Holiday Décor and More #1127172

Holiday Décor and More #1127172
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  • Transcript

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And we are so glad you’re here with us today. It is a very busy time of year. It’s the time when we’ve always got a million things to do on the weekend, whether it’s a holiday task, whether you’re tree shopping, whether you’re hanging some lights, whether you’re gift shopping, whether you’re fixing up your home to prepare it for all the family and friends that are no doubt on their way there, right now, from all parts of the unknown. We are here with you, though, to help you with those projects that can make your money pit a more pleasant, more energy-efficient, more fun place to be. You can help yourself first by picking up the phone and calling us, 24/7, at 888-MONEY-PIT. Or you can go to, right now, and post your question to the Community page.

    Coming up on today’s show, if you want to make sure your holiday lights are working before you spend hours stringing and hanging them, we’re going to give you some fast, free and easy holiday-light fixes that will keep you completely illuminated through the season.

    LESLIE: And do you feel like you’re throwing that same old holiday party each year? Well, kick that déjà vu to the curb. We’ve got ideas for gatherings that your guests will remember for years to come. And none of them will cost you more than a few bucks.

    TOM: And do cold days spent inside have your kids complaining that they’re bored? Well, we’re going to have some tips to stop that whining, with a creative solution that’s fun and builds DIY skills. So give us a call right now. We’re here to help you at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Stan in Mississippi is on the line with a shower/bath conundrum. What’s going on?

    STAN: I have two bathrooms and both of them do it. Every time I turn the faucet on, water comes out of the showerhead. It’s not full power but it reaches about halfway across the bathtub. My wife’s sitting there trying to run the bath water, trying to take a bath. She’s got cold water hitting on top of the head and I don’t know how to fix it.

    TOM: So, the problem is the diverter valve, which is built into the tub faucet. It’s not fully closed. So, it might just be a bad valve or maybe it’s stuck. But to fix that, you’re probably going to have to replace that part of the tub faucet or maybe the entire faucet.

    STAN: Is that the thing – the little thing – you flip to make it come out of the shower?

    TOM: Yes, correct. Exactly. That’s the diverter.

    STAN: OK. And I know when it’s about halfway stuck, it makes a squealing sound, like a kinked water hose.

    TOM: Yep.

    STAN: I’ve had that before but it doesn’t do that at all. The water has no trouble coming out of the faucet.

    TOM: When you turn on the shower by closing that diverter – basically shifting the valve so that it doesn’t come out the tub spout, it comes out the showerhead – for some reason, when it goes back, it’s not fully opening again. So you’re getting this wash of water, basically, out of two taps: one on the showerhead and out of the hose – one out of the tub faucet itself.

    So the problem is in that diverter valve and it just might be that you’ve got a bad fixture there and might need to replace that faucet – that tub faucet. But that’ll do it; that’ll straighten it out. OK?

    STAN: Alright. And if not that, do they make a coupling to go on my showerhead with a – on the cutoff valve?

    TOM: You shouldn’t have to do that, Stan. That’s really an extraordinary step to take for something that’s fairly straightforward.

    STAN: OK.

    TOM: I mean I think you just have a bad faucet there. And go pick up a new one from American Standard. They have these ceramic-disc valves now built into them that just never leak.

    STAN: Alright. Well, I sure appreciate it.

    TOM: Well, you’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Marilyn, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you?

    MARILYN: We are a military family. My husband’s in the military and I’m a stay-at-home mom to five kids and we home-school. And basically, in the past when we’ve moved, we’ve always bought a house and – basically, thinking that if you pay yourself it’s better than paying someone else. However, we’re moving to Illinois this time and the property taxes are quite excruciatingly high. And we’re just trying to decide if it’s better to buy or to rent this time.

    TOM: So do you know how long your husband – well, first of all, thank you for your service and your family’s service. Do you know how long you will be in the Illinois area?

    MARILYN: Well, it could be anywhere from two years to three, four, five. You never know with the military, you know.

