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Home Improvement Tips & Advice

  • Transcript

    Hosts: Tom Kraeutler & Leslie Segrete

    (NOTE: Timestamps below correspond to the running time of the downloadable audio file of this show. Text represents a professional transcriptionist’s understanding of what was said. No guarantee of accuracy is expressed or implied. ‘Ph’ in parentheses indicates the phonetic or best guess of the actual spoken word.)


    (theme song)

    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: Have you started a do-it-yourself project? Are you directing a do-it-yourself project? Did you get stuck in the middle of a project? Well, anything worth starting is worth starting over with us. We’re here to help you get the job done, so pick up the phone right now and call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974 and we’ll help you do just that.

    Hey, do you want to make a small room look bigger? That’s what we’re going to talk about this hour. If you want to bring a big room down to size we can help you with that, too; all by using some very cool paint techniques. Coming up in just a bit; we’ll tell you how to do it.

    LESLIE: And also ahead, did you know that computers and other IT equipment that you might have at your home are using energy even when they’re off or even when you think they’re off? We like to call those energy vampires. We’re going to tell you how to shave a few bucks off that always-pricy electric bill in just a bit.

    TOM: And we get lots and lots of calls on the program about floors. If you’re thinking, though, about putting in a new kitchen floor, there’s one very important step that you don’t want to miss and we’re going to give it to you this hour.

    LESLIE: And you’ve probably seen them on TV and I’m sure you’ve even been tempted to order one or two of them. Well now we’re giving them away on the radio. We’ve got a prize pack of three Telebrand products including a Go Duster, a Stick Up Bulb and a Closet Doubler. This fabulous package is worth 65 dollars and you didn’t even have to stay up to 4:00 in the morning to see the ad. (chuckles) So give us a call now because they could be yours for free.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Boing, boing, boing, boing, boing; that is what’s going on to Stephanie’s floor in Utah. Are you bouncing everywhere; are the kids jumping up and down? What’s going on?

    STEPHANIE: (chuckling) Yes, whenever the dogs run through the house the kitchen island goes shaking because the floor is so bouncy. (Leslie chuckles)

    TOM: Hey Stephanie, how old is your house?

    STEPHANIE: My house was built in 1989.

    TOM: OK. And the kinds of floor joists that you have, is it a solid floor joist; is a truss joist; is it one – do they look like plywood I-beams?

    STEPHANIE: They’re I-beams and they’re 24 on center.

    TOM: How did I know that? (chuckles) I knew exactly what was happening when you said the floor was bouncing. Yeah, when you use those plywood beams, what happens is they have more flex than a standard floor joist and so they do bounce a lot. They’re not weak in terms of a structural issue but, man, the China sure rattles around when that happens. And I’m not so sure there’s an easy way to fix this. There’s a couple of things I’ve seen done.

    They’ve put bridging on that attaches to the bottom of the floor joist all the way across. I’ve always also seen folks construct what kind of looks like a girder in the middle of that span so that you’re shortening the length of the floor joist from, you know, whatever they are to half of what that is. The girder wouldn’t necessarily have to have any sort of footing because it’s really just there to take the flex out as they bounce. But the last thing I would check is to make sure that none of those beams have been cut improperly because one common error that we see, especially with HVAC contractors – heating and air conditioning contractors – is they’ll cut out part of the web, either the bottom web or the top web, when they’re running duct work. But assuming that that’s not happened, that flex is, unfortunately, fairly normal for that type of floor system.

    STEPHANIE: OK, wonderful. I’ll take a look into those options.

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

    LESLIE: She can also look into acrobatic tricks for the dogs to do. (Tom chuckles) They’ve already got that extra bounce.

    TOM: Yeah, built-in trampoline.

    LESLIE: (chuckling) Alright, next up we’ve got Dominic. Welcome to The Money Pit. What can we help you with?

    DOMINIC: Yes, want to replace our wooden fence with a vinyl fence and I was wondering about how to install the posts, how deep to go and the quality of vinyl versus wood.

    TOM: I think the best way to put in fence posts – and this is, by the way, regardless of whether it’s vinyl or wood – is to use this procedure. You want to dig the hole just a little bit bigger than the post itself. So if it’s a four-inch post you’re going to be looking to do like an eight-inch diameter hole.


