Easy Window Cleaning Tips & More

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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: Happy Spring. What’s on your to-do list? If it involves your home, you’re in exactly the right place because we’re here to help you get those projects done. Whether it’s cleaning or improving or remodeling or repair, we’d love to talk with you about what’s going on in your money pit to help you turn it from money pit to castle. Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT with your home improvement questions and we will do our best to give you the answer.

    Coming up on today’s show, now that the weather is warming up, it’s a great time to make sure your windows are clean so you can see all that sunshine that’s coming through about now. We’re going to give you some DIY window-cleaning tips, including our number-one most asked about recipe for a solution, that you can mix up from items you have in your own house, to make them sparkling clean.

    LESLIE: And also ahead, are you finding that your bathroom could use a pick-me-up? Well, cleaning the grout between the tiles can actually do wonders for that space. General contractor Tom Silva from TV’s This Old House is stopping by to tell you how to do it.

    TOM: And now that spring’s in full swing, you may be finding that the – between the lawn mowers and the kids’ bikes, you might be a little tight on outside storage. So, building a shed is a good solution. We’re going to tell you what you need to know to plan that project and what you need to know to make sure your local town building inspector doesn’t make you tear it down.

    LESLIE: Oh, that would be the worst.

    Whatever you are working on, guys, we are here to lend a hand. We want to know what’s on your spring to-do list. Let us know. We’ll give you a hand. We’ll help you get it done right the first time, come up with some fun ideas and make it easy for you to try to do on your own or help you find the right pro. So give us a call.

    TOM: That number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

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

    LESLIE: Laurie in Missouri is on the line and needs help with some spackling. What’s going on?

    LAURIE: Well, I have – it basically is that popcorn ceiling.

    TOM: Yep.

    LAURIE: And I’d like to know an easy way that’s not so messy to remove it. I want to have a flat ceiling.

    TOM: Unfortunately, you can’t do that without the mess, because it’s going to be quite a messy project. There are a couple of tricks of the trade that will help you, though, but let me kind of walk you through this.

    The first thing you need to do is to test it for asbestos, because you want to make sure that there’s no asbestos in that sort of popcorn material. You can pick up an asbestos-testing kit at most home centers and major hardware stores or you could use an outside lab. It’s not terribly expensive.

    Once we know that it’s not asbestos, then your first option is kind of what we call the “wet scrape.” And what you do is you start with kind of a 1-gallon garden sprayer – a garden pump sprayer – and you spray that popcorn material very lightly. You don’t want to overspray it but you want to kind of saturate it and let it sit for 10 or 15 minutes. And then you should be able to take a spackle knife or a putty knife and simply scrape off that ceiling. Go slow, start in a small area and make sure that it has absorbed the water. And once you’ve scraped that entire ceiling, you can kind of take a survey of the job because I’m sure you missed some spots.

    And of course, the second option is to do that but do it dry. And it’s totally doable, meaning it’s been done but with varying levels of success. It’s not totally encouraged because if you do, of course, have any asbestos, obviously you can’t do it. If you have lead paint, it’s a problem. It’s much easier for stuff to become airborne. So it’s a very, very dusty way to go.

    Now, there is a tool that’s available that kind of helps with this. And one is called a “popcorn-ceiling scraper.” It’s actually a vacuum attachment. It attaches to your shop vac or your wet/dry vac. And as you sort of pull it across that surface and the debris scrapes off, it goes right into the vacuum. And then there’s another one that Homax makes that’s just like a very, very wide scraper, kind of like – think of it as a 10- or 12-inch-wide spackle blade. And that can help you with the project, too.

    But if your desire was to try to do it in a way that was less messy, it’s just not going to happen. By nature of the best, it’s going to be very messy.

    And then, Leslie, once that stuff is down, she’s probably not going to have a perfectly clean ceiling as much as you would have if it was brand new. But I think you do have to prime it before you’re painting it, right?

