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How to Extend the Summer Outdoor Living Season. Advice for Planting Sod and the All Natural Way to Unclog Drains

  • 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 Happy Labor Day Weekend, everybody. Can you believe the summer is really over now? Wow, did it go fast.

    LESLIE: I feel like it goes faster and faster every single year. Or maybe that’s as we get older, time seems to fly.

    TOM: Or busier and we’re just not paying attention. But I hope wherever you are, you had a fantastic summer, you did what you wanted to do. Maybe took a little break and maybe took on some home improvement projects or at least planned them, because that’s where we step in to help you with stuff you’re planning for the fall. Give us a call, right now, and let’s talk about what needs to get done at your money pit, 888-666-3974.

    Well, with Labor Day upon us and while that does mean the end of the summer, it does not have to mean the end of outdoor-living season. We’re going to have tips on three ways that you can extend the use of your outdoor space well into the fall.

    LESLIE: And, guys, now is also the time to plant new lawns. But if you don’t have the time to just sit back and watch the grass grow, we’ve got some shortcuts on the best way to get a great-looking lawn fast.

    TOM: And this hour, we’re giving away an amazing prize. Might be one of the best ever on The Money Pit. We’ve got a Generac iQ2000 Generator going out to one lucky caller. This is the quietest, the smartest and the easiest-to-use portable generator on the market. And it’s the same one I recently featured on Fox & Friends.

    It’s worth 799 and going out to one listener drawn at random who calls in with their home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. You’ve got to see this product. You can check it out at GeneracIQ.com.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And let’s be clear, guys. I want to really be super clear. You must have a home improvement question to win. Don’t just call us and say that you want to win the Generac iQ, because that’s not going to happen. You’ve got to have a question and then be super lucky for us to draw your name. So, look around your house and think really hard – although some of you might look around your house and not have to think very hard – about a project that’s been bugging you. But call us with your home improvement question at 888-MONEY-PIT.

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

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Brian in Arkansas is on the line and has a mysterious odor in the house. What’s going on?

    BRIAN: I’ve got a crawlspace under my house of about 1,900 square feet. And we’ve noticed, the last several years – only in the summer, when we go away for the long weekend – we come back on a Sunday night and there’s a peculiar odor in the house. It’s a musty smell, if you will, but again only in the summertime.

    TOM: Well, it’s typically more humid in the summer and you mentioned that, you know, it only happens when you’re away. So you have less air movement inside the house; doors are not being opened and closed. Is this crawlspace – under your house, does it have a vapor over it, Brian?

    BRIAN: Well, when the house was built 15 years ago, they put down some probably 4- or 6-mil sheeting but it wasn’t completely encapsulated. So, what I have done, in the last two weeks, is gotten some 15-mil poly and I have totally encapsulated under the house. I’ve lapped the pillars, I’ve sealed the walls and I’ve taped the seams.

    TOM: So that’s great. So, something else that you can do is you could add an exhaust fan into that crawlspace and have it set to work off a humidistat. And the way you do that is they have crawlspace fans that are basically 8×16 inches, which is the same size as a concrete block. So in lieu of one of the vents, you install this fan in and you wire it to a humidistat, maybe mounted somewhere in the middle of the crawlspace. And then when the moisture gets really high, the humidistat will kick on the fan and it will draw some drier air through the crawlspace.

    Now, the third thing that you can do is just to be very careful with your outdoor-drainage maintenance. So by that I mean make sure you have gutters on the house, that the downspouts are discharging away from the house and that the soil around the crawlspace perimeter slopes away from the house. By trying to keep that water away from those walls, you will reduce the amount of moisture that’s building up in the crawlspace. Does that make sense?

    BRIAN: It does. I think I’ve got all that covered at this point. What about a dehumidifier? I’ve been told that’s the next step.

    TOM: You could put a dehumidifier in but I would rather see you put that simple ventilation fan hooked up to a humidistat on first. But if you want to put a dehumidifier in, I would take a look at the one by Santa Fe.

    I actually just put a Santa Fe dehumidifier in my basement and it’s working really, really well. And I liked it because it’s not very big. It hangs from the rafters and it was only 12x12x22. So it was a pretty small unit, so it didn’t take up a lot of space. And it’s doing a really good job. The one I put in takes out 70 pints of water a day.

