I’m wondering if it will take away from the integrity of the 1955 style with the arches.

    LESLIE: I think an open plan has a much more modern and fresher feel. But I mean you’re talking about mid-century and that itself has a modern and fresh feel. So I don’t think it compromises one another. The issue is, is that wall load-bearing? Can you feasibly and structurally actually remove it?

    ELAINE: I don’t think it is a load-bearing wall. No, we’ve done some work in the house and I think that we could actually cut that out.

    LESLIE: Now, your kitchen itself, is that original to the home from 1955?

    ELAINE: Yes, it is. And it’s got the old, wooden-type cabinets. Like the back door opens up right into the stove.

    TOM: Well, the nice thing about the old, wooden cabinets is that they’re really well-built and the second thing is that they’re also easy to refinish.

    That’s a perfect candidate for painting cabinets, replacing hardware and thinking about doing a less-expensive kitchen update that way, right, Leslie?

    LESLIE: Yeah. It sounds to me, though, that Elaine has got her heart set on a gut job, which isn’t a bad idea either. You know, Tom is right: those cabinets are exceptionally well-made. I think the idea of opening out the room, as long as it makes sense and as long as you don’t mind – is this going to be your formal dining room off of the kitchen?

    ELAINE: Yes.

    LESLIE: OK. It instantly is going to take on a less formal feel because it is integrated into that main portion of the kitchen.

    ELAINE: OK.

    LESLIE: But you can still add details to it to dress up that portion of the space. Plus, you can add – a kitchen island is a great addition to a space; it gives a more casual seating area. But keep in mind that once you do the open plan, it does sort of reduce the formality of the dining area. But you can dress it up through color, lighting fixtures, furnishing choices, a rug. There are ways to do that.

    And keep in mind that now you’re opening the space, your working triangle needs to be modified a little bit. But I think there are great ways to make an open plan work and I think eliminating that archway really isn’t going to take away from the historical aspect of the home.

    ELAINE: OK, yeah. And we were actually thinking about maybe putting a couple stools where the wall is now, if we take out that archway, and kind of making a little breakfast bar.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. No, I think as long as structurally you’re able – and you’ll have to consult with an engineer – there’s no problem with removing that wall itself and creating that open plan.

    And do a lot of research on mid-century design, because you’re smack in that age bracket for your home. And it is swank; it’s very modern. There’s some interesting furnishings; you don’t have to buy the authentic stuff. Although, as gorgeous as it is, there are some fantastic knockoffs in a lot of those pieces. And you can really do something interesting.

    And Lucite is back in a big way. And if you mix Lucite and wood and some interesting lighting, you can really create a cool, mid-century feel.

    ELAINE: OK. Well, thank you very much.

    LESLIE: Alright. Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit. Hey, still ahead, guys, are you protecting your most important documents and files from both fire and water damage? Because if you got a fire, you have to put it out with water. So what are you storing your documents in, guys? Is it safe from both? Well, we’ll tell you how you can protect those documents safely with the right kind of safe, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by the Chamberlain MyQ Garage. If you forget to close your garage door, it alerts your smartphone so you can control it from anywhere. Works with most garage door openers. Discover smarter possibilities at Chamberlain.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. Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    One lucky caller that we talk to on the air this hour is going to win a very cool prize. We’ve got up for grabs Vivitar’s DVR 787HD Action Camera.

    Now, this is one of the most versatile digital video recorders ever made. It’s waterproof and it comes with a mount for your bike or your ATV. You name it, you can attach it to it and make some awesome action films.

    TOM: It’s lightweight and compact so the recorder doesn’t impact performance or constrain movement. It delivers high-definition video quality and features a touchscreen display, a waterproof case and a remote control.

    LESLIE: It’s a prize worth $119. Check out their website: it’s Vivitar.com. You’ll get some more information there and of course, you can give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT for help with your home improvement question and your chance to win.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Well, recently, we had a chance to travel to the National Hardware Show to find new products to make life just a little easier.