    LESLIE: Oh, absolutely. And I was going to say when you’re scraping, try not to gouge too deeply. You don’t want to damage the ceiling any further in the process to give you more stuff to repair. But a primer is going to be really imperative. You know, latex primers are available. You can get ones that are oil-based. You can get a B-I-N or a Zinsser. You really want to sort of seal in that surface.

    And then always go with a flat paint on the ceiling and make sure you get ceiling paint, because that’s just going to adhere more nicely to a ceiling since it is over your head. And it does have a little more thickness than a regular wall paint would. But after that, I think you’re going to be super happy.

    LAURIE: Alright. I appreciate it. And my husband’s laughing at me.

    TOM: He’s laughing because he’s not going to do it.

    LESLIE: Jeff in Nebraska is working on a vegetable garden. How can we help you?

    JEFF: I want to make a raised garden bed and use wood logs. But I don’t know what kind of – what the best wood is to use, so I’m not having to – so it doesn’t get eaten away and I have to reuse or redo it every couple of years.

    LESLIE: So when you’re saying wood logs, you want something that looks more natural?

    JEFF: Yeah. I mean what I want to do is raise the bed up and use it kind of as a border.

    LESLIE: Right, I’ve got that. But you want something more decorative rather than just pressure-treated lumber: boards that really do serve the purpose of containing the wood and raising the bed?

    JEFF: Something a little decorative.

    TOM: First of all, you want treated wood. Because if you have untreated wood, it’s going to rot. In terms of your options on treated wood, the most common option would be to use a pressure-treated tie.

    Now, ties are available in either 4×4 or 6×6 and they look pretty rustic. And when you put them down, they’re going to be kind of greenish and they’ll look unnatural. But give it a few months, it’ll start to gray out and blend in.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And dry out, even.

    TOM: And dry out, yeah, and blend in with the surrounding area. That’s going to be the easiest, most cost-effective way to go. And you can pick up those ties at home centers and they’re really not very expensive, because they’re designed to be decorative and sit in the ground. They’re not – it’s not the same kind of pressure-treated lumber you might use if you’re building a retaining wall or something of that nature. It’s basically just designed to be a border surround for a garden or a pool or something like that.

    JEFF: OK. When I put it down, am I going to have to – say, if I’ve got two or three stacked up, am I going to have to drill through them and spike something into the ground?

    TOM: Good question. Now, if you’re going to have two or three of them stacked up, you’re going to – what you’re going to want to do is obviously alternate the joints so that you have one long one go across two smaller ones, you know what I mean?

    JEFF: Yeah.

    TOM: And then once it’s all done, you can predrill and put in some long – they have 12-inch spikes that you drill through those. So you get a long drill bit, predrill it and then put a couple of spikes and that will hold it all together nice and neat. But you will also find that the weight of them – the sheer weight and the strength of them – is pretty sturdy by itself. But if you want to really tack it together, you can do that with long spikes. Or you could toe-nail it on an angle with Number 12 common nails towards the base, just to kind of keep everything in place.

    JEFF: OK. So, if I just nail them together and then add the dirt up against them, they shouldn’t go anywhere?

    TOM: That’s right. They’re pretty sturdy.

    JEFF: OK. Well, that answers all my questions. Thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Up next, are you looking for an easy way to make your windows sparkle? Well, we’ve got a recipe for a natural window cleaner that you can mix from the stuff we’re sure you already have right at home – inside your cupboards, your closets, your cabinets, wherever you might keep your supplies – after this.

    TOM: 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, right now, with your home improvement, your décor, your repair or remodeling question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor.com. You’ll never have to worry about overpaying for a job. Just use their True Cost Guide to see what others paid for a similar project. Then get matched with top-rated pros, read reviews, get quotes and book appointments, all for free at HomeAdvisor.com.

    LESLIE: Carol in Arkansas is on the line with a septic-system question. How can we help you today?

    CAROL: OK. I have a septic system and we’ve had a lot of rain here. Oh, probably the last maybe three months or so it’s been a lot of rain. And I’m in the kind of the rice land of Arkansas. It’s very wet ground. OK.

