Money-Saving Alternatives to Tiny Houses, Installing Pendulum Lighting, and What You Need to Know Before Adding Electric Heat

  • Transcript

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: We are so happy to be here to help you tackle your home improvement projects, solve your do-it-yourself dilemmas or learn what you need to know to hire a pro to get the job done for you. First step: pick up the phone and call us. Let’s talk about your to-do list. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Hey, we’ve got a great show planned for you. Coming up this hour, we’re going to talk about the tiny-house movement. You know, it’s really big right now. But those itty-bitty spaces may not be for you, so we’ve got ways that you can make life simpler and more affordable without shrinking that space.

    LESLIE: Well, also ahead, they add style and drama but are pendant lights an electrical project you should be handling on your own? We’ll have the step-by-step, in just a bit.

    TOM: And baseboard and electric wall heaters can be a costly way to warm up chilly rooms. We’ve got some energy-saving tips that are also ahead.

    LESLIE: And one lucky caller this hour is about to add big to their tool collection. We are giving away a 29-piece double-drive screwdriver set.

    TOM: It’s a prize worth 49 bucks. Going out to one caller drawn at random from those that reach us for today’s show. Let’s get to it. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Ellen in New York is on the line and has a flooring question. What are you working on?

    ELLEN: It’s a sub-basement and it has a cement floor. And years ago, I – the floor is really – the cement was poured new about 15 years ago. And I put a 12-inch vinyl flooring on top. It’s still there and in really good condition but I want to put something to warm up the area. And I was thinking of maybe an engineered-wood floor?

    So two questions: one, do I have to take up the tile and two, what is the best product to put over a cement floor?

    TOM: Well, you have a lot of options. First of all, you do not have to remove the tile. You’re probably better off just leaving it alone.

    ELLEN: Yay. Oh, I was hoping you’d say that.

    TOM: Secondly, good options for basement flooring are pretty much anything but carpet.

    LESLIE: Area rugs OK but not wall-to-wall.

    TOM: Engineered hardwood is an excellent choice. Not solid hardwood, because solid hardwood will buckle and twist. Engineered hardwood is made up of – kind of like plywood: different layers of wood that are glued at 90-degree angles to each other. And so they’re dimensionally stable, so they’ll stay flat without buckling or twisting. Another good choice might be laminate floor, for the same reason. You can get laminate floors that look like hardwood or look like tile or look like vinyl. And they lock together.

    And both of those floors will float on top of the old floor, so they’re not physically glued down or connected. They kind of float. There’s usually an underlayment material that goes underneath them. And then you add some baseboard molding or shoe molding along the edges to cover the gap.

    ELLEN: That’s fabulous. Now, can I put a radiant flooring under – over the vinyl tile and under the flooring?

    TOM: Yeah, a radiant flooring underneath that is perfectly fine. Now, there are products that are designed specifically for that. In fact, there’s one that’s on the market right now called Perfectly Warm. And it’s a radiant-floor heating that is designed for products like engineered hardwood and laminate. It basically lays underneath it. It’s surprisingly affordable and energy-efficient.

    And in fact, we’ve got a story about it – an interview that I did, actually, with one of the inventors, at our website at Check out the Top Products Podcast section. It’s a story about Perfectly Warm flooring. You can hear all about it there with the interview that we did at Greenbuild this past year.

    ELLEN: Oh, great. Thank you so much. I love your show.

    TOM: Alright. Well, good luck with that project. It sounds like it’s going to be a really good project to tackle this winter and give you lots more usable space and really step it up.

    ELLEN: Great.

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

    LESLIE: Paul in Texas is on the line with a water question. What can we do for you?

    PAUL: I have a long run from the main hot-water heater to the both bathrooms: the master and the guest. And I was wondering if I could take a smaller hot-water heater, like a 6- or 7-gallon, and put it near the bathrooms – a little electric one – and run it in series with the main hot-water heater so that initially – that I have hot water immediately. And by the time that that hot-water heater gets empty, the main hot-water heater will be supplying it. And I was curious if there are any issues with that or if there is a better idea or a better way of doing it.