    TOM: Because you know what the risk is if you buy a house and then it turns out you have to move again. If you can’t sell it or if you – if the market turns and it ends up not being worth what you paid for it, you could get underwater pretty quick on that. And so, in circumstances when you’re in the military, I think a lot of times it does make sense to rent. Because the other thing is you don’t want to have to move out of there – “Now I need to carry two houses” – maybe find yourself being a distant landlord to a property. Now, these are all difficult scenarios that you really want to avoid.

    Have you spoken with your accountant about the tax consequences of perhaps renting instead of buying? Because there may be some advantages there.

    MARILYN: We haven’t yet because we just found out a couple days ago, so …

    TOM: And you know what? You can always – you can always rent first. Renting is a short-term commitment. I understand that moving is a hassle but you could always rent first, get to know the area, get more comfortable and then make a decision later if it looks like you’re going to stay. You don’t have to do it all in once.

    MARILYN: OK. I guess my hesitation with that is that we have five small children. So I’d like to move as little as possible.

    TOM: I would think that – better off selling it now, putting it on the market now. Maybe you’ll find a cooperative buyer who can delay the closing date until you guys are ready to move out. But I wouldn’t want to find you stuck not being able to get a buyer, running out of time, while your family needs to move on to the new location. So I think a bird in a hand is worth two in the bush, as my dad always used to say. So I would try to put that on the market now and hopefully they’ll sell quickly and you’ll be able to take your time getting to the new location.

    And by the way, since I can imagine, with five kids, you find the house just chock full with stuff, the best way to get your house ready to sell – there’s a great article on our website at about this. But conceptually, what we’d like to see you do is to try to declutter as much as possible, make those rooms look big and bright. Because anybody that’s going to buy your house is going to probably move in from, say, another crowded house or crowded apartment. You want to make sure it looks like your stuff can – their stuff can fit in there. And then if you have any rooms that need to be repainted, just choose neutral colors for the same reason. Make it look open and inviting and that will help you sell the property as quickly as possible.

    LESLIE: You are listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. For help with your next home improvement project, give us a call now at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor, where you can get matched with background-checked home service pros in your area and compare prices, read verified reviews and book appointments online, all for free.

    TOM: No matter what type of job is on your to-do list, HomeAdvisor makes it fast and easy to hire a pro you can trust.

    Up next, are you preparing to deck your halls this holiday season and maybe even your windows, your doors and your trees? Well, we’re going to have some easy tips for testing and fixing holiday light strings before you hang them, when The Money Pit Radio Show continues after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Hey, are you trying to fix up your money pit? Well, we are, too. Let us help. Call in your question, right now, to 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor.

    And hey, if your vacuum isn’t working well or just leaves a cloud of dust behind every time you use it, we’ve got another great reason to reach out to us by phone or by posting to The Money Pit community. Because this hour, we’re giving away a year’s supply of Filtrete vacuum bags, filters and belts worth up to 200 bucks.

    You know, a full vacuum bag or a clogged filter or a broken belt, it really can inhibit your vacuum’s effectiveness, it can reduce suction and it can leave a ton of allergens and dust behind. But if you replace your Filtrete vacuum bags every one to two months, the filters every three to six months and the belts about once a year, you’re going to help that vacuum maintain peak performance and achieve good indoor-air quality for you and your family.

    That year’s supply of Filtrete vacuum bags, filters and belts are going out to one listener drawn at random. Make that you. Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: John in New York is on the line with a fungus issue. What’s going on at your money pit?

    JOHN: Well, I think I do have some dampness in the basement and possible fungus and I thought …

    TOM: And so you would like to make that go away. And when you look at these walls, does it look kind of like white and gray and crusty?

    JOHN: Yeah, in some areas. And it’s just a few places.

