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How to Use a Patio Heater to Extend Outdoor Living Season, How to Install Outdoor Lighting to Make Fall Evenings Brighter, Learn How to Use Your Microwave to do Much More than Just Reheat Leftovers 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: And we are here to help you with your home improvement projects. We want to solve the do-it-yourself dilemmas that are on your to-do list, so give us a call and let’s get started. The number is 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Coming up this hour on The Money Pit, it’s beginning to look a lot like fall. But just because it is, you don’t need to stop using all those fun outdoor spaces, like your deck and your patio. In fact, now is a good time to be out there because there are fewer bugs; at least there are in my part of the country. So, we’re going to talk this hour about how you can add some heat to that outdoor space, with a review of patio heaters. There are a lot of options available and if you choose the one that’s right for you, you could find that you’re enjoying that space a lot longer into the chilly weather.

    LESLIE: And speaking of fall, as the days are getting shorter, you can actually add some outdoor lighting to extend the use of your outdoor spaces. We’re going to tell you how to do that, in just a few minutes.

    TOM: And are you using your microwave only to heat up last night’s leftovers? If so, you might be underusing it. We’re going to have some tips about some surprising uses for this very versatile appliance.

    LESLIE: Plus, one caller that we talk to this hour is going to win a Home Depot project card, which comes preloaded with 100 bucks. Now, the project card is new at The Home Depot and it’s designed to help all the do-it-yourselfers out there stick to a predetermined budget. And I mean really stick to it.

    TOM: So, give us a call. Let’s get to it. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Pam in Missouri is on the line with a lighting question. How can we help you today?

    PAM: I have fluorescent lights in my kitchen and two other rooms and they are recessed into the ceiling. They’re the kind like you would put maybe into a shop: those 3- or 4-foot-long tubes, T8 bulbs that I hear are going away?

    TOM: Yep. Yes. Uh-huh.

    PAM: What can I do?

    TOM: So, are you having trouble finding the bulbs? Is that what you’re concerned about?

    PAM: I am not now but I’m – hear that they will be not used anymore.

    TOM: Yeah. But they last so darn long. Why don’t you just go shop online and buy a case of them and call it a day? I mean really. Yeah, they’ll be harder to find but they’re going to be available because a lot – there’s a lot of industrial folks that use those in offices and that sort of thing. So I wouldn’t fret too much about that.

    Listen, if you want to change your lights at some point, then you can plan that project. But I wouldn’t tell you to rip out and remove all your lighting fixtures now just because you’re worried about a supply problem. I’d just go pick up a case of these things. They last forever. And then put the project off until you’re ready to do some real remodeling.

    PAM: I’d rather do that because, otherwise, I’d have a big hole in the ceiling that would have to be patched.

    TOM: Yeah, exactly. It’s a bigger project for you because they’re built-in. So you’re going to have to take them out, you’re going to have to drywall over the holes. It’s a big job, so – no, I would just pick up a case of the bulbs and live with it for a while, OK?

    PAM: Great. That’s easy for me. Thanks.

    TOM: Yeah, they’re not too expensive. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Doug in Rhode Island is up next with an electrical question. How can we help you?

    DOUG: I did some remodeling work in upgrading the island. And it used to be a floating island. And now that it’s fixed to the floor, I’m considering putting electrical outlets. And I’m just curious as to what might be the best location, as well as what the code – the electrical code – might require.

    TOM: Well, are you over a basement or a crawlspace?

    DOUG: I’m over a basement.

    TOM: OK. Because what you’re going to want to do is run the wire up from the basement below, into the side of the island. Is it a standard kitchen cabinet that you’ve used to create this island with?

    DOUG: Yes.

    TOM: Because you can mount the electrical outlet, basically cut it into the side of the cabinet. You’re going to want it off the countertop, down below on the side of the cabinet. And the key safety aspect here is you want to make sure that it’s a ground-fault outlet. Those are the outlets that have the test and reset buttons in them for wet locations.

    DOUG: I did see something online concerning that.

