Cool Kitchen Renos for Renters

  • Painting a Kitchen
  • Transcript

    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: Hey, what are you working on this February weekend? If it’s your home, you’re in exactly the right place because we are here to help you get the job done. Help yourself first by calling us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Coming up this hour, if you are a renter and you absolutely hate your kitchen or maybe you’re a homeowner with a very small kitchen-makeover budget – you know, renters might think there’s not a whole lot they can do about kitchens they don’t like. But we’ve got five tips on projects you can do to spruce up your space without wrecking your security deposit or emptying your bank account.

    LESLIE: And with this chilly winter, sometimes it’s hard to stay comfortable and keep your energy bills in check, that is, if you don’t have enough insulation. Well, no matter where you live, we’re going to tell you exactly how much insulation you need and where you need to put it.

    TOM: And power outages can strike without warning, especially with all these winter winds and ice storms. You want to be careful, though, that you don’t get caught in the dark without a plan. So we’ve got some tips on what you should be doing during a blackout, to keep everything in good shape so that it will be in perfect condition when the power returns.

    LESLIE: But most importantly, we’re here to talk to you. So give us a call, let us know what you are working on, or what you’re planning to start working on at your money pit, and we’ll help you get all your ducks in a row and get that project off to or finished at a great pace.

    TOM: And Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. So if you are maybe thinking about what to give your honey, maybe it’s a home repair. Maybe it’s a project she’s been bugging you to do. We can give you some tips for some of those romantic home improvement projects, as well. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Let’s get to it. Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Dina in Iowa is on the line with a flooring question. How can we help you?

    DINA: My husband and I – about, oh, probably three or four years ago – did some remodeling in our kitchen. And we decided on getting some of the laminate, fake-travertine floor.

    TOM: OK.

    DINA: And we went to our local Habitat for Humanity store and got – they’re like planks; they’re planks of the floor. And we installed them and they looked beautiful. But over the course of the last couple years, things have fallen and chunks have come out. Like some places it’s just a scratch here or there but in other places there are some chunks. And luckily, the floor has kind of a brown-rock appearance, so some of them aren’t noticeable. But there is one that’s fairly large and once you start looking, you can see just how many there are.

    So, we can’t go back to the store and get more because it’s a ReStore; they only have limited quantities. And really, replacing all that is going to be really tough. I didn’t know if you had a way to fix this or any suggestions?

    TOM: Well, there’s a lot of difference in the quality of laminate floors and some are going to be more durable than others. For those that are not aware, laminate floors are similar to laminate countertops except, for the most part, they’re about 20 times more durable.

    Now, if you know the manufacturer of the floor – I don’t know if that’s possible. Most manufacturers actually have a sort of touch-up compound. It comes, typically, in a tube – it looks like a toothpaste tube – where you can actually squeeze some of the stuff out and patch the floor and come up with a color that’s reasonably close. If you don’t have that, you may be able to find one from another manufacturer that’s close to this.

    DINA: OK. I do remember we looked at the flooring. I don’t remember the name but I do remember it was a major name brand, because we looked it up online to read about it.

    TOM: OK.

    DINA: So, I think we may have one or two squares somewhere; maybe I can look on the back and give them a call. That’s great information.

    TOM: Yeah. If you can do that, I bet you you’ll find that they do have a repair product for the floor. Because you’re not the first one that’s dropped something on the floor and had a chip.

    LESLIE: And you’re not going to be the last one.

    DINA: Right. OK. Well, thank you. That’s good information. I didn’t even think to look back at the company, so I will do that.

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

    DINA: Thank you.

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

    COREY: Yeah, I had a question about the house that I was looking at buying.

    TOM: OK.

    COREY: And it’s got a major problem with the second floor. It sags probably about 6 to 8 inches; it looks, literally, like a bowl on the second floor.

    TOM: Wow. OK.

    COREY: And yeah, it’s pretty bad; it’s really noticeable. And the house was built during the Civil War, so it’s an extremely old house. And it’s an old farmhouse.

    TOM: Hmm. OK.