    TOM: Drop the post down there and you’re going to want to put some crushed gravel around that post and then you’re going to want to tamp the crushed gravel as you go and build it up. The crushed gravel that’s properly compressed, properly tamped, does a much better job holding that post in place than concrete because it drains. It’s not going to be lifting out when it freezes; it drains. And so that’s really the best way to put in a fence post. I’ve done that for years and my fences just don’t move. Once I put them in they stay right there.

    DOMINIC: Just compact the gravel.

    TOM: Compact the gravel. If you want you can go to a rental yard and rent a tamping iron for a post. It’s a heavy metal bar with a round sort of two-inch plate on one end of it and it makes it really easy to kind of get into that tight space between the post and the outside of the hole.

    DOMINIC: Right.

    TOM: And you can tamp it really easily. But if you don’t want to rent one you can just take a 2×4 – like a four to six foot 2×4 –

    DOMINIC: Right.

    TOM: – and you can use that; slide that around the post as you tamp it down there. If you’re only doing a few posts I’d just do it with a 2×4. Little more stressful but it works just as well.

    DOMINIC: Right.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm, and you know, Dominic, the other benefit of the vinyl fence is that they look good on both sides.

    DOMINIC: Yes.

    LESLIE: So it’s never like you’re compromising one side based on what you have to give your neighbors. You know? Because it’s always common courtesy to show your neighbors the nice side of the fence.

    DOMINIC: Nicer side, right. OK. Thank you.

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

    LESLIE: You are tuned to the Money Pit.

    Hey, if you need design ideas, help hiring a pro or assistance finding the right way to approach your project, we can help. Give us a call with your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Hey, just like the right color can make a big difference when you wear it, the right color for your walls can make a whole room look a lot bigger; or it can tidy it up and make it smaller. Whatever you need it to be. Find out how exactly to get the look you want, next.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Therma-Tru, the nation’s leading manufacturer of fiberglass entry and patio door systems. Choose the brand more building professionals prefer and add up to $24,000 to the perceived value of your home. For more information visit ThermaTru.com.

    TOM: Welcome back to the Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show where a tool belt is always in style and a hardhat is generally a good idea. (Leslie chuckles) I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT with your home improvement question. One caller we talk to on the air today gets a chance at our random prize drawing. We’re giving away three Telebrand products worth 65 bucks; the kind of cool, handy stuff you see on television now and again: a Go Duster, a Stick Up Bulb and a Closet Doubler will keep you busy cleaning your house, doubling your closet and, I guess, getting more light. (chuckles)

    LESLIE: The Stick Up Bulb is kind of cool, I have to say.

    TOM: Yeah?

    LESLIE: I mean being a big TV watcher (chuckles) …

    TOM: Yeah, you like to order this stuff. Like I bet you have an Abdominizer. (chuckles)

    LESLIE: I probably do.

    TOM: And a lot of Solid Gold collections. (chuckles)

    LESLIE: And I also have a Thighmaster and a lot of soft rock collections. But the light bulb thing is kind of cool. It’s actually a battery-operated light bulb that you just stick on a wall and it’s got a pull cord so you can put it in a closet; you don’t have to worry about wiring. I mean that’s kind of neat, but I don’t have one. (chuckles)

    TOM: Alright. It’s all coming to you if we draw your name out of the Money Pit hardhat this hour. 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Hey, give us a call and tell us what you’re working on and maybe your project is a room revamp and the size or the shape of the room is giving you a hard time. Well, choosing the right color can have a major impact. I mean think about it. You wear the right color or pattern to look taller or thinner or younger, right? I mean you do think about these things when you’re choosing your outfit for the day. Well, you can use the same logic and fashion sense for your room. If you find that the room you’re trying to work on has a ceiling that feels too low, then paint it a super-bright white; it really opens it up and makes the ceiling seem much higher. Or you can even try vertical stripes. On the other hand, if you’ve got a dramatic high ceiling in your home, it could cause a living space to feel really cavernous or ginormous. If you want to visually lower that ceiling height, you can add a mid-to-deep hue on the ceiling or even add horizontal stripes. That sort of helps to bring everything down. Or what you can do is sort of create a lower ceiling with a crown moulding that goes from where – you know, not exactly where the ceiling and the upper wall meet. Bring it down and continue that ceiling paint down to the crown moulding. It’s all good tricks that you can do with simple home improvements to really change how your room looks.

    TOM: It’s a great hour; it’s a great idea; it’s The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT and let us help.

    Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: Rusty in Wyoming, welcome to The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?

    RUSTY: Hey, I’ve got a question about water heaters today.

    TOM: OK.


    RUSTY: With the power vent water heater, as opposed to a regular water heater …

    TOM: Right.

    RUSTY: … what dictates my having to use a power vent water heater since they’re so much more expensive? I do have a horizontal run in my exhaust of my water heater of about 15 feet.

    TOM: That’s why. Because usually if you have a higher-efficiency water heater you have to use one that has a power draft …

    RUSTY: OK.

    TOM: … and basically, you know, what this is is a fan that sucks the gases out of the water heater; sends it down the horizontal pipe and out the side. It’s a forced-draft water heater is what it is. And unless you have a water heater that can gravity-draft into a regular chimney, then you need to have a forced-draft water heater and that’s why it’s more expensive. It’s also more circuitry so that the power goes off, the water heater goes off and so on. But that’s what it’s all about.

    RUSTY: OK, and what about a direct vent?

    TOM: Well, it is a sort of a direct vent. When this thing goes across the 15 feet does it go outside?

    RUSTY: Yes, it does.

    TOM: That is a direct vent water heater. Yeah, you need to get the exhaust gas from the water heater outside and that’s why it has to have a powered vent like that.

    RUSTY: Alright, well that answers that question. I was wondering why that was so much more expensive and now I know.

    TOM: Yeah, that’s why. More moving parts, Rusty. (Rusty chuckles) Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Marlo in New Jersey listens in on WABC. What can we do for you today?

    MARLO: Hi, I just got a bathroom installed a few months ago and there are cracks already in the grout in the corners. So I was wondering if I could do anything or – I don’t think I’m going to have the people come back, so …

    TOM: No, actually that’s very common. The grout is not really designed to be in the corners but the tile installers always put it in the corners. What happens is as the walls expand and contract they do so at different rates, Marlo; so that’s why you get the cracks that will form. What you want to do is try to scratch or scrape out the grout in that area and simply caulk it using kitchen and bath caulk that has a mildicide in it – DAP makes one that has an additive called Microban that won’t grow mildew – and caulk that joint and then you don’t have to worry about it. It’s not going to grow mildew and it won’t crack again.

    MARLO: OK, great.

    TOM: Very, very common. Marlo, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Talking with Tom in South Carolina. How can we help?

    TOM IN SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, I have some kitchen cabinets that I painted about two, three years ago.

    TOM: OK.

    TOM IN SOUTH CAROLINA: And I used a high-gloss, oil-based paint and I’m not really satisfied with the paint job that I have and I was curious to know what kind of paint would be best for kitchen cabinets; what kind of paint can I put on top of an oil-base.

    LESLIE: Well, what are you not satisfied about? Is there a marcation (ph) that you don’t like? Is it not wearing well? What don’t you like about it?

    TOM IN SOUTH CAROLINA: It’s not wearing well and I think it’s because I didn’t prepare the surface well before I painted.

    LESLIE: Most likely.

    TOM: Yeah, because preparation is really the key and if you didn’t prepare it well then you’re not going to be happy with the results, Tom. You chose, by the way, the best paint, which is an oil-based paint, for kitchen cabinets and the reason I say that is because it’s the most durable and clearly it’s harder than a latex product. So what we would recommend is to sand those cabinets as best as you possibly can.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm, and you don’t have to start off sanding them. You can use a chemical stripper …

    TOM: Right.

    LESLIE: … to help break up that paint. One that I’ve used with some success is called Rock Miracle …


    LESLIE: … and it’s kind of pasty so it goes on almost like a rubber cement and you can actually see it change as it works. And then, you know, use a wire brush but don’t be too aggressive with it because you don’t want to damage the surface. And try to get down as far as you can and then you can go ahead and sand it. And that should give you a pretty clean surface. Of course, then use a tack cloth and make sure you get rid of all the dust and a paint brush – you know, a plain, dry paint brush is a good way to get into all the nooks and crannies to get rid of all the extra dust. And once everything is clean …

    TOM: And just in case, I would also recommend that you use a primer.

    LESLIE: Oh, yeah.

    TOM: Because you can’t go wrong by an extra layer of primer on because primer is really the material that gives you a neutral surface; it floats out nice and it gives you a great surface for the topcoat to stick. So, sand it down; get it real clean; add a primer and then topcoat it again. Now, I don’t know what you didn’t like about the oil finish you had before. High-gloss is risky. If you use a semi-gloss, you know, you can have a less-than-perfect paint application and have it still look good. When you make it really shiny everything shows.

