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Quick Fixes for Holiday Lights, The Best – and Worst – Floors for Pets, and Fun, Educational Ways to Introduce Kids to DIY

  • Transcript

    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: Happy Holidays, everyone. We’re here to help you with your home improvement projects, holiday-based or not. If it’s a job on your to-do list, slide it over to our list by picking up the phone and calling us at 888-666-3974.

    Coming up on today’s program, they may be man’s best friend but your floor’s worst enemy. We’re going to have some tips on which floors stand up best to dogs, cats and other pets, just ahead.

    LESLIE: And also ahead, make sure your holiday lights are working before you spend hours stringing them and hanging them and making them look what you think is going to be beautiful until they just don’t turn on. We’re going to give you some fast, free and easy holiday-light fixes.

    TOM: And do cold days spent inside have your kids complaining that they’re – you guessed it – bored? Well, stop the whining with a creative solution that’s fun and builds DIY skills. We’ll share that tip, next.

    LESLIE: And one lucky caller this hour is going to win a $50 Home Depot gift card.

    TOM: Yep. It’s perfect for picking up an LED set of holiday lights that last longer and cost you less than a traditional incandescent. More holiday spirit for less. Got to love that. Call us, right now, for your chance to win at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re going to Texas where Laurie had some sort of flooring incident and now the cabinets are all damaged. What the heck happened at your house?

    LAURIE: Well, we had – we bought an old house built in 1939. When we took the carpet up, we had some beautiful hardwood floors, so we had them refinished. But as they were refinishing them and replacing some of the bad spots, they banged up our cabinets. And we’ve had to try to touch them up with the paint that we had our cabinets painted with. And it’s just – it’s not working. It looks – the sheen is different, it’s streaky. I just don’t know how to make them look uniform without repainting the whole kitchen.

    TOM: So the cabinets were scratched and you’re trying to repaint them with household paint. And the problem is that they were probably sprayed, perhaps, with a lacquer or other type of finish and you’re just not able to match the exact sheen.

    LAURIE: And we had – we actually have the exact paint that they used. And my husband touched them up and it – you know, it just isn’t working. So we didn’t know if there was a – if we needed to sand them again.

    TOM: Why is it not working?

    LAURIE: Well, the sheen, it’s shinier. It’s streaked. So I don’t know if it was the brush or what. The paint’s probably a year-and-a-half old.

    LESLIE: That’s the thing. When you’ve got paint sitting around for a while, you can’t just pick it up and use a stir stick and then go for it. You really should bring it back to the paint center and have them throw it in the tumbler.

    TOM: Yeah. And also, as you go ahead and refinish these damaged areas, you want to kind of fill it in from the inside out. Don’t try to paint over the whole thing. Be very strategic and use a small brush and just get it into the scratched areas. And don’t try to overpaint the areas that are not scratched.

    LAURIE: Alright. We’ll try that.

    TOM: It’s kind of like the same procedure as touching up a car, as a way – in the same way. You sort of fill in the scratch rather than overpaint the whole thing. Because if you do, it’s going to lay over the factory finish and look more like a patch than you want it to.

    LAURIE: Right. And I think that is kind of what’s happening. So, OK. We’ll try those things and see if that helps.

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

    LESLIE: Don in Pennsylvania has got a question about windows. What can we help you with?

    DON: These windows are mid-1700s. That’s before the Revolution. The ones I’m working on, there is – the building actually had a date on it: 1746.

    TOM: Wow. That’s impressive.

    LESLIE: Wow.

    DON: And the glass on these was like poured glass; it wasn’t manufactured the way they make them now. And I’m trying to save the glass and I’m trying not to damage the wood at all. But I’m scraping and painting and weatherizing these windows. And the reason I’m doing that is because a lot of the glaze is falling out and the paint is flaking away and everything. But some of that glaze that’s on there – and this hasn’t been done, I would say, for more than 30 years. Because we’ve lived here 30 years and have never done it to this window.

    And so that – some of the glaze is falling out but others, it’s really tenacious and stuck to that wood and that glass. And I don’t want to ruin the glass or ruin the wood, so what’s the best way to get that old glaze out of there?

