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    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: And we are here to help you with your home improvement project. We’re going to help solve the do-it-yourself dilemmas. If there’s a project that you’d like to tackle this fall, now is your chance. Give us a call, 888-MONEY-PIT. We will help you take that all-important first step, try to save you money, try to save you some time and try to make sure the project comes out exactly how you expect it.

    Speaking of fall, severe weather can strike at any time, which is why you should always have an emergency kit stocked with food, water and supplies on hand. But for some members of your household, those just aren’t enough. We’ll have tips on what you need to know to make sure everyone stays safe, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: And also ahead, look up. Is your view less than exciting? Well, perk up that boring look with decorative ceiling tiles. You know, there are a lot of options out there, so we’re going to get some advice from This Old House general contractor Tom Silva.

    TOM: Plus, new pavers and patio stones won’t keep that new look for long. Learn how to seal and protect those surfaces so they always look sparkling.

    LESLIE: And one caller we talk to on the air this hour wins a PURPLE Tool Kit from National Gypsum. It’s got everything you need for your next project, including a hard hat.

    TOM: So, give us a call right now. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Mary in Illinois is on the line with a painting question. How can we help you today?

    MARY: I want to paint a fireplace. It’s brick and just want to know if there’s – if you can do that, first of all, and if there’s a certain kind of paint you need to use.

    LESLIE: Has it been painted before or is it natural brick?

    MARY: No, it’s natural brick – original brick.

    TOM: Well, you certainly can paint it but I would think very carefully before you do this. Because once you paint, you have to repaint eventually. And fireplaces tend to get very dirty and very smoky and they’re hard to keep clean. If it’s just the color that you don’t like, there may be some ways to sort of decorate around that color. But I would really hesitate to tell you to paint it.

    We get a lot of calls from folks that are not happy with painted fireplaces and they want to know how to do the exact opposite, which is get the paint off. And once you paint it, it’s just really hard to do that.

    MARY: OK. I was kind of worried about whether it would peel or – when you say you just have to keep repainting because of …

    LESLIE: Well, paint, over time, is going to crack and dry out. And it will get so dirty just from the exhaust and the use of the fireplace that you’ll get sort of that haze around the upper portion of it, regardless of what type of screen you have.

    Now, the other thing to keep in mind is that since this will be its first time being painted, the brick is so porous that you’re going to put a lot of time into priming, because it’s just going to absorb all of that primer. And you want to get a good quality primer, you want to make sure that you brush in the grout lines, roll on the surfaces of the brick, brush again. So it’s a lot of steps. It can be done.

    But as Tom said, if you want to take that paint off, it’s now a chemical stripper. And because that brick is so porous, it’s going to have sucked in all of that color and so it’ll never get back to that original brick look again. It’ll have that sort of hue of whatever color it was.

    MARY: Mm-hmm. OK, OK. Great. Well, thank you for your help. I appreciate it.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’re heading to North Carolina where Fred is on the line with a humidity problem. How can we help you?

    FRED: I’ve got two daughters who, I think, live in our bathroom. Constantly taking showers, which is, I guess, a good problem to have. But I’m starting to smell mold and stuff in the house. I think it’s tied to that. And before I even get into it, I figured I’d do the smart thing and call you guys.

    TOM: Well, bathrooms are sources of enormous humidity during those showers – extended showers. Do you have a bathroom fan? Do you have a ceiling fan?

    FRED: I do but it’s ancient.

    TOM: OK. Well, it should still work even if it’s ancient. So, here’s a couple of things that you can do. First of all, make sure it’s working, make sure it’s vented outside. That’s important.

    Secondly, it’s a good idea to run it for a good 10 or 15 minutes after the shower is completed and after you leave the room. There’s actually a switch that can do that for you. It’s made by Leviton and it’s a humidity sensor and fan control. And essentially, the way it works is it does just that: it senses the humidity level inside the room and will automatically turn it off when the humidity goes down. Because if you can reduce the amount of moisture that’s staying in that bathroom, you’ll dramatically reduce the amount of mold growth that you’re getting on tile and other places.

