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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.)


    (promo/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: It’s a great hour. It’s a great idea. Call us with your home improvement projects. We’ll help. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974. We’ve got lots to talk about today, starting with roof ripoffs. (Leslie chuckles) That’s right. Roof ripoffs. Now, when, you think about a roof ripoff are you wondering whether we’re talking about removing layers of shingles? No, we’re talking about getting ripped off by hiring the wrong roofing contractor. You know, when it comes to maintenance or repair for your roof, you have to trust somebody with some pretty important responsibility. They’ve got to be able to get in; get out; get the job done once, done right and not have to deal with it again. So, how do you find a roofing contractor that is trustworthy, reliable and professional? We’re going to give you some tips to do just that in a bit.

    LESLIE: And also this hour, is your tap water too hot? You know, Tom, I have to tell you …

    TOM: Yes.

    LESLIE: … my friend’s apartment in Queens, it’s like the challenge to wash your hands before that water becomes scaldingly hot. And I don’t always win. And in fact, scalds are one of the most common injuries in young children; and me apparently. It only takes a few seconds to cause a pretty nasty burn. You really want to make sure you stay out of the hot water and burning your hands. Not a good idea. We’re going to give you the step-by-step tips that you need to make sure that your house delivers just the right amount of hot water to keep both your family clean and safe.

    TOM: Good stuff. And we’re giving away a Zircon prize pack today. It’s worth 100 bucks. It includes a circuit finder and a MetalliScanner; a pretty cool high-tech tool to help you find those wires and pipes inside the wall so that you don’t get zapped or flooded out by a leak next time you try to hang a picture frame or something like that. (Leslie giggles) So if you want to win, call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974. One person will have their name drawn out of The Money Pit hardhat and get that prize pack worth 100 bucks.

    LESLIE: Lisa in Arkansas, welcome to The Money Pit. What can we help you with today?

    LISA: Hi. Well, I have painted the floor in our den.

    LESLIE: Ooh, what does it look like?

    LISA: Well, it looks pretty good. I painted over old linoleum tiles.


    LISA: And I primed it with a latex primer and then I painted it with an acrylic enamel which was also latex, I guess. It wasn’t oil-based; it was water-based.

    LESLIE: OK. Yep, latex.

    LISA: OK? My question is how do I seal that? Do I need to?

    LESLIE: Well, you would want to because it’s going to protect that paint from sort of being that top layer that’s seeing all of the most aggressive trafficking. So as long as you’re walking over something that’s in between your foot and the paint then it’s going to stay a lot longer. So you want to go with an acrylic topcoat or a polyurethane; depending on what you want to see there. And with an acrylic topcoat you can go with glossy, semi-gloss, satin. It doesn’t have to be shiny. It can still maintain that sort of smooth, rough-hewn look of just-fresh paint. But you want to put several layers down. Put one down, let it dry; put another down. You know, two or three to really seal in your artwork and make it last as long as you want it to.

    TOM: And the best applicator to use to put that on the floor, Lisa, is a lambs’ wool applicator. It kind of looks a bit like a mop. It’s like a piece of lambs’ wool on the bottom of a mop pole. And you use that to sort of mop the polyurethane onto the floor. You don’t want to brush it on because if you use the mop with the lambs’ wool applicator you’ll have no brush strokes; it’ll level out nice; it’ll be real shiny, real pretty and it’ll protect that painted floor.

    LISA: Oh, great. Do I need to sand in between the coats of polyurethane?

    TOM: No. No, just get the dust up.

    LISA: Oh, great. OK.

    TOM: Get the dust up. OK?

    LISA: Thank you so much.

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

    LESLIE: Tuning in on KWKY we’ve got Nancy in Iowa who’s got a bowing basement wall. Tell us about what’s going on in your basement.

    TOM: What’s going on?

    NANCY: Well, I have a basement wall that’s been bowing and outside behind my house is [about five feet is a retainer wall] (ph). So they couldn’t use anchor walls because it’s all cement. And then I was just wondering how I can solve the solution or …

    TOM: OK, let me play this back so I understand it. So the basement wall is bowing and then outside the basement wall, about five feet away, you have a retaining wall?

    NANCY: Correct. And it’s all cement.

    TOM: And it’s all cement in between. OK. So, the reason that this basement wall is bowing is probably because there’s been water sitting outside in that five-foot area between the retaining wall and the basement exterior wall itself. That water gets in there and then it freezes and over the course of the years it moves the wall a little bit, a little bit, a little bit and causes this bow. Can you give me some indication, Nancy, as to how much bow you have? Are you able to put like a straight-edge on it and tell me how far out of plumb it is?

