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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: Call us now with your home improvement project. Call us now with your do-it-yourself dilemma. It’s a great hour. It’s a great idea. It’s the time when you get to reach out and touch the experts by picking up the phone and calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.

    Hey, if you’re a fan of home improvement you probably know that fancy kitchens rule the redos right now. You’ve seen the makeover shows. You may even know somebody that, you know, does an occasional makeover show. (Leslie giggles) The couple that puts in a $4,000 commercial range. You know, that kind of makeover. But the truth is you might not need to go that far for a spectacular kitchen. In fact, Consumer Reports did a great story in this month’s edition where they rated the top 10 most hyped kitchen products and why you might not need them. We’re going to talk about that this hour.

    LESLIE: And also this hour, is your lawn showing its autumn colors already? You know, brown and crispy? Well, it might just be taking a break; sort of just playing dead for now.

    TOM: Yeah, sort of rolling over and playing dead. (laughing)

    LESLIE: Exactly. And it’s doing a good job. And we’re going to tell you why most lawns are going to come back to life when they’re ready.

    TOM: And speaking of lawns, you know, building green is a great way to go but there are no real industry-wide standards on what it takes to really decide whether something is truly green or not. And of course we’re talking about how to pick a remodeling project that is environmentally friendly. So, this hour we’re going to give you some tips to help you be your own detective and determine whether or not the products you put into your project are truly green.

    LESLIE: And don’t forget to call in with your home improvement question or your home repair question because one caller we talk to this hour who asks their home improvement question on air is going to win a great prize. It’s a hat and bandana from the folks at Buzz Off and it keeps bugs away without sprays or lotions because it’s built right into the clothes.

    TOM: So call us now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974. Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Chris in New Jersey’s got some trouble with some dried grout. What can we do for you?

    CHRIS: Oh, Leslie Segrete.

    LESLIE: Oh, Chris in New Jersey!

    CHRIS: I love you! That’s all I have to say first and foremost but now I’ll get to my point. (Leslie laughs)

    TOM: OK.

    LESLIE: Well, thank you.

    CHRIS: I recently got a job cleaning dorm-type houses; three and four bathrooms apiece and large kitchens. Now every wall and floor surface is covered in tile which was done this past January. Now I go in there and they didn’t clean it off properly so it’s thick smears of concrete-like, you know, substance. I let it soak. I tried everything. And she’s expecting me to get it all off and I’m at a loss. I have no idea what to do. I tried to, like I said, wet it down and, you know, I don’t want to scratch the surface of the tiles and that’s on walls and floor.

    TOM: Chris, do you think this is extra grout? Is that what it is?

    CHRIS: It is. It is extra grout. She said so herself. And it looks just like mud’s been smeared all over.

    TOM: Yeah.

    CHRIS: They just initially wiped it; did not clean it off properly.

    LESLIE: So it’s not a clouding? It’s actual chunks.

    CHRIS: Oh, yeah. It’s chunks. It’s chunks and smears and thick at some points. Yes, on floor and walls.

    TOM: Chris, this is not a cleaning job. This is a repair job, OK?

    CHRIS: Oh, no. OK.

    TOM: They’ve done a sloppy job of it to begin with and if you can’t get it off through normal elbow grease – and I’m sure you’re trying scouring pads and all that kind of stuff –

    CHRIS: (overlapping voices) And I did, oh.

    TOM: You know, the professional tile contractors will sometimes go at that with sulfuric acid cleaners …

    CHRIS: Ooh.

    TOM: … which are very, very corrosive and have to use very, very carefully.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: But if it’s that sloppily done, I’m afraid that there’s not going to be a whole lot that you’re going to do to make this particular customer happy because it’s just not done right to begin with.

    CHRIS: Right. Well she just had a friend do it. It wasn’t even a professional, obviously.

    TOM: Tell her she got what she paid for. (chuckling)

    CHRIS: And now I’m stuck with doing these homes. And when you talk about three and four bathrooms, huge kitchens – you know, like dorm-style things? –

    TOM: Yeah.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    CHRIS: – I’m at a loss and I’ve been mopping and wiping. And she swears that it’ll come off but it hasn’t (INAUDIBLE).

    LESLIE: No.

    TOM: Yeah, well listen. You know what our advice is, Chris?

    CHRIS: Yes.

    TOM: Walk away.

    CHRIS: Walk away?

