Avoiding Poison Paint Strippers

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    TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And what are you working on this beautiful autumn weekend? If it’s your house, you’re in exactly the right place because we are here to help. We are ready to pick up a paintbrush, we’re ready to grab a shovel, we’re ready to help you move some furniture around. We are ready. We hope, though, that you are ready to pick up the phone and call us to ask for that help. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Or you can post your question to the Community page at MoneyPit.com. Whatever you’re working on, we are here to help you get the job done.

    Coming up on today’s show, do you know do-it-yourselfers, we buy a wide lot of chemical products for projects. You know, paint strippers are one of them. And unfortunately, a particular class of paint strippers turns out they can be so dangerous, they’ve actually caused the deaths of those who have used them. So we’re going to tell you all about this problem and what you need to know to stay safe. It’s a very serious issue. There are over 60 people that have died from using paint strippers that you can buy at a home center or hardware store right now. We’re going to tell you what kinds are causing problems and what you need to know to stay away from them.

    LESLIE: And also ahead this hour, this might not be any homeowner’s favorite thing to do but if you have a septic tank, you have got to take care of it. I mean it is crucial to avoiding a very big, pretty gross mess. We’re going to have some tips on how you can keep your septic system happy.

    TOM: And now that winter weather is just upon us, it’s smart to make sure your home and systems are winter-ready. We’ve got your key winterization checklist, coming up.

    LESLIE: But first, we want to hear from you. So give us a call. Let us know what you are working on because, for some reason, my elbow is telling me this is going to be an extra snowy winter. So, let’s get ahead, let’s get our houses in tip-top shape and get ready for that snow and those cooler temps. So give us a call.

    TOM: 888-666-3974 is the number you need to know. Call us now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Kip in Louisiana is on the line and needs some help with a brick problem. Tell us what you’re working on.

    KIP: I just built a patio and we covered the patio with a – basically, it looks like an addition to the house to match the existing roof. And we have brick on the outside but whenever the builder came in and put the patio, he had to cut some of the overhang to make it go straight up, if you kind of imagine what I’m saying here.

    And so now I have particle board, or OSB board, at the top and then brick at the bottom. And I’m looking the best option to cover this with to give it some kind of – something nice to look at instead of going it with stone or something like that. My options were stucco, tongue-and-groove board or the Hardie Board or something like that.

    TOM: So, right now, you have brick on the bottom of the house? And what other kind of siding do you have on top of that or is it only brick? Is this the only area that’s sticking out?

    KIP: Well, the wall is brick and then we have the door, of course. But you have the wall is brick and where he cut the overhang out, above that is OSB.

    TOM: OK. Well, OSB obviously is not an exterior-siding material and so you’ve got to put something on there. I think that the composite shingles – the HardiePlank – is probably a good option for you. The thing is, if you do something like stone, it may not look right because it may not match the brick properly and not look natural. But if you use a completely different siding product, then it may have a better, more complimentary appearance. Either that or even something like 1×8 cedar clapboard. It’s a very thick, deep profile and brown cedar siding looks pretty nice against red brick.

    KIP: OK. What about the – and I know it’s not pressure-treated but there’s a tongue-and-groove pine. If that being stained with a sealer, would that last the duration or not?

    TOM: Not nearly as much as one of the siding products like HardiePlank or cedar. And by the way, if you take your time and finish that properly, you can probably get 20 years out of it. And by finish it properly, use a good, oil-based primer on the siding and then cover that with a solid-color stain.

    KIP: OK. Well, good deal, guys. I appreciate it.

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

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Deb in Missouri on the line who needs help with a flooring question. How can we help you?

    DEB: Yes. Well, we replaced our flooring but we destroyed most of the molding trying to get it off along the mopboard.

    TOM: OK.

    DEB: And we were wondering, what’s the best way to put new on? What would be the best to use? The walls are all plaster. It looked like the nails had been set before the plaster was dry, because we had to cut them off.

    TOM: And so how high up the walls did the molding go? Because usually with plaster walls, the molding is a lot taller than a standard 3½-inch base molding.

    DEB: It’s 3½ inches.

    TOM: It is 3½ inches?

    DEB: Yes. But we could go a wee bit higher and it still look nice.

    TOM: Right. OK. Do you want the molding to be painted or natural?

    DEB: Well, I don’t think we’ll ever match the doors. It’s all wood and I don’t think we’d ever match that.