    TOM: Are you using any heat to help you here?

    DON: Not yet.

    TOM: So, what you want to try to do is get a heat gun, which kind of looks like an industrial-size hair dryer.

    DON: Yeah, I have an electric heat gun and I’ve used that to help remove some of the paint. But I don’t know the temperature of that heat gun but …

    TOM: Well, you want to use it cautiously. I wouldn’t lean into it with the nozzle but I would try to warm that old putty. Generally, if you warm it, it loosens up.

    Now, some guys that do windows all the time will actually use steam to soften the putty. And I’ve seen guys create almost like steam chambers, where they kind of build a box, fill it with warm steam and then slide the sashes in there and then pull them out. And now they’re warm and they strip them off.

    One way that you could try to do this without sort of building that chamber might be to get a wallpaper steamer. And then use some of that steam – use it against the window, warm it. That warm, moist steam may also help to loosen it up.

    But if you’ve already got the heat gun, I would try trying to warm it up gently and see how the old glazing reacts to that.

    DON: Oh, OK. I will. Thank you.

    TOM: Alright, Don. 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, are you getting ready to deck your halls this holiday season? Maybe even your windows, your doors and your trees? We’re going to have easy tips for testing and fixing holiday light strings before you hang them, when The Money Pit continues 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.

    Pick up the phone and give us a call now at 888-MONEY-PIT. We will help you get your home in tip-top shape for the holidays, because you are running out of time leaving things for the last minute like usual. And we’ve also got up for grabs a great prize that will help you with that holiday home repair procrastinating. We’re giving away a $50 Home Depot gift card.

    TOM: Pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. We’ll toss your name into The Money Pit hard hat and you might just win that $50 Home Depot gift card, which you might use to shop the huge selection of LED and smart-home products at The Home Depot. You can get the lights and the latest smart-home products that fit your home and your lifestyle, including LED holiday lights at Home Depot and HomeDepot.com.

    LESLIE: Ken in Michigan is on the line and needs some help with a water softener. What can we do for you?

    KEN: Well, I’ve got a 22-year-old house that we built and I had a contractor put the water softener in. And my question is: how do I go about cleaning it or do I know that it’s still working? Or am I just throwing money away at salt and dumping it in?

    TOM: Well, if it wasn’t working, you would probably notice a difference in the – in your ability to use the water, in terms of whether it got soapy and just sort of felt right on your clothes and your hair and that sort of thing.

    In terms of cleaning it, you know, there’s quite a few steps involved. That’s why most people have service companies that do this. But essentially, you have to siphon or get rid of the water out of the brine tank. And you need to be careful where you put that since it’s so salty it could damage your lawn, your landscape.

    And then you have to clean it with a soapy-water solution. And then, generally, you have to put a bleach solution after that and let it sit for a while so it kills any bacteria. And then you have to rinse that whole thing and put it all back together. So, there’s kind of a lot of steps to it.

    And do you know what – who made this brine tank, what the manufacturer is? Because I’m thinking you might be able to find step-by-step instructions on their website.

    KEN: I just looked and I couldn’t find anything on the machine. And all I could find was a – it said Puretec. And so I’m not sure who made it or where it came from. I had – like I said, I had a contractor put it in about 22 years ago. I’m not even sure whether they’re still in business or not.

    TOM: I’m not familiar with that brand but if you jump online, I found a couple of references to the procedure for cleaning those tanks. And one is on a blog called WaterTech, which seems pretty well written. So just Google it and I think you’ll find the step-by-step. But there’s about 10 or 15 steps involved in cleaning it correctly.

    KEN: Alrighty. Thank you very much.

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

    Well, Thanksgiving has come and gone, which means millions of Americans are planning light displays both big and small. But if instead of blinking lights you discover your holiday lights are in need of repair, here are five fast and easy ways to do just that and brighten your mood at the same time.

    LESLIE: Yeah. First of all, you need to inspect those strings of lights before you actually hang them. It’s a novel idea because even I’ve done it. You put all the lights on and then you’re like, “Durrr, I should have plugged them in first.”