    So, I would suggest that you check the fan to make sure it’s functional and operational, that you replace the light switch or the fan switch with the humidity sensor and fan control from Leviton. And then give your bathroom a good cleaning to get rid of all the debris and mold that might be there now. And I think you’ll see a dramatic difference because without that moisture sitting around for those long periods of time, you’re just not going to have the same issues.

    LESLIE: And you know what, Fred? If this is a project you want to tackle yourself but you’re a little unsure, if you head on over to Leviton’s website, right on the page with the humidity sensor and fan control you’ll find an installation video that’ll talk you right through it.

    FRED: Ah, OK. That’s why I called the experts.

    TOM: Alright. Well, 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 MoneyPit.com. Now you can call in your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, would you like your house to be both clean and green? Then why not try out Shaklee’s Get Clean Kit at GreenMyMoneyPit.com? It’s chock-full of everything you’ll need to get your house clean without exposing your family to harmful chemicals. And most importantly, the concentrated Shaklee products work well and work really well. In fact, Shaklee backs up their products with a 100-percent empty-bottle guarantee. And if for any reason you’re not completely satisfied, they give you all your money back.

    LESLIE: Plus, if you try the Get Clean Kit today, we’re going to send you a copy of The Money Pit Guide to Green Remodeling absolutely free. You can start shopping today at GreenMyMoneyPit.com.

    TOM: We’ll be back with more, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Pavestone’s easy-to-stack RumbleStone Rustic Building Blocks. Create any outdoor hardscape you can imagine, to instantly add old-world charm. Available at The Home Depot. For more information and product instructions, visit Pavestone.com.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. And the number here is 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Now, one caller who asks us their question on the air this hour has a chance to win a $50 PURPLE Tool Kit from National Gypsum. It’s got everything that a DIYer is going to need. It’s got a hammer, screwdrivers, torpedo level and more. Plus, you get a hat and a coffee mug. Because you’ve got to protect your head and you’ve got to stay caffeinated so that you protect all your fingers and don’t hammer your nails.

    TOM: Because it’s really exhausting to take on those projects. So you want to make sure that you’ve got the energy, even if it’s caffeine energy.

    LESLIE: Exactly.

    TOM: You know, PURPLE Drywall Products provide resistance to mold, mildew, scratches, dents and can even reduce noise. Check it out at AskForPURPLE.com and give us a call, right now, and ask us your home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Alright. Nelda in Georgia, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    NELDA: I’m having a problem with the glass on my gas fireplace. There’s a white film on it, and I just cannot get it off. I went to the place where I bought it and they gave me some glass cleaner. But that doesn’t work, either.

    TOM: Well, if it’s carbon-based, it can be difficult to get off. So, there’s sort of a mechanical way to do it and then there’s another chemical way that you could try. So mechanically, you could simply get a straight-edge razor blade and try to scrape it off like you would clean, say, paint off glass. So you can try that.

    But the other way to try it is with oven cleaner. Because if it’s a carbon buildup, the oven cleaner will melt that carbon and make it possible to clean the glass just like it melts the carbon on the inside of, say, the glass on your oven door.

    NELDA: Oh, OK. Sure. I never thought about that.

    TOM: But regular window cleaning is probably not going to do the trick, because that’s really just for dirt and grease. But if it’s built-up carbon, then it’s a lot harder to get off.

    NELDA: I’ll try the oven cleaner. That sounds like a good idea.

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

    LESLIE: Hi, Fred. Welcome to The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    FRED: I have a standard toilet. House was built in ’29, so it’s, what, 80 years old? It’s the type where the tank hangs on the wall and then you have an L and then you have, I guess – what do you call that? The bowl?

    And it started to leak and so the old metal was pretty corroded and everything. So we took everything out: we took the tank off that wall, we – I say we, that I, the plumber who I’ve been using for many years – cleaned everything up. Went to the hardware store that handles these kind of fittings and we just cannot get this thing to work. It leaks …

    TOM: Where does it leak? Does it leak at the – where at – the base of the tank where the pipe connects?

    FRED: In both, yeah. Well, one time we did it, it leaked at the bottom of the tank. The other time, it leaked when it went into the bowl.

    TOM: What kind of a washer are you using? What kind of a gasket or seal are you using in those two places?

    FRED: Well, I don’t know the technical names of it. The guy at the – they look like the same stuff we took off. I’m a musician; I don’t know all these things.

