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How to Repair a Jammed Disposer, Tips on Oven Temp Troubleshooting, Ideas for Refacing Cabinets and Furniture, Info on New Federal Energy Standards and more

  • Transcript

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Hey, what are you working on this weekend? We would like to help. Help yourself first, though. Pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-666-3974, because we are here to provide that do-it-yourself solution or to give you some advice on how to get a pro to get the job done right the first time.

    Coming up on today’s show, do some of your meals come out sort of half-baked? Well, don’t blame the cook. Just blame the oven. Oven temperatures can vary and we’re going to teach you how to identify and fix that problem the easy way.

    LESLIE: And also ahead, does your garbage disposer jam a lot? Well, don’t replace it. We’re going to tell you how to clear disposer jams easily and most importantly, safely.

    TOM: Plus, we’ve got device on how you can update some boring cabinets and drawer fronts by dressing them up with fabric.

    LESLIE: And this hour, we’re giving away a 27-foot magnetic tape measure. It’s worth 18 bucks and one lucky winner is going to get it for free.

    TOM: So, pick up the phone right now. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Right. Mark in Maine is on the line with an electrical question. How can we help you today?

    MARK: Yes, I have a couple of rooms. Our house is from around the 1930s and some of the rooms, the three-way wiring isn’t quite right. Like to turn on the light, as you enter the room, you turn on one switch. You can’t go to the other side of the room where the other switch is and turn the light off; you have to go back to the original switch, turn the light off. Then you can …

    TOM: Oh, OK. So do you know that it was originally designed to be a three-way switch?

    MARK: I do not know that.

    TOM: Listen, you’re going to have to have an electrician open up the wiring and test it, trace it out and figure out what’s going on. It’s either that a switch has gone bad or more likely, it’s just not hooked up correctly.

    MARK: OK. OK. Now, I had been told that there are switches that are specific to three-way and that is probably the problem but I’m – to be honest, I don’t know.

    TOM: Yeah. Well, that’s entirely possible but it’s got to be opened up and take a look at what switch device is in there and then also determine if it’s wired correctly. Because it sounds like, most likely, it was incorrectly wired. It might have been that somebody replaced one of those switches at one time and just hooked it up wrong.

    MARK: OK.

    TOM: I mean I’ve done that myself, just inadvertently. When I was painting, I recall, I took a switch apart to replace it from a toggle switch to a décor switch that’s the kind of flat-panel kind.

    MARK: OK.

    TOM: And I swore that I had gone wire for wire and got it right but I didn’t; I got it wrong. And it did exactly that, so I had to reverse some wires to get it working back again.

    MARK: Yeah, that’s pretty much it. I’ve got some research to do.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Joyce in Alabama on the line who’s got a question about a sink odor. What’s going on?

    JOYCE: Well, this is in a bathroom sink. It’s about 25 years old. It’s a type that has three air-vent holes in it or overflow holes in it. And the odor seems to be emanating primarily from there. It’s a very musty odor and came down to that conclusion because I finally took some paper and stuffed up those holes. And things smelled much better in the bathroom that way.

    TOM: Well, sometimes what happens is you’ll get some bacteria that will grow in that overflow trap. So what I would suggest you do is this: that is to fill the sink up with hot water and add some bleach to it and let the bleach very slowly trickle over that overflow. And so it saturates it and hopefully that will kill that mold or that bacteria.

    Now, the other thing that you can do is you could take the bathroom-sink trap apart and clean it out with a bottle brush. Now, some of the traps today are just plastic. They’re easy to unscrew and put back together. Under the sink, sometimes you can clean that. And again, you get that biogas that forms in there. If you clean it with a bleach solution, that usually makes things smell a lot better in the bathroom. OK, Joyce?

    JOYCE: Alright. Thank you so much.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Gary in New York on the line who’s got a question about a new roof. How can we help you with that?

    GARY: Back in 2011, down here Binghamton, New York, we had had a flood hit pretty bad. And we had thought that part of the storm that rolled through had damaged our roof. Turns out that the insurance company found out that the roof tiles weren’t installed correctly. I guess they had tacked them in too high and with too much PSI, I guess, with the air hammer or whatever.