    NANCY: No, maybe about six inches.

    TOM: No way. Really?

    NANCY: But the trouble is …

    TOM: Six inches.

    LESLIE: So it’s bowing out that much, like a mountain, from the wall?

    NANCY: Not – well not quite a mountain. (chuckling)

    TOM: (chuckling) More like a molehill.

    NANCY: Right. (chuckling) The trouble is that basement wall in that area is a living area because it is a duplex.

    TOM: OK. Well, let me just tell you, this is a serious problem. If your basement wall is bowing out so far that you perceive it to be six inches – it’s probably not or I think it would have been collapsed by now but it sounds like it could be pretty serious – this is going to have to be repaired. There’s a couple of ways to repair it. It generally will involve some sort of reinforcement or it could involve rebuilding the wall. One of the ways that this is done is by adding columns between the floor and the floor joists above – the floor below and the floor joist above – that basically add some reinforcement to that wall so it can’t bow in as much.

    But the first step here is for you, Nancy, to contact a licensed, structural engineer. Because the engineer is going to have to assess the situation and design a repair. It’s very important that you do this properly because that engineer’s report is going to essentially be the pedigree on this repair. Once the engineer designs it then you need to hire a contractor to follow the design and make the repair. You don’t want to just go to the contractor because contractors are not going to have the professional qualifications in and of themselves to design a repair. They may have some ideas …

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: … but you need to have it done by an engineer or an architect. And then after the contractor makes the repair, do yourself a favor. Have the architect or engineer come back and do an inspection and write a follow-up report. The reason I’m telling you to do this this way is because if you ever want to sell that house, this is something that could become a major problem for you. And if I was the home inspector on that house and I saw that and you had had it fixed and followed our advice and had the report, I would tell the buyers, ‘No issue. It’s been done correctly.’ But if you didn’t have such a report and I just saw some reinforcement up there one way or the other, it would be a big, red flag and that house would not sell. So it’s got to be done correctly. Do you follow me, Nancy?

    NANCY: Correct. Yes.

    TOM: Alright. I know it’s not what you want to hear but it’s a potentially serious problem if it’s bowing in that much. It’s got to be – it’s got to be dealt with.

    NANCY: OK. So I have to take – I have to take all the drywall and everything out to really see the wall. I can’t (INAUDIBLE) …

    TOM: Well, you know, an engineer, if they came in to do an inspection, there’s a couple of tools that you can actually sort of poke through there and see behind. One’s called a borescope. So it may not be that they have to rip it off to do the inspection. They may be able to take off a section of it. But clearly if it’s bowing out that much somebody’s got to look at it. You can’t just close your eyes to this, Nancy, because …

    NANCY: OK.

    LESLIE: Yeah, you’d rather open it up in a controlled environment rather than have it cave in on you …

    TOM: Exactly.

    LESLIE: … and be potentially hazardous to yourself, your home and your belongings.

    NANCY: OK.

    TOM: Yeah. Act on it now while you’ve got the benefit of time to do an analysis and make sure it’s repaired correctly.

    Nancy, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.

    Sounds like we just ruined poor Nancy’s day.

    LESLIE: I know but that’s a bad situation.

    TOM: That’s a bad situation. That’s not good. Bowing – basement walls are not designed to bend, you know? And if they do, you’ve got to get them fixed right.

    LESLIE: Well, now is the perfect time to get your house ready for fall’s chilly days. I know I can’t wait for some relief. Well, let us give you a hand getting your house ready. Give us a call to talk about 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.

    Up next, the maintenance and repair of your home’s roof is a big investment and it’s got to be handled by experienced and qualified pros. But how do you choose the right person for the job? We’ll have some tips after this.

    (promo/theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: AARP is proud to sponsor The Money Pit. Visit www.AARP.org/HomeDesign to learn more about making your home more functional and comfortable for years to come.

    TOM: Welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show where we make good homes better. Who are we? I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And if you call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT we may give you a Zircon prize package worth 100 bucks.

    LESLIE: Mmm.

    TOM: It includes a circuit-breaker finder and a MetalliScanner; a tool that can locate metal, plumbing, ductwork, rebar, nails and screws behind drywall, paneling, tile, stucco, plaster and even concrete.

    LESLIE: And it also cores an apple. No. (chuckling)

    TOM: (laughing) And it looks cool, too.

    LESLIE: It really does.