    TOM: Tell her you did your best. You did your best. You got professional advice and that, you know, she probably should have hired somebody that knew a little bit more about tile work. Because if you leave that grout on too long and it gets stuck to the top of the surface, man, it’s almost impossible to get it off. You can try scraping it off or even buffing it off, but if it doesn’t come off easily it’s not – it’s just not going to happen.

    LESLIE: But what the pros do use, Chris, is the sulfuric acid. You need to buy it at a lumber yard. It needs to be mixed exactly to …

    CHRIS: Oh, yes. And let her friend try that then …

    LESLIE: Yeah.

    CHRIS: … because I’m out of that. But Leslie, I love you. I just want to tell you.

    LESLIE: Thanks, Chris. I love you, too.

    CHRIS: And I watch all the home improvement shows and everything and I think you’re fantastic.

    LESLIE: Thank you so much. Don’t let one bad project ruin it.

    CHRIS: OK. Bye-bye.

    TOM: There was a big Leslie fan.

    LESLIE: Yay.

    TOM: Alright.

    LESLIE: That’s my cousin. (Tom and Leslie laugh)

    Alright, we’ve got a curb appeal question from Joel. How can we help you?

    JOEL: Yeah, hi. I recently bought a house and the stoop was redone. It seems like they didn’t do a proper job so there’s like some white residue left from the mortar between the bricks. And is there any way to get rid of that after like a few months later or am I stuck with that?

    TOM: The white residue that’s left may very well be mineral salts. Have you tried to wash it out with a vinegar solution?

    JOEL: I haven’t tried but I’m saying it’s rained many times and it doesn’t seem like – I mean I’ve been working on it and I think it might be part of the mortar from the brick.

    TOM: Well, the other thing that happens is you get mineral salts that are in the brick and sometimes it takes quite a while for them to sort of all rinse out. And as the water gets drawn out of the brick it leaves this sort of white, crusty deposit on it. And all you can really do is clean it but it will eventually stop.

    JOEL: So what would I clean that with?

    TOM: I would start, just as an experiment, with some white vinegar. Get a gallon of white vinegar; mix it up with a couple of gallons of water and wash it down and see if that takes the salt away. That’s very, very commonly what causes this kind of staining and it’s really pretty simple to get rid of.

    JOEL: OK, thanks a lot. That’s very helpful. Thank you.

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

    LESLIE: More great calls coming up but first, are you thinking about prepping your home for the fall? Well, we can help you get you and your home ready for all that work. Call in 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, when it comes to building new homes and updating your existing home, going green is a trend that is absolutely growing fast. But as the new green products start to really flood store shelves, you have to ask yourself which products are truly green. We’re going to help you answer that in just a bit.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Hey, you want those bugs to buzz off …

    LESLIE: Bzzz.

    TOM: … when you’re tackling those home improvement projects outside? We’re going to give away a prize pack today to one caller that will help you do just that. It’s a hat and a bandana worth almost 50 bucks. But it’s not just any hat and bandana. These are from Buzz Off and they’re treated with an insect repellant so you don’t need any sprays or lotions. You just pop on the hat, pop on the bandana and out you go. You can work bug free all summer long.

    LESLIE: Alright, well if you like the idea of being bug free that means you like to be outside and you like the color green. I know I’m stretching it but I want to talk about green building and the idea of going green is when you make environmentally concerned choices in your building products and the materials that you choose. And not only are you going to conserve natural resources. You are going to save money in the long run and it just makes sense. And in home improvement it’s an idea that is really becoming popular and thank goodness for that. Unfortunately, right now there’s no widely accepted standard when it comes to what makes green building materials green. But I think one factor that you should and must consider is the product’s durability. Because if you’ve got to replace something because it didn’t last as long as it should have, then you’re shelling out a second round of money and also a second round of resources. Not good.

    TOM: You’re absolutely right. You know, when choosing durable green building materials you want to make sure that they last a long time before they need replacing. Otherwise, they’re not really green. And here’s a good example. If you’re thinking about installing insulated windows and doors to cut those energy costs, make sure they’re installed with good flashing. Because if you don’t use the proper flashing they’re going to leak; they’re going to be a mess; you’re going to have to replace them; you’re going to have rotted wood; all kinds of issues are going to follow. So if you want to install them and have them not leak, use a product like Grace Vycor Plus. It will keep out the elements. It’s a high-tech flashing. It’s going to make sure your energy-efficient windows don’t end up leaking and costing you a lot more in the long run.

    If you want some more information on how to build green and get the right products to make sure your improvements last as long as possible, you can check out Grace’s website at GraceAtHome.com for more green building tips.

    Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: Neal, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we help you with today?

