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  • 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: Happy Almost-Spring, everybody. Yes, I know it’s a bit early but I’m thinking positively as we move ahead into the big, home improvement season. At least the start of it, of the year.

    LESLIE: Keeping your eye on the prize.

    TOM: That’s right. Keep your eye on the ball, kids.

    And considering that we are moving into that first, big, home improvement push in the spring in just a few weeks, now is a good time to think about creating that hobby room that you, perhaps, wanted for years. You’d be surprised at how easy it is to do just that. We’re going to have some tips on how you can accomplish a hobby room, coming up in today’s show.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. You know what? I actually just got a catalog in the mail that had featured Martha Stewart’s crafting home collection?

    TOM: Yeah?

    LESLIE: And of course, the rooms that they feature in these photographs in the magazine are these like massive spaces where you could truly dream of this enormous space.

    TOM: Yeah.

    LESLIE: I don’t know who’s got that space but I’m going to keep envisioning that hobby room.

    TOM: But if you just build that space, you will become crafty, I think.

    LESLIE: True. I guess it’s the room creates the person. Good to know.

    Alright, you guys. Also ahead this hour, if your washing machine has seen better days, it might actually be a good time to invest in a high-efficiency washer. They’re smarter and way more efficient than ever before. They’re going to save you water and detergent, which we all know is expensive.

    We’re going to tell you how to pick the best one and why less expensive models can actually end up costing you more in the long run.

    TOM: And this hour, we’re going to talk to Stephen Saint-Onge, a designer and TV makeover expert, about designing a room that you can really live with and live in at the same time. You know, so many of these designers create these rooms that only look good in coffee-table books? But Stephen has some great ideas on how you can create your own space that can truly be comfortable for everyone in the family.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And having worked with Stephen on While You Were Out for many years, his rooms really are gorgeous and he does have a ton of great ideas to share.

    Now, if that room that you are working on needs some new flooring, you are in fantastic luck because this hour, we are giving away a Skil Flooring Saw. It’s a brand new tool. It’s worth 159 bucks and it’s the only saw that you’re going to need for mitering or even rip cuts on any flooring project, whether it’s hardwood, engineered or even laminate.

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

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Al in Massachusetts needs some help identifying some of this drywall we’ve been talking about, from China, that’s not so good for us healthwise and for the homes, as well.

    Al, what are you doing? Are you looking to purchase a house in the South?

    AL: Yeah. I’m down in South Carolina and North Florida, looking to pick up a place to hide when the weather gets too cold up on the Cape. And I know toward the end of the building boom, we got some really bad sheetrock and the only way I know to identify it, they say, is the smell of rotten eggs; hydrogen sulfide.

    LESLIE: Right. And I think, at that point, it’s already pretty bad.

    AL: Yeah. Yeah. So I’m looking for any other way that you can find – figure out that this is bad sheetrock.

    TOM: Well, you’re very right to be concerned because this is one of the largest problems in residential construction that we’ve seen in the last 10 years. In fact, the CPSC – the Consumer Product Safety Commission – launched their largest investigation ever, to try to get to the bottom of it.

    The best resource for this is a website that the CPSC built for this problem. So I would tell you to go online and search “Consumer Product Safety Commission drywall information center.” Once you get there, you’re going to get to a page that says “Frequently Asked Questions.” One of which is: how do I know if my home has problem drywall? And they give you some really great photographs and some things to look for.

    In particular, you want to look on the back of the drywall to see if it says, “Made in China.” There’s your first clue. Secondly, the drywall can be slightly gray in color compared to the whiter drywall that we see in this country. And the most telling clue is what’s happening with everything around the drywall. If you see blackening of electric circuits, if you see tarnishing of light fixtures and plating and things like that, that can mean that the sulfur in the drywall is getting out and causing this reaction and could be a potential problem for you.

    I would not buy a new house today unless I had a professional home inspector do that inspection, that’s very familiar with the drywall problem. And I bet that if you go to the website for the American Society of Home Inspectors, search for inspectors in your zip code – you’ll be presented with a list of home inspectors that are certified members of ASHI – and call down that list, you’re going to find some people that specialize in this and perhaps have even written about it.

    AL: Wonderful. That was just exactly what I wanted; a place to look it up.