    BRIAN: Wow. Well, as I take each step here, I’m trying to go and see if I’m doing everything correct. Could there be anything else that I’m missing or am I assuming that the smell is coming from under the house, up into the first floor?

    TOM: Well, the only other typical source of smells in houses is plumbing smells. So, sometimes you get biogas in the drains of your sinks or your tubs that can cause an odor. But if you clean those out with an oxygenated bleach, that will keep that under control.

    But if you have that kind of humid, musty smell, it may very well be coming from the crawlspace.

    BRIAN: OK. So if I totally encapsulate it and either put a fan in and/or a dehumidifier, should I see results in just a couple weeks, maybe?

    TOM: I think so, yes.

    BRIAN: OK. Because that takes care of the air under the house, which affects the first floor, as well, I guess.

    TOM: Absolutely.

    BRIAN: I will proceed with that.

    TOM: Alright, Brian. Any time you have questions, you can reach us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

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

    WENDY: Recently, I had a leak in my roof, in my bedroom and it started out just a water stain on the ceiling. It’s approximately 12 inches wide, 24 inches long.

    But here, recently, in the past few weeks, it looks like it’s growing mold. It’s a spot about the size of a dinner plate that – it’s real dark, black mold. So I’m concerned that it may be black mold and I don’t know if – is there something that I can do to fix this with primer or paint and maybe bleach or something to kill the mold? Or is it something – am I going to have to replace the sheetrock in the ceiling?

    TOM: Well, first of all, do you think that you’ve dealt with the leak? That there’s no longer a leak there?

    WENDY: Well, I have a metal roof and I think what has happened is the rain became a really, really bad storm and it was blowing all different directions. And I think the water actually blew under – it blew up under the metal on the roof. I don’t think it’s actually a leak, because I haven’t ever had any more problems.

    TOM: Alright. So here’s what you need to know: if your ceiling gets stained like that from a leak, you can’t just paint over it because the stain will come through. So what you have to do first is you have to prime it. So get an alkyd-based primer or an oil-based primer – water- or oil-based, it doesn’t matter – and paint over that spot. Then once you’ve painted over with the primer, then you can paint – put the finish coat on top of that. But the primer has to be done first.

    If you’re concerned that it’s mold and you want to make sure it’s not, then I would take about a 15- to 20-percent bleach solution – so maybe 1 part bleach, 3 parts water, something like that; you can make it a bit stronger – spray it down in that moldy area, let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes and then clean it off. And then proceed with the primer and the paint.

    WENDY: OK. Like I said, I’m concerned I can’t see the other side of the sheetrock because there is no attic space.

    TOM: Well, right now, it’s a fairly small spot, so let’s just deal with that and then move on. I wouldn’t make a bigger problem out of it just yet. If we think the leak was a one-time situation, so now we just have to deal with this. You know, it’s most likely a leak stain that you’re looking at and not mold.

    WENDY: I’m pretty sure it’s mold. It’s one spot. It does look fuzzy-like. It’s a white …

    LESLIE: There is a product called a 5-Minute Mold Test and it’s actually a swab within almost like a little tube-y thing and you just swab the area that you think is mold and pop it in there. And you’ll actually get a reading within five minutes telling you if it’s mold.

    And I think – does it also tell you the type of mold, Tom?

    TOM: I think it might and they have a consulting service, too, that they’ll follow up with you on the result and tell you what they recommend you do about it.

    WENDY: OK. Well, great. That certainly helps. I’ll give it a try.

    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. Well, we are almost into the fall season. Guys, you’re going to be calling about leaves to pick up and how to stay warm and pumpkins and all sorts of fun things but not before this Labor Day weekend is over. So give us a call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week right here at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Still ahead, you might think Labor Day means an end to summer fun but not if you take on just three projects that will extend the use of your outdoor spaces well into fall. We’ll have those summer-saving projects, next.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by QUIKRETE Concrete and 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, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Call us now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. You’ll get the answer to your home improvement question. Plus, this hour, we’re giving away an amazing prize. We’ve got the Generac iQ2000 Portable Inverter Generator going out to one lucky caller. And that’s worth $799. Give us a call, right now, with your home improvement question. We’ll toss your name into the Money Pit hard hat. And you might just be the lucky one that wins that prize.

