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Learn Which Home Improvements Pay Off Big at Tax Time, Find Space in the Smallest Rooms, and Complete Your Half-Finished Projects Once and For All

  • Transcript

    TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show.

    Happy Holidays, everybody. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And we know that you are busily working about your house, out in your car doing all the things that we do on holiday weekends. It’s a really fun time of the year to do just that. So home improvement may not be top of mind but let’s face it: New Year’s is next. And that includes New Year’s resolutions. So why not think up a couple of New Year’s resolutions for your home, things that you’d love to get done if you only knew where to begin? And then call us and we’ll help you out. 888-MONEY-PIT is the telephone number, 888-666-3974.

    And if you’ve done some major home improvements in 2014, you might want to share that news with Uncle Sam to save big on taxes. This hour, we’re going to have tips on which home improvements pay off and pay back at tax time.

    LESLIE: Plus, have you ever struggled finding space in a small room? Well, HDTV design star Genevieve Gorder has solutions so effective that she was able to apply them to the state rooms on board a spectacular, new cruise ship. We’re going to tell you about her latest project and what we can learn from it for our own homes.

    TOM: And it’s time to ‘fess up. How many half-finished projects are lying around at your house? Well, a new study from Black & Decker shows you’re not alone. Learn why projects go unfinished and how to check them off your to-do list for good.

    LESLIE: And one caller we talk to on the air is going to win a set of Diva C•L Dimmers from Lutron. It’s a prize worth $90 and it’ll actually save you money over time, because the Diva C•L Dimmers are compatible with energy-efficient bulbs.

    TOM: So, give us a call right now. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Jessica in Missouri is dealing with a floor that’s sinking in on itself. What is going on over there?

    JESSICA: Hi. I live in a 128-year-old house and my kitchen floor has settled, maybe, in the middle. If everything is not strapped to my walls, it will go towards the middle of my floor.

    TOM: Wow.

    JESSICA: Yeah. So I didn’t know if you guys had any thoughts about a repair on that, if you think maybe it’s like a joist underneath there or …

    TOM: Yeah, does it sit on a basement or a crawlspace, Jessica?

    JESSICA: No, it’s dirt.

    TOM: It’s dirt. So you can’t really get under it?

    JESSICA: I have a crawlspace that I can get underneath it but it’s in the opposite side of my house.

    TOM: OK. So, can you get down there and physically examine the beams to see what’s going on?

    JESSICA: Yes. But it would take the size of a small child to get underneath there.

    TOM: OK.

    JESSICA: So, there lies another problem – is how to see what’s going on, where the best place would be to go in at to try to get that …

    TOM: Listen, I had to do a plumbing repair project on my own home, in a crawlspace that was about 6 inches taller than me flat on my back. So I know how tough it is to work in spaces like that. You’ve got to kind of shimmy in to get there.

    But the thing is, I am concerned with this sagging, that somebody has a look at that – those beams – to make sure there’s nothing structural going on, like a termite infestation or something of that nature. If it’s just normal sagging, well, I mean there are some things that we can do from the top side to address that.

    One of which comes to mind is that you could use a floor-leveling compound on this old floor. To do so, you are really talking about the entire kitchen floor, including the cabinets. Because to do it just in the middle might not be enough. You really have to go wall to wall on this room. And because it’s a kitchen, it becomes very, very complicated to do that.

    But the first thing is to evaluate the structure to make sure that there’s nothing going on there. And then the second thing is to look for a solution above it. It’s generally not possible to raise up a floor that’s already sagged, especially in a really old house, because it took 120 years to get in that position and you’re just not going to bring it back up again. Sometimes you can reinforce it a little bit with some additional beaming and stiffen it up a bit. But generally, if you want to level it, you’ve got to do that from the top side and not from the underside in an old house, OK?

    JESSICA: OK. Alright. Well, thank you very much. I appreciate you guys’ time.

    TOM: You’re very welcome.

    LESLIE: Keith in Delaware is on the line with a fireplace-decorating question. Tell us what’s going on.

    KEITH: I have a 2×2-foot chimney system, concrete block with a terracotta flue in it. And it’s in the garage. And on the living room side of the wall is a red-brick fireplace that’s 4 feet wide and floor to ceiling. And the hearth in front of it is also 4 feet wide and sticks into the room about 6 feet. And the end of it is a radius to the (inaudible at 0:05:17), kind of like a popsicle stick.

