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Small Renovations That Add Big Value, How to Fix a Cracked Plaster Wall, Energy Saving Changes for Less Than $50, and more

  • 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: And we are here to help you with your home improvement projects. So take a look around, get out that to-do list. Let’s make it the done list. Before you pick up the hammer and the saw, pick up the phone and call us. We’re here to help, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Coming up this hour, if you’re thinking about making energy-efficient home improvements but you’re afraid they’re not in your budget, well, think again. We’re going to have tips on energy-saving improvements that are cost-effective, inexpensive and simple.

    LESLIE: And also ahead, one of the most common questions that we get from homeowners who live in older homes is how to fix cracks in plaster walls. Well, the fix is in, when This Old House general contractor Tom Silva stops by with his foolproof tips.

    TOM: And don’t waste your hard-earned money on renovations that don’t add value to your home. We’re going to talk about some small changes that offer big bang for your home improvement bucks.

    LESLIE: And we’re giving away a gorgeous, luxury floor covering from Loloi Rugs. It’s a prize worth 500 bucks.

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

    Leslie, who’s first?

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

    BILL: I’m trying to clean some pressure-treated deck. This is on the second floor of my house and also on the ground is stone. What we have here in Tennessee is Crab Orchard stone; it’s a soft stone. And it’s turned black. The stone has turned black over time and it’s about 15 years old. And the pressure-treated wood has turned black, also, and I wanted to see what the best thing to clean both of them – I’ve tried cleaner on the end of a garden hose and it don’t – and I followed the instructions but it didn’t do much at all.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. I mean it sounds like a combination of the wood aging and also mold or algae.

    Now, you know, a pressure washer set to an aggressive but gentle setting, if that makes any sense, will probably do the best to kind of attack this growth on it. If you could use some bleach and water or Wet & Forget, a product like that that will do a good job of – I’m not going to say “attacking” but you know what I mean: really aggressively going at this growth. That will probably do a good job of getting to the base of it and removing it from it.

    If you can get more sunlight on the area to sort of beat this shady mold growth that’s happening, that will help tremendously. There’s some things that you can do there.

    BILL: OK. That’s good. Thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Jan in California is having a wallpaper-removal situation. Tell us what’s going on.


    JAN: Hi. Been removing wallpaper and repapering for 50 years and never come across where you take the wallpaper off and it looks like there’s a paper lining behind it. I’ve had some people tell me that this is a filler for the texturing so the wallpaper looks smooth. And others tell me that it’s a liner and it fills the whole wall with pencil lines where the wallpaper goes. I don’t want to damage the sheetrock that’s underneath, so I’m a little leery about taking that off or leaving it on or what I should do with it.

    TOM: So your end game is to get down to the drywall?

    JAN: Well, it doesn’t have to be if I can texture over what’s there. But it’s almost like a paper and I don’t know if we can put the mud and everything on that.

    TOM: If it’s adhered well, then I don’t see why you couldn’t texture over it. Do you want to use a textured paint?

    JAN: No, I want to use the texture that I’ve had on the other wall.

    TOM: The key here is whether or not the surface that you’ve exposed is well-adhered to the drywall underneath. If it’s well-adhered, then you can go ahead and put your texture over that. If it’s not, then your texture could be on there for a couple of months and it could start falling off in chunks when that backer paper pulls off. As long as it’s well-adhered, then I don’t see any reason you can’t go on top of it, Jan.

    JAN: OK. I appreciate you and enjoy your program all the time.

    TOM: 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, hey, would you like a little extra cash in your pocket? Well, we’re going to tell you how to get a quick return on a $50 investment in energy savings, after this.

    MIKE: Hey, this is Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs and I’ve just been told that Tom and Leslie might have a dirtier job than me? I find that hard to believe but then I heard they worked in a pit. It’s a money pit but it’s still filthy.

    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: The number here is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. One caller we talk to today is going to win a luxury rug from Loloi Rugs. It’s pretty much winner’s choice. You get to choose any covering from the Encore Collection.