    TOM: Well, this shouldn’t be that hard to accomplish and it sounds like whatever they’re using in that gasket space right there is not working. And look, if all else fails, you can simply use silicone here. You could apply the silicone in – as you put this together, you could – you seal all those joints with silicone, let it dry. Try not to touch it until it dries. And then you can take a razor blade and cut off the excess, nice and neat, and essentially make your own gasket.

    FRED: Yeah, the plumber mentioned something. He said the only thing is if that thing fails and I’m not home, I’m going to have a house full of water.

    TOM: That’s true. But the thing is, if it – once it works, it usually works continuously. It’s not – it doesn’t usually fail. If you get it right, it’s not going to fail, OK?

    FRED: Yes. So, in other words, unless I can see some chips or damage on the porcelain or something like that, which I don’t see, it should work.

    TOM: But I would take it apart and I would seal, with silicone, each connection as it goes together so that you end up with a good compression of silicone around that. That’s the solution, OK?

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

    Well, if you’ve ever had a weather emergency, you know they can be very scary and even scarier if your household includes anyone with unique needs. So, when the forecast calls for severe weather, it’s important to make sure every member of the household is ready for the storm. So as we move forward into this hurricane season, we’ve got a few tips, presented by the experts at KOHLER Generators.

    LESLIE: Yeah. You know, in addition to food, water and other survival basics, you want to make sure that your emergency kit meets the day-to-day needs of your youngest and your oldest loved ones. So make a list of everything that your child uses over the course of a few days and be sure to stock your emergency kit with them. You want to update your supplies as your child grows and don’t forget about occasional remedies, like pain reliever. And while you’re at it, why not add a few things to keep everyone busy, like games, cards, books, that kind of thing?

    TOM: Now, if you’ve got seniors in your family, you should talk to the doctors about what added supplies and medicines and medical devices are needed in case a pharmacy or drugstore isn’t accessible. Also, think ahead about seniors’ mobility. Canes or wheelchairs might not be needed today but could become necessary if they need to walk more than usual or if bathroom access is limited.

    LESLIE: This Severe Weather Tip is presented by KOHLER Generators. Running on clean propane or natural gas, a KOHLER standby generator is permanently installed outside your home and comes on automatically within seconds of a power outage.

    TOM: To learn more, visit KOHLERGenerators.com.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Rob in Maryland on the line with a building with a dirt floor and he needs some help with it. How can we help you?

    ROB: Yeah. Hi. I have an 18-foot-diameter round space outside. It’s a little hut and I have dirt floor. And just want to see if there’s some type of concrete that I can just pour down there or pour on it and it’ll just find its own level.

    TOM: Well, I mean concrete, to some extent, find its own level. You have access to this space, right? Is there any reason you can’t float it out?

    ROB: Yeah. It’s easy to do.

    TOM: Yeah. So then what you’re going to want to do is a couple of things. First of all -this is an unheated space?

    ROB: Correct.

    TOM: Alright. So what you want to do is you would want to make sure that the dirt is solidly tamped down, right? And then you’re going to add concrete to that to a thickness of at least 4 inches but maybe even 6. And then float the concrete.

    It takes a little skill. You’re going to have to do some research on how to do this. But essentially, when the concrete comes off the truck, there’s stone that’s embedded in it. And as you spread it out with a shovel and a rake, you sort of float it. You shake it with a float – a trowel. It’s like a big trowel. And then the stones sink to the bottom of the concrete and sort of the cream comes to the top and that’s what gives you that nice finish. And you’ll sort of work the concrete smooth and then work your way out the door. So I think it’s as simple as putting in a concrete slab floor.

    ROB: Is there anything like a dust cover?

    TOM: Yeah. You can – there’s plastic dust covers and things like that. But you want a floor that you could actually use, so the concrete is the best way to go.

    ROB: OK. Alright.

    TOM: You could probably do some with brick pavers. But it’d be a lot of work because you’d have to cut all those round edges.

    ROB: Alright. Well, thanks a lot.

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

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

    MAISY: Just asking about -how can you get rid of the gnats going in through your house?

    TOM: They’re eating you up, huh?

    MAISY: Yes. I’m about gone.