    TOM: OK. So do you want the molding to be painted, then?

    DEB: Yes. We’ll probably go painted, yes. But adhering it to the walls is going to be a real pain because of that plaster.

    TOM: Hmm. Yeah. Well, you’re going to do it with a combination of trim screws and LIQUID NAILS. So you’re not going to nail it, OK?

    What you’re going to do is – probably the least expensive thing to buy is something called “finger-joint Colonial baseboard molding.” It’s a very straightforward molding with a little bit of a fluted edge on top. It looks nice; it looks finished.

    Is it – does the thickness matter? Does it have to be a certain thickness to cover a gap between the wall and the floor?

    DEB: At least a ¼-inch, yes.

    TOM: Quarter-inch? OK. So all you’re going to need is the molding then. Because you could put the molding and then shoe molding over that, which would extend it out to almost an inch. But no, you’re going to buy finger-joint baseboard molding. Finger-joint means it’s ready for paint.

    Now, before you apply it to the walls, I would prime it so it’s a lot easier to paint this molding. In fact, I would prime it and I’d put one finish coat of paint on it, because it’s a lot easier to paint it when it’s up on some sawhorses than when it’s attached to your house.

    And then when it comes to installation, you’re going to – and you know what? You might want to get a carpenter that knows how to do this because, frankly, it’s just a lot easier if you know how to make a corner joint, which is called a “coped joint.” And you do it with a coping saw.

    But the way you attach it is with – after it’s all cut to fit, you apply some LIQUID NAILS to the back of the molding and then you put in only as many trim screws – and trim screws are kind of like drywall screws except they have a really tiny head, like a finish nail. But you only put enough of those in to hold it while it’s drying. So you’re not going to have nearly as many trim screws as you will nails. And it’ll be really solid.

    And the last thing you do is fill those holes. And you put one finish coat of paint on when – and then you’re completely done. So by putting the paint on ahead of time, you’re halfway there. All you do is touch it up, fill the holes, one more coat of paint, you’re good to go. OK?

    DEB: Awesome. Thank you so very much.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Give us a call. Let us know what you are working on so we can lend you a hand. We’re not mind-readers but we are phone-answerers and email-answerers. So, reach out so we can help, 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor. It’s the fast and easy way to find the right pro for any kind of home project, whether it’s a small repair or a major remodel.

    TOM: Just ahead, a septic system is a hardworking part of your home’s plumbing that most of us would rather leave out of sight and out of mind. We’ll have tips to make sure it stays that way, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Give us a call with your home repair or home improvement question, 24/7, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor.

    LESLIE: And here’s a great tip that involves that tiny, little switch on the side of the motor of your fan. You guys, in the winter months, you want the fun to run in a clockwise direction, sort of reverse. That’s going to pull that warm air up and circulate it all around the room. And you want to operate it at a low speed. But when it comes to the summer months and you want to cool the rooms, you want it to run counterclockwise so it’s actually pushing that warm air down. I know that sounds wrong. You’re like, “Why do I want the hot air on me?” But it will push the air down and then pull that cool air back up and sort of create that circulating effect and keep you nice and cool. And in the summer, you want to run the fan faster and that’s what that little switch does.

    But while you’re up there changing that switch, what you want to remember to do is clean those fan blades. So much dust and dust mites and yuck gets stuck up there. And here’s a great tip: take a pillowcase and slide that pillowcase over the blade of the fan, and then wrap your hands around the pillowcase and the blade and sort of back it off of the fan. This way, all the dust gets stuck inside the pillowcase and not all over your bed or your dining table.

    Great idea. We love to share them.

    TOM: Awesome ideas.

    This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. We’d love to take your questions at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: James in Ohio is on the line with a heating question. What can we do for you today?

    JAMES: Yeah, hi. I was calling in – I have an older home. It’s built in 1968. And I was wondering if it’d be easier to install an electric furnace, instead of having the baseboard heat, or possibly getting a – one of the outdoor units that mount high on your wall.

    TOM: Do you have natural gas or propane or oil in your area?

    JAMES: Maybe natural gas?

    TOM: Yeah, that would be the way to go. If you’re going through the trouble of putting a furnace in, I would definitely not put in an electric furnace because that is the most expensive way to provide heat to your house. I would suggest a high-efficiency, natural-gas furnace. The installation expense is going to be similar if you’re putting a new furnace in but the ongoing cost to run it will be a lot lower.