    TOM: Well, Paul, as you’ve correctly identified, the issue here is really the distance between the water heater and the plumbing fixture. The longer that water has to travel, the longer you have to wait for the water to get hot. Now, you asked if adding a water heater closer would help. Yeah, it would but you’d have to split that water off into, basically, two completely separate zones.

    There’s a better option now and it’s called a “water-recirculating system.” There is one that just came out that’s available at The Home Depot called Watts Hot-Water Recirculating System. It’s only a couple hundred bucks. And the way it works is it’s a recirculating pump that’s put on top of the water heater that will actually cycle the water between the water heater itself and the fixture that’s farthest away from it.

    There is a bypass valve that goes in at the fixture that’s farthest away. And that’s a very easy thing to install. It’s a sort of sensor valve at the sink, generally, as far away from the water as you can get. And then what’ll happen is it will always have hot water recirculating through those lines at the ready.

    Now, the key to saving money with this is it’s on a timer, so you only run this when you need it. So when would that be? Well, typically, it’s, say, first thing in the morning. An hour or so before you wake up, you have the timer turn the recirculator on and maybe a few hours at night. But that really can save you quite a bit of water.

    PAUL: Then don’t you have to run return plumbing from the fixture back to the hot-water heater?

    TOM: No. Actually, you don’t. The pump is hooked up to the water heater and the sensor valve gets installed at the sink that’s farthest away from that water heater. It installs – the whole thing installs, believe it or not, in less than an hour. And everything is included in the kit, so it’s really the way to go if you’re trying to solve this problem the easy way.

    PAUL: Huh. OK. Well, I’ll check that out then.

    TOM: Alright. Well, take a look at that. It’s called the Watts Hot-Water Recirculating System. It works really, really well.

    PAUL: I’ll look at it then. Thanks.

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

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at

    Whew! January is just flying by. What are you guys working on? We’re running out of winter months, so tackle those indoor projects. Let us give you a hand. We’re here for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, the tiny-house movement is bigger than ever. But small homes aren’t the only way to save and live simply. We’ve got more, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And here’s the deal. If you pick up the phone and call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, we will A) answer your home improvement question and B) toss your name in The Money Pit hard hat for a great prize we’re giving away this hour: a 29-piece double-drive screwdriver set. Sure to come in handy for lots of home improvement projects. It’s worth 49.99 but going out to one lucky caller drawn at random. Make that you. The number, again, is 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Dot in Wisconsin, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    DOT: I was wondering which would be the best paint to paint on the outside of the house, on the windows and the door trim, that would last a long time and it would weather properly.

    TOM: Dot, what is the condition of the trim right now on the doors and windows? Is it flaky?

    DOT: Not very good.

    TOM: OK. So, what you have to do first, Dot, is get rid of the old paint. You’ve got to sand that or wire-brush that, because you cannot put good paint over bad paint, if that makes sense. And once you’ve got that sanded and the loose paint is removed, the next thing to do – the best thing to do would be to apply a primer, which is a type of paint that sort of provides the adhesion and the coverage. So you put the primer coat on first, then you put the exterior paint over that.

    And it doesn’t really matter so much to me what type of exterior paint you choose, as long as it’s a name manufacturer. But I do want to see you remove the loose paint, put the primer on next and then put the topcoat over that. And that will give you the best setup for a long-lasting paint job. Done well, your paint project should last you, easily, five to eight years.

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

    LESLIE: Don in Missouri is on the line with a porch question. What can we do for you today?

    DON: I have a four-post that has an exposed top.

    TOM: OK.

    DON: And the stair railing is fastened to it.

    TOM: OK.

    DON: It’s got a beveled top on it like – that’s what they put on most of them. It’s treated lumber and there is a crack that goes from, I’m going to say, a quarter, maybe three-eighths. And I don’t know how deep it is but it’s very deep. And I want to seal the top of it or seal it so that water doesn’t get in there for use and expand the crack.

