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Make Sure Your DIY Deck is Sturdy, Transforming Your Home into Your Office, How To Pick the Right Contractor, and more

  • Transcript

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And we are here for you, to help you tune-up your money pit. Now, let me just clarify that we consider the money pit a good thing. We all have them. They’re our homes but they need a little care and feeding and we are here to help you do just that. So to us, a money pit is a bit of a term of endearment. You share our humor, pick up the phone and call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. Because we are here to share our home improvement knowledge with you.

    We’ve got a busy show planned for you. First up, do you ever feel like you need extra entertaining space at your house? Well, if so, a new deck can definitely keep the party going. So we’re going to show you, this hour, how to create a space that’s sturdy enough to stand up to fun times all summer long.

    LESLIE: And your home may not only be your money pit, it might also be your workplace. You know, with more and more people working from home, we’ve got some tips to help you set up a sweet space before making the switch to a new home base.

    TOM: And whether you are a DIYer or not, some projects do need the help of a pro, if you can find one. So we’re going to have some tips this hour on how you can find a good contractor. They are out there and we’re going to tell you where to look.

    LESLIE: And also this hour, one caller that we talk to on the air today is going to win a $100 gift card from The Home Depot to help you get started on your fencing or decking project. The Home Depot has the products that you’ll need to get the most out of your outdoor living space this summer.

    TOM: Visit HomeDepot.com or call us right now for help with your project. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. Let’s get right to it.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Jeff in Nebraska is working on a vegetable garden. How can we help you?

    JEFF: I want to make a raised garden bed and use wood logs. But I don’t know what kind of – what the best wood is to use, so I’m not having to – so it doesn’t get eaten away and I have to reuse or redo it every couple of years.

    LESLIE: So when you’re saying “wood logs,” you want something that looks more natural?

    JEFF: Yeah. I mean what I want to do is raise the bed up and to use it kind of as a border.

    LESLIE: Right, I’ve got that. But you want something more decorative rather than just pressure-treated lumber: boards that really do serve the purpose of containing the wood and raising the bed?

    JEFF: Something a little decorative.

    TOM: First of all, you want treated wood. Because if you have untreated wood, it’s going to rot. In terms of your options on treated wood, the most common option would be to use a pressure-treated tie.

    Now, ties are available in either 4×4 or 6×6 and they look pretty rustic. And when you put them down, they’re going to be kind of greenish and they’ll look unnatural. But give it a few months, it’ll start to gray out and blend in.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And dry out, even.

    TOM: And dry out, yeah, and blend in with the surrounding area. That’s going to be the easiest, most cost-effective way to go. And you can pick up those ties at home centers and they’re really not very expensive, because they’re designed to be decorative and sit in the ground. They’re not – it’s not the same kind of pressure-treated lumber you might use if you’re building a retaining wall or something of that nature. It’s basically just designed to be a border surround for a garden or a pool or something like that.

    JEFF: OK. When I put it down, am I going to have to – say, if I’ve got two or three stacked up, am I going to have to drill through them and spike something into the ground?

    TOM: Good question. Now, if you’re going to have two or three of them stacked up, you’re going to – what you’re going to want to do is obviously alternate the joints so that you have one long one go across two smaller ones, you know what I mean?

    JEFF: Yeah.

    TOM: And then once it’s all done, you can predrill and put in some long – they have 12-inch spikes that you drill through those. So you get a long drill bit, predrill it and then put a couple of spikes and that will hold it all together nice and neat. But you will also find that the weight of them – the sheer weight and the strength of them – is pretty sturdy by itself. But if you want to really tack it together, you can do that with long spikes. Or you could toe-nail it on an angle with Number 12 common nails towards the base, just to kind of keep everything in place.

    JEFF: OK. So, if I just nail them together and then add the dirt up against them, they shouldn’t go anywhere?

    TOM: That’s right. They’re pretty sturdy.

