Inexpensive Ways to Add Value to Your Home, Fixes for Furniture Finishes, The Top Three Places Most Overlooked When Cleaning, and more
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: Standing by to help you with your home improvement projects. So pick up the phone, give us a call right now. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
Hey, we’ve got a great show planned for you this hour. First up, if you are taking advantage of this improved real estate market by putting your house on the market, we’re going to have some tips this hour on how you can add value without spending much money at all.
LESLIE: And furniture isn’t meant to last forever but if you know how to restore your wood’s furniture finish, it could actually last several lifetimes. We’re going to have some tips on how you can do just that, from This Old House host Kevin O’Connor.
TOM: And get ready to be grossed out. We’re going to tell you about the top three things in homes that rarely or perhaps even never get cleaned. For example, did you know that your washing machine can become a cesspool of germs? We’re going to have tips on how to sanitize your washer and much more, in just a bit.
LESLIE: And also this hour, we’re giving away a cool prize package from 3M that’s going to make your next painting job or any home improvement project much easier. And it includes seven awesome 3M products.
TOM: It’s worth about $80. Going out to one caller that reaches us for today’s program. The number, again: 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Alright. Tom in Missouri is calling in with a pretty crazy question. His garage is pulling away from the house. Tell us what’s going on.
TOM IN MISSOURI: My garage is pulling away from the side of my house. And we determined it was a gutter-overflow problem and we got that rectified. And now I’m wondering how to get my garage back up to where that it’s not pulling away from the house. It’s pulled away an inch or so.
TOM: OK. Once a building moves, because there is water that got under the foundation or whatever caused it to rotate, you can’t shove it back to kind of close that gap. So, you need to get used to it in its present position.
But tell me this: is the gap that’s opened up, is that a problem from a weather perspective? Is water getting into the building?
TOM IN MISSOURI: Yes.
TOM: Does the roof of the garage attach to the side of the building above it or next to it? Is that where the leakage issue is?
TOM IN MISSOURI: Yes.
TOM: Alright. So what you’re going to need to do is you’re going to need to reflash that: essentially take apart the roofing in that area and replace it, reroof that 1- to 2-foot strip between the garage roof and the adjoining building. Because that’s pulled apart, I can only imagine that all of the flashing is extended and there’s lots of places for water to get in there. If you don’t do that, during driving rain the water will get down between the garage roof and the second-floor side wall of your house. And that’s going to cause leaks and rot and all kinds of problems.
So you’re going to have to tear out the roof where it joins the building and replace it. But now that you’ve fixed the gutter problem, you’ve got the foundation stable again, that should really take care of it for the long run.
Tom, good project for you there. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now we’re heading out to California where Carol is dealing with a heating situation. Tell us what’s going on.
CAROL: I bought a home – a brand-new home. And the air-conditioning unit and heating unit is above my bedroom and so it gets major heat and air conditioning. But the front room is vaulted and the two bedrooms on the opposite side of the house are regular – flat – like my bedroom roof. And the heat doesn’t seem to distribute very good, because the bedrooms and the front room are on the cool side, where my bedroom will be hot if you have the heater on or opposite with the air conditioning. And I’m wondering if there’s something I can have done to make that better.
TOM: Possibly. It sounds like the HVAC system was not properly designed. I’m going to presume that everything that was designed to work, in terms of ducts not being restricted and that sort of thing, is working. But what you’re describing is, unfortunately, a very common condition caused exclusively by an improper or inadequate HVAC design. Because you have to really design how much air goes into every part of the house and how much air comes back from the return and what path that air takes on the way back. It’s not just a matter of dumping air out; you have to take it back so it can be recooled and reheated.
And so if you’re having such an enormous problem with inconsistency of temperature throughout the house, then I think you need to get a really good-quality HVAC contractor in there to try to figure out why that’s happening and what you can reasonably do within the guidelines of the structure you have right now without doing a lot of demolition to walls to add more heat or cooling, add more air supply, into those rooms. Because, obviously, you don’t have enough and that’s what’s making you so uncomfortable.
But not just – we’re not just calling – we’re not just talking about calling a guy for a service of your heating system now. We need a real technician that understands HVAC duct layout, can do a heat-loss calculation for your house and figure out where it’s gone wrong and what it’s going to take to fix it.