    NEAL: Yes, I would like to replace my driveway. It’s about 120 feet long.


    NEAL: Then on each side of the driveway my wife would like to have some pavers.

    TOM: OK.

    NEAL: Just for aesthetic value. Now the question is do you put the pavers down in sand or do you have to put them in concrete?

    TOM: No, you put them in sand. You would go ahead and build the driveway first and then after the driveway was built you would create a sand bed; you would excavate down probably about six inches or so. You’re going to push some crushed gray gravel. You’re going to level that out. You’re going to put a little bit of sand; place the pavers on top of that bed and then use some more sand to fill in the gaps in between.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: But you don’t need to put them on top of concrete. And, in fact, if you do there’s going to be no way for that paver section to drain properly.

    LESLIE: And you know what, Neal? Rent a tamping machine from the home center. Not only are they super fun to drive around but they make quick work out of leveling everything uniformly and easily.

    TOM: Yeah, the most common mistake is to not tamp that surface properly, Neal, and that’s when you get in situations where you see the walkways are all sort of roly-poly with weeds coming through.

    LESLIE: Wonky.

    TOM: Yeah.


    TOM: Make sure you have a really good base. The pavers are the last thing you do. It’s what everybody wants to get to but it’s the last thing you do. Make sure you have a great base and that walkway will stay like that for a long, long time.

    NEAL: OK, thank you very kindly.

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

    LESLIE: Jane in South Carolina, welcome to The Money Pit. What’s going on with your septic system?

    JANE: Well, that’s what I’d like to know. (chuckling)

    LESLIE: Uh-oh.

    JANE: I just bought this house and it never dawned me, being a city girl, that this would not be just the regular, you know, sewer line to the street to the – you know. And come to find out that it has a septic system.

    TOM: OK.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Which is very delicate.

    JANE: I know absolutely nothing about what it is or how to maintain it.

    TOM: All you want to know is flush it and wherever it goes after there is just fine, right? (chuckling) As long as it doesn’t come back.

    JANE: So far so good, yes.

    TOM: Alright. Well, listen. There are millions of homes in the country that are – that have septic systems; private waste disposal systems. Generally – I mean the type of system can change but generally what happens is when you flush that waste goes into a tank. And in the tank you have a bacterial field that is formed that allows the waste to deteriorate. And as the water level comes up it overflows and it goes out into a septic field which is a series of pipes that are perforated and that waste then drains off into the soil …

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: … and that’s kind of the way it’s dissipated. The thing that you want to remember about living with a septic system that you may not have had to deal with before is you have be very careful not to put a lot of bleach and things like that into your plumbing system because that can sort of wreck that natural degeneration that’s going on inside the tank …

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: … and cause the bacteria to kind of not be able to do their job.

    LESLIE: And also, in addition to bleaches down the drain, you want to make sure that you don’t put grease or oils as well because they do the same kind of thing. You also want to know that when they do need to be pumped – which is every couple of years; it depends on the size of the tank and the amount of people who you’ve got using the system within your house and also if you have a garbage disposal that can tend to lead to pumping more frequently as well.

    TOM: Well, unless you use a disposer that’s specifically designed for septic systems where it really, really grinds up the waste and those are available.

    JANE: Oh, OK. Well, that …

    LESLIE: And you want to – sorry, we’ve got a lot of info. You want to make sure that you have a map that tells you exactly where the location of the tank and the drain fields are on the property. Just in case you ever go to plant a tree or dig a post or something or put a pool in, you want to know where things are.

    JANE: Now is that something I have to have a plumber come and do?

    TOM: No. Have you – have you ever had – when you bought this house, Jane, did you have a septic system inspection done?

    JANE: No, no one said anything about it being a septic system.

    TOM: That’s something that you might want to have done and you may want to call your local municipal authority and ask about whether or not they perform septic system inspections. Or you could have a private contractor do that. A septic system inspection’s a good thing to do. You know, I spent 20 years as a home inspector and any time we had a house that had a private septic system we always did inspections on it. There’s different ways to do it. Typically what happens is you run a lot of water through the system and you put dye in the water so you can tell if there’s any breakdown or voids in the system anywhere. So that’s one thing that you might want to do and that will give you a good orientation, too, as to what you have to deal with there.

    JANE: OK. And would they do the mapping as well?

    TOM: They certainly should be able to tell you where the pipes are as part of the inspection, yes.

    Alright, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Diane in New York listening in on WABC has a cleaning question. What can we help you with?

    DIANE: Well, I tell you I have flaxseed oil in my carpet. (Leslie chuckles)

    TOM: How did that happen?