    And that’s long-term, so we had a patch actually sliding down, which we paid to have fixed. It was probably about 350, 400 bucks to have it patched. And now, couple years later, we have another patch that’s very close to the original patch job that’s starting to slide down, as well. And I have never really looked into getting a new roof. I was kind of curious what you guys might have for advice for me.

    TOM: So, Gary, the old roof is a standard, asphalt-shingle roof?

    GARY: I believe so, yeah.

    TOM: Because when you say tile that slid down, I think you’re just saying – you should explain that the shingle slid down.

    GARY: Yes.

    TOM: And so, Gary, at this point, you just want to figure out the best way to replace that existing asphalt-shingle roof, correct?

    GARY: Well, one of the questions me and my wife have been discussing is the last time we paid to have this patched, where we had the problem where a large portion was sliding down, we paid like 350, 400 bucks. And it lasted about three or four years before we saw any other problems.

    What we’re curious about is there’s probably about – I think it was – we figured out about nine years left on the life of the roof, from when it was installed. And we were curious if we should just keep patching it at 300, 400 bucks a year – 300, 400 bucks every couple of years or if we should just go ahead andget a whole new roof.

    TOM: How long are you going to be in the house?

    GARY: If we win the lottery, I’m not moving unless they heckle me too much.

    TOM: So, you intend to be in this for most of the life of the roof, whether it’s the existing one or a new one?

    GARY: We’re looking at staying in this house for pretty much as long as we live.

    TOM: Well, if it’s 300 bucks and it’s going to last you three or four years and you’ve got to do it once in a while, I might be OK with patching. But I guess if I had to do that time and time again, then I would start thinking about a new roof. And if I was going to do a new roof, I would remove the old roof, right down to the roof sheathing, and then reroof from there. It’s not a good idea to put a second layer on top of the existing layer.

    First of all, the second layer never lasts as long because the first layer holds a lot of heat. Plus, you’ve already got attachment problems with that first layer, so you wouldn’t want to compound it by putting more roofing shingles on top of that. So, I guess I’d be tempted to do it once or twice but after that, I’d be ready for a new roof.

    GARY: OK. I guess the other question that I had had – and in regards to this – is about a year or two after we had the patch job done, we had had insulation put into the attic. And that cost us a pretty penny to get done because we had – I think it was R30 insulation installed and they had to sister out the joists on the rafters and everything. And since then, we hadn’t noticed any water infiltrating but we just put up drywall inside the attic, as well. Is there any way to check and see if there’s water infiltration?

    TOM: Well, if there’s water infiltration you’re going to see it, especially if you have drywall, because it’s going to stain. So, if you’re not seeing it, then I wouldn’t expect that you’re getting any leakage.

    GARY: And considering we’re in upstate New York, do we have to worry about the weather? Like when should we get the roof redone if we choose to do so?

    TOM: Yeah. I don’t think it’s a good idea to do it mid-winter, obviously, but any other time of the year it’s fine. One of the things that you might want to consider when you do redo the roof, because you are in upstate New York, is to make sure that you have ice-and-water shield installed. This is an additional layer of roofing material that goes from the edge of the roof up 3 or 4 feet into the roof structure.

    And it’s specifically designed so that if you get an ice dam, where ice forms at the gutter line and then the snow above that starts to melts, that water is not going to hit the dam and back up into the house. And because you’re going to pull the old shingles off, it’s the perfect opportunity to do that.

    LESLIE: And you know what, Gary? Here’s a tip from somebody who just had their roof redone last summer: get yourself one of those nail magnets. It’s like a big magnet on a stick that you kind of wander around your backyard with? Because I swear we still find nails in the backyard that show up at the most random times in the most random places. So no matter how well your guys look, there’s still going to be more.

    And also, if you are going to be home at all during this project, try to get out. Because let me tell you, being in your home – I had a little guy, a youngish baby at the time. Charlie was only like six months. It was the loudest, most unnerving thing to deal with: the sound of people on your roof and hammers and …

    TOM: It’s like being awake during surgery.