    Now, these are power-loomed, shag-style rugs from Turkey and they’re worth 500 bucks. You can see them at LoloiRugs.com. That’s L-o-l-o-i – Rugs.com. Or call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT for the answer to your home improvement question and your chance to win.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Derwin in Texas who’s dealing with a fascia-board situation. Tell us what’s going on.


    DERWIN: I have a fascia board that is rotten. The way it’s put on there is I have a 1×4 fascia board that’s nailed up on there and then a 1×2 is nailed on the top portion of the fascia board.

    TOM: Yep.

    DERWIN: Which kind of – and the gutter is nailed to the 1×2, so I guess the 1×2 keeps the gutter from resting up against the fascia board, to keep it from rotting.

    TOM: Got it. Mm-hmm.

    DERWIN: But the drip edge – there’s a drip edge that’s nailed to the top, so like a 2×2 drip edge. And the top part of the drip edge is nailed to the roof deck and then it lays – the other half is – lays into the gutter.

    TOM: So what you want to know is how you can get the rotted fascia board out without taking apart your gutter and your drip edge and your spacer and all that stuff, right?

    DERWIN: Right.

    TOM: There’s no way to surgically remove the fascia; it’s like one part of the assembly.

    DERWIN: Right.

    TOM: So you’d have to take the whole thing apart. Now, it’s not a – it sounds like a lot of work. It’s not a tremendous project to get a gutter off. It’s not something you can do yourself, because you don’t want to bend it, so you have to do it with some help to take the gutter off in one piece.

    But there is an opportunity here and that is that when you replace the fascia, I would not put wood fascia back. What I would do is I would use a product called AZEK – A-Z-E-K. This looks like wood, so it could look like that old 1×4 that you had, except it’s made of cellular PVC. So, it cuts like wood and it looks like wood but it never rots. So I would definitely suggest that this is an opportunity to improve the material that you’re using there.

    DERWIN: OK.

    TOM: Now, whether or not you put back the spacer and the gutter the way it was before is up to you. You really don’t need to have a spacer. You could put the gutter right up against the AZEK and then have the roof just lay into the top of the gutter. That would be the most normal assembly for that kind of thing.

    But if you want the spacer and it just works out better because that’s the way it was before, then what you could do is buy 1×6 AZEK, cut a 1½-inch strip off of it, use that as a spacer and use the rest as – you’ll have a 1×4 left and you use that for the fascia and you’ll have the strip just in one piece.

    DERWIN: So it cuts just like wood.

    TOM: Looks like wood, cuts like wood, doesn’t rot like wood. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Brenda in Illinois who’s got an HVAC question. What’s going on?

    BRENDA: I have an excessive amount of dust and lint that comes out of my vents when the furnace is running?

    TOM: OK. Yep.

    BRENDA: It’s the heat pump that we have. The heat pump is two years old. So I’d like to know, is there anything that you would suggest that we might need to look into?

    TOM: Yeah, I think the reason that this is happening is because you don’t have an adequate filtration system on your heating-and-cooling system. What kinds of filters do you have on this, Brenda? Do you know?

    BRENDA: The name of it is Air Bear Supreme Media. We change these about every four to six months.

    TOM: What’s happening here is the dust and the dirt that’s circulating in your house is forming in your house. And what happens is it’s not getting collected by the filter. The filters could be improperly installed, there could be gaps where the air is getting around them.

    What you really should think about doing is installing an electronic air cleaner. This is an appliance that fits into the return-duct side of the HVAC system. It’s an appliance; it’s not just a fiber filter or a mesh filter. It’s an actual appliance and it is very effective at taking out 99-percent plus of the airborne contaminants. I mean these things are so good today, they can come out – they can take out virus-size particles.

    You could take a look at two brands that we can recommend. One is Aprilaire.


    BRENDA: OK.

    TOM: That’s April – a-i-r-e. And the other one is Trane. It’s called the Trane CleanEffects. Those are two highly rated, very efficient electronic air cleaners that I think will make a world of difference for you in cutting down on the dust that you’re seeing. I just don’t think your filtration system is working properly.

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

    LESLIE: Hey, you got 50 bucks? That and just a little do-it-yourself know-how is really all it takes to see some real return in energy investments in your home.