    Now, keep in mind all of your lights should bear the UL, or Underwriter Laboratories, seal of approval. And they should be free of cracked lights or sockets, worn or frayed wires and loose and damaged plugs.

    TOM: Now you figure that you put them away last year and they were fine, right? What could possibly have happened? Well, even the act of pulling them off the tree and winding them up and putting them back in a box can cause things to break down, get disconnected and short out. So, even if they look good, it’s really important to test each string to be sure. All that movement could have damaged the lights in the year since you last used them.

    LESLIE: Now, if the string of lights isn’t working, unplug it and go ahead and check each bulb just to see if it’s loose. To do this, you want to gently press each bulb into the socket.

    Now, even though most lights are designed to work if one bulb goes out, they won’t work if a bulb is unplugged, which happens. I mean come on, you’re moving them around a lot. Once you’ve tightened that loose bulb, go ahead and plug the string back in and see what happens.

    TOM: And if you still need some more help, try unplugging it and checking the fuse, which is usually built into the plug. You want to remove the cover, check that it’s not burned out. And if it is, most light strips are sold with extra fuses taped to the wire somewhere in a very small plastic bag.

    Now, if all else fails and it’s time to update your lighting collection, go with LED light strings. They’re much more efficient and super bright, as well.

    888-666-3974. Let’s get back to the phones.

    Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: Renee in North Carolina needs some help weatherproofing. What can we do for you?

    RENEE: I just recently moved into a brand-new apartment complex. So, the windows are pretty good windows but what I’ve found is that it is freezing in here now that the temperature has dropped. So I’m looking for suggestions on how to put up temporary fixes to the windows leaking air in. And also the sliding door. I have a big, sliding-glass door that I’m not sure how to weatherproof that.

    TOM: Alright. Renee, first of all, as far as the windows are concerned, one of the things you might want to look into is weather-stripping caulk. There’s a certain type of caulk that’s designed to be removable. And one of the products is called Seal ‘N Peel with the letter N – Seal ‘N Peel. And I think that one is by Red Devil or DAP. Both manufacturers have a version of this.

    And the way it works is you essentially can caulk the windows shut. So you can caulk around all those gaps. And then in the spring, you can grab the caulk bead and peel it off. And it comes off like a piece of rubber.

    LESLIE: Just make sure you leave one window unclosed, unsealed because – just in case you need it for an egress in the event of an emergency. Because it comes out but it just doesn’t come out that fast.

    TOM: Now, as far as the door is concerned, I would just use shrink film for that. So the shrink film – basically, you put a two-sided adhesive tape around the door and then you attach the film to that. And then you take a hair dryer and warm the film and it shrinks and gets nice and taut and crystal-clear.

    RENEE: OK. So the film would actually prevent the door – the sliding-glass door – from opening?

    TOM: Correct. You would not be able to use that door in the winter, mm-hmm.

    RENEE: OK.

    TOM: If you have to be able to use it, then you’d just have to use weather-stripping. But it’s probably not going to be as effective.

    RENEE: OK. Well, this has been very helpful. I’ve just been afraid to put up anything that was going to destroy the window or the paint.

    TOM: I know. You want to get that security deposit back, eventually, right?

    RENEE: Definitely. Or not pay more.

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

    LESLIE: Jay on the line who’s got a question about a three-season room. What’s going on over there?

    JAY: Building a three-season room and I want to use passive solar: the sun coming in. And I want – it’s concrete foundation. And I was thinking of putting a 2-inch rigid foam but it’s above ground. And then the 2-inch – above the 2-inch rigid foam is about a 2-inch layer of concrete. And then I want to use red terracotta on top of that. So when the sun hits it, it absorbs the heat and absorbs the concrete and I’m thinking of the insulation, it wouldn’t – it would keep there.

    TOM: You’re talking about only using 2 inches of concrete in the floor, on top of the foam?

    JAY: Well, it’d be on dirt floor.

    TOM: Yeah. But you need more than 2 inches of concrete. It’s not going to be self-supporting if it’s just 2 inches. If you get any movement, that’s going to crack. So, I think you have to put the foam insulation down first and then woven-wire mesh and then at least 4 inches of concrete, so that it doesn’t crack and so it’s dimensionally stable.