    TOM: OK. So the white, gray, crusty stuff is not a fungus. It’s not mold. It’s not mildew. It’s mineral-salt deposits. What happens when a basement gets damp, the water evaporates from the – or goes from the groundwater and gets drawn into the basement walls and then evaporates out. And it leaves its mineral-salt deposits behind. And I’ll tell you an easy way to prove that that’s exactly what’s going on here is grab some white vinegar, put a bit in a spray bottle and spray it on that gray substance. You’re going to see the salt melt away when it strikes the vinegar. And you’ll know for sure that’s exactly what it is.

    The only time you’re going to want to use a mildicide, like a bleach-and-water solution in a scenario like that, is when you truly do have mold or a fungus. And that’s almost never – it almost never grows on a block wall. It always grows on something that’s more organic, like a drywall or wood, paper. The block wall, I mean it’s possible you can get mold on it because sometimes you get dust that sticks to it and the dust feeds the mold. But usually, it’s mineral-salt deposits that’s indicative of just a damp basement.

    What I would also tell you to do is, after you get that cleaned up, is to look outside your house and make sure that your gutters are clean and free-flowing and those downspouts are well away from the house. I’m talking like 4 to 6 feet because that will stop a lot of that water from collecting at that foundation perimeter and pulling up into those walls. Does that make sense?

    JOHN: Yes, yes. I appreciate your time, man.

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

    Well, Thanksgiving has come and gone, which means millions of Americans are planning to light displays big and small as we move into the holiday season. But if instead of blinking lights you discover Christmas-light repairs are needed, here are five easy and fast ways to improve that lighting and your mood and keep it bright and shining all at the same time.

    LESLIE: Yeah. First of all, you’ve got to inspect those strings of lights before you hang them. Now, all of the lights should bear the UL or Underwriter Laboratories’ seal of approval. They should be free of cracked lights or sockets, worn or frayed wires and loose or damaged plugs.

    TOM: Yep. And even if they look good, you want to test each string to be sure. Extreme temperatures or movement could have damaged the lights in the year since you last used them. At many times, I have found that lights I – that worked perfectly the year before, that I carefully put away, just don’t work the next year. So, do test them before you start hanging them on your house or your tree.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Now, if you find that that light string isn’t working, unplug it and check each bulb to see if it’s loose. Now, you can do this by gently pressing each bulb into its socket. Even though most lights are designed to work if one bulb goes out, they’re not going to work if a bulb is unplugged. Once you’ve tightened all those loose bulbs, go ahead and plug that string back in.

    TOM: Now, if you’re still not having any luck, you want to unplug it and check the fuse, which is usually built into the plug itself. So, take it out and check that it’s not burned out. If you need to, just replace it.

    Now, most light strings do come with extra fuses that are taped to the string somewhere, in the tiniest plastic bag available. You’ll know it when you find it. And if all else fails, you want to update your lighting, now is a good time to do it. Go with the LED strings. They’re a lot more efficient and they’re also very, very bright.

    LESLIE: Marlese (sp) is on the line with a slippery-window question. What’s going on at your money pit?

    MARLESE (sp): My windows – I have two and it’s an add-on where you walk in. And they’re probably about 7 feet long and 15 inches wide. They slid down and the top has a 2-inch gap where – so air is just coming in. They’re not the type you open. I heard you could put a suction cup and try to pull them up or something.

    TOM: So these windows – you say these windows slide but they’re not the kind that open? Well, that doesn’t make sense to me.

    MARLESE (sp): No, they’re not meant to slide.

    TOM: OK.

    MARLESE (sp): They’re just in the wood frame. And they slid down like 2-inch gap, where the air is coming in.

    TOM: I’m trying to imagine what this looks like. The window is not meant to slide. Is this window meant to open at all?

    MARLESE (sp): No.

    TOM: So it’s a permanent, solid pane that fits into a frame and somehow it slipped out of the frame?

    MARLESE (sp): Yeah, they both slid down, I’m guessing, in the wall somehow or down the frame.

    TOM: Is this a situation where the home is settling, do you think? Or is it just that this window sash has moved out of the frame that was holding it?