    JAMES: Will I incur more cost because – for the ductwork? Because I have plaster walls instead of drywall.

    TOM: Well, if you’re going to put an electric furnace in, you’re going to have to do the ductwork anyway. So, the ductwork is there whether or not you use an electric furnace or a gas furnace. And it depends on how creative your HVAC contractor is but that’s a fixed cost. If you’re going through the trouble of ducting out your house, which is going to add to its value, I definitely would recommend gas.

    And typically, the gas companies don’t charge to bring gas up to your house, so they’ll bring the line up and put a meter in because now you’re going to be their customer forever and they’re very happy about that.

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

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

    LESLIE: Sandy in South Dakota is on the line with a funny smell coming from the basement. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.

    SANDY: Our basement is – got a real bad, musty smell to it. And we’ve had fans going down there all summer long, we’ve had a dehumidifier going year-round. And I can’t get rid of the musty smell. I don’t know what to do with it.

    TOM: Alright. Well, there’s a couple of things that you can do.

    First of all, the musty smell is because you have an excessive amount of moisture and humidity down there. So we want to do some things to try to reduce that amount of moisture. You’re going to start outside your house and examine your gutter system. You want to make sure that you have gutters, that the gutters are clean and free-flowing and that the downspouts are discharging 4 to 6 feet, minimum, away from the foundation.

    SANDY: They do.

    TOM: They do. Alright. And then after that water discharges, does it run away from the wall?

    SANDY: It runs away from the house, yes.

    TOM: So, I’d like you to take a look at those gutters in a heavier rainfall, just to make sure they’re not becoming overwhelmed. Because that usually is a source of many moisture problems.

    If the gutters are working well, then we need to look at the grading around the house. The soil should slope away and drop 6 inches on 4 feet. And that soil grade should be made up of clean fill dirt, not topsoil, not mulch or grass. You could have a little bit of topsoil and grass on top of it but you have to establish the slope first with fill dirt. And the reason you’re doing this is because you want rainfall that hits to run away from the house and not sit up against the house. That slope is really, really important.

    If that’s done, then going down to the basement area, we could make sure that the walls are properly sealed with a damp-proofing paint and then a dehumidifier on top of that. But the dehumidifier has to be properly sized for the basement space and it has to be drained – set up with a condensate pump so that it drains outside.

    And those steps together are usually going to take out as much moisture as you possibly can.

    SANDY: OK. Thank you.

    TOM: Alright, Sandy. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, a septic system is one part of your home’s plumbing that most of us would rather leave out of sight and out of mind. But if you don’t take care of it, that system could become top of mind very quickly.

    TOM: Well, that’s right.

    Now, the EPA says that you or a pro should inspect your tank about every three years. And it needs to be pumped out as necessary, which generally means about every three to five years. Now, whether or not you’ve got to clean it out every three years or five years depends on a number of factors: first off, how efficiently you’re using water, what you’re disposing of. I mean you don’t ever want to dispose of household hazardous waste in sinks or toilets.

    And you want to take care of your drain field. Because if you damage the drain field, that’s going to mess up the entire system. So, you want to avoid driving or parking over it and plant only grass over, year after year, to your drain field to avoid any damage from roots. If you get too close to the pipes with tree roots, you’re going to have a problem.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And there are actually other ways that you can really mess with your septic system. First of all, you really have to make sure that any household toxins – such as maybe an oil-based paint, solvents – don’t put those in the septic system. Also avoid getting kitty litter, coffee grounds and grease into those septic tanks because it’s such a delicate balance of all of the organic organisms that sort of go on in there, that one thing goes off and everything could be a disaster.

    Another thing to avoid are household cleaners. You don’t want to use any that say “hazardous.” Avoid ones that say “danger” or “poison” on the label. If it says “caution,” that means it’s only moderately dangerous but I would definitely look for chemicals or cleaning products, rather, that say “safe for septic systems.” And another thing is if you’ve got a hot tub or any other chlorine source, draining it into that system is going to kill all that good bacteria that does the job that a septic system needs to do. So just be really careful and think about what you’re putting in there.

    TOM: Good advice.

    If you’d like more step-by-step tips on how to maintain your septic system, we’ve got it online at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Marlene in Iowa is dealing with some winter window issues. Tell us what’s going on.