    JEFF: OK. Well, that answers all my questions. Thank you very much.

    LESLIE: Sharon in Illinois is on the line who’s dealing with a lot of leaky copper pipes. Tell us what’s going on.

    SHARON: We have a concrete slab for our home, with copper pipe in it. And we’ve been having some leaks – some bad leaks – and I have paid a plumber a lot of money. And he mentioned that there was a year that there were some defective copper pipes. And I’m trying to find out what year.

    TOM: Are you suffering from pinhole leaks? Is that what he said?

    SHARON: I believe so, yes.

    TOM: Pinhole leaks is a condition in copper plumbing that’s caused by the acidity in the water. And the problem is that there’s not a lot that you can do about it, short of replacing your pipes.

    SHARON: OK.

    TOM: It’s something that develops slowly and the strategies for dealing with this are to either repair the leaks as they develop or to simply plan and budget for a major upgrade of all of the parts of the plumbing that you can actually get to. Because over time, they’re only going to get worse.

    SHARON: Yeah. Well, we fixed the leak on the south end of our house and now, today, we finished the leak on the north end of the house. But I just wondered if there was some – we’ve had two other structures that were built on a concrete slab that have never had one problem.

    TOM: Yeah, it’s not the slab; it’s the acidity of the water. If you head on over to our website at MoneyPit.com and you search “pinhole leaks in copper pipes,” you will find a detailed article that I put together on this a couple of years back, that will give you all of the different types of pitting that are associated with copper pipes.

    SHARON: Yeah. Oh.

    TOM: But it really has to do with the pH of the water.

    SHARON: In the water.

    TOM: Mm-hmm. Yep.

    SHARON: Well, I just thought maybe – as the plumber said, he said there was a year that there was defective copper – rolled copper – and we thought, “Well, maybe that was the year this house was built,” you know.

    TOM: I don’t think it’s necessarily a specific year of defective copper; I think it’s just the pH of the water that’s going through those pipes that’s causing it.

    SHARON: Thank you, sir.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Now you can call in your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, have you held off building a deck yourself because you feared, perhaps, it was more project than what you can handle? We’re going to have a do-it-yourself solution, after this.

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

    TOM: 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 we make good homes better. Give us a call right now if you’d like to make your home better. The number is 888-MONEY-PIT. If you do, you’ll get the answer to your home improvement question, plus one caller we talk to on the air is going to win a $100 gift card from The Home Depot to help you get started on your fencing or deck project this spring. Whether you’re building a new fence or just planning a backyard barbecue, The Home Depot has the products you’ll need to help you get the most out of your outdoor living space this summer.

    You can visit HomeDepot.com or call us right now for your chance to win that $100 gift card from our friends at The Home Depot. The number is 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Rick in North Dakota is on the line with a driveway-repair question. How can we help you today?

    RICK: I have a concrete driveway that, over the years, it’s started getting little pits in it in some of the areas. It almost looks like it’s where rocks have popped out of the concrete from over time and there’s other areas that little – small, little scales or sheets of concrete have come loose. And I’m just wondering what type of a product I can use to repair those pits. I know I’ve seen, different times, where people have put regular concrete in there and it doesn’t tend to stay very well.

    TOM: So, what you want to do is use a concrete patching product. And it’s not just regular concrete or regular cement, because that won’t stick. It usually is epoxy-based. And I know QUIKRETE has a product designed specifically for this and you can go to their website at QUIKRETE.com. That’s spelled Q-U-I-K-R-E-T-E.com. The epoxy-based products will stick to the old, original concrete material and not fall out the first time the surface freezes.

    Now, I just want to also point out that being in North Dakota, I’m sure you get a lot of road salt on that driveway and that probably contributes to this. But if you’re doing any salting on your own, make sure you’re using potassium chloride, not calcium chloride. Because potassium chloride is much less corrosive to the concrete surface and will not cause that destruction that you’re witnessing now.

    Alright. Does that help you out?

