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Reduce Your Lighting Bill With Occupancy Sensors, How To Hire a Landscaper, DIYers May Be Able to Build an On-Grade Deck, and more

  • Transcript

    TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And it’s time to pick up the tools and get to work and we’re here to help you. The number is 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. If you’ve got a project on your to-do list, make that first step picking up the phone and calling us because we would love to help you get started. If you don’t know what to do first, pick up the phone and call us at 888-MONEY-PIT. That is the first step to getting started on your home improvement project.

    We’ve got a great show planned for you. Coming up this hour, did you know that every room in your house is empty up to 70 percent of the day? And if you forget to turn the lights off in even one of those rooms, you are going to waste energy. There is a solution, though, that will make sure the lights are always off when the room is empty and we’re going to tell you about it, coming up.

    LESLIE: And also ahead, are you looking to build a deck at your money pit this spring? Well, we’re going to tell you about a simpler kind of deck and tools that you’re going to need to build one in your yard.

    TOM: And if your yard is more like a jungle, Roger Cook, the landscaping contractor on TV’s This Old House, is going to be by with tips on how to hire a good landscaper to make it beautiful once again. Assuming you don’t live in Boston, in which case you would just hire Roger.

    LESLIE: Right, exactly. And you would be getting the best.

    And one caller this hour we’ve got a great prize for. You will be able to tame your overgrown lawn or garden with a Black & Decker Cordless String Trimmer/Edger that we’ve got up for grabs. It’s worth 170 bucks.

    TOM: So, pick up the phone. Let’s get started. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Lester in Tennessee is on the line with a squeaky, noisy floor situation. Tell us what’s going on.

    LESTER: Well, I’ve got some – a split-level house. And the master bedroom and the garage are on the ground floor and right above the – on the second floor, the floorboards squeak when you walk. It’s carpeted flooring and as you walk across the floor, you can tell exactly where that person is heading and what they’re doing, based on the squeak in the floor.

    And because it’s over the master bedroom, my wife has a hard time sleeping when I’m upstairs walking around and vice versa. So we need a resolution.

    LESLIE: So, now, the reason why you’re getting a squeaky noise is because there’s some movement between the subfloor and the joist. So when somebody steps now, you’ve got nails that have backed up and you’ve got the subfloor and the joist sort of rubbing together, which is giving you that squeaky sound.

    Now, with the carpet, totally not the end of the world. You do need to be able to identify, though, where those squeaks are coming from. And you’ll sort of have to do this in tandem: one person in the master bedroom, one person upstairs sort of stepping so you can kind of isolate where the sound is.

    And once you know where that sound is coming from, now you have to locate exactly where that joist is under the carpet and under the subfloor because what you need to do is reattach that subfloor to that joist. And you can do that once you know exactly where everything is, with a nail. That’s totally fine and you’ll have to use a nail, unfortunately, because of the carpet situation.

    And you’ll hammer it, actually, through the carpet, reattaching the joist and the sheathing. And then once you’ve got that all put together, you sort of grab the rug by the nap and lift up and you’ll sort of pop that nail through the carpet and just – it’ll still do its job of connecting the joist to the underlayment. Does that make sense?

    TOM: And the type of nail that you use is important. You want to use a galvanized finish nail. Galvanized because it’s rough on the outside and has more holding power. And finish nail because it has the smallest kind of head. And this way, the nail can be driven through the carpet or the carpet can be pulled up through the nail head and you won’t see it when it’s done.

    And one more tip. When you’re looking for that floor joist, you could use one of the newer – like the Stanley stud sensors that are available today. Super-accurate and they can go pretty deep into a floor. So they’ll go through the carpet, through the subfloor to locate exactly where those joists are. Because it’s really critical that when you place that nail you know that you’re going to hit the floor joist underneath.

    LESTER: OK, great. And those are new on the market? Because I have some older ones. You think I need to buy something or rent something?

    TOM: The stud sensors?

    LESTER: Yeah.

