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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: The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974. Call us now with your home improvement question. Call us now with your do-it-yourself dilemma. Call us now if your sink finally sank. (Leslie chuckles) Maybe we can help. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.

    Hey, coming up this hour – you liked that one, didn’t you?

    LESLIE: I liked that one. (Tom chuckles) But you would want your sink to sank because that would mean the water is draining down. (laughing)

    TOM: No, it could mean that your sink just fell through the countertop and is now in your sink cabinet.

    LESLIE: (chuckling) And you know, if it did that it would be similar to the movie The Money Pit, when the tub falls through the floor.

    TOM: That’s right. (chuckling)

    LESLIE: So it all comes full circle, Tom. I’m still laughing.

    TOM: Well, coming up this hour – see, that’s what we do. We amuse you (Leslie chuckles) and we entertain you and we actually occasionally, amongst all of that frivolity …

    LESLIE: Inform you?

    TOM: … squeeze in the occasional home improvement tip. That’s why, coming up this hour we’re going to tell you about a window of opportunity to brighten up some rooms; perhaps save some energy too, by enlarging just one or two windows in your house.

    LESLIE: It really can make a big design difference in your home. And also this hour, with that project of enlarging those windows, you’re going to suddenly have a ton more light and then you’re going to see way more dust. Or perhaps the dust has just been there and now all that light’s showing you it’s there. Well, we’re going to have tips to teach you how to mix up a recipe for furniture polish in a pinch. You probably have all of the ingredients right now in your home on hand and, best of all, it’s all natural.

    TOM: Plus, if you’re like me you probably grew up with your dad saying, ‘Close the door!’

    LESLIE: ‘What? Did you grow up in a barn?!’ (chuckles)

    TOM: Well find out this hour why it might actually be a good idea to leave a door open. It can actually help you save some money. It’s all coming up on The Money Pit and we’ve got a great prize to give away, too.

    LESLIE: That’s right. It’s the Swann Private Eye. It’s worth $199 and it’s a security system that’s going to take digital photos so you can catch any potential thieves in the act.

    TOM: So call us now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974. Where work and fun meet. Let’s get right to the phones.

    LESLIE: Time to talk tiles with Greg in New Jersey. What can we help you with today?

    GREG: Alright. I really enjoy your show. It gets me to challenge myself and do some projects; new projects around the house. And …

    LESLIE: Alright, glad to help.

    GREG: Alright. And one such project was I tiled a couple of rooms in the house. Did a kitchen, a bathroom and an area in the basement. And the area in the basement came out just fine. And the other two rooms, couple of spots, when you walk on them you hear a little bit of – a little click.

    TOM: A click, huh?

    GREG: So I’m wondering if there’s, you know, any sort of quick fix without having to pull out a whole room full of tiles.

    LESLIE: Hmm. Greg, is it in one specific area in each room? Are they relative to one another or is it the entire floor?

    GREG: Not relative to one another but it is in one specific area.

    TOM: Hmm. Well, if you have movement in a floor like that, it’s got to be, most likely, the floor joist below and sometimes there’s space between the subfloor and the joist. Now, if you can’t access that from below, the problem with ceramic tile is you can’t access this from the top either. So you really don’t have any choice here except to live with it. Because probably what’s happening is you have a gap between the floor joist and the subfloor and the way to fix that is to either secure the subfloor – and you can do that if you have any other kind of material that could be disassembled like carpet or even hardwood or even laminate can be taken apart. Ceramic tile you can’t really take it apart. So working on it from the top down is a problem which means your only option is to cut it open from the bottom. Before you do that though …

    LESLIE: I mean patching drywall is a far easier project than retiling a whole area of the floor.

    TOM: Yeah, exactly. But if you’re only having a little bit of click there, I probably would learn to live with it.

    GREG: OK. Well, one room I do have access from the basement and the other room I guess I’ll live with it. Thank you very much.