    LESLIE: Yeah. It’s like you’re under attack. We just had to get the heck out of the house. So it’s like try to make plans to not be around.

    TOM: Alright, Gary. Hope that helps you out.

    GARY: Thank you very much.

    TOM: 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. Now, you can call in your home repair or your home improvement question pretty much any hour of the day that you are working on or that question pops into your mind. We’re here to give you a hand at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, does your oven temperature seem to be a bit off? Maybe those culinary masterpieces are just not working out as you planned? Well, the reason might be the thermostat. We’ll tell you how to fix it, next.

    TOM: Where home solutions live, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Give us a call right now. We want to hear your décor dilemma. We want to hear your home improvement project. We want to talk about that project that’s keeping you up late at night. Why did you paint the leak stain and it came through? Why does your basement leak? Why are you so cold all the time? These and many more topics we can tackle and solve for you if you just help yourself by calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    You might even win this hour’s prize. We’re giving away a fancy magnetic tape measure that measures 25 feet long and it’s worth about 18 bucks. Going to toss that out to one caller drawn at random. The number, again, is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Penny in Illinois is on the line and she’s dealing with some frost on a meter. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.

    PENNY: Well, we have a brand-new home and the outside is where the meter is and stuff like that. Well, cold air gets into that little pipe area and then comes into the basement and puts a patch of frost on the wall in the basement downstairs. And I was wondering if there was anything I can do to put something over that gas meter to protect it from getting so cold.

    TOM: You don’t have to worry about the gas meter getting – being protected, because gas meters are meant to be outside in all sorts of weather. That said, though, if you’re getting that kind of cold air in your basement, that’s got to be causing you big energy losses. So I would try to seal those spaces where that cold air is getting in, to try to keep that space as warm as possible. Because that is going to add to your heating cost.

    PENNY: OK. But I talked to the builder and he said you really can’t do anything inside because then you’re looking at a fire hazard. If you try to insulate inside the house, then there could be a fire hazard there.

    TOM: What, in the basement? With basement-wall insulation?

    PENNY: I was thinking by where the gas meter was. That’s where I kind of …

    TOM: But again, you don’t have to worry about the gas meter. That said, you can insulate any – you can add insulation to exterior walls and you certainly can add insulation near a gas meter. It’s not like it’s a source of flame, OK? It’s a piece of equipment where – through which all the plumbing passes. But I mean it’s not like there’s a flame there.

    So if your builder is telling you that, it sounds to me like he’s trying to get out of a project.

    PENNY: Gotcha. OK. Thank you. I appreciate your help on that.

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

    Tell that guy to get to work.

    PENNY: I will.

    LESLIE: So have you been wondering why you get such inconsistent results for your oven-baked culinary masterpieces? Well, if your baked dishes don’t come out right every time, don’t blame the chef, guys. Blame the oven. Now it’s possible that your oven’s built-in thermostat just isn’t working the way it should be. So here is some troubleshooting advice that may restore your confidence in the kitchen and quite frankly, your cooking abilities.

    TOM: First off, it’s a really good idea to check your thermostat for accuracy. Now, I used to do this in the years I was a professional home inspector and it’s really a simple procedure. You set the oven temperature to about 350 degrees. And then you put a separate thermometer inside. You’ll often see oven thermometers sold at the supermarkets and places like that. I think that you don’t have to get a real expensive one here. It’s kind of like getting a second opinion on a temperature. But if you put that on the rack, set it to 350, leave it there for 10,15 minutes and then check it, you’ll get a pretty good idea as to whether or not your thermostat is actually giving you an accurate result. If it’s not, it might need some attention.

    LESLIE: So what could be wrong there? Now, there are several possibilities. Over time, that rubber gasket around the oven door, that can become torn or stretched out of shape or just deformed, in general. And that’s going to cause heat to escape from the oven. So, first off, inspect the gaskets, make sure they’re in good condition and still doing their job. And if they’re not, replace them.

