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    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: Happy Holidays, everybody. Hope you are ready to tackle a few, final home improvement projects before the new year rolls around. We certainly are here to help you. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    One project you might be reaching out to start this weekend is to string up those holiday lights outside your house. If you’re going to do that, you want to be super-careful and remember that a steady ladder can save you a trip to the emergency room. So coming up, we’re going to have some safety tips for using ladders that will keep you on terra firma, we hope.

    LESLIE: And speaking of terra firma, you know, also coming up this hour, natural stone, it looks great; it’s very, very durable. And although it might seem like it’s maintenance-free, it’s not. So we’re going to share some tips and advice to keep your natural stone floors or your countertops looking as great as they first did when you had them installed.

    TOM: And do you have that one handy family member or friend that you would have a very hard time shopping for? Wouldn’t it be great if there was a group of sort of secret shoppers that can help you pick out the perfect present? Well, there is and the service is absolutely free. We’re going to tell you all about it, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: And this hour, we’re also going to help you get your floors ready for the hordes of holiday visitors that are heading your way. We are giving away a flooring installation kit from Lumber Liquidators. It’s worth $60 and it includes really most of the tools that you’re going to need for a do-it-yourself flooring job.

    TOM: So, let’s get going. The first tool you need is your telephone. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Susan in Maryland is calling in. She’s wanting to know when a house has outlived its usefulness. I love how this question is worded. What can we do for you, Susan?

    SUSAN: Recently, in the springtime, I discovered I have termites out in my sunroom.

    TOM: Wow.

    SUSAN: They ate everything in front of my swimming pool and it’s just – I don’t know. My children want me to buy a new house and I don’t want to.

    TOM: You want to give the house up to the termites?

    SUSAN: Not really, because everything is all paid for.

    TOM: Yeah. Listen, there’s a solution, OK? Susan, the best way to treat termites is to use a product called Termidor – T-e-r-m-i-d-o-r. Now, it’s professionally applied. You have to have a pest-control firm do this for you.

    But the way it works is they will apply this to the area in and around your house; not inside the house but really, the perimeter. And the termites don’t live up on the ground, on the surface; they live down deep in the soil. So as they go back and forth to the soil, to their nest, they pass through this termiticide, it’s called. And they get it on their bodies and they take it back to the nest and they pass it from insect to insect and it’s pretty much germ warfare for termites. That is the end of the colony. When they pass it to each other, it totally wipes them out.

    And the stuff can last like 10 years and it’s safe. And that’s the way I treated termites when I had them in my house and it’s worked very well for me. And I think it’ll work well for you, too.

    SUSAN: OK. Thank you.

    TOM: Alright. You don’t have to give up the house to the termites now. Alright, you can stay.

    SUSAN: I’ll be saving a small fortune. Thank you. Bye.

    TOM: Alright, Susan. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Hey, speaking of termites, Leslie, I want to relate a story to you about …

    LESLIE: Oh, God, a termite from my house called you and it’s letting me know what’s in there?

    TOM: Well actually about – my mom has a house – my mom and dad have a house down in Florida.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm, which – termites are very common down there.

    TOM: Termites are very common down there. And so they had a termite contract that they kind of let drop for a while and they weren’t really happy with the company and the service. So they went to another guy and he was good for a while, then he sort of faded out. All the contractors come and they go and so she wanted to go back to the original guy.

    So, the original guy says, “Well, you’ve got to pay for the two years that you didn’t have the contract,” which I thought was a grab; a cash grab.

    LESLIE: Really?

    TOM: And then I started thinking about it. I said, “You know what, Mom? You don’t really need this termite service contract, because you already had the house treated. We know the treatment’s going to last for a good 10 years.” Plus, when I thought about it, you know how those houses are built in this particular development? Concrete slab; concrete block walls. The only thing that’s wood in the house is the truss roof.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. How in …

    TOM: For the termites to get up there, they’ve got to really be ambitious.

    LESLIE: They’ve really got to be ambitious.

    TOM: And you’ve got to have a leak that’s going on for a long period of time. So you’ve got an entire community down there of houses, in this particular case, that are really a very, very, very low risk of termites, for which those people are paying hundreds of dollars a year for the privilege of having a termite service contract.