    TOM: Well, one of the things that you can do is to create a somewhat natural repellant for those gnats. And you take apple-cider vinegar, put it in a small bowl and then add in a surfactant, like dishwashing detergent – just a bit of that – mix it together. And then you cover that bowl with like plastic wrap and you put a few holes in it so that the bugs can get in there but they can’t get out of there. And they’ll be attracted to that.

    It ends up being sort of a one-way trap, though. Because once they get in there, they can’t get out.

    MAISY: I love that idea.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Jeff in Iowa on the line who’s got an air conditioner that doesn’t always smell so great. What’s going on, Jeff?

    JEFF: I can’t smell. The wife can smell.

    TOM: OK.

    JEFF: Yeah, we have a …

    LESLIE: We smell everything.

    JEFF: There’s a smell emanating from somewhere. I thought it was maybe the basement drain or it’s not falling like it should. And she seems to think that it – she says it comes on – the smell comes about when the air is turned on – when the air comes on.

    TOM: OK.

    JEFF: So maybe it’s not cleaning – or am I on the right track?

    TOM: Maybe. So let’s talk about some basics. If we want to get to the bottom of this, we could start with duct cleaning, just to kind of eliminate that as a possibility. The second thing we should talk about is what kind of filter do you have?

    JEFF: Just your generic, basic one from the hardware store.

    TOM: Yeah, that’s a problem. So what I want you to do is I want you to pick up a Filtrete filter – 3M Filtrete brand. And they sell one that has activated charcoal built into it and it’s specifically designed for eliminating odors. It’s called the Filtrete Home Odor-Reduction Filter. And it’s got activated charcoal built in and so that’s designed specifically to get rid of the odors and of course, it does a great job with dust and pollen and mold and that sort of thing.

    JEFF: Oh, alright. Thanks a lot. Appreciate it.

    TOM: And that’s going to make your wife very, very happy.

    JEFF: OK.

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

    LESLIE: Mary in North Dakota needs some help with a concrete floor. What can we do for you?

    MARY: We’ve got crumbling concrete on the basement floor after water problems this spring.

    TOM: OK. Alright.

    MARY: And it’s very crumbly and powdery. And there are places on it that I’d like to paint, if I could.

    TOM: Mm-hmm. Do you want to try to stabilize the deterioration of the concrete?

    MARY: Yeah. I was wondering if there was some kind of sealant that could be sprayed or poured on it.

    TOM: Yeah, absolutely. First of all, in terms of the water problem, is this a problem that happened after a heavy rainfall?

    MARY: Yeah.

    TOM: Alright. So if you’ve got water that comes in after a heavy rainfall, I want to make sure we try to slow this down so it doesn’t happen again. Adding sump pumps, things of that nature, is not going to stop this from happening again. What stops the heavy rainfall from getting in is outside, looking at your gutters and your grading, making sure the downspouts are discharging away from the house, making sure your gutters are clean, making sure soil slopes away from the house.

    We’ve got extensive articles – actually, several of them – on MoneyPit.com. Just search “how to stop a leaking basement” and it’s the same advice. And we talk about the proper drainage improvements. So, do that first.

    And then, in terms of the concrete itself, you can use a patching compound. QUIKRETEhas a patching-compound product. You definitely want to use the patching compound, because it’s designed to stick to the old concrete. If you try to put new concrete over it, it’s not going to stick. So, the ready-to-use patching compounds are trowel-applied. They’re latex formulas, so it’s easy to clean up. But that will seal the old concrete.

    Then, once that dries, then you can paint it. And what I would look for is an epoxy floor paint. The epoxy paints I like because they’re a chemical cure. When you buy the floor paint, you get the paint in a gallon can that’s about three-quarters filled and then a quart of hardener. You mix them together, stir them up and then you apply the paint. Sometimes, there is an additive that goes in after the fact that gives you some texture to the floor, helps kind of hide the dirt. But patching it first, then adding an epoxy paint will have that looking like new in no time.

    MARY: OK. But the name of the sealant was called what?

    TOM: QUIKRETE – Q-U-I-K-R-E-T-E. It’s QUIKRETE Concrete Patching Compound. Good stuff. 