    For example, most homes in America don’t have enough insulation. But for about 30 bucks a roll, you can add another 8 inches of toasty cushion to your attic.

    TOM: Also, why not consider that caulk is only a couple of bucks? Foam sealant is about 5 bucks and weatherstripping can set you back just about a dollar. And those can fix all sorts of construction ills that cause air leakage – like plugging those leaky windows, doors and outlets – and really deliver a pretty immediate savings and increase your comfort, as well.

    LESLIE: Lastly, here’s a great project that can chop 10 percent off your yearly heating-and-cooling bills. If you add a clock setback thermostat to your home – now, that’s going to run about $50 to buy and it’s going to turn your heat down when it’s not needed. So, essentially, it’s going to pay for itself in no time at all.

    TOM: I’m always amazed that people still, to this day, don’t have clock setback thermostats. But that is such a no-brainer; you’re absolutely correct.

    Hey, if you want more ideas and improvements that cost $50 or less and save energy in your home, log on to MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Michael in North Carolina is on the line with a water heater that’s making some curious sounds. Tell us what’s going on.

    MICHAEL: Recently, the last four to six weeks, I’ve been noticing – it sounds like a bubbling and a popping noise inside of the water heater. I’ve read several things on the internet but I can’t quite put my finger on it and I’m worried that either the vessel is getting ready to go or – I’m not sure, at this point.

    TOM: How old is the water heater?

    MICHAEL: It looks to be of considerable age. I’m guessing between six and eight years.

    TOM: Well, water heaters generally go about 10 to 12 years, so that’s not – that’s kind of middle-aged; it’s not too terrible. By the way, if you look at the data plate on that water heater, usually there’s a date stamp sort of buried into the serial number. Sometimes, it’ll actually say what the date of the manufacture is or at the least, it’s going to have a gas standard in terms of which code it was built to and it’ll give you a year there. So you can get an actual sense of what the age of the water heater is.

    The noise is usually caused by a sediment buildup on the bottom of the tank. So, if you drain the tank occasionally, that will usually stop that. Have you ever drained your tank?

    MICHAEL: In the eight months I’ve been there, no. But I’d read something somewhere along the lines that you have to be very careful with – it’s got a plastic drain valve on it. And when you have a water heater that’s a little bit older, I guess they get – become brittle. And I’m worried about breaking that and making things much worse immediately.

    TOM: Well, you could very carefully try to drain the water heater. You simply hook up a garden hose to that spout; it’s designed to be drained. And let some of the water out of it and try to spill off some sediment with that. You get sediment on the bottom of the tank and that does tend to make it pretty noisy sometimes.

    MICHAEL: OK. Is there any chance that I have the temperature turned up too high and it’s causing – well, I guess not at 125 degrees. It wouldn’t cause a boiling, would it?

    TOM: No, it wouldn’t. And 125 degrees, though, is pretty hot. You really want it to be more like 110.

    MICHAEL: OK.

    TOM: Just for safety’s sake, if nothing else.

    LESLIE: Yeah, because you could easily get scalded.

    MICHAEL: OK. Alright. I’ll give that a shot.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Lorraine in Arizona who needs some help with a paneling decorating project. Welcome, Lorraine.

    LORRAINE: We have an older home that has two walls that has paneling on. And I was told that if we took the paneling off, it would probably damage the drywall. So I was considering maybe trying to put something over top of the paneling to give it a different look and wanted some suggestions.

    LESLIE: Well, it depends. It depends on how it’s attached to whatever is behind it. There may not be any drywall behind it; it might just be the paneling attached directly to the studs, in which case you would have to put drywall up. It could be that the paneling was glued to the drywall. Then you would never get it off without completely destroying the drywall. Or it could be that it was just nailed on. You’re not really going to know until you sort of peer at a corner or an area where you can take off a little bit of trim work and see what exactly is going on before you make a decision. So that’s probably best-step number one.

    Now, if you find out that there’s really no removing it and your choices are to deal with the paneling and make it look better or cover over it with ¼-inch drywall, you can do that. It depends on how much work you want to do.