    TOM: Yeah, well, they’re new and they’re pretty expensive ­- they start at about 20 bucks – but you can certainly try the one you have. And if you – if it doesn’t work, then you can go out and pick up a new one.

    LESTER: Twenty bucks is probably worth the sleeping my wife’s not getting.

    TOM: Exactly. Lester, good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

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

    DOTTIE: We have a patio that had some cracks in it. It is exposed aggregate. My husband dug it out and filled in the cracks. Now, our question for you is: is there a sealer with some colorant that we could use over the whole area?

    TOM: I think what you’re asking us for is a concrete stain. Sealers are always clear. So if you’ve got this crack filled in and you’ve got some color to that, then what you’re going to have to do is stain the concrete to match that and then you could seal it. But you’d have to stain it. And if you’re going to stain concrete, you would use an acid stain.

    DOTTIE: OK. Is there anything you can recommend?

    LESLIE: QUIKRETE makes a great one in a couple of good colors. More neutral than anything a little crazy but it’s an easy-to-apply product. You’re going to get some great coloration there. And you know what? It’s a reputable brand; they know what they’re doing. So I would start there.

    DOTTIE: Oh, that sounds great. And I really love your show.

    TOM: Thank you very much, Dottie. Good luck with that project.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Well, the wonderful, official start of summer, Memorial Day, is right around the corner. So let’s get your money pit in tip-top shape so we can all get outside and enjoy. We’re here for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, don’t waste money lighting empty rooms. Did you grow up with a dad or a mom that always said, “Hey, who left the lights on?” Well, the technology has changed. There are new types of switches that are out there now that will automatically turn the lights off when the room is empty. Perfect for teenagers. We’ll tell you all about it, next.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Arrow Sheds, the leader in steel storage sheds and buildings. Steel sheds are durable, secure and a great value. Arrow Storage Products, available at national home centers, hardware stores and online. See a complete line of products at Sheds.com.

    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 you should pick up the phone and call us with your home improvement question at 888-MONEY-PIT because you could be the lucky caller who wins the Black & Decker 13-Inch 36-Volt Lithium-Ion Cordless String Trimmer And Edger that we’re giving away this hour.

    This product has a lot of cool features but one that I think is really impressive, Leslie, is the manufacturer says that you can use this and trim a mile-long strip of grass on a single battery charge.

    LESLIE: Really? That’s pretty awesome.

    TOM: Yeah, it’s great. So it’s going to go out to one caller that reaches us with their question. We’ll draw that name at random from those that reach us for this hour’s program. It’s worth $170, so go ahead and call us, 888-MONEY-PIT, with your home improvement question. And you just might win that string trimmer, with enough power to trim your yard and a good part of your neighborhood.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Scott in Iowa on the line who needs help with a painting project. Tell us what you’re working on.

    SCOTT: I just recently bought a rental house and the plaster – it’s an older home and the plaster was falling off the house. Well, the guy I bought it from had repaired it but if you look at it, it’s falling out in some areas and bowing back in in some areas. And I was just wondering, would I have to re-drywall it or is there a cheaper and easier way to fix that?

    TOM: How much of this exists? Is there a lot of this that’s where it’s – the plaster seems to be loose?

    SCOTT: Throughout the whole house.

    TOM: Yeah, OK. So it’s a problem because it’s going to be dangerous.

    What happens is the plaster, when it’s applied, it’s applied over something called wood lath, which are like thin strips of wood. Kind of looks like those sticks we use to hold up garden plants and tomatoes and things like that. And the plaster expands to behind the lath and it sort of locks in place.

    But over the years, with an old house, those keyways, we call them, loosen up and then the plaster is not attached to the wall anymore. So you are looking at a situation where the walls are going to get worse. It’s not going to get better. And if it’s the ceiling that’s loose, it could be dangerous. Because when that plaster falls, it’s really, really heavy. I’ve seen it dent floors and certainly could hurt somebody.