    TOM: Call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT if you want to win that prize pack. It’s worth 100 bucks. We’re going to give it away to one caller to today’s program; chosen at random.

    LESLIE: Alright. Call us up. Ask us a question. You know, we get a lot of calls here at The Money Pit about roofs; especially fixing a leaky one. And while some people tackle their own roof repair and replacement, it’s probably best to hire a professional; especially if the risk of falling is quite dangerous and you just don’t feel comfortable.

    But when it comes to hiring that roofing professional, how do you know who to hire? First, you want to make sure that you verify your potential roofer’s permanent place of business. You want to make sure they’ve got a telephone number, a tax identification number and a business license. And you also want to make sure that you ask the roofer for proof of insurance. Then follow-up and make sure that roofer is properly licensed and bonded and that they are financially stable. Do the research, folks.

    TOM: You know, that idea about checking for a permanent place of business is so important. I used to be on the licensing board. I was actually the chairman of it for the state of New Jersey’s home inspection licensing authority.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: And one of the requirements the state had was to actually have a physical address. They wanted to know where you were in case there was a complaint. And it amazed me, as we saw the applications come in – and I’m sure it’s similar with other professions – that so many pros out there don’t put their address on their business cards; on their letterheads. And so how do you know if these guys really even exist?

    LESLIE: How can that even be legal?

    TOM: Well, it’s not when you have a good licensing program. That’s why it’s important to check that. They need to have a storefront; an office; somewhere where you know they are a reliable, consistent, good, professional that works, you know, from a place of business. That’s appropriate.

    LESLIE: Yeah, their car is not a permanent address.

    TOM: Exactly. You know, here’s one more tip. Make sure you get a list of references and check them. So many times you ask for references from people that you want to hire to work on your home but then you don’t physically …

    LESLIE: And you just think, ‘Ooh, nice names.’

    TOM: Yeah, exactly. You know, you ought to call them. You ought to drive by the projects. You ought to ask the folks that they’ve done work for whether they were happy with the work that they did; whether they showed up on time; whether they cleaned up; whether they came in on budget. You know, ask the tough questions; do the research. And you’re going to find, if you go through this process, you’re going to find a good person; a good firm to tackle those roof repairs for you. Because they are so important.

    Hey, if you want some more tips on how to find a good roofing professional you can go to the website for one of the leading roofing material manufacturers out there; that’s Grace Construction Products. They’ve got a great website section with tips on how to hire a roofing pro. That website is GraceAtHome.com. Again, GraceAtHome.com. Or you can call us right now with your roofing question or your flooring question. Soup to nuts; floorboards to shingles; call us. 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: WABC caller Ruth from New York, what’s going on at your money pit?

    RUTH: Well, I have a little problem with my tile on my floor. I had them down about 20 years and they are beginning to lift up in some places. Now, I’m not really planning on staying here much longer and I would like to protect anyone from falling over them meanwhile. How can I get them to stay down? I had them repaired twice already and it cost me quite a bit of money. I would like to be able to do something with it myself. Is there anything that you know of that I could do?

    LESLIE: Is the entire tile popping up or are you just seeing it sort of protruding in a corner? Does it seem like …?

    RUTH: No, just some of them are coming up in the corners.

    LESLIE: Are they ceramic tiles or vinyl tiles. I’m sorry.

    RUTH: Vinyl, vinyl.

    TOM: You know, vinyl tiles don’t have a lot of adhesive on the back of them and if the underside gets a bit dirty or if there’s moisture that gets in there it is certainly going to pop up. When you repair them are you using a tile cement? Are you using a vinyl cement or what kind of an adhesive are you using?

    RUTH: I didn’t repair them myself.

    TOM: OK.

    RUTH: The place that I bought them in came in and repaired them …

    TOM: Mm-hmm.

    RUTH: … with professional, you know, glue or something.

    TOM: (overlapping voices) Hmm, and they keep coming up still? Yeah. You know, it sounds like there is some reason that they are not sticking. Now whether that’s dirt; whether that’s moisture; whether that’s an uneven floor, if it’s cleaned up correctly and the right kind of cement is used – the right kind of vinyl tile adhesive is used – that should definitely not be happening to you.

    RUTH: But he wants about $500 to repair it.

    TOM: Definitely not worth $500 to repair a vinyl floor. You could put that money towards a new floor and get a lot more value out of it.

    RUTH: Is there anything I could do just to keep it down now for a few more months?

