6 Ways to Give Old Christmas Trees New Life #0101182
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 New Year. If you’ve got some projects planned for the year ahead, perhaps some New Year’s resolutions that have something to do with your home, you are in exactly the right place because we are here to help you get those projects done. Help yourself first, though, by picking up the phone and calling us with those questions. Could be home improvement, could be décor, could be do-it-yourself or it could be a project you want to hire a pro for. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
Coming up this hour, now that the holidays have passed, the trees are coming down. But don’t toss your holiday tree to the curb just yet when you can recycle it instead. We’ll tell you how.
LESLIE: And if you live in a rented apartment or condo that’s drafty and cold, you’d probably turn up the heat a few degrees. But if you don’t have control of that thermostat, picking up a space heater might help you avoid those goosebumps. We’re going to have tips on how to select one that’s most efficient and safest for your space.
TOM: And is your bathroom feeling a bit run-down and drab after, perhaps, all the holiday visitors? Well, one simple pick-me-up can give it a pretty big lift: clean the grout. We’ve got the solution that can do just that and make it sparkle. We’ll tell you all about that, just ahead.
Plus, we’re taking your calls and your posts. So, call us, right now, at 888-MONEY-PIT or post your question to The Money Pit’s Community page at MoneyPit.com.
Let’s get to it. Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Kathy in Indiana is on the line and is dealing with a bald spot on her roof when it’s snowy out. And we’ve been getting a lot of snow this winter, so your house must look like it’s in need of a toupée.
What’s going on, Kathy?
KATHY: Hi. Yes, we just moved down here from Wisconsin, down to Indiana. We bought this house and we’ve been doing a lot of work on it. And when we got our first snow, I noticed, on the back part, there is a – like a foot-and-a-half-inch diameter bald spot every time we get a snowfall. And we had a friend – a contractor – come down. He went up in the attic and he’s like, “There is nothing going on here.” So the only thing we thought, well, maybe is going on is we have a heat pump and we also have our dryer vent in that same area back there.
And so now I had two different suggestions. He said to put a soffit venting on that whole area to get more air going up through there and possibly maybe it’s coming from the heat pump. But then I went to The Home Depot and I was talking to the guy there that seemed to know quite a bit. And he said – and what he would do is take it and remove all the vented area – vented soffit in that area. And so if there is heat coming up – he said, “But this shouldn’t happen.” He said, “This is what people do. They put their heat pumps outside.” And he’d never heard of anything like this before.
So we ended up doing that and so we don’t know yet if that actually helped it or not but …
TOM: Yeah, it’s not hurting the roof not having snow on that one spot. If you want to know why it’s happening, it’s because that spot is warmer than the other spots around it. Now, why is it warmer? Well, you mentioned there is a dryer exhaust duct near there. If the dryer exhaust duct is not completely sealed, if it’s dumping warm air in there, that’s going to heat up that spot over the roof and then any snow that hits there is going to melt and roll down. If the insulation has some gap in it of some sort in there where more room air can get up and heat that area right above it, that could cause it, as well.
But I would not tell you to start messing with your venting and everything else just because you’ve got a foot-and-a-half spot that doesn’t – where snow doesn’t stick. It’s curious but it’s not a major problem and I wouldn’t recommend major work for it.
KATHY: OK. So it’s – we don’t have to be concerned that there is heat getting up there and it’s going to cause mold and issues going on?
TOM: Well, I mean I would try – I would determine if there’s an obvious source of warmth that’s getting into that spot. But actually adding heat to that area is not necessarily going to cause mold. You’ll get more mold in the less heated spaces, frankly. Because when you warm moist – when you warm air, it uses more moisture, essentially. That’s why the warm air holds more moisture, so that’s not really a concern. It’s just kind of a curious thing.
And if you’ve got a dryer vent that’s right near there, I’d start with that because that would make perfect sense. If the dryer vent is losing some of its air right in that space, that’s not a good idea, either, because you don’t want to be dumping any lint into the attic. That could be dangerous, OK?