CAROL: OK. Thank you very much.
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.
Up next, this spring could be one of the best real estate markets we’ve seen in many years. Want to know how to get the most value out of your house? We’ll tell you, after this.
MIKE: Hey, this is Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs and I’ve just been told that Tom and Leslie might have a dirtier job than me? I find that hard to believe but then I heard they worked in a pit. It’s a money pit but it’s still filthy.
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: And the number here is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Hey, one caller we talk to on the air this hour is going to get a great prize package from our friends at 3M. It’s full of things you’ll use again and again around your house, like an LED advanced light bulb, a respirator, safety glasses, their awesome painter’s tape and 3M’s cool, new product called Patch Plus Primer. It combines spackle and primer and it eliminates the need to prime before you paint.
The package is worth about $80. Going out to one caller drawn at random. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT but you can check it out at 3M.com.
LESLIE: Karen in Nebraska, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
KAREN: Yes. I had a tile floor put in my bathroom. And where you walk in, the tile has – the grout has tipped out. And so I called the tile guy and he came and he took that piece of tile out and regrouted it and it’s happening again. Is there something I can use just to seal that up or do we have to regrout it a third time?
TOM: Well, if the grout is falling out, then sealing it is not going to change anything. It sounds like the grout might have been not mixed correctly, perhaps it was too dry. Is it falling out in the same place that it fell out the first time?
LESLIE: Karen, is it a small tile or a large tile?
KAREN: I think it’s 12×12.
LESLIE: OK. And you’re not seeing any cracks in the tile? It’s just strictly on the grout?
KAREN: Yeah, just the grout is tipping out. And it’s just in the one place: the same place he replaced it.
TOM: Well, when you say he replaced it, did he just sort of fill in the missing areas or did he actually really physically take out all the old grout?
KAREN: He took out the old grout and put in a new tile.
TOM: You’re going to have to have the tile guy come back again, pull out the grout and try it one more time. But have him look this time, carefully, to see if there’s any movement in the floor there that’s causing this to happen. Because I agree with Leslie on this: I definitely think something’s going on there that’s causing it to loosen up. It shouldn’t be happening.
If the grout was not fully removed the first time, then I would think that maybe, you know, it just wasn’t adhering. But if it’s completely totally and completely removed and it’s still coming up, then I think that there’s something unstable about that floor surface and that’s why it’s popping up. You’re going to have to get the tile guy involved again. It’s definitely not a maintenance issue.
KAREN: OK. Well, I will do that for sure then.
TOM: Alright. Well, good luck. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
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.
Well, the housing market is looking up for a great spring buying and selling season. And if you want to put your house on the market but you don’t want to spend a ton of cash getting it ready to face its competition, don’t worry. The truth is that you don’t have to invest a lot of money to add value to your home.
So, to get you started, here are a few examples of really affordable DIY projects that are certain to bring up the value of your home.
LESLIE: First, clean, clean, clean. You know, you’re probably used to your own grime but you need to take off the dirt-colored glasses, guys. You want to dig into every crack and crevice on places like every window, wall, floor or the mildew on your bathroom tiles. Now, a good, deep cleaning is not expensive and it really will go a long way in making your house shine, literally.
TOM: Next, the kitchen is the room that’s known to sell homes. Easy fixes there would include changing out the cabinet hardware, clearing out the clutter from your countertop and removing all that good stuff that you like to keep on the fridge front: all those kids’ papers and pictures and calendars and stuff. Get rid of it.
Now, the next level of redo could include new countertops. And this is not a terribly expensive kitchen upgrade and it really gives you a lot of bang for your buck. Because you’ve got to think about this: the counter is sort of the largest visual surface in the kitchen. And if you put a new one in, it’s really going to make a standout idea.
You could consider using a laminate. I mean they are more beautiful than ever before. It’s not just sort of your mom or your dad’s old kitchen laminate countertop that you grew up with. They’re really pretty today. You can also go with cast concrete, as well, because that’s a do-it-yourself countertop that is not terribly expensive and will really give it some style and some solidity.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. If you’re looking for a really quick update that’s easy on your wallet, don’t overlook the old standby: paint. A fresh, neutral color, it always breathes new life into pretty much any room. And it’s the least expensive way that you can create a fresh, new look for your kitchen, for your bedroom, for your bathroom, pretty much every space in your home. Spend a couple of bucks on a gallon of paint and you’ve got a beautiful, new makeover.