    It’s a really fantastic product that lets you bring power wherever you go, like tailgating parties to camping trips, the beach, you name it. It’s got an ultra-lightweight design that makes it easy to carry and it’s super quiet. In fact, it’s the quietest portable inverter generator in its class. It’s also got a smart LED dashboard that shows the fuel level, the remaining runtime, the wattage use and the generator status. And all the controls are contained in something called the “power dial.” It basically integrates the start, run, stop functions into one simple-to-use dial. The Generac iQ2000 is quieter, smarter and it beats Honda.

    LESLIE: Alright, guys. We have just one unit to give away to one very lucky caller to the program. But we have a very special offer exclusively for all Money Pit listeners interested in purchasing a Generac iQ. So if you go to GeneracIQ.com or you can call them at 800-965-1172, you can receive free shipping on a new Generac iQ2000, plus a free copy of our book, My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure.

    TOM: That’s right. You’ll absolutely love this generator. But remember, the only – and I do mean only – way to get the free shipping and the free copy of our book is to visit GeneracIQ.com or call them at 800-965-1172, 800-965-1172. There’s just no other way to get the free shipping and free book offer. You have to go to GeneracIQ.com or call 800-965-1172.

    Now, the offer is valid right now, so don’t delay. If you’re interested, go to GeneracIQ.com or call 800-965-1172.

    LESLIE: Peter in Alaska, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you?

    PETER: Well, I’m having trouble with my soil stack up my house, the vent – the main vent – going out. In the wintertime, it freezes solid and I don’t know what to do about it.

    TOM: Let’s see. Tell me about the structure of your house. So the soil vent goes from your bathroom, up through your attic into – though the roof and out?

    PETER: Correct. And it’s a two-story house. It’s very well insulated. I have R-32 walls and R-83 ceiling and I have double walls in my house. And the attic is vented along the ridge and it also has gable vents.

    TOM: And is it freezing over it, across the top of the vent?

    PETER: No. It’s down a little bit and my vent is up high. I got it about 4 feet down from the peak of the roof and it stands about 4 foot up from the roof.

    TOM: I wonder if you were to insulate that soil pipe, whether it would be warm enough to prevent the freezing from forming down deep in it, if you were to insulate it right up to the point where it exits the roof.

    PETER: I thought about that. I did that for our vent that’s over the stove, because I thought of the heat going up through there might condensate with the cold metal. So I did insulate that. So I was thinking maybe that would work. I don’t know.

    TOM: I would. That’s a really easy thing to do. I would definitely think about giving that a shot. Because the moisture that’s getting out there is obviously a lot of water vapor. And if we can keep that pipe from freezing, the less chance you’re going to have to get that ice buildup. And then probably what happens is you get gurgle-y pipes because you’re not getting any air out of it. Things don’t flush right and all that.

    PETER: Exactly. Yeah, we’re concerned about it. And everything is heated, you know? Our toilets are hot water.

    TOM: I would try that. I would insulate it. It’s a very easy thing to do and you’ve already got a terrifically insulated house, so why not just extend it up the other side of the roof?

    PETER: Yeah. Alright. Thank you very much. I’ll try that.

    TOM: Well, as we celebrate Labor Day and summer turns to fall, we do see shorter days and cooler nights and perhaps a little less time to enjoy the great outdoors. But you don’t have to put an end to outdoor entertaining if you take three simple steps right now.

    LESLIE: Yeah. First of all, you want to light your yard so that you can stay outside later. Now, you can use low-voltage lighting kits. And those are specifically designed for outdoor use. They’re really easy to install. And you can even find solar-powered lights that don’t need any wiring at all and some really beautiful designs. I mean solar lighting has come a long way over the last few years.

    TOM: Definitely. Now, you also want to think about heating your space. You can add fire pits, fireplaces and patio heaters. They’re all readily available these days and installing one or putting one together is a pretty easy do-it-yourself project. Not only do they give you that sort of cozy, warm space, they also add some really nice ambience if you’re entertaining.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And finally, if you’ve got a pool, a pool cover is really all it takes to harness that daytime sunlight. And you’ll see that your pool will stay warmer after Labor Day. If you take these three steps now, you can enjoy your backyard retreat even after the first frost.

    TOM: And if you need help with that first step, give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: We’ve got Rebecca from Kansas on the line. What can we do for you today?

    REBECCA: We have a room that has the old wood paneling in it with the grooves and such that we’d really like to not remove it. But is there some way we can get the drywall look without putting up drywall, with putting on mud by hand or splattering it and kind of doing a knockdown or would it stick or – what do we need to do?