    COREY: And just wondering, how extensive a repair would that be? The structural engineer said it’s fine but …

    TOM: Yeah, it’s somewhere between nothing and tearing the house down. Does that sum it up for you? It’s really hard to tell …

    LESLIE: Doesn’t make you feel better?

    TOM: Yeah, until you really get into it.

    COREY: Yeah.

    TOM: A couple of things that you could do. First of all, Corey, have you had a professional home inspector or an engineer look at the house?

    COREY: Yeah. I’m actually in the military and I had a – the Veterans Affairs actually had an inspector go out and look at it. And the structural engineer that inspected it said that it’s structurally sound because it was built with green wood but it shrank.

    TOM: OK.

    COREY: And he said it’s sound but if I ever wanted to resell the house, I’d have to make it better in order to be able to get what I paid for out of it.

    TOM: Well, with all due respect to the military and the Veterans Affairs and the guy they sent out, I sincerely doubt he was a structural engineer. You may have – you may be calling him that but it would be unlikely that they would send out such a professional. They probably sent out a housing inspector who inspects everything, from homes that people are buying and need loans on to rentals.

    I would strongly – underline strongly – recommend that you at least have a professional home inspector look at this. These are guys that look at homes every day and they really know how to sort the wheat from the chaff and figure out whether it’s a major problem or a minor problem. And if you’re really seriously interested about this place, the step above that is to consult with a structural engineer.

    Now, with a problem like this, if you’re going to fix it – and it sounds like you are – it’s very important that you do it the right way. And that is that you work with an architect or an engineer to inspect the property, actually spec out the exact repair that needs to be done and then reinspect it after it’s completed and give you a letter to that effect so then now you sort of have a pedigree or proof that the problem was identified, evaluated and correctly repaired. And you have the word of a professional – a licensed professional – that’s certifying that.

    This takes you out of the responsibility loop. You understand what I mean? If you just had a slopy floor and you say, “Well, I fixed it,” that doesn’t really mean as much as whether or not you had pros look at it, explain exactly how it should be fixed and then certify that it was done correctly. So, if you’re real serious about this, I would get another expert to look at it and look at the specific problem. It’ll be well worth the investment.

    COREY: OK. Yeah, because the house is pretty cheap and I could definitely resell it for a higher value. So I was really looking into – it’s five acres of land and everything like that, so I was really wanting to get the house but I didn’t know if it was going to cost me way more to fix the house than it was to buy the house.

    TOM: Yeah. And it’s definitely a cost-benefit analysis that has to be done. I would definitely recommend that you spend $350 or whatever it costs to get an inspection done.

    If you go to the website for the American Society of Home Inspectors, it’s ASHI – A-S-H-I – .org. There’s a zip-code locator. You will find ASHI-certified members in your area. I would use that as the first list to call. And then work through that list and have a conversation with the inspectors until you find one that you really feel knows what he or she is doing and you’re comfortable. And then hire that person to evaluate the house.

    COREY: OK. That sounds great.

    TOM: Alright, Corey. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    COREY: Alright. Thank you.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at Give us a call with your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor, where it’s easy to find top-rated, local home improvement pros for any home project. Go to

    TOM: And just ahead, if you rent and not own and you hate your kitchen, well, you might think you don’t have any options for updates. We’re here to tell you you do and we’ll share a few that could be done without wrecking your security deposit, 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: We’d love to hear about what you’re working on or what you’re planning to do. Spring is just around the corner. You thinking about a deck? Maybe some other outdoor-living improvements? Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor, where you can find top-rated home service pros and book appointments online, all for free.

    LESLIE: Barry in Florida is dealing with a plumbing situation. Tell us what’s going on.

    BARRY: Well, I replaced the sprayer in my kitchen sink. And I did – at the same time, I did a dishwasher and the dishwasher is working fine, no problem. And the sprayer, though, it’s been there 22 years. It just wasn’t spraying. I figured it was all clogged up, so I replaced it. And when I did, the new one – when I turn on the water – not the sprayer but the water – I get a bang-bang-bang, like air in the pipes. But it’s been doing that for about a month now, waking everybody in the house up.