    LESLIE: Well, still to come, is your overhead view a plain, white ceiling? You know, you can perk up the look of a boring ceiling with many decorative options. We’re going to have advice on how you can do that, after this.

    NORM: Hi, I’m Norm Abram from This Old House. And when we’re working on our projects, we listen to The Money Pit.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Cabinets To Go, where you get premium-quality cabinets for less. You dream it, they design it and always 40 percent less than the big-box stores. Visit them online at CabinetsToGo.com.

    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, has that “For Sale” sign been out on your lawn for longer than you’d hoped? Think beyond just curb appeal, with a few proven tricks for making sure your home is appealing the next perspective buyer. We’ve got home staging tips for a fast sale on the home page, right now, at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Joe in Delaware is having an issue with the kitchen flooring. Tell us what’s going on.

    JOE: I have water leaking from the cabinet onto the kitchen floor. And it’s got black spots and also some black lines in the floor.

    TOM: OK.

    JOE: I’m kind of a handyman or whatever you want to call it. I thought I’d grab my sander and want to sand it right out. Well, it didn’t work.

    TOM: Right. Because it’s deep.

    JOE: It’s deep, yes. Is there something that one can use to, well, take the blackness out?

    TOM: Well, my first question is: did you fix the leak?

    JOE: Yes. Oh, I say yes.

    TOM: OK. So the leak is fixed. What happens with the hardwood floor is it gets oxidized. And the staining that you’re seeing can get quite deep. It’s possible that you could maybe, using a bleach solution, lighten that oxidation up. But the problem is that it may still not match the floor that surrounds it.

    What’s the color of the finish of the floor?

    JOE: Well, I guess you would call it “white.” Yeah, it’s [kind of blond] (ph). And I – when I sand it down, the wood will also – when I got through the finish, it’s a kind of hard finish. It was also very light and I thought, “Well, I’ll just some clear polyurethane on.” And then it turned reddish on me.

    TOM: And did you sand down the entire floor or only the area where the stains …?

    JOE: No, just the area where it was black, yeah. It’s like maybe 10 inches wide and about 18 inches long or …

    TOM: Alright. Well, look, it’s going to be difficult for you to patch this. What you might want to do is have the entire floor professionally sanded. With the right equipment, you can cut through that and make sure that it all matches. If some additional staining is needed to touch it up, a floor refinisher could do that. It’s either that or buy yourself a nice throw rug and forget about it.

    JOE: Right. OK.

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

    LESLIE: Well, if you would like to add a touch of the baroque to your home without going broke, consider putting up a ceiling medallion. It’s a decorative disk that’s centered on your ceiling.

    TOM: Now, traditionally, medallions were paired with a chandelier and that’s because their original purpose was to protect the ceiling from candle burns. Today, though, you can pair one with a lighting fixture or let it stand alone. Here to tell us more about these embellishments is the host of This Old House: Kevin O’Connor.

    Welcome, Kevin.

    KEVIN: Hi, guys. Great to be here.

    TOM: Now, ceiling medallions really had a very practical purpose in old homes. Let’s start there.

    KEVIN: Yeah. I mean imagine this: you had a chandelier in the middle of your living room and it was either burning candles or there was a gas pipe coming through the ceiling and you had a gas lamp. Well, both of those things actually give off soot. And that’s a problem in a house, right? And that was a big thing that they were struggling with – was sort of how to contain that soot, how to make sure that the entire ceiling didn’t turn black. And so the ceiling medallions’ first role was to actually try to contain that soot right above where the chandelier was.

    TOM: And I imagine it also added a layer of fire protection, as well, since it was heavy plaster.

    KEVIN: Much thicker than the actual ceiling itself. So it has this kind of vestige of a different purpose. But nowadays, we love them because it reminds of old houses, because we think they’re beautiful and ornate and they are. So a lot of people will actually want to either restore the medallions that they have in the house or add them back to rooms.

    LESLIE: You know, I think it’s interesting. If you head to any sort of lighting or design center, you’ll find a whole bunch of sort of lightweight foam models or PVC models that are super-ornate or really simple, something with just like a little egg-and-dart detail or a little beaded detail and then some that are just so almost gaudy but beautiful in their own sense.

    TOM: Right.