    LESLIE: Well and it’s interesting …

    TOM: And you know why? Because most of them come from the North, where they’re used to doing that but with Florida, in this kind of construction, they don’t have to do it.

    LESLIE: That’s amazing.

    TOM: And the contract didn’t cover drywood termites, which are the only kind that can fly up there and eat by theirselves (ph). They covered subterraneous. So you’ve really got to look at these agreements for pest-control operators and not just kind of sign on the dotted line and write a check, because sometimes they don’t make sense.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And it’s kind of a shysty (ph) business, because you’re dealing with people who are so used to having a contract like this; of a certain age. You know, it’s like you feel like you’re falling prey to.

    Now, it’s interesting that they want to back-charge your parents, because we lapsed on our termite service for a year and I called our exterminator. We were having earwigs just because the soil was too moist from the sprinkler system and they were getting in the house. And the guy came and he said, “You didn’t pay last year for the termite contract.” I said, “I just – I completely didn’t think about it.” And he was like, “Don’t worry. We’ll re-sign you up; you don’t have to pay for it.” They were really nice about it.

    TOM: And that was the right way to handle it.

    LESLIE: Yeah, totally.

    TOM: Yeah. So these folks went for the cash grab in my parents’ case and you know what? Now they didn’t get the service contract and I hope that the word is spreading throughout the development that probably not necessary whatsoever.

    LESLIE: Well, young Tom, you are going to be getting everyone’s contracts for review, from that building, I’m sure.

    TOM: There you go.

    LESLIE: Your mom’s going to be like, “My son, he knows about this stuff. Send it to me; I’ll have him read it.”

    TOM: Have him review it, that’s right.

    LESLIE: Get your glasses on.

    You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Now you can be part of the fun. Give us a call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with your home repair, home improvement, design, décor question. Whatever you are working on, we’ll give you a hand with that project at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, every year, falls from ladders send hundreds of homeowners to the hospital. Before you pull out your ladder for holiday decorating, we’ve got the tips to help you make sure it is safe. That’s coming up, after this.

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    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Milgard Windows and Doors. Milgard windows can help save on energy bills and qualify for up to $1,500 in tax credits. Credits expire December 31. Visit Milgard.com to locate a window dealer near you.

    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 want you to be part of The Money Pit, so pick up the phone and give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Not only will we do our very best to answer your home improvement or your repair question right here, on the fly, but you are also going to be automatically entered into our random prize drawing.

    And this hour, we are giving away a do-it-yourself installation starter kit, courtesy of our friends over at Lumber Liquidators, which can come in very handy if you are planning a flooring project this winter.

    Now, the kit includes a hammer, spacers, measuring tape, dust masks, a hobby knife, chalk line and reel. You name it, if you need it to install a floor, chances are it’s in there. It’s got $60 worth of tools and products but if you get on the air with us this hour, it could be yours for free. So pick up the phone and dial 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Well, it is time to deck those halls with holiday decorations and if you are getting ready to decorate, no doubt you’re about to get up on a ladder, perhaps for the first time since last year. Save yourself a trip to the ER, please, by checking it out first.

    Worn or improperly used ladders can cause hundreds of thousands of serious injuries every year. So you want to inspect it for cracked uprights; those are the sort of the side pieces. You want to look out for split rungs or loose rivets; very common. They will slip out and cause the rungs to fall out. And also make sure your ladder has slip-resistant rungs and feet, because that’s like the first thing that wears out is those slip-resistant coverings that go on the bottom feet.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And now here’s something really important: when it comes to using an extension ladder, you want to make sure that the bottom is pulled away from the wall that you’re working on, by at least one-quarter of the height. So if your roof is at 12 feet high, then the base of your ladder needs to be at least 3 feet away from the house.

    Make sure you have somebody there to help you as your spotter and maybe ask them to please hold the base of that ladder steady; not just kind of nonchalantly put a hand on it. Really make them do their job. And finally, never ever stand on the top rung of any type of ladder. That sticker is there for a reason. Don’t take it off and use it as decoration or think, “Eh, it doesn’t apply to me.”