    Now, what kind of windows do you have in this? How are you going to get the solar gain into this?

    JAY: Well, that’s my second question. What do you have for ideas?

    TOM: Well, a common mistake that people will use is they’ll use low-E windows, which we always recommend. The problem is that if you use low-E, you’re not going to get any heat gain at all. Because low emissivity inside the gas of – that makes up the thermal-pane windows is going to reflect the heat back out.

    So, rather than relying on the entire section being heated just by the sun, you might just want to consider making this as insulated as possible and then adding a minimal amount of heat, supplemented by the sun. Because you’re going to need something, because it’s not going to be heated by the sun all the time.

    JAY: Right.

    TOM: So I would just make a really well-insulated structure here. If you can orient it to the south to take up the heat of the sun, that’s great. But remember, what heats that room in the wintertime is going to heat it in the summertime, as well.

    JAY: That’s great help, guys. Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

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

    LESLIE: Michaeline in Wisconsin is on the line needing some help insulating a crawlspace. Tell us what’s going on.

    MICHAELINE: Well, I hung some plastic and insulation from the ceiling of the crawlspace and all the way around, you know? And I’m still getting drafts and air coming in into the bedroom that faces the north, by the wall.

    TOM: So you’re getting drafts up through the walls? Is that where you feel like it’s coming up?

    MICHAELINE: Yeah. And up through the crawlspace. There’s half a basement, half crawlspace.

    TOM: OK. Now, what kind of insulation did you use, Michaeline?

    MICHAELINE: Well, I used the black plastic and I used the R-stuff with the …

    TOM: The R-stuff. Let’s back up for a second, OK? The insulation that you put in, is it – was it unfaced insulation? Did you press it up into the floor joist, like nice and fluffy?

    MICHAELINE: No, I didn’t press it into the floor joist.

    TOM: How did you hang it?

    MICHAELINE: I went with what the Reader’s Digest said, to hang it from the ceiling of the floor, down to the flooring of the crawlspace and let it …

    TOM: So, where is the – the insulation that goes up in that floor should be unfaced: should have no paper face, no plastic face; it should be unfaced. And it should be big and fluffy and should be as thick as the crawlspace floor.

    But here’s the steps. And if you had called me before you started this, here is what I would have told you to do. First of all, I would say the area on the outside of your house, where we have what’s called the “box joist” – that’s the beam that goes around the outside perimeter.

    MICHAELINE: Right.

    TOM: In that area, you want to seal the gaps with an expandable foam, like GREAT STUFF or a product like that, so you …

    MICHAELINE: On the inside?

    TOM: On the inside, right. You seal that, you spray it. Because you get little gaps that – where air can come in around that. Then once that dries, it gets nice and hard. Don’t try to scrape it away or cut it; it doesn’t matter. Just spray it, let it dry, stop right there, don’t cut away the excess. Then, add some insulation and the insulation would be unfaced fiberglass batts. If your floor joists were 2x10s, I would put 10-inch fiberglass batts there.

    How do you support those? You use insulation hangers. They’re like pieces of wire that stick in between the joists. And let it hang there. And then, on the crawlspace floor – is it a dirt floor?

    MICHAELINE: Yes.         

    TOM: So if it’s a dirt floor, then you want to add the plastic right on the dirt floor. Now, that’s not for drafts; that’s to stop moisture from coming up.

    LESLIE: That’s for moisture.


    TOM: And those things – that’s the best you can do for that crawlspace.

    LESLIE: And Michaeline, when you’re putting the plastic on the floor of the crawlspace, if you for some reason have to use more than one sheet, make sure you overlap by 2 or 3 feet so that you’re not getting any moisture releasing into it. Because, as Tom said, the moisture can really reduce the effect that the insulation is going to have.

    MICHAELINE: Do you – do I tape it then if I’ve got to use more than one sheet?

    LESLIE: If you overlap them by 2 or 3 feet, they’ll stay.