    And we don’t really – it originally had a wood stove on it, so there’s an 8-inch flue about 2 feet up off the floor. We’d like to change it over to some sort of decorative stone but since some of it’s probably attached to drywall, some of it’s attached to concrete block, do we take it down? Can we attach to it? Will it stay up? And then what do we do with the hearth? Should we try to chip some of the brick off and then put a stone on?

    TOM: So you’re never really going to use this hearth for a fireplace?

    KEITH: Well, it was originally for a wood stove. There was never a fireplace. We’d like to put a wood stove back eventually.

    TOM: Well, if you’re going to put something back, then you don’t want to destroy what’s there.

    KEITH: Is there some sort of product that’s thin enough that it doesn’t make it too big and bulky in appearance once we cover it over with some sort of a stone?

    TOM: Keith, you know, there’s a product on the market that’s pretty new. It’s called AirStone and their website is AirStone.com. And it’s an easy-to-apply stone veneer. You might want to take a look at that, because you could actually attach that to the top of the brick and come up with a totally new look to it.

    KEITH: OK.

    TOM: In fact, they’ve got some photographs of some folks that have done sort of fireplace makeovers, on their website, in their blog section at AirStone.com/Blog.

    KEITH: We had thought about painting it but we didn’t really care for the painted approach. I guess we’d have to use muriatic acid and all that to be able to cover it properly. We are committed to changing it, whether it be paint or stone. We’re just trying to refresh the room and give it an updated appearance and the brick is just an older, dingy, reddish color.

    TOM: Right. Now, I don’t want you to ignore the fact that painting this room with an appropriate color shade could change the look of it, as well. Right now, it sounds like the focus is on the fireplace.

    But Leslie, if he was to choose some complementary colors to kind of bring this all together, I think it could make an impact, as well, don’t you think?

    LESLIE: It can but with the brick playing such a predominant role, you’ve got to feel comfortable with it and the colors that will work.

    Now, with a red, your complementary colors to it are going to be sort of in the green/brown tones that will sort of work well in the color wheel. It really depends on what your aesthetics are and what the look of the space is.

    And have you thought about using a slate or a bluestone, some sort of different approach to sort of sheathing it?

    KEITH: We had thought about that. In fact, on the hearth, that would probably be a good choice because it would be easier to sit a wood stove on.

    LESLIE: Right. Just on the hearth and then leaving the rest brick. And then that way – I’m not sure how close to the wood stove you might be but you could do some interesting floor cushions to give yourself a little seating area around it or some cute benches.

    There’s even, I’ve seen – I’m not sure who makes them but I’ve seen some bronze-legged, little benches that would surround a fireplace hearth, that are upholstered on top and they’re sort of built into the hearth itself to create a surround?

    KEITH: Oh, that’s a neat idea.

    LESLIE: Since it does take up so much space and you could then utilize it.

    KEITH: Alright. Those are some great ideas.

    TOM: Hope that helps you out, Keith. 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.

    Happy Holidays, everybody, and Happy New Year. It’s almost time to change our calendars. I actually start writing checks still with the 2014, for however many weeks, before you finally realize it’s 2015.

    And so while you’re figuring out what the exact date is, maybe you’ve got some things on your home improvement resolution list. Want to tidy things up at your money pit? Give us a call. We’re here for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Coming up, the year has almost come to a close and it’s a great time to tally up all the money you’ve spent on improving your home. Because some of those dollars could actually pay off at

    tax time. Learn which ones do, next.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by the Chamberlain MyQ Garage. If you forget to close your garage door it alerts your smartphone, so you can control it from anywhere. Works with most garage-door openers. Discover smarter possibilities at Chamberlain.com.

    TOM: Making good homes better, 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.

    One caller that we talk to on the air this hour is going to win a set of Diva C•L Dimmers from Lutron. And that’s worth 90 bucks.

    TOM: They’re compatible with energy-efficient bulbs, so they let you adjust your light level while also saving energy. Visit YouCanDim.com to learn more about the Diva C•L Dimmer and let us hear from you with your home improvement question. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Tom in North Carolina, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    TOM IN NORTH CAROLINA: We have a house. It’s about – it was built in 2007. It’s about 2,700 square feet and we have two air conditioner/heat pump – you know, electric air conditioning/heat-pump units in it. And we’ve just been having headache after headache with trying to cool the house and heat the house with them.