TOM: And the other good thing about painting? It also gives you a chance to clean and declutter. Remember that home buyers are usually leaving a house that’s cluttered and they don’t want to buy one that is just as packed as the one they left.
Now, if you want more tips on how to get your home ready to sell without spending a bunch, we’ve got them on MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Phyllis in Ohio on the line who’s having an issue with some plants and a neighbor’s A/C. Tell us what’s going on.
PHYLLIS: Yes. Their air conditioner is on the back wall of my patio and they run it 24-7 during hot weather.
PHYLLIS: And my plants are beautiful until they turn the air conditioner on. And even though I’d water them three times a day, they turned into nothing but sticks. And I’m wondering if something could be built kind of around the – or the air conditioner so they can have their use of it but I can still enjoy my plants.
TOM: So, this is a wall air conditioner?
TOM: You can create an enclosure around that. So, for example, if you were to build something with lattice that was sort of walled and separated that area from your patio – as long as - you need to leave about 12 inches of air space around the air conditioner for it to work correctly. So if they’ll let you, you could build something with lattice around it. And then perhaps on the lattice, you could add a vine or something like that that would fill in nicely and be nice and green and give you a bit more privacy from that space, as well.
I do question, though, why the air conditioner could be causing the plants to die, unless it’s the fact that there’s a new airflow that’s always pulling air through there or it’s hiding some of the sun from getting it or something like that. So I wouldn’t necessarily totally blame the air conditioner but if you’re asking me can you build some sort of a screening, yeah, you can do that with lattice, as long as you leave about 12 inches of space for the air to get around it. Because otherwise, the air conditioner is not going to work properly.
PHYLLIS: I appreciate your help.
TOM: You’re very welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Carl, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
CARL: I have been considering running some plumbing from the fireplace to an adjacent room with a radiator and possibly using that heated water to occasionally supplement the water heater, if that’s feasible. And from the few people I’ve talked with in the kitchen and plumbing and bath and fireplace businesses, so far they haven’t done that. And I’m just wondering if you know of – if that’s feasible or if it’s being done on a fairly commonplace scale and have some tips.
TOM: Probably a good indication that they haven’t done that, Carl. Fireplaces make lousy boilers and that’s what you’re talking about doing. It’s not the kind of thing where you can put – simply put – a plumbing system into and have it transmit that water into another room without having all the other associated gear that goes with a boiler like – for example, once you heat water, it expands. What do you do with the extra pressure? Things like that. That’s not such a good idea.
CARL: OK. So inefficient, unsafe and all that other stuff. Just impractical.
TOM: Yes. All good reasons to stay away.
TOM: Carl, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT. Put down the monkey wrench and step away from the plumbing project, Carl.
LESLIE: Alright. Now I’ve got Trish in New Jersey on the line who’s got a remodeling question. What are you working on?
TRISH: I have a wall that goes between the kitchen and there’s a set of steps that go down to the basement.
TRISH: My question is that’s – it’s also a bearing wall. Is it worth it for me to go through the expense of taking this wall out? And then what do I do about the – when you take the wall out, it’s going to drop down to the basement steps right there.
TOM: Right. So, OK, it’s a big project, Trish. Really big project. Because when you take a wall out like that, you have to reinforce all the structure above it first. And you build the reinforcement, then you take the wall out, you reassemble it with different types of structural members, like laminated beams, for example, that run that span and allow you to have that sort of open space.
Now, you raise another good question, like, “OK, what happens to the basement stair?” Well, obviously, you’re going to need a railing there. So, it’s a really big project. I don’t know if that’s going to be worth it for you in terms of what you’re going to get out of this. What are you trying to achieve, from a design perspective?
TRISH: To have an open concept. And here’s another idea. There’s another wall that goes between the kitchen and the dining room and that’s just a small wall, because there’s a doorway there.