    MARLESE (sp): It just slid down in the frame that was holding it.

    TOM: This is a good time for you to take a photo of this window and post it to The Money Pit’s Facebook page at so we can look at it and comment on it.

    However, if it’s a static window that was held into a wood frame and it’s absolutely not intended to move or open ever, then I don’t see why you couldn’t slide it back up from whence it came and secure it in place mechanically with screws or nails or other types of fasteners. Or brace it in place or use a silicone caulk around the outside edge, which would have the same effect of holding it in place. As long as it’s not designed to move whatsoever, then it’s just a mechanical matter of getting it back in place and securing it there in a more permanent way.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got John in Missouri on the line. John, what’s going on?

    JOHN: Well, I live in an old house built in 1892 and it has plastered walls. And I’ve got a – I had a leak this spring. I had a gutter overflow and it got behind some flashing and created what I call “plaster cancer,” which is this sort of crystalline stuff that grows out of the plaster.

    TOM: OK.

    JOHN: It didn’t make the whole thing fall down. It just is crystal. And I got the leak fixed and I tried – I scraped all that stuff off and put a sealer on it – quick sealer paint – one of those alcohol-based things.

    TOM: Right.

    JOHN: And the cancer keeps going. Now it’s blown that paint off. It’s not as much but it tends to continue. And I wondered if there was something you can do to stop that from happening short of tearing that whole plaster down.

    TOM: So, the plaster, when it gets wet, there are sort of fingers, so to speak, that wrap around the lath behind it. And when it gets wet, it loosens up.

    JOHN: This plaster is actually on brick.

    TOM: Oh, it’s on brick? OK. Alright. Strike that. So what else could be happening is if it’s on brick and the brick got wet – the bricks are very hydroscopic, so you could be continually pulling more moisture through there. Are you absolutely certain that you’ve addressed the leak completely? Because it doesn’t sound that way. It sounds like you’ve still got some moisture in there.

    JOHN: There could still be some moisture in the brick, I suppose, but it’s been super dry here in St. Louis since the end of July. And this – I got the thing fixed about the middle of July: all the flashing on the – it’s on a bay window. All the flashing above that was redone and – but it hasn’t rained pretty much at all since then.

    TOM: How big is the patched area?

    JOHN: It’s, oh, I don’t know, maybe 10 square feet. It’s not huge.

    TOM: And that whole area is breaking up and forming these crystals?

    JOHN: Yeah. Well, it’s doing this crystal-growth thing, which blows off whatever paint you put on the surface on it.

    TOM: I wonder if part of what you’re seeing is the paint basically disconnecting or delaminating from the plaster itself.

    JOHN: Well, yeah. This cancer sort of grows below the paint. But it’s – my problem is it’s dried up now. It hasn’t rained, so it couldn’t possibly leak; it hasn’t rained. And also, the thing is repaired.

    TOM: What I would do here is this: is I would try to strip out all the paint that I could and I would probably use a paint stripper to get whatever is left behind. Maybe a gel-based stripper. And then I would put another skim coat of plaster over it. Let it dry really, really well. And then I would prime it with an oil-based paint and then repaint it.

    But I think the plaster is basically disintegrated, in some respects, and I think you’re going to have to do some partial rebuilding of that surface.

    JOHN: Yeah. OK. Well, because it’s – yeah, the plaster is this two-layer plaster. It’s got kind of a – looks like cement at the base layer and then it’s got a real fine, white layer that’s the finish layer. So just reapply that, huh?

    TOM: That’s right. After you get rid of any loose material that’s there. You really want to make sure you have a solid base and then you can put a new skim coat on it.

    JOHN: OK. Alright. I’ll give that a try.

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

    Hey, are your holiday parties starting to feel like a case of déjà vu? Well, a few simple steps can break up that monotony and have you hosting an event your guests will never forget. Money-saving holiday-party tips are next.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Hey, what’s on your holiday to-do list? Post your home improvement or décor question to The Money Pit’s Community page at Or call us, right now, at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor.