    RICK: Yep. That does. Thank you very much for your assistance.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Bonnie in California. Welcome to The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    BONNIE: We have a condo that we’ve – it’s been rented for 12 years. And when our renters moved out, we were going to sell it. And we saw stains on the carpet and we thought, “Well, we’ll pull up the carpet, replace it and just paint and clean up and put it up for sale.”

    TOM: Right.

    BONNIE: Well, when we pulled the carpet back, the cement slab – it’s a cement slab, single-level condo, 1,600 – almost 1,700 square feet with a cement-slab floor. And when we pulled back the carpet, we found that it was very damp and there was that white, fuzzy kind of effervescence or whatever they call it that comes up from the cement.

    TOM: Efflorescence. Mm-hmm.

    BONNIE: Lots of that. We tore up all the flooring and thought, “Well, we’ll go ahead and hire a contractor and have it all fixed and put new stuff down.” And it didn’t dry out; it just was damp.

    But in any case, this problem is not getting solved. We have – we don’t know where to go from here. We want to figure out if there’s some way to seal that floor that is going to keep it from, you know, ruining the carpet and wood again and get it for sale. But fix it so that it’s – so that we can say it’s fixed.

    TOM: Alright. Well, here’s what I think is going on, based on your description. If you’ve got that much of a water source that close to the concrete slab – concrete is very hydroscopic. I mean it will really absorb water like crazy. And so if the ground outside is saturated, that is clearly drawing through the concrete into the interior and that’s why the floor has been so wet. My concern is that this could develop, if it hasn’t already, into a mold problem.

    The bad news for the condominium association is that if they’re responsible for the structure of this building, which would include the floor, this is their problem to fix, not your problem to fix. And if I was advising them, I would tell them to stop calling contractors to check leaking ponds and start calling professional engineers that can analyze the building and figure out exactly what’s going on and prescribe the proper fix. They’ve got to think big here, not think small. Because I think they have a lot of liability, because it’s probably not you; you just happen to be the one that found it. But if your neighbors start pulling up carpet, they’re going to probably find the same thing.

    All that you can do on the inside is really stop-gap. You can clean up the efflorescence, you can put a masonry sealer on the floor. But the problem is that that concrete is going to continue to get wet, continue to get damp and eventually it’s going to pull back into the unit. So, I think that you need to have a very serious sit-down with that condominium association.

    BONNIE: Mm-hmm. OK.

    TOM: Alright? Good luck, Bonnie.

    BONNIE: Thank you very much.

    TOM: Thank you for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, with the weather warming up, you are no doubt thinking about enjoying your outdoor space. And if that doesn’t include a deck, now is the time to start planning for one. This is totally a doable do-it-yourself project. Perhaps the most important part, though, of deck construction is to be sure that you’ve got a sturdy structure.

    Now, every year we hear stories of an overcrowded deck collapsing, so the framing has got to be properly sized and securely attached to your house. Your posts need to be anchored in concrete and the fasteners have got to be corrosion-resistant to really make sure that everything stands up to weathering.

    TOM: Exactly. Now, next you need to carefully consider the decking and the railing materials. For that, composite is the way to go. And Trex Enhance, for example, is an ideal decking material. The manufacturer is a sponsor of our program and the product is available right now at The Home Depot. So, you can start to build your outdoor oasis pretty much right away.

    Trex Enhance is a cool product. It offers real value for do-it-yourselfers. You can take pride in knowing that you’ve improved your home with your own two hands. And decks will add value to your home, as well.

    LESLIE: And for an even more professional look, you can use the Trex hidden fasteners, which are cool because they help create a smooth, seamless deck surface, which would be free of nails and screws.

    TOM: And you can get all the information and support you need to get started on your deck project, from the experts at Trex and The Home Depot, at HomeDepot.Trex.com. That’s HomeDepot.Trex.com.