    TOM: Yeah. So as long as you use a ground-fault circuit interrupter outlet and you just bring the wire up from the basement, that’ll be the most practical way to do it. It’ll probably end up not being on the same circuit as the kitchen because, generally, what you do in a situation like that is you grab the closest power source that you can, that’s convenient and safe, and just kind of go up from there.

    DOUG: OK. Sounds good. Thanks for your help.

    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 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Still ahead, are you feeling a slight chill during your evenings spent outside on the deck or the patio? Well, you could enjoy those places a lot more comfortably into the fall with the right patio heater. We’ll have some tips, 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. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Give us a call right now at 888-MONEY-PIT. If you do, you’ll get the answer to your home improvement question and one caller drawn at random is going to win a $100 project card from The Home Depot.

    What’s the project card? Well, it’s a very cool, new way for you to track your project budgets. The Home Depot found that more than half of the people who purchased gift cards were actually using these cards to stay on budget for a very specific project. So, these cards are created for the do-it-yourselfers that are looking to keep to those budgets.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And if you want some project ideas, you can check out the workshops that The Home Depot offers. They’ve got them in their stores all across the country.

    For example, 100 bucks, you can do one of several energy-saving projects, which is great for this time of year. You know, you can install a dimmer switch for some of your lighting or a programmable thermostat. Or you can caulk and weatherstrip all around your home which is, of course, going to cut those energy costs.

    TOM: Absolutely. All great projects and all can be done for 100 bucks or less. That $100 Home Depot project card is going out to one of our callers drawn at random. You can visit the card center at your local Home Depot to learn more about project cards.

    But give us a call right now at 888-MONEY-PIT for the answer to your home improvement, perhaps, project question and your chance to win.

    LESLIE: Twyla in Nebraska is on the line with a carpeting question. How can we help you today?

    TWYLA: Well, I have a cement-slab house and I need to replace the carpet in it that is – currently, I have carpet in all the bedrooms and the hallway. And I was wondering whether I should go with laminate or whether I should go ahead and remain with carpet.

    TOM: Well, if you like the comfort of the carpet underfoot, the hard thing to deal with when it comes to those concrete slabs is that they’re super-cold. So while you could replace them with laminate floor, the problem with the laminate is that it might be a bit chillier. You’d have to probably use area rugs. So if you’re comfortable with the carpet, there’s no reason not to replace it with new carpet.

    There is a trade-off, though. Because, of course, carpet needs a little bit more maintenance than laminate but it certainly is a lot warmer underfoot. Does that make sense, Twyla?

    TWYLA: But you have to put something underneath the laminate, right?

    LESLIE: You’ll see. Depending on the brand of laminate flooring that you select, there’s a different kind of underlayment that that manufacturer will recommend. And by underlayment, usually it’s a thin roll of foam. Sometimes the underlayment is attached directly to the back side of the laminate flooring. It really varies per manufacturer. But there is something that you’ll put in between the concrete and the flooring itself.

    TWYLA: OK. Now, do you have a recommendation on brand of laminate?

    TOM: There are lots of great brands out there. I would look for a name brand. You could look at Lumber Liquidators, you could look at Armstrong. Those are all good places to start. And just check out their websites. Get a sense as to the options and you can narrow it down from there. OK, Twyla?

    TWYLA: OK. I thank you very, very much.

    TOM: Well, you may have been to a restaurant with those big, giant, umbrella-shaped heaters outside. You can do the same thing at your home and use outdoor spaces to let you enjoy that patio or deck a little bit longer into the colder months. Now, we’ve got one outside our home, right next to the picnic table, and it works great.

    LESLIE: Yeah. With the patio heaters, you can actually get them in tabletop or freestanding versions. They’re going to range in price from around 100 bucks, all the way up to over 1,000. And you can also choose how they’re powered. You can pick ones that run on propane or natural gas or ones that are even electric.

    Now, compared to other heat sources like fire pits, they’re going to produce fewer emissions. And I also think that they give you really targeted heating, so it really is, I think, more effective than a fire pit. While a fire pit has ambiance, a space heater – one of those beautiful, restaurant-style ones – will really allow you to sit outside and enjoy the space.