    TOM: Well, if you have access from the basement you want to have somebody walk on top of that tile where the noise is and watch the floor joist below and look for the area between the subfloor and the joist. If you see some movement, you can take some shims – like a piece of cedar shingle or something like that – and put some glue on the end of it and then very carefully tap it into that space. Don’t go too far because you’ll push up the floor above it if you do, but just make it snug and that will tighten that up. It’s also a good way to fix squeaks in a floor.

    GREG: Thank you very much. You just solved another problem I didn’t have a chance to ask. (Leslie chuckles)

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: Betty-Lynn in Arizona, welcome to The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    BETTY-LYNN: I remodeled my kitchen and I need a microwave that opens to the right. I’ve searched everywhere; stores, internet, everything.

    TOM: Where is the microwave mounted?

    BETTY-LYNN: It’s over the range.

    TOM: Oh. Well, when we saw your question we had one suggestion for you but it’s not going to work.

    LESLIE: Yeah.


    LESLIE: I mean …

    TOM: There’s a …

    LESLIE: And even just doing some research myself, Betty-Lynn, it seems like everything opens to – you know, controls on the right and then opens to the left because, you know, manufacturers assume everybody’s right-handed.

    BETTY-LYNN: I know.

    LESLIE: So now you’ve got the door opening with your left hand and your right hand is placing in whatever and then operating the controls, which is unfortunate because there are lefties in the world.

    TOM: I don’t know if there’s another place that this microwave could be installed but the only other type of microwave that we’ve seen that’s actually fairly new on the market is made by Sharp and it’s a microwave drawer.

    BETTY-LYNN: Right …

    TOM: And it kind of operates like one of those bread drawers and they’re cool. But they’re great to be put below countertops or in the space of one of the cabinets; that kind of thing. But up above the range, you’re really limited in what you can find for that.

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

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show and you can call in your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, seven days a week whenever that project strikes you. So pick up the phone. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, we’re always giving you tips to seal up your house; to help keep those doors and windows closed. But there’s actually one time when propping a door open can actually save you money. We’ll tell you what it is, next.

    (promo/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: The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974. Call us now with your home improvement question, your do-it-yourself dilemma. Call us if you accidentally bought an un-skill saw. (Leslie chuckles) We can help you with that. The number is 888-MONEY-PIT. And one caller we talk to this hour is going to win the Swann Digital Private Eye security system worth 199 bucks. It looks like a simple alarm system but it’s got a motion detector that can actually catch anyone in the act. Now, I don’t know who you want to catch in the act of doing what …

    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Of doing what. (chuckles)

    TOM: … but whatever that might be, apparently this product can do it and it’s worth 200 bucks. If you want to win it, call us now. We’ll toss your name in the Money Pit hardhat. You might just walk away with that at the end of today’s program.

    LESLIE: Maybe it can tell you who’s leaving that house door open; you know, like your dad always used to tell at you.

    TOM: Or who’s breaking the diet and raiding the refrigerator in the middle of the night.

    LESLIE: (chuckling) That would be the best.

    TOM: (chuckling) Busted!

    LESLIE: Alright. (chuckling) Hey, I saw you getting that cake in the middle of the night. I got my secret digital eye on you. (chuckling) Alright, well if you’re looking to bust somebody in the act of cheating on their diet, that’s the prize for you to do just that.

    Well, we tell you a ton of times, here on The Money Pit, always close the doors, windows and any vents to rooms that you don’t regularly to save on your energy bills. But there is one door in your home that you should open to save some money and it’s your dishwasher door. If you go ahead and air dry your dishes it’s a great way to save money and energy. If your dishwasher doesn’t have an automatic air dry switch, turn off the control knob after the final rinse and then go ahead and prop that door open a little. You don’t have to leave it wide open. The air is still going to circulate through. It’s going to dry out your dishes and, best of all, it will not soak up your energy bill. Save you some money, folks.

    TOM: And for the rest of those doors in your house, your father was right. Close them! (Tom and Leslie chuckle)

    888-666-3974. Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: John in Texas has a question about grout. What can we help you with?

    JOHN: Yes, I have a kitchen that has white tile and it has a lighter grout as well. And we’re not wanting to replace the tile but wanted to give it a more updated look and I was thinking of going with – wondering if you can actually – can you regrout the tile or maybe use a dye with a darker – to give it a darker grout line?