    So, anyway, I was having trouble. When I would flush the commode, it – now, it never ran over, which I’m very grateful for. But the water wasn’t going down, OK? And I mean it would go down eventually but maybe take 20 minutes or more.

    TOM: OK. Does everything else in your house drain normally? Is it only the commode that you’re having a problem with?

    CAROL: It’s, well, the commode and the sink in the bathroom.

    TOM: But do we know that it’s the septic system? There could be an obstruction in the drain and that’s the first thing I’d look at.

    CAROL: OK. I did have some fellows out and – a reputable company – and they did pump out 120 gallons.

    TOM: Well, that’s – but you’re always going to have 120 gallons. That septic tank fills up with water, it overflows into the field. So, pumping out 120 gallons doesn’t really tell me anything. What I want you to do is to have the lines checked, because I suspect there’s nothing wrong with your septic, that you may have an obstruction.

    Let me tell you a story about a guy who had a toilet that was having a slow drain problem. This guy was having a party and was doing this big cleanup for – before all the relatives showed up the next day. And so the toilet backed up and so he figured out that he thought it was a root problem.

    And so he got up early the next morning and dug this huge hole in his ground to get down to this pipe and then snaked it one way, snaked it the other way, couldn’t find any roots in the way. Went back into the bathroom, decided that the obstruction had to be between the hole that he had dug in his ground and the bottom of the toilet. And so he took the toilet tank off of the floor and looked down into it and tried to snake that out and couldn’t find a problem. But in the process of taking the toilet off the floor, he happened to look into the bottom of the toilet and noticed that there was something blue there.

    Now, there’s nothing that’s really supposed to be blue that’s in a toilet. It turns out that his darling son had dropped a toy phone down the toilet and that’s what was slowing the whole thing down. So, this guy had dug up his whole yard, took his toilet apart, all to try to find out what was causing this problem and hurried to get it done before all the relatives showed up. And it turned out to be a toy that was stuck in the toilet itself.

    So, I’d say that guy was a real idiot and that guy was me.

    CAROL: Oh, OK.

    LESLIE: I’m like, “I’ve heard this story before.” I’m like, “Why do I think this was you, Tom?”

    TOM: I was completely wrong on why I thought that – I figured I was smarter than the average homeowner and knew that it – thought it was the willow tree that had clogged the pipes. It had nothing to do with that.

    CAROL: Alright.

    TOM: It was just a simple toy that was stuck in the crux of the toilet that I couldn’t see. And we finally got that off, put the whole thing back together, threw the dirt back in the hole and then headed off to get ready for the party. So you never know why your toilet is clogging.

    CAROL: Well, that’s true.

    TOM: And I wouldn’t always think it’s the most expensive possible thing, which is your septic system. Have the lines checked.

    CAROL: OK.

    TOM: Who knows? And maybe you’ll find something that got stuck in there.

    CAROL: Alright. Thank you so much.

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

    LESLIE: Well, now that the weather is warming up, it’s a great time to brighten up your windows and let that sunshine in. After this long and cold and wet and snowy winter, a lot of dirt and grime and even salt and sand from the driveway and the street can accumulate on them.

    TOM: Yeah. Now, there’s an easy way to get those windows clean and sparkling again. All you need to do is mix 1 part white vinegar with 10 parts water. It is an amazingly effective solution that you can make for less than a penny.

    Then, you can use old, cotton socks to wipe those windows clean. The socks can go right over your hands so you can get into all those tight corners and grooves. And that’s going to leave the glass shiny and bright.

    And if you end up with any lint on that glass that you kind of are noticing, well, follow up with another wipe but just use newspaper this time. Newspaper works great to wipe down those windows, as well.

    LESLIE: Bob in Washington is on the line with a roofing question. What can we do for you today?

    BOB: I’m looking at putting a roof on the home and in the Yellow Page ads, there’s – one advertises against the other. There’s two; they’re larger contractors here. And one suggests that he’s better by using a hand-nailed technique versus the air-mechanical. And I’d like your thoughts on that.