    LESLIE: Also, there are additives, Tom, that you can add to your paint. The Flood Company makes one called Floetrol and Penetrol; one is for oil-based; one is for Latex. I can’t remember which is which at this moment. But it helps to make sure that you don’t get brush marks or any sort of dings that you might see in the paint in case you, you know, skip a brush stroke or miss a space. It helps to sort of keep things fluid a little bit longer so that they look smoother. And also, if you’re thinking about refinishing these cabinets, if you’re thinking about changing your hardware or the type of hardware or the hardware location, make sure you fill those holes and drill your new ones before you go about refinishing so you can make sure everything is dry and smooth and nice.

    TOM IN SOUTH CAROLINA: Very good. I never would have thought of that. Appreciate your help.

    TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Pete in New Jersey has got a washing machine that’s causing a bunch of trouble. How can we help?

    PETE: Yes, my washing machine, every time we run the washing machine for the first load of the week or a couple of days, it’s got a very stagnant water; almost like a pond smell to it.

    TOM: Hmm.

    PETE: We have to run the water and let it out and then …

    LESLIE: Like the load empty. This sounds like a trap issue.

    TOM: Yeah, it sounds like you may be having sewage gas that’s backing up into the washing machine. The drain on this is the first place I would start looking at this, Peter. You want to make sure that the water is going through a trap. Do you know what a trap is? It’s like a U-shaped pipe.

    PETE: Yes. And actually, you know what? It does not appear to be going to a trap?

    LESLIE: Well then …

    TOM: And that is part …

    PETE: It’s coming straight out of the back of the – out of the washing machine and then to the hose …

    TOM: Right.

    PETE: … that goes – and then the hose runs into a septic system.

    LESLIE: Well that’s why you’re getting – right?

    TOM: Ah, yeah.

    LESLIE: That’s why you’re getting the scent.

    TOM: Well, I mean it’s going to come out in the hose but where it connects into a pipe the pipe has to have a trap in it. So you may be pulling septic – you may be pulling sewage gas back up that drain hose into the machine. You need to take a look at the drain plumbing on this, Peter. I think that’s going to solve your problem.

    PETE: And just put a U-shaped trap in there, in that connector line, and then I should be OK?

    TOM: Yes, it has to be a fairly tall trap.

    PETE: Right, right.

    LESLIE: Because that water is going to sit there in the bottom and trap those gases …

    TOM: Exactly.

    LESLIE: … and keep that scent from coming up and that should really do the trick.

    TOM: Make sure that drain is higher than the washing machine, too, or you’re going to have a leak issue.

    PETE: OK, I appreciate that.

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

    Hey, when you work on a computer do you use that standby mode; the hibernate mode and all that?

    LESLIE: Oh, yeah. It kicks on.

    TOM: Well, if you do you are saving energy but you actually can do something even better. Find out how to make a power strip your best friend, after this.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit is brought to you by Aprilaire, makers of professionally-installed, high-efficiency air cleaners. For more information go to Aprilaire.com. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show where we make good homes better. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Call us now with your home improvement project. Call us with your do-it-yourself dilemma. We will explain why weekend projects always take two weeks. (Leslie chuckles) That’s one of the things we do here on The Money Pit. And if you’ve missed this show on air you can always get it online and download our Money Pit podcast, available for free at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Alright, folks. Well, while you’re snooping around at MoneyPit.com and thinking about your home improvement projects, you can see there’s a big number printed there; 888-MONEY-PIT. Pick up the phone, give us a call. Maybe you’re having some energy issues. Maybe you’re seeing some super-duper high energy bills. Well, there’s something you might not even realize. Your computers or your other office equipment – fax machines, anything with a little clock that’s on all the time even though you’re not using the actual equipment – they can be super-mega energy wasters; I mean big time. Even when they’re turned off electronic and IT equipment often use that small amount of electricity just to keep those display features running. Well, if you use a power strip for your computer and all of your peripheral equipment it allows you to completely disconnect the power supply from the power source; thus eliminating that standby power consumption.

    If you want some more great tips you should take a look at the new Energy Star video podcast. It’s a virtual, room-by-room look at your house. Super best of all, it’s hosted by your good friend, Tom Kraeutler.