    Painting paneling certainly is an excellent option. I mean it creates a totally different look when you paint paneling a crisp, glossy white or an off-white or something that really just poses a good, neutral backdrop and just sort of go with it.

    LORRAINE: OK. This is very light paneling anyway.

    LESLIE: And are you at a point where you just want to see it be darker, different or gone?

    LORRAINE: Different.

    LESLIE: You know, painting it really does look nice. It doesn’t have to be something that, in the end, you’re going to think, “Ooh, that doesn’t look good.” You just have to make sure that you clean it, you prime it well and then you give it a good top coat.

    Now, I would really start by just taking off a piece of trimming and door frame and seeing how it’s attached. And if you want to truly start with just a fresh look, you can absolutely cover over the entire space with ¼-inch drywall without losing too much space. You’re just going to have to sort of bump out your electrical boxes, your switches, your trim work, et cetera which, for a handy person, isn’t that big of a deal. So it could be a project you could do on your own. Or to hire somebody wouldn’t be that expensive.

    LORRAINE: OK. Sounds good.

    LESLIE: Alright. Good luck with that.

    Pat in Pennsylvania is on the line with a leak in a garage roof. What can we do for you today?

    PAT: Well, I have an attached garage to my house and right down at the end where the – near the garage door is there – right where the soffit meets the shingles, I have a leak there. And I was just wondering how I could try to fix that, if I could just put some of that BLACK JACK in there and try to fix it or …

    TOM: How long do you want it fixed for? A week or like forever? Because if you just use the tar, it’s going to be a very short-term repair.

    PAT: OK.

    TOM: Tell me where exactly the leak is evidencing itself.

    PAT: Well, it’s just a little bit of a water spot there right at the garage door and it seems like the shingles are lifted up a little bit. But my – we built our home only nine years ago, so I wasn’t sure if it was the shingles or …

    TOM: OK. So you’re not even sure if it’s the shingles themselves that are cracking. So if you built your home nine years ago, you’ve got a fiberglass-based asphalt shingle. And one of the ways that fiberglass-based asphalt shingles wear is they actually develop sort of fissures or cracks in them. So if you put a ladder against the front of the garage and you kind of go up and look down on the shingle itself and if you see cracks that go through them, that could be the source of the water.

    Now, if you’ve just got one or two shingles that are pushed up like that, usually that’s because a nail is actually backing up through the roof. And you could put a flat bar in there and kind of tap that nail down. And yeah, if you want to put a little bit of asphalt sealing under the tab just to kind of hold it in place, then that would be OK.

    But in terms of leak prevention, that type of sealant is not the way to fix the leak. If it turns out that the shingles are cracked, I don’t want you to tar them; I want you to take them off and replace them.

    PAT: OK. So that’s not a permanent fix then, I guess, is what you’re saying.

    TOM: Well, that’s right. It’s not going to be a permanent fix. If the shingles are cracked, then you should pull off the shingles that are damaged and replace them and you can do that with a flat bar. You can actually sort of extract – sort of surgically remove – a shingle from the middle of a roof and put a new one back in its place.

    PAT: OK. You wouldn’t think after nine years, though, that the shingles would be cracked already, would you, or …?

    TOM: I have seen it happen quicker than that.

    PAT: Oh, really? OK.

    TOM: Yeah, that’s why – see, that’s kind of the way those shingles wear. It depends on a lot of factors. But I would take a very careful look at that and see if that’s what’s causing it.

    PAT: OK. Well, that sounds good. I appreciate your help.

    TOM: You’re welcome, Pat. 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.

    Well, if you live in an older home, like Tom and I do, you have no doubt faced the problem of cracks in plaster walls. I swear, you turn around, there’s a new crack. Well, we are going to have a really simple solution to fix them, 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: Hey, hanging curtain rods is a great do-it-yourself project for even the most novice weekend warrior. But if you’d rather not mark up your walls, check out our article, “Curtain Rods: How to Hang Them Without Drilling Holes,” right now on MoneyPit.com. This is a very popular article and it’s trending very, very highly.

    I guess there’s a lot of people doing some décor projects, Leslie.