    TOM: Now, Don, let me ask you a question. Do you want to paint this porch railing? Or is it painted now or not?

    DON: No, we do not want to paint it.

    TOM: The reason I’m asking you these questions is because I’m going to tell you what to fill that crack with. But the problem is some of the materials that you use to fill the crack are not going to be the color of treated lumber; they’re going to stand out and maybe look worse than the crack looks right now. So I’m trying to figure out – how you’d like this to look when you’re all done.

    DON: Well, just – the main thing is to keep water from running in there and for (inaudible at 0:10:53).

    TOM: Alright. So if you’re not so concerned about the look, then what I would do is I would use an epoxy patching compound. You want to use a wood epoxy patching compound. And the reason I say that is because that has the ability to really stand up to the weather and bind to that wood material. You’re going to apply it with a putty knife and you’re going to press it into that crack and then let it dry and sand over the surface to try to get the excess off. That’s the best material to use for that particular situation.

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

    LESLIE: Well, savings and simplicity have fueled the recent tiny-house movement, with more and more homeowners moving into homes as small as a couple hundred square feet. But if your goal is to make life cheaper and more chill, there are lots of ways you can do that without going super small.

    TOM: Now, one smart step to create calm and make a bit of money is to sell the things you don’t need. Yard sales and online auctions are easy approaches. And for higher-end wares, consider estate sales.

    LESLIE: Or keep more of your stuff but keep it better organized with well-designed storage. Double-duty pieces are key to finding every inch of hidden space. Consider ottomans that double as storage chests and picture frames that double as wall cabinets. I mean there’s really so much that you can do.

    You can get towel hooks that sort of hook into the hinges behind your bathroom door, so you can organize maybe some linens back there. You just have to be creative. You know, a bed skirt can hide a wealth of things that are being stored under your bed. So don’t be afraid, because there’s lots of creative ways that you can hide things without it looking messy.

    TOM: Now, another approach is to make your house more usable by adding elements of universal design. Now, universally-designed homes are barrier-free and they often feature small fixtures with plenty of space. Plus, universal design creates easy access that lets you grow old with your home, delivering less pressure to move and less stress worrying about it.

    LESLIE: Renee in Texas, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    RENEE: Yes, mine is kind of like a double question. I have about a 30-year-old, connected-on-both-sides townhome, two levels.

    TOM: OK. OK.

    RENEE: And I heard a crack a couple months back. Well, it was one of the support beams and it just – like a big, strong branch just cracked.

    TOM: Huh. Did you actually see the cracked beam somewhere?

    RENEE: No, I didn’t see that but I have begun to have cracks along on that same side of the house, in the corners of the wall?


    TOM: OK.

    RENEE: Down the corners where it’s breaking apart. But at the same time, I’ve noticed that the house has become unlevel. And that’s a little part because it’s old and it’s connected on both sides but I’m in Texas and we have big droughts and it kind of shifts a little bit.

    TOM: OK.

    RENEE: My concern is when I get the support beam fixed and the foundation fixed, I’ve seen on the DIY shows that suddenly they go back and they look and the house or the chimney has just been trashed. What can I do to prevent that?

    TOM: Why do you say it’s been trashed? Because it shifted?

    RENEE: Right. When they did the – when they put in – when I’ve watched the DIY shows, they go and they fix the foundation and the foundation’s fine. And of course, they shift everything up and now there is …

    TOM: Yeah. That’s why you have to be very, very careful when you do anything that changes the angle that the house has sort of settled into. Because if you don’t, once you bring a foundation up, everything else moves. Yeah, in a wood house, if you try to straighten a slopy floor, for example, all the wires and the plumbing get stretched and twisted and so on. So it’s not just foundations that are of concern.

    I’m concerned, though, about this crack that you say that you’ve heard. But you’ve seen cracks in your walls but you’ve not physically seen the structural crack, correct?

    RENEE: Correct.

    TOM: Alright. Now, you said it’s a townhouse. Is there an association that …?

    RENEE: Yes.