    So, I thought maybe I’d call you guys and see if you could help me figure out – I’m fairly handy – what I need to do. Either replace the whole thing again – and I replaced it with a brand-new one I bought at the hardware store.

    LESLIE: Barry, when you said that the sound is waking everybody up, is it happening on its own or only when you’re using that sink?

    BARRY: No, no. Only when you’re using the water. My wife told me that when I get up in the morning to make coffee, I wake her up by turning on the water. Only when you use the main water handle.

    TOM: Now, does it happen when you turn the water on or when you turn it off?

    BARRY: On. When you turn it on.

    TOM: On?

    BARRY: The whole time the water’s on it does that.

    TOM: Hmm. That’s interesting.

    BARRY: If I left it on for 20 minutes, it would do it constantly for 20 minutes. That’s why I don’t think it’s air.

    TOM: And the whole time it’s on. Yeah, so, I think you’ve got a bad washer in there somewhere.

    Now, if it happened when you were spraying and then you released it to turn the water off and you got banging then, that I would say is water hammer, because the water has a forward momentum in the pipes. And when you stop spraying the water, it keeps moving and bangs the pipes. That’s water hammer.

    BARRY: Ah, yeah.

    TOM: That has one solution. But if it’s happening just because you turned the sprayer on, then I think that the valve in the sprayer is bad and it’s probably vibrating somewhere in there. This happens sometimes with kitchen sinks. If you lift up the lever to turn the sink on, sometimes you get a kachunka-chunka-chunka-chunk (ph) kind of a sound.

    BARRY: Yeah.

    TOM: And that’s when you have a bad valve. And so I suspect that if you replaced just – you don’t have to replace the whole line but just the handle part of it. Try replacing that and see if it still does it. I think you’ve got a bad one there, buddy.

    BARRY: You’re talking about the handle in the hand-held sprayer.

    TOM: Correct. Yeah. And those are replaceable.

    BARRY: OK. OK, sure, yeah. Absolutely. OK.

    TOM: Alright, Barry. Give it a shot.

    BARRY: Well, I’ll try that. I didn’t think – that’ll be an easy fix if that’s the fix.

    TOM: And that’s what we hope for. Barry, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, if you’re a renter and you’re not happy with your kitchen, you might think that you’re pretty much stuck with it. Well, it turns out you’re not. You know, we’ve got a few simple but impactful projects that you can do to refresh the space without busting your budget or putting your security deposit at risk.

    First of all, you can install an adhesive backsplash using peel-and-stick tile. It’s going to add texture and interest. It takes no time at all and pretty much very basic DIY skills.

    Now, another thing that you can do is a vinyl floor. And remnants make a really great option for a smaller space. You can lay them out like area rugs but they’re way more heavy-duty and durable. You can cut them to fit the space, which makes them a really great, temporary style solution for a small room like your kitchen or your bath.

    TOM: Now, another easy kitchen change is just to install open shelving or just take the cabinet doors off. The wood helps warm up the space and having all your stuff kind of in plain sight, well, in our case, it forces us to stay neat and tidy. Maybe you, too.

    And then, finally, you can just switch out the cabinet hardware. Just get some new pulls. They’re super cheap in terms of an update but they make a big impact on your kitchen style, as well.

    Now, if you do take those doors off or switch out the handles on the doors, just remember where they came from. What I like to do is put masking tape on the doors and kind of number them over on the tape, of course, so you’re not writing on the door. And this way, when it comes time to move, you’ll just be able to put them back on and everybody will be happy. You’ll be happy because you had a great-looking kitchen while you lived there. And your landlord will be happy because he gets his cabinet doors back. It’s a win-win.

    This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. We’re here to help you win the battle that you may be facing with your how-to projects, your décor dilemmas. Give us a call, right now, or post your question online at The Money Pit’s Community page at

    LESLIE: Susan in Georgia is on the line with a cleaning question. How can we help you today?

    SUSAN: Hi. My husband and I have purchased a 1920 Craftsman house.


    TOM: That’s a beautiful home.

    SUSAN: Oh, it is stunning. Well, it will be. It’s been neglected and all the interior walls that we’ve exposed so far have antique heartwood pine.