    We have a vaulted – kind of a vaulted ceiling, which looked great when we bought the house, and the registers are on the floor. But we’re constantly – the air conditioning and the heat units, they’re just running and running and running and running and running and never really cooling down the house or heating down the house. The insulation is excellent at the house. I’m trying to figure out any alternatives – we do have a gas fireplace which, basically, just really doesn’t heat the house much but …

    TOM: First of all, you’re saying that it doesn’t work in the cooling mode or the heating mode. Is that correct?

    TOM IN NORTH CAROLINA: No, the cooling mode, it does work but – it cools the house down but it seems like the units run a lot. And I actually – to be quite honest with you, we did – we put some tinting stuff on some of the windows where they’re getting direct sunlight. But the heating side of it is just terrible. My kids are freezing on the second floor. We have a bonus room over the garage, which is pretty much insulated. We keep that door closed; it stays cool in there. And it just runs cold all the time.

    And when I bring guys – people – out to look at it, they say, “The units run fine but you might want to put ductwork here, ductwork there, ductwork here.”

    TOM: Well, there may be some truth to that.

    First of all, the fact of the matter is you need to understand that heating – heat-pump systems work different than a fossil-fueled system. A fossil-fuel system is going to warm air up and it’ll come out of the register at 125, 135 degrees.

    A heat pump works different. A heat pump is going to throw air out at maybe 90 degrees. And so, very often, with a heat pump, you hear complaints of that, well, it blows cold air. Well, it doesn’t really blow cold air but the fact is that if you have a little moisture on your skin, you put your hand in front of it, that moisture evaporates and that makes it feel very chilly. And that’s one of the reasons it’s uncomfortable.

    Then, of course, if it can’t keep up with demand, then it switches to its backup system, which is electric resistance heat. And of course, that’s really expensive to run. The heat-pump thermostat is designed to maintain a 2-degree temperature differential between what it is in the house and what you set it at. So if you set it at 72 degrees and it falls to 70 in the house, the heat pump will come on. If it falls to 69 or 68, the electric resistance heat will come on. Now, the air coming out of the ducts is going to be much warmer but you just more than doubled your expense.

    Now, if the system is not doing its job, there’s a couple of things I would look at before I thought about replacing it, one of which is the duct design. Because if you’re not getting enough return air back to those units, then that could definitely be a contributing factor. You said that you’ve addressed the insulation part of it.

    In terms of your thermostat, are you on a clock setback thermostat?

    TOM IN NORTH CAROLINA: Yeah. And we have it – I mean it’s at 66 degrees in the wintertime. That’s what we have – it’s 66 and 67. We don’t have …

    TOM: Maybe your kids are cold just because you haven’t turned the thermostat up.

    TOM IN NORTH CAROLINA: Oh, we’re from up north, so we can deal with that. But what happens is when it starts running and running and running and running and running. It’s just like that’s all I keep hearing every 2 seconds: click-click, click-click, click-click, click-click, click-click.

    But we have the option of propane. And being from up north, I lived with wood-burning stoves. And I grew up in Vermont and we had oil heat and electric backup for emergencies and stuff like that. But I’m just wondering if there’s anything on the propane side that might be more efficient.

    TOM: Well, certainly, if you went to any kind of a fossil-fueled system, it’s going to put out warmer air. But I would want to make sure that the duct system was properly designed and installed before I do that.

    Because if you change out your furnace and it turns out that the duct system isn’t installed properly or designed properly – if I was going to make a change, I would not want to just kind of get a seat-of-the-pants opinion by an HVAC technician. I would want somebody who designs these systems for a living giving you a good, reasoned explanation as to what’s wrong with the system and why it needs to be fixed. I want you to guard against the handy-guy that comes out that maybe does most of the furnace service going, “Well, you could throw a duct in here, throw a duct in there.” That’s not what you want.

    There’s a science behind this. It’s not a guess. You can figure out how many BTUs you need to heat a house, how many BTUs you need to cool a house. It’s called a heat-loss analysis or heat-loss calculation. And somebody that does this professionally can handle that.

    So, I would take a look at the duct system first, see if it really is designed correctly. Because, frankly, many times it’s not. And then, based on that, decide if you want to change to a different type of heating system or perhaps even add supplemental heat on your own.

