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How to Cut Down on Household Holiday Waste, Learn to Fix Your In-Sink Diposal, and Pick the Perfect Paint Sheen plus 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: And we are here to help you with your home improvement projects. We want to help solve those do-it-yourself dilemmas. If you’re putting your house back together because your friends and family terrorized it for the holidays, well, we can help you with that, too. But help yourself first by calling us at 888-666-3974.

    Coming up on this hour of the program, did you know household waste increases by 25 percent this time of the year? Think about it: with all the gifts and all the wrapping and all of that, it really does go up. So we’re going to have some tips on how you can cut down on trash that’s going to the landfill by learning what holiday garbage can actually be recycled.

    LESLIE: And speaking of waste, if you have a disposal, you know what a great kitchen appliance it is to help you actually cut down on the amount of food waste you have, until it gets jammed. Well, if that’s happened to you, don’t pick up the phone and call the plumber just yet. We’re going to give you a few do-it-yourself tips to help get that disposal running again.

    TOM: And now that we are in the winter season, it’s a great time to take on an interior décor project, like painting. And when you do that, you need to choose the right kind of paint sheen, the right level of shine, so to speak. If you choose the wrong sheen, every little defect in your wall will just jump right out and it makes the whole thing look bad. So This Old House host Kevin O’Connor is going to stop by later with some expert advice on how to choose the right paint sheen for every painting project.

    LESLIE: I don’t know. I feel like I want to throw a joke in there about winning but is it too late for a Charlie Sheen joke?

    Alright, guys. You said it so many times, it feels like, “Oh, winning?” Well, one caller this hour is going to be super-lucky. We’re going to give you guys – well, one of you guys – $100 worth of Minwax Wood Finishing Cloths.

    Now this really is a genius idea. It’s a stain that comes packaged like baby wipes, so you just wipe on, wipe off and your staining project is done.

    TOM: What a great idea. Call us right now if you’d like to win that brand-new product from Minwax. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Dina in Iowa is on the line with a flooring question. How can we help you?

    DINA: My husband and I – about, oh, probably three or four years ago – did some remodeling in our kitchen. And we decided on getting some of the laminate, fake-travertine floor.

    TOM: OK.

    DINA: And we went to our local Habitat for Humanity store and got – they’re like planks; they’re planks of the floor. And we installed them and they looked beautiful. But over the course of the last couple years, things have fallen and chunks have come out. Like some places it’s just a scratch here or there but in other places there are some chunks. And luckily, the floor has kind of a brown-rock appearance, so some of them aren’t noticeable. But there is one that’s fairly large and once you start looking, you can see just how many there are.

    So, we can’t go back to the store and get more because it’s a ReStore; they only have limited quantities. And really, replacing all that is going to be really tough. I didn’t know if you had a way to fix this or any suggestions?

    TOM: Well, there’s a lot of difference in the quality of laminate floors and some are going to be more durable than others. For those that are not aware, laminate floors are similar to laminate countertops except, for the most part, they’re about 20 times more durable.

    Now, if you know the manufacturer of the floor – I don’t know if that’s possible. Most manufacturers actually have a sort of touch-up compound. It comes typically in a tube – it looks like a toothpaste tube – where you can actually squeeze some of the stuff out and patch the floor and come up with a color that’s reasonably close. If you don’t have that, you may be able to find one from another manufacturer that’s close to this.

    DINA: OK. I do remember we looked at the flooring. I don’t remember the name but I do remember it was a major name brand, because we looked it up online to read about it.

    TOM: OK.

    DINA: So, I think we may have one or two squares somewhere; maybe I can look on the back and give them a call. That’s great information.

    TOM: Yeah. If you can do that, I bet you you’ll find that they do have a repair product for the floor. Because you’re not the first one that’s dropped something on the floor and had a chip.

    LESLIE: And you’re not going to be the last one.

    DINA: Right. OK. Well, thank you. That’s good information. I didn’t even think to look back at the company, so I will do that.

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

    DINA: Thank you.

    LESLIE: Kevin in Texas is dealing with a dangerous situation. You’ve got water leaking through a light in your kitchen?

    KEVIN: I actually live in an apartment but nevertheless, my concerns are obviously valid for my health and so forth. All of a sudden, water started coming through the light fixture in the kitchen. And I threw down buckets and went up and knocked on the gentleman upstairs’ door and it turned out his washing machine had gone crazy and had put a bunch of water in my ceiling that – most of which came right through the light fixture, point of least resistance.