    TOM: And one product that we learned more about is a line of security products from Sentry Safe. Now these not only protect hard-copy documents, like paper, but they also protect digital media, like USB drives, from both fire and water. We had a chance to sit down with Matt Medden from Sentry Safe for a taping of our Top Products Podcast and we learned that some of these safes are fire-rated to protect contents for actually up to two hours.

    MATT: The whole reason we make our products is that so you don’t have to worry about grabbing the box if your house is on fire. I mean God forbid anything happens but we test all of our products to third-party standards, including UL and ETL. And our fire-rated products are usually a UL rating, so either a 30-minute or an hour or even some of our larger products, a 2-hour fire rating.

    And what that means is you think about how long a house fire lasts…

    LESLIE: It’s got to be longer than 30 minutes!

    MATT: It’s got to be longer than 30 minutes and you’re right. But usually, a fire when it’s passing through a house, only stays in one area of the house for 15 or 20 minutes. So UL is very rigorous in their testing and setting their standards. You can trust that if our products passed a 30-minute UL fire test, it’ll survive any house fire. The contents inside the safe will be protected.

    TOM: And for the entire interview, visit MoneyPit.com and click on the Top Products Podcast.

    888-666-3974.

    Leslie who’s next?

    LESLIE: Laurie in Illinois is on the line with a mold question.

    LAURIE: My husband and I think that there possibly might be some mold in our drywall or insulation in our home and we wondered the best way to check for that. We don’t have any airflow in our home, though.

    TOM: What makes you think you have mold? Do you physically see it?

    LAURIE: Well, we have an underground – part of our home is underground and there is a lot of moisture. It seems like in the air, we’ve seen some mold on some items in our home. And we have some cold-like symptoms from time to time that we think might be caused from it.

    LESLIE: It’s like allergies, you’re saying.

    LAURIE: Yes.

    TOM: So it’s more of the effects of it that you’re concerned about.

    LAURIE: Correct.

    TOM: And this is in the basement.

    LAURIE: Yes. It’s in the part of the home that’s underground and I had read online that some of those mold test kits are unreliable that you buy in the store or mold inspections can be very costly. I just didn’t know the best choice there.

    TOM: Well, the truth is that mold pretty much exists in every home and so we can always find mold. The question is whether or not this is causing a problem in your house.

    What kind of floor do you have in that basement, Laurie?

    LAURIE: It’s cement and then there’s carpet over that.

    LESLIE: That’s a huge mold trap right there. If you were to get rid of that, you would notice. Even if there’s moisture management in a basement, we never recommend putting a carpet down on a concrete slab in a basement area, just because concrete’s hydroscopic. It pulls the moisture from the ground. That then gets into the carpet pad, the carpet itself. And then the dust gets in there and you’ve got a breeding ground for mold.

    So if you were to get rid of that, put down laminate or tile, use some area rugs, you’re instantly going to notice a better respiratory situation, I think.

    TOM: Well, exactly. Plus, carpet is a filter material, so that carpet can trap dust, dust mites and all sorts of other allergens. So there could be other things, Laurie, here that are causing the breathing issues.

    So let’s just give you some general clean-air advice. First of all, as Leslie said, the carpet’s not a good idea. Secondly, you want to make sure that your basement remains as dry as possible. And the way you do that is by making sure the gutter system is clean, free-flowing and the downspout is discharging well away from the house itself.

    Secondly, we may want to add some sort of a filtration system. Now, do you have forced air into that basement space?

    LAURIE: We do not. We do have a dehumidifier that we run and we have some ceiling fans but not in every room or not in every area.

    TOM: So, is it a hot-water heated house?

    LAURIE: No, it’s electric.

    TOM: It’s all electric?

    LAURIE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: OK. So what we would really like to see is some sort of a filtration system in there – a good-quality, portable air filter, electronic air cleaner perhaps – that will pull the dust and dust mites and anything else that is of allergen basis out of that basement space. So a portable air cleaner could be a good addition.

    But I suspect, from everything that you’ve told us, reducing dampness and removing the carpet will make that space a lot more comfortable.

    LAURIE: Excellent. Thank you so much. That gives me some great ideas.