    TOM: OK.

    SUSAN: And so my question is not only cleaning, it’s kind of threefold. First, I need to clean it – it hasn’t been cleaned in years – and what is the best way to do that? As well as – after I clean it, I was thinking – what is the best way to restore it – the wood is dry – and maintain it?

    TOM: So, when you say restore it, do you want to refinish these pine walls?

    SUSAN: Yes, I do.

    TOM: OK.

    SUSAN: They are – I mean they’re – it’s antique heartwood pine. They can be really, really pretty.

    TOM: Yeah, they can be.

    SUSAN: But because the house has some – it had old, coal fireplaces, so they are just really grungy.

    TOM: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

    LESLIE: So they’re dirty.

    TOM: Well, I would say clean it first; then we know how much more work you have to do.

    Right, Leslie?

    LESLIE: Yeah.

    SUSAN: What do you clean it with?

    TOM: Well, because it’s wood, you can’t use a lot of moisture. But I would try something like Murphy’s Oil Soap.

    SUSAN: And that’s OK to do on unfinished wood?

    TOM: Yeah. Doesn’t it – it probably has some sort of base finish on it, does it not?

    SUSAN: No, it does not.

    TOM: It has no finish on it at all.

    SUSAN: No. We actually – when we purchased the house, they had put up wallpaper on it.

    TOM: New idea. If it’s completely unfinished, then you’re going to have to sand it. So I would start with one section and I would lightly sand it and see where it goes. I would use a medium grit – like a 100-, 150-grit – and take it from there.

    Now, I would sand it very carefully by hand to start with, just to kind of see what I’m working with. If it looks like it’s going to work out for you, then I would definitely rent or even buy – they’re not that expensive – a vibrating sander. And you …

    SUSAN: I actually tried sanding it in one area that’s going to be a water-heater closet and it didn’t work so well. There is so much, I guess, tannic acid or – in it. It wasn’t working very well.

    TOM: If you want to try cleaning it with something else that’s a little more heavy-duty, you could try TSP. And since you’ve got this water-heater closet, this could be your experimental room.

    SUSAN: Right.

    TOM: But you could use trisodium phosphate, which is something that you can buy in a home center. It’s usually near the wallpaper and paint section.

    LESLIE: In the paint prep.

    TOM: And you mix it up with water and it’s pretty good at pulling stuff out of – pulling stains out of things. But I’ve never used it on raw wood. I don’t see why you couldn’t give it a try, though.

    SUSAN: Yeah. It hasn’t – it actually – you know, I didn’t know if mineral spirits or …

    TOM: No. No, no, no, no, no, no, no. That’s going to do nothing but set it. I would try the TSP but if that doesn’t work, you’re just going to have to sand this.

    SUSAN: OK, that’s fine.

    TOM: And you’re going to sand enough to eventually cut through it. It’s not black all the way through, so eventually you’re going to cut through to fresh wood.

    SUSAN: Right.

    TOM: And then once you sand it, what you’re probably going to do is stain it and that’ll even out the color. So I would use a Minwax stain – an oil-based Minwax stain – and I would stain it to even out the color. And then I would finish it with a clear finish.

    SUSAN: Perfect. You have answered my question and I’m so glad I talked to you. I didn’t realize the mineral spirits would set it. So, thank you, guys, so very much.

    LESLIE: Bill in Hawaii has got a squeaky faucet.

    Bill, tell us what’s going on.

    BILL: When I turn a faucet on anywhere in the house or I flush a toilet, I hear – there’s a high-pitched whine. And it doesn’t seem to make any difference where and which faucet, whether it’s hot or cold or upstairs or downstairs. I get this quite high-pitched whine or high tone in the plumbing.

    LESLIE: Does it go away after it’s been running awhile or does it stay on?

    BILL: No. As long as I have a faucet on, it continues.

    Now, I went on the internet and one of the suggestions was that there was a pressure regulator on the input water to the house. So, a month ago, I was pulling and adjusted that one way and it got worse. So just yesterday, I went and turned it the other way and now it seems to get better. Now it just has a high-pitched whine when you turn it on or shut it off but not during. Is that a possible – something wrong there?