    So now we have – the question is: what’s the best way to deal with this? “Should I tear the plaster out? Should I drywall over?” I’ve done it both ways and I’ve come to the conclusion, after trying it this way for many years, that the best thing to do is to put drywall on top of the plaster, not tear it out, for a couple of reasons. First of all, it’s less messy. Secondly, that even when you tear out the lath and the plaster, you’ll find that the studs from the old house behind it are not very even. So when you put drywall up, it tends to warp sometimes.

    So what I would do is I would attach new drywall over the plaster. You can use 3/8-inch-thick drywall, too; you don’t even need to use ½-inch drywall. And then by attaching from the drywall, through the plaster into the studs, you’ll help secure that loose plaster so you won’t have any further movement in that room. That would be my recommendation.

    SCOTT: That works out.

    TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Well, it’s time now for our Green Home Tip, presented by our friends at Lutron. You know, it’s estimated that each room in your home is empty about 40 to 70 percent of the time. And that adds up to about $100 a year on wasted electricity if you leave the lights on in those rooms.

    TOM: And combined, Americans spend $70 billion a year on lighting. Lutron has got a way that you can do your part to lower that. They have a variety of occupancy and vacancy sensors that will be able to switch the lights off or on for you when someone enters or leaves a room.

    Now, that’s not only going to save you some money, it’s going to make a life a little bit easier. There are wall-mount units, there are wireless ceiling-mount sensors. So you can really choose the one that fits your needs the best.

    Now, for kids’ rooms or other places where the lights are constantly left on, you really want to consider a vacancy sensor. Now, that’s going to automatically turn the lights off if no one is in the room. And for rooms that you enter with your hands full – like the laundry room, the garage or the basement – there you want to consider an occupancy sensor.

    Now, there – it’s actually the same sensor but it has two settings: either occupancy or vacancy. But it’s the same type of sensor; it’s the way you set it up. But the difference is an occupancy sensor will turn the lights on when you walk into the room.

    LESLIE: And that’s really a couple of great ways to make your life easier and an added bonus, save some energy. And that’s your Green Home Tip, presented by Lutron.

    Lutron products are available at your local home center, lighting showroom or even your electrical professional. For more energy-saving ideas, check out our online Green Home Guide and remember to visit LutronSensors.com.

    Alright. Colleen in Texas, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    COLLEEN: Yes, I was wondering about a product called Restore. It’s called Liquid Armor Resurfacer and I have a dock that I wanted to put it on.

    TOM: Alright. I’m familiar with those Restore products. I’ve not used them but I know what they’re supposed to do. One thing I would tell you is – I don’t know about the brand you mentioned. I would make sure it’s a brand that’s been around for a long time. Because we’ve seen some of those thick-paint products do more damage than good.

    I know, for example, that Rust-Oleum, which is a good brand, makes a product called Restore. It works on concrete and decks, as well as vertical siding. So I might start by taking a look at the Rust-Oleum product. Just make sure you stick with a name brand that’s been around a long time so that you know that you’ve got a really good product that you’re putting on the deck.

    And I would also make sure that you tested it in an area, maybe on a couple of deck boards, to make sure you’re completely happy with it before going all-in on the entire deck or dock.

    COLLEEN: And is it harder to use this type of product versus just a regular paint?

    TOM: Yeah. It’s going to be more difficult because it’s about 10 times thicker than paint. So the application has got to be done right. You’re going to use similar tools but it’s just going to be slow.

    COLLEEN: OK. Well, thank you so much.

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

    LESLIE: Bud is online with The Money Pit looking to convert a garage to some living space. Tell us about the project.

    BUD: Well, actually, it’s already been converted by some real amateur people.

    TOM: OK.

    BUD: And it has, I believe, 24-inch-on-center studs all over and no insulation. And I’m looking to possibly – I don’t want to disturb what drywall is there because I’ve got all the ceilings and the walls that were messed up by these people.

    TOM: OK.

    BUD: They turned the gas off and it froze and water broke and that damaged (inaudible at 0:14:20) but anyway, I need to get – if you have a source of low-expansion insulation – foam insulation?