    LESLIE: Oh, wow.

    KEVIN: However, I can tell that it got into the rest of the ceiling. There’s a place where this living room is bowed in with the stain, so I know that it got wet up inside there. And furthermore, the guy, when he was made aware of it, apparently thought that it wouldn’t act up anymore and actually turned on his washing machine again and went and stepped into the shower. And so it just leaked profusely until we could finally get his attention, between me and Maintenance.

    TOM: Oh, my God.

    KEVIN: Yeah. I mean we’re sitting there with shop vac, buckets and mops and just shaking our heads.

    TOM: Wow.

    KEVIN: So it was a one-time event, so it wasn’t an ongoing leak. And I was wondering what my risks are of black mold. Is there a test? Is there a preventative? What’s the story with that?

    TOM: Yeah, it’s a good question. But here’s the good news: a single leak like that that happened and then dried out is not going to become an ongoing mold problem. If it stays wet for a long, long time and especially if it’s in an unheated place, it’s more likely to become a mold problem. But a single leak like that is not.

    And also, one more point and that is you mentioned that your ceiling bowed. If – and I hope it doesn’t – but if that ever happens to you again, what you want to do is somewhat counterintuitive but that is to poke a hole in the ceiling wherever you see that water starting to form.

    KEVIN: Right.

    TOM: Because it’s easier to fix a hole than it is to replace the entire ceiling, which is probably what’ll end up having to be done. But when you see water coming through like that, what you should do is grab a screwdriver and just poke a couple of holes until you find the spot where the water just starts dripping out.

    KEVIN: Right.

    TOM: The quicker you can empty that ceiling of water, the better off you’re going to be.

    And we had a problem like that not too long ago because of a piece of flashing that blew off our roof. And the first thing I did was took a Phillips screwdriver and poked three or four holes until I found the right spot. All that water drained right out and all I had to do was fix those holes. And it didn’t even have a stain on the ceiling when we were done.

    KEVIN: Wow, yeah. That’s good advice there. I guess I should have thought of that but when you’re renting, you’re a little bit (inaudible at 0:07:56) do that.

    TOM: Yeah, you don’t know. And that’s why I always take the opportunity to mention it, because it’s – first of all, you don’t have the experience because, thankfully, people don’t get these kinds of leaks. But secondly, it’s very counterintuitive because you don’t want to damage your ceiling. Well, it’s already damaged once that water is behind it and it’s going to get a lot worse really fast unless you poke a hole in it.

    KEVIN: Good point, though. Good point. Alright. Thank you, guys.

    TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Well, we’re in the crunch time of the holiday season. So if you’ve got some things you want to get done or you’re looking for that perfect gift for that home improver in your life, we are here to lend a hand. You’ve only got a few short days left to the big Christmas holiday. So let us help you get the job done right the first time 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Still ahead, we’ve got tips to help you cut down on all that post-holiday garbage by recycling some of your waste instead. And that will make for a green Christmas in more ways than one.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Diamond Crystal Salt. The benefits are bigger than you expected. After all, you’re worth your salt. Diamond Crystal Salt. A brilliant choice since 1886.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by the new Chamberlain MyQ Garage. When you forget, it alerts your smartphone so you can close your door from anywhere, on most garage-door openers. Available now. For more information, go to 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. Pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. We’d love to have you be part of our show this hour.

    One of you lucky callers that gets on the air with us is going to win 100 bucks worth of Minwax Wood Finishing Cloths. Now, this is a one-step product and really, a genius idea. Basically, it’s like a baby wipe with the stain built right into it. You don’t want to use it on your child unless you consider a piece of furniture your child, which some woodworkers really do.

    TOM: That’d be bad.

    LESLIE: So, you basically pull that wipe right out of the package, wipe it on your unfinished wood project. No mess, no special tools. The stain is going to dry in about an hour and it cleans up with soap and water and it comes in five colors. So, a really cool, new innovation.

    TOM: Very easy, very cool. Give us a call right now for your chance to win. The number, again, is 888-MONEY-PIT.

    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, you know, 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: Well, amid all the festivities that happen this time of year, there is a downside to all of that fun: waste. Now, in fact, between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, the average household waste will increase by 25 percent. And that’s why it’s really important to make recycling a part of your holiday tradition.

    For example, if you’re getting new electronics this season, recycle the old ones. You can take your laptops, eReaders, game systems – they can all be recycled and you can find a local recycling center for all of those electronics at Earth911.com.