    TOM: Yeah. I mean it’s probably the pressure regulator or even the main water valve. And the reason that you have such a loud noise is because plumbing makes a really good transmitter of sound, you know? So, if you get a little bit of noise down one end of it, it will transmit through the entire house. And the fact that this is consistent no matter where you are in the house and what you turn on means that it should be at the main, coming into the house, because that’s the only pipe that’s on all the time.

    So, I think you’re onto something there with the pressure regulator. And I would consider having that replaced and/or the main valve replaced, because I think that’s where the sound is coming from, based on what you’ve just described.

    BILL: Alright. Well, hey, very good. I appreciate it.

    LESLIE: Alright. Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit.

    Well, as simple as it may seem to add insulation, it’s a project that many do-it-yourselfers just get wrong. We’re going to share with you what you need to do to get it right, next.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: What are you working on this fine winter weekend? If it’s your house, you are in exactly the right place. You just need to pick up that phone and call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. We’ll have the answers you need to know to get your projects done right the first time.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Maria in Delaware on the line who needs help with a paneling/painting project.

    So you’ve got a new house and it’s got a lot of it, huh, Maria?

    MARIA: It sure does. About 25 years ago, the paneling was probably very popular but I’m really tired of looking at it. We tried painting one room and we sanded it a little bit, primed it and painted it. I’m OK with that but my husband is not because you can still see the grooves through the paint. So we were wondering if there was a way to take care of those grooves – maybe spackling it or whatever – but we didn’t want the spackling to later flake out or chip off and cause more problems than we already have. So, hopefully, you know of some way that we can do this without just taking all the paneling down.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Anything that you’re going to fill in is just going to come out, just like you think. So, really, the best thing is to either sheathe over it with a ½-inch drywall or take the paneling off and put drywall on.

    MARIA: OK. A ½-inch drywall. So, how would that affect the molding that we have? All of that would have to be replaced, as well, like around windows, everything?

    TOM: Yeah, you’d have to pull that off.

    The thing is, what you might want to try first, though, is just removing the paneling and seeing what’s underneath it. Because there might be a halfway decent wall underneath it. And if you’re lucky enough to find out that the paneling was not glued to those walls, then maybe you can just repair the wall, spackle the nail holes, fix any tear – torn areas – or any other damage and then just paint the walls again. Because that paneling was often nailed on with a very thin ring nail.

    MARIA: Yes, it was nailed on. I can see the nails in that.

    TOM: Yeah, it usually pulls off pretty easily. So I would – first thing I would do is pull that paneling off. Nothing you put over that paneling, in terms of – there’s no way to really fill it in, because I know what you’re asking us to do. But there’s no way to do that, because it’s going to crack and fall out and it’s going to look worse than it does now.

    So if you don’t like the painted look and you want to go back to just a clean wall, I would take the paneling down. Do it one wall at a time, one area at a time, until you get the hang of it. And this way, you can almost not do any molding work whatsoever because, generally, that stuff is cut around the molding or you can cut the paneling really tight to the molding and leave it there.

    MARIA: OK. Thank you both so much for your help.

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

    LESLIE: Well, no matter where you live, it’s hard to stay comfortable and keep your energy bills in check if you don’t have enough insulation in your attic. The truth is that most of us just don’t and adding more is almost always a cost-effective project.

    TOM: Yes. But as simple as it might seem to add insulation, it’s a project that many do-it-yourselfers just get wrong. With us to make sure that doesn’t happen to you is Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House.

    Welcome, Kevin.

    KEVIN: Hi, guys.

    TOM: Now, insulation is one of those building components that’s always out of sight and out of mind. That is, of course, until you open your very first energy bill of the season. How much insulation do we need?

    KEVIN: Well, that’s a really good question and I think it is a great project for folks to do themselves but, as you say, they need to get it right. And how much you need is the first question. That depends on where you live.

    So in the warmer-weather states, you’re looking for something that’s like an R-38. And in the colder climates, that goes all the way up to an R-49. Now, these are metrics that come to us from ENERGY STAR. And that means – I mean think about this: R-38 to 49, that’s about 10 to 16 inches of fiberglass insulation batts.