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

    LAURIE: Thank you.

    LESLIE: Still to come, do you want an indoor room, say, outdoors? We’re going to help you create a cozy outdoor retreat that is just as warm and inviting as the inside of your home, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Cabinets To Go, where you get premium-quality cabinets for less. You dream it, they design it and always 40 percent less than the big-box stores. Visit them online at CabinetsToGo.com.

    TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show where home solutions live. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: You can call us with your home improvement question at 888-MONEY-PIT or post your questions in the Community section or our Facebook page, which are both available via MoneyPit.com, just like Warren did from Anchorage, Alaska.

    LESLIE: Alright. Warren writes: “I have a condo in Anchorage, Alaska and travel to Texas each year for about eight months. What can I do to prevent evaporation from the toilet bowl while I’m gone? The climate is dry with little humidity and even with the heat set low, I have a problem with evaporation.”

    TOM: Well, you’re only going to have an issue with evaporation if so much water evaporates from that toilet bowl that it breaks the seal – the trap, so to speak – that keeps the sewage gas from backing up into your house. And then, of course, the problem would be just a stinky house.

    So, if it’s that much of a problem, I would suggest, simply, that you cover the toilet bowl with clear, plastic Saran Wrap. You can seal out some of the dry air from getting to the moisture in the bowl. But I have to say, Warren, don’t forget to take it off when you get back. I know eight months is a long time but if you forget, you’re going to be very sad.

    LESLIE: OK. Next up, we’ve got an e-mail from Joe who writes: “I thought I was doing it all right. I got a sump pump with backup battery but the power was out so long, battery died, basement flooded. What do I do?”

    TOM: You know, it’s a great point, Joe, because as you’ve learned, when you have a battery backup in a sump pump it doesn’t give you coverage for very long. Maybe an hour at most and usually a lot less.

    If you want to have longer coverage, you need to have a standby generator, like those from KOHLER Generators. But most importantly, keep your gutters clean, keep the downspouts extended away from the house and slope that soil away, as well, and those things will stop the water from ever getting in your basement in the first place.

    LESLIE: Alright. I hope that helps.

    TOM: Well, if you’d like to make the most of your outdoor living space, why not turn it into a spare room? Leslie has great ideas to help do just do that, in this week’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    LESLIE: That’s right. As the weather warms up and you get a nice summer breeze, you might think about dining outside. So let’s create that perfect outdoor setting so that you can have a great dinner al fresco.

    Alright, guys. Think about lighting because that’s always important to set the mood and candles will do a great job creating that setting. But if you use Citronella candles, it will help you keep the bugs away, as well. You can even use some tiki torches around your yard.

    Paper lanterns, I love the way they look. They really do a great job of sort of setting a space, as well, and you can put them onto some Christmas lights and really use them around the space very, very well.

    Now, if you’re dining outdoors during the day, you want to consider adding some shade and maybe a barrier against the bugs in the evening time. So if you’ve got a portable gazebo, you can look into some netting for the sides; it can be tied back when you don’t need them. That just really helps to add some comfort to your dinner situation.

    Now, if you want some comfort underfoot, there are so many outdoor rugs out there. It really is a great option, especially if you don’t have a really set-up outdoor dining area. You can use that rug to sort of anchor the space or even just say, “Hey, this is our dining area.” They come in all shapes and sizes, tons of different colors. They really make a great pop in sort of your design statement.

    But you can also get some exterior sisals that are made out of like a polypropylene. So if you want something more neutral, that’ll do the trick, as well.

    And you can even think about bringing your indoor décor outside, because there are some beautiful accessories right now that you can find in any of the stores, even the discount stores, that are actually made for outdoor usage. You can find lamps, wall décor. They’re made to stand up to the elements and still look gorgeous.

    So shop around and you can create a great outdoor room.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up next time on the program, when you look up inside your house, do you see a flat, boring and white ceiling? You can add drama, interest and details to create a “wow” ceiling. We’ll have tips on 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.

    END HOUR 2 TEXT

    (Copyright 2014 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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