    LESLIE: Ooh, you want to go like contrast-y; like dark gray and white or black and white?

    JOHN: Exactly.

    LESLIE: That would be really pretty. What condition is the grout in at the moment and has it been sealed?

    JOHN: I don’t believe it’s been sealed because it is kind of – you know, it’s a little dirty. It’s not as clean as it could be. And that’s one of the reasons we want a darker grout, too; not only for the contrast but also to maybe hide some of the dirt, too. But as far as condition, it’s in pretty good condition but it could use a cleanup.

    LESLIE: There’s actually a product called Aqua Mix which is a grout colorant and you can use it to either restore the existing color or you can recolor it or change the color completely.

    JOHN: OK.

    LESLIE: It even works the opposite way; from dark to light. It’s eco-friendly, it lasts a long time and it’s easy to apply and you can buy it online at AquaMix.com.

    JOHN: OK.

    LESLIE: But if it’s in good shape I would say just go ahead and cover over it and then make sure do you seal it so that you don’t have to worry about any sort of stains ever getting on it even though it’s dark and you won’t be able to see it.

    JOHN: OK, awesome. Well that seems a lot easier than trying to, I guess, grind out the grout and floating over some new stuff.

    TOM: Yeah, we’re all for trying the easy stuff first, John. Yu can always go that route later.

    JOHN: I like that idea. (chuckles) Alright, thank you.

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

    LESLIE: Margaret in New York is doing some work on a staircase. How can we help you with the project?

    MARGARET: We have an 8-year-old oak staircase. It was covered with about, I don’t know, six to eight layers of varnish and paint over the years. So we were trying to strip it. We did a lot of the stripping with a product called Peel Away.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    MARGARET: And we got a lot of the paint off. Our problem is now that we’re trying to finish up the project and get to the staining part, there’s a lot of dark spots still on the staircase. And we’ve sanded it and we’ve done other things to it but they don’t seem to come off and I’m worried that it’s going to affect the way the stain looks on the staircase.

    TOM: What kind of stain are you going to put on this? Is it a lighter stain or a darker stain?

    MARGARET: A darker stain.

    TOM: Well, I think what’s going to happen is you’re going to find out that that darker stain will blend in those existing stains that are on the staircase as best as it possibly can. You know, I have a really old house and did a staircase project just like this and after we got absolutely as much of the old finish off as we could, we used a dark stain and it really evened everything out quite nicely. So I don’t think it’s going to hurt it. If anything, it’s going to make it blend in.

    MARGARET: Right. And to make the staircase a little smoother, do we – I mean how much do we have to sand? Like it’s – you know, we’ve been working on this for a while.

    TOM: OK, if it’s oak …

    MARGARET: Yeah.

    TOM: … and you’re using – you probably need to use just a medium-grit sandpaper on that. That will give you a pretty good finish. So around 100-grit sandpaper.


    TOM: And so, if we’re using that that’s probably the best that you can do. As you get to the end of the sanding project, make sure you’re sanding with the grain. Have you used any machines to sand? Like orbital sanders or anything like that?

    MARGARET: We did. We did.

    TOM: OK. So make sure your last coat has got some fine paper on it so that you don’t leave any sanding marks because they will show up.

    MARGARET: So meaning, after we stain one coat we should – after we stain whatever …

    TOM: Oh, no. After you – no, no. Before you stain.


    TOM: [You start sanding] (ph) before you stain and then you stain and then you put on your polyurethane on top of that. Just let it …

    LESLIE: And you sand between the levels of polyurethane.

    TOM: Right.

    MARGARET: Right.

    LESLIE: Now, Margaret, the only suggestion I have in dealing with some odd stains or tonations of wood is there are wood bleaching products on the market. Some are peroxide, some are chlorine-based and some are even oxilic or oxalic. You can get them at the home centers. They are kind of tough to work with. They really are made only to work on that one spot.

    MARGARET: Right.