    TOM: OK. So in an association form of ownership, typically you don’t own the structure. So the structure – if the structure was to fail, that’s typically the responsibility of the association to address. Is that your understanding?

    RENEE: I can double-check on that.

    TOM: But in a typical condominium form of ownership, what you own is inside wall to inside wall. In some cases, you own the …

    LESLIE: And then what’s beyond that wall is not yours.

    TOM: Right. In some cases, you own the drywall; in some cases, you don’t. So, for example, if there was a fire, God forbid, and the whole place burned down, you would be paying for the drywall, the kitchen cabinets, the appliances, stuff like that. And the association would be rebuilding everything else, including the related infrastructure.

    So you need to figure out, if there’s a structural problem, who’s responsible for it. I suspect you’re going to find it’s the association that’s responsible for it, which is good news for you. And then I would bring that to their attention and ask them to address it.

    Now, as far as the cracks in the corners of the wall are concerned, I have to tell you that that’s pretty typical and that by itself doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a structural problem. The way to fix that, though, is important and that is that you want to sand down the drywall in that area. And then you want to add some additional tape and the type of drywall tape you use would be the perforated type. It looks like a netting; it’s like a sticky netting. You put that on and then you spackle through that three coats: one, two, three coats; each one thin but three coats. And that type …

    LESLIE: And allowing each one to dry and be sanded in between.

    TOM: Yeah. And that type of repair typically will last.

    Now, after you do the spackle repair, you’ll have to prime the wall. You can’t just paint on top of it; you’ll have to prime it and then paint it.

    RENEE: OK.

    TOM: So I would address the structure with the association, I would fix the cracks on your own and then see what happens.

    RENEE: OK. So just one more question. Let’s say that if it’s not in the association, that I do have to go into it, not only am I concerned about my roof but how much of a problem will I have with my neighbors on both sides of me?

    TOM: Depends on where the crack is, if it exists at all. If that’s the case, then I would suggest you hire a professional home inspector and have the inspector do what’s called a “partial inspection,” which is usually a single-item inspection, and investigate this crack and see what’s going on in the structure. And then we’ll know how far it’s gone and what needs to be done about it.

    RENEE: Yeah, that’s cool. Thank you, guys. I appreciate your time.

    LESLIE: Elaine in Florida is on the line and is looking for some help with a flooring project. How can we help you?

    ELAINE: Yes, hi. I’m in the process of – I purchased some Home Legend wood laminate.

    TOM: OK.

    ELAINE: Seven millimeters, I believe it is.

    TOM: OK.

    ELAINE: And my question is – I’ve got conflicting views on what type of underlayment to use and how to lay it over tile – over ceramic tile.

    TOM: Elaine, the Home Legend’s people on their website recommend an underlayment with a combination of a 6-mil vapor barrier and a cushioning foam. But that’s only on concrete subfloors. I think because you’re putting this over tile, the best thing to use is just the cushioning foam.

    ELAINE: OK, yeah.

    TOM: It’ll make the floor lay nicer. It will make it a little bit more comfortable for you to walk on, as well.

    ELAINE: Alright. Thank you so much. I appreciate your help.

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

    LESLIE: Coming up, pendant lights add light and style. But is the install of one a do-it-yourself project? We’ll tell you how, after this.

    MARILU: Hi. This is Marilu Henner from The Marilu Henner Show. And I’m obsessed with these guys. You’re listening to The Money Pit: my buddies Tom Kraeutler and Leslie Segrete.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Lutron’s new Maestro Occupancy-Sensing Switch. Never ask “Who left the lights on?” again. Starting at around $20, this motion-sensing light switch turns the lights on automatically when you walk into a room and off when you leave and works with all types of light bulbs. Learn more at

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Well, plaster walls or picky landlords can make hanging curtains a challenge. But did you know that curtains don’t have to include curtain rods? We’ve got tricks that you can use to add window dressings without drills, rods or holes on the home page, right now, at

    LESLIE: Paul in Missouri is on the line with a clay residue in the water system. Tell us what’s going on and where you’re seeing it.

    PAUL: Yes, I’m seeing it in the kitchen faucet mostly and the bathroom faucet.