    Now, most homeowners traditionally choose tabletop patio heaters. And there are advantages to those: they’re lighter, they’re smaller, they’re easier to carry around. Now, those freestanding ones, they’re larger – about 95 inches tall – but they’re more powerful and they can heat a pretty decent-size area.

    TOM: Absolutely. Now, if you go with the big heaters, you could choose a stationary heater and hook it up to your natural-gas line. And this way, you won’t have to deal with tanks that have to be replaced or refilled. But if you want to plan on moving the heater to different locations, you can choose portable and use propane.

    Whatever you choose, though, patio heaters really do help you extend your outdoor-living-area enjoyment, well into the fall months.

    LESLIE: Now we’re heading on over to Iowa where Brian has a crack on the wall that keeps on coming back. Tell us what’s going on.

    BRIAN: Well, yeah, I built this home about six years ago and noticed it within the first year, really, that in just one of my bedrooms, I have a crack that comes up from my bedroom going into my bathroom door. And it kind of almost goes up probably close to 2½ feet, 3 feet. And it comes and goes, depending on the year. I’ve finished over it a couple of times on both sides of the wall, into the bathroom and here, and have tried to refinish over it and it keeps coming back. And my builder looked at it. Can’t quite figure it out and …

    TOM: This is what we call a Groundhog Day home improvement project, Brian, because it just keeps happening over and over again, right?

    BRIAN: Yeah, yeah. It just – yeah, just originally I just tried to cover it up and make it look better and …

    TOM: Alright. Well, here’s the thing. You’ve got a very normal crack in a wall there. Cracks often form over doors, like exactly what you’re describing there, because that’s a weaker part of the wall. And for whatever reason, you had some settlement in your house and it caused this crack to open up. The fact that you’re spackling it is not going to solve it. It solves it for a season but it won’t solve it permanently.

    What you need to do is you need to sand the area of the crack pretty well, because I want you to get out – get rid of all that extra spackle you’ve been putting on there. Then I want you to add a layer of fiberglass drywall tape, which is sort of like a netting. It’s a bit sticky-backed. And then I want you to spackle over the fiberglass netting – over the fiberglass tape – on both sides. Start with a narrow bead of spackle and then open it up wider and wider and wider. And that, on both sides of the wall, will make that wall strong enough to stand up to the movement that will happen the next time the wall expands or contracts.

    You can’t just spackle it, because you’re not really doing anything to bridge that gap. You bridge that gap with the tape, spackle over the tape, now you’ve got a permanent repair. Does that make sense?

    BRIAN: Yeah, that makes sense.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Terry in Nebraska on the line who’s dealing with some woodpeckers. Tell us what’s going on.

    TERRY: We have a small woodpecker; it’s about the size of a sparrow. It’s dark gray or black with white speckles on its chest. And it actually pecks holes in the corners of my chimney, on the 1x4s. And then the guy next door actually redid his chimney with stuff that’s similar to Sto stucco-type stuff. And they actually peck holes in that stuff.

    TOM: Right.

    TERRY: And he fills them and they peck more holes.

    TOM: Well, look, there’s a couple of things that you can do. One real easy thing to do is to try to dissuade them from landing on your chimney. You can – temporarily, by the way, on this is what I might suggest, just only temporarily – hang tin pie plates on the chimney. Because the silvery pie plates kind of drifting in the wind totally freak out woodpeckers.

    Another thing that you can do is you could take a Hefty bag and if you were to cut a Hefty bag – like a black Hefty bag? – and cut strips of plastic for the same thing – in other words, have them sort of flopping in the breeze around the top of the chimney, that also is very intimidating to woodpeckers and they will leave it alone.

    TERRY: Oh, OK.

    TOM: And if you do this maybe for a month or so, they might just forget about your house and go attack somebody else’s.

    TERRY: Fantastic. Alright. Thanks a lot.

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

    LESLIE: Donna in Tennessee has got a funky guest house. Let’s just call it that.

    What’s going on, Donna?

    DONNA: We have been in this property – on this property – for two-and-a-half years. And when we purchased the property, the guest house had tenants. And they moved out a little over a year-and-a-half ago. However, there’s a very funky odor in the house that instead of fading over time is becoming more and more prevalent. The odor is best described, perhaps, as a stale cologne, so it’s not very pleasant.