    For example, you might decide that in that bonus room, where it’s cold all the time, that maybe some electric baseboard radiators in there would be a very inexpensive way to pick up just a little bit of heat – extra heat – when you need it, assuming it doesn’t need to be on all the time. It could be a low installation cost. Certainly a lot less than replacing your furnace and you could just have it when you want it.

    But take a look at the duct design first. Nine out of ten times, that’s the source of this kind of issue as you’ve described it.

    TOM IN NORTH CAROLINA: Thanks, guys.

    TOM: Well, if you aren’t writing off home improvements for 2014, you could be throwing some money away. While not every home improvement is deductible, some very common tax-saving improvements are often overlooked.

    LESLIE: Yeah, here are five deductions that homeowners often forget. First, basically anything that’s going to save energy could be a deduction. So, for example, a new, high-efficiency heating or cooling system, new windows, insulation, solar panels and so forth. You can get specifics at EnergyStar.gov.

    Also, home offices can be the home of even more deductions. So, for example there, if your home office takes up to 10 percent of the space in your house, that is the percentage of expenses that you can deduct from your gas, your oil, even your electric bills.

    TOM: Now, this next one is a little harder to understand. Uncle Sam actually defines a home improvement as any expenditure that increases the value of your home or extends its life. But you can’t write them off the year you make them. Instead, they go under the category of capital improvements that increase the value of your home over time. And they’re deductible once you sell your home.

    And also, if you suffered any damage from a natural disaster, the cost of that repair is also deductible.

    LESLIE: Finally, here’s one that surprises a lot of people: moving expenses. Now, if you’re moving 50 miles away or more and it’s for a new job, you can write off the cost of that move.

    TOM: So, keep improving and keep track of those expenses so you and your accountant can claim them come tax time.

    888-666-3974. Give us a call, right now, with your home improvement question.

    LESLIE: Diane in Minnesota has got a steamy bathroom. Tell us what’s going on.

    DIANE: Yes. The exhaust fan, it just does not seem to take the steam out of the bathroom at all. It just doesn’t work, for some reason.

    TOM: Well, where is the exhaust fan mounted? It’s on the ceiling and goes into an attic? Is that correct?

    DIANE: Yeah, it’s in the ceiling. I just live in an apartment, so I’m not exactly sure where it goes but …

    TOM: OK. Well, see, that would be a good place to start. Because you want to make sure when you turn on an exhaust fan that you can see it actually exhaust somewhere. And generally, it’s going to be a vent outside the building somewhere. And you can turn on the exhaust fan and see that vent open. So you need to figure out – or if it’s an apartment, you need to have a super figure out where it’s exhausting. Because it could be obstructed, it could be crushed, it could be blocked, it could be terminated. There could be a lot of things wrong with it.

    And the other thing that you might want to think about – and you may or may not want to do this, because it’s an apartment and not a condominium that you own, but there’s a different type of exhaust fan that’s out now. Broan and NuTone make it. Same company. It’s called ULTRA. And what’s cool about it is it has a moisture-sensing switch built into it – a humidistat – so it runs whenever the room gets moist. So, you can kind of set it and forget it. And you take a shower, it’ll just stay on until all the moisture is evacuated out of the room and then go off again.

    DIANE: OK. Well, thank you so much.

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

    LESLIE: Up next, have you ever struggled finding space in a small room or a small house? Things just seem to be getting small in this world. Well, HGTV designer Genevieve Gorder has solutions so effective that she was able to apply them to state rooms on a new cruise ship.

    TOM: We’ll find out about her latest project and what we can learn from it for our own homes, next.

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    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, you know and love her from HGTV design shows like Dear Genevieve and HGTV Design Star. And now, Genevieve Gorder, one of America’s favorite interior designers, is bringing her eye for standout design to the lofts and suites on board Quantum of the Seas. We are following along as Genevieve is working hand in hand with Royal Caribbean’s design team, influencing the décor and furnishings of this amazing new, luxurious ship with their fantastic state rooms, using her soulful and whimsical style.

    Welcome, Genevieve. I think it’s interesting that we’ve taken you, an amazing TV designer, on a cruise ship. And we want to talk about your work there, how exciting it was and what this means for our homes.

    GENEVIEVE: Well, what do you want to know first?

    TOM: Well, first, let’s talk about this project. This cruise ship, when looking at your designs, there are multigenerational aspects of this that’ll apply to our homes, as well. Because as you’ve designed these cabins, they really have to be, in a sense, flex space, right? Because they have to fit different generations, different uses. And everybody has to feel as comfortable as they feel in their own home.