    TOM: Yeah, they’ll stay. Gravity will hold it in place.


    TOM: Alright? And that’s it. Alright, Michaeline? Good luck with that project.

    LESLIE: Low-interest rates for home loans may mean you’re looking to refinance. But be aware of mortgage scams that could end up conning you out of your hard-earned money. What you need to know to protect your assets, next.

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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: So you probably know that the American Red Cross responds to national disasters, like floods and hurricanes and tornados. But what you might not know is that the Red Cross also responds to a home fire every eight minutes.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And sadly, many of those fires are so easily preventable. Here to tell us about how to prevent fires at home is Russ Paulsen, the Red Cross’ Executive Director for Community Preparedness and Resilience Services.

    Welcome, Russ.

    RUSS: Hi. Thanks for having me.

    TOM: Russ, the Red Cross does get a lot of attention when you respond to a disaster. But you respond every single day – in fact, every eight minutes – to very small disasters, very personal disasters when a home catches fire.

    RUSS: Yeah. A lot of people don’t know about that. And the fact is that home fires not only happen frequently but they actually take a lot of lives in this country. On an average year, there are about – between 2,500 and 3,000 of our neighbors lose their lives to home fires. To put that in perspective, the biggest disaster that I’ve been a part of since I was a part of the Red Cross was Hurricane Katrina. And that was fewer than 2,000 lives lost.

    So, if this home fire thing were a single event in a single place, there would be an enormous focus. But it ends up being here and there. But if you talk to people, almost everybody knows somebody who’s been affected. That should say something.

    LESLIE: So how does the Red Cross work together with the fire department to help save lives?

    RUSS: So we do two things. One is that for years, we have gone on behind the fire departments, after they’ve started to roll up the hose, to make sure that the families have a warm, safe, dry place to go with their loved ones, something to eat, someone to talk to about what’s next and help picking up the pieces. But what we’ve started to do recently, in partnership with fire departments, is get smoke alarms in homes of at-risk neighborhoods before the fires happen.

    There are about four percent of the houses in the U.S. have no working smoke alarm according to – or have no smoke alarm at all, according to survey research. So no smoke alarm at all and it’s four percent. That 4 percent of the households ends up representing 40 percent of the deaths. Not 4 percent but 40 percent of the deaths almost.

    So, if we can target those houses that are at high, high risk, we can really make a difference on that number.

    TOM: What about changing people’s behavior? It’s astounding here but I see a statistic in your materials that a third of the people you surveyed said that they use candles when the power is out, instead of flashlights or battery-operated lanterns. I mean gosh, we’ve been telling people not to do that forever but still, amazing number of people still turning to those candles and causing fires as a result.

    RUSS: There’s no right way to use a candle but …

    TOM: On a birthday cake.

    RUSS: Yeah, that is about correct.

    LESLIE: Because it goes out right away.

    RUSS: And the great thing about candles on a birthday cake is they only burn for a couple of minutes and then they’re gone. No one is not paying attention.

    TOM: Exactly.

    RUSS: I think what ends up happening is people light candles, set them down in all sorts of different places – including your draperies and your other flammable things – and they just sort of forget them. And that’s the problem with candles during a power outage.

    If you’re carrying an individual candle around, you’re paying a lot of attention. But that’s not where you run into trouble.

    LESLIE: You know, Russ, it’s interesting because my son is in second grade. In elementary school, they’ve been really going over having a fire-safety plan. And I really had to think for a minute about what’s the best way for us to get out of the house. And you need to get down onto the ground. How is the Red Cross partnering with schools and fire departments to make sure that everybody really is prepared and knows the best way out?

    RUSS: Well, there’s a couple things there. One is that – it’s interesting you mentioned school, because that’s where my kids learned it. That’s where I learned it when I was a kid. We did fire drills at school twice a year. Fire engine pulls up, it’s very fun to see the firefighters come into your school.

    But very few of us do fire drills at home. And you don’t have that much time to get out. And houses built today with big, open spaces and furniture made of synthetic fabrics and all this sort of thing, you may have two minutes to get out of your home. And that isn’t a lot of time if you haven’t practiced your drills. So we really encourage people to practice their fire drills at home. It’s not just for school, it’s not just for the office. Fire drill is for home, too. And make sure everybody can get out within two minutes.