    TOM: Well, you’re going to have to use a blown-in insulation. I don’t think there’s a low-expansion foam, if that’s what you’re asking us. I think what you have to do is you have to use a blown-in to get insulation behind those walls. That’s your only option right now. I don’t see a way around that unless you want to take that drywall down and do it right. And frankly, the cost of the blown-in is – for a small job like that might be pretty expensive. It could possibly make sense to take that drywall down.

    But you would blow that in and you’d blow it in under pressure so that it’s set – it basically fills up the whole cavity. Usually, there’s two holes – one in the middle and one towards the top – that assures that it gets all the way up there. But I think blown-in is probably the way that you have to go.

    Now, you’re only going to need to insulate the walls that are over exterior – that are exterior walls. If it’s a wall between the house and the garage, that you would not have to insulate because that would already have been insulated.

    BUD: I think your advice is good. I’ll just probably have to rip all the drywall down and just put …

    TOM: Sometimes, it’s hard to put lipstick on a pig, so to speak, you know what I mean?

    BUD: I thought maybe you had some lipstick kind of advice.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Jim in North Carolina on the line with a roofing question.

    JIM: I need a new roof. I’m originally from the Northeast – New York – and up there, it was very common to not strip the old fiberglass roof before putting a new roof on. I’m wondering what the advantage is to not stripping the roof versus stripping it to put a new one on.

    TOM: That’s a great question, Jim, and the answer really depends on one thing and that is: how long are you going to spend in this house? Is this a house that you’re going to be in for the next 20 years or do you see yourself more in the 5-to-10-year range?

    JIM: We’re in the house for forever, the long – for long term.

    TOM: Forever? OK.

    JIM: Yeah, mm-hmm.

    TOM: Alright. They’re going to bury you in this place. Is that what you’re trying to tell me?

    JIM: Exact. We call it our “toes up.” We’re leaving toes up.

    TOM: Alright. It’s your toes-up house? Alright.

    So, if it’s your toes-up house, you’re going to want to make sure that that roof is going to last as long as possible and the way you’ll do that is by stripping the old layer. And here’s why I say that: if you have a second layer of roofing material under the exposed layer, that’s going to hold a lot of heat.

    And heat is the enemy of the roof. The hotter the roof gets, the quicker the asphalt and the other chemicals that make up the roof sheathing’s – the roof shingle’s ability to keep water away dry out, the shorter the roof life. So if you have a roof that’s really warm, it’s not going to last as long.

    And what I have found in the almost 20 years I spent as a professional home inspector, that when we saw roofs that had multiple layers, generally they lasted about a third less than a roof that was a single layer. So if the first roof lasted 20 years and you added a second layer, you might be looking at like, say, 14 or 15 years on the second layer. So that’s why I would suggest that you might be better off stripping off that first layer in your scenario and putting on just one layer.

    But if you had told me that “no, Tom, I’m only going to be in that house for 5 or 10 years,” well, then, who cares? Because you’re not going to be around to enjoy the benefit of the longer roof life, you know? That’s why it makes sense, if you’re going to be there for that whole life of the roof, to go ahead and pull off the first one.

    A couple other things to keep in mind with that roofing project: also a good opportunity to take a look at your ventilation, Jim. Now, in a 20-year-old house, typically you don’t have enough ventilation, because they just didn’t vent roofs well back then. But you want to think about adding a continuous ridge vent down the entire peak of the roof and then a continuous soffit vent down both sides of the soffit. So that this way you’ll have plenty of opportunity for air to enter at the soffit, ride up under the roof sheathing and exit at the ridge. And that will give you a nice cycle of air, 24-7, that’s keeping that attic space cooler which, of course, makes your air conditioning more efficient and also helps the roof last longer, as well.

    JIM: That’s great. That all makes perfectly good sense.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Well, if your yard is in need of a major overhaul that goes beyond your outdoor skills, we’re going to help you hire a landscaper, after this.

    TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And this is prime grilling weather and also the time to keep your grill safe. So on MoneyPit.com, right now on the home page, we’ve got a story about seven grilling mistakes that you need to avoid. So check out the tips and you’ll have a safe and delicious grilling season.