    LESLIE: Well, I feel like whatever you put on top of it – whether or fill it with mud or you use something to make the grooves go away and then try to smooth out the surface – you’re going to get so much movement from the walls, just in general. Not that your house is moving but it does. And it gets a lot of movement just from people walking by that none of that’s going to stick in there. And it’s going to end up falling off and looking weird and you’re going to have to do it again.

    So, my suggestion is either embrace the paneling look, as far as the grooves, and paint it to give it a different effect. Or put a ½-inch drywall over it.

    REBECCA: If you painted it, would you have to put some kind of a primer so it’ll stick or would you need to do a light sand on it or …?

    LESLIE: Yes and yes. You want to make sure that the surface is clean, obviously.

    REBECCA: Right.

    LESLIE: So if there’s anything sticky or gross on it, you want to give it a good cleaning. You could use something like TSP, which is trisodium phosphate. And that’s a good wall-prep product. Or you can give it a light sanding. But if you give it a nice – if there’s a sheen to it, you may want to give it a light sanding but not necessarily.

    And then I would use a really good, heavy-duty primer: something perhaps like a B-I-N or a Zinsser; something that’s hard core that’s going to stick to anything. And then let that dry and once that’s done, you can go ahead and put a latex topcoat on it.

    REBECCA: OK. If we elected to do the ½-inch drywall, we’d just treat it like a normal drywall: tape it, put the mud on and sand it and paint it.

    LESLIE: Absolutely. The only thing to consider is that any electrical outlets – your boxes, things like that – are going to have to be pulled out a little bit.

    REBECCA: Oh, we’re going to have to bring them out.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Trim, as well.

    REBECCA: OK. Very good. Thank you.

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

    LESLIE: Up next, are you planning to improve your lawn this fall but you don’t have time to watch the grass grow? Well, sod might be a great option. Roger Cook from This Old House is going to be here with advice on that topic, in a bit.

    TOM: And today’s This Old House segment on The Money Pit is brought to you by Proudly Propane. Clean American energy.

    MARILU: Hi. This is Marilu Henner from The Marilu Henner Show. And I’m obsessed with these guys. You’re listening to The Money Pit, my buddies Tom Kraeutler and Leslie Segrete.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Pavestone’s easy-to-stack RumbleStone Rustic Building Blocks. Create any outdoor hardscape you can imagine, to instantly add old-world charm. Available at The Home Depot. For more information and product instructions, visit Pavestone.com.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Hey, do you want a simple and cheap way to unclog a sluggish drain? See, you only need three things and you probably have them in your kitchen right now. Just mix a ½ cup each of salt, baking soda and vinegar, then pour it down the drain. Follow up with two quarts of boiling water and you’ve not only saved money but also your plumbing by using a natural solution instead of a harsh chemical to keep those drains clog-free.

    LESLIE: Well, if you’re looking for a great lawn but don’t have time to watch the grass grow, laying sod is the best way to get a great-looking lawn fast.

    TOM: Ah, yes. But it’s not inexpensive. And sometimes, sod gets a bad rap but that’s usually because of mistakes people make while trying to lay it. Here to tell us how to protect our investment and do the job right the first time is This Old House landscaping contractor Roger Cook.

    Welcome, Roger.

    ROGER: Thanks for having me. And I’ve got a great way to sell sod.

    TOM: Why do we do that?

    ROGER: I take people out in their front lawn and I hand them a piece of sod and I say, “OK. Here’s a piece of grass that was grown for 16 months under perfect conditions. They watered it, they fertilized it, they cut it.” And in the other hand, I put a handful of seed. I say, “OK. You take care of that.”

    TOM: You decide. Take your time.

    ROGER: “You take care of that for 18 months and it’ll look exactly the same as this. Can you do that? No? Then we’ll put sod down. Thank you very much.”

    TOM: All of a sudden, it’s looking a lot more affordable. So if we are going to install sod, is there a right time of year to do that?

    ROGER: It’s gotten to the point where we do it almost all year round.

    TOM: Really?

    ROGER: But I like to do it in April, into early summer and particularly in the fall. If we …

    TOM: So you don’t want to do it mid-summer because, obviously, it’s very hot, it’s going to brown out, you don’t – haven’t given the roots a chance to really take hold yet.