    Once you get above that sticker standing-point, it will become wobbly and unsteady, so just don’t risk it. Enjoy the holiday season without a cast on your arm.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. Give us a call right now with your holiday home improvement question, because we are here to help.

    Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: Veer in Delaware, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?

    VEER: I have a mold that’s been dropped between the shower doors, which are aluminum, to the fiberglass that the shower is made of. Right in the connection between the door and the shower and the fiberglass, there is a mold that – I see it but nothing cleans it.

    TOM: What have you tried? Have you tried bleach? Straight bleach?

    VEER: Yes, I’ve tried bleach. I tried OxiClean, I tried white vinegar, I tried – you name it.

    LESLIE: Now, are you seeing it on the caulking that’s sort of the connector between the two or is there no caulk in there and it’s just sort of built up?

    VEER: Yes, yes. It’s like on the caulking.

    TOM: Ah, OK.

    LESLIE: OK.

    TOM: Well, then, now we know why it’s happening.

    LESLIE: Yeah, because once it sort of super-saturates the caulk that’s there, there’s really no cleaning it. The best bet is to remove the existing caulk and you can do that with a product that’s called a caulk softener. And you can get it at the home centers and you apply it and then it sort of peels right out; you just pull it right out.

    And then, with that open space there, clean very well with bleach; bleach and water. Let it dry; you know, really dry it out. And then, go ahead and recaulk the surface there; that sort of space between the shower door and the tub top. And that will do a great job of really giving you a fresh surface; you have cleaned it all out. And make sure when you buy the new caulk that you get one that has an antimicrobial additive, like Microban, so that it won’t grow mold.

    VEER: OK. Thank you.

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

    LESLIE: Louise in Georgia is looking to get a tankless water heater. What can we do for you?

    LOUISE: I am interested in having one but I am skeptical because of all the things I’ve heard: that they’re very expensive and also you have to have a specialist install them.

    TOM: Well, first of all, they’re going to be more expensive than a standard tank water heater because they last a lot longer, plus they’re far more efficient. And yes, by all means, there are hundreds and hundreds of qualified installers; even thousands across the country. You will find, occasionally, a plumber who’s not familiar with them and never took the time to learn how to install a tankless water heater. Let’s face it, the water heaters are getting more complex and they’re getting more efficient and that’s a good thing, because that means that they’re more efficient.

    Now, if you install a tankless water heater right now – I mean before the end of the year; you don’t have a lot of time left – but if you do it right now, you can actually earn up to a $1,500 federal tax credit by purchasing a high-efficiency unit, because that tax credit program runs out at the end of the year. But if you do it now, you can actually reduce the cost of the unit by a substantial amount.

    LOUISE: Is that on any brand?

    TOM: No. It has to be a qualifying unit and most quality manufacturers have units that qualify. A good website for you to start with is Rheem – R-h-e-e-m – .com and right there on their home page, there’s information on the energy-efficient tax credits as well as tankless water heaters.

    LOUISE: OK.

    TOM: And I think there’s a dealer locater there, too, so you could certainly find an installer that way.

    LOUISE: OK. So Rheem is really a brand name, isn’t it?

    TOM: It is. R-h-e-e-m.com. It’s an excellent brand.

    LOUISE: OK. Very good. Can you give me an approximate decent price?

    TOM: There’s going to be a measuring tool that you can use. It really depends on how many bathrooms that you have, in terms of which model that you might need. But you want to buy one that’s just the right size for the number of bathrooms. It usually starts with one to two bathrooms and goes up to two to three and then three full baths and more.

    LOUISE: Very good. I really trust what you folks say, because I’ve been listening to you and enjoy your show. So I will go with that; I will go with that room and see if I can work something out there.

    TOM: Alright. You’re very welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. And the website, again, is Rheem – R-h-e-e-m – .com.

    LESLIE: Rick in Washington needs some help with a bathroom remodel. How’s the project going?
     
    RICK: It’s going pretty well. We’re down to deciding which type of tub we want and we’re wondering if a ball-and-claw, cast-iron tub would gain us any value in the home after the remodel, versus a resin-style – the newer-style resin tubs.
     
