How to Avoid Painting Disasters

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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: Alright. Last week, you were able to declare independence from home improvement, right, because it was Independence Day. But now, it’s time to get back to work. Fortunately, we’re ready to work, too, and we’re here to help you with your projects. Whether it’s a décor project, a repair, a remodel, we’re here to talk about the best ways to get those projects done, solve those problems and get you moving with those jobs around your house. But you’ve got to help yourself first by picking up the phone and calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT or posting your question to the Community page at

    Coming up on today’s program, when it comes to maintaining your home, painting is probably the most basic of DIY projects, right?

    LESLIE: True.

    TOM: But it occurs to me it’s also a project that can go horribly wrong, quickly, if you don’t do just three things before you start. We’ll share those steps, just ahead.

    LESLIE: And unless your home is equipped with hurricane shutters, an approaching storm means you’d better get busy putting up plywood. We’re going to share some simple tips to help make sure you’re ready well ahead of those high winds.

    TOM: Plus, we’re not the only ones who are enjoying spending time outside in warmer weather. For our family pets, the backyard is a place to relax and burn off some energy and play with friends, human and furry. We’re going to share four tips to help improve your outdoor space, to keep pets safe and their humans happy.

    LESLIE: But most importantly, we’re here to help you with your décor and home improvement projects and all of the other things you are working on. Just because you took a weekend off doesn’t mean you can take this one off again, guys. So let us give you a hand. We’re here for you 24 hours a day.

    TOM: Call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

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

    LESLIE: Michelle is on the line from Los Angeles, California with a cleaning question.

    How on Earth did you spill some glue on your floor? Tell us about it.

    MICHELLE: Well, this is an interesting story. My fiancé and I just bought a condo and it needed some renovations. We weren’t planning on buying a fixer-upper; it’s just how it worked out. And one of the things was the floors.

    He decided that he would install them himself; he’d done it once before. And so, these floors required a glue, which a lot of folks like – we know a lot of people and people were like, “Glue? I never heard of glue.” But that’s what the lady that we bought the floors from said, so we got this really intense glue.

    And he kind of slammed through these floors pretty quickly and now I have this glue in fingerprint and bulges on top of the floors. It’s really terrible. And I’m just wondering – so we’ve tried – the turpentine works but it takes the finish off. That’s what you’re supposed to use to get it off your tools and off your hands and stuff? But it takes the finish off the floor. We’ve tried these 5505 wipes that are like $20; that didn’t work. Those are the recommended product: the anti-product to the glue. We’ve tried something called Goof Off or Goo Off or something like that. I don’t know if you have a trick but this glue is really intense.

    TOM: I think what you’re going to have to do is try to get it off as best as you can but you – just buy into the fact that you’re going to probably want to refinish these. And it’s not that big of a deal, by the way. What you could do is get everything off and then what I would do is I would sand the whole surface. And you could rent a floor buffer with a sanding screen. It’s not like a caustic, rough belt sander.

    MICHELLE: Sure. But I don’t think with a sanding screen …

    TOM: No. You put a sanding screen on it and it abrades just sort of the upper surface of the floor.


    TOM: And then once you get that all abraded and even if you have to sand down deeper in the areas that are really bad, it’s OK. Because you get it all abraded and you get it all roughed up just a little bit with the floor buffer and the sanding screen. Clean it up really good so you have no dust and then you get some urethane – clear urethane. You want to use semi-gloss. And you apply that with a lambswool applicator.

    Now, that kind of looks like a mop for a kitchen except there’s lambswool on the end of it. And you essentially pour a little urethane in a paint tray and you mop it on very carefully and very smoothly, working out of the room. And then give it a day or two and it’ll dry and you should be good to go.

    Now, the one other thing I would do is check with the manufacturer of the hardwood floor to see if there’s a specific floor finish that they recommend for refinishing, because I’m not quite sure what they did initially.

    MICHELLE: Thank you very much.

    TOM: You’re very welcome, Michelle. Good luck with that project and congratulations on your upcoming wedding.

    Hey, if you survive the home improvement, you’ll survive the marriage, OK?

    MICHELLE: We’ve been living together five years, so this kind of thing is not new, honestly.

    TOM: It’s nothing, huh? Alright, Michelle.

    MICHELLE: Thank you very much.

    TOM: Take care.