    LESLIE: I think it’s interesting, because it can be overwhelming if you’re not choosing the right size for the space.

    KEVIN: Sure.

    LESLIE: But is there a rule or do you just willy-nilly pick one?

    KEVIN: Well, I don’t know if there’s a rule but there’s definitely a good way to think about it. And that is – everything you put into – your house has a style, right? And so it’s got sort of a vernacular to it. And so the things that you do to your house, you’re going to be better served if you stay within that vernacular, stay within that style.

    TOM: Right.

    KEVIN: So if you’ve got yourself a nice colonial house, use a ceiling medallion with a pattern that would be appropriate for that style. If you’ve got a simpler type of house, use a simpler medallion. And that’s a pretty easy correlation that you can make between the style of your house and the style of medallion that you’re adding.

    LESLIE: Yeah. But is it the chandelier size or the light-fixture size that determines the diameter of the medallion or do you just kind of go by …?

    KEVIN: Again, I don’t think there’s necessarily hard and fast rules but there are a couple good guidelines. One of the guidelines that I’ve heard is take the square footage of your room, divide it by seven and that will give you an approximation for the diameter of the medallion. So, just roughly speaking, a 10×10 room is 100 square feet. Divide that by 7 and you’re talking about a 14-inch diameter medallion. That’s a good rule of thumb.

    If the ceilings are higher, you can probably stand a larger medallion, because it won’t look as big to you. But also, the chandelier can be a good guide. The medallion can be as wide as the diameter of the chandelier. It probably shouldn’t be as big as, say, a ceiling fan that’s underneath it because that’s got a really big diameter. That might be a little bit too robust. But those are some pretty good rules to live by in terms of choosing both style and sizes.

    TOM: Whenever it comes to something like that, I think it’s always a good idea maybe to cut one out of cardboard or something like that, tape it up on the ceiling, stare at it for a couple of days, see how it feels.

    KEVIN: That’s a great piece of advice. There’s nothing like actually seeing it, laying eyes on it to get comfortable with it.

    TOM: Now, what are medallions made out of? Are they – they used to be plaster but now they come in a variety of materials.

    KEVIN: Yeah, a lot of lightweight materials: polyurethane and foam and such because, obviously, we’ve got to affix these things to the ceiling. But we don’t actually need them to be made out of plaster, because it’s rare that anybody will ever touch them once they’re installed. They’re sort of out of reach and out of the way.

    So we’ve actually worked them on the show and in the houses that Tommy is renovating. We’ve actually worked with lots of foam medallions. And in that case, the installation is a piece of cake. You can actually use construction adhesive and put them up on the ceiling. There’s not a lot of weight to support. That’s going to pretty much put them up there and hold them up there forever.

    Now, if you use plaster – and you can get plaster medallions -you’re going to want to use something more aggressive than just a regular construction adhesive. You’re going to want to …

    LESLIE: Because they’re going to be heavy.

    KEVIN: They are going to be heavy. You’re going to want to have joint compound up there. That sets up nice and strong, at least.

    TOM: And what if you’ve got an old house that maybe was covered with a drop ceiling and you take the drop down and you find this beautiful medallion that’s missing a chunk or something like that? Is there a way to repair those old plaster medallions?

    KEVIN: Oh, boy, is there. And in fact, we had that identical situation on a recent project that we were working on. Those drop ceilings came down and there they were: those medallions that had been hidden for 20 or 30 years. And what a find. Now, of course, we had one that was damaged and there are a couple ways that you can fix it.

    We were working with a plasterer who did it the old-fashioned way. He actually took a two-part putty. He made a mold where he actually pressed that soft putty into a good part of the medallion so that he could create a negative.

    TOM: Right.

    KEVIN: And then we were able to pour the plaster into the negative, wait for it to set up, peel the mold away. Because it’s still flexible; it’s kind of like rubber.

    TOM: Right.

    KEVIN: And then you can take that new piece and you can actually get it into the medallion, where it’s broken. Take your oscillating saw, cut it away, get it in there. And then a good craftsman can actually feather it and make it look like it’s always been there.

    TOM: So that’s great if you actually uncover a real plaster medallion and you want to repair it. But let’s say you have a more modern house – one built in the last 20 or 30 years – and you want to have that appearance but maybe you don’t want to go with the foam, you don’t want to go, obviously, with the plaster. Any other options?