    LESLIE: But if you know kind of what’s caused that stain – which I think, in your case, is over time – you know, the folks at a paint shop, a good one, will be able to recommend the right type of bleach and you might be able to lighten that one area. But you want to make sure you don’t over-lighten it to now cause a different problem.

    MARGARET: Right. I guess most of the areas where we have the trouble is in the detail work of the staircase itself. There’s like small detail work and in there, in those crevices, it’s very hard to …

    TOM: It’s tough. Yeah, it’s tough to get into those spots.

    MARGARET: Yeah.

    TOM: You know, that’s why you do the best you can. Put some stain on there to even it out, finish and move on.

    MARGARET: OK, great. Thanks so much. I appreciate your help.

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

    LESLIE: Sandy in Texas is having some issues with the fireplace. Tell us about it.

    SANDY: Yes, I have a fireplace that kind of goes through my living room and my kitchen; meaning you can see through it.


    SANDY: And when I build a fire in the fireplace with logs and after it gets going a little bit it starts kind of smoking the house up and I want to know what is wrong with the fireplace. Do I need to lift the grate up and put some like fire bricks underneath it and get it up closer to the chimney or is there something wrong with the firebox through (ph) the opening’s not big enough or could you tell me what’s wrong?

    TOM: It could be a number of things that are causing that. Do you live in a newer house, Sandy, or is it an older house?

    SANDY: It’s an older house built back in the 60s.

    TOM: Hmm. Well, because if you start to get a fireplace that’s smoking a lot then it’s a draft issue, obviously, and there …

    LESLIE: It usually means the flue is cold.

    TOM: Well, yeah. If it’s happening right on the startup, there’s a way to kind of work around that where you start the fire very slowly til you sort of heat the chimney up and that increases the draft. But if it’s happening after the chimney heats up there could be a number of issues. There could be a problem with the chimney design; it’s too high, it’s not high enough, it’s not capped properly. There could be an issue with the box design of the fireplace itself. There could be an issue with air pressures inside your house. If you don’t have enough makeup air, that could be causing the smoke to back up into the house as well. So this is a condition that takes a bit of experimentation. There are also ways that you can modify that firebox to increase the draft right there and help the air sort of speed up. I think what’s complicating it here for you – and if I’m understanding you correctly – is that you have, essentially, a two-sided fireplace. So it opens from two side.

    SANDY: That’s correct. Yeah.

    TOM: Yeah. So that makes it a little bit more difficult. So you’re going to have to try things one step at a time and see if it works.

    Have you spoken with a certified chimney sweep on this?

    SANDY: I had the chimney cleaned once and he said he didn’t see that there was any problem with it. And then I also had another person tell me that my return air unit on my air conditioner was too close.

    TOM: Ah! That actually could be the cause.

    LESLIE: That could be a major cause of it.

    TOM: Have you noticed that when it starts to smoke that your HVAC system is on? When it starts to smoke the next time, I want you to turn your heating system off and see if it changes. Because if that’s causing it, it could be very dangerous. You could be sucking combustion gas into the house and that’ll make the whole house smoke up and it could also cause carbon monoxide to get into the entire house. So if that return duct is close to the fireplace, that could absolutely be causing this problem and if it’s inconsistent like that, you may find that it happens whenever the fan turns on and that return duct actually starts to draw house air back into the system.

    SANDY: Mm-hmm. OK. How far should the return unit really be away from a fireplace?

    TOM: Mm, at least on the other side of the room, I would think.

    SANDY: OK. Well, it has – it’s on the other side of the room pertaining to the entry hall.

    TOM: Listen, my recommendation is this. If you can – if you have a chimney contractor that you’re real comfortable with – and I’m talking about someone who’s a member of the Chimney Safety Institute –

    SANDY: Uh-huh.

    TOM: – they should be able to diagnose this.

    SANDY: OK.

    TOM: A second choice would be an HVAC contractor that can determine what’s happening with the air pressures in your house. Because for some reason, you’re not getting enough intake and that’s what the draft is – that’s why it’s backdrafting into the house.

    SANDY: OK.

    LESLIE: Now the website for the certified chimney sweeps, Sandy, is CSIA.org and you should also, if you don’t already, get a carbon monoxide detector and place it somewhere on that first floor so that you know that you’re keeping your family safe.