    We’re also working in the schools with a program we call the Pillowcase Project, which teaches kids about using pillowcases as disaster kits, just in case, but also educates kids about what to do in the event of a home fire. And we make sure we drill into those kids: “When you go home, practice your fire drill at home and make sure everybody can get out within two minutes.”

    TOM: I tell you, you’ve got to drill it into the parents, too. Some years ago, I participated in a program with a fire academy. It was a training academy for regional firefighters. And the chief came into my home – we had a TV crew here – and filled it with smoke, like a liquid smoke, to kind of practice what it would be like to get out of a fire.

    And he played a bit of a trick on me. He had – my son was outside on the swing set at the time. And he had my wife and I and our young daughter inside the house. And so we knew where our youngest son was. We were obviously focused on getting our younger daughter out. We did that. We got outside. And then he said, “OK. Drill is over. Where’s your son?” I said, “He’s on the swing set.” And of course, you look over at the swing set and it’s swinging and there’s no kid in it because he ran back into the house to see what all the action was.

    RUSS: Oh, my.

    TOM: So, in a case like that, I was like, “Alright, man, you got me. I’m convinced. We should have been very clear and split up and had somebody with him or at least had lectured the importance of a meeting space and going to there and not returning back into the burning structure.” And as a result, it could have been a tragedy. Of course, it was all an exercise and a good lesson learned.

    RUSS: Yeah. The basic message needs to be “get out and stay out.” Don’t ever go back in. People don’t understand fires. You’ve probably seen them, if you’ve been to a fire academy. Fires double in size roughly every minute. Well, that’s not a big deal if it starts out as a little, tiny thing. But usually, by the time people are aware of the fire, it’s already pretty big and doubling in size becomes a really big deal.

    So you’ve got to get out and stay out. Don’t even call 911 from inside the house. Get out, call 911 from your cell phone or your neighbor’s house. Have a meeting place for your kids and your family but “get out and stay out” has got to be the main message there.

    Also, because you saw when the smoke came into the house, you’ve got to get under that stuff. If you stand up to leave, that’s not a good way to go. You’ve got to get low, under the smoke, and get out of that house within two minutes.

    TOM: Good advice. Russ Paulsen, the Red Cross Executive Director for Community Preparedness and Resilience Services.

    Russ, thank you so much for all the great work you and all your colleagues at the American Red Cross do to try to keep us safe and also to help us recover when disaster does strike.

    RUSS: If people want more information, just go to RedCross.org. It’s all there. Thanks very much.

    TOM: That’s RedCross.org.

    LESLIE: Alright. Well, up next, can your flooring stand up to the wear and tear from your pet? We’re going to tell you what pet owners should be looking for in flooring choices, when The Money Pit continues 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: Pick up the phone, give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. You’ll get the answer to your home improvement question. Plus, a $50 Home Depot gift card going out to one lucky caller to help get those projects done.

    And you might use that to pick up some LED lights. The Home Depot is the destination for all things LED, from work lights and fixtures to bulbs and holiday lights. You can redeem it in store or online. No fees, no expiration. HomeDepot.com or go right to Home Depot and use it right there at the cash register.

    The value is 50 bucks. Going out to one lucky caller drawn at random. Call us right now. You must have a home improvement question to win.

    Well, we love our pets but from shedding to scratching to odors, there’s no denying that pets can do a number on your home. And nowhere is that more obvious than on the floors. But if you choose your flooring type carefully, you really can keep this damage from accidents and shedding and scratching to a real minimum.

    LESLIE: Now, hardwood planks are going to look pristine and they can actually raise your home’s value. But that value can be quickly undone if a pet has an accident on the floor, which we all know can leave stains and odors that really just aren’t going to come out once that accident seeps into the hardwood floor and the grain. And also, hardwood, guys, keep in mind is prone to scratches from your pet’s nails. So big dogs, big scratches.