    TOM: And if you plan ahead with your holiday decorations, you can also cut down on waste. You can think about using natural decorations that can be composted, like poinsettias and evergreens. And don’t forget to recycle the wrapping paper. It takes no time for a family of four to fill several garbage bags full of wrapping.

    If you’d like more tips on how to have a very green Christmas, just search “holiday recycling tips” at MoneyPit.com.

    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? The kitchen …

    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.


    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.


    ELAINE: But I’m wondering if it’ll 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.


    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.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Up next, the right paint sheen can mean the difference between a nice, clean-looking wall and one that shows every ding and dent and imperfection.

    LESLIE: That’s right. Learn which paint sheen goes with which project, after this.

    MIKE: Hey, this is Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs and look, if you think I’ve got it dirty, listen to Tom. He works in a pit. Well, it’s a money pit but you get the idea. It’s still filthy.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show where we make good homes better. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And now is a great time to visit us on Facebook and get a chance to win one of three amazing prizes in our Santa’s Home Improvement Giveaway Sweepstakes. We’ve got a luxury towel warmer from Mr. Steam worth 1,550 bucks. You get a nice, warm towel waiting for you when you step out of the shower, just like a spa or a high-end hotel.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And it’s really cool because it even has a little reservoir built right in, so you can put your favorite scented oil into it and really just enjoy the aromatherapy of a spa experience. I mean how great is that?

    Just follow us on Facebook and you’ll enter that way. Share the sweepstakes with your buddies and you’re going to get automatic bonus entries. It’s all at Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit.

    TOM: That’s Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit.

    LESLIE: Jim in Tennessee is on the line with a concrete cracking-up issue. Tell us what’s going on.

    JIM: Yes. I have a concrete driveway that every winter it seems to – the cracks seem to separate.

    TOM: OK. Yep.

    JIM: I’ve used several different things, like cement. But the cement crumbles.

    TOM: Of course it does, Jim. Because cement is not a good patching material.

    JIM: Oh, OK.

    TOM: It doesn’t expand and contract, it doesn’t stick properly. What you need is an epoxy patching compound. Epoxy compounds are designed specifically to stick to the concrete floor that you have and to not crack and re-crack. Anytime you try to use regular cement and fill something in, there’s just not enough base there, so to speak, and it will continue to open and close and expand and contract and turn into little chunks of concrete that will fall out.

    JIM: Oh, great. I had no idea.

    LESLIE: And it’s an easy fix.

    TOM: Take a look at the QUIKRETE website. There’s a number of products out there designed specifically for this. But make sure it’s a patching compound and it’ll do a much better job.

    JIM: Hey, we love your show. I tell you, we get a lot of good tips on it.

    LESLIE: Thanks, Jim.

    Painting a room is the most economical way to drastically change your décor. It’s easy and affordable. And the only thing you have to decide is the color and then the sheen.

    TOM: Yes. And while most people can spend days or even weeks choosing that perfect color for the rooms, when it comes to paint sheen, it’s kind of an afterthought.

    Kevin O’Connor is the host of TV’s This Old House and is here with tips on how to choose the best sheen to make your project truly shine.

    Welcome, Kevin.

    KEVIN: Hey, guys. Great to be here.

    TOM: Now, this is something that people really don’t focus on. They really worry about the color and having that look right. But if you get the sheen wrong, the project is just not going to come out well.

    KEVIN: No. And in my household, I don’t get to vote on the color, because I’m colorblind, but I do get to vote on the sheen.

    LESLIE: No, you’re done. You’re not allowed.

    KEVIN: And basically, you have to sort of categorize it. And you start with flat and this is a matte appearance. And it has no sheen at all.

    And this is really good for surfaces when you are covering a surface that’s not in the best condition. Because the more reflective or shiny the sheen, the more those imperfections that are going to show, like the nail pops or the drywall seams. So this is great for ceilings but it’s not good for high-traffic areas or high-touch areas because it shows the scuffs and smudges and it can be hard to clean.

    TOM: Now, many people do believe it’s hard to clean but there is sort of an upgraded matte, isn’t there? What’s it called ? Washable flat?

    LESLIE: It’s called a scrubbable matte and it’s sort of the step up from flat. And it’s great for, you know, a person who wants that same matte finish but wants something that’s far more durable and a little bit – it’s actually cleanable. You can take one of those magic erasers and give it a clean on it and not worry about the color kind of coming off. So it’s good if you’ve got kids and you know how things happen with kids and walls.

    KEVIN: Oh, they happen.