KATHY: OK. Well, very good. Thank you.
TOM: Alright, Kathy.
FRED: This past year, we noticed our hot-water heater – which is a 70-gallon; it’s up in the attic – gas water heater started like it was bouncing around in the attic, OK? I called a plumber and they said, “Well, you need to get – change your anode.” Then I called another one and they said, “Well, don’t worry about it. It’s no big deal.”
So, I listen to you guys all the time and love your show. And kind of would like you all’s opinion.
TOM: How old is this water heater?
FRED: About probably 10 years old.
TOM: OK. So, you’re moving towards the end of the life of the water heater. And therefore, I wouldn’t tell you to replace the anode. That noise as the tank expands and contracts and was what you’re hearing – kind of gurgling, creepy kind of sound – is common to …
FRED: Well, it’s more than a creep; it’s loud. It bumps and – like it’s bouncing up there.
FRED: Really heavy, yeah.
TOM: Well, OK. I think the reason that that’s happening is because of the age and because the anode rod is probably shot. But I don’t think it’s worth fixing it because it’s 10 years old.
I think that this is a really good time for you to think about doing this and that is to replace that tank water heater with a tankless water heater. The technology is so great right now with tankless water heaters.
I was talking to a manufacturer today about a new Rheem unit, for example, that is really cool. Because what it does is it not only gives you instant hot water in an unbelievable, unending amount but it has this recirculating loop in it now so that – you know when you get in the shower in the morning and you’re waiting for it to go from cold to hot?
TOM: That goes away. It basically has a crossover valve built into it so it just provides water – hot water – to every fixture and faucet, for as much as you want it to be. So, that’s kind of cool with no wait for it.
FRED: So, what kind of cost are we talking about on the tankless?
TOM: Well, those water heaters are probably in the $1,000 to $1,500 range, plus installation. So, it’s going to be more expensive than a basic tank water heater. But it’s a lot more efficient and a lot more convenient to use. So, I mean when my water heater goes now, the next time it goes I’m definitely going tankless.
FRED: OK. Here’s the thing. It’s up in the attic. Why do they ever put a 70-gallon water heater up in that? We can’t – you couldn’t get it out. You can’t take it out of there.
TOM: Yeah. Oh, you mean because they probably framed it in? Yeah, that’s a point.
FRED: Oh, yeah, it’s way up in the – there’s no way to get it down.
TOM: You can’t get it down through the attic access, the hole?
FRED: No. No way. No way. Too big.
TOM: Yeah. Well, listen, maybe you just …
LESLIE: Hmm. They got it up there.
TOM: Yeah. Well, yeah, but they may have put it up there before they put the floor down and probably framed it into the wall or something like that.
LESLIE: Right. They built it around it.
TOM: But the other thing you could do is you could cut it apart. A plumber can cut it apart for you, take it out in pieces. So, that’s also possible.
FRED: OK. Should I – we would install the tankless water heater up in the attic?
TOM: I would only because all the valves or the gas lines are there.
TOM: And venting these tankless units are really easy because they’re so efficient, Fred. They basically have very, very slightly warm gases going out of them. The gases are so – they’re such a low temperature that you don’t need a metal vent pipe. You could take it out of PVC pipe.
FRED: Wow. You guys are great. I really appreciate it and you answered my question. That’s what I’m going to do: go tankless.
TOM: Terrific. Good luck with that project, Fred. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
FRED: Thanks, guys.
LESLIE: You are listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Call in your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor.
Just ahead, are you about to drag your Christmas tree to the curb once more? Well, not so fast. We’ve got six ways to reuse or recycle that tree. We’ll share those tips with you, after this.
Making good homes better, this is 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 presented by HomeAdvisor. They make it fast and easy to find top-rated home pros. Plus, it’s 100-percent free to use.
Heading over to Alabama now where Mary is trying to remove some old caulk from a bathroom fixture. What’s going on?