    KEVIN: Yeah. I mean think about painting something up there, right? Sort of a stencil. It’s really just an aesthetic decision at this point, right? And so you’re just suggesting that there was a medallion there. It’s not as complex, it’s not as complicated. You can actually go and paint that design right where the medallion otherwise would’ve been.

    TOM: Great tip. 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 local listings and step-by-step videos of many common home improvement projects, visit ThisOldHouse.com.

    TOM: And This Old House and Ask This Old House are presented by GMC. GMC, we are professional grade.

    Still to come, is exposure to the sun and the elements getting the best of your outdoor patio? Well, don’t move the party inside. We’ll have tips to make those stone surfaces and pavers look new again, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Pavestone’s easy-to-stack RumbleStone Rustic Building Blocks. Create any outdoor hardscape you can imagine, to instantly add old-world charm. Available at The Home Depot. For more information and product instructions, visit Pavestone.com.

    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: The number to call is 888-MONEY-PIT.

    One caller we talk to on the air this hour is going to win a $50 PURPLE Tool Kit from National Gypsum. It includes everything a do-it-yourselfer needs to install drywall: a hammer, screwdrivers, torpedo level and more. Plus, you even get a hard hat and a coffee mug.

    LESLIE: Yeah. It’s a 24-piece set. You know, PURPLE Drywall Products from National Gypsum, they provide resistance to mold, mildew, scratches, dents and they can even reduce noise between rooms. So it kind of solves all your problems right there.

    TOM: Check it out at AskForPURPLE.com and give us a call, right now, for the answer to your home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, we all know that too much sun can be a bad thing. And nowhere is that more obvious than on patios, driveways or pretty much any place featuring exposed stone or pavers. But that new look doesn’t have to be a thing of the past.

    TOM: Now, that’s right. Protecting and sealing masonry is crucial to not only a lifespan but also to its appearance. And that’s where QUIKRETE’s Concrete & Masonry High-Gloss Sealer comes in.

    Now, it can be applied to vertical or horizontal surfaces. And it keeps everything, from rock salt to oil to grease, from soaking in and aging that masonry. And it leaves it with a naturally new look.

    LESLIE: It’s a water-based, high-gloss sealer that can be used not only outside but indoors, too, where it can actually cut down on your cleaning time. You can seal in an exposed brick wall in any room of your house. And that will decrease dust and film from crumbling bricks or mortar by locking it in. And unlike polyurethane finishes, QUIKRETE Concrete & Masonry High-Gloss Sealer won’t leave your brick wall looking unnaturally shiny. I hate that look.

    TOM: It’s ready to use and it can be applied with a roller or a brush, almost like you’re painting. And you only have to wait two hours before applying that second coat. Learn more at QUIKRETE.com.

    LESLIE: Ed in Colorado is on the line with a basement-plumbing question. What can we help you with today?

    ED: Oh, I live in the area of Colorado that suffered from the floods. Fortunately, I wasn’t one of the persons that had a flood but some of my friends that did have had sewerage backup in their basements. And somebody mentioned that there was such a thing as a check valve that can be installed that still lets it act as a drain but will stop any backups. And I was wondering if you have a recommendation, if there’s any problem with them that you know of.

    TOM: Yeah, Ed, that’s called a “backflow preventer valve” and it’s a type of valve that is installed in the main waste line. And it does just what you explained. If the sewage flow reverses and there’s pressure onto the sewage pipe to kind of pump that sewage back into your house – which can get terrible, because it can come up through every drain in the house – the backflow preventer valve will stop that from happening.

    But just keep in mind that it’s not to be confused with the sewer trap, which stops sewage gas from backing up. You actually need the sewer trap but you also need the backflow preventer valve, especially if you have an area that apparently is susceptible to this.

    So I think it would be a good thing to do. You’re going to need a plumber to install it. It’s a bit of a project, because you’ve got to get access to the line to do it, but it is a good idea to have it done.

    ED: Do I have access through the drain and the little screen that’s over the top of it?

    TOM: Well, the line has to be actually – this is a valve that has to be plumbed into it, so it depends on whether or not there’s enough room to kind of move the pipes around to get this backflow preventer valve in there.