    LESLIE: They do.

    TOM: Now, what about the next step up? We call that “eggshell.”

    KEVIN: Yeah, eggshell. And they call it that because it actually resembles the surface of an actual eggshell, where it’s mostly flat but there’s also just a little hint of sheen. It’s good for a smooth finish because it reflects a little bit more of the light but it still hides some of the imperfections. And it’s a little bit more washable but it’s probably not as durable as the paints with even more sheen.

    LESLIE: Now, I think from a décor standpoint, I like to choose eggshell for clients when we’re working with a paint color that has a little bit more of a jewel tone or a velvety feel to it, sort of a lushness – like a beautiful, wool type of gray or an eggplant or a burgundy – something that has a richness to it that really needs to feel luxurious. I think eggshell does it.

    KEVIN: See, now that is a designer’s insight right there.

    TOM: Luxurious feel.

    KEVIN: Absolutely. Velvety.

    TOM: Yes, yes, yes.

    LESLIE: It gives it that look.

    TOM: Yeah. You probably wouldn’t have used luxurious feel and paint in the same sentence, right?

    KEVIN: Never. Never.

    TOM: Alright. Moving it up from there, let’s talk about satin.

    KEVIN: So, satin has a silky sheen and that reflects probably just enough light. It works great in some kitchens and bathrooms, the kids’ rooms and hallways. I would use it even in some walls on the rooms because I think it’s going to give it a nice pop.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. I’ve used it in intimate powder-room spaces that have a beautiful lighting fixture in there or an interesting ceiling fixture. I think it can give a room just the right amount of sparkle, if you will. So satin could be a good wall choice. I’ve seen people use it for trim. It’s not my favorite because I don’t think it has that glossy feel that I like woodwork to have.

    KEVIN: Yeah. And you’re going to be able to clean the satin a little bit but I’m with you: I think semi-gloss, the next level up, is going to be easier to clean.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Easy go-to.

    KEVIN: Right, absolutely. And that’s why it’s great for places where you’re fingerprint-prone. So things like trim or molding, doors and cabinets, semi-gloss is great. Put it on the kitchen cabinets, in the bathrooms. It’s durable and it’s highly washable.

    TOM: Now, speaking of durability, if you really want a tough, tough surface, you’ve got to go high-gloss, right?

    KEVIN: High-gloss is – it’s got the highest shine and it’s great for those hard-working rooms. So like a utility room or the playroom where washability is a must, high-gloss is your solution. You don’t want to use it in any place where you’re worried about seeing those imperfections. Because with something with this much sheen, it’s going to point and highlight every single one of them.

    LESLIE: See, now, I know that that’s the technical part of it but I’ve used it in kind of a fancily-designed living room, on one wall in a crazy red or a very vibrant color, to give that almost appearance of lacquer, which could be a really desired design feel.

    KEVIN: Yep.

    LESLIE: I’ve even done the ceiling and the crown molding in the same high-gloss color to sort of do something visually interesting in a space, as well.

    TOM: So if you want to use it strategically, it’s probably OK.

    LESLIE: Absolutely.

    TOM: But you’re most likely not going to paint all the walls high-gloss at the same time.

    LESLIE: No, no. You’ll go crazy.

    KEVIN: It’s going to make a statement.

    TOM: That’s for sure.

    LESLIE: It will bounce light around and you will go bananas.

    TOM: We’re talking to Kevin O’Connor – he’s the host of TV’s This Old House – about how to choose a good paint finish.

    Now, Kevin, besides a sheen, there are a lot of specialized finishes out there today. Any favorites?

    KEVIN: Yeah. We’ve got one in our household and it’s actually a magnetic paint, believe it or not. We’ve got it down in the basement playroom. It looks just like all the other paint out there. You can cover it up with traditional paint and everything sticks to it. So the kids have got all the little magnetic letters down there. They have a great time playing.

    And there’s another one that I haven’t used yet but I’d like to. Well, first of all, there’s chalkboard paint. You can actually paint a wall to make it look like a chalkboard, act like a chalkboard and you can use real chalk on it.

    TOM: Right.

    KEVIN: But there’s one that I haven’t used but I want to and it’s a dry-erase paint. So it comes in lots of great colors. You can paint a wall like it and I’m thinking to myself, “Why am I not doing this?” When the kids get the markers out and they write on the wall, you can just wipe this stuff right off. So some great specialty paints to consider.