    LESLIE: Dorothy in California is on the line and she needs some help with a wall texture. Tell us what you’re working on.

    DOROTHY: Well, what we had – we have the wall and it was a heater there. We took the heater out; it was – it’s in the hallway. And then we finished everything and now we’re trying to find a way to kind of match the texture that was there originally.

    TOM: And what kind of texture would you – how would you describe this texture, Dorothy?

    DOROTHY: Well, it would have – like some of them will be a round shape and the other ones like an oval shape. And then they would have little, tiny circles. And then, in some cases, you would have – like they went over with a brush or something. So they’re kind of a different type of shape and sizes of circles or oval shape.

    TOM: OK. So, one of the things that you can do is you could – once that’s all patched and repaired – is you can apply some spackle to the surface of the drywall, like we used to do when it was Plaster of Paris?

    DOROTHY: OK.

    TOM: And then you can take a wallpaper brush – which is a big, heavy, bristled brush – and twist that brush with your hand. Twist it and it makes circles in that wet spackle. And if it’s a big circle, use a bigger brush. If it’s a smaller circle, use a smaller brush. And you can twist it and try to sort of match the pattern as closely as you can to what was there before. And then just paint the whole thing the same color and it’ll probably blend in pretty nicely.

    DOROTHY: Alright. Thank you so much for your help. Thank you.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Eric in Colorado on the line who needs some help with a crabgrass situation. Tell us what’s going on.

    ERIC: My wife and I purchased a home last year and it’s my first time actually trying to maintain a lawn. So far, I’m pretty happy with what we have except I noticed that there’s a patch of grass that’s on one part of the lawn. It looks like it’s a different breed or a different kind of grass or possibly a crabgrass or whatever. I’m not sure if it’s a weed or what it is but I just want to get rid of it.

    LESLIE: There are products out there and if you search online, you’ll find some. One is actually a product called Crabgrass Killer and it’s on a website called MegaGro.com. And it’s truly made from all-natural ingredients. It’s got, I think, cinnamon bark and wheat flour and corn flour and cumin and baking soda. So it is made from organic, if you will, materials that make it a more safe herbicide for the lawn.

    But you have to know what kind of grass that you’ve got, because it won’t harm certain lawns. But if you happen to have bluegrass or fescue, you don’t want to use it. And being that you’re a new homeowner, new to identifying what kind of grass you have, this might not be the best approach. And that’s also something you’ve got to be sort of careful about.

    That one’s called Crabgrass Killer. You can search it online, read about it and see if that’s something you want to do.

    ERIC: So how am I supposed to know if it is crabgrass or if it’s some other – somebody just threw some different grass seeds down there for whatever reason?

    TOM: Well, you get crabgrass, you get chickweed. These seeds are in the air, OK? And they blow around and they land and they start to sprout. And so that’s why we use weed killers and preemergent herbicides and things like that, because it controls those and helps make sure that the grass can really – is really the thing that comes through.

    And so, as a new homeowner, you’re going to have to buy into the fact that your lawn is going to need some care. You wouldn’t go year after year without expecting to have to paint your house. You can’t go season after season without expecting to have to take care of your lawn.

    ERIC: OK. Well, great. Thanks a lot.

    LESLIE: Jean in Pennsylvania needs some help with a roofing question. You’ve got black marks on there. Do you think it’s moss? Tell us what it looks like.

    JEAN: I don’t know what it is. It is in the sun most of the day, so it’s not under a tree or it’s not in the shade, really. And I don’t know if it could be some kind of a mold or something that would be causing it. I tried spraying it with bleach to no avail, so I was wondering if there’s some product out there that …

    TOM: Yeah, there’s a product called Wet & Forget that will work very well for this. And just like the name implies, you simply mix this up – it’s a concentrate – you spray it on the roof and it sits on the roof. And if there’s any mold, mildew, algae that’s causing these stains, it will attack them and make them disappear.