    MARLENE: We had our siding and our windows replaced a couple years ago. And ever since we replaced the siding and the windows, in the wintertime when we turn the furnace on and get the heat started in the house, every morning when we get up, every window in the house has moisture buildup at the bottom of the window and even to the point where it makes little pools on the windowsills. So we have to go around to every window and take a towel and dry all that moisture off the bottom of the window and out of the windowsills.

    TOM: Well, the good news is you have to – you’re cleaning your windows every day, so they never get dirty.

    MARLENE: Thanks.

    TOM: So, the reason that’s happening is because your windows are not insulated very well. Are these thermal-pane windows?

    MARLENE: They were supposed to be. They were supposed to be very good windows but we had trouble with the siding that the guy put on, so I suppose he sold us a cheap window along with the siding that we had problems with.

    TOM: You see, the reason that you’re getting this condensation is because when it’s cold outside, the warm, moist air strikes the inside of the glass and it condenses. And so you probably have high humidity inside your house.

    There’s a couple of things we can do to try to reduce that. But if you don’t have good, insulated window glass, that problem gets really pretty bad. It can actually add up, as you discovered, to quite a bit of water.

    So, the fix, unfortunately, is to replace your windows, which is expensive. So what I would suggest that you do is take a look at all of the reasons that you get high humidity inside of a house. So, you get humidity from activities that people do: cooking, cleaning and bathing.

    Make sure that if you have exhaust fans in your bathrooms, that you have the fans, they’re ducted out of the house and that they’re run on timers so that when you’re done with showers and baths, they can continue to run for 15 or 20 minutes to pull that moisture out. Make sure that you have an exhaust fan over your range, of course, that’s also, again, ducted out and not a recirculating.

    Make sure that around the foundation perimeter of your house that your grading is adjusted properly. You want to make sure that soil slopes away from the walls and that your gutters and downspouts are extended. Because believe it or not, if they’re not – if the gutters are not clean, they’re not extended, if the grading is too flat, that water is going to collect in the soil around the outside of your house. It will be drawn into the foundation and then it will be wicked out of the air on the other side and work its way up through the house, increasing humidity the whole way.

    So, simply by making sure you keep water away from the house, you’ll reduce humidity inside the house. Does that make sense?

    MARLENE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: So that’s why it’s happening. Those are the few things that you can do inside to reduce the amount of humidity that you have.

    MARLENE: Alright. Well, you’ve been very helpful. At least I kind of understand what’s going on. Thank you and I enjoy your show.

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

    LESLIE: Hey, did you know that out there is a particular class of paint strippers that’s so dangerous it’s caused the death of those who’ve used them? We’re going to tell you what you need to know and how you can stay safe, after this.

    TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Well, if you’re a DIYer, you’ve probably used a lot of different chemicals over the years – you know, from paint to polish – for a ton of your projects. But we’ll bet that you don’t know that a certain class of paint strippers has been deemed so dangerous that DIYers have actually died from using them.

    TOM: Well, thanks to a major grassroots campaign effort by the group Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, these toxic paint strippers might soon be banned from the shelves of your local stores. With us to talk about that is Mike Schade, the campaign director.

    Welcome, Mike.

    MIKE: Thanks for having me.

    TOM: When I first heard about this from you guys, I was shocked because I had no idea that there were paint strippers out there that were so dangerous. I always knew that they stunk to high heaven and you had to use a lot of ventilation. But when I read that there were folks actually dying from this, I was absolutely shocked. Is that a common reaction for this problem? Are people just totally unaware of it? Even experts?

    MIKE: Oh, yeah. I mean most consumers, when they go shopping at the local hardware store, at The Home Depot, none of us ever think that a product that we might buy for our family or for home could actually be deadly. But sadly, many popular paint-removal or paint-stripper products contain two highly toxic chemicals called “methylene chloride” and “NMP.” These pose serious risks to consumers, especially DIY consumers. They can even be deadly.

    The good news is that big retailers are pulling them off of store shelves. But in the meantime, consumers should take steps to safeguard their health and avoid paint-removal products that contain the chemicals methylene chloride and NMP.

    TOM: Tell us some of the stories that you heard from consumers that have been injured or died from products.

    MIKE: Yeah. So, methylene chloride is the one that we’re especially concerned about. It’s been linked to more than 60 deaths nationwide since the 1980s. And sadly, it can even kill a user within minutes of using the product.

    So, for example, last year there was a young man down south who was refinishing the floor of his business. He had started a coffee business and he had bought a paint-removal product from a local Lowe’s hardware store. And sadly, he never came home from work. His roommate got concerned and went to their joint office and sadly, they had found him lying there. And he had literally died from using this paint-removal product with methylene chloride.