    DIANE: And – well, it’s unbelievable. I have a cat who has a problem. (Tom laughs) So in order for me to – (chuckling) this is the truth.

    TOM: OK.

    DIANE: In order for me to get the oil in her system I have to put it on her paw. (Leslie chuckles)

    TOM: (chuckling) Oh, no.

    DIANE: So I’ve been chasing her around the living room; you know, going after her trying to put smudges of flaxseed oil on her paw.

    TOM: Oh, boy.

    DIANE: And lo and behold, I didn’t realize it – because the carpet is beige –

    TOM: So you have little cat prints of flaxseed oil around the place, huh?

    DIANE: That’s right. And I have flaxseed oil. And I was just wondering if there’s anything I can do to try to get this out.

    TOM: Well, if you’ve got that much of it you’re probably going to want to shampoo the carpets. But another thing that you could try on sort of a spotting – spot-by-spot basis is to use dishwasher detergent; dishwashing liquid.

    DIANE: OK.

    TOM: You know, mix it up about a quarter dishwashing liquid, three quarters water and try to blot it on the stains. That tends to break it up and pull it out the same way oil gets pulled off of your dishes as you rinse them and wash them.

    DIANE: OK, good.

    TOM: And it won’t – it won’t damage the carpet either. But if you’ve really got it all over the place …

    LESLIE: Yeah, if it’s all over the place you’re not going to want to do that everywhere.

    TOM: (overlapping voices) Yeah, you might want to rent a steam cleaner. And find some other way to keep your cat healthy, would you? (laughing)

    DIANE: (chuckling) So I’ll do that and look into the steam cleaning also. Thank you very, very much.

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

    That’s the part of pet ownership that nobody thinks about.

    LESLIE: (chuckling) But it’s so funny that you …

    TOM: (INAUDIBLE) housekeeping.

    LESLIE: You know you can see her cat just licking it off of her paw. (Tom chuckles) That’s the only way they’ll get the cat to do it. That’s funny.

    Bruce in Nebraska’s got some leaky roof vents. What can we help you with?

    BRUCE: Hey, I’ve got a problem with some roof vents in my house.

    TOM: OK.

    BRUCE: And in the wintertime the snow blows in them. (chuckling) And then it melts when it warms up.

    TOM: OK.

    BRUCE: I was wondering do you have a solution for that other than, I don’t know, stuffing newspaper in them or whatever or what? (Leslie chuckles)

    TOM: What kind of roof vents do you have? Are they the big, square ones or are they ridge vents? What do you have?

    BRUCE: No, they’re the square ones, you know, that you put up in your roof.

    TOM: OK. You know, Bruce, when you have a lot of wind-driven snow like that there’s a special type of vent called a filter vent that has like a filter material in it that lets the air go in and out but it stops some of that snow from blowing in. And it’s sort of like a fiberglass filter material that sort of sits in the vent opening. Now, unfortunately I don’t know if this material is available in a retrofit situation where you have the existing vents. But I know that different vent manufacturers make filter vent type products. And I think one of them is CertainTeed. I think they make a filter vent product that has the matting in it so the snow stops blowing in.

    You know, I’ve seen that happen many times; although, generally, it’s never added up to any type of damage. So it may just be an annoyance for you.

    BRUCE: Yeah, that’s kind of annoying. You know it looks like your roof’s leaking in the house.

    TOM: I’ve gone on the roofs in the middle of the winter and seen small snow piles inside the attic. (Leslie chuckles)

    BRUCE: Yep, yep.

    TOM: It’s kind of disturbing but it doesn’t really hurt that much, believe it or not.

    BRUCE: Okey-doke. Well that was my question.

    TOM: Alright, Bruce. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: You are tuned in to The Money Pit.

    Alright, well a kitchen renovation can mean an increase in your home’s value. And it’s about an 80 percent return on investment; which is a good thing. But don’t overdo it. You probably don’t need that professional cooktop or that fridge with the TV built into it no matter how cool it is. We’re going to tell you why these hyped products are probably not necessary, next.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Call us right now with your home improvement question. Call us with your do-it-yourself dilemma. Call us especially if you’re thinking about working on kitchens. You know, it’s what homeowners usually spend money on first when they decide to remodel. And it’s also what buyers usually look at first. In fact, it’s the one room in the house that must say, ‘Wow!’ But kitchens are going really high-end so you might be starting to wonder if a $4,000 range is really worth that hype.