    LESLIE: Stale cologne. That’s interesting because, generally, when you get a funky odor in a space that’s not used that often, it usually has something to do with a sink not getting water down it and the trap drying out and sewer gases coming back up. So you could get a funky sewer smell but cologne? Are you sure the house isn’t haunted?

    DONNA: We did pull up any carpeting that was in the house. And there wasn’t that much; it was just in the bedroom and the bathroom. The rest of the floors are wood and tile.

    TOM: Have you done any painting yet?

    DONNA: No. It had been – it was fairly recently painted, you know, prior to our purchasing the house and so I didn’t. However, after the tenants moved out, I really thoroughly cleaned the house. Actually, we moved all the appliances, everything like that. But I haven’t repainted.

    TOM: Well, I’ve got to tell you that sometimes when a house is empty, it tends to get a little dank sometimes. Are you running the heating system the way you would if somebody was living there?

    DONNA: No.

    TOM: Yeah. So you get more moisture and sometimes there can be odors associated with that. So unless it’s really pervasive, I don’t think I would worry too much about it. You’re doing the right things. You pulled up the carpet. If you haven’t painted and you’re going to paint, I would suggest one additional step and that is to make sure you prime the walls. Because if there’s anything in the walls, that will block it.

    DONNA: Mm-hmm. What type of primer?

    TOM: Well, you could use an alkyd primer, which is a water-based primer, or you could use an oil-based primer: something like KILZ or B-I-N or one of the Behr products. But the primer is kind of the glue that makes the paint stick and will also seal in any stains that have absorbed into the walls themselves.

    DONNA: OK. So if it is the paint, then the primer could actually …

    TOM: Right, exactly. In fact, sometimes we tell people that when they have carpets that are very odorous, to also prime the plywood floor before they put new carpet back down again.

    DONNA: Hmm. OK.

    TOM: Because if anything kind of soaked through the carpet and got into the floor, that’s a way to kind of seal it off.

    DONNA: OK. Very good.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Ralph in Missouri who’s working on a ceiling project. Tell us what’s going on.

    RALPH: There’s two rooms upstairs and the one side, I’ve changed into a bedroom, put a bathroom up there. The other one, I’d like to take the existing ceiling out and put a cathedral ceiling in. I just want to open the room up. The ceilings are kind of low now. Somebody has put suspended ceilings in there, which …

    TOM: Made it even lower.

    RALPH: Well, yeah. And it’s got the old tongue-and – or lath-and-plaster walls and ceilings and all that. So I guess they didn’t want to go with the mess, so what do you do? You just stick up a suspended ceiling.

    But anyway, I’d like to take the existing ceiling joists out and maybe not use the rafters for the cathedral ceiling but add some new rafters to kind of follow the outline of the roof line. But I just want to make sure that if I pull these joists or ceiling joists out of here, that the house isn’t going to fall down, you know what I mean? The walls aren’t going to bow out and fall out on me.

    TOM: Well, the house may not fall down but the roof might collapse. That’s not any better.

    You see, look, if you’ve got a very high-pitched roof like that and that roof is resting on the top plate of the exterior wall and you take the ceiling joists away, those serve the purpose of tying those exterior walls into the rest of the house. Now, it doesn’t mean you can’t do it but you just can’t do it without somehow replacing that structural element.

    I would recommend that you not do this yourself, that you get help from an architect to design this. Because it’s a little more complicated than what you might think. It’s easy to cut stuff away; it’s not so easy to put it back together in the right way. And when it comes to this kind of modification, it’s got to be done just right.

    There’s other issues, too. Now, you’re going to have to make sure that this cathedral ceiling is properly ventilated and properly insulated. And that’s going to take some work. Otherwise, you’re going to add an energy-leaking hassle to your home that won’t bode well. And you might want to think about adding some additional lighting, like a skylight or something of that nature.

    So, it’s a project that can be done but it’s a little more complicated than meets the eye. I would get some professional design help on this and not just get out the old Sawzall and cut – start cutting things out of the way.

    RALPH: OK, OK. Well, that’s good advice.