    TOM: Alright.

    AL: Thank you very much. You guys are wonderful.

    TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Jennifer in South Carolina is having some trouble with a painting project. Tell us what’s going on.

    JENNIFER: Hi. Last spring – about 9 or 10 months ago – I painted several pieces of wooden furniture with latex paint and I have done this in the past many times.

    TOM: OK.

    JENNIFER: In the past, I’ve used semi-gloss and flat paint. This time, the only thing I did differently was I used satin and because I live in a very humid climate, I did even do this in a room that was a dehumidifier running 24 hours and waited a long time between coats.

    TOM: OK. OK.

    JENNIFER: Here I am almost a year later and everything is still sticking.

    TOM: Oh, that’s weird. Was it new paint?

    JENNIFER: Yes.

    TOM: It was brand new paint. What was the finish? Was the finish consistent amongst all the pieces?

    JENNIFER: Yes. I mean I did probably four to six – I think probably more like six coats.

    TOM: Oh, wow. That’s a lot of coats.

    LESLIE: Yeah.

    TOM: I never put that many coats on.

    JENNIFER: You think that’s the problem?

    TOM: I think you …

    LESLIE: Probably.

    TOM: That might be part of the problem. Usually, one to two coats – a primer coat and a top coat – is all you need. I think you overdid it here.

    JENNIFER: Well, I’ve never used primer. Maybe that’s my problem.

    TOM: Yeah.

    JENNIFER: Because I had to ….

    TOM: It’s always a good idea. Primer is the paint that makes the top paint stick, especially when you’re painting furniture or something of that nature.

    LESLIE: Yeah.

    TOM: It’s a good idea to sand lightly and then prime the whole thing. You get a really good, solid surface to adhere the top paint to. Then one more coat and you’re done.

    LESLIE: Yes.

    TOM: I think, in this situation, she’s going to have to strip it down, Leslie.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Especially if, Jennifer, when you painted that piece of wood furniture, there was already, say, a finish on it. You need to make sure that you either sand that finish off or use a liquid sand …

    JENNIFER: I did use a liquid sander.

    LESLIE: Sometimes the liquid sander isn’t aggressive enough, depending on what’s on there, especially if it’s, you know, like a super-high gloss; almost like an enamel but it’s a clear gloss on it, almost like a resin coating. So you really need to make sure that you get down to some sort of raw wood and that you can feel it.

    I think the best thing for you to do now is to buy a chemical stripping agent. Spray it on or roll it on – whatever the proper application is, per that manufacturer that you pick up – and let it do its job and then scrape off that old finish and start from scratch. And I really would not do more than two coats.

    JENNIFER: Mm-hmm. OK. Well, wonderful. That’s why I called you all. Thank you so much.

    TOM: Alright. You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got George from New York on the line who’s dealing with an electrical issue. George, what’s going on?

    GEORGE: Yeah, I’m having a little discussion with my girlfriend here.

    TOM: Alright. Is this going to be a he-said/she-said? We’re going to solve – settle a bet?

    GEORGE: Yeah, it’s about having the TV on – would you put that down? The TV and the DVD dish and everything is all hooked into a power strip.

    TOM: Speaking of TVs. OK.

    GEORGE: And I said you should turn the whole power strip off when you leave, when you go to work in the morning.

    TOM: Right. OK.

    GEORGE: Otherwise, it’s sucking juice all day long while you’re gone.

    TOM: Alright.

    GEORGE: And then when you go to bed at night and you watch it in the evening and you watch the news or whatever.

    TOM: And then what does your girlfriend say?

    GEORGE: (inaudible at 0:08:14) “No, no, it doesn’t burn any more electricity.”

    TOM: Yeah. Well, I hate – and please, please try to convince her that we did not coordinate this in advance – but you are correct, sir. And the reason is because of something called “phantom power.”

    So, I’m going to give you a little bit of background now and this way, maybe you’d explain it to her. But TVs and other electronic devices, especially any part of that system that has a transformer associated with it, will suck a little bit of power out of the utility lines even when it’s in the “off” position.