    TOM: OK.

    PAUL: The well’s 230 foot down with casing the whole way.

    TOM: So, you can pick up a whole-house filter. It’s actually called a “whole-house sediment filter.” And the way these work is they’re – we’re not talking about treating the water; we’re talking about filtering the water. So there’s going to be a micron rating. That basically tells you how small of a particle it will trap. It’ll usually be 5 microns or 10 microns. And the other thing that’s important to note is the pressure drop. Because it does take away some of the pressure and so you want to make sure that you have enough pressure that flows through it.

    So if you simply search “whole-house filters” online, you’ll find a bazillion choices. And then if you head out to your local plumbing supply and ask them for a sediment filter, tell them your situation. I’m sure your local plumbing-supply contractors or retailers can recommend one that’s going to work for you. Not terribly difficult to install. And that should handle the sediment issue that you’re having in the house, OK?

    PAUL: OK, sir. I appreciate it.

    TOM: Good luck with that project, Paul, and thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, pendant lights, they are a popular choice these days and for good reason: they’re sleek and they can add instant style and drama to your lighting.

    TOM: True. But is this an electrical project you can hang yourself? Here to talk about both the highs and the lows of pendants is a guy that we like to hang out with: Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House.

    Welcome, Kevin.

    KEVIN: Great to be here, guys.

    TOM: So is this a DIY project or one best left to the pros?

    KEVIN: You know, it depends but in most cases, I think it’s a DIY project.

    TOM: Alright. Well, let’s start at the beginning. Let’s talk about what a pendant light is, for those that aren’t familiar.

    KEVIN: Well, you can imagine these things are suspended from the ceiling and they’re hanging by a rod or a chain. And they’re putting light down onto the surface or maybe even casting it sort of ambient through the space. They come in all different sizes; they come in all different prices. Some of them are as small as 4 inches, some of them are as big as 12 inches. Maybe $25 for one, maybe $250. A lot of options exist.

    TOM: So this sounds like a good option for task lighting, right, Leslie?

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Yeah. I mean not only do they work great over a kitchen island or maybe an area where you need some specific downlighting but they really can look great in an entryway or even a hallway.

    TOM: OK. So let’s say you do want to hang them yourself. Where do you begin?

    KEVIN: Turn the power off.

    TOM: That’s always a good place.

    KEVIN: Turn the power off so you don’t get electrocuted. And I actually like to use an electrical tester when I do any electrical work. Because even if you turn a circuit off, you want to make sure that you’ve got that circuit right.

    TOM: Right.

    KEVIN: You can put one of these little sticks up to it and it will let you know if there’s any juice running through those wires.

    But once the power is off, it’s pretty straightforward: you’ve got a new fixture, the wires are colored and you want to match them up with the colored wires that may be in the wall or in the box.

    TOM: Now, what about the controls for these? It seems like dimmers would be a really good application for this.

    KEVIN: Dimmers are great. You can imagine if you have them hanging over a kitchen island and you’re preparing dinner, you want them nice and bright. But when dinner is being served, maybe you want to dim them down a little bit.

    And the other thing I like to do, in terms of wiring them – it’s pretty straightforward, right: white wire to white wire, black wire to black wire. But sometimes it could be a three-way circuit. And I have actually taken little pictures of the wiring of whatever fixture I’m taking out so that I can rewire it the proper way when I’m putting it back in.

    LESLIE: Oh, that’s a good trick of the trade.

    KEVIN: Because sometimes you do get confused. The three-ways are a little bit more complicated to wire up.

    LESLIE: So, Kevin, when it comes time to install the new fixture, say the pendant itself has two wires that are the same color. Is there a way to tell the difference between those two?

    KEVIN: Well, sometimes, you can actually do it by feel. If you have one of the wires and you feel it and it is ribbed, well, that means it’s probably the neutral wire, whereas the hot wire is actually flat. So that might help you distinguish between the two.

    If you’re unsure, though, about what the wires are on the fixture, and especially if you’re unsure what the wires may be in the wall, then it’s time to call an electrician.