MARY: I have purchased one of the tools at a home improvement store and it is so hard that it won’t remove. And I’m worried about scratching the bathtub and the edge if I get a razor blade.
TOM: Have you ever used a paint remover to remove layers of paint?
TOM: OK. Well, just like a paint remover will strip paint, there’s a product called a “caulk softener.” And the caulk softener gets applied to the caulk and it sort of reliquefies it, softens it up and makes it a lot easier for you to scrape it out.
So you want to apply the caulk softener first. And once it works and softens the caulk, clean it really, really well. The next thing you want to do is take a bleach-and-water solution and wipe that seam down really well, because you want to kill any bacteria that’s in there. You want to make sure there’s no mold spores that are left behind.
And the next thing that you want to do is fill the tub with water. We always caulk tubs when they’re full of water and here’s why: because when the caulk dries, the tub sort of comes back up. When you fill the tub with water, it sinks down. When you put the caulk in it, let the caulk dry and then let the water out of the tub, it comes back up and compresses the caulk and it’s not likely to fall out again or pull apart again at the seam, OK?
So, those are the steps you want to follow. Start with a caulk softener, wipe it down with bleach and water, fill the tub with water, caulk it. When the caulk dries, let the tub water out and you’re good to go.
MARY: Can you recommend a good caulk to replace it with?
TOM: I would take a look at the DAP products that include Microban. Microban is an additive that stops any mold from growing inside the caulk.
MARY: OK. Thank you so much. I appreciate it.
TOM: You’re welcome, Mary. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
THOMAS: Well, I’ve had my – I have poured walls in the basement. And I had it recently – I had spray foam through – on the sill plates in the exterior – in the walls – exterior walls. But now I’ve developed some – a moisture that’s coming through the walls. And it looks like I’m getting a mildew. And I’m wondering, is there any product that I can put on there or insulate it? I have – outside, I have about a 2-foot exposure from the ground up to the vinyl siding. And is there a product that I can put on that or on the interior or exterior that would stop this moisture content and possibly keep the mold out or the mildew out?
TOM: OK. So, first of all, no matter what you put on those walls, outside or inside, you’re not going to make them waterproof. The way to reduce that condition is to manage the water at the foundation perimeter by trying to keep the first few feet of soil around your house as dry as possible.
The way you do that is two things. Number one, you make sure you have gutters, the gutters are clean and the downspouts are extended at least 4 to 6 feet from the house. Most are not. Most usually turn out a few inches into a splash block and end up sort of doing a U-turn and sitting – dumping all that water right up against the perimeter there. And secondly, you make sure the soil is sloping away. If you’ve got a lot of mulch, for example, or stone or anything like that that doesn’t let the water run over it and out, that will keep water at the foundation perimeter. So, those two things are most important.
Beyond that, on the inside foundation, what you could do is apply a water seal to the foundation surface. Thompson’s WaterSeal is a good product. And that’s a product that will seal some of the porous nature of the concrete walls and slow that evaporation of the water coming from the outside.
So, manage the water and then seal the walls on the inside. You don’t have to do anything else on the outside than that. There’s nothing you need to put on that exposed foundation that would help.
THOMAS: Oh, good. I know I have gutters and I have downspouts away but I’m still getting – you know, the cold weather we have here now, it seems like since it got cold – but I have the basement heated. So I’m getting a condensation there. I’ve been running fans and a dehumidifier down there but we’re just wondering if there was something on there that I could stop that. So, you say Thompson’s WaterSeal will …?
TOM: Yep. I think that’s a good option.
THOMAS: OK. Well, wonderful. We’ll be able to – we’ll give it a try. Thank you so much.
TOM: Alright. Good luck. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
THOMAS: Thank you. Bye-bye.
TOM: Well, if your Christmas tree is quickly fading, with more needles on the floor than may be on the tree, it’s definitely time for it to go. But before you put it out on the street, you might want to consider some ways it could be recycled or reused.
Now, the good folks over at Popular Mechanics came up with a great list of ideas to do just that.