    TOM: Well, the good news, Rick, is both will get you equally clean. In terms of return on investment, I think that a remodeled bathroom by itself is going to be a great improvement, because surveys are showing that you get somewhere in the area of 80 to 90 percent return on investment for remodeled bathrooms and remodeled kitchens.
     
    Now in terms of which one is going to be right for your project, that’s more of a decorating choice, I would think, Leslie.
     
    LESLIE: Yeah, absolutely. If your home is of the certain time period and architectural styling where the claw-footed tub is really the right choice, then in my opinion, you cannot compete with a claw-footed tub. They’re gorgeous; they’re ginormous. You can take a beautiful, deep, long soak in a bathtub like that and you’ve just hit the nail on the head for my dreams of a bath and I would buy your house tomorrow if that was the case. But I really think it’s up …
     
    RICK: See, the house is – I’m sorry – the house is a 1931 farmhouse, so we didn’t know if there was an inherent value in going with an older-style tub versus a newer-style resin tub.
     
    LESLIE: I think if, consistently, you’re going with historically accurate details, you’re better off to go with the cast-iron tub.
     
    RICK: OK, very good. We also – we love your show. Thank you so much for the help.
     
    LESLIE: Oh, our pleasure.
     
    TOM: You’re welcome, Rick. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Charlene in South Carolina has a question about flooring. What can we do for you today?

    CHARLENE: Well, I need some advice on good carpeting for an extremely high-traffic area. And I can’t get berber because of my dog.

    TOM: Hmm. How about no carpet?

    LESLIE: Yeah.

    CHARLENE: Yeah, that’s what somebody asked me before. She can’t – the dog freezes and panics. We do have tile and hardwood flooring in different sections of the house.

    TOM: Right.

    CHARLENE: And the dog’ll chase the cat onto that area and then freeze when she realizes where she is and she screams.

    TOM: And stop? She thinks like she’s on an ice sheet or something?

    LESLIE: Weird.

    CHARLENE: Exactly. She acts like she’s on an iceberg and she doesn’t move but she screams.

    TOM: Wow. You’ve got a dog with issues, Charlene.

    CHARLENE: It’s pathetic; it really is to see this huge Lab just standing there frozen.

    TOM: Oh, man.

    CHARLENE: No. I’m not going to do that to the dog, as much as I’d love to have hardwoods all over.

    TOM: Yeah.

    CHARLENE: So like I said, I do need – and this comes right into the house. They do walk through a Carolina room.

    TOM: Right.

    CHARLENE: That is tiled but not everything gets off the feet and we’re very, very close to the beach, so sometimes there’s sand.

    TOM: OK. So you mentioned that you have cats and dogs. Do they – does the cat scratch? Because the carpet’s going to be the issue; probably a low pile is what we would recommend and maybe a commercial grade.

    Right, Leslie?

    LESLIE: Well, I mean the other thing here is how much square footage are we talking about to cover with this carpeting?

    CHARLENE: Probably 300, 350.

    TOM: Oh, that’s not much.

    LESLIE: Now what you might want to think about is there’s a company called FLOR and it’s F-L-O-R.com. And they manufacture kind of like a modular carpet tile. And they’re 20-inches square; they range from $6 to, I want to say, $11 per tile. They’re super-durable and the beauty of it is when one of them gets dirty or damaged, you just sort of pop out that one tile, either clean it if you can or toss it and replace it. So, it’s really a perfect option for you.

    And you know, you can check out all the options at FLOR.com. They’ll send you samples; it’s really a great site.

    CHARLENE: It sounds like a plan.

    TOM: Alright, Charlene. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. And with all the money you save, you can get your dog some therapy.

    LESLIE: And shoes. Maybe if the dog wore like those furry, inside slippers, it would always think it’s on a rug.

    TOM: Yeah.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Well, there’s always that one person that you just have the hardest time finding a gift for, every single year. Well, if it turns out that person is also handy, we have got a great tip for you on a group of secret shoppers that are standing by right now to help you find that absolutely perfect holiday gift for the home improver in your life and on your list, so stick around.