    TOM: You know, I don’t think you need to have a pro come in to do this. You could go to the hardware store and pick up some vinyl tile adhesive. Are these vinyl tiles intact? The whole thing’s coming up?

    RUTH: Yeah, the corners mostly.

    TOM: Well but is the whole tile separating as well or is it just the corner?

    RUTH: Well, they’re separating from each other.

    TOM: OK, but the tile’s loose. So you can lift it and get glue underneath it?

    RUTH: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.

    TOM: OK. Alright. So here’s what you should do. Lift up the tile, make sure you clean it as much as you possibly can. Get it very, very dry. Then get a trowel; put on some vinyl tile adhesive; press it down at the place and weight it with something so it’s heavy and it sticks.

    RUTH: Uh-huh.

    TOM: And then you’re going to have to wait probably 24 hours and that ought to do a good job of making sure it doesn’t come up again.

    RUTH: Uh-huh. OK. Thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: David in Kansas, welcome to The Money Pit. What can we help you with?

    DAVID: I was wanting to repaint my garage floor.

    TOM: OK.

    DAVID: It has paint on it now but it’s – a lot of it’s already come off; flaking off now but it – I didn’t know if I had to remove it all or if I could put a product over it.

    TOM: Well, if you put good paint over bad paint it’s still going to pull off. So, I would say that it’s probably going to be a good idea for you to try to get as much of that old paint as you possibly can. After that, you really should look at some of the new epoxy paints that are specifically designed for garages.

    LESLIE: Yeah, they go on in a system. There’s a color that goes on first. There is even an additive that gives it sort of a speckle texture and this resin sort of sealer that goes on top of the epoxy coating. It’s done in stages. You can do a garage in an afternoon. It’s usually sold in a kit. The prices are right. Come in a ton of colors and it’s very, very durable; specifically for what you need it for, the garage.

    DAVID: Alright, well that answers it.

    TOM: Terrific. David, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now you know, Tom, I wish I had that problem.

    TOM: Yeah?

    LESLIE: Because a few years ago my husband and I were repainting the living room and, you know, I like to finish everything in one day …

    TOM: Right.

    LESLIE: … and were done with all the stuff. And I took the gallon of trim color; put it on the top shelf in the garage; closed the garage door – you know, this is 11:00 at night; half sleepily, home improvement days – closed the garage; hear this ruckus; open up the garage; the paint can has spilled; there’s white paint everywhere. And my husband starts to like sweep up – you know, scoop up, the paint.

    TOM: Right.

    LESLIE: And I’m like, ‘Why don’t we just paint this area white and call it a night?’ (Tom chuckles) And that paint has not chipped, moved, stained, nothing.

    TOM: It’s been perfect, right? (laughing)

    LESLIE: It’s perfect. And it’s an interior trim paint. And it’s stuck there.

    TOM: Hey, sometimes it all works out. (laughing)

    LESLIE: (chuckling) It’s a design choice, I call it.

    Taking a call now from Hawaii. Aloha, Peggy, what can we help you with?

    PEGGY: We’re ready to begin a renovation of our kitchen.

    TOM: OK.

    PEGGY: And I want – we have a – well, I have granite countertops but I want to do some kind of a design on the backsplash with tiles.


    PEGGY: And I wonder is there any books available that would help me, you know, figure out a layout of, you know, designs that I could go with?

    LESLIE: Are you looking for smaller tile that’s perhaps laid out to create an image; almost like a mosaic? Or something that’s just like a blend of different colors? You know, what is your goal here as far as the look?

    PEGGY: Well, I’ve seen – saw a picture in one magazine where when you’re standing at the stove it looks like you’re looking out the window at a great yard.

    LESLIE: Well, here’s an idea. There’s a company – it’s Susan Jablon Mosaics. And it’s S-u-s-a-n J-a-b-l-o-n Mosaics. Look her up online. And what she does is small, one-inch by one-inch or three-quarter-inch by three-quarter-inch, even half-inch square tiles. And you can put in an image and she will pixelate that image and assign tiles to each color and gradient to make that image. Then what she does is she mounts all of those tiles onto a face plate and it all comes to you so that you know exactly where it goes. It’s on a 12×12 sheet. You put out your tile adhesive; you put the 12×12 on there. Once it sets you peel off that facing. And you can have any image that you want there. And her prices are not bad at all and there’s a ton of choices. And it’s totally unique and custom for you.

    PEGGY: Now would that be her website, too? SusanJablon?

    LESLIE: Yeah, Peggy. That website is actually SusanJablonMosaics.com – all one word – and that goes right to her page.