    TOM: Well, I think it makes no difference whether the roofing product is nailed by hand or nailed with an air gun. Both are completely acceptable ways to fasten roofing products to the house.

    I think what makes the difference between one pro or the other is really their workmanship. So I would not be confused by competing claims of how a roof is nailed. I can see somebody using that as – it’s kind of like hand-cut, hand-finished, hand-nailed. You have this sort of vision of something that’s quality in craftsmanship involvement, right? But I really don’t think it makes a difference.

    But what makes all the difference when hiring a roofer is the quality of that work and how well the roof is put together, especially when it comes to those intersections that have to be flashed. So, if all else looks good with these two roofers, I would do a deeper dive on their references and perhaps check online sites like ServiceMagic or Angie’s List, sites like that, to just double-check what their reputations are, talk to past customers.

    Last time I had to hire a contractor that I did not know, I did get a list of references. And I’ve got to say, I think the contractor was quite shocked when I actually called these folks. So get their references and call them and you’ll find people are generally very willing to talk to you about their experience with the contractor. So, I think that’s the best way to proceed. Workmanship makes all the difference when it comes to hiring a roofer.

    BOB: On the roofing material, up in the Northwest where I am now, would – is there – and I’m looking at a conventional, three-tab, asphalt-type composition roof. Is there a better grade of material or something that I should be looking for? As you can tell, this is a first-time roof for me, so …

    TOM: Are you in a high-wind area?

    BOB: We do get quite a bit of wind up where I’m at, up – kind of up on a hill.

    TOM: I would consider the wind-resistance but a product like an Owens Corning shingle is excellent. But I would definitely consider the wind-resistance and buy a product that’s weighted for – that’s rated for wind. Some of those – I know some of those OC shingles are rated for over 100 miles an hour.

    LESLIE: I think it’s even up to 150.

    TOM: Yeah. The good news is the roof will be there; the house, not so much.

    BOB: Well, thank you so much. That’s been enlightening to me to hear what you have to say.

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

    LESLIE: Diane in Arizona needs some help with air conditioning and being in Arizona, you’re going to need some air conditioning. How can we help you?

    DIANE: I had a settlement with the insurance company, because we had a storm here and I got – my air conditioner got damaged and it was 10 years old. And it’s a central air. I have electric for air conditioning and for heat, we have gas. And when – I do not have a computer, so I hear about different units like York, Goodman, Trane, a Lennox. I don’t know which ones are good, which ones are bad, which ones last longer.

    TOM: First of all, are you only replacing the outside condensing unit or are you also replacing the furnace and the air handler or any of the inside parts?

    DIANE: Everything.

    TOM: Everything. OK. Because it’s important for maximum efficiency that what you put outside matches what you put inside the house. Because they have to work together or you don’t get the same efficiency.

    I think that Trane is a very good brand to start with – T-r-a-n-e. Good-quality product. Lots of great options and very energy-efficient.

    It’s going to be real important, Diane, that you choose one that is ENERGY STAR-rated. I’m sure they all are with Trane but even if you go to a different brand, if you compare ENERGY STAR-rated units against other ENERGY STAR-rated units, at least you have a basis for comparison. At least you know that you’re getting the same level of energy efficiency.

    But Trane is a good place to start and now is a great time to get this project done before it gets too hot.

    DIANE: That’s wonderful to know, because there’s a lot out there.

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

    LESLIE: Hey, is your bathroom starting to look a little drab and even dingy? Well, Tom Silva from TV’s This Old House is here with a budget-friendly pick-me-up that makes the perfect weekend project, next.

    TOM: Making good homes better, 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 weekend? If it’s your house, we’d love to talk with you about it. Maybe it’s your apartment, your condo. Whatever you call home – your yurt, if it’s a tent – we don’t care, we don’t judge. We’re just here to help you get those projects done and answer your how-to questions. Give us a call, right now, to help yourself first at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor.com. Never worry about overpaying for a job. Use the HomeAdvisor True Cost Guide to see what others paid for similar projects, all for free at HomeAdvisor.com.