    TOM: And another way that heat can escape from your oven is if that oven door is not closing properly. So you want to check the alignment on the door to make sure it’s closing evenly and forms a nice, tight seal. If it doesn’t, you want to check for broken or bent door hinges. That can happen, especially if you’ve got kids. Sometimes, when you have an oven door open, I’ve seen kids really press down on that or even people that are maybe setting some dishes or plates or heavy roasts on that. It can stretch it out of place.

    So these can all be repaired pretty inexpensively. But if you don’t get it just right, you’re not going to get a consistent temperature out of that oven.

    And finally, clean your oven. A dirty oven is not going to be an accurate oven. And if you do clean your oven, though, always do it not when you’re expecting to cook a big meal the next day, because it does put the oven though a lot of stress. That self-cleaning cycle drives those temperatures up really, really high. You know, do it when the – using the oven the next day is not going to be sort of a mission-critical operation. Don’t do it before Thanksgiving or a big holiday or something like that. But do it mid-week when you’ve got some time to kill. If it’s cold, do it at night. You’ll throw some additional heat into the house at the same time.

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

    JODY: I actually have a problem with my foundation. It’s an exposed foundation; about 3 feet high around the whole footprint of the house is exposed. The cement-block foundation that had parging on it originally – and the parging was cracking, so it was recommended by a masonary contractor to put DRYLOK over it.

    So, this is what I did. I put on – it’s a – they add color to the DRYLOK. So I put it over the whole foundation and it started to crack and peel and bubble.

    TOM: Yeah, it didn’t adhere properly. First of all, isn’t DRYLOK usually an interior masonry paint, not an exterior masonry paint?

    JODY: Well, this particular masonary (ph) guy told me that he’s actually used it on the bottom of swimming pools, so he thought that it would work. And when he saw it later, he said, “Wow. I’ve never seen it do that.”

    TOM: Yeah. How about that? He just experimented with your house.

    JODY: I did call the DRYLOK people, too, and talked to them.

    TOM: Yeah?

    JODY: And they told me to try to power-wash it, try scraping it. But it’s just become a huge mess, you know? I mean it peels in some places. Some places, it adhered.

    TOM: Yeah, the problem is that now that you’ve got that on there, you’ve got to get it off because you can’t put any – you can’t put new stuff over the bad old stuff. It just will continue to peel.

    JODY: Yeah. The problem is is that we are on filled-in marshland – is where the – and so, we’re on clay and sand. And the cement block, it sort of leaches up through there, so it’s always sort of damp coming up from the ground anyway.

    TOM: Yeah. That’s what I was going to – that’s what I was kind of thinking. I was thinking that the block wall might have been wet when you applied it. It might not have been visibly wet but see, those block walls are hydroscopic. They absorb water really, really well. And so, if it’s on a moist situation, that water is going to draw up, get behind that paint. And nothing causes paint to peel faster than water.

    So, unfortunately, at this stage, you’re going to have to strip that off.

    JODY: Oh, my gosh. And we’re right on the water, you know what I mean? We’re on the bay. So I’m always worried about things that are not environmentally friendly.

    TOM: The other thing that I think you probably could do – and this is a big job in and of itself, though – is you could have a mason attach a woven-wire mesh to that foundation and re-stucco it. And in that case, it could go right on top of the old, junky paint because you’re not really sticking to the foundation; you’re sticking to the mesh. So that’s another possibility.

    JODY: I gotcha, yeah. Yeah. Because, I guess, in some places that was used before, underneath the parging.

    TOM: Well, the parging is simply a stucco coat that goes on top of the block wall and it’s typical for the parging to crack. And usually, it cracks along the lines of the masonry block.

    JODY: Yep. That’s what it did.

    TOM: And that’s not necessarily a defect. That’s pretty much just the way it goes with that stuff, especially if they don’t put it on thick enough.

    So, I would consider, if you really want to have it to look like a traditional masonry foundation, I would consider having mesh put up there and then properly re-stuccoed. If not, you’re just going to have to peel that paint off any way you can. You would – I would – might take a look at some of the citrus-based paint strippers if you have some that’s really hard to get off.