    PEGGY: OK, OK.

    LESLIE: And it’s beautiful work. Prices are fantastic. It’s unique and it’s easy to install yourself.

    TOM: Peggy, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show.

    Up next, there’s one appliance in your home that catches fire – you ready for this? – 14,500 times a year.

    LESLIE: Wow!

    TOM: It’s a big problem. Want to know what it is and how to prevent it from happening to you? We’ll tell you, after this.

    (theme song)

    TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show.

    You know this saying, Leslie: Better living through chemistry?

    LESLIE: Ooh, it sounds like a science experiment.

    TOM: It’s a slogan that’s often been used by the chemical industry and it’s probably true when it comes to your lawn. You know, the products you choose to take care of that lawn include fertilizer, weed killer, pesticide. Stuff like that, you know, it can mean the difference between a lush lawn and one that, you know, looks pretty much like a hayfield. But you need to be really careful how you get rid of those empty containers. We’re going to tell you how in the next edition of the Money Pit e-newsletter. It’s absolutely free and it’s available at our website at MoneyPit.com. So go sign up.

    LESLIE: Well, that’s a really good point, Tom. You know, a lot of people don’t think about proper disposal of those hazardous materials. And the container itself could be considered a hazardous material. So you do want to check with your town. Pay attention to our e-newsletter that’s coming out. And all of those are really smart and safe ideas.

    And speaking about being safe, before the break Tom mentioned an appliance. It’s responsible for 14,500 fires a year?

    TOM: That’s right. You know what it is?

    LESLIE: Well, it’s – I mean it’s got to be something like a toaster, an oven.

    TOM: You’re close. It is, in fact, your dryer. Every year an average of 14,500 dryers catch fire and they’re responsible for up to 10 deaths; not because of wiring problems – because that’s what you would think – but guess what causes it? Lint balls.

    LESLIE: That’s crazy.

    TOM: Yep.

    LESLIE: And I remember when we first moved into our house and we had the lint balls being coughed out of the house. You immediately knew that it was these dryer ducts that needed to be cleaned out. And I – you know, never having owned a house before – didn’t realize that that’s something that really should be maintained.

    TOM: It’s an important maintenance step. So if you’ve not done it, go out and pick up a dryer lint cleaning brush – they’re available at home centers, at hardware stores – and clean out the duct from the outside of the house all the way to the dryer itself. Pull the dryer back, vacuum up all the lint. Make sure that the dryer exhaust duct is not crushed so that you have good flow out there. Because what happens is the lint builds up and it’s like kindling, you know, and you can get dryer fires.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: So be careful and this way your dryers will be absolutely safe.

    LESLIE: Yeah, and it’s a fun chore also.

    TOM: Well, we love fun maintenance projects. (Leslie chuckles)

    Why don’t you call us with your home improvement question? We will come up with a fun solution. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Let’s get back to the phones.

    LESLIE: Martha in Texas has a counters project. How can we help? What’s going on, Martha?

    MARTHA: I want to redo two end tables using ceramic.

    TOM: OK.

    MARTHA: Put ceramic on the top of them. Because …

    LESLIE: OK, what are they now?

    MARTHA: Excuse me? Oh, well they’re, you know, just regular tables. They’re sort of ratty looking.

    TOM and LESLIE: OK.

    MARTHA: And I want to fix them up pretty.

    LESLIE: So it’s just a basic wood table.

    MARTHA: Yeah, just basic wood end tables, uh-huh. I think they’re mahogany. I’m not sure.

    TOM: OK.

    MARTHA: But I want to put ceramic on the top of them.

    LESLIE: Is there any lip or sort of edging that extends around the …

    MARTHA: It’s – it has a little decorative – you know, like little scallop edging around it.

    TOM: Alright, because the key here is going to be how you treat the edge. When you put ceramic tile on top of everything, you know, the ceramic tile is not finished on the edge; unless, of course, you used a ceramic tile that had an end type of tile that was actually rounded down to the end.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: But still the best thing to do is if you have that lip of the table and it goes up – comes up about, you know, quarter of an inch to three-eights of an inch then you could basically grout against the edge of it and you could use a ceramic tile and not have to worry about looking at the end of it, so to speak.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    MARTHA: Yes.

    LESLIE: And also, because your side tables, you said, have a scallop shape to them …

    MARTHA: Mm-hmm.

    LESLIE: That’s going to involve a lot of tile cutting. So you might want to think creatively when you’re looking at tile choices. Look for something that’s small, like an 1’x1′ square or

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