    SANDY: OK. Now, and he said something about the other one; about the air pressure in the house. Who would I contact about that?

    TOM: Your heating and cooling contractors can test for that …

    SANDY: Oh.

    TOM: … and make sure you’re getting the proper draft.

    SANDY: Oh, OK. OK.

    TOM: See, houses always have air pressure. They have negative pressure, which means it’s less than the outside, or they have positive pressure; depending on how the winds are blowing over the house and things like that.

    SANDY: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: And what happens is if they get reversed you can get the draft on the chimney or even on the furnace or the water heater that gets reversed. If you have – for example, I’ve seen houses that have attic fans that when the attic fan is turned on, all of a sudden the fireplace stops working because it’s pulling so much air out of the house that it reverses the draft.

    SANDY: Hmm.

    TOM: So making sure that the airflow is correct inside your house can prevent draft problems like that.

    SANDY: OK.

    TOM: Start with a chimney sweep and take it from there. Sandy, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Up next, a riddle. What do salad dressing and furniture polish have in common? We’ll toss up the answer, after this.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Rheem water heaters. For dependable, energy-efficient tank and tankless water heaters you can trust Rheem. Learn more at SmarterHotWater.com. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.

    TOM: Welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete and I know, Tom, I tell you this all the time.

    TOM: Yes?

    LESLIE: I love working at The Money Pit and I’m sharing it with all of you Money Pit fans out there right now; this is the best place to work. Let me let you in on one of the secrets that really makes this job even more kick-butt than it already is. Lots of different manufacturers, they go ahead and send us products to try out for free.

    TOM: Mm-hmm. They do.

    LESLIE: You know, all kinds of tools, paint and lots of other stuff. And believe us, we do try a lot of it out. And then we go ahead and post all of our recommendations, good and bad, online at MoneyPit.com. All you have to do is go to our website, MoneyPit.com, click on repair and improve and look for a section called Cool New Products. It really does pay off to visit that site because we see some really cool things; even way before they come out. This way we can get you all excited about what’s going to be new to the market.

    TOM: The oddest thing I was ever shipped to try out was a concrete form.

    LESLIE: Which is crazy.

    TOM: I just couldn’t figure out where to use that, but (chuckling) – it was a big box; you know, about half the size of a refrigerator.

    LESLIE: And they weight a gajillion pounds. (Tom laughs) We did an episode of While You Were Out. It was a brownstone in Upper Harlem in New York. And of course our designer, John Bruce, used a ton of concrete forms and to get things to the backyard of this brownstone you had to go up five steps to get into the front of the house then down all the way to the basement then go through the basement and go all up the way up two flights of stairs to get back to the backyard. (Tom laughs) Had we known this going in, concrete forms would not have been the way.

    TOM: Wouldn’t have been part of that project.

    LESLIE: No, sir.

    TOM: Well here’s a little smaller project that you can tackle and a cool product that you can make yourself. If you’ve got company on the way and you’re short on furniture polish, here’s a quick recipe for a natural alternative that actually works really, really well. All you have to do is mix three parts olive oil to one part white vinegar. The recipe actually gives you a very, very rich, velvety polish for all of that woodwork in your house. It works great. I’ve tried it myself and it’s a quick way to buff up that furniture before the …

    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Mm-hmm. And the best thing, you want to make sure you use a lint-free rag to put it on …

    TOM: Oh, yeah.

    LESLIE: … and follow the grain of the wood if you’ve got it or go in circular motions. It really depends on the type of furniture. But try to follow the grain the best you can. It really does do the trick. You’ll be so surprised.

    TOM: Well, if you feel like your home improvement projects have been a circular motion in and of themselves and never seem to end, let us help you out. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Leslie, let’s get back to the phones.

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

    DALE: Hi. Kind of wondering if you have any information on house leveling.

    TOM: OK. What’s going on with your house?

    DALE: For the last year or so the walls have been cracking, the ceiling is cracking, the fireplace is pulling away.

    TOM: Wow.