    JEAN: Oh, well, that’s good. It probably is a mold because even though my driveway is in the sun all day, I found that there was a mold accumulating on that, also. So I guess I could use the same product for both?

    TOM: Absolutely.

    JEAN: Great. Well, thank you so much.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up, are you one of the millions of Americans considering taking the plunge and working from home this year? Well, we’ll have the things you should consider before planning your home office, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Trex, the world’s number-one, wood-alternative decking brand. Just in time to give your outdoor living space a summer upgrade, Trex Enhance Decking is available, in stock, at your local Home Depot. To learn more about the long-lasting beauty, hassle-free maintenance and industry-leading warranty of Trex Enhance, visit HomeDepot.Trex.com.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And one of the benefits that I enjoy as someone who’s self-employed is I get to work a lot from home. And I’m not alone. There are millions and millions of folks out there that do work from home. They may or they may not be self-employed; they may be in a situation where they’re allowed to work from home for their big corporate job.

    And what does that mean when it comes to home improvement? Well, it means that you need a home office. But what do you need to consider if you’re going to create one of those spaces?

    LESLIE: And joining us to share some insight on the topic of home offices, we’ve got Pat Esswein. And she’s the associate editor of real estate for Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine.

    Welcome, Pat.

    PAT: Hi, guys.

    TOM: So, real estate is doing quite well right now. And that’s a good thing for the market because it means that there’s more opportunities, not only with buying and selling homes but since the market’s doing better, a lot of people want to stay in those homes later and perhaps work from those homes. So, if we are going to do that, what are some of the do’s and the don’ts on creating a home office space?

    PAT: Well, the first thing you need to think about is who’s actually going to use that space. Will it just be you? Do you need or want to share it with a spouse? Do you want your kids to come home from school and hang out to do their homework in that space? Do you have an assistant?

    Secondly, you also want to think about what has to be in that office before you start altering a space or buying gear. So think about what paper and files you really need to have in the office, what materials you might want to have there: anything that really has to be there and also office equipment, for that matter.

    LESLIE: Pat, do you really need to consider whether or not you’re going to be having clients or other type of personnel that you might be working with coming to your home? I mean if you are, do you need sort of a dedicated separate entrance? You want to kind of stay professional, right?

    PAT: Yes. And if you will have business visitors, you do need to think about that. Or clients with whom you’re consulting. You know, if you can arrange the space or locate the space so that your clients can access it by a separate entrance, that’s ideal. But not everybody is going to be able to accomplish that. If you can, it’s great.

    TOM: Now, Pat, if we are setting up a home office, there are certain expenses associated with that. You have sort of the initial – well, we can call it a “capital expense” of buying the desks and the chairs and the filing cabinets and the phones and so on. But then you have the ongoing expense, like the utilities. If you’re going to run a printer 24-7, those things are plugged in all the time. And those copiers, they all eat up expenses that would be now sort of on the house bill. Can you take some of that expense and deduct it as a business expense?

    PAT: Yes. If you’re self-employed, you can deduct a percentage of your rent or your mortgage interest and other home-related expenses, such as your utility bills, equivalent or in an amount equivalent to the portion of the home – and this is key – that you use regularly and exclusively for business.

    Two things about that. One, if you’re someone else’s employee and you’re working from home but you have an office elsewhere, it can be hard to prove to the IRS that you qualify for that deduction. Secondly, if your office, as mine does, serves double-duty not only as your office but, say, as a guest bedroom, only the portion that’s used exclusively for your work counts.

    TOM: I can only imagine that if you get audited over this, you’re going to have some guy from the IRS with a tape measure in your spare bedroom, measuring how many square inches you’ve dedicated to your office work.

    PAT: You probably will. And one of the things that you could do to prove your case, possibly, is to take photographs of the space as you use it normally. I couldn’t qualify to deduct my home office because when our company comes here and we use this as a guest room, they use my desk as a suitcase stand and all their other stuff. So, I can’t claim that they stay on one half – on one side of a line in my office.