    JODY: Alright. Thank you so much.

    TOM: Alright. Sorry I don’t have better news. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Do the appliances in your home have the most updated energy standards? Maybe not. Federal law requires that energy standards are met, then upgraded as needed. We’re going to tell you about the changes to the efficiency of boilers and ceiling fans and furnaces, next.

    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: 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, we’ve all heard about energy-efficient standards. You’ve heard us talk about the government designations like ENERGY STAR. But do you know how those standards are determined, how they’re regulated and how they’re kept up to date so that you have access to, truly, the most efficient appliances on the market?

    LESLIE: Well, here to tell us about that is Lauren Urbanek, the senior energy policy advocate for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

    Welcome, Lauren.

    LAUREN: Thanks for having me.

    TOM: So, Lauren, this is your business, so we’re really happy that you could join us today, because I’ve seen manufacturers toss words around, like ENERGY STAR. But one ENERGY STAR appliance doesn’t necessarily equal the other ENERGY STAR appliance. It really depends on which standard they’re building that appliance to. So, tell us how those programs came to be and how consumers can use them effectively to make good decisions on energy-efficient equipment in their home.

    LAUREN: Absolutely. You can’t look at the appliances or the equipment in your home and really easily tell if they’re wasting energy. So, in 1987, President Reagan signed a law into effect that established minimum efficiency levels for a whole variety of products, to really ensure that they’re using energy in the smartest possible way.

    So, since then, efficiency standards have been created and also updated for more than 60 product categories, which include most of the appliances and most of the equipment in your home. And so, thanks to efficiency standards, it actually costs the average household about $300 less each year to operate their major appliances.

    TOM: So let’s talk about those efficiency standards. I mentioned, earlier, ENERGY STAR. Is that the only standard that consumers need to be aware of?

     LAUREN: The standards set the requirement for energy efficiency, so any product on the market that’s covered by an efficiency standard has to meet that standard. But there are some products that perform even better than the standard and that’s where the ENERGY STAR label comes into play. And you’ve probably seen it. It’s a blue label with a white star. Having that label – that ENERGY STAR label – signifies what a product is in the top tier of energy efficiency.

    TOM: So we can truly then compare apples to apples as long as it has the ENERGY STAR label? And I would also add that the appliances are sort of the same manufacturing year, right? So, because those standards are going to change from – sometimes from year to year or every couple of years. If you’re comparing it, it’s got to be current product, correct?

    LAUREN: If you’re comparing products, another really good tool to look at is the EnergyGuide labels. That’s the yellow label that you may have seen as you’ve shopped for products like refrigerators or water heaters or dishwashers. And this provides a really good way to compare appliances, whether or not they actually have the ENERGY STAR label. But it provides information about annual energy use and helps consumers make smart energy decisions.

    TOM: So which appliances in our homes really do use the most energy?

    LAUREN: The big three are your heating equipment, your cooling equipment and your water heaters. Those make up more than half, actually, of your home’s energy use. So if a homeowner is looking for improvements that are going to really give the most bang for your buck, those are really great places to start.

    LESLIE: And you find that that’s where, really, people are saving the most money? Are there even smaller changes that you can make that are also ENERGY STAR-rated that could save some money, as well?

    LAUREN: There are absolutely smaller changes that a homeowner could make. It really just depends on your individual home where you’ll be able to save the most energy and save the most money. We always recommend starting, actually, with an energy audit, which is where a contractor will come into your home, do some diagnostic testing and provide you with a really comprehensive report that’s customized for your home, about where your home has the most potential for energy savings and especially for cost-effective energy savings.

    TOM: Have you any advice for consumers that want to calculate return on investment for energy-saving appliances? Because the more energy they save, sometimes the more expensive they are. How do you determine whether or not it actually makes economic sense? I mean we all want to save some energy and help the planet along but let’s face it: if it’s coming directly out of our pocketbook, it’s a whole ‘nother set of standards we apply. How do we determine what the return investment is for these types of more expensive but more efficient appliances?