    DALE: Cupboards are pulling away. Outside, the brick is doing the same thing. We’ve had a lot of people, professionals, come and two out of five say that’s normal. The house was built in 1970 so I know better.

    TOM: OK.

    DALE: And the other three are anywhere from $10,000 to $25,000.

    TOM: OK. The folks that you had come look at this, are they all in the business of repairing this sort of thing?

    DALE: Absolutely.

    TOM: OK. I think the first thing you need to do is get an independent professional in to take a look at it. This could be an architect. It could be a structural engineer. That’s probably the best bet.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: Or it could be …

    LESLIE: What about a home inspector?

    TOM: Yeah, a good quality home inspector. If you go to the website for the American Society of Home Inspectors – that’s ASHI.org – find a certified home inspector in your area. These are the kinds of folks that are in the business of inspecting buildings without being in the business of selling you the repair solution. When you call a contractor you usually get a contractor’s fix which almost always involves hiring that person to do the work. We need to find out whether or not this is truly active movement or not before we enter into a discussion about how it should be fixed. Right now I don’t think you have enough information.

    DALE: OK, I understand that but why would anybody not want to work on the house?

    TOM: Maybe it’s not a job that they want to do. Maybe it’s not worth the money. Maybe it involves materials they’re not familiar with. I mean who knows? You can’t second guess that. That doesn’t mean anything. You need to get …

    LESLIE: I mean it’s better to trust that somebody doesn’t want to do the project because they maybe don’t have the skills that you need to have the job done properly.

    TOM: Maybe you scared them off. I don’t know. But I do know …

    DALE: No, I …

    TOM: … that you don’t have enough information right now. You need to get an independent expert to look at that. If I had a house that had all of those cracks that you just listed; had all that movement, I would definitely want to have it looked at. I mean the best thing that can happen is you’re going to pay an independent expert a couple of hundred bucks for doing an inspection and they’re going to say it is normal and then at least you can rely on that. But you can’t rely on a contractor’s opinion.

    DALE: I’ve got the charts and everything. It’s from one half to two inches. Every person that looked at it pretty much gave me the same kind of specs. When I said two out of five and they all have 20 years under the belt for a company, two out of five says it’s normal movement. I’m here in Texas and they say keep up with a soaker hose and start putting timers on them and everything will come back together because we haven’t any kind of rain in the last couple of years.

    TOM: Right, because the soil is going to move.

    DALE: Right.

    LESLIE: This is The Money Pit and we’ve got more great home improvement advice coming up, including a tremendous window of opportunity for revitalizing any room in your home. We’ve got a lot of suggestions and a really super one coming up 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: If your dog decides to hide every time you start a home improvement project, maybe he’s the smart one. (Leslie chuckles) You should call us, on the other hand. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Welcome back. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete and you should give us a call right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT and you could win a pretty cool prize. It’s the Swann Digital Private Eye security system. It’s worth 199 bucks and it basically is a simple alarm system but it’s all dressed up because it’s got a motion-triggered digital camera in there that’s going to catch intruders in the act or perhaps, you know, a wandering animal crossing through your yard or maybe your kids playing a trick on you and setting it off. It can record up to 20,000 images and I guarantee you will be surprised by what you see what goes on in the middle of the night when you’re not paying attention. (Tom laughs) If you want a chance to win, give us a call right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Ask your question on the air. We’re going to throw your name into the Money Pit hardhat for your chance to win.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. MoneyPit.com is the website. Does your home seem a bit dark and dreary? Well, of course the solution is to let in some light. Now, you can add or enlarge just a window or two for a big difference or you should consider skylights. There are many positive benefits of putting in a skylight. Increased natural lighting and improved fresh air circulation can add some new life to your space.

    Now, if you’re thinking about putting in that skylight, there’s really three types. There’s a roof window, which is a kind that you put in like dormers on a pitched roof. There’s a traditional skylight; either vented or not. And there’s a new kind of skylight called a sun tunnel which is really cool because you don’t need to build that big well between the skylight itself and the ceiling. With a sun tunnel you put in the skylight at the top and then there’s a tube that’s mirrored on the inside that connects to a light which looks like kind of a flush ceiling lamp that’s inside …

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: … but it brings in a lot of fresh, bright sunlight all day long. That’s an easy way to get a skylight into your house as well. All things that you possibly can do yourself with a bit of help from us or have a pro do it and just sit back while somebody else does the work.