    ROGER: Yeah. And you have to be very careful with sod. It should go down the day you have it arrive at the job and especially in July and August. If it sits, the inside of the roll will get hot and brown and the grass will actually die.

    LESLIE: And should it go down the same day that it’s cut from the sod farm?

    ROGER: Ideally. Sometimes, they’ll cut it the day before or the night before if it’s real hot and bring it out. So, you want it to go down as quickly as you can get it.

    TOM: Now, what’s the process for getting your yard ready to lay the sod?

    ROGER: The process for seeding and sodding is the same. You’re going to go in, do your soil test. You’re going to rototill the lawn, you’re going to add compost, you’re going to add starter fertilizer and lime. Then you’re going to rake everything off smooth – perfectly smooth – ready for the sod or the seed. This is where you make that choice.

    TOM: Now, if you do the soil test, that’s going to tell you what the condition of the soil is at that moment and give you a chance to adjust that with your additives?

    ROGER: Right. And that’s why I said we add lime. You know, the soil here is usually acidic. Other parts of the country, it may be different. But the soil test will tell you what to add.

    LESLIE: Alright. So now your soil’s all prepped, your beautifully cut sod arrives all rolled up to your property. Is there a method to the madness or do you just start anywhere and start unrolling it?

    ROGER: No. Absolutely. You really want to spend some time thinking about how you’re going to lay the sod and getting the pallet of sod as close as possible to that area. That’s the key. You don’t want to be carrying them a long way. So we usually pick a nice, straight line to start with and we’ll unroll the sod. And you want to butt it together like a rug. So when you look, you can barely pick up those seams in the sod.

    TOM: Now once that sod is laid, I can imagine that making sure it’s properly watered is really critical in those first few months.

    ROGER: Right. Initially, you want to give it a good soaking. You don’t want it to turn to mud but you want to make sure that water gets – goes down to 3 to 4 inches deep, because the new roots are going to chase that water right down into the soil. The farther they get in the soil, the more water they’ll be able to get to.

    LESLIE: And if you’re using an irrigation system, that’s obviously something you’re going to put in before the sod starts to go down. But how do you adjust for the head location? Or is that something you put in after the sod is laid?

    ROGER: Usually, you lay out the heads and everything’s in place and ready to go for the sod. If something changes, you can always cut a pipe and make it longer or shorter or put a 90 in it, whatever you have to do.

    TOM: Now, if you have done everything right, when is it safe to start running your lawnmowers and other landscaping machines over that sod?

    ROGER: We use a one-third rule. We only want to cut off one-third of the blade of grass. So when it’s 3 inches, we cut it back to 2 inches.

    TOM: OK.

    ROGER: And that’ll usually happen in 7 to 10 days. But the key to cutting it is you have to shut off the water the day before. If you go to go on new sod with a lawnmower – even a light one, which you should be using – you’re going to end up leaving tracks all through your new lawn.

    LESLIE: Now, if you’ve gotten your perfectly grown sod on now your perfectly ready-to-go soil, do you then have to fertilize this new sod? Or do you wait a season?

    ROGER: We wait four to six weeks to put down the next layer of starter fertilizer. And the reason being is you’re watering that over and over to get the sod established. So you’re actually flushing some of the ingredients that you want in the soil out. So you’re going to replace those by fertilizing.

    TOM: So once you’re all done with this project, Roger, you step back and you look at it. Would you still see all those seams from when the rows were laid? Or should it all sort of meshed together nicely?

    ROGER: If you did a good job and took your time, it should be all meshed together tightly. And within a week or 10 days, absolutely, you wouldn’t be able to see the lines.

    TOM: This Old House landscaping expert Roger Cook, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit. Great advice as always.

    ROGER: I’ve had a great time.

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

    TOM: And Ask This Old House is brought to you on PBS by Mitsubishi Electric Cooling & Heating. Make comfort personal. And This Old House on The Money Pit is also brought to you by Lumber Liquidators, with over 400 varieties of bamboo, laminate, wood-look tile, vinyl plank and hardwood floors for less.

    Up next, no matter how great a housekeeper you are, the dreaded cockroach can become an uninvited guest. We’ll have tips on how you can put up a no-vacancy sign for these pests, after this.

    TOM: 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.

    Pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. We’re going to help you with whatever it is you are working on at your money pit. Plus, this hour, we’re giving away a tremendous prize, you guys. We’ve got up for grabs one Generac iQ2000 Portable Inverter Generator. It’s worth $799.