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

    PHYLLIS: I have a trellis. It’s on – I just have a small porch. And in the wintertime, especially, the wind comes ferociously from the Northwest. And the trellis is put up on – screwed up on 2x4s. And I was wondering – I was going to get a good grade of plastic. Should it be put on the outside or the inside of the trellis?

    LESLIE: Plastic to protect from the wind or plastic to protect the lumber?

    PHYLLIS: No. Plastic so the wind doesn’t blow into my front door. And I had the trellis put up so I could – in the spring, I want to put flowers that vine up there. But for now, I want plastic to keep the wind away from my front door.

    TOM: Do you have a storm door on your front door?

    PHYLLIS: Yes. But it still comes through.

    TOM: Now this trellis as you describe it, I mean there’s a lot of different types of trellises. Is this a trellis that’s flat on the wall or is this sort of a portico where it kind of goes out and surrounds the door?

    PHYLLIS: No. It’s on the porch. I imagine my porch is probably maybe 4 or 5 feet wide. But it’s on the porch, on the outside of the porch, on 2x4s.

    TOM: I see. So basically – and the porch has a roof, right? So it’s not just a deck?

    PHYLLIS: Right. It’s got the – it’s got a roof, uh-huh.

    TOM: So you kind of want to enclose your porch, so to speak, with this plastic sheeting, is what you’re suggesting.

    PHYLLIS: On that one spot, yes, where the – it’s right there as I go in and out the door.

    TOM: Alright. Well, it – probably not going to be that attractive but I guess what I would do is put it on the outside. Because this way, as the wind blows against it, it’ll press against the trellis and it will be less likely to tear. If you put it on the inside, the wind’s going to go through it and it will constantly pull itself off the trellis.


    TOM: So I think it’ll be securer if you put it on the outside. And as the wind blows against it, that trellis will help support it.

    PHYLLIS: OK. Fine. Thank you.

    TOM: Alright. Good luck, Phyllis. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Well, from the shopping to the menu, to the cleaning to the decorating, holiday entertaining, let’s face it: it’s a lot of work. But whether you’re throwing an intimate dinner or an all-out bash, there’s a lot of prep. So it’s easy to run out of steam or money before you’re adding those memorable touches. But making your party stand out among the rest does not have to be an expensive undertaking.

    LESLIE: No, you know, it really doesn’t. And I think a lot of people forget that. So start with what you have in your home. Really take a good look around the space.

    Now, do you have the room to set out all of those delicious treats? You don’t have to go out and rent extra furnishings. Just clear off all those family photos and those small, decorative items from any side or console table that you’ve got in your living and dining spaces. Now, this will give you plenty of room for all that yummy food. And then your dining table will instantly feel more spacious. And everybody’s going to have extra room to actually enjoy the meal.

    TOM: And what about your decorations? Do they feel a bit tired? Well, handmade décor is always a winner. Beautiful, live greenery, wreaths and – can be very stunning and affordable. You can purchase some inexpensive metal rings online, then mix up the diameters for a real festive feel. Then head outside or head over to the local nursery for the greenery. Cedar has got tons of branches and greenery and doesn’t cost a lot. And then wrap the branches using floral wire around the rings. You want to overlap the pieces so you hide the wire and you’re going to have, instantly, an absolutely gorgeous wreath.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And sometimes that greenery itself is just gorgeous enough to be the finished product on its own.

    TOM: Like without any ribbons or Christmas balls or any of that kind of stuff, right?

    LESLIE: Yeah. That greenery really does speak of the season. But if you want – and even for a great way to hang them – you can just add a very simple ribbon. And that’s going to give you a perfectly festive look.

    Now, when it does come to your table setting, remember that simple goes a long way. So a clean, white table linen and white dishes can easily set that tone. And then don’t worry about mixing and matching the serveware. It tells the story of your family and it can make that whole meal feel more intimate. Add some simple taper candles and one floral arrangement and that’s really all you need for a beautiful holiday look.