    LESLIE: Yeah, that’s really great. I’m always happy to help with any decorating ideas, tips. Anything you need, I’m happy to lend a hand.

    Jo from Kentucky is on the line with some help with a bathroom cleaning project. What can we do for you?

    JO: Yes. I have an old bathtub and where the water has leaked, I have some porcelain – I guess it’s a porcelain tub. I have some orange spots in there and they look like they’re going to eventually just give way on me. I want to know how I could patch that up.

    LESLIE: Are they super-tiny or are they, you know, an inch or so?

    JO: Yes. Oh, yes, they’re very small.

    TOM: There are touch-ups but you know what? They will show.

    LESLIE: Yeah. I’ve used one. When we bought our house, there was a tiny – I mean super-tiny – little rust spot in our tub. And I used a product called Porc-a-Fix? And you can get it in – pretty much in any home center. It comes in a variety of whites and off-whites, so you kind of have to guess which one is going to work close enough to your exact white or bisque or whatever you want to call it.

    JO: Right.

    LESLIE: And it almost looks like it’s a nail-polish bottle, kind of.

    JO: OK.

    LESLIE: And you apply it in gradual layers, letting it set up and then going back the next day and putting another one on until you build it up. And it’s done a fairly good job. We’ve been in the house eight years and it’s still there, it’s still covered up. But I know exactly where it is.

    JO: OK. Well, I thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Well, Tom and I both love our older homes but we know they come with their own set of maintenance issues, which really are brought on by all those years of service. And one of which we see a lot is cracks, especially those that form in plaster walls.

    TOM: Well, that’s right. But when it comes to repairing cracks in plaster walls, you can’t just trowel on some spackle and call it a day. These walls need a bit more care to make sure that they can stand up for generations to come. Here to tell us exactly how to accomplish that is our friend, Tom Silva, the general contractor for TV’s This Old House.

    Welcome, Tommy.

    TOM SILVA: Thanks, guys. It’s nice to be here.

    TOM: So, we get this question so often. What really causes those plaster walls to crack? It seems pretty normal.

    TOM SILVA: Well, years ago, they put up what they call a “lath” over the wall. And it’s basically a ¼- or 3/8-inch thick strip of wood, maybe a 1-inch to 1¼ inches wide. It’s spaced ¼- to 3/8-inch apart.

    TOM: OK.

    TOM SILVA: When they make the base coat of the plaster up, it’s soft. They trowel it and push it onto the walls. It goes in between those openings of the lath, forming a key or a lock to that. That’s how it’s held onto the wall.

    TOM: So it circles behind the wood and then kind of grabs it and that’s the attachment.

    TOM SILVA: Right. Right. So it basically forms a key or a T or an I, basically: the wall, the slot and then a big clump in the back. And when that breaks free, the plaster will fall off the wall in chunks; it becomes loose. You have to reattach it to the wall by using a metal ring or a washer and a drywall screw. And you just want to gently put the washer onto the wall, holding it in place with a drywall screw, screwing it into the lath. If you screw it too tight, you’ll crack the piece and it’ll fall out.

    TOM: Yeah, good point. Now, so what we’re essentially doing is with the metal drywall screw on the washer, we are creating an alternative structural assembly, essentially, because the key is gone now, no longer attaching. We’ve got this loose plaster, which is pretty heavy, too. And this was in a ceiling, it could actually fall down and hurt somebody.

    TOM SILVA: Oh, absolutely. The ceiling, that’s what happens. Big chunks will fall out of a ceiling if you don’t address the problem and fix it.

    LESLIE: Now, you’re saying that we want to go with these rings and these drywall screws right into the lath itself. Finding the wood, I feel like any time you’ve tried to hang anything on a plaster wall, you take a stud finder and then everything is beeping.

    TOM SILVA: Right.

    LESLIE: So it’s like how do you know, essentially, you’re getting into that strip of lath?

    TOM SILVA: You will know. As soon as you turn that screw and it goes through the plaster, whether you’re in between the crack or you’re into the lath. Because you will feel the tension.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Tightening up.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah.