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    TOM: Now, we’ve got just one unit to give away to one very lucky caller to the program at 888-MONEY-PIT. But we’ve also got a very special offer that’s exclusive for all Money Pit listeners that are interested in purchasing a Generac iQ. And here’s how it works: if you go to GeneracIQ.com or you call them at 800-965-1172, you can receive free shipping on a new Generac iQ2000. Plus, you’re going to get a free copy of our book, My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure.

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    Well, when the weather turns cool, bugs like cockroaches can head inside your home and become a real health threat. These insects can cause allergies and asthma issues and transmit dangerous bacteria. And here’s the thing, though: if you see just one roach in your house, you know the others are close behind.

    LESLIE: Ugh. You’re giving me the willies. Seriously. I can’t even think about that without getting the heebie-jeebies.

    Guys, really, a few quick maintenance projects can shut cockroaches out and keep your home healthy. So you want to caulk around your doors and windows. That’s going to seal up holes and any of those small gaps. Think about it: a young roach can actually get through a space the thickness of a dime. Thickness of a dime. That’s really, really skinny.

    TOM: So, here’s what you want to do: first off, you want to prune your shrubs and your trees and you want to eliminate sources of water by sealing the pipes and fixing any leaky appliances. Even minor leaks under cabinets can lead to this problem.

    You also want to treat attics, garages and basements with insecticides or baits. Basically, keep it under control and they’re never going to build up to the point where they really become an issue for your house and most importantly, your family’s health.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now I’ve got James in Massachusetts on the line who is having an issue with an unruly couch.

    What’s going on, James?

    JAMES: About 20 years ago, I bought a beautiful, wooden couch stained a nice, dark walnut color. And where you sit on it were cushions that were covered in a fabric.

    LESLIE: Were they loose cushions or were they attached to the frame?

    JAMES: They were not attached to the frame; they were loose. The frame is quite beautiful. You’d walk all the way around the couches. It’s probably best seen from behind, where you can see the structure of the wood. It’s a very nice couch. But after about 16 years, the cushion fabric wore out so I had this brilliant idea that I was going to cover the cushions in a faux leather.

    And now, four years on, I find that the cushions stick to the wood. Somehow, the faux leather – Naugahyde, whatever it might be – is leaching the stain right out of the wood. The rest of the wood, where the cushions don’t touch it, is still as beautiful as it ever was. But where the cushions touch it, now it is all tacky. It does not transfer onto the cushions themselves. I can touch the cushions and they do not feel sticky. Is there a solution besides taking this thing down to bare wood?

    LESLIE: It’s possible. And that’s probably because of the same reason you’d see it in the kitchen, which is moisture. Not saying that the cushions are wet but because the cushions have a texture to them that is also smooth – if that makes sense? You know how leather or even artificial leather, when you sit on it, it gets warmed up and then you kind of stick to it? I feel like you’re probably getting the same thing, just in the area where you’re getting the contact from the finish to the actual fabric itself.

    Now, what you could do, if you are committing to a specific side of the cushion that will always be the top, you could sew something almost like a canvas or a moleskin or something on the bottom that gives it more movement but is also more of a breathable fabric. The only issue is it might come sliding off. But it won’t stick.

    JAMES: Oh, that’s an excellent idea. So half the cushion would be fabric and the part that’s touching the wood?

    LESLIE: Right. The bottom side would be a fabric that’s more of a backer or a base, like a canvas or a duck cloth.

    JAMES: Now, these are – not only is the bottom cushion but also the back that touches wood, as well. So, fabric all the way where it touches the wood. Is there anything that can salvage the finish of the wood without just taking it down to bare wood?

    LESLIE: Do you find that when you have the cushions off for some time that it sort of re-solidifies or re-cures or no?

    JAMES: No. It remains tacky, although I have to admit I’ve not tested that out for a great length of time, like a month or something.

    LESLIE: It might be worth it just to do – not to take it all the way down to bare wood but to get something like a liquid sander. It comes in a bottle. You’ll find it in any home center in that paint-and-stain aisle.

    And then just put that on. You sort of brush it on or wipe it on in the area and just let it have a little bit of tack to it. And maybe just then hand-sand it a little bit with a sanding sponge and then just apply your stain or your finish to that exact spot or do that whole railing. It sounds to me like you have a slatted back and a slatted seat, perhaps. So I would just do the boards that have the issues to it, not the rest of the frame.