    I do know next year, when people file their 2013 income tax return, the IRS is making it a bit easier to claim the home office deduction. I’m not sure what all the specifics are on that but there’ll be news on that.

    TOM: So it sounds like there’s never been a better time to create that home office space.

    Pat Esswein, Associate Editor of Real Estate for Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit and filling us in.

    PAT: My pleasure.

    TOM: If you’d like more information, you can visit Kiplinger’s at Kiplinger.com. That’s spelled K-i-p-l-i-n-g-e-r.com.

    LESLIE: Alright. Well, you’ve no doubt heard horror stories about contractors gone bad. There’s a lot of those stories out there but there are plenty of great contractors out there, too. We’re going to tell you how you can find them, after this.

    TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show where home solutions live. 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 today is going to win a $100 gift card from The Home Depot. And that could help you get started on your fencing or decking project.

    Now, whether you’re building a new fence or just planning a backyard barbecue, The Home Depot has got the products you’ll need to help you get the most out of your outdoor living space this summer.

    Visit HomeDepot.com and pick up the phone and give us a call right now at 888-MONEY-PIT for help with your home improvement questions and your chance to win.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Eloise in North Carolina is dealing with some unwanted visitors: squirrels.

    Eloise, one tried to get into my screened-in porch last week because of a pizza box. I can only – and it scared the bejesus out of me.

    TOM: Must have been an Italian squirrel.

    LESLIE: Tell us. What’s going on?

    ELOISE: The squirrels have decided that they like the coziness of getting inside and down into the eaves of the porch rather than to nest in a tree. And they have started eating away at my house. I’ve noticed places where they’ve been gnawing, as well as the nests that are down in the eaves. How can I get rid of them?

    TOM: Well, there’s a couple of ways that you can deal with squirrels in the attic. It’s kind of like bats in your belfry: they drive you crazy. But there are some ways to try to manage these populations.

    First of all, you can trap and release. If you invested in a couple, or even one, Havahart traps – Havahart is a trap that has a door on it that lets the squirrel in, doesn’t harm them. Usually, you’ll use an apple or something like that as bait. We usually recommend you wire it to the frame of the trap, because they’ll figure it out and they’ll steal it and not get stuck in the trap. And then once they get stuck in the trap, you take the whole trap, stick it in the trunk of your car, drive out to a woodsy area, lift the door and off they will run happily to once again rejoin Mother Nature.

    Another thing that you can do is you could consider using a squirrel repellant. There are different types of repellants that are available. They usually are repellants that are designed to emulate a natural predator of squirrels, like fox or something of that nature. And you either spray them or you – sometimes they’re in a bag and you hang them in the area and that can deter them.

    But really, the first thing I would do is try to seal up any gaps that are allowing them to get into this attic space to begin with.

    ELOISE: Yeah, I have some homework to do. Thank you so much.

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

    Well, you might be a star with a staple gun and a Houdini with a hammer but unless you’re a professional, there are times that you’re going to need to call in a contractor to get those home improvement projects done.

    Now, if the project is dangerous, if it’s over your head or if it’s going to simply take too much time to learn as you go, it’s a good idea to call in a pro. You’ve probably heard, though, nightmare stories about contractors botching a project or taking way too long or even sleeping on the job. There are ways to avoid that.

    The first thing you need to do is to compile a budget. You want to know as much as you can about the project and what it’s going to take, so no one tries to overprice the job. Make sure you keep materials in mind, down to the brands and amounts needed. This way, the contractors will be bidding on the same project with the same materials.

    First, you need to compile a budget so you know as much as you can about the project and what it’s going to take to get it done, so no one is going to try to overprice the job. Next, develop a set of specifications. It’s important to have all your materials listed out, down to the brands and the amounts that you need. This way, the contractors will be bidding on the very same job with the very same specifications and materials and can’t really sell you a project where they’re bidding apples to oranges. This way, they’re all bidding apples to apples and you can compare them.