    So, in fact, not only does turning the power strip off avoid that problem, you also lower the risk of an electrical fire because remember, even when appliances are off, they’re still energized. So I think it’s a good idea to turn it off at the power strip and if you’ve got it wired up that way so that’s an easy thing to do, I think that’s the smart move.

    GEORGE: She says it uses more power to boot it back up to get the TV to come back on.

    TOM: No, no, it doesn’t. No it doesn’t.

    GEORGE: No, no. That’s what I – it’s only going to use so much juice to come on. Well …

    TOM: Alright. I’m not sure if we’re going to settle this on the radio but at least you have another answer to consider. George, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE:Susan in Texas has a question about insulation. How can we help you today?

    SUSAN: We are fixing to insulate our ceilings in our house. We had a new roof put on and it’s black and we have thought about that kind that you blow in and it expands.

    TOM: Yes. Mm-hmm.

    SUSAN: But I didn’t know what the cost would be as opposed to the regular fiberglass that you either blow in or just lay in. And also, what it would do to the shingles on the roof if you had that sun beating down on that black roof and that barrier, where the heat can’t get through to the attic at all.

    TOM: Well, I mean here’s the thing: the insulation belongs between the heated space and the unheated space or the cooled space and the uncooled space, in your case, in the summer. So, spraying insulation to the underside of the roof sheathing means that your attic now becomes conditioned and I don’t think that’s what you want to do.

    I think that the foam insulations are very good in new construction; I’m not so convinced that they work that well in retrofit. So what I would tell you to use is to use blown-in or batt fiberglass insulation and I would tell you to use 19 to 22 inches. And most importantly, make sure you add additional ventilation to the roof structure, because most attics don’t have enough ventilation and you want to make sure that the space can really breathe. That’s going to give you comfort …

    SUSAN: OK, like wind turbines?

    TOM: No, not wind turbines. They look fancy …

    LESLIE: Like a continuous ridge vent.

    TOM: Yeah, a continuous ridge vent, like Leslie said. Much better.

    SUSAN: A continuous ridge vent.

    TOM: Yeah, it goes right down the peak of the roof.

    SUSAN: Oh.

    TOM: You won’t even see it when it’s installed and it lets lots and lots of hot, moist air out of the attic.

    SUSAN: OK. Well, I appreciate that then.

    TOM: You’re very welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Now, you can call in your home repair, home improvement, home makeover, décor. Whatever project you are working on, we can give you a hand with that 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Just dial up 888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Still to come, we’re going to have tips that help you carve out a hobby space in your home, that’ll help you enjoy your favorite pastime. It’s really not that hard, not expensive and we’ll show you how to do it, next.

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    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Skil. Want hardwood floors but are on a budget? The affordable and feature-filled Skil Flooring Saw is just what you need for your installation project.

    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, new wood flooring can actually really complete the look of a room and it’s something that you can do yourself. Don’t be afraid. But installing wood floors can be tiring and we all know it is back-breaking work. And the tools, well, you’re going to need a bunch of them.

    But we have got information on a new tool that can solve all of those tool needs and problems. It’s the brand new Skil Flooring Saw and it’s designed to cut through hardwood, laminate, even engineered flooring products up to 8 inches wide. So if you like those wide planks, you can use this tool no problem and up to ¾ of an inch thick. Plus, it makes both miter cuts and rip cuts, so it’s really two tools in one. It’s super-awesome.

    It’s worth 159 bucks but one caller that we talk to on the air this hour is going to win a Skil Flooring Saw for free, so pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    You know, this is a good alternative to the larger bench-top tools for those flooring projects. Having done a lot of this work myself, I can tell you it’s a real hassle running back and forth to the saw, especially when you get towards the end of the day and you forget your measurement. You’re like you know what it is, it’s in your head, you’re running with the board in your hand, you’re running to the saw, you get there, you total white-out; not a clue.

    LESLIE: That you wrote it on and you sand it off.

    TOM: You’ve got to go back again. So, it’s a nice tool to have because it’s so convenient to tote it right around where the project is, so you can cut right there and not forget like I used to do.

    Anyway, the number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. As Leslie said, we’re giving away one of those saws to one of our callers today, so why not take a chance? Pick up the phone, be bold, ask us your home improvement question. Who knows? We might just be sending that saw to you.

    LESLIE: Alright. We’d love to hear what you’re working on.