    And again, this is not an isolated incident. There’s been dozens of consumers or workers that have been killed from using methylene chloride-based paint strippers. And it’s not just the immediate or short-term risk we’re concerned about. Methylene chloride has also been linked to cancer.

    Another chemical that is often also used in these paint-removal products is called NMP, which can impact fetal development and can even cause miscarriage and stillbirth. And according to the Feds, more than 60,000 workers and over 2 million consumers are exposed to these chemicals every year.

    LESLIE: Mike, this is amazing. Is it simply as a result of the toxicity of the chemical? Or are people not using it in well-ventilated areas? What’s causing it? If you take every precaution, would you be OK?

    MIKE: Sadly, not. I think most people assume that all you need to do is buy a mask at the hardware store or open the windows. I remember I myself – probably 15 years ago when I first worked with a paint-stripper product, I opened the windows in my home. And I remember even despite doing that, I had a headache for days, which is actually a sign of possible brain harm.

    Unfortunately, according to the EPA, most hardware stores don’t sell the proper safety equipment to protect ourselves from methylene chloride. Really, to protect yourself, you would actually need to wear a full-body suite with a face mask attached to a gas mask. And really, that’s not practical or cost-effective for most weekend warriors and DIY consumers.

    TOM: We’re talking to Mike Schade. He is the campaign director for Mind the Store. It’s a campaign by Safer Chemicals and Healthy Families, to help – to ban very toxic paint strippers that are still on store shelves across the country.

    Mike, I think I read a story from you guys about a young man that was trying to refinish his bike and passed away. How sad.

    MIKE: Yeah. He was a 31-year-old man. He was living with his mom at the time, in the Pittsburg area in Pennsylvania. And he was really into BMX biking and he had bought a paint-stripper product at a local hardware store. And his mom worked the graveyard shift and she came home from work that next day and sadly, she had come home to find him dead. And he was using this paint-stripper product that he bought at a local hardware store. And despite the fact that he had the windows open and thought he was taking proper safety precautions, he was found dead.

    And this, again, was not an isolated incident. There’s been dozens of people that have been killed from using these products. And in fact, last year, the EPA proposed banning the sale of paint strippers containing methylene chloride and NMP. And since last year alone, there’s been at least four consumers or workers that have been killed. Sadly, the EPA has not followed through on their proposal to ban these products. And the longer that time goes on, it’s only a matter of time before more consumers or workers are killed from using these fundamentally hazardous products.

    TOM: Well, it seems like the campaign is having some effect. You already got agreement from some pretty big players in the home improvement space to pull these products from their store shelves, including The Home Depot, Lowe’s, Walmart and others.

    But I think the big question that consumers are asking is, “OK. But if I still want to strip paint, what can I do?” And I want to let the folks listening to us know that we posed that question to you and you guys put together for us, exclusively for The Money Pit audience, an incredibly informative blog post that answers that question. It’s called “DIY Shouldn’t Be Dangerous: How to Find Safer Paint Strippers,” in which you go into the details and name the specific products. And there are lots of them, fortunately, that you can use safely to remove paint. We appreciate you doing that. And that post is online, right now, at MoneyPit.com.

    So, do you think the technology is going to change now and continue to develop now that we’ve – are starting to see some success in getting methylene chloride and NMP off the market?

    MIKE: Yeah, absolutely. It’s not all doom and gloom. There are safer, cost-effective and healthier alternatives. In fact, you can go to a Home Depot or Lowe’s, right now, and buy many of these products that are demonstrably safer. And in fact, many retailers, as you noted, like Home Depot and Lowe’s and even Walmart, have pledged to phase out the sale of products containing methylene chloride and NMP in the months ahead.

    And one of the things that is really interesting is that in addition to the safer products that are currently available, which I talk about in the new blog post, we’re beginning to see companies innovate and bring even additional safer formulations to market. For example, just in the past couple months, there have been two major companies, including Savogran, that have announced new paint-removal products that are free of these dangerous chemicals. So it’s an interesting example of how when retailers act, it can really help encourage and incentivize formulators and brands to bring additional safer products to market.

    But the good news is you don’t have to wait now. You can check out the blog post that I wrote for The Money Pit and see all the different alternatives that are currently available at retailers across the country.