    TOM: I don’t know. I don’t know if it’s a good idea to teach kids that it’s OK to write on walls with markers. I just think that could go wrong very quickly.

    LESLIE: Yeah. How do you define – “This is the area but not this area.”

    KEVIN: (inaudible at 0:27:04).

    TOM: And not the one that says “permanent marker.”

    Well, those are some fun ideas. Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    KEVIN: My pleasure to be here.

    LESLIE: Catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For local listings and step-by-step videos of many common home improvement projects, visit ThisOldHouse.com.

    TOM: And This Old House and Ask This Old House are brought to you by The Home Depot. More saving, more doing.

    Still ahead, clearing a jammed garbage disposal, that’s a project that can be a plumber-free project if you know what to do. We’ll have the tricks of the trade, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Lutron’s new Maestro Occupancy-Sensing Switch. Never ask “Who left the lights on?” again. Starting at around $20, this motion-sensing light switch turns the lights on automatically when you walk into a room and off when you leave and works with all types of light bulbs. Learn more at LutronSensors.com.

    TOM: Welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show where we make good homes better. Who are we? Well, I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And you should give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. One caller we talk to on the air this hour is going to win 100 bucks worth of Minwax Wood Finishing Cloths.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. This one-step product is true genius. Basically, it’s like a baby wipe. It’s got stain built right into it. You pull a wipe out of the package, wipe it onto the unfinished wood project. The only thing you need is gloves. Stain is going to dry in about an hour and then you clean up with soap and water. Comes in five colors. I mean this is easy. It’s almost too easy.

    TOM: And I’ve got to say, this kind of really revolutionizes how we use stain and it solves a problem that leads so many people to avoid staining projects, because there’s no fuss, no muss.

    Give us a call right now for your chance to win. The number, again, is 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, one of the busiest appliances in your kitchen this time of year has got to be your garbage disposer. And nothing puts the brakes on kitchen cleanup like a jammed one. Clearing it out, not that hard if you know what to do.

    Now, some foods are prone to simply clogging those disposers, like shrimp shells, pumpkin pulp or really anything that’s kind of stringy and fibrous. If it does happen, make sure it’s turned off and then fish out whatever debris you can.

    If your disposer still doesn’t come on, check the reset button. This is a great trick that Tom has taught me. You know, it’s located at the bottom of the unit. All you need to do is know that it’s there, because this will generally solve most problems. Now, it’s usually on the bottom side of it. One touch of this reset button could save you a very expensive and unnecessary repair bill.

    TOM: Yeah. Now, here’s one more trick of the trade. If you’ve tried that and it still doesn’t seem to be working right, it still feels like it’s jammed, there might be something else that’s stopping the blades from running. So, of course, look inside the disposer with a flashlight. See if you see anything that fell down in there that could be easily removed, again, with the power off.

    But if the disposer just got kind of stuck and sometimes it just needs a little help to get going, on the bottom of the disposer, there’s a socket for an Allen wrench. And the Allen wrenches almost always come with the disposer. So if you look around the bottom of your sink, you might just find one that the plumber left in place. Or if not, it’s a standard size. If you put an Allen wrench into that socket, you can actually spin the disposer manually. And sometimes, just moving it a little bit is enough to free it. Because it gets a little rusty or stuck in place and sometimes, just that little bit of a twist is enough to free it and let the motor do the rest of the work.

    If you want more tips on how to maintain or repair your disposer, head on over to MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Alright. Our next caller is a Facebook fan of The Money Pit and he’s calling in from Wisconsin. We’ve got Antoine on the line who’s got a pellet-stove question. How can we help you?

    ANTOINE: My house is about 1,000 square foot and I wanted to put in a pellet stove.

    TOM: OK.

    ANTOINE: And I was wondering, what would be the best location and the best way to ventilate it?

    TOM: OK. Good question. Now, first of all, hurray for the choice of a pellet stove. A very green energy choice. Lots of options. Pellet stoves are affordable, the fuel’s affordable. They work very, very well. You fill them up and literally can walk away from them.

    Since it’s not tied into a central-heating system, you want it to be centrally located so you get the best amount of heat distribution outside of it. Very, very important that you follow the National Fire Safety Protection Organization standards for installation of that because they do get very, very hot.

    How you install it, it depends on where you’re putting it. For example, the average wood stove needs about 3 feet of space behind it to combustibles. However, if you build a heat shield, then you can move it closer. I’ve seen them as close as 12 inches if they’re installed with heat shields, which basically create sort of a wall that’s vented that the heat can sort of pass over and the air can pass over and it can remain cool.