    LAUREN: Yeah. That’s a really good question. And I would recommend really taking a look at that EnergyGuide label. That will provide some information, at least on an average basis, of what the energy consumption will be, what the estimated average cost will be. But one thing to know about energy-efficiency standards is that, by law, those have to be cost-effective for both consumers and for manufacturers. So, if you do buy a new piece of equipment, it may cost a little more but any extra upfront costs will be then recouped in savings on your energy bill.

    TOM: Yeah. And not to mention that there are still tax rebates and even rebates from your local utility company that can kick in, as well, and help offset that initial investment. I was looking recently at the pretty new heat-pump dryers that are out there. They’re new, high-efficiency dryers that give you better efficiency than straight electric dryers and pretty expensive to look at them initially. But when you consider the fact that you can get the tax credit and the rebates from your local utilities, that really brings that number down and makes it much more affordable and practical to buy them.

    LAUREN: Absolutely. The rebates that are available from many utilities across the country could be both for equipment like you were talking about but also for energy audits and possibly other upgrades like installing insulation, doing some air sealing around windows or in cracks that homeowners may not even know are there. So that’s absolutely a great place to start.

    TOM: Great advice. Lauren Urbanek – she’s a senior policy advocate for Natural Resources Defense Council – thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    LAUREN: Thanks for having me.

    TOM: And if you’d like to learn more information about the work of the Natural Resources Defense Council, you can visit them online at NRDC.org.

    LESLIE: Alright. Still to come, a garbage disposer installed in the sink can be very convenient to have in your kitchen. But what happens when it jams? We’re going to have some tips on keeping your disposer running smoothly, when The Money Pit continues.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. We will help you with whatever you are working on at your money pit. Plus, we have a super-handy prize up for grabs that if you don’t have one, quite frankly, I don’t know how you’re doing any DIY projects in your house.

    We’re giving away a magnetic tape measure. It’s a 25-footer. It’s super awesome. You’ve got to have a good, heavy-duty tape whenever you’re tackling any project and quite frankly, on your hip daily just so you know how far things are away from you, at a moment’s notice. It’s a prize worth $18 but one of you gets it for free. Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Kirk in North Dakota is on the line with a lighting question. What’s going on?

    KIRK: So, I’ve got a quick question on fluorescent lights. A lot of your lights are, of course, rated 60 watts, et cetera. So, my question kind of came in the fact on the fluorescent bulb, it says, “This is equal to a 60-watt bulb.” But sometimes, that’s just not enough light. So what happens – are you allowed to put a bigger bulb wattage because – since fluorescents are supposed to be taking less electricity, can a guy put a bigger bulb in there – on a fluorescent that says, “Equal to 100 watts”? Because it’s still drawing less electricity.

    TOM: So, I think what you’re talking about here is compact fluorescents, Kirk?

    KIRK: Right.

    TOM: So, the wattage limitations on fixtures is based on a calculation that involves incandescent bulbs and it – because it equates to heat. A 100-watt bulb is going to emit a certain amount of heat and the fixture is rated to take that heat. That’s what it’s rated for and you can’t put more than that.

    When it comes to fluorescents, you’re only using a quarter of the energy. So a 15-watt bulb will deliver you – deliver the same equivalent of 60 watts of light. You can have a bulb that delivers the equivalent of a bigger watt bulb but you’re still not actually putting that amount of electricity into it. Does that make sense?

    KIRK: Right. So you could actually – like you say, if it’s a third, if it’s rated for a 60-watt incandescent bulb, you could virtually – say, if there’s a 150-watt bulb in a fluorescent, you should be able to put that in there and not cause an overload and get more light out of that same fixture.

    TOM: Yeah, I probably wouldn’t double it. But I might – if it calls for a 60, I might go up to 100 because then you’re moving from saying 15 watts to 25. But I have a better suggestion. Forget the compact fluorescents. They are an outdated technology. The LED bulbs are where it’s at today. They deliver a much better-quality light with just the same, if not more, savings.