    TOM: And while it might sound like a pipe dream, do your best not to stress out over this, folks. It is the holidays. And so, take these projects one at a time and enjoy the season.

    And if you need some help with a holiday-related project, call us, 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Roy in New Hampshire has a question about a roof. What can we do for you?

    ROY: Well, I was listening to your last episode and I was thinking, where my roof is dark and I do have lichen patches …

    TOM: Yep.

    ROY: My concern is if I get up there and I splay it – spray it – with the bleach-and-water mix, that I may leave spots on the roof. Is that the case or do you know?

    TOM: You mean you’re concerned you’re going to have bright spots or dark spots?

    ROY: Bright spots.

    TOM: Because it’s really clean there and it’s not as clean elsewhere? I think that is potentially an issue because the roofs are going to darken over time. And you may have a little bit of moss or lichen growth on one side and then you may have a lot more on the other. So if you kind of try to spot-clean it, it may look somewhat uneven and streaky.

    There’s another way that you can go about this that’s going to be slower and more transitional. And it’s a product called Spray & Forget. Kind of does the same thing but it’s a little bit easier on your lawn and your plants. And you basically apply it to the roof and then over the next coming weeks, it starts to basically kill all of the growth that allows the mold, the moss and the mildew and the lichen to kind of take hold. And then once it’s dead, it starts to lose its grip on the roof and then wash off. And so, if you did that once or twice a year, that might be another way to do it and it wouldn’t be quite as dramatic as just a bright spot where it happens to be really bad right now.

    ROY: You said Spray & Forget?

    TOM: Spray & Forget, yep.

    ROY: Awesome, awesome. That was my concern when I listened to the episode. I was thinking where the roof was dark, I would leave those spots but …

    TOM: Yeah. I think that will give you a much easier – a much more even transition and you’ll really like the way it works.

    ROY: That’s great. OK, I will. Spray & Forget. Alright. Thank you so much. I appreciate this.

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

    LESLIE: Cheryl in Texas, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you?

    CHERYL: I have some countertops that are plywood. I just purchased a house recently and I’m planning to do a total remodel in about a year. But right now, the countertops are plywood. And so I wanted an idea to put on the countertops so that I don’t have water damage to the plywood and – plus something that looks nice. And I was wondering if you might have an idea.

    LESLIE: Well, there’s a lot of different options, of course, at a variety of price points. And if you’re looking for something that’s just going to be temporary but still stylish and functional, probably your quickest and most DIY and affordable option could be tile.

    Now, that’s going to be something that you could easily do on your own. And there’s a lot of different choices to keep you within a variety of price points. And that, generally, can look really, really great. The other options are laminate countertops, which you can get precut at the local home center. And that just depends on how much of a run you need and how much actual cutting to fit to size that you have to get.

    But those are probably going to be your two most affordable. I think with tile, it really gives you an opportunity to make it really stylish and your own and something that you can feel proud of doing yourself and lasts you through the long haul, until you’re ready to do a major remodel.

    CHERYL: OK. And what do you usually adhere the tile with? I’m not really much of a DIY person but I’m sure – I think I could do it. But I was just kind of curious, with the water, what adheres that tile and keeps that countertop protected.

    TOM: So there’s two options. There’s tile mastic, which is sort of like a glue that you trowel onto the plywood and you stick the tiles onto that. And then there’s a tile mat that’s like a two-sided adhesive mat that you glue that down to the wood surface, in your case, and you peel off a backing and you can stick the tiles right on top of that. So there’s a couple of ways to do that. If you can find the mat, what’s interesting about that is you can grout right away. If you use the mastic, you’ve got to let it dry overnight and then you can grout.

    CHERYL: OK. I like those ideas. OK. Thank you so much.