    LESLIE: A great landscape must be carefully planned, properly planted and then well-maintained. And those are all very different skills. So, can most landscape contractors do all of that?

    TOM: Well, definitely. But if you decide to hire a landscape pro, how do you find the right one for your project? Joining us now are two experts who know a lot about that topic: Angie Hicks is the founder of Angie’s List, a website devoted to helping consumers find the best professionals for their projects and service needs, and Roger Cook, the landscaping contractor on TV’s This Old House.

    Welcome, Angie.

    ANGIE: Thanks for having me on the show.

    TOM: And hello, Roger.

    ROGER: Thanks for having me.

    TOM: Hey, it’s great to have you. And Roger, let’s start with this: landscaper. That sort of term covers a wide range of services: everything from lawn maintenance to major yard remodels, right?

    ROGER: Exactly. People who do perennial care, people who fertilize lawns, people who cut lawns, install landscapes, install major landscapes. All [kind of] (ph) falls under one heading but there are definitely different people who do different things.

    TOM: And so finding a specialist would be one of the first things to look for?

    ROGER: Yes. Know the size of your project and what’s involved. If it’s a smaller project, you can get someone with a smaller company who – the owner may be on the job doing the work. If it’s a larger project, you may need a big company that has backhoes and different types of things that a smaller guy wouldn’t have.

    LESLIE: Angie, what do you think are some of the most important questions to ask a landscaper before you hire them?

    ANGIE: You know, when it comes to landscaping, a lot of times a landscaping project is a fun, discretionary project that we think about as homeowners. So I think the important thing is finding out whether you have a landscaper that’s going to listen to your interests, stay within your budget. I think it can be a project that can easily be added on to, so you want to know someone that’s going to maintain within your project parameters and then also one that really listens to your lifestyle and how you want to really interact with your landscaping. Because that – some of us love to labor in our gardens every weekend while others really want things that are very low-maintenance. So you want to be sure that the suggested items that are put in the landscape match your lifestyle.

    TOM: So, Roger, what’s your two cents on this? Before a consumer hires a landscaper, what are some of the questions that they really should get answered?

    ROGER: The first thing they should do is establish their budget. There is nothing that is a bigger waste of time for the homeowner or the landscaper to price a job and it’s nowhere in the budget. And sometimes, I think people think if we know what the budget is, we’re going to spend all of it and more. No. But we’re going to be realistic and tell you that you can do this, you can do that.

    One of the big things we do is we phase projects. Because at my own house, I can never afford what I want to have done.

    TOM: Right.

    ROGER: But if I do a little – one year, one year, two year, three and we have a plan and the whole thing comes together, then that’s a good situation for the owner and the landscaper.

    LESLIE: And what about maintenance? Should you really be considering what part of the maintenance role you’ll play as a homeowner and what part you’ll need the pro to do?

    ROGER: You need to know if you’re going to be out there cutting the lawn, trimming, fertilizing and all the things that need to be done. A great situation is to have the person who installed the landscape maintain it because they know it, they’ve done a good job and they’ll be able to maintain it in a proper fashion. I’m always leery of taking on the maintenance that someone else installed because once you put bark mulch on top of it, you don’t know what’s underneath there in the soil.

    TOM: Good point. Roger, how is hiring a landscaper different than maybe hiring another pro?

    ROGER: Well, first of all, most landscapers aren’t licensed. A lot of them have certificates and belong to certain organizations. But unlike a plumber or a general contractor, they’re not licensed.

    I tell people the biggest thing you can do to find a landscaper is talk to your neighbors and find someone who’s had a successful project or two. Then you have to do your homework. You have to talk to the landscaper, get a reference from them and go out and talk to these people and look at the jobs. And interview them so that you can find out if this is the right fit for you. And that’s what it’s all about with landscaping. It’s a very personal thing. It has to be a contractor who fits with you.

    Angie, if you’re considering hiring a landscaper, what are some of the questions that you might want to ask, specifically, perhaps about their references?