    KIRK: But that was – the whole issue is sometimes you just don’t get enough light out of some of those fixtures.

    TOM: Right. And I think that if – right. And also, they’re very temperature-sensitive. If it’s a cold area, like …

    LESLIE: And then they’re color-sensitive, as well. You know, when you get a CFL, you have to pick what color temperature you want that bulb to feel. And they can all feel extremely different. So you might pick something that gives a cold, harsh light and you want something warmer. So there’s a lot of experimenting with what type of fluorescent bulb you’re going to get.

    KIRK: We’ll have to try to some different things but I was just worried about the wattage and making sure I didn’t overheat the original fixture.

    TOM: Nope. You’re smart to be concerned but I’d take a look at the LEDs. And I think once you start trying them, you’ll be disposing of those CFLs.

    KIRK: Well, thank you very much for taking my call. I appreciate it.

    TOM: You’re very welcome. Good luck with that project.

    Well, garbage disposers are a modern kitchen marvel. Food scraps get ground up and flushed down the drain. But you need to be careful what you put in there. When that disposer runs, it can often jam and that will automatically shut it off and it might not restart when you flip the wall switch.

    LESLIE: Yeah. But every garbage disposer has a way to clear those jams. Now, there may be a reset button located on the bottom of the unit. It’s usually very small and often red or black. So get a flashlight and look under the unit. If you see a button, push it. Before that, though, try to clear the debris from the unit itself.

    TOM: Now, you also could have a unit with the manual operation that comes with a key or kind of like an Allen wrench that allows you to turn the blades from underneath to clear the jam. It’s a little hard to see but if you get under that disposer and look up right in the middle of it, you’ll find an Allen bolt. And you stick the wrench in there and twist it until the jam is cleared, then take it out and start it up and you’re good to go.

    LESLIE: Now, you just have to remember one thing, guys: you have to use your disposer as you’re directed to. So no big or pulpy material in there, guys, and it’ll run great.

    TOM: That’s right.

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

    Leslie, who’s next?

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

    JAN: Yeah. My commode is about five years old and it got clogged. I tried vinegar and baking soda, Liquid-Plumr, plunging it out, anything else I could think of because I really did not want to snake it with the rusty snake that I had. Because I knew what I was going to do. Well, after three days, I finally snaked it and got the clog out but now I’ve got all these scrapes with rust, in the bottom of the toilet bowl, that cannot be removed.

    LESLIE: OK. And you’re sure they’re actual scrapes or scratches and not just a rust marking?

    JAN: I think so. I’ve tried to scrub it with a toilet brush and toilet-bowl cleaner and as it – today, when I heard your show and you were talking about don’t – to some other guy – don’t use anything abrasive to remove the surface off of the inside of the commode, like – and you suggested to him polishing compound and something else but be very diligent. And there, right then, I thought, “Uh, oh.” Well, I messed up, because I have totally interrupted the surface.

    TOM: Let’s see if we can pull you back from the brink here.

    So, you are correct. It’s not polishing compound; it’s a rubbing compound. It’s used mostly for auto-body work but it’s mildly abrasive and it can remove those stains.

    There are also some cleansing products that work well, right, Leslie?

    LESLIE: Yeah. Bar Keepers Friend, which is sort of like a mild abrasive, that tends to work very well on a porcelain surface that does have smaller scratches in it. I mean I don’t know how bad your scratches are but it’s worth a try.

    You may want to drain the toilet out first, just to give you some more ease in actually getting to the scratched area but not 100-percent necessary. Although it does help if you sort of rub it in and then let it sit on.

    TOM: Yeah, I would turn the water off to the toilet bowl and flush it so that the bowl is fairly dry or fairly empty. This way, you can kind of let that sit on there for a while and really do go – and really go to work. And then you could rinse it off.

    So give that a shot and let us know how you do. Thank you so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    JAN: OK. Thank you so much.