    TOM: Alright, Ralph. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Up next, the signs to look for that might mean it’s time for a new roof. We’ll teach you how to read those roof-leak signals before it’s too late, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Arrow Sheds, the leader in steel storage sheds and buildings. Steel sheds are durable, secure and a great value. Arrow Storage Products, available at national home centers, hardware stores and online. See a complete line of products at Sheds.com.

    TOM: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com where we make good homes better. Give us a call right now with your home improvement question at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    And don’t forget to “like” us on Facebook. That can open the door to the best home improvement advice around. And you’ll get early access to our exclusive weekly prize giveaways and instant access to the newest Money Pit shows, articles and videos, as well as a chance to ask your question here on the radio show. So just go to The Money Pit website and click the Facebook icon.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Joann in Illinois who’s working on a kitchen-cleaning project. Tell us what you’re working on.

    JOANN: I have lovely, Quaker-made kitchen cabinets. They’ve been in, oh my, I suppose 35 years. They’re really good shape but the only thing I’d like to ask you is – you know, where you go to pull the – to open them? It seems like there gets to be, oh, accumulation of grease, oil or whatever. And I’d like to know: what is the best thing to use to wash them down?

    LESLIE: Have you tried an orange-based cleaner, like an Orange Glo?

    JOANN: That is – would be just a straight cleaner? It’s nothing you mix with water or anything.

    LESLIE: Nope. It’s just a straight cleaner. And I find that it’s really good at degreasing and desticking a lot of buildup. When we took the protective bumpers off of our very pointy wood coffee table when Henry got a little bigger, the sticky stuff just left the worst residue across my amazing apothecary table.

    And nothing I could use was getting off this residue and Orange Glo really did the trick. I was very surprised at how quickly it just melted the tape extract and all of that adhesive. And I use it on my kitchen cabinets. I use it pretty much on all my wood surfaces and I find it really does a good job.

    JOANN: OK. I really enjoy your program.

    TOM: Thank you so much, Joann. Good luck with that project and thank you for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Well, as you’ve stared at the outside of your house this past summer, did you ever wonder if it’s time to replace your roof? There are a few signals to watch for. The roof is really the most protective component of your house. It’s the – really the key to keeping the structure in good shape. Because if water gets in, bad things happen. And if the roof is worn, you can have some significant problems.

    Now, most roofing is going to be past its prime after about 15 years. That doesn’t mean it needs to be replaced after 15 years but that’s certainly when those telltale signs will appear.

    LESLIE: Yeah. You want to look for things like blistered or curled or even cracked shingles. Those can often be repaired but if you leave them untreated, they’re going to expose your roof to rotting and leaking.

    Now, sections of your shingles with missing granules can also be a big signal that it’s time for a roof replacement.

    TOM: Now, something that happens to roofs that folks think really does sort of strike the death blow to a roof is moss and algae growth. But that’s just not true. It can impact the strength of the shingle, as well as perhaps push up some shingles in different places, maybe where one roof intersects with another, and cause a leak that way. But that does not, by itself, necessarily signal the end of the roof. If you do get moss or algae growth, it can be treated with a solution of a product like Wet & Forget and it will go away on its own.

    LESLIE: Besides checking your roof’s exterior, you want to also make sure that you inspect for ceiling stains inside, whether it’s your attic or any other interior space. You want to take a look because these can signal leaks, which would need repair before some more serious damage could potentially set in.

    However, if you do just get an occasional leak, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to replace your entire roof.

    TOM: Now, that’s a really good point because you don’t want to get taken by a contractor that says otherwise. You need to consider all factors, like the age of the roof and the other shingle conditions that we talked about, like the cracks and the blistering of the shingles, before you decide if replacement is the best option. Because leaks, by themselves, are always repairable.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Jeff in Iowa on the line who is working on a bathroom-plumbing problem. What’s going on?

    JEFF: Our house was built in 1978. Still had the same toilets in it as the day it was built, so we decided to upgrade to new, high-efficient toilets. We bought 1.28-per-gallon-flush toilets with a 10 flush rating. And we – our toilets sit back-to-back, basically. The master bedroom has a toilet that sits just behind the toilet in the main bathroom. When you flush the toilet in the main bathroom, it sucks all the water out of the master bedroom toilet. But it doesn’t do it the other way.