    LESLIE: Now, once you’ve done that, start asking around. Word of mouth is really important in the contractor world. Ask family, ask friends, go on websites like Angie’s List and read what people are saying about different contractors. Take bids from the ones you’ve selected.

    Now, remember, cheaper isn’t always better. You want to interview the contractors that you’ve selected and ask for a timetable. Most contractors want to do a good job and use you for a reference. It’s just a matter of finding the right person for you.

    TOM: And once you do, you’re going to want to hang onto them for the long haul. There’s so many of our listeners who’ve got great contractor relationships and they become like a family member, right? I mean once you get a good guy, you’re going to use them over and over and over again. So it’s worth putting the time in to find that right guy for your next project.

    888-666-3974. Give us a call and let’s talk about that project. We may have some additional tips to help you get it done.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Sue on the line who needs some help removing wallpaper. Tell us what’s going on.

    SUE: Well, I live in an older house that has every single wall in the house is wallpapered.

    TOM and LESLIE: OK.

    SUE: And I’m really sick of wallpaper.

    TOM: Yeah. Going to be a lot of years of wallpaper, too, huh, Sue?

    SUE: Yes, it is.

    LESLIE: Well, as a decorator, wallpaper is coming back in a big way. And big, bold patterns sometimes work really well in interesting spaces. But they might not always be what everybody wants.

    Now, Sue, tell me, is it paper or is it vinyl?

    SUE: I think it might be a vinyl. Don’t want it.

    LESLIE: OK. Now, with vinyl, you’re going to need to score that wall covering first, only because the vinyl is going to stop any of your efforts from actually getting to where the paste is.

    Now, I’ve done this before and it depends on how you’ve actually put up the paper and how long it’s been there and what it is adhered to. Was the drywall behind it prepared first? That’s all going to depend on your success rate in removing the wallpaper. But believe it or not – and it’s definitely worth trying; it doesn’t always work but it has been successful many times for me – you can actually remove wallpaper with fabric softener.

    SUE: Really?

    LESLIE: I know it sounds crazy.

    TOM: Works great.

    LESLIE: But you can mix about a 1/3-cup fabric softener with 2/3-cup hot water. Or you can even do it with – what is it – laundry starch: equal amounts of laundry starch and hot water.

    And the laundry starch, the benefit I find with that is that it ends up being like a thicker consistency, so it holds the moisture on the wallpaper where you want it, whereas the fabric softener and water is a little bit wetter.

    But you – if you’re using the fabric softener, you want to put it in a spray bottle, spritz that wallpaper, get it super-wet, let it sit there for 10 to 15 minutes. That wallpaper, you’re going to feel it start to loosen and then you’re going to peel it away. Start at the bottom, work your way to the top. You may need a scraper to sort of get underneath it and give it a lot of elbow grease. But with the laundry starch and hot water, you can put that on with a paint roller or a sponge. Super-wet the walls again, let it stand until you can peel away.

    And I would start there before I start renting steamers and getting crazy chemicals. Just start and see your success rate.

    SUE: OK. That sounds easier than I thought it would be.

    TOM: Well, that’s what we’re here for. Thanks so much, Sue, for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT and good luck with that wallpaper project.

    SUE: Well, thank you. I’m going to be starting it probably in the next couple of weeks.

    TOM: Good. And then we’ll talk to you next year when you’re finished, OK?

    SUE: No, no. It’s going to be (inaudible at 0:32:56). Thank you so much.

    TOM: You’re welcome.

    Well, if you’ve ever priced out the cost of getting a picture matted and framed, you may not be too keen on using that as a décor solution for your house. But never fear, there are less expensive ways to get that done and we’re going to tell you how to do that project yourself, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Trex, the world’s number-one, wood-alternative decking brand. Just in time to give your outdoor living space a summer upgrade, Trex Enhance Decking is available, in stock, at your local Home Depot. To learn more about the long-lasting beauty, hassle-free maintenance and industry-leading warranty of Trex Enhance, visit HomeDepot.Trex.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. And are you ready to make some money-saving and Earth-saving changes to your money pit? Well, why not enter The Money Pit Green My House Sweepstakes? Just visit our Facebook page, “like” us and you’ll be eligible to enter.