    LESLIE: Hey, are you tired of looking at those same boring cabinets? Well, why not dress them up with fabric? Going to tell you how, 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: And hey, you might still be feeling the chill but in a few weeks, spring will officially be here. Hooray. We’re going to give you some ideas on what you should be doing in spring to get your money pit ready when you check out our spring project list, on the home page at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Alright. And even though the calendar says spring, it might not feel like spring everywhere but we’re with you in mind, Spring. Come on, Mother Nature. Bring us some nice weather so we can get projects done.

    Now, I’ve got a post here from Loretta who writes: “We just installed vinyl plank flooring throughout our home. Which rug mats or rugs are safe for vinyl plank? We’ve heard that some mats and rugs can cause permanent stains.” Which is true.

    TOM: The only one that I would be concerned about would be anything that’s rubber-backed. Typically, you get complaints where you put one of those rubber-backed carpet mats in front of the kitchen sink or in a bathroom. And then people will pull it up and it’ll be sort of dirty and yellow-looking underneath and think it’s a stain. It’s not. It’s a chemical reaction. So if you stay away from that type of area rug, I don’t think you’re going to have any problem.

    LESLIE: Yeah, Loretta. If you’re concerned about, you know, a rubber-backed carpet, you might want to also look for something that – if you’re concerned that something could be a color transfer in addition to a chemical reaction, look for some that are labeled “color-fast.” The other things you can look at are woven area rugs or even jute rugs, which some of them have a harder feel, almost a scratchy feeling.

    But my concern there is that they’re going to be slippery on the vinyl flooring. So you can use carpet tape; that’ll help hold the rug in place. You just want to make sure that it doesn’t react with the floor, as well. And so you might want to try that on an area that’s out of sight. But that will keep the rug in place so that nobody slips and falls, which is a big hazard.

    TOM: Well, if you’re tired of old cabinets or furniture but don’t have the budget to replace them, you can change the look completely with some decorative fabric panels. It’s not a difficult project and Leslie has got the step-by-step in this week’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.


    LESLIE: Yeah. Decorative panels, if you make them with fabric or paper, it can really be a simple and affordable change to really update an outdated kitchen or even a tired piece of furniture. So you want to cut hardboard panels to cover a portion of the door or the drawer front and then you wrap them up with your favorite fabric or patterned paper. And that’s going to create a standout focal point and even just add texture to your design scheme.

    The first step, though: you’ve got to figure out what panel sizes you need. Then measure and cut them from the ¼-inch hardboard. Cut your fabric or paper 2 inches wider all around to that piece of hardboard. This way you have an area to wrap around so you get nice, clean edges. And when you get to the corners, depending on if you’re working with fabric or paper, you want to kind of figure out a way that wraps it so you get nice, smooth corners and it doesn’t bump it out too much from the front of the cabinet.

    Now, when you get to the finished part, once you’ve got everything smooth and beautiful, if you’re using fabric, you might want to iron the front of steam it out just to get everything nice and crisp. And once you’re got it the way you’re really liking it, you can go ahead and either staple it onto the front of the cabinet door or glue it on with construction adhesive or screw it on from the backside. It really depends on what you’re working with. But that’s going to make a huge change.

    Now, if you’re updating a piece of furniture or even a whole room with this decorative-panel project, you can go ahead then and have fun accessorizing all of your new masterpieces with new hardware. And you can shop a great range of handles and knobs and pulls at your local home center. I also like to look at Anthropologie. It’s kind of a girly clothing store but they have beautiful, really unique hardware pieces. They’re a little bit on the pricy side but if you’re just doing a small piece of furniture, it might be a great opportunity to make something stand out. And you can find something really beautiful and you’ll update something that would’ve been tremendously expensive, in a really affordable way.

    TOM: Great advice. This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. And coming up next time on the program, if your furnace is shot or you just want a more efficient upgrade, a brand-new furnace should never been an impulse buy. But too often, that is exactly what does happen, especially if your furnace gives out in the middle of winter. So we’re going to have some tips on how you can shop furnaces, the smart way, on the next edition of The Money Pit.

    I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …

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


    (Copyright 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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