    TOM: Now, another option is laminate floors. We love them. They’re inexpensive and they’re very popular. And they’re very durable and they’re very easy to clean. But maybe the best news for homeowners: laminates don’t scratch, making them really safe from the effects of sharp claws from pets.

    LESLIE: Now, you have to keep in mind, though, that those shiny, high-gloss laminates, they can be really slippery for your pets. And they can even cause hip problems in the process. So if you’re a pet owner, you want to opt for a laminate that’s got a textured or an embossed finish. That’s going to give some extra traction there.

    Linoleum, that’s another option. It’s super easy to clean and it’s scratch-resistant. It can tend to have an artificial look over laminate, so you’ve got to kind of weigh the pros and the cons.

    TOM: And finally, of course, tile. It’s really durable and scratch-resistant but it can be very cold and uncomfortable for your pets to lie on. So if you go with tile, you’ve got to lay down a pet bed or a few area rugs to make your pooch comfortable.

    Choose the right flooring, though, and those pets can be comfortable and those floors can be protected.

    LESLIE: Denise in Ohio is on the line with some window condensation. Tell us what’s going on.

    DENISE: I’ve got some windows; they’re double-pane. The house is about 10 years old. And I am constantly battling condensation in the windows. I typically, with a lot of the windows, open them daily and close them at nighttime. If there’s some windows that I don’t get to in the wintertime, when it gets really cold, there is water dripping. It pools, it turns to ice. I try and get some of that putty-type stuff that you can put in the bottom and along the sides.

    TOM: Is the condensation inside the panes of the windows or is it like on the inside surface?

    DENISE: Inside surface of the house.

    TOM: Alright. And these are thermal-pane windows or single-pane windows?

    DENISE: Double.

    TOM: Well, clearly, the insulated glass is not insulated, so that’s why you’re getting this level of condensation. If you had truly insulated glass, it would be too warm for this condensation to occur. But you have warm, moist air in the house. It’s striking the very, very cold, virtually uninsulated glass and then condensing on that glass and dripping down. So that’s what’s going on; that’s what’s causing the moisture. It’s nothing more than, unfortunately, bad windows.

    So, with that said, replacement windows are in your future. Now, you don’t have to do it immediately but it’s a project you’re going to have to face. I mean the good news is that replacement windows, the costs have come down. They’re all custom-made by just by nature, so the company will measure the windows in your house. And by replacing them, they simply pull out the sashes – the old sashes – and slip in a new window into the old hole. And it looks great, it works well. It’s just a good system. So that’s in your future.

    For now, though, what we need to do is two things: we need to take as much humidity out of the house as we can and secondly, I’d like to see you get a barrier in front of those windows. So, if you could use, for example, an insulated shade – one that has sort of those honeycomb kind of designs – that would help a little bit.

    DENISE: I’ve got double right now and I’ve just ordered triple for some other windows.

    TOM: Well, that will help because that, basically, will stop some of that warm, moist air from hitting the window. And also drapes. Shades and drapes help the situation.

    In terms of the humidity, there are a number of ways we can attack this. First of all, you want to make sure you start outside your house, looking at the drainage conditions at the foundation perimeter. Because believe it or not, if water is allowed to collect around the foundation and it doesn’t run away from your house, if the gutters aren’t extended away from the house, that foundation will absorb water and it will release into the air once it gets inside. That adds to the humidity. So I would definitely do that.

    Secondly, I would ask you to check to make sure that all your vent fans are venting out, not recirculating. Because that will help, as well.

    And thirdly, up in the attic, you want to make sure that you’re well-ventilated. Because that vapor pressure starts at the basement or first floor – will permeate all the building materials and end up in the attic. And if the attic’s not ventilated enough, it’s going to kind of hang right there.

    So, those are ways to reduce humidity inside the house. Of course, you could also use a whole-home dehumidifier. But I think, in this case, if we just control moisture and try to get something that’s protecting those windows, that’s the best you’re going to do short of replacing them.

    DENISE: Well, what about getting some circulation? If I open them earlier in the morning and get some circulation going, will that …?