    ANGIE: You always want to be sure to check references. I know that seems like a project that oftentimes is overlooked. But check two or three references. You want to see photos and you want to see how the projects have held up over time. Especially, a landscaping project is one that sometimes really kind of hits its stride a few years after being planted. So you want to be sure you’re talking to – consumers have had projects done more recently, as well as ones that have had their projects done over time. Did the plants make it through their first winter? How did they hold up? You want to understand that dynamic, as well.

    TOM: Roger, if you were giving somebody advice on how to pick the right landscaper, what would be an important thing for them to check out?

    ROGER: To go out with a landscaper and look at one of the jobs he’s done and completed.

    TOM: OK.

    ROGER: Now, you can go out and get some great tips because you can see a stone wall, which might be like the stone wall they’re going to put in your house, a bluestone patio, grass, plantings, things that you like and can pick up from it.

    TOM: So take a little field trip. You could really learn quite a bit.

    ROGER: It’d make all the difference in the world.

    LESLIE: Roger, as a landscaping pro yourself, how important is it that you stand behind the installation of the yard? Is it something that you can say, “Alright. I’ll guarantee this plant for a year,” or how much of that is a homeowner fault? How do you decide?

    ROGER: It depends on the installation. Usually, our guarantee is one year but that’s based on either an irrigation system or something being set up to do the proper watering. Because, as you know, two weeks later, everything can die if it hasn’t been watered and that voids the warranty.

    But I think every landscaper has to stand behind what he’s doing because my favorite saying is: “Bark mulch hides a world of sins.” You don’t know what’s underneath there. Most plants will exist for six months even if they’re put in in the wrong conditions. But the landscaping should grow and flourish from year to year. So after year one, it should look pretty good and then you go back and take care of any problems that are there.

    TOM: Good point. Roger Cook, the landscaping contractor on TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    ROGER: My pleasure. Did I get the job?

    TOM: You absolutely do. You’re hired.

    And Angie Hicks, the founder of AngiesList.com, great advice and we really appreciate your contribution, as well.

    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.

    And for help finding a great pro to tackle your projects, visit AngiesList.com.

    TOM: And This Old House is brought to you by Angie’s List. Angie’s List, reviews you can trust.

    Up next, are you considering building your own deck but you’re not sure if it’s a do-it-yourself project you can handle? We’re going to tell you about a type of deck that’s easier to build, just ahead.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by DeWALT. DeWALT’s new rugged and innovative line of mechanics tools are so tough, DeWALT is proud to back them with a full lifetime warranty. When there’s a tough job to get done, rely on a trusted name. Rely on DeWALT. Available at Sears. For more information, visit DeWALT.com.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. And we are taking your calls at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Now, we’re going to help you with whatever you are working on to get ready, maybe, for a big Memorial Day party or just for the summer season or maybe you’re just expanding your home. But one lucky caller is going to be chosen completely at random and you’re going to get an awesome garden tool from Black & Decker.

    We’ve got their 13-Inch Lithium-Ion Cordless String Trimmer and Edger. It’s super-lightweight. It’s got adjustable power so you can pretty much cut through anything, whether you’ve just got a little bit of overgrown grass or perhaps a jungle growing in your backyard. It’s really going to work.

    And as Tom has mentioned before, it holds its charge. You could do, what, trim a mile of lawn? I mean that’s great. So you are going to do some awesome spring clean-ups at your money pit.

    It’s a prize worth $170. Check it out now at BlackAndDecker.com but pick up the phone, give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT for help with your to-do list and your chance to win.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Pat in Louisiana is on the line and needs some help with a cleaning project. What can we do for you?

    PAT: We had our carpet cleaned about a year ago. And in this bedroom, we have a heavy, clear, plastic mat that goes underneath the computer chair.

    TOM: OK.

    PAT: Well, recently, I moved it over a bit and I noticed that it was wet underneath it.

    TOM: OK.