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    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by SnowBlowersDirect.com. Thinking about getting a snow blower? Check out SnowBlowersDirect.com’s interactive buying guides, recommendations and customer reviews. Snow blower experts are available to help you pick the perfect snow blower. Visit SnowBlowersDirect.com.

    TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. Well, it is officially the holiday season and this year we are finding that practical items are topping everyone’s gift lists once again, as we’re all trying to spend money more wisely. I know I keep asking for a dishwasher; I don’t know when my husband’s going to catch on.

    So, how exactly do you shop for the do-it-yourselfers who really seem to already have everything? Well, you know what you do? You turn to the experts at Sears, of course.

    TOM: Well, that’s right. The Sears Blue Tool Crew can actually help you in the store, on the phone or online, with all of your handy gifts this year. Here to tell us more about how these Santa’s helpers work is Bill Kiss, the chief marketing officer for Sears Holdings.

    Hey, Bill.

    BILL: Hi.

    TOM: Thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit. And you know, shopping for a DIYer has got to be one tall order. How do you guys help those shoppers sort of narrow down the best choices for the guy or the gal on their list?

    BILL: Well, Tom, you said it very well right there in terms of the Santa helpers and that’s what the Blue Tool Crew’s role is in life. And that’s to help, whether you’re a DIYer yourself or you’re in the mad scramble to buy something for a do-it-yourselfer. So we’re out there as gift advisors.

    But at the end of the day, our folks have been trained. Whether you call, click or come on in, our folks are ready to ask a couple of basic probing questions and make sure that we understand who you’re giving to and make sure that we get you the right tool solution for your budget and for that gift.

    TOM: And I think that training is absolutely critical, because we’re not just talking about sort of your average sales clerk here. These guys are very, very specialized and they really know their tools. I know that you demo’d this for me once and I was amazed with the level of detail and expertise that your Sears Blue Tool Crew actually has. That must have a lot going into that.

    BILL: Yes, a whole lot. And we – for example, we put together a tool rally within our entire organization heading into the holidays, to make sure that the Blue Tool Crew, whether it be the folks in the front line in the stores or the folks that you can call for gift advice at 1-877-4BLUCRW, that they’re well-trained on the latest gift ideas.

    And again, it’s not even so much about selling; it’s about listening and helping that customer get the right gift that they want to give.

    LESLIE: So should the shopper already have an idea of what the person they’re buying a gift for has in their tool arsenal already? Or is it really more about what they use the tools for: their craft and their speciality?

    BILL: You know what? Great question, Leslie, and we could take it either way. If you walk in and you have intelligence around – for example, my dad is a big tool lover and tool geek. And I could walk in and say, “Hey, I know that he’s got multiple drills, a drill press, whatever. He seems to be sort of the woodworking type. What else would he want or need?” That’s one path.

    And the other would be just basically saying, “Hey, I’ve got a friend or whoever I’m buying for and they’re a mechanic. What were some of the latest, greatest innovations that might be out there that that individual would want?” And again, the Blue Crew can ask and answer the right questions and again, get you to the right gift solution.

    TOM: We’re talking to Bill Kiss, the chief marketing officer for Sears Holding, about the Sears Blue Tool Crew.

    And Bill, we get a lot of interest in folks that want to know what’s the latest, what’s the greatest, what’s the hottest home improvement gifts for the holiday. So, what’s going on over at Sears? I know that you’ve got a whole bunch of Craftsman product coming out, don’t you?

    BILL: Yeah. We have got the latest, greatest Craftsman Nextec product right off the line. It’s hot for this holiday season. It’s called the Right-Angle Impact Driver. And you really have to check this out so, again, part of our job in the Blue Tool Crew is to, whether you want to come check us out on YouTube or walk into a store, you’ve got to see this thing.

    So, if you’ve got a do-it-yourselfer, this is a must-have gift. It’s, again, like I mentioned, it’s right off the Nextec 12-Volt platform. It’s got some really, really cool features that, at the end of the day, every DIYer could really use this. So, we’re thrilled to have it and it’s ready for holiday.

    TOM: Now we were actually over at the Craftsman Experience Store in Chicago and I think we had a chance to play with this and I was amazed with the power that it had in such a small, compact product.