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

    LESLIE: Well, now that the heating bills are rolling in, it’s a good time to look at how your thermostat could help cut those costs. We’re going to walk through the options in smart setback thermostats that can do the thinking for you, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And hey, if you’d like some tips on how to fix up your home-sweet-home this holiday season, call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. And if you want to win some products that can help keep that home clean, you especially want to reach out to us by calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT or posting your question to The Money Pit’s Community page. Because we’ve got a year’s supply of Filtrete vacuum bags, filters and belts worth up to 200 bucks to give away.

    LESLIE: Yeah. You know, a lot of people don’t realize that a full vacuum bag, a clogged filter or even a broken belt can inhibit your vacuum’s effectiveness, reduce that suction and then it leaves all of those allergens and dust right behind where you think you’re picking them up. Now, if you do replace your Filtrete vacuum bags every one to two months, those filters every three to six months and the belt in the vacuum once a year, you’re going to help your vacuum maintain peak performance and help achieve great indoor-air quality for you and your family.

    Now, this great prize package includes 12 Ultra Allergen Vacuum Bags, 4 HEPA filters, 2 belts. I mean that’s a prize package worth 200 bucks.

    TOM: Yep. And it’s going out to one caller drawn at random, so make that you. Pick up the phone and call us at 888-MONEY-PIT or post your question to The Money Pit Community page right now.

    Well, did you know that programmable thermostats could actually help you save money and energy all year long? These thermostats are going to allow you to control your home’s climate around the clock, so winter and summer, without any additional effort. And that’s why they make a lot of sense.

    LESLIE: Yeah. To maximize your energy savings, you want to install the programmable thermostat away from any natural cool or hot spots in your home. Now, in those hot summer months, you can set the thermostat several degrees higher when you’re away. And during the colder weather, you can program that thermostat a few degrees cooler when you’re going to be gone.

    Now, most programmable thermostats have multiple settings that are going to allow you to adjust accordingly and save a few extra dollars while you’re on vacation.

    TOM: Yeah. An example of a programmed day during the winter is to have the temperature lower during the night, warming up before everyone gets up for the day and then dropping once everybody leaves the house and then warm up again before everybody returns. Now, you can find these thermostats for as little as around 100 bucks, installing them pretty easy.

    Plus, the smart thermostats today I love because of geo-fencing. When they’re tied into your phone, they know where you are. So as you get close to home, they can turn the heat on for you so it’s nice and warm when you walk back in. And when you leave, they’re like, “Hey, nobody’s home. I think I’m going to turn that heat down and save these folks some money.” So a lot of technology out there now in thermostats that can really make a difference.

    LESLIE: Heading to Minnesota where Deb is having some issues with an unlevel floor. What’s going on?

    DEB: We’re in a house that the main part of the house was built in the 1930s. And that’s our problem right now, although the rest of the house has got issues, too. It’s over – a little over 3,000 square feet and we tried to sell it. Can’t sell it, so we’re staying but we don’t – there’s only two people living in this big of a house.

    So we want to block off the upstairs and just live on the main floor. We were going to change the stairs and enclose them. Right now, they’re open stairways. But when we started doing that, the floor behind it is probably real close to an inch-and-a-half dip.

    TOM: And why is it important to you that you try to take this dip out of the floor? Because, generally, when dips form over many, many years, everything gets – kind of gets settled in that space and it’s not always a good idea. In fact, it’s rarely a good idea to try to pick it back up unless it’s an active structural problem, which I doubt this is.

    DEB: We want to replace the steps going upstairs. And we can’t do that because the steps that are there right now are actually twisting from the dip.

    TOM: Well, that’s not a problem. It’s easier to build a set of steps that fits the existing floor structure then it is to try to fix the floor structure. You can easily make a set of steps that has a stringer that’s longer on one side than the other. Very often, when stairs are made sometimes, especially custom stairs, they leave the stringers running long and the carpenters cut them on site so they fit perfectly in the home. But I don’t think it’s necessary to try to rebuild your floor just to fix the stairs.