    LESLIE: Yeah, good idea. And especially if you’ve got a lot of projects, save them all up, hire that electrician once and have them take care of everything.

    TOM: Yeah, good point.

    Now, what about flickering? That sometimes is a problem with pendant lights.

    KEVIN: Yeah. Well, a flicker probably comes when you don’t have a great connection. And that bad connection might actually be between the bulb and the socket.

    TOM: OK.

    KEVIN: Lights attract bugs and they can actually get in there. So turn the power off, take the bulb out, clean it out – maybe some compressed air blown in there will get rid of any bugs or dirt – and then put the light bulb back in.

    TOM: And if it still doesn’t work, call a pro.

    KEVIN: You got it.

    TOM: Good advice. Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    KEVIN: My pleasure, guys.

    LESLIE: Alright. You can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For your local listings and a step-by-step video on how you can install a pendant light, visit

    TOM: And This Old House and Ask This Old House are brought to you on PBS by GMC. GMC, we are professional grade.

    Up next, electric heat can warm up those not-so-toasty spaces but isn’t electric heat expensive? Well, not always. We’ve got the pros, the cons and the tricks of the trade to make this an affordable solution, when The Money Pit continues after this.

    ANNOUNCER: Are you planning a major home renovation? The PBS television program This Old House is seeking homeowners who are ready to restore and remodel their home. They’re accepting proposals for all housing styles and neighborhoods and they want to hear from you. To submit your project, visit And don’t forget to tune into The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show each week to hear expert advice from This Old House cast members.

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    The only thing better than a hot shower on a cold morning is a hot shower you don’t have to wait for.

    Hi. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete with today’s Money Pit Home Improvement Minute.

    TOM: Before warm water can make its way to your showerhead, that water needs to travel from the hot-water heater, pushing out all of the cold water that’s been sitting in those pipes, in the process.

    LESLIE: Now, installing a bigger water heater won’t help your wait, since it won’t get the heated water any closer to your faucet or shower.

    TOM: A hot-water recirculator, on the other hand, can make sure hot water arrives before the cold water does. It delivers hot water to fixtures quickly, without having to wait for the water to get hot.

    LESLIE: Keeping hot water flowing, 24-7, can drive up utility costs. But thermostats or timers can help manage the flow for when water hits a certain temperature or at a certain time of day.

    I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And I’m Tom Kraeutler. For more Money Pit home improvement tips, visit

    Where home solutions live, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. You’re going to get the answer to your home improvement question. Plus, this hour we’re giving away a great prize. We’ve got a 29-piece double-drive screwdriver set. It’s got ergonomic handles, so you’re not going to get tired no matter how long your DIY project has taken, plus slip-resistant rubber grips, multiple sizes for all applications. And it has a convenient thumb switch to reverse your gear drive. All you have to do is call us with your home improvement question for your chance to win. It’s a prize worth 50 bucks.

    TOM: So you won’t get tired, even, if you’re putting together a piece of IKEA furniture with 512 fasteners to screw in by hand?

    LESLIE: And random pictures that are like, “You can build this. Come on.” I love there’s one guy in the corner that’s got – his head looks like it’s on fire almost and he’s scratching it. It’s like, “Oh, do you have questions? Well, tough noogies.”

    TOM: Exactly. Yeah, good luck with that.

    LESLIE: Good luck.

    TOM: Well, it’s going out to one lucky caller drawn at random. Make that lucky caller you. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

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

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

    TOM and LESLIE: OK.

    SUE: And I’m really sick of wallpaper.

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

    SUE: Yes, it is.

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

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

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

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

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

    SUE: Really?

    LESLIE: I know it sounds crazy.

    TOM: Works great.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    SUE: No, no. It’s going to be (inaudible at 0:31:34). Thank you so much.

    TOM: Well, it’s that time of the year when your home’s chilliest room is all too obvious. If you’re looking for a permanent fix, an electric heater might be the solution. They’re more expensive to run than conventional gas or oil heat but low installation costs can make them a really popular option.