LESLIE: Yeah. First of all, you want to check with your city or your town government for Christmas-tree drop-off areas. Now, those are often set up near the recycling centers. And the trees typically will go through a chipper and then they’re used as mulch for parks and all the green areas in your town.
TOM: Now, if you live on a property that’s got a lake or a pond, here’s a great idea: you can consider dumping your tree into it.
Now, that old pine or spruce will provide a natural and decomposing habitat for fish and it’ll also attract algae for them to eat. So, a pretty cool idea.
LESLIE: And it probably makes a pretty big splash, as well.
Now, you can also put the tree to work in your yard by mulching it. You just have to take off all the branches and then shake off the dead needles, because the needles are what you want. They’re not going to collect mold and then they’ll decompose slowly, so they really do provide a lot of insulation.
TOM: Now, here’s a fun project: you can take that old Christmas tree and make coasters out of it. Just take a hacksaw or a band saw or a wood saw and cut your tree trunk into little slices that are about, I don’t know, about a ½-inch thick. And then you’ve got coasters and trivets. Make sure you sand down all the surfaces and then you can stain or seal them before you use them. And this will stop any remaining sap from leaking out into your furniture, which would be a really bad thing.
LESLIE: Or you know what would be fun is if you did it every year and made an ornament for your next year’s tree.
TOM: Out of the last year’s Christmas tree?
LESLIE: Out of the last year’s Christmas tree.
TOM: Yeah, that’s a cool idea. Yep, very cool idea.
LESLIE: It’s kind of a fun idea.
LESLIE: Another thing you can do, guys, is make firewood. I mean we all love cozying up by a fire. So, chop up your tree and then use it as fuel for your fireplace or your fire pit. While those needles are going to dry out quickly, you might need to wait a few months, though, before that log itself is dry enough to burn.
TOM: Now, if you’ve got a neighborhood that perhaps – where there’s no tree recycling and you want to do something fun, throw a chipper party. You can rent a wood chipper, perhaps, at your local home improvement store and invite your friends and neighbors to bring their Christmas trees over for a wood-chipping party. But here’s a tip: don’t serve the alcohol until well after that chipper is put away, tied up and out of reach of all involved.
LESLIE: Kirk in North Dakota is on the line with a lighting question. What’s going on?
KIRK: So, I’ve got a quick question on fluorescent lights. A lot of your lights are, of course, rated 60 watts, et cetera. So, my question kind of came in the fact on the fluorescent bulb, it says, “This is equal to a 60-watt bulb.” But sometimes, that’s just not enough light. So what happens – are you allowed to put a bigger bulb wattage because – since fluorescents are supposed to be taking less electricity, can a guy put a bigger bulb in there – on a fluorescent that says, “Equal to 100 watts”? Because it’s still drawing less electricity.
TOM: So, I think what you’re talking about here is compact fluorescents, Kirk?
TOM: So, the wattage limitations on fixtures is based on a calculation that involves incandescent bulbs and it – because it equates to heat. A 100-watt bulb is going to emit a certain amount of heat and the fixture is rated to take that heat. That’s what it’s rated for and you can’t put more than that.
When it comes to fluorescents, you’re only using a quarter of the energy. So a 15-watt bulb will deliver you – deliver the same equivalent of 60 watts of light. You can have a bulb that delivers the equivalent of a bigger watt bulb but you’re still not actually putting that amount of electricity into it. Does that make sense?
KIRK: Right. So you could actually – like you say, if it’s a third, if it’s rated for a 60-watt incandescent bulb, you could virtually – say, if there’s a 150-watt bulb in a fluorescent, you should be able to put that in there and not cause an overload and get more light out of that same fixture.
TOM: Yeah, I probably wouldn’t double it. But I might – if it calls for a 60, I might go up to 100 because then you’re moving from saying 15 watts to 25. But I have a better suggestion. Forget the compact fluorescents. They are an outdated technology. The LED bulbs are where it’s at today. They deliver a much better-quality light with just the same, if not more, savings.