    LESLIE: Rick in North Dakota is on the line with a driveway-repair question. How can we help you today?

    RICK: I have a concrete driveway that, over the years, it’s started getting little pits in it in some of the areas. It almost looks like it’s where rocks have popped out of the concrete from over time and there’s other areas that little – small, little scales or sheets of concrete have come loose. And I’m just wondering what type of a product I can use to repair those pits. I know I’ve seen, different times, where people have put regular concrete in there and it doesn’t tend to stay very well.

    TOM: So, what you want to do is use a concrete-patching product. And it’s not just regular concrete or regular cement, because that won’t stick. It usually is epoxy-based. And I know QUIKRETE has a product designed specifically for this and you can go to their website at QUIKRETE.com. That’s spelled Q-U-I-K-R-E-T-E.com. The epoxy-based products will stick to the old, original concrete material and not fall out the first time the surface freezes.

    Now, I just want to also point out that being in North Dakota, I’m sure you get a lot of road salt on that driveway and that probably contributes to this. But if you’re doing any salting on your own, make sure you’re using potassium chloride, not calcium chloride. Because potassium chloride is much less corrosive to the concrete surface and will not cause that destruction that you’re witnessing now.

    Alright. Does that help you out?

    RICK: Yep. That does. Thank you very much for your assistance.

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

    LESLIE: Well, grout is the material that you use to fill your spaces between tiles. And when it looks dirty or drab, it can drag down the look of an entire room.

    TOM: Well, the good news is cleaning or replacing weathered grout has an equally powerful effect on a space. Here to tell us how to do it the right way is Tom Silva, the general contractor on TV’s This Old House.

    Welcome, Tom.

    TOM SILVA: Thank you. It’s nice to be here.

    TOM: So, let’s start by determining whether you should clean the grout or replace it completely. Is it ever possible that the grout is just so dirty it’s not worth it?

    TOM SILVA: Absolutely. Lots of times you want to replace the grout. You’ll see signs if it’s falling out in areas that get a lot of movement, usually against the backsplash in a countertop.

    TOM: Right.

    TOM SILVA: It starts to get loose in there because of different expansion and contraction.

    TOM: So, structurally, too, it could be falling apart. But if you do want to clean it, does the choice of cleaner really depend on the type of tile you’re dealing with?

    TOM SILVA: It sure does. Let’s say, for example, that glazed tile – well, a glazed tile, you may want to opt for a commercial cleaner and a bristle brush or a non-metallic scouring pad.

    TOM: Right.

    TOM SILVA: Put the cleaner on there and you’re just going to scrub it really well.

    LESLIE: Because that tile can really stand up to it.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah, exactly. It’s tough stuff. Unglazed tile, where it’s a natural cleaner, is a better way to go because the tile isn’t as tough. You can use a baking soda and water, mix it up as a paste and put it on there. Apply and then use a softer brush to clean it.

    And then there’s the natural stone. You don’t want to use any acid cleaners at all. They could damage the surface of the marble, the granite or any travertine or anything that’s around it, so you’ve got to be careful with that.

    TOM: So with all of these, a good idea to maybe start small and see how it goes before you start spreading the cleaner on the entire surface?

    LESLIE: Any spot?

    TOM SILVA: It’s always good to try an area that’s not so obvious, first, to make sure you don’t ruin anything.

    TOM: Yeah.

    LESLIE: Now, are there any tips to a successful cleaning job? Because sometimes you want to make a paste and let it sit on there and draw out the dirt. Is there a good trick of the trade here?

    TOM SILVA: I guess the only trick I can say is take your time, make sure you use the right material. And if you’re unsure, ask somebody.

    TOM: Yeah. Because you don’t want to do it twice or ruin the tile.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah, yeah. Or ruin it. And then you’re going to have to drag out all the grout and replace it.

    TOM: Now, if the grout is dragging out on its own and falling apart and we end up having to replace that grout, it seems like it could be a challenge to get all the old stuff out. How do you approach that project?