    TOM: And the nice thing about lath is if you do miss it, if you go an inch in either direction, you’re most likely to hit it, correct?

    TOM SILVA: Exactly, exactly. The key is is you don’t want to overtighten it, because you’re going to damage or crumble the plaster. So you don’t want to do that.

    LESLIE: That’s such a delicate system.

    TOM SILVA: Right. Another way to do it is I like to put the plaster rings on if I – and then put them randomly on the wall. Then I’ll take an old piece of screening wire out of a storm door and then take that screen, put joint compound on the wall, cover it well, take the screening wire and lay it right into the wet plaster and then compress it against the wall, oozing out all of the joint compound behind it. And now I created a screen mesh over the wall and it will never crack.

    TOM: Ah, that’s a great tip. So if you’ve got a crack that really is persistent, maybe in an area where the wall tends to move a lot, like around a door opening or an archway or something like that, you could essentially reinforce that entire crack. First, secure it with drywall screws and the metal washers, then put the screening on top of that whole thing.

    TOM SILVA: Right. Right.

    TOM: And you are so reinforcing that area that the crack just can’t reappear.

    TOM SILVA: Exactly. Yeah, two coats of joint compound on top of it, sometimes three depending on how much the hole or the dent is that you’re trying to figure out. Not really a hole but a dent in the plaster. And I’ve had great luck with it over the years.

    TOM: Great tricks of the trade. We’re talking to Tom Silva, the general contractor on TV’s This Old House, about how to repair a cracked plaster wall.

    LESLIE: Now, what about drywall? I mean when you’re thinking about comparing drywall to plaster, making any sort of repairs to cracks in drywall has got to be a breeze.

    TOM SILVA: Well, drywall, you don’t have to worry about that plaster, that hard surface, cracking. Drywall can crack but usually if it cracks or opens, it’s going to be a structural issue, because the house is really settling too much, or it was just basically installed incorrectly.

    LESLIE: And I think, generally, a lot of the calls we get at The Money Pit, when you’re seeing a crack in the drywall, it’s essentially a crack in the joinery.

    TOM SILVA: In the joint. Exactly, exactly. And usually, what happens there in lots of times is the tape wasn’t installed correctly. If they use a paper tape, the paper tape went onto dry joint compound and so it breaks away eventually.

    LESLIE: Right.

    TOM SILVA: So, you’ve got to retape it.

    TOM: And speaking of retaping, one final point. I like that perforated tape: the one that sort of looks like a fiberglass mesh? Because, as you know, for the average do-it-yourselfer that doesn’t work with paper tape all the time, it’s kind of hard to get it right. You’ve got to make …

    LESLIE: You have to finesse it.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah.

    TOM: You’ve got to have a solid coat of joint compound behind it. You get air bubbles. That fiberglass tape seems to be a lot more forgiving.

    TOM SILVA: The fiberglass tape I like is the – because I use it, because I plaster and I joint compound and I use it for both. Lots of times, I may double up on it. But if – the paper tape is tricky. If you put a layer of joint compound on the wall on a joint or over a crack, if you wait too long and that joint compound hasn’t dried but skinned over, now when you put the tape on it, it’s not going to stick.

    TOM: Yeah, yeah. And it gets kind of chunky and it doesn’t give you a smooth …

    TOM SILVA: Right, right. The trick around that is if you’re waiting too long, wet the tape and put it on the wet joint compound and you don’t have to worry about it. It will really stick well then.

    TOM: Hey, it worked for the plasterers, right, with the wet lath?

    TOM SILVA: Absolutely.

    TOM: Alright. And it still works today. Tom Silva, the general contractor on TV’s This Old House, great advice. Thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    TOM SILVA: Nice to be here.

    LESLIE: 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 brought to you by GMC. GMC, we are professional grade.


    Up next, the last thing you want to do is spend money on a renovation only to learn it added no value or worse, left your home even less valuable than it was before. We’ll tell you which improvements add a big bang for just a few bucks, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Stanley Tools, your trusted name in quality hand tools. To learn more about their complete line of quality tools and everything for your tool box, visit StanleyTools.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. Pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. We’ve got a great prize to give away today to one lucky caller who gets on the air with us. We’ve got a rug up for grabs from Loloi.