    LESLIE: Now, there are several types of electric heaters available but the two most common styles are wall heaters and baseboard heaters.

    TOM: That’s right. An electric, wall-mounted heater has basically three parts: it’s got a metal can that’s sort of installed in the wall, with a heating unit inside of it, and a decorative safety cover installed over it. Now, the cover includes louvers to help direct the heated air.

    LESLIE: Now, electrical baseboard heaters, on the other hand, attach directly to the face of the wall where the wall and floor meet.

    TOM: Now, when you choose one or the other, you want to consider both the size of the room and the amount of heat loss that you’ll have to compensate for, in order to keep the room comfortably warm.

    LESLIE: So, to do that, you’ve got to determine the square footage of the room. Now, you do that by measuring the length and width of the space and then multiply the two numbers. A typical rule of thumb is to allow 10 watts of heat per square foot, if the room is well-insulated and generally efficient.

    TOM: Now, for rooms that are not insulated quite that well, you want to figure 12 to 15 watts per square foot. And that’s especially if the home is older with minimal energy efficiency.

    LESLIE: And be sure to power all electric heaters with clock-setback thermostats so they’re only going to run when you need to. And that’ll keep the cost in check.

    TOM: And that is so very important.

    Hey, do you have a project like that on your to-do list? Let’s put it on ours. Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT and we will solve it together.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Rika from rainy Oregon on the line looking to replace some siding. How can we help you?

    RIKA: Hi. I’m calling to see if you can recommend the best siding for our climate.

    TOM: OK.

    RIKA: We’re out here in the Northwest where we get a lot of rain and wind. And our T1-11, the paint has been peeling off and it’s starting to kind of disintegrate.

    LESLIE: Oh, yeah.

    TOM: Yeah. It’s a high-maintenance siding, T1-11. And if you’re not familiar with it, for those that are listening, that’s a plywood siding. And it’s OK as long as you paint it every day before you go to work; otherwise, it does wear out quite quickly.

    LESLIE: Now, when you’re talking about wind, Rika, are you saying that you get like super-duper-duper high winds, like hurricane conditions? Like we should be looking at a certain mile-per-hour rating or just normal rainy/windy?

    RIKA: We did have one hurricane out here, so it survived through that and stuff.

    TOM: You know what the nice thing about T1-11 is, though? It makes a really good sheathing. You don’t have to take it off to put siding over it.

    LESLIE: Should you paint it and seal it and make sure it’s in good, coated condition?

    TOM: No, no, no. You’re not going to rely on its weather resistance whatsoever; you’re just going to go right on top of it. So you could put a building paper or a Tyvek or something like that and go right over it.

    And the kind of siding that I think is probably one of the most weather-resistant sidings out there is a siding called HardiePlank, which is a siding that’s a cementitious type of a siding product. It’s molded. It can look like clapboard, it can look like wood cedar shingles. I’ve got an 1886 house, Rika, and I’ve got on my house real, old-fashioned wood shingles on the house and on the garage, we have HardiePlank. And I’ve got to tell you, from the street, they pretty much look identical.

    RIKA: Wow.

    TOM: Because the HardiePlank is just so well-made and it has that appearance of being like an old shingle. But it’s not organic, it’s not wood, so it doesn’t fall apart. And we actually ordered them from the factory primed and painted, so it was a little bit more money but so worth it. Because when you factory-paint this stuff, you just do so much better of a job than you can possibly do on-site itself. So, I would definitely look at HardiePlank siding, that’s made by the James Hardie Company, as one of the options.

    RIKA: OK. Thank you.

    LESLIE: Alright. Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit.

    Still ahead, all the mopping in the world is not going to cut it. We’re going to teach you the easy way to remove those annoying scuffs from your floor, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Well, hey, does the cold weather have you staying inside as much as possible? You know, a good way to kill some time is with a home theater. It’s a great way to make the most of those winter months and it’s not that hard to do. The options are really endless but the result is the same. It’s a great space for friends and family to gather all year long. We’ve got tips for designing your very own home theater on the home page, right now, at

    LESLIE: Alright. And if you’re looking for more specific tips for what you’re working on, you can post a question, just like Adam did who writes: “I rearranged recently and my furniture left scuff marks on my wood laminate floor. What’s the best way to get them up?”