    BILL: Yeah. And you really have to – Tom, to your point. We challenge people. You’ve got to grab this thing and give it a try to really understand what it does for you. It not only gets you into these very, very tight places but it brings so much more ease into what historically have been very, very difficult jobs for traditional drills.

    So, you’ve got to get into a store; check this out or to your point, get down to the Craftsman Experience and put it in your hand and give it a try.

    LESLIE: Well, it really is super-helpful. I know Tom and I have had the chance to not only go to the Craftsman Experience but utilize the Blue Tool Crew. And it truly is a wonderful opportunity to get that right gift at the right price point and it’s really something that you know this person is going to enjoy and love.

    BILL: Yeah. And again, Leslie, great point there. You can come into our stores or go online or call us. And again, whether you’re thinking about it through the perspective of is it the right item for their particular DIY passion – whether that be a woodworker, what have you – it could be a budget question.

    And again, we – we’re very, very in touch with the fact that these are difficult economic times. So, we’ve got gifts that are under 10 bucks and we’ve got things as high as 500, depending upon how lavish a gift-giver you want to be. But the point is, we’re here to help, so our role is to be your trusted advisor and get the right gift that you want to give.

    LESLIE: And maybe if you don’t know exactly what to get but you know what tool that this person already has, can they recommend an accessory or a new bit or something that could go along with something that’s already in their tool box?

    BILL: Wow, yeah. You’re actually giving – if we had everybody come in, it would be that easy. But you’re absolutely right. So if, to build on your point, if you walked in and said, “For Father’s Day” – for example – “I got my dad or my husband a great, new drill set. What could I do to kind of round that out?” And our folks, the Blue Tool Crew, can get to them all kinds of different accessory ideas – whether it be bits, blades; it could be an extra battery pack – all kinds of things.

    And those things are really, really cool when it comes down to stocking stuffers, as well, so great point.

    TOM: The Sears Blue Tool Crew. These are your exclusive secret shoppers for the DIYer on your gift list. Check it out at Sears and Sears.com.

    Bill Kiss from Sears, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    BILL: Hey, thanks for having me. Really enjoyed it.

    LESLIE: Alright. Well, we all love granite and marble and even travertine. And you know what? They’re fantastic surfaces for your kitchen, your bath; even your floors. But just because they’re stone doesn’t mean that they’re maintenance-free. They actually do require a little tender, loving care.

    So coming up, we’re going to give you some tips on the best way to clean and maintain your natural stone floors and your countertops.

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    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Generac and the Generac Automatic Standby Generator. Be protected and never worry about power outages again. Visit your favorite home improvement center or call 888-GENERAC or visit Generac.com. Your home will stay on the next time the power goes out. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.

    TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And give us a call right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT because if you do, one caller we talk to is going to win a flooring installation starter kit, courtesy of our pals at Lumber Liquidators which, by the way, is a fantastic place if you are looking to pick up some hardwood floor.

    The kit includes a hammer, spacers, measuring tape, dust masks, hobby knife, chalk line and reel. You name it, if you need to install a floor, chances are it is in there. And it’s worth 60 bucks. That kit’s going to go out to one caller who reaches us with their home improvement question. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: That’s right. Pick up the phone and give us a call, because we’d love to give you a hand with your project. And you know, we really do keep track of what you guys are calling about, what you’re working on, what you need a hand with. And it turns out that a lot of you call and e-mail the show about caring for your natural stone surfaces.

    And most people think that natural materials like granite and marble mean there’s no maintenance. Well, that’s not necessarily true. They’re very strong, yes, but the right type of care and maintenance can actually help those surfaces last pretty much forever. So, keep in mind that certain chemicals and tools, they can actually discolor or dull the stone; maybe even shorten its lifespan.

    Now, when it comes to fluids, you want to make sure that you steer clear of acidic fluids like lemon juice and vinegar and any cleaning products that are containing acid or ammonia. And when you’re cleaning your natural stone surfaces, like your floors and your countertops, it’s also a good rule of thumb to avoid products intended for tub and tile as well as anything that’s powdered or abrasive.