    LESLIE: Well, yeah. That’s exactly what the experts at Consumer Reports were wondering. So they came up with a top 10 list of the most hyped kitchen products and what to buy instead. Joining us we’ve got Celia Kuperszmid-Lehrman who’s the Deputy Home Editor of the magazine.

    Welcome, Celia.

    CELIA: Thank you. Thank you very much. I’m happy to be here.

    LESLIE: You know, Celia, this is really an interesting idea. How did you guys even come up with this? Because it really is such an amazing concept. Folks just want to spend a ton of money on things. Is it worth it?

    CELIA: Well, you know, we wanted to see what’s worth spending your money on. Because people are spending money on kitchen appliances; on kitchen products. And you really want – you can spend a fortune on these products.

    LESLIE: Yeah, you can.

    CELIA: And you don’t want to make a mistake. If you’re going to spend the money you want to know that it’s money well spent. And that’s what we were trying to do with our testing. We tested a wide range of products at all different prices to see how much do you really need to spend to get good performance and high style.

    TOM: Alright and you came up with a top 10 list of most hyped products. The first one – we’ll start at number 10 and work up to number one – you say one stop shops. What do you mean by a one stop shop?

    CELIA: Many of the home centers are touting the fact that they can be one stop shopping. You can come to them; you can get design help; you can get the products and they’ll install them for you. And we wanted to see if that was really a good deal. And what we found was that it really wasn’t a good deal. What you need to do is shop around. Because you’re not – people who did that route, who tried to do everything in one stop, were not necessarily the most satisfied with their kitchens after all.

    LESLIE: Alright, number nine. You’re talking about green flooring. Green is the hot topic so what do we do for flooring choices?

    CELIA: Well you know, it’s interesting because this is one of the surprising findings. We tested a number of different green options – bamboo, cork and linoleum – and we found that while they may be green they’re not necessarily the best choice; especially if you’ve got an active – you know, an active household.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    CELIA: Because we found that they didn’t really hold up as well as vinyl and laminate …

    LESLIE: To wear and tear.

    CELIA: … to the sort of wear and tear and scratches and dropped plates. And then we also found that bamboo and cork could also change color in direct sunlight.

    TOM: Oh, that’s interesting.

    CELIA: Oh, that’s interesting.

    LESLIE: Oh.

    CELIA: They either faded or some of them darkened and that could create a problem. If you’ve got a particularly sunny spot in your kitchen then you’re going to end up having color changes in one area that you don’t see in other areas.

    TOM: Well also, if you had like a throw rug down or something like that, that could end up, you know, kind of being permanent to your floor.

    CELIA: Sure, yes.

    TOM: Because the shading would always have a different color. (Leslie chuckles)

    CELIA: That’s correct.

    TOM: Number eight. You say trendy counters. Now, this is interesting because countertops; it’s one of the largest visual surfaces in the kitchen. People are spending a lot of money on fancy countertops. You don’t think it’s worth it?

    CELIA: Well, I think that they have lots of different options. And this is one of the areas where some of the most expensive and trendy materials, like concrete and limestone, are not necessarily the best buys; they’re not – you’re going to spend a lot of money and their performance is not as good as some other materials like quartz – which is an engineered stone product – or granite.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    CELIA: So if you’re looking for a stone look, we say stick with those types of products. And if you’re on a tighter budget we say to go with laminate. Laminate is really a very good performer at a very reasonable price.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now number seven you’re talking about pricey faucets and sinks. It seems everybody wants the stainless sink and, you know, the $1,000 faucet. But is it worth it?

    CELIA: No.

    LESLIE: Really?

    CELIA: That’s one of the things where we can say we tested a variety of faucets from about $80 to $600 and we really didn’t see any performance differences in those faucets. You know, there are going to be style differences in terms of you may like one look better than the other. But as long as you get a faucet that’s got a lifetime warranty against leaks as well as a lifetime warranty on the finish, then you’re going to get a faucet that’s going to work well and look good.

    TOM: We’re talking to Celia Kuperszmid-Lehrman. She’s the Deputy Home Editor for Consumer Reports magazine; one of my favorite magazines. And their article ’10 Most Hyped Kitchen Products’ is on newsstands now.

    So, we covered quite a bit here. We covered the one stop shops; the green flooring; trendy counters; pricy faucets. Now let’s hit the appliance area. And I see number six all the way up right through number one. Let’s hit those. Appliance drawers – not a good idea?

    CELIA: No, we’re finding that they generally have a lower capacity in efficiency and overall performance and they’re prices are higher. So they don’t really work out very well. You know, there are also a lot of other types of appliances – turbo-charged dishwashers; dishwashers with special turbo cycles.