    TOM: Here’s the problem. You’ve got a venting issue and there’s not enough air getting into the waste line that’s probably feeding both toilets. And so, as a result, when you flush one, you cause a draw on the other that pulls the water out. A lot easier to do when you have only 1¼ gallons of water as opposed to maybe 3 or 4 gallons that it used to have with the older toilet.

    So, you need to get a plumber in to look at this and figure out where the venting has gone wrong. There could be venting that also became obstructed. You could get rodents or animals that nest inside vents. But there’s not enough intake air getting into the plumbing system and that’s why you’re getting this sort of suction problem. Whenever you have this condition or if you get – sometimes you get a gurgling when you flush or when you run sinks and water goes down, it’s because there’s not enough air getting into the plumbing system. And that’s going to be what will solve this for you, OK, Jeff?

    JEFF: Alright. Thank you very much.

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

    This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Up next, we’re going to have some advice on how you can add low-voltage lighting to your outdoor spaces so you can stay outside longer as the days get shorter.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Lutron Sensors. Tired of reminding your family to turn off the lights? Install a Lutron Maestro Occupancy Sensor and you’ll never have to remind them again. It works with all bulb types and takes only about 15 minutes to install. For easy upgrades with big impact, choose Lutron. Visit ChooseLutron.com.

    TOM: Where home solutions live, this is 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 love to hear what you are working on and we’re going to answer any of your home improvement questions that you ask us on the air.

    And if you do get on the air with us, you’re going to have a chance to win our weekly giveaway. And this hour, we’re giving away a preloaded, $100 project card from The Home Depot to one of you lucky callers drawn completely at random from everybody we speak to on the show today.

    Now, a recent survey found that 43 percent of homeowners are going to exceed their planned budget for projects this year. I’m one of them. Welcome to my exterior project that doesn’t end. It’s the money suck. Hooray! And I’m not alone, apparently; 43 percent of you are doing the exact same thing.

    And that’s how the project card can help. It’s a very convenient, new, prepaid-card option that’s going to help all of us do-it-yourselfers out there stick to a very specific, planned project budget.

    TOM: Now, that’s right. Now, with a $100 project card, for example, you can get a lot done. You could revamp your garage storage system and max out that space or maybe plan a fall planting project, like building an indoor herb garden.

    Now, those project cards are available at your local Home Depot’s gift-card center. There are no fees and they never expire. If you’d like more project ideas, check out The Home Depot workshops. They’re held in stores throughout the country.

    And for your chance to win that $100 project card, pick up the phone, give us a call. Let’s talk about your project, at 888-MONEY-PIT.

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

    MICHELLE: OK. Well, we live in a home that was built in the early 70s. And in two of the bedrooms, we are having a mold issue and it’s just above the baseboards. And I’ve actually cut into the sheetrock, thinking that maybe it’s the moisture from the outside coming through but it’s not. There’s no mold inside; it’s just in the room. And I don’t know what’s causing it or how to even fix it.

    LESLIE: And are you certain that it’s mold? Have you had it tested?

    MICHELLE: Well, yeah, it’s like a – we had a piece of furniture there – a dresser there – and we moved it and we were totally shocked that there – like it was black and fuzzy. It was no – you know, it was mold.

    TOM: So if you had this furniture against the wall, you probably created sort of a chilly, damp area there. And moving the furniture out probably helps because you get a little more ventilation behind it. But what I would do is I would spray that mold down with a bleach-and-water solution so that would kill anything that’s there. Protect the carpet because, obviously, you don’t want to bleach out your carpet. But spray it down, let the bleach-and-water sit for a while – maybe 10,15 minutes – and then clean it. And that will stop any further mold from growing.

    And just try to keep that area dry. If it’s very damp and it’s – and if the furniture was pressed up against it, that might be why it’s happening.

    What kind of furniture was against it?

    MICHELLE: It was really like a child’s dresser.

    TOM: OK. So it was wood. It wasn’t a couch or something like that?

    MICHELLE: No, it was wood, yeah.