    GENEVIEVE: Well, cruising – you know, I’ve learned and I really wasn’t a cruiser, self-admittedly, before I started working with Royal. It’s something that you do do with your family and extended family. And you go out for long periods of time. It is unlike any space that we use anywhere on land, as you are trapped in that space, in a wonderful way, for the entirety of your vacation.

    Typically, you stay in a hotel. You come, you go. So the durability of these spaces is something that no one else on Earth has to contend with. So it was an incredible learning curve. And how it works, how we’re confined and how to make it seem spacious to give the illusion of width when there isn’t any can make everything feel like a fantasy. It’s what we’re used to doing on television but to do that for 30,000 people at once is a pretty tall order.

    So, was it easy? No. But that’s why I did it. Because it was really, really exciting and something I’ve never done before. I took a lot of the same practices, of course, of color theory and space planning that I do in your home, to this ship. Because you want, in the end, for it to feel as comfortable as home but more aspirational than home.

    So then I had to take the other half as how I could learn to work with the confinements of what ship and cruising is. Because you are on this giant, moving vessel in the middle of the ocean and you have to play with the mechanics and engineering of a beast like that.

    LESLIE: I mean it’s really amazing and you’re right: everybody I know that’s a cruiser, if you will, goes with their parents, their grandparents, their children. So it is, truly, a multigenerational experience. And I like that the rooms have a flexibility to accommodate this opportunity, so that kids and grandparents and the parents can all be in one space but have their separate spaces so they won’t feel like they’re on top of each other.

    GENEVIEVE: Well, it’s a destination in itself, so you do go on these holidays with extensive family because it is something that every age group can do. And there’s something for every age group.

    At the same time, it’s also really affordable to travel like this. So sometimes, these are the only trips these families can take during the year if they want to go with such extensive family. It’s not like flying everybody to Turkey, putting them all up in a hotel, then paying for the day’s events. It’s really an incredible, incredible deal to do these experiences by cruise and people know that.

    So you have to entertain everybody. So how do you that in a stylistic way? That’s a very hard thing to do. But I feel like staying classic and really staying true to the environments that they’re going to be cruising through, you also have to take in effect that sometimes these ships move. So they’re taken from the Caribbean and brought to the Mediterranean or they’re brought to Alaska. So the environments change, as well.

    It’s really a puzzle. So fun. It was one of the most fun jobs I’ve ever had.

    LESLIE: And what did you take away from the experience, as far as dealing with these spaces that are so small that you’ve given the illusion of space and grandeur and functionality, that you’ll be able to sort of pass onto your clients on land?

    GENEVIEVE: You know what? It’s more the other way around, of passing on – “What do I do? How can I move my clients on land to ones who are cruising?” I think, so often, we don’t play with enough illusion, with enough grandeur on these ships. And as public transportation has become less glamorous over the last 100 years, it’s time to bring the fantasy and the glamour back and still keep a reasonable price tag.

    So, that’s – as you know, Leslie, that’s what we do on television. That’s our job. We don’t have enormous budgets but we have to make it look like there were. And that’s easy to do. I’m ordering 300,000 square feet of carpet instead of one area rug but I’m still looking for ways to make the hallways feel wider through illusion, through stripes, through patterns. You pull out every single trick you have. And you have to learn the real technical side of how ships are actually made, to really understand that. And that was – the nerdiest, most fun part of it was going to Germany and actually watching it be built in an enormous hanger.

    TOM: Wow.

    GENEVIEVE: I think …

    LESLIE: Oh, the pictures on the website are amazing. You look so tiny.

    GENEVIEVE: Oh, it was – the crane? Yeah. And I’m tall, you know? But it was humbling and such an honor to do. I think my job was really trying to give people the comforts and elegance of home and then, like I said, adding the aspiration of what it is to be at sea, which is something you can’t really replicate anywhere on land. You’re in the middle of this blue that you can’t imitate.

    TOM: We’re talking to Genevieve Gorder. She’s the design consultant for Quantum of the Seas, an amazing cruise ship where she’s been able to take what she does at home and bring it to the high seas.

    Speaking of illusion, I understand that they’ve figured out a way to kind of give you a window view, regardless of where your cabin’s located on the ship. Can you talk about that?