    TOM: That’s a lot of insulation and I think most folks, just taking a look up in their attic, are just not going to see that.

    KEVIN: Well, they’re going to see that they might have insulation but the rule of thumb is, more insulation is generally better, so add it on.

    LESLIE: Now, Kevin, increasing the amount of insulation you have in the attic really is a very, very helpful project that you could have in your home. But is it a do-it-yourself project?

    KEVIN: Oh, it definitely is a do-it-yourself project, whether you’re increasing the amount of insulation or you’re just adding insulation for the first time. Imagine when you’re working up in the attic, if you don’t have anything in those bays between the ceiling joists, well, these batts are designed to lay right down into those bays, 16 inches on center. So you can fill in those bays and add insulation.

    If it’s already there, it’s a great idea to increase the amount of insulation. The only tip that I would say is that you want to lay the second layer of insulation perpendicular to the first and to those ceiling joists so that you cover up any of those gaps.

    LESLIE: And you want unfaced-batt insulation, correct?

    KEVIN: You do. Because that facing is actually a vapor retarder and you don’t want that in the wrong spot. So you want to make sure that you use unfaced insulation. Lay it across, cover up all those gaps and cracks and pile it up.

    TOM: Now, another thing to watch out for are the light fixtures, especially those high-hat sort of ceiling can lights that protrude up into the attic. If you don’t have the right kind and you cover them with insulation, it could cause an overheating situation.

    KEVIN: It can. And so there are basically two different kinds: those that are rated to be in contact with insulation and those that are not. You need to make sure that the cans or these recessed lights that you have up there are rated to be in contact. If you don’t know, err on the side of caution and don’t cover them up with insulation.

    TOM: Now, Kevin, besides putting a lot of insulation in an attic, we also have to have enough ventilation so we don’t make the attic either too hot or too moist in the wintertime or too hot in the summertime. So I think it’s important to be very cautious, despite the fact that you want a lot of insulation, to not block your ventilation, correct?

    KEVIN: Right. A lot of these attics are designed to be vented, as you say. And that means the air will come in through the soffit through a soffit vent, go up through the rafters and then out either a gable vent or a ridge vent. And if you block those, your roof’s not going to – your attic’s not going to perform like it should. So they have cardboard baffles that you can use and you actually put the baffles in there to make sure that the insulation doesn’t cut down on any of that venting.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Now, what if you have any sort of open areas or cracks where you might get some air leakage between your living spaces and your attic? How should you fill the …?

    KEVIN: Well, you want to fill all of the cracks as much as possible. You can do it using caulk or you can actually use expanding-foam insulation. You’ve seen these cans at the home center; you can actually use those to fill in those gaps and cracks. Because it’s not just about the R-value but it’s also about the movement of air. So air sealing is a great way to go.

    TOM: So this could be the areas where pipes come through the walls or wires come through the walls. All those little holes add up.

    KEVIN: They sure do add up.

    TOM: Now, what about the difference between blown-in and batt insulation? It seems that blown-in insulation is great because it absolutely covers everything and you don’t have to worry about positioning it as much. But because it covers everything, you can’t get to anything once you’ve installed it.

    KEVIN: Yeah. Blown-in insulation is great, as you say, because it covers all those nooks and crannies. But imagine if you have to go back to that place to do some work: you either have to fix a light or you want to run some new wires. Well, it’s not easy just to peel out of the way like a fiberglass batt.

    So if you think you’re going to need access to that space, fiberglass batts may be the way to go. And in terms of storage, if you want to use that space for storage, well, maybe you carve out a little area for storage and don’t insulate it with the blown-in but blow in around that area.

    TOM: Good advice. Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    KEVIN: Thank you for having me.

    LESLIE: Alright. You can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For local listings and some great articles on how you can improve the energy efficiency of your house and the insulation, as well, visit

    TOM: And This Old House is brought to you on PBS by State Farm.