    And many of us – well, maybe we’re not working on something right at this second – we are certainly dreaming of the home improvements we want in our life. And maybe you’ve been thinking about a space in your home dedicated to your favorite hobby. Maybe it’s a workshop, a sewing room, a writer’s nook, an art studio. Well, whatever it might be, there’s actually no better time than right now to live your dream. And you might be surprised by how easy it is to create a hobby room in the home you’ve already got.

    First of all, ask yourself questions like: how much space do I need for my projects that I like to do, to work comfortably? How much storage am I going to need? Will I need any special ventilation for working with chemicals or special paints? Do I need natural light for the projects I’m working on? Start on those lists right there; answer those questions.

    TOM: That’s right. And if it’s not in your budget to build an extension onto your home, with a little bit of creative thinking, you could clearly repurpose existing space into a hobby room or a workshop or a studio.

    So, think about, for example, how you use closet space with the doors removed. And I have the perfect example of this because when I needed a satellite-radio studio at my house, I tore out a closet. But I didn’t tear out the closet; I just took the doors down and opened up the frame a little bit and that recessed area was just a perfect space for my little broadcasting center. So, you don’t need a massive space to do a small hobby; sometimes, a closet will do just that.

    You can also look for spaces in basements and garages. And just because it’s called the dining room doesn’t mean that it has to be used for dining. In fact, I have a friend who loves puzzles; she’s crazy about puzzles.

    LESLIE: Right?

    TOM: And she has five or six puzzles in her dining room at any one time, in various stages of completion. And that, in fact, is her hobby room and she tells me she hangs them up in the garage when she’s done. So, you can make do with what you have.

    The hobby room is not frivolous. It can be an expression of your creativity. It’s a great place to escape and reduce stress. And anything that helps you be your best, well, why not? It clearly isn’t a waste of time. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It’s a great project to take on because it’s going to deliver you a lot of satisfaction for many years to come.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. If you need some inspiration or just some ideas to help you get started, Google “money pit hobby room” and you will find a whole bunch of ideas right there, to help you get started on the right path.

    TOM: Let’s help you get started with your home improvement project right now. Pick up the phone and call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Roy in Colorado is on the line with a heating question. How can we help you today?

    ROY: I’ve got a question on kind of efficiencies for blocking off vents versus using space heaters?

    TOM and LESLIE: OK.

    ROY: I’ve got a three – well, two-story with a basement – and one of the kids is downstairs in the basement, in a room, and another one upstairs. And they use space heaters. I’ve turned the temperature of the house down enough that they feel the need to use the space heaters. I was wondering if it’s – if I use too many space heaters, is it better to just crank up the thermostat a couple degrees?

    TOM: Yeah. What kind of heat do you have? Is it gas?

    ROY: It’s a gas furnace.

    TOM: Yeah. And the space heaters are electric, I presume?

    ROY: Yes, electric.

    TOM: Well …

    LESLIE: They’re going to be pretty expensive.

    TOM: Yeah. I mean if you’re going to run several of them, you’re better off running the furnace – the gas furnace – because the cost of the heat will overall be probably a lot less expensive.

    ROY: Because it’s – they’re running two of them; it’s just two bedrooms.

    TOM: Yeah. Well, plus, I don’t like the idea of kids and space heaters unless it’s a real good-quality …

    ROY: Well, they’re adult kids.

    TOM: Oh, they’re adult kids? OK.

    ROY: Yeah. They’re …

    LESLIE: Tom, I wonder, is this a good application for that kilowatt tool where you can sort of plug that into the device to see how much wattage the actual space heater would be using, so you could get like an educated determination?

    TOM: You could but actually, if you simply knew the wattage, you could figure it out. But yeah, it’s pretty expensive to run those all the time. So I would suspect that, in this case, rather than run several space heaters, that you’d be better off turning the heat up a bit.

    ROY: And then we can all – I …

    TOM: Everyone can enjoy. Either that or make the kids move out.

    LESLIE: You can hang your sweater back up.

    ROY: Yeah, exactly.

    TOM: Alright?

    ROY: OK. Thank you.

    TOM: You’re welcome. 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. Still to come, do you flip through design books, magazines, even web sites just ooh-ing and aah-ing over those photos of all of those rooms that you know would absolutely never work in your own home?