    TOM: Yeah, so take a look at the back of that, too, and make sure if there’s any mold spores on that, that they’re cleaned, as well.

    MICHELLE: Alright. Thanks for your help.

    TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, if you want to add some dimension and drama to your home’s landscaping and bring light to your outdoor spaces, why not install some low-voltage lighting? Thanks to today’s versatile lighting kits, you can actually create designer-quality results yourself.

    First of all, you need to start by figuring out how much lighting you need and how long you want your investment to last. The shorter you stay in your present home, the simpler your lighting plan should be.

    Next, you need to learn about your state’s guidelines for low-voltage lighting. Now, unlike line voltage, which has national codes and requires professional installation, low-voltage lighting is guided by some state codes and it’s much, much easier to install.

    TOM: Now, before shopping for a lighting kit, you want to make sure that you use a voltage meter to pretest the outlet that you’re going to be using. You could also use a plug-in outlet tester. It will tell you if it’s grounded, reverse-polarity, a lot of things like that that could cause the wiring to not be safe. It’ll detect that very simply.

    Then, you want to look at the transformers. You want a good transformer. Don’t cheap out on the transformer. You want to make sure that it’s UL-approved and it needs to be installed at least 2 feet above the ground, with the access door facing away from the shrubbery. I’ve seen these put in too low to the ground and what happens, in areas that are cold enough, they get covered with snow and moisture and then they don’t work the next season.

    When it comes time to install the fixtures themselves, though, you want to thoroughly wet the installation zone the night before the installation because the wet soil is a lot easier to work with than the dry soil. And take time, when you’re laying out the fixtures and connecting the wires, before you start digging. Then you can be able to look forward to a really beautiful light effect when you’re all done.

    And on MoneyPit.com, we’ve got some additional tips on the different types of light that you can create using low-voltage lighting. There’s tips about lighting off of the home, there’s tips about lighting off of the trees and lighting through the landscape. All give you different impacts, different effects. All attractive, inexpensive and easy to do. And info is online at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Heather in Tennessee who’s dealing with a flooring situation. What happened?

    HEATHER: Well, my husband and I were – we have a water feature on our countertop. And we overfilled it one day and it leaked out onto the hardwood and while we were at work. And it’s left a 6×8-inch-diameter area of bulking of our hardwood floors. I can’t really see it but you can feel it when you’re walking over it with socks on; it kind of snags. So I didn’t know if there’s anything that you could do because – a DIY project? Or do you have to have the whole floor resanded, restained? I really don’t want to go through all of that mess.

    TOM: Well, if the floor is swollen, it’s kind of a one-way street and you’re not going to be able to kind of get the toothpaste back in the tube. At this point, if you want to try to make it flat and smooth again, you do have to sand it out.

    Now, it might not be as terrible as a project as you think. You may not have to do the entire floor; you might just be able to do a repair of that particular area. Do you happen to have the stain and the finish that was used on that floor?

    HEATHER: I don’t, I don’t. And I actually – another reason I’m kind of leery of it is because we got the same man that did our hardwood floors to begin with come back and put hardwood in our bedroom. And they don’t match whatsoever. So I’m kind of really worried.

    TOM: Let me ask you another question. Do you have any extra pieces of that floor anywhere?

    HEATHER: I don’t.

    TOM: Do you have any area of the floor that’s less noticeable, like in a closet or a pantry?

    HEATHER: Yes.

    TOM: OK. Here’s a solution for you. A good carpenter can do this. You can basically cut out some of the floor that’s in the lesser-visible area. Cut out enough of it to be able to use to repair the area in your kitchen. Then you could cut out the bad boards, throw those away and then insert the boards that you salvaged from the closet area. And then go ahead and repair that closet area with whatever is handy or whatever new you can purchase and stain it to get as close as you can.

    And because it’s inside the closet, no one will probably ever know – be the wiser for it. Yet you’ll have some boards that match exactly the damaged boards in the kitchen, in order to repair that spot. How about that?

    HEATHER: That sounds a whole lot better than resanding everything, so …

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

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Still ahead, your microwave oven, it can do much more than just heat up leftovers. We’re going to tell you what else you can do with this very versatile appliance, next.