    GENEVIEVE: That’s true. Because there are a number of rooms on every ship that don’t have views. Just like you have the garden views or the ocean views in a hotel, these would be, I guess, the garden-view suites?

    And so what they’ve done is created a panel television to really show you exactly what everybody else is seeing. As we are passing through, you’re seeing it through a screen instead of a window. But what it does is it gives your room a greater sense of depth and you’re not out of the loop as far as where you are and what’s happening. But you can be in one of those rooms and still feel like you got the full experience. And you can always go upstairs and go outside.

    TOM: Sounds like a virtual balcony. Genevieve Gorder, thank you so much for filling us in on this amazing project. And we understand that you are about to set sail for your first voyage with the Quantum. Good luck with that.

    GENEVIEVE: Yeah. Thank you so much. Friday, we set sail. I can’t wait for you guys to experience it. I hope you enjoy it so much.

    TOM: We will. Thanks so much, Genevieve.

    LESLIE: Alright. Still to come, we all have good intentions now when it comes to home improvement projects, that we’re going to finish what we started. But it doesn’t always work out that way, does it?

    TOM: That’s right. Find out why DIY projects go unfinished and how you can make sure your projects get done, next.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. You’ve got questions and we’ve got answers.

    We’ve also got a pretty cool prize for one lucky caller that we talk to on the air this hour. We’ve got up for grabs a set of Diva C•L Dimmers from Lutron.

    TOM: They’re compatible with energy-efficient bulbs, so they can let you adjust your light level while also saving energy.

    Visit YouCanDim.com to learn more about the Diva C•L Dimmer. And let us hear from you at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Nicole in Illinois on the line who needs to fix a crack in a wall. And you’re saying it’s from an earthquake? When did you have an earthquake in Illinois?

    NICOLE: Well, it was just a really small earthquake. We get them just randomly, about one or two a year.

    TOM: Wow.

    NICOLE: Because we’re right on – there’s some fault that’s down south of us.

    TOM: And now that fault has worked its way up into your wall. So what does it look like? How big of a crack is this that we need to fix?

    NICOLE: It’s about an 18-inch crack and then that’s going down from the ceiling. And then it goes like – it goes diagonally up the wall and then hits the ceiling and then just moves horizontally on the ceiling for a couple of inches.

    TOM: So it’s 18 inches long altogether?

    NICOLE: Yeah.

    TOM: How old is the house?

    NICOLE: It’s not very old, like ’99.

    TOM: OK. So it’s a drywall crack then.

    NICOLE: Yes.

    TOM: Many people will simply spackle that but the problem is that if you spackle that crack, the wall is now always going to move – and walls always do move but now that the wall has a crack, the two sides of that are going to move at different rates. And so that crack will reform. The way you stop that from happening is by taping over that crack with drywall tape and then spackling it.

    Now, taping with paper drywall tape can be a bit tricky, so there’s a product out that’s a perforated drywall tape that looks like a netting. It’s like a sticky-backed netting. And that type of perforated tape is the best one to use because you put the tape on first and then you spackle over it. You want to do two or three coats, starting with smaller coats and then working wider as you go.

    And remember, the thinner the coat the better; I’d rather you put on more coats than put on too much spackle, which too many people tend to do. Then it kind of gets all gooped up and piled up on your wall and you’ll see it forever. So, thin coats – two or three thin coats – and that should do it.

    NICOLE: OK. Alright. Thank you.

    TOM: Well, a recent survey by Black & Decker found that although more homeowners are tackling DIY projects, they’re not necessarily completing them. Black & Decker actually surveyed 700 homeowners between the ages of 25 and 45 about their interest in home improvement projects.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And more than half of the respondents said that they have unfinished tasks that they need to complete. And most had one or two incomplete projects. Now, about 18 percent had 5 or more projects in various stages of completion.

    TOM: And the main reason was, of course, you guessed it: time. More than three-quarters of respondents say they didn’t have enough. And more than half said they didn’t have enough money. Now, we can certainly relate to that. It’s easy to let life get in the way of those half-finished projects, right?

    LESLIE: Yeah. But to make sure that you finish projects, you want to make a budget and stick to it. You want to purchase all of your supplies and materials before you even begin.

    Now, plan a timeline when you don’t have a lot of other stuff on your plate. Although it can be a motivating factor, trying to plan a project for a specific deadline like, say, a milestone anniversary or a holiday, that’s just going to add stress and it’s going to delay your timeline.