LESLIE: Trish, there are some other ways that you can actually make the rooms feel larger. Considering I don’t know the exact floor plan or the situation of the space – but if you’ve got some windows in, say, your dining room on the wall opposite it, why not put a really large mirror over, perhaps, a service area or some sort of great storage cabinet? Because the mirror will sort of help bounce the light around and open up the space and make it feel larger. Using paint-color tricks, where you slightly change one wall color to a lighter hue in the same family, can make the space feel larger, as well.
Mirrors really are a huge help. I’m not talking about mirroring an entire wall but I am talking about – perhaps some strategically placed, really decorative mirrors will do the trick, as well.
These are all ways – furniture layout. If you can sort of keep the flow more open to encourage a good pass-through, that can help make the space feel larger, as well. So there are ways without taking on major construction projects.
TOM: That’ll make it look so much bigger.
Trish, 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, before you toss your old bookcase or table or scratched-up china cabinet, why not consider giving it a second look? You know, you might be able to fix the finish and have a showpiece on your hands. We’re going to have the tips and tricks, after this.
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, are you thinking about updating your bathroom this spring? We’ve got tons of easy bathroom-remodeling ideas at MoneyPit.com like, for example, how to add a corner sink and save space and add some style. All you’ve got to do is Google “money pit easy bathroom-remodeling ideas” and it’ll lead you right there.
LESLIE: Well, unless you live in a museum, your furniture is likely to take a few hits from time to time.
TOM: Yes and especially if you’ve got kids. But while the water rings, the dings, the dents and the scratches are inevitable, that kind of superficial damage is not difficult to repair. Here to tell us how is Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House.
KEVIN: Hi, guys. Great to be here.
TOM: Now, it’s a fact of life that your furniture will never stay as beautiful as the day you had it delivered. But what kinds of those dings and dents and defects can a do-it-yourselfer really handle repairing?
KEVIN: Well, there’s actually a bunch that you can handle and I find that the best thing is just get rid of the kids. Because I’ve got sacrificial couches in my house and they have turned them into forts and jungle gyms. And I say, “Listen, guys, it’s you or the couch. Go.”
No, there’s a bunch of things that you can actually tackle. So let’s start with some of the most basic: those white rings that you actually get on a table?
TOM: Yes, from the water glasses and the iced-tea glasses and the Kool-Aid glasses?
KEVIN: Yeah, right.
LESLIE: And that’s when you say, “Use a coaster.”
KEVIN: Right. And they don’t listen, of course.
Well, that’s actually the water or the water vapor penetrating into the finish. And it can actually be removed by wiping that area very gently with a cloth and barely dampened with a little denatured alcohol. That’s going to probably solve that problem right there.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And I’ve heard all sorts of home remedies for these white rings, too. I’ve heard mayonnaise and toothpaste and oil. But you’re right: that denatured alcohol really does do the trick.
KEVIN: Or get rid of the kids.
LESLIE: Or get rid of the kids.
TOM: Or get rid of the kids.
KEVIN: You can always get rid of the kids.
TOM: Now, what about those little chipped areas where something, maybe a toy, was dropped and took a little bit of a ding out?
LESLIE: Aggressive train ride on a dining table.
KEVIN: Well, when it comes to a chip or a scratch, I guess it all depends on how deep it is. If it’s just deep enough that it’s gone through the clear finish on, say, the tabletop but the underlying color of the wood isn’t – is still intact, well, then you can sort of fill that ding with just a few drops of maybe clear nail polish. I mean that’s a good way to actually fill it in. And when the polish dries, you’re going to want to have to sand it down to get it nice and smooth.
And when I’m talking about steel wool, I’m not talking about the stuff that you actually find in the kitchen-cleaning section of the grocery store. This is steel wool that you’re going to find at the hardware store, in the paint section. And it comes in different grades. And you want to go with the finest grade, which is a quadruple-zero. It’s really a very, very fine steel wool.
TOM: Almost like a soft cloth.
KEVIN: Yeah, it really is.
TOM: Now, that is a great trick of the trade. I actually used to wax entire pieces of furniture that way because when you use the steel wool as the applicator, it takes the imperfections off the surface – all the roughness of it – rubs that paste wax right in. You buff it and it looks amazing.
KEVIN: And you hear “steel wool” and you’re thinking, “Boy, that’s too aggressive.” But when it’s that fine, it is literally like a soft cloth.