    TOM: And the grand prize is super-cool. Actually, it’s cool in more ways than one because it’s an Amana ENERGY STAR refrigerator worth $1,449. It features four adjustable Spillsaver glass shelves and an easy-close freezer-drawer system.

    LESLIE: We’re also giving away fantastic first-, second- and third-place prices. All are guaranteed to make your house more eco-friendly, just in time for Earth Day. If you share the contest after you enter, you’re going to get five bonus entries for every Facebook friend you refer. Enter The Money Pit Green My Home Sweepstakes today.

    TOM: And head on over to The Money Pit’s Community section if you’d like to post your home improvement question. That’s what Marnie did in Ohio. And Marnie says, “The previous owners of my home had mirror strips attached to the walls in the dining rooms. I got them off but it’s damaged the plaster. It took out chunks and I’m not sure what to do to smooth them. I tried sanding but the plaster is really old and seems to just crumble more.”

    I’ve got to tell you, Leslie, I have dealt with this kind of thing before, owning a really old house. And I’ve worked on the walls like three different ways. I have tried to maintain the old plaster walls, I’ve tried to tear off the old plaster walls down to the studs and I’ve tried to put new layers of drywall over old plaster. And looking at those three systems, hands down – of course, it’s the third thing I did – I decided that adding another layer of drywall on top of the old plaster was absolutely the way to go, for all of these sorts of reasons.

    Like Marnie says, the plaster falls apart and the more you work on it, sometimes the worse it gets. But by putting new drywall on top of the old plaster, you really lock in everything that’s behind it. It’s not going to crumble any further and you’ve got a nice, clean, soft, smooth wall surface to work with.

    LESLIE: Yeah, you know, that’s a good point, Tom. And I mean it really is a simpler solution to actually replastering a space. But if the goal is to have a wall finish that kind of looks like plaster, there’s a finish out there called Venetian plaster, which is available in several do-it-yourself versions. You can get a kit at any of the home centers.

    It’s a little involved; it involves some polishing. But it creates a really beautiful finish on the wall and you can do it in a ton of different colors. And once it’s on, it’s super-durable; it’s going to stay up there. And it’s gorgeous, so it’s an option if that’s what you’re looking for.

    TOM: Well, the walls of your home are nothing more than a canvas waiting for your personal touch. Leslie has got a tip on how to do that with pictures, on today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    LESLIE: That’s right. One of the greatest ways to make a space your own is to hang pictures that mean something to you and your family. But if you’ve visited a frame shop lately to check out the price, yowza (ph), you know it can be super-expensive.

    Instead, why not buy some cheap frames just about anywhere and customize the mat yourself? It’s much easier than you think. You just need some heavy-duty paper in any color that compliments the picture. Cut the outside of the paper to match the dimensions of the inside of the frame. Then with an X-ACTO knife or an actual mat cutter, you want to cut a square big enough to display how much of the picture you want showing.

    Now, here’s the trick. You want to get non-acid tape and tape only one side of the picture to the mat. Taping more than one side will cause it not to lay exactly straight or maybe even wrinkle. And then you can go ahead and mat like a pro. Go crazy, create a gallery. It really is a great way to highlight excellent family photos and some great moments and great memories, which you’ll want to cherish forever.

    TOM: Absolutely. This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up on the next edition of The Money Pit, when you finish a painting project, do you too frequently just toss the brushes away? We’re going to teach you how to properly clean those brushes so you can use them again and again, on the next Money Pit.

    TOM: 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.

    END HOUR 2 TEXT

    (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.)

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