KIRK: But that was – the whole issue is sometimes you just don’t get enough light out of some of those fixtures.
TOM: Right. And I think that if – right. And also, they’re very temperature-sensitive. If it’s a cold area, like …
LESLIE: And then they’re color-sensitive, as well. You know, when you get a CFL, you have to pick what color temperature you want that bulb to feel. And they can all feel extremely different. So you might pick something that gives a cold, harsh light and you want something warmer. So there’s a lot of experimenting with what type of fluorescent bulb you’re going to get.
KIRK: We’ll have to try to some different things but I was just worried about the wattage and making sure I didn’t overheat the original fixture.
TOM: Nope. You’re smart to be concerned but I’d take a look at the LEDs. And I think once you start trying them, you’ll be disposing of those CFLs.
KIRK: Well, thank you very much for taking my call. I appreciate it.
TOM: You’re very welcome. Good luck with that project.
LESLIE: Hey, do you rent an apartment that’s drafty and cold but you feel like you can’t do anything about it because the landlord controls the heat? We’ve got tips to help you get rid of those goosebumps, next.
TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Happy New Year. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: We’ll be here for the entire year helping you with your home improvement projects. So if you’ve got a project on your to-do list, slide it over to our list. We’ll help you move it towards the done pile with some advice to get it done right the first time. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
VICKY: I have dining room and part of my living room. I had – the ceiling was peeling – painting and peeling.
VICKY: As the pieces were running wide, opening, coming down, I had a painter come and he scraped all the peeled paint off. And there were parts that were not peeled, so he didn’t touch that. He just peeled the pieces coming down.
Now, he painted. I have no idea if he put a sealant or not. But after that, about a year or so later, I had the same problem. Now, this is all coming down, so I have another painter, another $4,000 I put into this and it’s peeling again.
TOM: Let’s talk about what’s probably happening with your paint. When you have paint that starts to peel like that, it’s essentially sort of delaminating. The paint between the layers of paint, it loses its ability to remain sort of stuck together or loses its bond. And it’s very common for this to happen when you have a lot of coats of paint. Because at some point, you’re really at the point of no return where the paint – you can’t just keep adding more paint, because it will peel. You have to strip off the paint that’s there.
So if you’ve got this problem of paint that repeatedly peels, the next time you work on this project, you have to apply a paint stripper and pull off the old paint. Then you need to prime that space. And I would use an oil-based primer for maximum adhesion. And then you can add the final, finishing touch of a latex ceiling paint over that. But if you keep adding good paint over bad paint, you’re continually going to have this problem where you get peeling and delamination and the process will have to be repeated.
Vicky, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Tuan in Nebraska is on the line with some help on an insulation project. What can we do for you?
TUAN: My home was built in 1935 and I’d like to insulate the exterior walls. What would be the best way to do that? Either foam or blowing in insulation?
TOM: So you are confident that there’s no insulation in those exterior walls right now, Tuan?
TUAN: There’s none in there. I’m very confident.
TOM: So, because we don’t want to have you open up all the walls, probably the best thing to do is to do blown-in insulation. That can be blown in from the interior or from the exterior, depending on how – where you would like to patch it. To blow in insulation, they drill holes that are about an inch to an inch-and-a-half in diameter and then usually, you use cellulose that’s blown in under a slight pressure.
And it’s important to work with a company that’s very experienced with the product, because they have ways to make sure it gets to all the spaces it’s supposed to get to and account for settling of it.
For example, one of the ways to do that is after the insulation is installed, they’ll use an infrared camera to basically scan all your walls and look for cold spots that would indicate a place where insulation did not get to. So I think blown-in is the way to go with that thermal verification.
TUAN: OK. So thermal – ask for a thermal verification?
TOM: Yeah. And it really shouldn’t be anything extra. It should just be part of their tools because otherwise, how do they know they’re getting the insulation everywhere it should be? I would also tell you to make sure you double-check the amount of insulation you have in your attic. Because as uncomfortable you think you might be because of those walls, they are actually responsible for a very small part of the heat loss compared to the attics. You want to make sure that the insulation over head in your part of the country is 15 to 20 inches of fiberglass insulation.