    TOM: Is that where you learned that tip?

    LESLIE: I certainly did (Tom chuckles) and that’s where I learned the term ‘energy vampires.’

    TOM: That’s right.

    LESLIE: It’s got a lot of great tips on where you can cut energy costs in your home and it’s available at EnergyStar.gov. It’s a great website. You can also find it on our website at MoneyPit.com and on AOL’s real estate section. So you’re not going to be at a loss to find it, folks.

    TOM: You basically can’t avoid it.

    LESLIE: Exactly.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. You can’t avoid that phone number. If you have a home improvement question we’re here to help you out.

    Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: Something’s bubbling in Tennessee and it’s at Linda’s house. What can we do for you?

    LINDA: Hi, I have a bathtub and a toilet that sits sort of close to each other and when I drain the bathtub the toilet bubbles up and then the water drains out of the toilet almost all the way.

    TOM: (chuckles) That’s funny. The reason that’s happening, Linda, is because there’s a venting issue. The toilet is probably not vented properly or the bathtub is not vented properly, so what you’re seeing is an imbalance of pressure in the drain lines and it’s kind of sucking or drawing down the toilet as it tries to find air to replace all of the air that’s being pulled out by the action of the drain. So you need to have a plumber evaluate where the drain pipes are – where the vent pipes are running and you may need to add an additional one somewhere to let more air into that system so that doesn’t happen. That’s a fairly common condition in a house that’s not vented correctly.

    LINDA: Alright, well thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Larry in Utah, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you?

    LARRY: Hi, I’ve got a house that was made in 1927 and I want to finish the basement with some sheetrock and that and maybe put a couple walls up. But I don’t want to drill any holes into it and damage the structure of the wall or the floors. Is there something I can do to attach things securely without drilling holes in it?

    TOM: Well, I wouldn’t be too concerned about drilling a few holes in the concrete walls. I mean it’s not going to hurt.

    LESLIE: Because you’re going to have to build some framework in front of the existing walls because if your walls are concrete as well you don’t want to put your new wallboards right in front of it because then you’ll have a moisture problem because the moisture will be wicking through the concrete. So you want, what, like six inches?

    TOM: Yeah and you want to build like a fake wall in front of the exterior foundation wall. So you would stud out a wall. Start with a pressure-treated sill at the bottom; stud it up in wood. You can attach the top sill to the floor joist above – no reason you can’t do that – and then you’re going to want to drywall that area.

    LESLIE: OK, but to anchor it to the floor or the walls, I have no cracks, no leaks on anything. I don’t want to …

    TOM: You’re not going to cause a crack or a leak.

    LESLIE: No, just drilling and screwing into that concrete slab is not going to.

    LARRY: Oh, OK. So would I use some kind of like a hardened screw to attach the stuff in there?

    TOM: Yeah, it’s called a Tapcon.

    LESLIE: And you need the Tapcon attachment. It looks like a – it’s got a long drill bit and then this piece slides over it and has the driver bit for the Tapcon head. And that will do a really great job of conquering through the concrete and getting you a secure fastener. You might want to also, if you don’t have, rent a hammer drill for the day.

    TOM: You know, Larry, my house was built in 1886 and I recently had to build a very secure bench in the basement to hold some storage; had to be really solid. And I, you know, Tapconed my way right into 125, 135-year-old brick and no problem. Did a great job; clean connections; real strong and, you know, really no structural damage whatsoever. So I would have no fear about using something like that to tap this sill plate into the floor.

    LARRY: Alright. Well, thank you very much. I’ll check that out then.

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

    LESLIE: This is The Money Pit.

    Hey, stick around. We’ve got more great home improvement advice; especially if you’re replacing your kitchen floor. Don’t let your refrigerator stand in the way of a successful job. We’re going to tell you how to avoid a huge inconvenience down the road, right after this.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit is brought to you by Ryobi, manufacturer of professional-feature power tools and accessories with an affordable price for the do-it-yourselfer. Ryobi Power Tools. Pro features. Affordable price. Available exclusively at The Home Depot. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.

    TOM: Got your work boots on and nowhere to go? Well, stay right here. This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show where we make good things better. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete and we can fill up your home improvement dance card if you give us a call right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. You’re not only going to get your home improvement question answered on the air by us but you also get automatically entered into our random prize drawing. And this hour we’re giving away not one, not two but three products from Telebrands. You know, those as-seen-on-TV people? You’ve probably wanted to order a bunch of these. I promise you. You could win a Go Duster, a Stick Up Bulb and a Closet Doubler clothes hanging system. The grand prize package is worth 65 bucks.