So if the scratches are deeper or if you’ve got worn edges around the furniture, a felt-tip touch-up marker works well for the worn edges and scratches. And they come in a whole bunch of different varieties of wood tones so that you can match most common furniture finishes.
TOM: And that, again, if you just are coloring that sort of raw corner and you get it to be a darker color, you don’t really see that scratch and we don’t see that worn edge.
KEVIN: And it doesn’t have to be that perfect of a match.
KEVIN: Because it is just a small area and you just want to take your eye away from going right to that imperfection.
LESLIE: And I think what’s important to know is that all of these sort of repair components are really readily available in the paint aisle, so you can do it yourself.
KEVIN: They’re in the paint aisle, they’re in the hardware store. And someone’s going to be able to guide you to the right color, the right material.
TOM: Now, one of my favorites are these wax sticks. Have you seen these? They look like freezer pencils, where you peel the string back and you reveal the wax on the pencil. And with those, we’ve been able to heat them a little bit, like with a lighter or something like that, and melt that wax into the imperfection. And it’s good for, say, a kitchen-cabinet face or something like that. Not so good for anything that has to be abraded, like a floor surface, because it is still soft. But you can literally make a ¼-inch-size hole disappear, like if you drill the hole wrong for the cabinet handle? Don’t ask me how I know this. You can make it completely disappear.
KEVIN: And if you think you don’t have one of those lying around the house, you might.
TOM: You might.
KEVIN: Because oftentimes, they’re actually shipped with your new cabinets.
KEVIN: They sometimes give you that touch-up pencil right there, so you might have it in one of those stray drawers.
LESLIE: But you know what? Online, we accidentally – me accidentally. I had my sewing machine on my fancy dining table and I didn’t realize one of the feet – the rubber feet – was not on correctly. And when I pulled it close to me, I put a beautiful, 2-inch gouge into the surface of my dining table.
And online, I actually found a wax pencil specifically for surfaces – flat surfaces – like a dining table that’s meant to be cleaned. And I got the exact match to that finish, heated it up, filled it in, did the steel wool and the wax, as well. And it’s time to do it again but it’s been five years and it really does stand up. So if you’re a little creative, a clumsy-oopsie suddenly can go away.
KEVIN: Mm-hmm. And I love the fact that you guys are completely comfortable in the confessional here.
LESLIE: I mean what can you do?
KEVIN: Tell us about all the mistakes. This is great.
TOM: But do as we say, not as we do.
TOM: We’re talking to Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House, about how to fix furniture finish that may have suffered a bit of damage.
Kevin, the shelves of the grocery store are filled with all sorts of wood-cleaning and wood-care products. What’s the best way to keep everything in good shape once you’ve actually done the repair?
KEVIN: Well, you know, believe it or not, I think a damp rag often works best. It’s a simple solution but it’s probably going to get the trick done. If you’re doing some routine cleaning, well, then you might want to use something very mild, like diluted dishwashing soap. Or there are some furniture cleaners out there and Murphy’s Oil Soap is great. It’s really gentle and it’s effective.
The thing you want to avoid are the really strong ones: the alkaline- or the ammonia-based detergents, like window cleaners, because they can actually do a number on the finishes. And don’t use anything too abrasive; you don’t want to use those scrubbing cleaners – they’ve got the little bit of grit in them – because, hmm, yeah, it’s going to set you back.
TOM: Good advice. Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
KEVIN: My pleasure.
LESLIE: Alright. You can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For local listings and step-by-step videos of many common home improvement projects, visit ThisOldHouse.com.
TOM: And This Old House and Ask This Old House are brought to you by The Home Depot. More saving, more doing. That’s the power of The Home Depot.
Up next, even the most sparkly clean homes could be hiding some hidden grime. We’re going to teach you the top three most overlooked places that dirt stays put, after this.
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TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. And we are taking your calls at 888-MONEY-PIT.
This hour, we’re giving one caller some great do-it-yourself must-haves from 3M. Now, it includes 3M Painter’s Tape with Edge-Lock Technology for super-sharp edges and Patch Plus Primer, which is going to eliminate your need to spackle. You’re also going to get some safety glasses, duct tape, ear plugs, a respirator, all kinds of things that we do-it-yourselfers need and love to have in our tool box.