TUAN: Thank you very much.
TOM: Well, if you’re a renter and you’re suffering with a cold and drafty apartment, picking up a space heater might be the best solution to getting rid of those goosebumps. To help you do just that, we’ve created a quick guide that’s online now at MoneyPit.com. But here are the most important things to know when you choose that space heater.
First, understand there’s basically two types of heaters: radiant and convection. And they work a lot differently from one another. The radiant heaters are going to warm objects, like you, by radiating heat as their name implies. But the convection heaters, on the other hand, will warm the air in a room and it’ll eventually warm the entire room, provided you buy one that’s sized for the room that it’s in.
There are different types and styles for both types of space heaters, ranging from tabletop to radiant heaters to even larger, freestanding convection heaters that can warm that entire space.
LESLIE: Next, you’ve got to consider the price. Now, this doesn’t only include the price to buy the space heater but this is where you forget the costs are hidden. It’s the price of running it.
Now, space heaters can cost as low as $30 and can go up to well over $100. But if you’re paying your own electric bill and use that heater for an average of six to eight hours a day, it’s going to add about $10 to $20 per month to your electric bill. And I think a lot of people forget about that whole part of it.
TOM: And that’s why it’s super smart to choose the right heater size. Because if it’s small, you’ll be cold but if it’s too big, you’re going to be paying a lot for energy that you really don’t need.
Now, the good news is that there’s a really simple formula for choosing the right-size space heater and here it is: the heating capacity of a space heater is basically determined by its wattage; the more watts the heater uses, the more heat it gives out. So, to figure out how many watts your heater should be, just take the area of the room you want to heat and multiply it by 10.
So, let’s say, for example, you have a room that’s 10×15. That’s 150 square feet. Multiply that by 10 and you know you need a 1,500-watt space heater to heat that space and get rid of those goosebumps.
LESLIE: Alright. I think lastly, and most importantly, we’ve got to talk about safety. You want to make sure that you buy a space heater that includes a sensor which will trigger the unit to shut down if it starts overheating. Now, there’s also freestanding models with a switch that shuts off the heater if it tips over, which is always a possibility if you’ve got a curious cat, curious kids, people who just shouldn’t be touching it. You know, they’re not going to just fall over on their own but believe me, it happens.
TOM: And most importantly, never, ever use an extension cord with a space heater or even a power strip, ever. Space heaters use a ton of electricity. And if the extension cord or power strip are not rated properly, they can and they will catch fire. And I have seen many, many pictures of completely melted cords and power strips because space heaters are plugged into them. So just don’t do it.
ELLEN: It’s a sub-basement and it has a cement floor. And years ago, I – the floor is really – the cement was poured new about 15 years ago. And I put a 12-inch vinyl flooring on top. It’s still there and in really good condition but I want to put something to warm up the area. And I was thinking of maybe an engineered-wood floor?
So two questions: one, do I have to take up the tile and two, what is the best product to put over a cement floor?
TOM: Well, you have a lot of options. First of all, you do not have to remove the tile. You’re probably better off just leaving it alone.
ELLEN: Yay. Oh, I was hoping you’d say that.
TOM: Secondly, good options for basement flooring are pretty much anything but carpet.
LESLIE: Area rugs OK but not wall-to-wall.
TOM: Engineered hardwood is an excellent choice. Not solid hardwood, because solid hardwood will buckle and twist. Engineered hardwood is made up of – kind of like plywood: different layers of wood that are glued at 90-degree angles to each other. And so they’re dimensionally stable, so they’ll stay flat without buckling or twisting. Another good choice might be laminate floor, for the same reason. You can get laminate floors that look like hardwood or look like tile or look like vinyl. And they lock together.