    Hey, just ahead, don’t get stuck in the dark without a plan. We’ve got your power-outage survival tips, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And we’re here to help you with your home improvement projects, your do-it-yourself dilemmas or maybe projects that you’re planning to hire a pro to get done. All great questions to talk about. But help yourself by giving us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor.

    If you do need new flooring, maybe in your kitchen or bathroom, doing some redo or you need a new roof or maybe you’re thinking of doing a deck, all great projects that HomeAdvisor can help with. They’ll instantly match you with the right pro for the job, for free.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re going to help Bud in Oregon avoid a hair-raising electrical situation.

    What’s going on, Bud?

    BUD: I’ve got 3 banks of the 2 bulbs each, 4-foot-long mounted up in the ceiling, built into a box directly over my cooktop. And during the summertime, when the humidity is higher, if I get any moisture up there, it can take sometimes days before those lights will come on reliably on the first flip of the switch.

    Now, in the winter, when I’m burning a wood stove, which means I’ve got lower humidity inside the house, if I’m cooking on the cooktop and don’t turn the lights on before, I get the same problem. Except as soon as the moisture stops going up there and I’ve got 10, 15 minutes, then the lights will start coming back on regularly and be reliable again.

    So, what I need to know from you, if you’ve got some suggestions, is before I get up there and start looking for how to do something, I want to know what I need to have in stock. Is there something – a lubricant, a cleanser or whatever – to do something with contacts or got any suggestions?

    TOM: I would give up on those fixtures.

    BUD: Yeah, I would, too. I think you’re right.

    TOM: I would just give up on them. They don’t sound safe to me. I’m not quite sure what exactly is going wrong with them but they certainly shouldn’t be behaving that way. And I would worry about them getting worse and potentially causing a fire.

    The cost of a 4-foot, dual-bulb fluorescent fixture is not very much today. And so I would simply take this on as a project and replace each and every one of them. I wouldn’t try to change the ballast out, I wouldn’t try to clean it, I wouldn’t try to do anything like that. I would just replace them. It’s just not worth it.

    BUD: It’s not what I wanted to hear but it’s a good thing and it’s probably cheaper in the long run to spend the $8, $10 per what you – put up 3 brand-new ones.

    TOM: Exactly.

    BUD: OK. I’ll just look for a good time when I can do it without breaking my neck.

    TOM: That’s always important. Bud, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Well, we’ve all seen the news stories about entire towns without power for days at a time. But if a powerful storm leaves you without power, what should you do? Or most importantly, what shouldn’t you do?

    LESLIE: Yeah. First of all, this is a big don’t: don’t use candles. You guys, you need to have some good flashlights around the house. You want bright LED bulbs. You want to keep them handy and always in the same spot. And remember to check those batteries often.

    TOM: Yeah, absolutely. I mean flashlights are one of those things that if you’ve got an old flashlight, please, please, please just throw it away. The technology is so different today with LEDs. The batteries last a lot longer and the bulbs virtually never go out.

    Now, another thing to think about, if power goes out, is that you need to power down your appliances. And don’t restart them until the electricity has been restored for at least about a half-hour. Two reasons for that. Now, some appliances – like if you have a power failure in the summer and you’ve got air conditioners, well, you never want to turn the air conditioner on and off and on and off because it could break the compressor. But secondly, if you wait a little bit of time, it gives the utility company the opportunity to reestablish the power grid and kind of stabilize it. And that avoids another blackout.

    I’ve seen many times where the blackout occurred and then the power comes back on and it goes right back off. It’s like it tripped the circuit breaker or something, right? So, just give it some time to stabilize and then bring your house back up.

    LESLIE: Now, here’s another one. If your power goes out, your fridge and freezer will actually keep things cold for several days if you don’t open the fridge. So, try not to open the fridge and look around and think what it is you’re going to get. You know, maybe if you know a storm is coming, take a quick picture of what’s in your fridge. And close that door and don’t open it again until you know you want that orange juice and you know exactly where it is. So, that’s a big no-no. Keep that fridge door closed, you guys.

    TOM: That is an awesome idea, taking a picture. Because we all kind of like to window shop, right? Just kind of open the door and stare at it for a while.