It’s worth 78 bucks. You can check them out at 3M.com. And give us a call right now at 888-MONEY-PIT for your chance to win.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re heading on over to Ohio with Bobbie, who cut down a tree but is now wondering what’s going on with the dirt settling and sidewalk.
This sounds like it’s got an interesting story, Bobbie. What happened to the tree?
BOBBIE: Well, it got a disease in it. And they recommended that I cut it down before it falls on my house. So, I had it cut down and they ground out the stump. And now, I was wondering how long do I have to wait for the dirt to settle or if I even have to wait to extend my sidewalk.
TOM: Well, I certainly wouldn’t want to build a sidewalk on top of all of the ground-out sawdust, because that clearly is going to decay away. I think the best thing to do is to try to add some stone to that stumped area. Maybe rake out all of the sawdust and pack it with stone and then make sure the new sidewalk is poured over that stone or even embed some of the stone into the concrete. Because otherwise, you’re going to build a sidewalk on top of an unstable piece of soil and that could crack.
Another option there is to have the mason add some reinforcement to the sidewalk. And make sure the reinforcement straddles the weak area of the soil so that, again, if you do get some additional compression, the sidewalk won’t crack and sink in that area.
You’re wise to raise this question. You do need to work around it and I think a good-quality mason can help you do that.
BOBBIE: OK. Thank you very much.
TOM: You’re welcome, Bobbie. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, most people take pride in keeping a clean home but all your vacuuming and countertop cleaning could be overlooking some gross and even dangerous areas of your home. So, we’re going to tell you now about the top three most overlooked areas.
LESLIE: Alright. The first one is your showerhead. Now, in a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder, showerheads were found to contain bacteria, which is potentially dangerous to those that had weakened immune systems. So, your best bet is to let the water run before you actually get into the shower or replace your showerhead with one that’s all metal or filtered, as those were found to contain a lot less bacteria. And they actually allowed less bacteria to grow, so it’s worth it to upgrade your showerhead.
TOM: Next up, your washing machine. Now, over the years, it can actually become contaminated with unmentionable germs and bacteria. So if you want to fix that, it’s really easy. Just once a month, run it empty using only hot water and a cup or two of bleach and that will sanitize it.
LESLIE: Now, the last one on the list isn’t so much gross as it is a safety hazard. It’s your dryer exhaust duct. Every year, about 15,000 dryers catch fire and some of those fires turn deadly.
Now, it’s not because of wiring problems but it’s because of the lint that gets trapped in the exhaust duct. So you want to make sure that you do an annual or even bi-annual cleaning of your ducting system with a duct brush.
TOM: So, just what you need: three more to-dos to add to your spring-cleaning checklist. If you want more tips, we’ve got them on MoneyPit.com, 888-666-3974.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Julia calling in from Brigantine, New Jersey looking for a green product for mold. How can we help you today?
JULIA: Yes. I would like to know what you have – anything of a green product for mold and mildew?
TOM: Yeah, where are you trying to get rid of the mold and mildew? We talking about inside the house or outside the house?
JULIA: Inside the house. Inside the garage area.
TOM: You said it’s in an open garage?
JULIA: Yes, it’s a double-car garage and in between both garages, we have two walk-in closets.
JULIA: And the walls there, they don’t have insulation between them but they’re a hollow wall. But I wanted a green – something that’s environmentally friendly.
TOM: OK. So those walls are developing mold? Is that what your concern is?
JULIA: I’m concerned they’re going to develop mold, because we were in the flood – Sandy, Hurricane Sandy.
TOM: So, the best thing for you to apply there is a diluted bleach solution. Now, if you don’t want to do that, you could purchase a different type of mildicide and there are some green mildicides that are available.
JULIA: What are the names of them? I’ve already done the bleach.
TOM: You did bleach? Well, then, why do you need to do anything else?
JULIA: Well, I don’t want any mold to come back or anything and I just figure I need some …
TOM: Well, listen, here’s the thing. Mold is going to grow if you’ve got moisture above 25 percent, you’ve got air and you’ve got a food source. That’s what makes mold grow.
So, in these closets, if they’ve been dried out as much as possible and they’ve been treated with a bleach solution, you’ve really accomplished your task. Should you monitor them over time? Yes, you absolutely should. And if you start to see any additional mold form, you can spray them again. I don’t think you need to do anything beyond that.