    TOM: Right.

    CELIA: We found that those didn’t perform any better than regular dishwashers.

    TOM: That’s a lot of marketing hyperbole.

    CELIA: Yeah. (Leslie chuckles)

    TOM: And multimedia refrigerators. I see that’s on your list. So people don’t want to watch television and open their refrigerator at the same time?

    CELIA: We’re finding that many of those are, you know, not particularly fabulous refrigerators and then they’re even worse TVs. (Leslie chuckles)

    TOM: And now let’s talk about cooking. Number three – steam ovens and ranges. Number two – speed cooking. And the number one most hyped product – a pro style range?

    CELIA: Yes, yes. You know …

    TOM: Those poor folks who have the Viking ranges; not a good idea?

    CELIA: Well, they’re not going to – they’re not a better idea that a mainstream range. We’re finding that they don’t perform any better. Sometimes they lack some of the features that more mainstream ranges have. And they’re also not as reliable.

    TOM: Celia Kuperszmid-Lehrman, Deputy Home Editor for Consumer Reports. The article is called ’10 Most Hyped Kitchen Products.’ It’s in the August issue of Consumer Reports on newsstands now. And in fact, it’s part of an entire issue devoted to kitchen remodeling. So if you’re planning on tackling that home improvement this fall, I would definitely pick up that edition.

    Celia, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    CELIA: You’re very welcome.

    LESLIE: Alright, so I guess I don’t need the fridge with the TV built into it to tell me that last minute weather before I walk out the door. Aargh! (Tom chuckles) Alright, I guess I’ll pass on it.

    Well, I don’t need the TV in the fridge to tell me that the summer sun and the lack of rain has left my lawn looking a little bit more like a hayfield than a lush, green park. Well if yours is the same way, don’t fret. A live lawn may be in your future; in your very near future. Find out why right after this.

    (promo/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: 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.

    And hey, give us a call right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Our Money Pit operators are standing by, as they always are. And someone we talk to today is going to win an insect repelling hat and bandana from Buzz Off. That’s right. The repellant is right in the clothing so you can be stylish and keep those bugs away. But you’ve got to call in at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    OK, we were talking about those lawns that are looking rather dead this time of year because it’s been pretty dry out in some parts of the country. But there is some good news. If your lawn is looking kind of like a hayfield, what it’s doing is really playing dead. It goes dormant when it doesn’t have enough rain and it turns brown. And it will come back and it’ll actually come back rather quickly if you stay off of it. The thing is, when the lawns go dormant they get very, very fragile. And so if you can avoid walking on dormant lawns; if you can stick to the pathways, it’s going to come back quick and it’s going to come back lush. If you wear it down because maybe you’ve got a path that goes like a shortcut and you’re always going across the driveway to get to the front door or something through the lawn (Leslie chuckles), that’s going to be a problem and that lawn will not come back quickly. So if your lawn is looking kind of dead, stay off it. It will come back quickly because it’s only playing dead. It’s only running dormant. When we get more rain, more water, it’s going to come back lush and green in no time.

    Speaking of outdoor improvements, maybe this is a good time for you to tackle a deck or a patio or a walkway. If you’ve got a question call us now. 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: Tuning in on WNWS we’ve got Andy in Tennessee who needs to know how much concrete he needs for a project. This is a case where quantity does matter. (Tom chuckles) It’s not quality. Andy, how can we help?

    ANDY: OK, I want to pour a concrete slab.

    TOM: OK.

    ANDY: Whatever – somebody said you had to convert the feet to inches. So if it’s 10’6’x9’8′ …

    TOM: So it’s 10’6′ …

    ANDY: And then if it’s four inches – then if it’s four inches thick then I multiply inches times inches times inches.

    TOM: So Andy, what you are facing is the task of having to do all this crazy math just to figure out how much concrete to order. Correct?

    ANDY: Yes, sir.

    TOM: And there’s a very simple way to do this.

    ANDY: Great.

    TOM: There are calculators that are available and all the concrete companies have them but you can easily go online to TheConcreteNetwork.com.

    ANDY: Oh, OK.

    TOM: And there are calculators right there where you put in the thickness, the width and the length. And by my calculation – you want to go to the nearest foot because you always want a bit extra.

    LESLIE: Round up.

    ANDY: Yeah.

    TOM: Yeah, what you’re looking for is about 1.36 cubic yards of concrete. So you’re going to probably end up ordering a yard and a half.

    ANDY: OK.