    PAT: There’s no leak in the roof; water hasn’t come in the house. So only thing that could be is a year ago, the water from the carpet-cleaning service got underneath this mat and it’s been there all this time.

    TOM: Hmm. OK.

    PAT: So, we cut out a large circle, like a 5-foot circle, and got all the part out that was wet. So we’re going to have to replace the carpet and the pad. But on the concrete – the bare concrete – there are some spots of discoloration, so I don’t know if that’s mold or mildew. My question is: how do I clean that concrete before we have the new carpet installed?

    TOM: The concrete spots, if anything, are mineral-salt deposits; it’s not mold.

    PAT: OK.

    TOM: And so, it’s really cosmetic at this point. If you can wash it down with a vinegar-and-water solution, it’ll melt the mineral-salt deposits away.

    But the other thing that occurs to me is sometimes, concrete will draw moisture into a house. And so if anywhere near that area outside, you’ve got water that’s ponding or collecting, it’s possible for the concrete to sort of draw that moisture up into the slab and across. And it may not have been able to evaporate where the pad was covering the concrete, which is why that area stayed damp, whereas the other area dried out. So there may be a different explanation as to why that stayed wet.

    One of the things that you might want to do, since you have the carpet pulled all the way back, is to paint the concrete. Paint that area with an epoxy paint. That will seal in that concrete and stop some of the evaporation if the moisture is being drawn through it and up into the floor surface.

    PAT: So, should I – we paint the whole room? We don’t have all of the carpet up yet; we just cut out the middle part.

    TOM: Well, if you’re going to take all the carpet up, then paint the whole floor. If you’re only going to take part of it up, then just paint what you can get to. But I would definitely paint the floor.

    PAT: OK.

    TOM: That’ll do it. Pat, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, it’s the deck-building season, finally. And if you’ve always dreamed of building your own deck but you’ve shied away from the project because you thought, “Man, this is just way too complicated,” here is a Pro Deck-Building Tip presented by DeWALT.

    Now, one way to simplify the deck-building process is to consider building an on-grade deck. That’s going to be a deck that’s built just above the ground, so it doesn’t really require any complicated stairways or railings. And that’s truly where most do-it-yourselfers are going to run into trouble.

    TOM: Absolutely. Now, a grade-level deck does require the same joist structure. But think about it: it’s a lot easier to assemble since it’s on the ground.

    Now, there are also a number of good deck-design programs online and many are even free that can help you get started. Home centers have similar programs, so take advantage of those as it’s a really good way to make sure that you’re not leaving anything out when you plan your deck.

    LESLIE: And that’s today’s Pro Deck-Building Tip, presented by DeWALT. DeWALT has expanded durability into a new line of innovative mechanics tools, including ratchets, sockets, wrenches and sets that’ll help you with your deck-building project.

    Now, the low-arc swing on these tools will really help you get into some tight spaces between banisters or brackets. Now, professional contractors love DeWALT tools because they’re built for a long life and they come with a full lifetime warranty. That’s awesome.

    TOM: DeWALT tools are available at Sears, so get building and start enjoying that deck.

    LESLIE: Mike in Texas is on the line and building a shed. How can we help you with that project?

    MIKE: Well, I just got a new wooden shed in the backyard. It’s 10 by 16. And I was just wondering, before I put anything in it, how can I treat the floor or should I even worry about treating the floor for durability?

    TOM: Well, first of all, when you put the shed in, did you put it right on the ground or is there some sort of a foundation under it?

    MIKE: It’s elevated, concrete blocks and then it is a wooden subfloor above that.

    TOM: OK, good. So you do have a little bit of air moving under it, because that’s going to be important to avoid decay.

    In terms of the floor itself, look, anything that you put on that is not really going to have a significant difference in terms of extending its life. It will make it easier to use it. For example, if you painted it, it would make it easier to sweep it if it gets dirty and that sort of thing. I’m going to presume that it’s probably made of exterior plywood, so I wouldn’t worry about it falling apart in the weather. But I think painting it might help to preserve the durability of the floor and make it a little easier to clean.