    TOM: Well, Mike Schade, thank you so much for the great work you did in bringing this terrible, terrible problem forward. We hope we can save some lives, get people using the right kinds of paint-stripper products moving forward.

    The website is SaferChemicals.org. You can learn more about the great work of Mike’s organization, Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families. And again, that post “DIY Should Not Be Dangerous: How to Find Safer Paint Strippers” is online, right now, at MoneyPit.com.

    Mike, thanks again. Great work.

    MIKE: Thanks so much. Appreciate it.

    LESLIE: Well, now that winter weather is upon us in some areas and certainly creeping on our doorstep in others, it’s smart to make sure that your home and systems are ready. We’ve got a key winterization checklist, in today’s Pro Project presented by HomeAdvisor.com, next.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: What are you working on this beautiful fall weekend? If it’s your home, you are in exactly the right place because we’re here to help. Pick up the phone and help yourself first by calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor.

    Hey, do you need new flooring in your kitchen or your bathroom? HomeAdvisor will instantly match you with the right pro for the job, for free.

    LESLIE: Well, now that winter weather is upon us, it’s smart to make sure that your home and systems are ready for it. We’ve got your key winterization checklist, in today’s Pro Project presented by HomeAdvisor.com.

    TOM: Well, first, if you’ve not done it yet, you need to make sure your heating system is serviced in the fall so you will not be left out in the cold. Heating systems that burn natural gas, propane or oil, they get very dirty every time they run. And if they’re not cleaned and serviced, they can become inefficient at best or even dangerous. So, make sure you get that done.

    LESLIE: Next, now is the time that you need to look around at your windows and doors. If you’ve got any drafty spots around there, you want to seal it with either weather-stripping or caulk. Eliminate those drafts right there. It really will make a huge difference because the less that your furnace has to run, the lower those utility bills are going to be.

    TOM: Now, a cozy fire burning in the fireplace is a really great way to warm up your home in the winter. But creosote can also build up inside your chimney if it’s not properly cleaned. And it’s a leading cause of dangerous house fires.

    So, if you’re a heavy user of the fireplace, great. Just make sure you book a chimney-sweeper service every fall. Another way to look at that is you need the chimney to be swept at least once for every cord of wood that you purchase.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And if you’re not burning that many fires to amount to a cord of wood, just do it every year. I mean if you’re burning a fire in the fireplace, you want to make sure it’s safe.

    And finally, here’s one of the more dreaded tasks about owning your own home and that’s cleaning the gutters and the downspouts. You know, it’s difficult to get to them, it’s kind of yucky, it’s not really a fun project you want to do. And most people only do this when they have to or in other words, when there’s been a problem and they notice the gutters aren’t working right. However, your gutters should really be cleaned at least twice a year: once in the early spring and once again in the fall. It will make your house so much more comfortable.

    TOM: Yeah. And that’s a great job to hire out. Not only is it safer than you going up on a ladder yourself, a pro is going to make sure your gutters are actually pitched properly and that they’re level in order to drain properly.

    So, a good idea to have a pro do just that. They can also secure any loose hangers to make sure the gutters are fastened to your home.

    LESLIE: And that’s today’s Pro Project presented by HomeAdvisor.com. With HomeAdvisor, you can get matched with top-rated home service pros in your area, 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 the best local pros.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Darren in Iowa on the line. What can we do for you today?

    DARREN: I have a problem with my basement walls. They’re a poured concrete wall. And in the wintertime, I get a thick frost on the inside of the basement wall, on the area that’s not underground, per se.

    TOM: OK. So what’s happening is you have warm, moist air inside your basement striking a very cold, concrete surface condensing and freezing. The solution is to add basement-wall insulation.

    Now, there is a specific type of insulation that’s designed to cover those poured-concrete basement walls. It’s like a fiberglass batt that’s surrounded in a reflective, foil Mylar kind of covering. It’s pretty easy to install and that will stop that from happening. Because once you have the warm fiberglass across that wall on the inside, you’ll no longer have that thermal contact between the moisture in the air and the chilly basement wall that’s causing it to freeze and crust over.

    DARREN: OK. Would you put a vapor barrier in between? A thick plastic, per se?

    TOM: Nope. Just put the insulation on and you’ll be good to go.

    DARREN: OK. Will the same suggestion be correct to do if we’re going to fir (ph) the basement out later?