    TOM: And there’s no call-before-midnight-tonight requirement. (Leslie chuckles) Just call us right now at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Hey, let’s talk about kitchen redoes; specifically, your floors. Take a little time to move around the appliances and lay the new flooring under them. Let me tell you what happened to my sister. She had to replace her dishwasher not too long ago and when the dishwasher installers came they couldn’t do it because the previous owner had tiled the old dishwasher in, so to speak. So, there was this lip …

    LESLIE: Ah, but lucky for your sister – (horn sounds) – Tom to the rescue.

    TOM: Yeah, but you know what I had to do? I only had two choices. I could have broken out the tile floor or I could remove her countertop. That’s what I ended up doing. I had to pull the entire countertop and sort of air-drop the new dishwasher …

    LESLIE: Oh, my gosh.

    TOM: … over the lip of the countertop.

    LESLIE: How much did that weigh?

    TOM: Oh man, it was hard. It was really hard. Because I had to …

    LESLIE: And then holding onto it for dear life as you sort of slide it into that opening.

    TOM: Well, imagine – because you know, you had to remove all the screws that were holding the countertop down. Now this was a laminate top, so …

    LESLIE: And disconnect the sink.

    TOM: You had to disconnect the sink, disconnect everything and then sort of pick the counter up to create enough space over it and then lift it out and over and lift …

    LESLIE: And teeter it under the upper cabinets.

    TOM: Right, and kind of like insert it in and twist it and everything. Anyway, we got it done but it took all day. But you can avoid that if you’re doing a flooring job in your kitchen by pulling appliances first and flooring completely under them. So do as we say, not as this old fella that put the tile in for my sister did and many, many others around the country do it that way. Make sure you pull the appliances out first and then lay down your flooring.

    LESLIE: Jim in Illinois, what can we do for you today?

    JIM: Hello. Yeah, I have a question about something that’s going on in my kitchen and that is getting kind of a dust or dirt or some kind of residue on my kitchen ceiling and it seems to pretty much follow the ceiling joist; almost like they’re magnetized to dirt or something like that.

    TOM: Jim, do you burn a lot of candles in your house, by any chance?

    JIM: Well, no. No more than anyone else.

    TOM: Well now, OK. Let’s – the way you responded it sounds like you do burn a few. What you’re describing is basically dirt – or it could be carbon from candles or other things that you burn or even from the cooking – collecting on the ceiling joist and the reason it’s doing that is because the ceiling joists are a different temperature than the drywall that surrounds it; they’re colder. And so as the warm, moist and dirty air washes and rubs against the ceiling, it leaves its dirt in the areas where the moisture condenses more, which is the bottom of the joist. That’s why you’re seeing those stripes. Now, what you can do about this, the ceiling above it – is there a second floor?

    JIM: No, it’s a ranch.

    TOM: OK. So what you can do is, first of all, go above it and make sure you insulate this ceiling carefully. I want you to insulate it between the floor joists and also insulate across the top of the floor joists with another layer. This is going to warm that up and stop the condensation – the sort of strategic condensation. Secondly, let’s talk about your air quality. Look at the kind of filtration system that you have in the house. Do you have an HVAC system? Is it a forced-air system that’s heating this house?

    JIM: Yes.

    TOM: I want you to put in a good-quality air cleaner. I prefer that it’s one that’s designed for the whole house, as opposed to one that’s like a fiberglass filter. One that – like a whole-house air cleaner like an Aprilaire or something like that would be very, very effective here. And those two things working together are going to reduce this problem dramatically.

    JIM: OK. Now, when you talk about an air cleaner, would just a higher-quality air filter in the furnace …

    TOM: It would be better but I would rather you have an electronic air cleaner which is going to be a lot more effective. It has a lot more filtration space.

    LESLIE: Well, and an electronic air cleaner is going to filter out a lot more fine and smaller particulates that could be causing respiratory problems; that could be causing dust to form in the house; it gets rid of odor, pet dander, allergens. They’re more effective because they’re just more powerful and the filter systems themselves are highly thicker and a lot more fabric so they really do a good job of trapping everything.

    JIM: OK, thank you.

    TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974. Call right now with your home improvement question.

    Up next, want to take advantage of some unused attic space? We’ve got some advice for one homeowner that might help everyone, after this.

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    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is being brought to you by Guardian Home Standby Generators, America’s choice in power outage protection. Learn more at GuardianGenerators.com. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.

    TOM: Welcome back to the Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete and do you find that you’re a big online shopper? You know – I have to say it – I am. I never get a chance to go anywhere so I’m always surfing the web and, you know …

    TOM: (chuckling) What do you mean you don’t get a chance to go anywhere?

    LESLIE: Well, it’s like I’m always traveling for work …

    TOM: Oh, OK.

    LESLIE: … and work stuff and work things so there’s never like, ‘Oh, here’s a cute store. Let’s go in.’ It’s, you know, it’s more like whatever can pop up on my computer and make it easy. And I know a lot of folks out there – you know, maybe you feel comfortable buying airline tickets or books or CDs; you know, things that you really know what you’re getting online. But do you feel apprehensive when you start thinking about wallpaper or bed linens or furniture or draperies? Do you really need to, you know, touch and feel before you purchase these items? Well if that’s been your sort of apprehension think again because online shopping has gone high-tech and now homeowners can shop for home goods in a whole new way. We’re going to tell you some smarter surfing tips in our very next Money Pit e-newsletter. If you’re not a member you should subscribe now. It is totally free. It pops up in your inbox every, single Friday. To do so, go to MoneyPit.com and sign up today.

    TOM: And while you’re there you can click on Ask Tom and Leslie and send us an e-mail question, just like Gloria did from Durham, North Carolina.

    LESLIE: Gloria writes: ‘We have a big, unfinished attic which is not being well-used for storage because of the flimsy, narrow, pull-down stairs. Without going into details, we cannot add stairs to get to the attic on the outside of the house and adding stairs on the inside is out of the question as well. I’d like to replace the existing pull-down stairs with something more substantial and less treacherous to use. What are your recommendations?’

    TOM: Well, there’s a whole variety in quality when it comes to pull-down stairs. The problem is that the builders generally, in new construction, just put in something that’s very, very inexpensive. But you can get a good, sturdy, aluminum pull-down staircase for that same space, which I think will leave you feeling a lot more secure going up and down. And another tip, Gloria, is that when you put in that pull-down staircase, make sure you weatherstrip the underside of it so that when it’s fully closed against the ceiling there’s no space for heated air to escape.

    LESLIE: Alright, we’ve got another here from Marietta in Livingston, New Jersey who writes: ‘I have well water. I’m told that if I want to sell my home it would be better if I tapped into the town’s water supply. Can I still use the well water for outside usage or should I switch the entire thing? How involved is this process? If you’ve got any advice or tips it would be greatly appreciated.’

    TOM: It’s not too terribly involved. You’re probably better off, if you have municipal water available, to go ahead and convert that so all of your domestic water for the household uses are coming right from the municipal system. But, you have that nice well installed and there are things that you can do. You can have the well water be used for a sprinkler system. Now that would save you a boatload of money and, typically, if you’re installing a sprinkler system, you have to decide if you want to put a well in but since you have one it makes perfect sense to use the well water for the sprinkler system.

    LESLIE: Now, how involved is the actual switching from well to municipal? Is there a large digging up of the property — perhaps the driveway – or is it pretty simple to get the supply to your main water valves and, you know, supply into the house?

    TOM: Well, that’s a good question and it really depends on where the main water is coming into the house right now because obviously that’s where you’re going to want to connect the dots there. Generally, the municipal water is going to be in the street in front of the house and it’s going to be brought in underground and it’s not as complicated as you might think because it really doesn’t need but a very, very narrow slot. And a plumber can install this with a tool that sort of slices the ground and pushes the pipe down at the same time. But it is a plumbing project and it’s going to probably cost, you know, one or two thousand dollars but I think it is a good idea to do it.

    LESLIE: And it’s good for resale value. So anything you can, in this market, to boost your home’s value, do it.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. We are here online 24/7 at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, standing by to take your home improvement questions. And you can also look them up on our website at MoneyPit.com. Use the project finder. You can search over 1,000 articles there that we’ve written about all sorts of home improvement topics; always there standing by ready to help you out. Thanks so much for spending this hour with us.

    I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …

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

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    (Copyright 2008 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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