    ED: Oh, we’d have to bust up some concrete in that case.

    TOM: Well, perhaps. Or certainly, you’d have to extend the line that’s there, OK?

    ED: Alright. Well, thank you very much for your time.

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

    LESLIE: Still ahead, when the water pressure in the shower is low, blood pressure can get sky-high. We’re going to tell you what’s causing your home’s water pressure to fluctuate and what to do about it, after this.

    TOM: Where home solutions live, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Hey, do you have more questions? Well, we have more answers. Just head on over to MoneyPit.com for blogs and advice, as well as the chance to sign up for The Money Pit e-newsletter. And don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest for ideas, advice and solutions to your home improvement challenges, big and small.

    LESLIE: Alright. And posting questions this week, we’ve got one from Kathy who writes: “The water pressure throughout my house is intermittently high and low. Within a one-minute period, it goes from being very low to wonderful for maybe eight seconds and then low again. It makes laundry take forever, washing dishes a pain and showers less than enjoyable. Any advice on what the problem might be and how to fix it?”

    TOM: That’s a really weird one. I think the first thing that I would do, Kathy, is I would have the pressure checked where it comes in from the street.

    Now, you can have a plumber or even the water company do this. See, the water company could check the pressure at the curb and see how much street pressure is being delivered to your house. And then you could have a plumber check it at the main to see if we have any loss from the curb to the main water valve. And then beyond that, you kind of have to trace it down to the area of the house where the issue is happening.

    Now, if you have pretty strong pressure, just running a faucet somewhere else shouldn’t cause such a dramatic drop. But if you have weak pressure, it could become very, very obvious when something else is running somewhere else in the house. And remember, that could be as innocent as somebody flushing a toilet in another part of the house and that could dramatically cut the water pressure.

    So you’ve got to do some detective work on water pressure. And you start at the curb, you work to the main and then to the distribution lines that go in through your house. And sooner or later, you’re going to figure it out.

    LESLIE: Alright. Get that detective outfit on, young lady, and start looking.

    Next up, we’ve got a post from Richard who writes: “The skylight in my kitchen ceiling condensates in the winter, dripping water down the drywall and wrecking the paint around the opening of the skylight. The best solution I’ve come up with is using a plastic sheet to seal off room air from reaching the skylight. Needless to say, it doesn’t look very nice. Any better suggestions?”

    TOM: Well, obviously, what’s happening here is you have an uninsulated skylight. When the warm, moist air that’s inside your house rises, it strikes that cold, glass surface that’s exposed to the outside and it condenses. Because you put the plastic in between the warm air and that cold surface, you added, essentially, a layer of insulation. So you’ve done probably the most effective thing that you can do.

    The solution here is to replace the skylight and do so with one that’s thermal-paned and one that has low-E glass. That means that when the sun hits it in the summer, it’s going to reflect that heat back out.

    I’ll tell you, we replaced a 20-year-old skylight recently that did not have low-E glass. And what a difference it made, this summer, in terms of keeping the room that it’s in much more cool and comfortable. So, it’s high time for a new skylight, Richard. And that’s going to be the best way to make this go away permanently. But I do say you’re doing the best you can right now, short of replacing it.

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we have a post form Patty who writes: “Our painter got lots of primer on our old hardwood floors, thinking we were going to cover them with carpet.” That’s never good. “Should this be sanded off or stripped first before sanding?”

    TOM: Oh, my God. What an idiot. Does he – this guy never heard of a drop cloth? I mean even if you were going to cover it with carpet, what about somebody down the line that wants to refinish those hardwood floors?

    LESLIE: Meh. What’s the big deal?

    TOM: Well, listen, the thing is you’re going to have to sand them anyway, so you don’t have to strip the paint off first. You’re just going to have to do a bit more sanding. But make sure you get all of that paint off before you put your finish on. That’d be the best way to handle it.

    LESLIE: And in the future, when hiring a painter, specify: “This is the floor we’re keeping.”

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. We hope we’ve given you some tips and some ideas so that you know what the first step is to tackle your next home improvement project. If you need more info, it’s on our website at MoneyPit.com. And you can post your home improvement question there, as well.

    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 2014 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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