    TOM: Nah, you’re – listen, this is just science, OK? Warm, moist air against cold surface equals condensation, you know? The flip – you see this in the summer when you go outside with a glass of iced tea and moisture forms on the outside of it. It’s the same thing. It’s just happening in the winter in your house because everything is reversed.

    LESLIE: Still ahead, are you sick of hearing your kids complain that they’re bored? “Geez, I’ve got nothing to do. We’re so bored. It hasn’t even been vacation yet for two days.”

    Well, we’ve got some creative and practical solutions, when The Money Pit continues 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.

    And we’ve got some peachy news to share: now you can hear The Money Pit on Saint Simons Island in Brunswick, Georgia. Tune in to WBQO-FM – that’s 93.7 on the dial – for home improvement how-to advice and more. Welcome to The Money Pit family, WBQO.

    TOM: Alright. Rich wrote and said, “I recently installed a new fiberglass entry door that looks great. We have considered adding in a storm door outside, as well, for added protection and so we can have a full-view glass door during warm months. I’ve heard, though, that I need to vent the door so it doesn’t warp or ruin the entry door. If so, how do I do this or should I just skip the storm door?”

    Alright. Look, a lot of questions here. And based on some real practical situations, here’s the deal. If you have an old-fashioned steel door that’s got plastic trim around the window, which many of them do, and you put a full-size storm door on that, you’re going to get the greenhouse effect between the glass and the door. It’s going to melt that plastic trim.

    With a fiberglass door, you really don’t need a storm door. What you really just need is a screen door. So, I would suggest that you just use the screen door itself. If you are going to put a storm door on it, I don’t think it’s going to melt like the plastic trim does around steel doors, because the fiberglass is just a lot more durable and less likely to sort of break down that way.

    LESLIE: Alright. Really good advice, Tom.

    TOM: Well, toy-making elves are very popular during the holidays. So why not give your kids the tools, literally, to make some unique toys and projects of their own? You can keep those young hands and brains and imaginations busy with a fun and practical take on building blocks, in this week’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Most kids, they’re naturally interested in building. So, harness that interest with an at-home workshop where they’re going to make a fun project, guys. And they’ll also pick up some basic do-it-yourself skills in the process, which everybody is going to need at some point in their lives. Believe me. You will need them.

    So you want to start by explaining to the kids how your tools and your materials are a lot like other popular building blocks and playsets. And then prepare yourself for the fact that kids are going to make a mess. They’re going to make a mess. It’s going to be a big one. It’s going to be sticky.

    So, create an area in your workshop or your home or your garage, wherever you’re doing the project, that you’re not going to mind maybe the occasional hammer blow or a nail scratch or a drip of paint. Because again, kids are messy. I don’t care how neat you say your kids are, they’re all messy.

    As for tools, you want to start with the basics, like a measuring tape, ruler, small hammer, screwdriver, nails. And you want to walk your child through safe and proper use of each tool. So you know what we say: safety first. You’ve got to teach the kids right from the beginning.

    And from there, you want to find some age-appropriate projects. Now, they’re often available in bookstores or at home centers. You can get all different kinds of projects. Some of them already have the pieces pre-cut and ready to assemble. You just have to look around. You’ll find them there.

    Now, if you want something that may be fun this time of year or not even a holiday project, think about themes that your kids like. Maybe it’s a craft based on their favorite movie or their favorite game, something like that. It’s going to really help them push through the boredom. And then they’re going to see it to completion, so they’re going to be so excited and then they’ll want to do more projects.

    And don’t forget again: safety first, guys. You want to make sure that you and your kids wear proper eyewear. Any other protection that you might need, you’ve got to wear it all at all times. And they’re sold in kid sizes. So you head to the home center, get everything that your kids need in kid sizes. Model your behavior. You wear safety glasses, they wear safety glasses.

    And the most important step here, guys? You must supervise the kids. But have fun, because you’re going to set them up for a lifetime of loving all these things around their house.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up next time on the program, the weather outside might be frightful but can you get that fire inside delightful? We’ve got tips on fireplace inserts that will safely bring the warm glow of a fire to your home, on the next edition of The Money Pit.

    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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