    TOM: Yes. And the other suggestion I would make is to reduce the amount of moisture that could possibly be getting into those walls from the outside – is to improve your drainage conditions at the foundation perimeter. And that means making sure your gutters are clear, the downspouts are extended well away from the house and the soil slopes away from that wall, as well. OK?

    DARREN: Excellent. Well, I sure appreciate your help.

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

    LESLIE: Well, now that Halloween has passed, it’s time to decorate for the next set of holidays. We’re going to have tips to take you through the end of the year, after this.

    TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Hey, whether you’re buying, selling or just enjoying your home, we’re here for you every step of the way. You can call in your how-to question or décor question, right now, to 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor, the fast and easy way to find the right pro for any kind of home project, whether it’s a small repair or a major remodel.

    LESLIE: Alright. Give us a call, let us know what you are working on. But you can also post your question to the Community section on MoneyPit.com. And I’ve got one here from Rachel who writes: “I have extremely greasy, smoke-stained cabinets. The previous owners were smokers. I’ve tried every cabinet cleaner on them without any progress. I want to try TSP but I’m worried it’s going to take off the finish. Do you have any suggestions for heavy-duty cleaning that won’t harm the cabinets?”

    TOM: Well, I don’t think that the TSP, which is trisodium phosphate, will remove the wood finish but I’d test it to be sure. You can remove a door or a cabinet drawer, mix up a weak solution of it with warm water and see how well it works. Just don’t let the wood get too excessively wet or it might warp.

    But if you’ve not tried it yet, Murphy’s Oil Soap is also a really good option for cleaning greasy cabinets. It’s very well regarded as furniture cleaner and it’s also incredibly highly rated on Amazon. So I would try one of those two products and you will have success for sure.

    LESLIE: Alright. Good luck with that and hopefully, you will have a fresh-smelling kitchen in no time.

    TOM: Well, there is no one I know who loves decorating for the holidays more than my friend, Leslie. And there’s no better place to decorate for the season than your entryway. And as luck would have it, that is the topic for today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    You must be getting super excited because decorating is – well, it’s about a month away now for you, right?

    LESLIE: Yeah. And I’m on my third batch of pumpkins. You have no idea. We have very aggressive squirrels on Long Island, you guys. And I just – you know, first I said, “Oh, let them eat it.” Then I said, “Let me spray them with WD-40,” and then it rained, then I forgot to reapply. And then I tried the hair spray. I’ve tried all the things and apparently, squirrels still really enjoy eating my pumpkins. So, third set of pumpkins for the front entry.

    I mean the entryway, it sort of sets the whole stage for the house and really welcomes the season. So, go for it there, you guys. A wreath is a great and affordable way to sort of welcome in every season. You can have a summer one, a spring one, a winter one, a fall one. And I usually do a Halloween one and then I go into a more autumn-y one.

    And you can make one. You can simply buy a Styrofoam or a grapevine-wreath form at any sort of craft store. And then if you want, gather things from around your own yard and pin them to it. If it’s a Styrofoam one, you can use little T-pins or any sort of decorative pins that you want to show maybe a little glimmer in there. Look for leaves, pine cones, acorns, whatever that says fall to you.

    Now, when it comes time to hang that wreath, you really don’t want to put a big stinking hole in your front door. So you can either tie a ribbon over the front and secure it from the inside with a suction cup. You can use a suction cup on the glass on the front, if your door allows that. Or skip the door entirely and get a really beautiful easel and then put the wreath on the easel. It’s another way to sort of welcome in the season.

    And here’s my favorite thing about the Christmas holiday is I love to put garlands up outside: lighted garlands that are all green and wonderful. But for the autumn season, you can get a beautiful garland of faux autumn leaves or acorns or a grapevine sort of garland that will look so adorable when lit and really frame the entry to your home. Put some corn husks up, decorate with pumpkins. You can do a ton of different things to take you through the fall season.

    So, Halloween into Thanksgiving really should be a simple transition. Purple cabbage, corn, squash, all of those things, put them up now, keep them through Thanksgiving. And then we’ll talk again, after the turkey day, about how to make things super wintery and wonderful.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Coming up next time on the program, we’re going to talk about a handy household appliance that you don’t need very often. But when you do, it’s got to work and work very well. We’re talking about sump pumps. They can keep you out of some serious below-grade flooding if they’re installed and maintained correctly. We’ll have those tips and much more, on the very next edition of The Money Pit.

    But for now, that’s all the time we have. The show does continue online, though.

    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 2018 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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