    LESLIE: Linda in Indiana has a question about a floor gone bad. What’s going on?

    LINDA: My daughter just put some laminate flooring down, like living room and dining room area together. And right in the center of the room it like bubbles where it locks …

    LESLIE: It sort of buckles up?

    LINDA: Yes, and it started with about a two-inch gap and now it’s about a foot, foot-and-a-half. You know, it’s getting worse; it’s not (AUDIO GAP). And how would you fix it? Do you have to rip the whole floor back up and start again?

    TOM: Wow, it sounds like there were a couple of pieces of laminate floor that didn’t quite get clicked together; didn’t quite get locked together properly.

    LINDA: Well, they swear that it did but (chuckling), I don’t know.

    TOM: Well, did you have this professionally installed?

    LINDA: No.

    TOM: OK, they did it themselves?

    LINDA: We did it ourselves and this is like the fourth one that they have done.

    TOM: Hmm.

    LINDA: And this is the only floor that’s ever done it.

    TOM: Well, it’s very unusual that there’s a manufacturing defect, I’ve got to tell you. Because that stuff is just made by the mile and it all comes out very consistent. It’s hard to mess it up. If the tongue or the groove was damaged as the floor was being together, for some reason it sounds like it didn’t quite lock in the middle and there’s no easy fix for this. You can disassemble the floor; assuming you didn’t glue it down.

    LINDA: No, we haven’t done anything because I was (INAUDIBLE).

    TOM: Well, you can disassemble the pieces. They’ll come apart same as they went together. And start again. Or you might just want to wait a little bit of time and see if it settles out. But if it seems to be buckling up like that, I suspect that you’ve got a section there – and it’s funny; it could be something as small as, you know, an extra piece of laminate material that got like sort of stuck in there when you were opening and closing the boxes. You know, sometimes you get those wood fibers that will pull off and get stuck in that and it doesn’t quite lock together.

    LINDA: But the only way to fix it is to rip it back up?

    TOM: There’s no way to fix it once it’s down like that. You know. Is it actually physically pushing up?

    LINDA: Yes.

    TOM: Mm, no. I mean I’ll give you one thing you could try and you probably have nothing to lose. You could take a 2×4 that’s a little bit longer than the space between the ceiling and the floor …

    LINDA: Mm-hmm?

    TOM: … and wedge it in place and try to press it down.

    LINDA: OK.

    TOM: And put some weight on it that way. Sometimes when I’ve fixed floors that were buckled up that way and I had to get something in place to hold it while a glue was drying …

    LINDA: Yes.

    TOM: … I would take a piece of 2×4 and I would put a wood block between that and the ceiling and then I would press it into the floor and sort of tap in place so it had some downward pressure.

    LINDA: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: And that’s sort of a way to clamp a floor down in place. So you could give that a try and see if it straightens out. But if not, I’d just take it apart. I mean that’s the nice thing about laminate. It does come apart if there’s a problem.

    LINDA: And then you just have to number it as you lay it back down so you don’t …

    TOM: That’s right. That’s right. You know what? Get yourself a white – one of those dry erase markers …

    LESLIE: Like a China marker.

    TOM: Yeah, and number the panels.

    LINDA: OK.

    TOM: OK?

    LINDA: Alright. Well thank you so much.

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

    LESLIE: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. When we come back we are going to help you with a major undertaking, which is building a home. We’re going to help you find the right contractor, which can be a daunting task. We’re going to tell you what to ask to make sure that you get the right person for the job. So stick around.

    [Audio timestamp: 39:48]

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is being brought to you by – well, by us. Save hundreds a month on groceries, not to mention significant savings on home improvement products and services with your new Money Pit American Homeowners Association membership. And get $50 in Zircon tools if you join in the next 30 minutes. Call now. 866-REAL-HOME. That’s 866-REAL-HOME. Now here are Tom and Leslie.