    Well, we are going to tell you how you can have a room that could be in a magazine and that will actually work for your real family and your real everyday life, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Well, interior design can be a very overwhelming topic. Those photographs in the fancy magazines and design books always look fantastic. But how would that work for an average family? We’re talking about three kids and a dog. Does it still work out? And what about the cost of that makeover?

    LESLIE: Well, our next guest is a designer who says he has a very real sense of what everyday families want and has ideas that he says are accessible for all homeowners. After many seasons of surprise makeovers on the TLC hit show, While You Were Out, I’m sure he has a real sense of what real families want and need. So let’s welcome my friend and former castmate, Stephen Saint-Onge, to the program.

    Stephen, welcome.

    STEPHEN: Hello, hello. Thanks so much for having me on.

    LESLIE: Oh, we’re so happy to have you and congratulations. The book is gorgeous and you truly are the home and style designer for the everyday family. How did you go about creating that title and crafting this whole genre of design for yourself?

    STEPHEN: Well, we all have families and we all can relate to our homes needing to be better all the time or needing to be – I joke that I’ve got to-do lists on my refrigerator, just like probably all of us do. And I think that was the thing that kept it relatable – is how can I approach design from that perspective? How can I keep it real for everyday people that have the busy jobs, they have kids that are going to carpools and they’re going left and right.

    But at the end of the day, how is your house good to you and your family and how can I, as a designer, interpret that to make it attainable for these families that don’t necessarily have much time or much money, in the end? And that’s really what the book became about for me, in No Place Like Home, but also that’s what I realized my journey as a creative person was also about; is that this is what I can do to sort of make it attainable to everyone.

    TOM: Well, you’ve certainly delivered a lot of practical ideas. I want to ask you about a couple of those.

    First of all, you talk about zone design. I think that’s a pretty cool concept because in all of our homes, we have all of these sort of action zones or activity zones where everything seems to happen. You actually take that into account when you do your designs. Talk about that.

    STEPHEN: Well, I think one of the biggest things – and I’m sure you guys get this question all the time – is that a lot of these new-build houses that are built with these big, open floor plans – and then I get people e-mailing me saying, “I don’t know how to design that. I don’t know how to decorate that. What do I do? I feel like I have a vast space that feels kind of vacant and empty.”

    And I try to rethink the space to, well, if you’ve got a big, great room, for example, how can you zone that into an eating area, a crafting area, a den area – whatever it’s going to be – to really make it the most that it can be? And I think a lot of people don’t stop and think about creating zones in their house. And a lot of times, those zones can be dual purpose.

    LESLIE: And I know you’ve said a lot in your book about lighting; how it’s so important to really create a good lighting scheme for how you use the space and that it’s also super-budget-friendly. So what’s the best way to accomplish a useful lighting scheme that’s also pleasant to the eye?

    STEPHEN: Because of my film background, it’s all about design that comes to life. And the way it comes to life is with lighting. And you could do a makeover, you could spend lots of money on lots of stuff but at the end of the day, if the lighting is not correct and if it’s not dimmable and it’s not focused on certain things like a coffee table or maybe a work of art, then it really doesn’t pay off.

    So, a lot of times, people say, “I don’t have a lot of money to spend on redoing the room,” and I’ll say, “Well, what about lighting?” For example, a kitchen. In the book, I talk a lot about different levels of light are needed in the kitchen. You need work light for meal preparation and maybe if you’re entertaining, you want to be able to dim those lights down. But those kinds of things don’t have to cost a lot of money. Sometimes, it’s as simple as changing out a light bulb or a light fixture.

    And that’s budget friendly but at the end of the day, it’s really about bringing the room to life in the most, I think, beautiful way. If you did nothing else and changed the lighting in a space, it gives you a whole, new feel.

    TOM: We’re talking to Stephen Saint-Onge and Stephen’s new book is called No Place Like Home.

    Stephen, a lot of times these décor projects can go on for weeks and weeks and weeks, especially if it’s my house where they seem to have sort of this effect where they never end because one leads to the next, leads to the next.

    LESLIE: Of course.