    MIKE: OK. Would there be any specific type paint?

    TOM: Yeah. I think a porch-and-floor paint is a good idea because it’s very, very durable. You need to have a paint that’s really going to be able to take the abuse of all of the products that you’re going to keep in there – the lawn mower and that sort of thing – and really stand up without wearing out. So, any kind of floor paint would work well.

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

    Are you cooling rooms that you just never go in? We’re going to tell you how you can cut those cooling costs, when we come back.

    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 LutronSensors.com.

    TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Pick up the phone, give us a call. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Or post your question to MoneyPit.com where you’ll also find our Green Guide, which is presented by Lutron. You can get some money-saving and energy-saving tips, ideas and product recommendations, all at your fingertips at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: And while you’re snooping around The Money Pit website, head on over to the Community section. You can brag about what you’re working on, share some pictures. But most importantly, you can post a question in the Community section and Tom and I jump into those questions now.

    I’ve got one from Tommy in Nebraska who wrote: “I have a central air-conditioning system that works great. I’ve got a couple of rooms that I really don’t use and I was wondering if I could just close up the vents and shut the doors to the room this summer to save some money on cooling. Would that work?”

    TOM: Yeah, it will work. A better place to shut down unused ducts, though, is not by shutting the vents in the room. Because, frankly, even if you close them, they tend to be pretty leaky.

    LESLIE: And then the air is still traveling through the duct to that room.

    TOM: Well, yeah, it’s going to pressurize but it’s somewhat leaky and drafty and wasteful. However, in the duct itself that leads up to that – you may have to go to the lowest level of your house, somewhere near your furnace unit where the blower is. You’re going to look for a baffle.

    Now, what’s a baffle look like? Well, a baffle, first of all, is sort of a door that’s inside the duct itself. And it’s usually round and there’s a handle on the outside of the duct. And the handle is attached to a bolt. When you look at this bolt, there’ll be a flat on it. If the flat is going parallel to the duct, it’s wide open. If the flat is perpendicular to the duct, it’s closed.

    So any time you can close them at these baffles, that’s going to be a more efficient way to make sure the air is not even going there. And it will just make the system work all that much better.

    LESLIE: That’s good to know. Is there any trick to sort of help you determine which is the duct without sort of having somebody in the room being like, “Is it on?”

    TOM: You know what? You pretty much – it’s not really that hard. Because if – let’s say you have a basement. You’re going to have a duct system that sort of feeds down the middle of the basement, then it’s going to shoot off towards the rooms. And especially if it’s a first – if it’s a one-story house, it’s pretty easy to figure out which one is going where. And I don’t think there’ll be a lot of doubt and – but if you turn – if you find the damper and you close it, of course go up to the room and make sure no air is flowing through that space.

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got one from Georgie in Tennessee who writes: “My stainless-steel sink is noisy. Whenever the water hits the basin, it’s really loud. Is there anything I can do to quiet it?”

    TOM: Wow, Georgie, you are really sensitive to sound, my friend. But I’ll tell you what, one thing we’ve learned about stainless is there’s a wide variety of qualities of stainless. Some are thinner, some are thicker, some are more corrosion-resistant than others. But if yours is loud, the way that it’s usually dealt with is by insulating the outside of it.

    So, if you could get to the bottom of that, one trick of the trade I might suggest is if you take an expanding foam insulation and spray the bottom of that sink – I would just sort of [mask around] (ph) the drain so you don’t affect that and the plumbing that’s connected to it. But if you were to spray that foam insulation along the bottom of the sink, that would probably sound-deaden it quite easily.

    LESLIE: That’s a really good idea. You do have to be careful because it is kind of messy and it is a little stinky, so make sure you open up the windows. And don’t stick your head under the sink when you spray on the expandable foam.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. That’s just about all the time we have, which means we stop talking and you start working. Get out there and enjoy the day. Take on a home improvement project and remember, if you’ve got questions, 24-7, you can always reach us at 888-MONEY-PIT or online at MoneyPit.com.

    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 2013 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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