    TOM: And that will do it. But use the calculators. They’re very handy and you don’t have to do all the math to convert from inches to feet to cubic yards and back and forth and inside and out.

    LESLIE: Good lord, I was in a tizzy with all those numbers.

    TOM: Yeah, exactly.

    LESLIE: I’m like thirty-six inches; 100 inches. Ugh. (Tom chuckles)

    ANDY: That’s great.

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

    LESLIE: Jackie from New York, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you?

    JACKIE: Oh, I live in an apartment in Manhattan.


    JACKIE: And it’s a very old building. And my problem is my floors. The slats have spaces in between and I don’t know what to do to fill them in.

    TOM: Jackie, is this a strip floor or a parquet floor?

    JACKIE: I think it’s euphemistically called parquet (Leslie chuckles) but it’s less of it.

    TOM: OK.

    JACKIE: It’s been here since the 1920s and it’s thin, you know.

    TOM: Yeah, and you know it’s a grand old floor at that age. But they don’t wear too well and they’re very difficult to maintain, as you’re learning, because over the years the wood shrinks.

    JACKIE: Yeah.

    TOM: And it’s very, very difficult to find any repair material whatsoever unless you happen to build it. I would say if you’ve got a floor that’s really, really deteriorated where the pieces are coming up, then you may have to do some replacement. If you have just a few loose pieces, they can be reglued with a contact cement. In terms of the gaps around them, I’m afraid that there’s not a lot that you can do about that because that’s just normal shrinkage. So if it’s really, really terrible you’re going to have to replace those sections.

    LESLIE: And you know what you can do, Jackie. If you find some areas where the space is, you know, large enough for you to get a heel in there or you’re finding that you’re tripping up and you don’t want to replace or you can’t because of a rental situation, you …

    JACKIE: It is.

    LESLIE: Yeah. You can – and I know that floor you’re speaking of so well; having had many Manhattan apartments myself (Jackie chuckles) – you can – you can take jute, which is a natural rope, and get one that’s many threads sort of twisted together.

    JACKIE: Jute?

    LESLIE: Jute. J-u-t-e. And it’s in the home center. And get one that’s many layers of rope sort of twisted together to become that one piece of twine. And you can unravel it til it becomes sort of that matching thickness to that gap between the wood planks on your floor.

    JACKIE: Ah. Uh-huh.

    LESLIE: And you can dip it in some stain that’s similar to the finish color of the existing floor and then take a five-in-one tool or, you know, a …

    JACKIE: Uh-huh.

    LESLIE: … a spatula of some sort and shove it into the space between.

    TOM: Press it down there. Yeah, good point.

    LESLIE: So it sort of …

    JACKIE: What a great idea.

    LESLIE: You know, it’s not going to crack out like a wood filler would and it’s going to, you know, at least take your eye away and your foot away from the tripping hazard.

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

    LESLIE: Talking to Janine in Pennsylvania. What’s happening at your Money Pit?

    JANINE: Hi. Yeah, we’re in the middle of redoing our bathroom. And it’s actually just an investment house. And the bathtub is really ugly, Robin-egg blue.

    TOM: OK. (Janine chuckles)

    LESLIE: Hey, I like that color.

    JANINE: It’s nice but not for bathtubs. (chuckles) And not this decade (INAUDIBLE). (Leslie chuckles) We would like to know of a product to cover that.

    TOM: Well, you can – you can recoat your bathtub. You can refinish the porcelain on it. But what I’ve found was that most of the products that are commercially available for that, unless you’re taking the tub out and having it completely reglazed, the do-it-yourself products are not that durable.

    LESLIE: They look good for patching. But in a big situation it doesn’t really stay as nicely; it doesn’t look as smooth. I mean unless you are like a master applicator of this stuff it really needs to be done by a pro.

    TOM: You might be better off trying to decorate around it, you know what I mean? Keeping the blue and changing the colors.

    JANINE: (overlapping voices) Oh, it’s bad though. (chuckling)

    TOM: That bad, huh?

    JANINE: It’s bad.

    TOM: Well, you know, replacing your bathroom’s always a good investment. It gives you good resale value. (chuckling) So that might be your next choice.

    JANINE: Well, I appreciate that. Thank you.

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

    LESLIE: We’ve got more great calls coming up after the break but first, is laminate flooring the right choice for the bathroom? It’s a great choice, of course. Just make sure you get the right type. We’ll explain, after this.

    (theme song)

    TOM: Welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show where you can call us 24/7/365 at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. And you can e-mail us by going to MoneyPit.com and clicking on Ask Tom and Leslie.