    Going up to the attic? Same situation. You typically use a triple-wall pipe – triple-wall vent pipe – to take that hot gas out. And again, it has to be installed correctly. So, it’s not the kind of project that I would recommend that you do if you’ve never installed one before, because of the specialty knowledge you need to make sure it’s done safely, Antoine.

    So if you want to shop it, buy it, get it in the store, get it in the house, that’s great. But I would definitely consider having a contractor that’s built these before do the actual installation for you. I would also make sure that you have the local fire marshal inspect the installation for you to make sure that it’s done correctly.

    ANTOINE: OK. Thank you.

    TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT and for “liking” The Money Pit page on Facebook, which is at Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit.

    And by the way, if you would head on over to Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit and “like” our page, you can also get priority access to the radio show as we produce it.

    LESLIE: Still to come, tips on painting natural wood surfaces that will help your project come out perfect every time, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Stanley Tools, celebrating their 170-year anniversary. At Stanley, making history is our future. To learn more, visit StanleyTools.com.

    TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to 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 we have a fantastic sweepstakes going on right now on The Money Pit’s Facebook page. That’s at Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit. Also accessible directly from MoneyPit.com. It is our annual Santa’s Sweepstakes. We like to play Santa Clause this time of year and we’re giving away some cool stuff.

    We’ve got a 26-cubic-foot, French-door refrigerator from Whirlpool. We’ve got an electric fireplace from Dimplex.

    And one of my favorite prizes: the Fifth Avenue Collection Towel Warmer from Mr. Steam. Now, this is truly a luxury product that everyone should treat themselves to. To find out more about it, we welcome Bart Gorelick. He’s the Western Regional sales manager for Mr. Steam.

    Hi, Bart.

    BART: Hi. Good morning.

    TOM: So you shed a lot of comfort with your product, don’t you?

    BART: That’s the whole thing. Our object is to make people feel good.

    TOM: So, tell us, how does a towel-warmer product work? How is it installed? How is it operated? And how do most people use it?

    BART: Well, there’s several ways to use it and it’s actually very easy to install. There’s both electric- and hydronic-type towel warmers, meaning – the hydronic, of course, that it integrates into somebody’s home hot-water system. Electric is very popular, also, and it can be done by either – by hardwiring or plugging it into the wall.

    And the whole point of a towel warmer is that you can warm your towel every time you get out of the shower. And it’s just such a nice, affordable luxury for people to have.

    TOM: You warm towels with this. This is the kind of appliance that you can turn on before you jump in the shower, warm your towels so it’ll be nice when you get off or is it on all the time?

    BART: It is an appliance that can be turned off. And it is an appliance that can be set with a timer to put on ahead of time so that when you jump out of your shower, you have a nice, warm towel, which is kind of important. We always recommend timers because towel warmers, they heat up quickly but depending on the type of towel you have on there, doesn’t heat up quite as fast as the towel warmer. So it’s good to have it a little heated up before you enter the shower.

    LESLIE: Now, Bart, I have to say, having traveled overseas many times, towel warmers are very popular in Europe. And I almost never see them unless I’m at a super-duper-duper high-end resort here in the States. Have you found that people are finally warming up, I should say, to the idea here in the States?

    BART: Yes. In recent years, exactly correct. It’s very popular overseas. And over here, people are starting to understand the concept of what a towel warmer can do for them: like we said, of course, keep them warm but it does other functions and actually can operate in other rooms. It’s not specifically only for the shower anymore.

    In northern climates, for instance, we have people who will put them in their mud rooms. Kids come back in from playing, hang up their winter coats on them, dry them out.

    TOM: So, Bart, towel warmers, obviously good for towels but people are using these for other applications, as well, right?

    BART: Oh, absolutely. You can warm up blankets, dry delicates, dry lingerie, dry swimsuits in summer.

    TOM: Yeah. On a chilly day, throw your coat on that, as well, I bet, right?

    BART: Absolutely.

    TOM: Great ideas. Bart Gorelick from Mr. Steam, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    And the Fifth Avenue Collection Towel Warmer is just one of the many products we’re giving away in The Money Pit’s Santa’s Sweepstakes, online right now at MoneyPit.com and The Money Pit’s Facebook page.

    If you’d like more information on towel warmers and Mr. Steam, head on over to their website. There’s a free tips booklet that you can download at Mr. Steam’s blog at Blog.MrSteam.com to help you out, give you all the information.

    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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