    He rearranged his furniture by pushing it all around the house.

    TOM: Apparently.

    LESLIE: Didn’t invite a friend. Didn’t get a furniture pad. None of that.

    TOM: You didn’t follow any of our furniture-moving advice, Adam.

    LESLIE: No, no, no.

    TOM: But for starters, let’s clarify that removing scuff marks from wood is different than removing them from laminate. Now, if you’re describing your floor as a wood laminate, make sure you’re following those maintenance instructions for laminate floors, not wood floors.

    But back to those scuffs. There really is no one-size-fits-all solution, because removal depends on what caused the mark in the first place. Now, the fact that yours came from furniture leads me to believe that the scuffs were probably caused by rubber. I’ve had good experiences using a product like Magic Eraser to break down those rubber scuff marks. And if that doesn’t work, you can try Scotch-Brite Scouring Pads. Yes, the green ones that you use on cookware. They’ve got just enough abrasiveness to do the job without damaging the floor.

    Now, another little trick of the trade is that you could use them with a bit of household spray cleaner. But if the scuff still won’t budge, you’ve got to use my secret weapon: WD-40. But it comes with one major caveat. Remember, WD-40 is a lubricant. It’s going to leave the floor very slippery. So once you remove that scuff mark with the WD-40, scrub it. We don’t want anybody falling down on that clean floor that you just left behind.

    LESLIE: Oh, my goodness, Tom. So we were filming an episode of Good Bones for HGTV and one of our contractors dragged a refrigerator across a dining-room floor, from a house that we were working on.

    TOM: Ugh. Not good.

    LESLIE: And of course, I’m there getting the house all ready for the camera crew to come in and make it look beautiful for the beauty shots. And I took the WD-40 and I was like, “You know what? I’m going to do this. I’m going to get these scuff marks out.” And they weren’t really scuff marks; they were scratches. So I was trying to figure out like, “Can I fill them? Should I use some Murphy’s? Old English? Whatever. Get this clean.”

    TOM: And you blend it, yeah.

    LESLIE: So, first, I started to see if the WD-40 worked and of course, everybody walks in that moment and we all have to take off our shoes or wear the little shoe booties.

    TOM: Right.

    LESLIE: And our cameraman goes flying across the room. And they’re like, “Leslie.” I’m like, “I told you guys. I’m in the middle of this.”

    TOM: Right.

    LESLIE: Nobody fell down. I got the scuff marks out and the scratches looked blended in but still, I almost had some injuries on my hands.

    TOM: Oh, boy. Yeah.

    LESLIE: So really, really do clean the floor well. It is super, super, super slippery.

    Alright. We’ve got a post here from Liz and she writes: “What adds more value to a home: a wooden deck or a patio of pavers? Can you compare and contrast the two options as far as cost, labor, DIY versus hiring contractors, et cetera?”

    And she would like her answers in the form of a paragraph with 1,000 words or less. OK.

    TOM: You know, the idea that you can create a living space beyond your four walls is gaining ground as a really popular home improvement project. And the return on investment is also super strong.

    Now, some reports say that installing a deck or a patio will give you as much as a 75-percent return on investment. As far as the degree of difficulty, anyone with basic construction knowledge could install either. I think the key is what works best with the house. If your back door is up about 3 or 4 feet, well, then a deck is the hot ticket. But if your back door goes right out to grade, then you’ve got to go with a patio. Or you can do a combination of the two with an upper deck and a lower patio. I think you can’t go wrong, Liz, either way you go.

    LESLIE: No, really, it’s a great choice. And you know what? You’re going to benefit from it before you even sell the house. So enjoy it.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at Thank you so much for spending this January day with us. We hope that we’ve given you some tips and some advice to make your home safer and more comfortable.

    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.


    (Copyright 2015 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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