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    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by the new Chamberlain Garage Power Station, an air inflator, utility cord, and LED task light all together in a new, 3-in-1 tool. Exclusively at The Home Depot.

    TOM: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. And if you feel like asking a question of Team Money Pit but don’t feel like picking up the phone, you can head on over to the Community section at MoneyPit.com and post a question there, just like Kim did. And she writes: “I live in a condo. My upstairs neighbor had a pipe burst in her kitchen and water poured through the floor, into my kitchen. What are my chances for mold? The plumber came quickly and fixed it and the super used a shop vac and mops to get rid of the water.”

    TOM: Not a lot of risk that you’re going to have a mold problem there, Kim. The key here is that you cleaned it up or your team there cleaned it up pretty quickly. For you to grow mold, it’s got to be moist and damp over a longer period of time than just a single-point leak like that. So you did all the right things.

    And by the way, just a tip – if this ever happens again and especially if it ever comes through a ceiling or a drywall at any place – my advice is always to poke a hole in that drywall to let the water out. Because if you don’t, what’s going to happen is the drywall will get wet and it’ll sag. And then you’re going to have to cut it all out to fix it.

    If you poke a hole, you end up with a minor hole to fix, maybe a couple of holes the size of a pencil. I’ve used Phillips screwdrivers, things like that to poke some holes in ceilings. Let that water out. And then once it dries – again, because it’s drying quickly – no risk whatsoever of mold growing and a very easy fix to just spackle that, prime that spot where the stain happened and then you’re good to go.

    LESLIE: Next up, Pete in Florida writes: “Is there a simple way to tell if a wall is load-bearing or do I need to find the blueprints to my home?”

    TOM: There’s a simple way to tell if you’re a professional contractor. It’s difficult for some homeowners to tell and I can’t give you rules of thumb. I mean I could tell you – for example, if you’ve got a ranch home, the wall that’s parallel to the front and the rear is almost always a load-bearing wall. But short of that, it’s difficult to predict.

    So if it’s a question, when in doubt, get some professional help before you start tearing into that wall. Better safe than sorry, Pete.

    LESLIE: Yeah. You don’t want anything to sort of be a mistake that ends up falling apart in your home.

    TOM: Well, if you, like many, have only been using your microwave to heat up leftovers, you could be missing out on some other very unique uses. Leslie has got some great ideas, in this week’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    LESLIE: Alright. I know it, a microwave is a great appliance to have if you need to heat up some food fast. But I always avoid heating up my leftovers in their plastic containers. I usually use glass or just put them on their plate with a damp paper towel on top. But did you know that you can actually disinfect your kitchen sponges and get rid of that funky sponge smell with your microwave?

    You do have to do a couple of things first. My husband always thought you could just put a wet sponge in the microwave and blast it. That doesn’t necessarily work. No, you soak the sponge in water-and-vinegar mixture and then you can blast it for a minute. Now, you can also do the same with a cutting board. If you rub a little lemon on it and you heat it for a minute – and you can say “goodbye” to last night’s raw-chicken germs.

    Now, if you’ve ever found your honey jar turned to a crystallized, solid mess, you can zap it back to life on medium power for 30 seconds. You can also cut grilling time by heating potatoes for two minutes and bell peppers for just one minute before you put them on the grill. You just really need to make sure that you grab those things with oven mitts when you take them out of the microwave, because they get crazy-hot. I even do an entire baked potato in a microwave for about seven minutes, if you do it on its own. If you do two in there, it takes much, much, much longer. But you want to make sure you, you know, poke them a bunch of times with the fork tines before you go around.

    Now, another great tip is to use your microwave to warm up citrus fruits. Not only is this going to help release the juice when you’re using them in a recipe, it also helps release the oils in the skin. So if you’re zesting or if you’re flushing out pleasant scents when you’re displaying your citrus fruits in a pretty bowl, it’s really a nice way to get out all of that beautiful fragrance. And if you’re using them for a decorative purpose, it makes a great air freshener.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up next time on The Money Pit, does your lawn seem to be dying out? If it is, it could be a sign that it’s suffocating due to a culprit called “thatch.” Learn what that is and how to get rid of it, 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.

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