    TOM: 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 question. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974. Because we are here to help you get the job done. Whether you are a do-it-yourselfer, a direct-it-yourselfer or, most importantly, if you are a do-it-to-yourselfer (Leslie chuckles), we have a special phone number for the do-it-to-themselves. That’s 1-888 –

    LESLIE: It’s 911?

    TOM: Yeah, that’s right. It’s 911. (Tom and Leslie laugh) It’s 888-666-3974 for the rest of you.

    Hey, did you make any home improvements in 2007? Were any of them related to energy savings? You know, those specific improvements might be eligible for some tax credits. You can learn more about which improvements may or may not be eligible for tax credits by visiting our website at MoneyPit.com. Just search tax credits in the Repair and Improve section and maybe we will save you some cash.

    LESLIE: Yeah, and while you’re searching around at MoneyPit.com, you might see a little icon with some question marks. It says Ask Tom and Leslie. Click on that, e-mail us your home improvement question and every hour on the show we go through our e-mail bag and answer some of those questions and we’ve got one here from Vicki who’s apparently in my second home in Kula, Hawaii. (Tom chuckles) What is she doing there? (chuckling) My dream location. Alright, Vicki writes: ‘We are about to talk to two different contractors who are willing to build our house. One contractor said he could order the materials now, start building next month and be done in four months. The other contractor will be meeting with us soon to show us what he has to offer. I like the PermaWall homes that this contractor builds. What are important questions that I should know when meeting with these contractors? We already know that they build the whole house and it comes with everything from floors to roof, even appliances, kitchen, bath, electrical, plumbing, et cetera.’ Wow, this is a big deal.

    TOM: There’s one professional that, Vicki, you don’t mention here and I just wonder where this person is because they’re conspicuously absent and that is the architect. I would not want my contractor to serve all …

    LESLIE: Designing everything.

    TOM: Yeah, exactly. I mean there are …

    LESLIE: Unless these are like kit homes or prefab plans that they just sort of …

    TOM: Yeah, but even then. I mean there are site variations and things like that. The soils can be an issue. So, my first suggestion, Vicki, is that you have these plans reviewed by an architect and get an architect to sign off of them because the architect …

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm, especially Hawaii has so many issues with mudslides, heavy rains. They really do need to be cautious about exactly where on a property a home is built.

    TOM: Exactly. So I would start with an architect. That’s the best professional and that’s the person that can really help you compare apples to apples when looking at these two contractors. Because there are just so many areas that could be different and unless you have a consistent set of plans and specifications that both folks are bidding on, you really don’t have anyplace to start this project.

    LESLIE: Alright, we’ve got another one here from Betty in Auburn, Alabama who writes: ‘When I flush a toilet in my home, at the end of the refilling process all of the pipes in my house knock against each other. How do I fix it?’

    TOM: That is called water hammer and you need a device called a water hammer arrestor. (Leslie chuckles) Essentially, a shock absorber for your plumbing system. You have to imagine this. All of the water is running through those pipes. Water is very heavy. It weighs eight pounds per gallon. When the toilet stops filling, that water continues to run and then when the valve shuts off, the centrifugal force shakes those pipes.

    LESLIE: Alright, hope that helps you.

    TOM: Subprime! There’s a word that we’ve heard a lot this past year and, in fact, I just learned, Leslie, that the American Dialect Society – which apparently is a group that’s dedicated to the …

    LESLIE: Which apparently exists. I’m so (chuckling) …

    TOM: Apparently it exists and is dedicated to the study of the English names – named subprime their 2007 Word of the Year. So that’s because it …

    LESLIE: Interesting. I mean it was around quite a bit.

    TOM: Yeah.

    LESLIE: We kept hearing it in the news everywhere.

    TOM: That’s because there’s been a lot of people getting scammed by subprime loans. That’s why next week on The Money Pit, we’re going to give you some tips to protect you against lending scams. You don’t want to miss it. That’s coming up next week right here on the show. Until then, 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 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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