    JAMES: Sounds like an excellent idea. So, liquid sander and fabric on the back of the cushion.

    LESLIE: It’s worth a shot.

    JAMES: Thank you very much. I appreciate your help.

    TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Still ahead, repairs to wood mean that you have to match the finish. And if you’re thinking that might be too difficult to manage, well, not so much. We’re going to share some tricks of the trade. We’ve got some tips on matching wood grain, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Hey, are you getting ready to replace some old carpeting in your home? Well, don’t waste money buying more than you’re going to need. To buy exactly the right amount of carpeting, the formula is really easy. And here it is: you take the room’s length times the width in feet and you divide by eight. Now, what that will do is give you the amount of carpet that you need in square yards with just enough extra to be safe but not be sorry by wasting money.

    LESLIE: Alright, guys. And if you’ve got some other questions – whether it’s about flooring, quantity of materials you need – whatever it is, you can e-mail us or hop onto the Community site and post your question, just like Brody in New York did. Brody writes: “My dog caused a deep scratch in my table. How can I fill that in and match the grain at the same time? It’s sort of a medium brown.”

    TOM: Yeah. So, first thing, get rid of the dog. No, I’m only kidding.

    LESLIE: No.

    TOM: If you’ve got a deep scratch like that in a piece of finished furniture, you can do a couple of things. First of all, if it’s cut right through the stain to the point where the wood is white but maybe it’s not really deep, then you could use a product like Old English or really just some extra wood stain. Because if you fill in that white part of the scratch, it’ll blend in nicely.

    If it’s a little deeper than that, you need to kind of sort of bring the surface up level. A really good thing to use are these wax sticks that are sold by Minwax and other manufacturers like that. They kind of look like the old-fashioned freezer pencils where you peel back the paper and expose sort of the wax part of it. And if you heat them up a little bit with a lighter to kind of make it soft, you can almost drip the wax in there and then rub it with your fingers to kind of get a little friction. And it’ll flow in and press in really nicely to that space. And if you just keep buffing it or maybe even sort of scrape off the excess with something that’s not going to scratch the furniture – like, say, a credit card – what you’ll see is it’ll blend in perfectly.

    Now, if it turns out that maybe you have a color that they don’t have one of these wax sticks for, what I’ve done is I’ve bought sort of the lighter one and then the darker one in the family of wax stain sticks. And then I’ve melted them together. So you can do that, as well. And believe me, it’s amazing. Once that stuff gets in there, you will not be able to see this scratch any longer.

    LESLIE: No, it really is just like the right consistency and it’s really so interesting how well it does a good job of matching. It really is great.

    Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post here from Christian who writes: “I’m thinking about buying either a table saw or a sliding miter saw. I want a lower-priced one since I don’t do all that many DIY projects. Something between 100 and 150 would be in my price range. What would be the best for general projects around the house?”

    Ooh. If he’s a beginning DIY-er, I wouldn’t say table saw.

    TOM: Yeah. I would say only buy a table saw if you’re doing a lot of sort of sheet projects where you have to, say, cut big pieces of wood or do a lot of ripping of wood, cutting lots of plywood and particle board and things like that.

    I think a compound miter box is fantastic today. And there’s so many options out there. You get really good value for your money. I mean you can cross-cut, with some of these, a 10- or 12-inch board.

    LESLIE: You know, Tom – and you said something really important there. You said cross-cut. I think of people don’t realize that with a table saw, you’re going along the grain, like you said, ripping long lengths of sheet products. And cross-cut is going across the grain. So if you’re cutting a 1×3 or a 1×4, the smaller, more manageable DIY things.

    TOM: That’s right. And it’s probably the more common type of cut you would want to use. So I would definitely recommend you start with a sliding compound miter saw. I think you’ll find lots in that option and even a little bit more.

    LESLIE: And you know what, Christian? You can find a lot of battery-powered ones. And they are super powerful.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Hope you are having a fantastic Labor Day weekend. Really appreciate you joining us on today’s program. If you’re ready to get to work and have any additional questions, you can call us, 24/7, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. We hope this hour we’ve given you some great tips, advice and inspiration to take on those projects around your house. But remember, we are here to help you, 24/7, at 888-MONEY-PIT and always online at MoneyPit.com.

    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 2016 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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