    Now, the winner gets to choose any 5×8 rug from the Encore Collection. And the designs will really work with about any style and they’re gorgeous. If you want to check them out, go to their website. It’s LoloiRugs.com and that’s spelled L-o-l-o-i – Rugs.com. And the prize is worth 500 bucks, so give us a call right now at 888-MONEY-PIT for your chance to win.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Barbara in Florida is on the line and has a pool-cleaning question. Well, really, the screen. How can we help you, Barbara?

    BARBARA: Yeah. I’m here in Northwest Florida and I have a very large screen enclosure that’s just covered with green mold on it. So I’m looking for something. I’ve tried just a pressure washer and it’s not taking it off, so I need something – some ideas of cleaning it that’s also environment-friendly, because I do have plants around the screen enclosure.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And probably because of the height, you want to do it once and not have to do it again for a long time, right?

    BARBARA: Absolutely.

    LESLIE: You know, Barbara, Tom and I have worked with a product called Wet & Forget. It’s actually perfect for your type of environment, because you have high mold growth because of the humidity in Florida.

    And what it is, it’s a product that you put on and I bet in your application – Tom, it’d probably – best for her to roll it on or can she spray it on?

    TOM: Well, she’d probably spray it on with a garden sprayer.

    But you apply it and basically, that’s it. Mother Nature, wind and rain do the rest.

    LESLIE: And it’s not going to make it go away that moment you put it on but give it a week’s time and that mold and mildew is gone.

    BARBARA: OK. And you think with spraying it on the screen it would still – the screen would catch some of the product?

    TOM: Yes, absolutely. It’s designed for any exterior surface so, certainly, screening is fine.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And it won’t damage the pool or any surrounding plants.

    TOM: Or the plants.

    BARBARA: OK. Well, that sounds like a perfect solution then.

    TOM: Take a look at their website. It’s WetAndForget.com.

    LESLIE: And the results will last for a long time.

    TOM: Well, if you’ve set aside a bit of money to spruce up your money pit this year, I’m sure you want to make sure that you get the most bang for your buck. The truth is, though, it doesn’t take a lot of cash for renovations that add real value.

    LESLIE: That’s right. Conservation improvements, like repair to your leaky toilets or any water-wasting bathroom fixtures, will really only cost you a few dollars but they’re going to add a ton of value.

    Now, improving your curb appeal – such as adding a sturdy, new door in a welcoming color or even just some new container gardens on your porch – can really make a huge difference.

    TOM: And if your do-it-yourself skills range from the intermediate to the higher level, you might also want to think about improving your kitchen by building your own concrete countertops. These are trending really hot right now. They’re budget-friendly, they’re eco-friendly and they can really add significant value to your home.

    And if you want more ideas on renovations that deliver big returns on investment, we’ve got a whole list at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Lucy in Kansas is on the line and would like some help refinishing some cabinets. Tell us about your project.


    LUCY: Yes. We have a home that is about 17 years old. I just moved here about three years ago. And we have solid-oak cabinets and the overall finish is just looking dull. It isn’t awfully bunged up or anything but there are areas like along the upper edges of the drawers where the color looks faded. And so, I don’t know what to use to clean them and I don’t know what to do to make them have some sheen.

    TOM: A couple of things. First of all, you can clean them with Murphy’s Oil Soap; that’s a good, mild soap for cleaning any kind of wood surfaces, including floors and cabinets. So that’s the first thing. The second thing is you can – if it’s just the finish that’s kind of worn a little bit, you can take those doors off, take the drawers out and lightly sand them and then put another coat of urethane on it. You’re probably going to want to use a satin urethane but make sure you sand them first. And use an oil-based, satin urethane. I would not use water-base.

    LUCY: I see.

    TOM: Even though it’s easier to use, it’s not as durable. So, use the oil-based urethane. And I would try it on maybe one drawer front or someplace that’s the least obvious in your kitchen, just to make sure you like the way it came out, and then go ahead and do the rest.