    And keep in mind that certain types of stone can scratch very easily, such as marble and the travertine. Granite’s way stronger but it’s certainly not scratch-resistant, so make sure you use caution with these surfaces.

    TOM: Now, to play it safe, you want to clean stone surfaces with a mild, liquid dish detergent and warm water. Make sure you change the water very often and be sure to use a very soft cloth or mop. To avoid stains and other small disasters, you want to use coasters, trivets, placemats and cutting boards.

    Now, with the right cleaning tools and just a few good habits, you really can protect those natural stone surfaces and keep them looking good for many, many years.

    The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Give us a call right now with your home improvement question. Your holiday fix-up chore is easy if you pick up the phone and call us first at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Maria in Iowa needs some help with a wallpaper project. Tell us about it.

    MARIA: Well, we’ve been in this house for about 3 years and the wallpaper has been up probably a total of 10 if not maybe more in the kitchen, in the bathroom and it’s on plaster walls.

    TOM: OK.

    MARIA: So how would I remove that?

    LESLIE: Hmm. And …

    MARIA: They’re in the plaster.

    TOM: Yeah. Well, what you’re going to want to do is you’re going to have to score it, first of all. And there’s a tool called a PaperTiger that does that. You run it over the wall; put some very small holes in it. Then on top of that, you can use a wallpaper remover or you could use fabric softener. Fabric softener …

    LESLIE: Fabric softener is surprisingly effective.

    TOM: At breaking down the glues.

     MARIA: Really? You use it full-strength or mixed with water?

    LESLIE: The full-strength fabric softener. You sort of roll it on the wall with a paint roller and then you let it sit. I’m not sure for how long but you want to let it sit there and kind of saturate the wall. And that’s why the scoring is so important, because if it’s a vinyl wallpaper, it needs to get underneath that vinyl and get to the adhesive. And even if it’s paper, it’ll sort of just loosen up what’s there and then get to the adhesive. And then you’d be surprised at how easily it peels off the wall.

    TOM: And the best part is your room smells lemony-fresh when you’re done.

    MARIA: That’s great.

    TOM: Maria, if you still have a problem getting it off, the final step is to rent a wallpaper steamer, which is a hand tool that’s got a plate on it that’s like, I don’t know, about 12×18. And you hold it up against the wall and it shoots high-temperature steam in there and that will also loosen the paper.

    Look, there’s nothing easy about removing wallpaper; it’s a lot of work. Certainly a lot easier to put on than it is to take off but it’s worth it if you want to change the look of your room.

    MARIA: Yes. Well thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Theresa in Vermont has a question about her basement walls. What can we do for you today? 
     
    THERESA: We have some – we had a very wet summer and we have something growing on the walls of the basement. They’re not – the walls aren’t wet but there’s something growing. It looks like frost.
     
    LESLIE: Oh, it’s like a – sort of like a white haze, if you will?
     
    TOM: Like crusty stuff?
     
    THERESA: Yes.
     
    TOM: Yep.
     
    THERESA: It’s not hard.
     
    TOM: Mm-hmm. No.
     
    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Well …
     
    THERESA: But it’s just white.
     
    LESLIE: Theresa, I mean you said it yourself: you had a very wet summer. So, obviously, the ground had been saturated quite a bit and even if your basement is dry, those concrete walls tend to suck in a lot of moisture from the earth. So now, what you’re seeing is when the moisture gets into the concrete and then evaporates out, it leaves behind sort of a mineral deposit and that’s that whitish haze that you’re seeing on there.

    It’s easily fixable. All you need to do is clean it with white vinegar and water and then make sure you rinse it kind of well with water on top of it and then, you know, dry out your basement with a dehumidifier and that white haze will go away.
     
    THERESA: Yeah. OK. Alright. Thank you very much.
     
    TOM: You’re very welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Butcher block, it’s a great option for your kitchen island or even your countertops, that is if you keep it clean. So we’re going to have the tips on how to do just that, next.

    (theme song)

    TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Give us a call right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or head on over to MoneyPit.com and post a question in the Community section. We select several questions every week from the community and answer them right here on the show, starting with this one from Sue in Illinois.