    LESLIE: And while you’re at MoneyPit.com, fess up. You know it. Someone in your house has got that ugly, lacquered furniture. Maybe it’s not in your house. Maybe it’s in your friend’s house. But maybe it’s in your parents’ house. You’ve got it and you want to know how to change it. In our very next issue of our Money Pit e-newsletter – while you’re at the website sign up for it – we’re going to tell you how to update the look of all that old, shiny furniture. Or you could just wait another 10 years til it comes back in style. Your choice.

    TOM: (laughing) Hey, works for me. (laughing)

    LESLIE: (chuckling) And while you’re at the website you know you can e-mail us your questions. If you’re feeling kind of shy all you have to do is click on Ask Tom and Leslie. We’ve got a couple here. Let’s start with Charlotte from Lawrence, Kansas. Ooh, I actually know somebody from Lawrence, Kansas.

    TOM: Charlotte says: ‘I have heard you mention putting laminate flooring down in bathrooms. Do you have to purchase a certain type of laminate? The kind of flooring I purchased recommends that it not be put in the bathrooms. Can I use it anyway and should I seal it with something?’

    LESLIE: Hmm. If it says not to do it I wouldn’t do it. I think with laminates you need to be really cautious as to which type and which kind because you want to make sure that it can withstand, you know, moisture and moist situations like you would find in a bath.

    TOM: Yeah. You know, Charlotte, I’m not quite sure what product you bought but all of the ones that I’m familiar with – Pergo, Armstrong, Formica – all of those brands of laminate work very, very well in bathrooms. The only change I’ve seen is that sometimes the installation advice or instructions is just a bit different for a wet location.

    LESLIE: Like a different underlayment or something.

    TOM: Well, like for example with Armstrong flooring I know you’re supposed to glue the joints but if it’s not in the bathroom you don’t have to glue them. Because they snap together it’s very, very easy to put it down regardless. But laminate floor is not susceptible to moisture. I think it’s a great choice for bathrooms. Just follow the manufacturer’s instructions. And if the one that you’re looking at says not rated for bathrooms maybe you might want to take a look for a different product.

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up we’ve got Mark in Rockville, Maryland who writes: ‘I’m a new fan of your show and I listen to your podcasts all the time.’ Alright, awesome. I was hoping you can give me some advice. I live in a townhouse and sometimes when I run appliances and the lights in the kitchen and living room and also use my microwave it trips the breaker switch.’ Gosh, it sounds like a lot of things at once. (chuckling)

    TOM: (chuckling) Yeah.

    LESLIE: ‘When I turn on everything in my entire townhouse it seems to throw the breaker. (chuckling) What should I do?’

    TOM: Well, you know, the situation here is, Mark, that you’ve got, obviously, too many things on that circuit. You’ve got to divide up that circuit. Now, I don’t – I’m not quite sure how old your townhouse is but in most homes that were built in the last 20 years or so, generally the lighting circuits are different than the appliance circuits. Now, the place where it usually is really put to the limit is in the kitchen because, as you say, you’ve got, you know, toasters and microwaves …

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: … and all kinds of very hungry energy-consuming appliances there.

    LESLIE: And things like the fridge that just kicks on every so often; cycles on. And that draws a lot of energy, too.

    TOM: Exactly. So what you really need to do is two things. First of all, you need to figure out what outlets are on what breakers. And then, secondly, you can try to see how difficult it might be to move some of those outlets to different breakers. It is a wiring job that has to be done by a professional electrician. But remember that those circuit breakers are tripping off for a reason. They’re telling you you’re pulling too much power and if you continue to do so it could overheat the house and overheat the wiring and that could cause a fire and that’s why it’s tripping off.

    LESLIE: Yeah, so do it the right way, Mark. Make sure you have a pro come in and do the electrical job for you to avoid any dangers.

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

    And Leslie, you know, this is my favorite time of the year. I don’t know about you but to get outside and tackle home improvement projects outside, when it starts to cool off …

    LESLIE: When it’s not so hot?

    TOM: Yeah, it starts to cool off just a bit. It’s a good time to plan those projects that you’re going to tackle, you know, right after Labor Day weekend. And one of my favorites is building a deck. It’s a job that you can do quickly, efficiently and it comes out great and you’ll get great use out of it all summer long. So next week on the program we’re going to give you some tips on how you can sort of think outside the box and get really creative to build a super deck that can last all year long.

    I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …

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

    (theme song)


    (Copyright 2007 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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