    TOM SILVA: Well, there’s a few different ways you can do it. You can cut it out with a saw – a grout saw – with a very thin blade.

    TOM: OK.

    TOM SILVA: You’ve got to be careful of that because you don’t want to cut the tile.

    TOM: Now, is that a hand tool, a grout saw? Or is it a power tool?

    TOM SILVA: It’s a power tool. They have a battery-operated saw that you can get in there and cut it.

    TOM: OK.

    TOM SILVA: Another tool is an oscillating saw. You can actually hit it with your finger and you won’t be cut but it will cut the grout.

    TOM: Oh, interesting.

    TOM SILVA: Pretty interesting. Then they also have a little tool. It looks like a utility knife but it has a flat blade.

    TOM: OK.

    TOM SILVA: And you just drag it back and forth on the grout.

    LESLIE: That seems like a lot of work.

    TOM SILVA: A lot of work.

    TOM: Yeah. Well, that would probably be good if you’re getting in the kind of nooks and the crannies, you know, up against the wall or something.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah, hard-to-get spots and stuff like that.

    TOM: Yeah.

    TOM SILVA: But you can drag it. And they also have one that’s just a hook and you can get in there and drag the grout. But you’ve got to be careful that you don’t damage the tile with any of those.

    LESLIE: This all sounds like teeth flossing.

    TOM SILVA: Oh, yes. That’s another chore in itself.

    TOM: Now, if you’re going to regrout, you’ve got to decide now what kind of grout you want to go back in with. And you can choose sanded or unsanded. How would you determine the difference?

    TOM SILVA: By the thickness of your grout line.

    TOM: OK.

    TOM SILVA: The thinner the grout line, the harder it’s going to be to get a sanded grout into it. So, that’s when you want to choose an unsanded grout.

    LESLIE: Because the sand is sort of like the filler. And I generally think of that for a floor when you’ve got a bigger tile with a bigger joint.

    TOM SILVA: Exactly, exactly. And all you want is – unsanded, it’s really like a peanut butter; you just push it right in there.

    TOM: Right.

    TOM SILVA: And it will fill up that joint nicely.

    LESLIE: Any tricks for when you’re reapplying that grout? So often you get a haze as you’re cleaning off all of the remnants of the grout. And that haze sort of reappears. Do you address that right away? Do you let it sort of set up a little bit? Because I’ve seen haze not disappear.

    TOM SILVA: Yeah, well, you just keep wiping it. The biggest problem is you’re using a dirty sponge and dirty water. A little trick that I’ve used over the years is you put your grout in, let it set a little bit. Don’t let it set too long. Wipe it with a clean sponge, change the water a couple of times and then get a piece of burlap and then wipe the whole wall down with a burlap bag. And then it just falls right off.

    TOM: Oh, good advice. Great idea.

    TOM: And then, clean sponge again, couple more times and you’re in business.

    LESLIE: That’s great.

    TOM: Now, once you’re all done, do you recommend sealing the grout?

    TOM SILVA: You can seal the grout. Depends on if it’s in an area that needs to be sealed like, for example, the back of a stove or a range where it can get dirty. But it’s tricky. You want to make sure you only seal the grout and not the tile.

    TOM: Good advice. Tom Silva, the general contractor on TV’s This Old House, thank you so much for stopping by and brightening up our day with some tips on grout cleaning.

    TOM SILVA: Always a pleasure.

    LESLIE: Alright. Catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For local listings and step-by-step videos of many common home improvement projects, visit ThisOldHouse.com.

    TOM: And This Old House and Ask This Old House are brought to you on PBS by GMC Trucks and SUVs.

    Now that spring is in full swing, you may be finding that between the lawn mowers and the kids’ bikes, you may be a bit tight on storage. If that’s you, building a shed could be a good solution. We’re going to tell you the four most important things to consider when planning one, in today’s Pro Project presented by HomeAdvisor.com, after this.

    Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Give us a call here at The Money Pit. You can reach us at 888-MONEY-PIT with all your home improvement projects. 888-MONEY-PIT is presented by HomeAdvisor. You can find out what it costs to do your home project before you hire a pro and instantly book one of the HomeAdvisor’s top-rated home pros for free.

    TOM: That’s 1-888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Tim in Illinois is on the line and looking to tile a bathroom. How can we help you with your project?

    TIM: Redoing a bathroom in a 100-year-old house. And we’re looking at putting floor tile down, possibly with heat under the tile. And I was wondering what – the best way to do it. By putting the tile on, do you need to go right to the subfloor or do you have to have some kind of concrete board underneath the tile with doing heat under the floor?

    TOM: Well, sometimes the heat is actually put underneath the subfloor itself, so that’s another way to do it from the back side of it. Depends on your access issues. But there’s a special type of subfloor that’s designed for radiant heat or sub-slab heat where, especially if it’s PEX-based, the piping runs through a channel in the subfloor itself. So there’s no chance it could get crushed or anything like that. It’s sort of a channeled-out piece of underlayment.

    And then once that’s done, you can put your tile adhesive right on top of that and glue the tile to that underlayment.

    TIM: OK. This is in an upstairs bathroom, so we won’t have access to the bottom side.

    TOM: What kind of a heating system are you thinking about putting in? Is it going to be electric?

    TIM: It’ll be electric. We have geothermal in the house itself, so we’ve got forced-air heat. So it would have to be – I think they have some kind of electric under-mat or something like that. And also, I was wondering, is it best to just do the areas where – the main traffic areas? You don’t need to do the whole floor. Is that correct?

    TOM: No, you don’t have to. It certainly is nice. You don’t have to go around the toilet, for example. So, yeah, if you went in front of the sink, in front of the toilet and wherever you step out in the shower, then that should be fine.

    And yes, some of those electric heating systems are really nice. They don’t use as much electricity as they used to. You can set them up on timers so they heat up right before you go in the bathroom and then time-out after that.

    TIM: OK. So if I get this correct, you can just put a thinset concrete and then put tile right down onto the subfloor? Is that right? With the heating mat underneath?

    TOM: Right. If it’s nice and smooth, you can do that. If it’s uneven, then there’s a number of ways to smooth that out, either through an additional subflooring material or by setting mud underneath it.

    TIM: I appreciate your show. Thank you.

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

    LESLIE: Well, now that spring is in full swing, you might be finding that between the lawn mowers and more, you’re just running out of space on that outside storage. Well, sheds can be a great solution and they can actually be a DIY or a pro project. But before you begin, there are four important things to consider. We’ve got those tips in today’s Pro Project presented by HomeAdvisor.com.

    TOM: Now, first, consider the average cost to build a shed is between about 800 bucks and 4,000. Now, that’s a big range but it depends on the materials you choose and whether you’re going to do it yourself or hire a pro.

    But whichever way you go, there are several basic questions you need to ask yourself before you get started with all that shopping.

    LESLIE: That’s right. First of all, you need to really think about – “Do I need a permit?” Well, you might, actually. So check with your local building codes and determine if you need a permit to build a shed on your own property.

    Now, you don’t want to find out after you finished the project that it’s got to come down because it violated some building code or zoning ordinance. And believe me, they will make you take it down; it’s not just an idle threat, guys.

    You also need to think about what size and what style is the shed going to be. Do you need something simple and utilitarian? Do you want something that’s more decorative? There are a lot of different styles and sizes out there, so be sure to evaluate your home and your property and determine what’s the best style for your needs.

    TOM: Now, the next thing you need to think about is: where are you going to put this thing? I mean depending on the size of your property, you’ve got so many different options for placement.

    Now, some pretty popular choices might be to build it close to the house, which makes running power and water lines easy. Or you can tuck it into the side or back of your property so that it’s less intrusive.

    The other thing to think about is your budget. If you’ve got a tight budget, you can build a simple shed that kind of gets the job done without a lot of frills. But if you’ve got some wiggle room, look to add features like integrated shelving inside or decorative trim on the exterior. Or you can go all out man cave or she shed and add electricity, heat, water, plumbing, everything.