JULIA: Well, can you give me the name of some products in case I do need it? Because we’ve done that.
TOM: Well, one product that you want to look into is a product called Wet & Forget. It’s a moss, mold, mildew and algae remover. There’s distributors all across the country. If you go to WetAndForget.com, you can find a retailer right near you. There’s a store locator right at the top of the page.
LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Well, eco-friendly options that heat and cool your home, they are gaining in popularity. So up next, we’re going to explain how geothermal heating works and help you figure out if it might be the right option for you, so stick around.
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LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Hey, would you like to get The Money Pit as you travel? Well, you can if you download our iPhone app at MoneyPit.com. You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest. Just click the icons at MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: And while you’re online, you can post your question in the Community section, just like Tom in Michigan did. And he writes: “Can you give me your advice about geothermal heat? I’m building a vacation home right on Lake Michigan that’s going to get pretty cold. I know I’d stay warm and get low utility heating bills but what about maintenance and upkeep on the system?”
TOM: Well, I will say that those systems don’t seem to need any more maintenance than any other type of heating system. But typically, the cost to install is very high. That could be offset sometimes by grants that might be available from your state government, so you definitely need to look into what the rebates are in your particular part of the nation.
The trick is: what does it take to get those coils of the ground-source heat pump into the ground? Because sometimes, you can excavate an area for them but sometimes you have to drill down. And when it comes to drilling, you might need to go down 400 or 500 feet with those refrigeration tubes. And so that, obviously, can drive the cost up.
Now, I think that once you have the system installed, they cost about a third less to operate than a comparable, say, gas system? However, that savings, it could take you more years than you’re ever possibly going to live in that house to make up the difference.
So, it really is an economic question. You need to get the estimates, you need to find out what rebates are available and then you could make the determination as to whether or not it makes the most sense for you. Certainly is a green option but we want to make sure it’s not going to cost too much green to get it done.
LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post from Marty in Illinois who writes: “I have really low water pressure in one sink in my bathroom. Is there anything I can do to increase it? All the other faucets have great pressure.”
I would say, Marty, unscrew the aerator in the front of that faucet and see if there’s a whole bunch of gunk just clogging up that one faucet. Wouldn’t you think?
TOM: Yeah, absolutely. Because if you have a problem with only one faucet, that is very likely the source of the problem. And it’s surprising how little amount of gunk that you need to get into that, because there’s very tiny holes in those aerators. And if you just block one with a fleck of solder or dirt that somehow got into the water system, well, that could totally shut that off and that might be the source of your problem. So if you unscrew the aerator and open up the faucet and it comes flying out, well, there’s your problem right there. You’ve just got to clean it and put it back together.
Little trick of the trade, though: as you take the aerator apart, do it step by step by step. Set everything out in the proper order because when you put it back together, you want to make sure that you don’t get it messed up.
LESLIE: Yeah, I actually just did that to the kitchen faucet. And it wasn’t that I noticed a change in the water pressure; I just noticed around the top edge that there was a slight discoloration and it looked a little funky. So I was like, “Oh, let me open it up,” and I was amazed at the things that I found in there: some weird turquoise flecks, which must have been a piece of oxidized rust, and some black stuff. I’m surprised I was getting any water out of that faucet at all, actually.
TOM: Yeah. You know, you think that your water is so pristinely clean all the time but it’s amazing there is quite a bit of gunk in it. And that’s why so many folks are interested in having filtration systems on their faucets which, of course, is another source of water restriction but perhaps only for the best reasons.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. I was really surprised. I always get the reports from the village about how amazing our water is and how clean and wonderful and aren’t we so lucky? And I was like, “Wow, look at all this gunk in there.”
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. We are so happy to have you here and glad to help solve some of those do-it-yourself dilemmas, because it just takes the first step. Once you get going, the rest gets a lot easier. It’s kind of like a train: it gets going down the tracks, you don’t want to stop it. At least that’s the way it is around my 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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(Copyright 2013 Squeaky Door Productions, Inc. No portion of this transcript or audio file may be reproduced in any format without the express written permission of Squeaky Door Productions, Inc.)