    TOM: Yeah, there’s no end to it. But you’ve got a whole section devoted to weekend projects. Can you talk about some of the real attainable projects if somebody just wants to dive in for two days? What is reasonable for them to expect to accomplish?

    STEPHEN: Well, I really think – and like you were saying, the projects can seem to go on and on and they get put on hold or they get put on the backburner. And I think a lot of times it’s because people have too many decisions they feel that they have to make.

    And they start a project and they kind of lose their enthusiasm or interest in it because, well, they have to decide on a paint color and we’ve all seen those houses that have like six swatches of paint colors on the wall and then they don’t make a decision, so it stays that way.

    TOM: For six months.

    STEPHEN: And I think the idea of doing something in the weekend – and that’s what I talk about in one of the chapters of the book – is really about empowering yourself as a homeowner by taking a small step; say, change the room around. It doesn’t cost you anything. Change the furniture around.

    I love reshopping your house and I know Leslie and I probably have great stories of when we were shooting the show together. Well, we were in these real people’s homes and we had to shop their house for props.

    TOM: Right.

    STEPHEN: And I was known for going into basements and into people’s guest rooms looking for extra stuff that we all have in the house that could be reintroduced into the room that you’re making over, to maybe add a new lamp on a table or maybe bring a chair from another room into this room.

    But the idea is to rework what you already have. And I think that’s the biggest thing that came out of the journey of writing this book; is that people can’t see the potential that’s right under their nose everyday because when you’re living in your home, you see it so often you kind of bypass it and you don’t know that you (inaudible at 0:25:32).

    LESLIE: You become blind to it.

    STEPHEN: And I think once you change up the energy in the space and in the room you’re talking about, it gives you a whole, new lease on life and you get excited about the space again.

    And then, from there, you can say, “Well, maybe I need to paint the color; change the paint color on the walls. Or I need to get some new drapes.” But it becomes a step-by-step process that encourages you and I think that’s the biggest thing – is you don’t want to get discouraged by doing the design; you want to be empowered by it.

    TOM: The book is called No Place Like Home. The author is Stephen Saint-Onge.

    Stephen, that was fantastic. The book is great, the advice is superb. Good luck with the project and thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    STEPHEN: Thank you so much, guys. Have a great one.

    LESLIE: Alright. It’s so great to catch up with Stephen. I love what he’s doing and his new book is just absolutely beautiful.

    Congratulations, Stephen.

    Well, still to come, making a wise investment in your new washing machine. Well, the cheapest model might be good for your wallet right now but you are going to be wasting money in the long run. We’re going to tell you why, after this.

    (theme song)

    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: Call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT with your home improvement, your home repair or your home décor question because one caller we talk to on the air this hour is going to win the Skil Flooring Saw worth 159 bucks.

    The Skil Flooring Saw is designed to cut through hardwood, laminate and engineered flooring up to 8 inches wide and ¾ of an inch thick. It makes miter and rip cuts. The tool will eliminate the need for more than one saw that you, of course, have to lug the materials to and from. Visit SkilTools.com for more info or call us right now with your question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, for your chance to win.

    LESLIE: Alright. Pick up the phone and give us a call. We’d love to hear what you’re working on and give you a chance to win that great prize from Skil Tools.

    So, it could be that this time of the year, you might be in the market for a new washing machine. And if you are, you could be tempted to buy the cheapest model out there just simply to save money. But if you spend a little bit more money and you go with a high-efficiency washer, you are going to get better savings in the long run.

    Now, high-efficiency washing machines, they’re going to use half of the energy of a conventional washer and actually use a third less water. That’s a lot. The spin cycle is super-fast, so your clothes don’t need as much drying time – also going to save you a lot of money – and you’re actually going to use about two-thirds less detergent in a high-efficiency washer. You just have to make sure that you buy detergent for a high-efficiency machine. They’re actually quite different.

    TOM: Plus, as an added bonus, high-efficiency washers can handle those large, bulky items like the comforters, the blankets and sleeping bags, which we have a lot of with two Boy Scouts and a Girl Scout in the house. So, no more special trips to the dry cleaner or laundromat for that. It’s a great idea to pick up a high-efficiency machine today.

    888-666-3974. Let’s get back to those phones.

    Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Jane calling in from Center Sandwich, New Hampshire. So, Jane, does that make you guys the filling? Is there a Top and Bottom Sandwich, New Hampshire?

    JANE: No, we call it Sandwich now. We’ve gotten modern.

    LESLIE: Oh.

    TOM: Alright.

    JANE: Well, my daughter has property in Vermont and it’s being devalued by her neighbor, who has a construction business and has always dumped stuff right on the border of her land. And what I was thinking of, I heard about your black fence – black iron fence – one time when I was listening to your show and I don’t know what that is but I wondered, “Gee, maybe that’s the answer.”

    TOM: Yes.

    JANE: Is there something we can put up there to help the situation? Because it’s really nasty.

    TOM: Well, actually, the iron-fence idea is one where you want to see through the fence; you want the fence to be invisible. In this case, you want to have a complete visual barrier.

    For those that are not familiar with this trick, it’s a very good one if you’re trying to have a fence for safety purposes – say, for example, for like a pool – but you don’t want to be looking at a chain-link or a white-picket fence that’s really, really big, visually speaking. You can put a black, sort of iron fence in and you could put green bushes in front of it and it becomes somewhat invisible.

    But in your case, you want to block it so we want to talk about something else to do that. You’re going to want to use, probably, a board-on-board fence. And then, coming off of the fence, you’re going to want to alternate rows of landscaping. So you’re going to want to have bushes, like one row where it begins at the fence, another row about 2 feet out and kind of alternate it.

    LESLIE: Stagger them.

    TOM: So you’re staggered, right. So you get a nice visual barrier there.

    But the other thing that comes to mind, I want to make sure that your daughter can go down to the local municipal authorities and make sure that this construction business is allowed to do the dumping on their property, because there’s rules and regulations and laws about that. And I know that some towns, it’s sort of loosey-goosey but the least you should do is figure out whether or not this is something that she has to put up with.

    JANE: Yeah. Well, that might be the answer. But they’ve tried different things but it’s the mother, you know, getting involved here because …

    LESLIE: Well, sometimes you have to.

    TOM: Jane, thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Annie in Kansas needs some help with a basement flooring project. Tell us what you’re working on.

    ANNIE: We are refinishing our basement and currently it has cement floor and we have three boys that love to tackle each other.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. OK.

    ANNIE: So we saw something about the – on The Today Show – about a rubber floor. And they look like cement or they look like tiles going in, so I didn’t – we have no idea what they were talking about.

    TOM: Yeah.

    LESLIE: Well, there’s actually a lot of different rubber-tile options, which are fantastic for basements, obviously, because they don’t grow mold or mildew, they’re great for damp environments. And you said that you have a concrete floor down there which, regardless of how well you dehumidify and control all the moisture outside with your foundation and perimeter, you’re still going to get some water seeping up through. Even if it’s minimal, you’ll still get some moisture that comes up, just from the hydroscopic nature of concrete.

    Now, your options for the rubber tiles – there are 5/8-inch ones that you see, almost in like playrooms, that are sort of rainbow color and look like puzzle pieces. There are ones that look like – even foam ones that look like wood grain. There are some that are home and sport, which are really thick and they’re used for martial arts and they have a lot more cushioning to them.

    There’s a good website – let me send you to. It’s GreatMats.com. And if you go to their basement flooring section, you’ll find a ton of different rubber options that are available. And the one – I believe it’s called Home Sports and Play or something like that, which would be great for your tackling munchkins.

    ANNIE: Yes. And do they also have ones that look like tile? That actually look like ceramic tiles?

    LESLIE: Hmm. There’s one, I think, on their site that – I think it’s called Tile Flex. And those kind of look like ceramic tiles. I think they even have like a built-in grout line, if you will, that sort of looks like that. The home and sport ones are kind of mildly fuzzy. Then there are some with textures. There’s a lot of good choices; it’s worth checking out.

    ANNIE: OK. And can we install these ourselves?

    LESLIE: Oh, absolutely.

    TOM: Absolutely. Mm-hmm.

    ANNIE: Good. OK. Well, thank you. That answers my question.

    TOM: Well, this winter we have had tons and tons of snow and that may have left various parts of your exterior in serious jeopardy, especially those mailboxes. If you’ve lost one or two, we’re going to have some solutions on mailboxes that are totally snowplow-proof, when we come back.