And both of those floors will float on top of the old floor, so they’re not physically glued down or connected. They kind of float. There’s usually an underlayment material that goes underneath them. And then you add some baseboard molding or shoe molding along the edges to cover the gap.
ELLEN: That’s fabulous. Now, can I put a radiant flooring under – over the vinyl tile and under the flooring?
TOM: Yeah, a radiant flooring underneath that is perfectly fine. Now, there are products that are designed specifically for that. In fact, there’s one that’s on the market right now called Perfectly Warm. And it’s a radiant-floor heating that is designed for products like engineered hardwood and laminate. It basically lays underneath it. It’s surprisingly affordable and energy-efficient.
And in fact, we’ve got a story about it – an interview that I did, actually, with one of the inventors, at our website at MoneyPit.com. Check out the Top Products Podcast section. It’s a story about Perfectly Warm flooring. You can hear all about it there with the interview that we did at Greenbuild this past year.
ELLEN: Oh, great. Thank you so much. I love your show.
TOM: Alright. Well, good luck with that project. It sounds like it’s going to be a really good project to tackle this winter and give you lots more usable space and really step it up.
TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Hey, do you feel like your bathroom needs a facelift? Well, before you break the bank, why not clean the grout? It might be all the lift your bathroom needs and we’ll tell you how to get that project done, next.
TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Post your question to us at MoneyPit.com or call us, 24/7, at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor. They make it fast and easy to find top-rated home pros you can trust for any home project.
Well, if you’re looking for ways to freshen up your bathroom, here’s where you can find it: between the tiles. Grout in tubs and showers gets pretty discolored after a few years and can really drag down the look of the entire room.
LESLIE: Yeah. But cleaning grout is a little time-consuming but don’t be afraid. It’s easy and it makes a really, really, really big difference.
First of all, you’ve got to start by ID-ing what kind of tile that you have. Now, glazed tiles can withstand chemical cleaners but unglazed tile you’ve got to be really careful with. So you should only clean them with a natural cleanser.
TOM: And making that natural cleanser is pretty easy. You just mix up baking soda and a bit of water. Apply that natural paste or use a chemical cleaner if your tiles are glazed. But apply it to the grout with a toothbrush. And work it into the areas for about 30 seconds or so and then rinse each section as you go.
LESLIE: Yeah, you’ll be glad you did. But that doesn’t mean you’re going to want to do this project again. So, to protect that grout that you’ve just made so beautiful, you want to keep it from discoloring again in the future. Go ahead and apply a grout sealer, epoxy or acrylic, to that newly cleaned grout. That’s going to keep the dirt and stains from making their way back in.
Don in Missouri is on the line with a porch question. What can we do for you today?
DON: I have a four-post that has an exposed top.
DON: And the stair railing is fastened to it.
DON: It’s got a beveled top on it like that’s what they put on most of them. It’s treated lumber and there is a crack that goes from, I’m going to say, a quarter, maybe three-eighths. And I don’t know how deep it is but it’s very deep. And I want to seal the top of it or seal it so that water doesn’t get in there for use and expand the crack.
TOM: Now, Don, let me ask you a question. Do you want to paint this porch railing? Or is it painted now or not?
DON: No, we do not want to paint it.
TOM: The reason I’m asking you these questions is because I’m going to tell you what to fill that crack with. But the problem is some of the materials that you use to fill the crack are not going to be the color of treated lumber; they’re going to stand out and maybe look worse than the crack looks right now. So I’m trying to figure out what – how you’d like this to look when you’re all done.
DON: Well, just – the main thing is to keep water from running in there and freezing, expanding.
TOM: Alright. So if you’re not so concerned about the look, then what I would do is I would use an epoxy patching compound. You want to use a wood epoxy patching compound. And the reason I say that is because that has the ability to really stand up to the weather and bind to that wood material. You’re going to apply it with a putty knife and you’re going to press it into that crack and then let it dry and sand over the surface to try to get the excess off. That’s the best material to use for that particular situation.
Don, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, winter season can mean dry air inside your house. Solve that problem with a properly maintained humidifier. Learn how, after this.
TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Give us a call, right now, on The Money Pit’s listener line at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor.
LESLIE: You can get matched with background-checked home service pros in your area, compare prices, read verified reviews and book appointments online, all for free.
TOM: No matter the type of job, HomeAdvisor makes it fast and easy to hire a pro you can trust.
LESLIE: Alright. And speaking of trusted pros, Tom and I are standing by to answer your posted questions, just like we have one here from Edward17 who writes: “The foyer and kitchen floor of my house are really cold. I can have the heat running at 70 degrees but the floor itself stays cold. Is it worthwhile to insulate the ceiling joists of my basement? Would this help?”
I always find if I don’t have the heat on in the basement or at least just slightly warm enough in the basement, the floors are always icy cold.
TOM: Right. Yeah. Well, that’s true.
And yes, if you do, in fact, insulate the floors below the kitchen, you will find that those floors in the kitchen will be warmer because you won’t have any heat loss from there. Plus, if you’ve got chilly air that’s coming up from the basement – which can often happen, especially around the foundation perimeter where the joists sit on the walls – sometimes the sill insulation deteriorates or maybe it’s missing or maybe it was never installed. And you’ll get air that will shoot up in there.
But if you do insulate that, especially that box joist on the end of the foundation walls, you will find that your kitchen floor, Ed, will be a lot warmer. So give it a try.
LESLIE: Alright. Next up here, we’ve got a post from Jennifer who writes: “This weekend, I tried to remove a dead light bulb from my ceiling fan. It was so brittle, it basically shattered in my hand. Now, the base of the bulb is stuck in the socket and I don’t know how to get it out. I thought about using a pliers but what part of the bulb am I supposed to grab?”
Ooh, that sounds dangerous.
TOM: Yeah, it definitely does.
Now, first, very, very important you turn the power off. And here’s the thing: I’m not just talking about the light switch, alright? I’m talking about the circuit breaker. Because even if you turn off the light switch, that ceiling fan is still going to have power to it, possibly. So turn the power off at the breaker.
And when you are sure that the power is off – and by the way, you can also check it with a voltage tester, just to double-check – what you want to do is grab a sheet of foil, kind of bunch it up and sort of shove it inside that broken light socket so it fills up the space. But you leave a good chunk of it sticking out so that you can twist it. You’re kind of making a tool that has a little tension on that old bulb. Then you unscrew it. And as you do, it will completely loosen up and pop right out. Clean up the shards of glass and you’re good to go.
LESLIE: You know, Tom, I’ve also heard of people using a potato to sort of twist the light off. I don’t know if that works – I’ve never tried it – but I’ve heard.
TOM: I’ve heard that, too. But again, make sure that power is off before you do anything to try to get that broken bulb out.
Well, that dry winter heat can really irritate your skin and leave you feeling pretty parched in the morning, especially. Humidifiers can help but as long as they’re clean and running properly. Leslie has tips on how to do just that, in this week’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.
LESLIE: Yeah. You have to maintain your humidifier. If they’re not maintained, a humidifier can get clogged and then stop working or worse yet, it can distribute mold or bacteria throughout your house. That’s why it’s important that you clean your humidifier as recommended by the manufacturer.
Now, one trick of the trade is to soak that evaporator pad in a white vinegar-and-water solution. The humidifiers can often get clogged by the mineral salts that are just left behind as the water evaporates. And what the vinegar does is it melts that salt. Just be sure that you rinse it very, very, very well. You want to have a good mix; otherwise, you will get that vinegary scent in your house and maybe you’ll start eating more salads. I’m not sure. But if you just rinse it well, it will keep that vinegary scent away and it will certainly keep that humidifier nice and clean.
TOM: Good advice. This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up on the next program, have you ever wondered how to get rid of all of those extra cords that are hanging around from the TVs or other home electronics? We’re going to share some tips and tricks to magically make all that mess disappear, on the very 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.
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(Copyright 2017 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.)