    LESLIE: That’s right. Sue writes: “One of our countertops is about 2 feet of butcher block. We put in new countertops and sanded down the butcher block to fresh wood. Should I apply anything to that wood? Somebody suggested mineral oil.”

    TOM: Actually, it’s a very good suggestion. You want to make sure that the mineral oil is marked as food-safe but that is a very good oil to use. Now, you don’t want to use vegetable oil or olive oil because it …

    LESLIE: No, that seems like it’ll go rancid.

    TOM: It does. It goes rancid; it gets very, very nasty. But mineral oil is actually a good thing to do. Other finishes for butcher blocks: you can use beeswax or you can even use walnut oil or almond oil; they seem to hold up reasonably well, too.

    But the most important thing when it comes to butcher blocks is to make sure that they are clean. Because while they’re beautiful, while they’re durable, while we love them and they’re just so traditional in our homes, the problem is that they’re very absorbent. They soak up juice from the meats and everything else that you put on there, like a sponge. So you need to be very, very careful to keep them clean, because they could collect E. coli bacteria.

    There’s a few ways to do that, starting with basic hot water and soap, scrubbing it very, very well and drying it thoroughly. But there are also some natural ways to sanitize it.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. You know what? Vinegar, straight-up white vinegar put right on your countertop is an amazing disinfectant. It’s really effective against bugs like E. coli, salmonella and even staphylococcus. You should keep a spray bottle of the undiluted white vinegar handy so that you can easily clean and sanitize the surface. Also, bleach makes a fantastic sort of sanitizer/equalizer of the surface. You want to do 1 teaspoon of bleach in 1 quart of water or you can even use a dilution of water and vinegar with that bleach.

    And if you do that every so often on your countertops, it’ll really do a fantastic job to keep it sanitized. But always clean it with the vinegar and the hot water and soap and you should be in good shape.

    TOM: Well, shopping for a fresh Christmas tree is a great holiday activity for the entire family. Just make sure the tree is right for you. Leslie has got some tips on how to do just that, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    LESLIE: That’s right. I know we’re going to be getting our tree this weekend after we jump out of the record studio and if that’s you …

    TOM: Alrighty.

    LESLIE: Oh my gosh, I can’t wait. As soon as that turkey is finished and done and it’s the next weekend, I am all over a Christmas tree. So, honey at home, get ready because we’re going tree shopping.

    Alright. Well, if you are also tree shopping and you’re looking for a fresh Christmas tree, here’s a few things that you want to keep in mind while you’re out at the market. The needles should look shiny, green and fresh; they shouldn’t be dry or brown. They should not fall off when you pull on a branch and remember that you want to measure the space in your house where you’re going to put the tree, both horizontally and vertically.

    And bring that tape measure with you to the Christmas tree farm, because we always end up with a way-taller and fatter tree than we can actually put in our house but I really like it, so I don’t mind that it’s so ginormous. And …

    TOM: It always looks very small at the farm. When you get home, it can’t fit, though, right?

    LESLIE: Exactly. Well, it looks small next to the bigger ones next to them.

    TOM: Right.

    LESLIE: But suddenly, when it’s wedged between your wall and your fireplace, not so small.

    TOM: It’s looking pretty dingy next to that 40-foot fir.

    LESLIE: Right.

    You want to make sure that when you’re picking your tree, that you look for one that’s got stronger branches, like a Royal Fraser Fir or a Noble Fir, because those will hold your heavier ornaments really nicely. And if it’s possible, you want to lay the tree inside your car or your trunk for your drive home.

    Now, if you do drive with the tree on the roof of your car, make sure you tie it down securely. If you want some more great information about tree shopping, why not check out my next blog at MoneyPit.com? I’ll let you know how my tree-shopping adventure went and give you some tips for you to find that perfect tree.

    TOM: And I think we should have a picture of your decorated tree, in the blog.

    LESLIE: Oh my gosh, I love Christmas trees.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. Happy Holidays, everybody.

    Hey, coming up next week on the program, we’re going to have tips on how you can cut your heating bill by 10 percent by installing a programmable thermostat. We’ll tell you how to do that project, 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.

    (theme song)

    END HOUR 2 TEXT

    (Copyright 2010 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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