    TOM: Now, the best way to make sure your project gets done is to not bite off more than you can chew. And plan time to work on your project regularly until it’s done.

    888-666-3974. If you need some help getting restarted on that home improvement project, call us right now.

    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.

    TOM: OK.

    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.

    Alright. Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit.

    Well, there is truly nothing like watching a crackling fire on a cold night, unless you can’t see it. We’re going to tell you how to clean your fireplace screens for a better view, next.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And unless you’re lucky enough to live in a tropical climate, you’re not going to escape the winter without cleaning up a bit of snow. Be sure to go to our website at MoneyPit.com and search “snow removal tips” to learn how to safely and efficiently rid your walkways and driveways of snow.

    LESLIE: Alright. And while you are online looking things up and reading all about what we’ve got going on at MoneyPit.com, you can post your question, just like Albert did in Pennsylvania. And Al writes: “My replacement windows are about 10 years old. I noticed that they freeze or frost up about a ½-inch on the bottom of the top window. Every year, the area seems to get a little bigger. Is there a moisture problem or a window problem or no problem at all?”

    TOM: Well, it sounds to me like the thermal panes on these windows have failed and that’s why you’re getting this frost buildup. And so, I would just simply say, Al, that the windows are becoming less energy-efficient over time.

    You know, technology in replacement windows has changed a lot in the last 10 years and the prices have also come down. So, this is an opportunity for you to think about replacing those windows, because repair really is not an option. It’s not worth just replacing the sashes. It would be far easier simply to replace the windows.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got a post from Sarah who writes: “I have a problem in my basement. Most of the blocks in the bottom two rows, on the north foundation wall, are crumbling. There are additional crumbling spots on the remaining parts of this wall. Do I need to remove all the paint on the wall before using an epoxy patching compound or just scrape away the loose paint?”

    TOM: Well, the fact that you have deterioration on the bottom two rows of the concrete-block foundation wall is indicative of a drainage issue. I suspect that outside that north foundation wall, you have water that’s collecting along that foundation. And the water will soak into the hollow-block walls and then it will fall.

    And then you say, “Well, why is it only showing up at the bottom two rows?” Because those bottom two rows are filled with solid concrete; it’s called “solid grouting.” When a mason builds a foundation, they attach the foundation to the footings with rods that run up through those books – through those bottom rows of blocks – and they put the grout in to kind of cement them all into place and keep it all nice and neat and together.

    So, the first thing you do is address the moisture issue. In terms of the painting and the patching, yes, you do need to remove all that loose stuff. And then ­- you mentioned it­: epoxy patching compound. Best stuff to use to repair that because it’s guaranteed to stick to the masonry and not fall out.

    LESLIE: Yeah, that’s really going to do the trick. And then you want to go ahead and make sure that you use a paint that’s been specified for concrete so that you’ll get the best adhesion.

    TOM: Well, is there anything better on a cold winter evening than a roaring fire in the fireplace? But that’s only if you can see the fireplace through that dirty fireplace screen. Leslie has some tips on how to clean those screens, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    LESLIE: Yeah. I really do love a good fire in the fireplace. But if you really do want to enjoy it, you have to plan to clean the fireplace screen once or twice a season. You can’t just ignore it, guys.

    So, to get that job done right, you want to use a cleaning solution of 1/8-cup liquid dishwashing detergent per quart of water. And that’s really going to do wonders if you’ve got some caked-on dirt. And if you’ve been ignoring the cleaning of the fireplace screen, you will have some caked-on dirt.

    Then you gently scrub your screen with a soft-bristle brush and follow up by wiping with a lint-free cloth to avoid rusting. If you’ve got any brass sections on the screen, you want to use a brass cleaner and a lint-free cloth there to polish it. And it will glow so beautifully and really complement your fire. You’re going to have instant ambiance. I mean it really is a wonderful way to sort of complete your holiday season – is to have a roaring fire before you take that tree down. So make sure you can actually see it and enjoy it.

    And again, have a very, very happy New Year, guys.

    TOM: Coming up next time on The Money Pit, is that steady drip, drip, drip slowly driving you crazy? We’re going to teach you how to silence the drips when we tell you how to fix leaky faucets, on the next edition of The Money Pit.

    I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …

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


    (Copyright 2014 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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