    LUCY: Mm-hmm. OK. I think that’ll just fix us right up.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Up next, it’s time for caulk talk. It’s a handy home improvement product but with dozens of choices, how do you choose the right one for your particular project? We will tell you, after this.

    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.

    Well, here’s some good news for those of you that made some energy-saving improvements in 2012. You might be entitled to tax credits or even write-offs. We’re going to tell you more about which improvements are eligible. All you have to do is search “tax credits” at MoneyPit.com and you’ll find everything you need there. You probably have to save your receipts; make sure you double-check with your accountant. There’s some good things that you can do to save yourself some money come this tax season.

    And while you’re online, you can shoot us a question in the Community section of The Money Pit and you can post it right there. And I’ve got one here from a new member, Sarah, in New York who writes: “What should I be using to caulk around the tub where the porcelain meets the tile: silicone or latex? I’ve heard that the two don’t mix. If I already have one type, I should not apply a different type touching it, correct?”

    TOM: Well, you really shouldn’t be mixing caulks, period. If you’re going to caulk your tub, the first thing that you need to do is to pull out the old caulk.

    Now, if it’s really old, it’ll come out pretty easily. But if it’s not really old, there’s actually a product that is called a “caulk softener.” Think of it as sort of a paint stripper for caulk. And when you apply it to the old caulk, even if it’s hard and really difficult to scrape off, this will soften it up so you can get it off cleanly without damaging the tub or the tile.


    And then after you get it completely off, you should fill that tub with water, so it’s weighted down, and then you could apply the new caulk. Let the water out of the tub after that so it comes up and sort of compresses the caulk and this way, it won’t pull out the next time.

    Now, as to the question of silicone versus latex, if you’re going to use latex, it’s a lot easier to handle, especially if you’re a bit sloppy. Because what happens is with silicone, it’s really hard to trowel in. I like to use my finger trowel, you know, where – like your pinky is about the right size to get that perfect caulk bead?

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Yes.

    TOM: You can’t do that with silicone, because it’s gooey and it’s stringy. And so if you’re a little bit nervous about that, the best thing to do is to use latex caulk. But make sure you choose the one that’s rated for kitchen and baths. Why? Because it has mildicide in it.


    And frankly, some of these latex products are so good, it’s just as good as silicone and just a lot easier to use. So I would tend to recommend that you go with latex as long as it has a mildicide built into it.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Yeah, that does make sense. And for the girls, Tom’s pinky finger is more like my pointer finger. So, that just works. You want to keep your finger wet, though, because that does help it to slide more smoothly. And once you get a buildup of the caulk on your finger, wipe it up, start again.

    Alright. Next up, we’ve got Marge in Florida who writes: “I have electronic air filters and I’m wondering how to clean them. One dealer says vacuum, because washing could cause corrosion and then a malfunction. Another dealer says wash with water.”

    TOM: Well, the answer is you clean them whichever way the manufacturer recommends you clean them. Every electronic air-cleaner manufacturer is going to have a maintenance instruction. But I will say this: for a good number of them, you can take those units out – the filters out – of the electronic air cleaners and actually stick them in the dishwasher. Sometimes you have to remove the upper basket to do this but run them through one cycle. It does a great job of cleaning them. But really, before you do anything, check the manufacturer’s instructions. Even if it’s an old one, just go online today. All of that information is online and so check that.

    Now, there are other types that you don’t really clean, you simply replace. For example, media filters. Some of them are – look like sort of accordions. And those are so efficient, you only have to replace them about once a year. So there are other options in air cleaning besides electronic that can do a pretty good job of keeping your air clear and really allergy-free, by pulling out all of those things that make you really uncomfortable.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you do want to keep those filters clean, because that really is the best way to keep the air in your house clean. So you’re doing the right thing by taking care of that. And put it on your calendar and take care of it as regularly as you need to.

    Alright? I hope that helps.

    TOM: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air, online, at MoneyPit.com. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. Hope you’ve gotten some great ideas, some tips, some ideas and some inspiration for projects that you can do to improve your 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.

    END HOUR 1 TEXT

    (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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