    OK, Deb? Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Are you sick of hearing your kids complaining that they’re bored already? Well, we’ve got creative and practical solutions, when The Money Pit returns after this.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor. Are you ready for a basement makeover you can enjoy all winter long? HomeAdvisor can instantly match you with the right pro for the job, for free.

    LESLIE: Hey, guys, did you happen to do a lot of baking and cooking over Thanksgiving and you’re now staring at a pretty gross-looking oven? Well, here’s a super-important tip: don’t start your self-cleaning oven the night before you have your next big gathering. If it’s going to fail, that’s exactly when it’s going to happen. So don’t do it.

    TOM: Yep. It puts the oven through a lot of stress and it’s really the most common cause of oven failure.

    Hey, we’re going to jump into the Community section here and take a question from Karen. She wants to know: “What’s the best type of laminate flooring for a bathroom? I’ve heard there are different grades.”

    That is true. The most water-resistant laminates, of course, are great for a bathroom. But Karen, you’ve got lots of choices now in bathroom-flooring products. One of my favorites of the new products out there is EVP – engineered vinyl plank. Take a look at it. It’s a vinyl product with a rigid PVC core that looks just like wood. It’s absolutely beautiful and it is completely, 100-percent waterproof.

    Well, toy-making elves are popular during the holiday, so why not give your kids the tools, literally, to make some unique toys and projects of their own? Leslie has tips to keep those young hands and brains and imaginations busy with a fun and practical take on building blocks, in this week’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.


    LESLIE: Yeah. You know, it’s interesting. I forget that my kids are just naturally interested in the things that you and I do, Tom, every single day. So when I take on a project at home, I always say that the kids are asking me, “What’s that tool? Or can I use that or can I help you with this?”

    So start off by teaching your children exactly what the tools are for any and every project that you’re taking on around the house, from a simple hammer to a screwdriver. Explain the different types of screwdrivers and also, teach them about the importance of safety. This is where your kids are going to pick up those basic DIY skills in the process. And those are life lessons that they’re really not getting at school anymore. So if you can get them involved in this process, you’re really going to help yourself out in the long run. Because you’re not going to be running over to their apartments when they’re older, fixing all the stuff for them.

    So, for kids’ tools, you want to start with the basics, like a measuring tape, a ruler, small kid-sized hammers and screwdrivers. You can find them at home centers. Even safety goggles and work gloves and earplugs. I mean depending on what it is you’ll be working on, you’re going to find the right safety equipment for those kids and the right tools. So make sure you go to the home center and look for the things that are appropriate to your children’s size.

    Now, head to a bookstore. You’ll find some great crafting projects there. But again, at the home center, so many of them have actual little DIY kits with pieces of lumber that are precut. So now you’ve got your kids hammering things together, painting them, screwing things together. They’re learning how the basic tools work.

    Now, remember, they’re going to be a little bit more sloppy than you or I, potentially, when they’re working on a project. So, make sure you set up a space for them where you’re not going to be upset if they spill paint or bang the hammer into your worktable. So don’t do this on the dining table is what I’m talking about, guys, because you’ll be so much more quick to get upset with the kids.

    And I find if every time you tackle a project you just explain to the kids what you’re doing and give them something that’s safe for them to participate in with what you’re doing – even when I’m cooking, the kids want to see. “What are you doing? Can I help with that? Can I cut something?” The more you show them, they more they’re going to absorb and then the better off they’ll be for having these life skills that are truly helpful.

    TOM: Great advice. This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up next time on the program, do you plan to live in your home for years to come? If you do, you want to plan to make it accessible right now. We’re going to share some tips on how you can make bathrooms easier to use without giving up style and efficiency, on the next edition of The Money Pit.

    I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …

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


    (Copyright 2017 Squeaky Door Productions, Inc. No portion of this transcript or audio file may be reproduced in any format without the express written permission of Squeaky Door Productions, Inc.)

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