    (theme song)

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

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. And check this out, you guys. You can listen to The Money Pit Radio Show on the go with The Money Pit iPhone app. How cool is that? Although I will tell you, my son hits that button all the time on our iPhone and he’s like, “Hey, there’s Mommy. Who’s that guy?”

    TOM: Yep.

    LESLIE: You know what’s even cooler is that you can get full show archives, ask any question on the Community forum or you can connect with us on Facebook and Twitter. All you have to do is head on over to MoneyPit.com and you can learn more there.

    And while you’re there, post your question. Tom, myself, somebody from The Money Pit team, you guys, other do-it-yourselfers out there can answer all these questions. But I’ve got a post from Andrea who writes: “I have a half bath right inside of my back door. The floor leans backwards, giving a ¼-inch to ¾-inch gap at the back wall, letting cold air stream right in.” Now, that’s a girl who could use a heated toilet seat. “How can I seal the drafts that come in under the floor?”

    TOM: You know, that’s a good question because we get questions about drafty doors, drafty windows. But what about drafty floors? That could definitely happen; I can totally see how that could happen. And what you need to do here, Andrea, is you need to figure out what kind of floor structure you have. I suspect that you have a basement or a crawlspace and that the box beam, which is that outside beam, is not sealed and not insulated.

    So, what you want to do is get to that box-beam area and you want to seal all of the joints around the wood framing. I would use something like GREAT STUFF.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Because that’s a big gap.

    TOM: Yeah. And it will expand and fill up all the space. After it’s sealed and after it’s dry, then insulate that box beam and insulate the floors. That will go a long way towards cutting back on that draft. And also, make sure you seal the gap between the sill plate, which is the bottom piece of wood on top of the foundation wall, and the wall itself.

    Depending on when your house was built, there should be a piece of insulation there called a sill sealer. Maybe it’s not – I don’t know – but you need to seal all of those areas up and if you do, that floor will get a heck of a lot warmer.

    LESLIE: Alright. I’ve got another post here from Tobi who writes: “I have to hold the handle down on my commode to get a thorough flush. How can I fix this problem?”

    TOM: New flush valve, new fill valve; basically, the guts of the toilet. Replace them, Tobi. Inexpensive, easy to do and that will solve that problem once and for all. Do it yourself, too, because it is a pretty easy project.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you can actually get the whole box with all the parts right at any big-box store. And it’s pretty easy to do; just make sure you turn off the water before you start this project and you will be happy-dappy. Alright, Tobi?

    TOM: Well, one of the worst things about winter is not being able to find your mailbox under the snowplow hump at the end of your driveway. It’s probably not fun for your mailman, either. Leslie has got some ideas, though, for mailboxes that are totally snowplow-proof, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    LESLIE: It is true. Having your mailbox plowed in and under all of that snow is actually no fun. But there are some cool mailboxes out there that can help you avoid that problem altogether.

    There are actually several mailboxes that I found online that can swivel 360 degrees. And this is good in any weather, so you don’t have to stand in the street to get your mail; you can just turn it around and take it from the sidewalk.

    Now, the Tip Up Mailbox comes with a weight that raises the box up and out of harm’s way, so your mail carrier can pull a rope to bring the mailbox down to a normal level. Finally, if you are worried about a plow, shovel or even a snow thrower hitting your mailbox, consider getting your mailbox at AlphaMailPro.com because these mailboxes are equipped with a heavy-duty spring so that should anything hit it – teenage kid driving by in the summertime; you know the shenanigans that go on with the mailboxes.

    TOM: The mailbox hits you right back, huh?

    LESLIE: Seriously. That mailbox is going to be like boing and come right back at you. So, kids with baseball bats in the summertime, beware because mailboxes now have a personality all of their own.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up next week on the program, if you’re running late and ready to jump into a hot shower, the problem is that you have to wait and wait and wait sometimes for that water to get hot, especially first thing in the morning. That’s why, next week on the program, we’re going to have tips on how a hot-water recirculating system can help get that hot water flowing faster, which is great for you and the environment.

    Thanks so much for listening. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …

    LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.

    (theme song)


    (Copyright 2011 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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