    Alright. And finally, this is an important safety tip. To avoid becoming a victim of carbon-monoxide poisoning – which happens every time there’s a big storm, it’s terrible – you never, ever want to run a gas-powered generator indoors or even in an open garage, because those fumes will find their way into the house.

    And also, avoid cooking with charcoal or propane. Same reason. If you do that in any enclosed area, those carbon-monoxide fumes will get back into the house and that could be very, very bad.

    So, hope that helps you out. And we actually hope you don’t need to use any of those tips. But if you do, that should make it a lot more convenient to get through that blackout.

    LESLIE: Coming up, mold can be hard to diagnose. But when you see green, fuzzy stuff growing out of your boxes, that’s pretty much a telltale sign. We’re going to tell you how to get rid of mold the safest way possible, 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.

    TOM: Give us a call, right now, on The Money Pit’s listener line with your home improvement or décor question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor.

    LESLIE: 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.

    Alright. And speaking of pros, you’ve got a couple of pros right here ready to tackle some questions that were posted in The Money Pit community.

    So, Leslie, who’s up?

    LESLIE: Alright. First up, we’ve got a post here from Noah. Now, Noah writes: “I have green mold growing in my basement. It’s on the furniture, boxes and plastic tubs. I’ve sealed all the vents from the basement to the first floor. I’m getting sick a lot lately. Do you think this is what’s causing it?”

    TOM: You think? I’ll tell you, that is a great concern, because we can’t be certain without seeing and confirming what you have with a lab report but my first guess is that the green, fuzzy mold you see could be a potentially toxic mold that’s called Aspergillus. Now, under certain conditions, this is a type of microfungus that, along with others that are similar, we simply refer to as toxic-black mold. And under certain conditions, it can produce mycotoxins which have an impact on human health. So if you’re breathing those spores, it may not be good.

    So what I would do is I would get a thorough inspection by a mold expert. And I think the first step is to do just that. Because until you know what you have, you don’t really want to speculate on what needs to be done about it.

    But I will say this: when I say a mold expert, I’m not talking about a basement waterproofing contractor or even any contractor. I’m talking about somebody that just does mold testing. Just that because you don’t want to have any conflicts. You perhaps could find a very good-quality home inspector that does mold testing, as well. You can go to the American Society of Home Inspectors’ website. Put in your zip code, find a home inspector in your area. That is at And this way, you can find somebody who’s truly independent and give you the expert advice that you need to know what to do about this.

    But I wouldn’t ignore it. You know, that’s definitely a problem that can impact your health. Maybe it already is, maybe it isn’t, but you’ve got to find out, OK?

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post here from Francesca. Now, Francesca writes: “I bought my first home in 2017 and I don’t think the attic fan has stopped running yet. I went in the attic and adjusted the temp to 110. It was at 60. But this fan also has a humidity control. What should I have this setting at?”

    TOM: Well, my advice, first of all, is to just disconnect it, Francesca, and here’s why: because attic fans were very popular and they were very common, especially in an older home, to be put in. But it turns out they’re really not the most efficient way to vent an attic. The problem is that they will pull air not only from the attic but they’ll also pull it from your house. And so in the summer, for example, they’ll steal air-conditioned air – or in your case, even heated air – which makes it more expensive to heat or cool that living space.

    We’ve got a lot of posts about this topic and related topics to this on our website at But I’d like to suggest that you add a continuous ridge and soffit ventilation system. This goes down the peak of the roof and at the overhang. And this way, it works, 24/7, to flush all that moisture and hot air no matter what time of the year it is.

    LESLIE: Alright. Good advice. Make sure you take care of that so you can start saving some money.

    TOM: You are listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Show where we do home improvement. That’s why it’s called the Home Improvement Show. Hey, if you couldn’t get in to us this hour, you can call us anytime, 24/7, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT because we never sleep. The lines are always open, ready to take your calls. When we’re not in the studio – a little tip: if we’re not in the studio when you call, we will actually call you back the next time we are.

    So, hope that we’ve helped you out with some tips and advice for your house this week but that’s all the time we have.

    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 2019 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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