    LESLIE: Alright. If you do go pro, guys, we recommend that you get a bunch of estimates, from at least two or three different contractors, before you choose the one pro that’s going to help you with the project.

    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: That’s HomeAdvisor.com.

    LESLIE: Still ahead, is your laminate countertop looking old and worn and dinged up? We’re going to tell you how you can bring new life to it, 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: Pick up the phone and give us a call, right now, with your home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor, where you’ll find top-rated home service pros and you can book appointments online, all for free.

    And if you’d like to hear The Money Pit when you want to hear The Money Pit, you can also subscribe to our podcast. It’s available on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher and Google Play.

    LESLIE: And remember, while you’re online always head on over to MoneyPit.com and post your questions, where we’re going to answer all the things that you’ve got on your mind with your home improvement to-do list.

    Now, Robin in Florida writes: “I have a burn on my laminate countertop near the end and near a seam. Because of the location, I figure this can be fixed but I’m just not sure how.”

    TOM: It’s a great question.

    Now, if you have laminate countertop, you do have some options for repair. But that repair is always going to be visible. They do have fillers for laminate tops and usually, you’re not going to find the exact right color but you’ll find two colors that are similar and you mix them together to kind of get the best match. That said, it will always look like a patch.

    I have got a much better solution. Since many of these burns are near the stove, what I’ve often suggested is this creates an opportunity for a drop-in cutting board. Now, it doesn’t have to be wood. It could be granite, it could be any type of cutting-board material. But you basically could, with a bit of carpentry skill, cut into that countertop and drop in a cutting board so it’s always right there, very convenient, right next to where you cook.

    LESLIE: Hmm. That’s an excellent idea. I love the – I really do like the look of that and it does seem like a fun solution. And you can always drop in a marble countertop – or a marble cutting board, I should say – into your countertop in case you’re a big baker.

    TOM: You know what’s fun? That people will see this and they’ll be like, “Oh, that’s such a great idea.” And they’ll never know you did it to fix a burn. Never ever.

    LESLIE: You’re covering up something.

    Alright. Next up, Nancy in Illinois has got a question. She writes: “There is water getting into my garage because the garage is lower than the area surrounding it and water runs into it. I’d like to know what to do to fix this problem.”

    TOM: Grading, grading, grading. You know, whenever you have a garage that’s slightly below grade, you have the same issues that you would have if you had a basement, Nancy. And to fix that, you’ve got to be very careful to manage the drainage outside that wall. So, we’re talking about grading, making sure the soil slopes away from that partially submerged basement-like foundation wall that’s got the garage on the other side.

    And most importantly, you need to make sure that the gutter system A) exists, B) is clean and C) is extending all of that roof water well away from that foundation. I can’t tell you how many times I have been called upon to diagnose a water problem around the house and found a very simple cause with downspouts just dropping water right there. It might even be the one that’s slightly uphill from it and the water runs down.

    But if you were to manage that grading and that drainage and all of that water on the outside of those walls, you are not going to have problems with water getting into the garage area and saturating those walls and maybe even running across the floor, which in a garage is even more dangerous than the basement because it can freeze, right? You step out of the car and you can slip. So you’ve got to be super careful.

    LESLIE: Oh, yeah.

    TOM: It’s got an easy solution, Nancy.

    LESLIE: Yeah. But Nancy, Tom is right. It really is an easy solution to fix and one that once you figure out what’s going on, you’ll be able to monitor it, maintain it, keep everything nice and dry for the rest of the season.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Thanks so much for stopping by today. Hey, we hope that we were able to help you with some advice for your spring home improvement projects. Whether it’s a pergola or a roof or a kitchen or a bathroom, whatever is on that to-do list, if you’ve got questions you can always reach us, 24/7, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or post your question to The Money Pit’s Community page at MoneyPit.com.

    I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …

    LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.


    (Copyright 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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