    LESLIE: Phillip in Arizona, you’ve got The Money Pit. What are you working on?

    PHILLIP: I’m looking – be building a house here in about a month.

    TOM: Congratulations. That’s exciting.

    PHILLIP: And I’ve got a question on – thank you – on the house wraps.

    TOM: OK.

    PHILLIP: I know there’s aluminum and there is – I’m understanding there’s also copper out there.

    TOM: Are you talking about a house wrap or are you talking about a radiant barrier?

    PHILLIP: It’s more like a radiant barrier is what it is.

    TOM: So it goes up into the attic space?

    PHILLIP: Yeah. It’s my understanding that – does it not go in the walls, as well?

    TOM: Well, house wrap goes around the walls.


    TOM: But let me give you a tip and now is exactly the right time for you to hear this, because you’re in the rare circumstance where you can take advantage of it. And that is if you want to do the single best thing you can for insulation in your house, I would highly recommend spray-foam insulation, not fiberglass.


    TOM: Spray foam. Spray foam can be applied to the walls during the construction process. It goes on very thin and expands to fill the entire cavity. And it can also be applied to the – well, depending on the style of house. But if you have a traditional Colonial, for example, it can go to the underside of the roof rafters, which is where you would not put the fiberglass, by the way.

    But it’s a different type of assembly so your attic will now be a conditioned space, which means it’s going to be more comfortable year-round if you have to go up there for storage. And the fact that you have spray foam covering the entire exterior wall and the underside of the roof surface means that your home becomes very draft-proof. You’re not going to get warm drafts in Arizona – this is particularly important – from pushing through those walls and pushing through that roof and driving up your cooling costs.

    So, I think aside from worrying about barriers, if you use spray-foam insulation you are going to be very happy with the result. And now is the time to do it. I would look at – Icynene is the brand that I have in my house. Very happy with it. I-c-y-n-e-n-e. Icynene Spray Foam.

    You can go to, OK? Check it out.

    PHILLIP: Will do.

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

    It’s great when we hear from somebody, that’s in the middle or getting ready to build a house, and ask you some good questions about the best insulation technology out there. And we get a chance to tell them about spray foam before they jump into fiberglass. You know, if you’ve got an existing house, you pretty much have to stick with fiberglass unless you do a major reno, like I did. But when you’re building, it’s absolutely the way to go.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Pat in Hawaii on the line with a roofing question. Calling to make us jealous, I am sure.

    Welcome, Pat.

    PAT: So what we have is a house where the interior temperature is – during the day is maybe 83 to 85.

    TOM: OK.

    PAT: And so it has a roof that has the rolled asphalt. And we’d like to put on this application and they’re available at places like Home Depot. There’s two different price points. You can apply it three different ways and so forth but people have told us, that live in that same area as this house, that they have reduced the heat in their house by 20-plus percent by doing this reflective thing on the roof.

    And now, our question is: how do we prep the roof? Do we sweep off any rocks with asphalt? What is the prep?

    TOM: It’s pretty forgiving. You want to get rid of the loose stuff and of course, any moss or anything like that that’s growing on it. But what you’re talking about is fibrous aluminum paint and it’s a UV-reflectant paint. And it does make the roof a lot cooler and that can actually make your house cooler. It’s a very common application, not only in tropics like Hawaii but even places on the East Coast. I’ve seen it on roofs in Washington, D.C. Definitely a good thing to do.

    PAT: OK. And so if – also, my husband’s question was – and so does your roof last longer with that on there?

    TOM: Yeah, theoretically it will because if you reflect the UV, you’ll have less deterioration of the oils in the asphalt, less evaporation of that. And that can make the roof last longer. Another good reason to do it.

    PAT: OK. And any specific on application? Whichever one works out best for you? Is that what they’re saying?

    TOM: Well, I don’t have any specific recommendations on a product but on the concept, I think it’s solid.

    PAT: That’s wonderful. That’s a great idea. I think you answered my question. Thank you very much.

    TOM: Alright, Pat. Good luck with that project. 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 Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor, the fast and easy way to find the best home service pros in your area. You can read reviews, compare prices and book appointments all online.

    TOM: Just ahead, when it comes to maintaining your home, painting is the most basic of DIY projects. But it’s also a project that can go terribly wrong if you don’t do just three things before you start. We’ll share those steps, just ahead, in today’s Building with Confidence Tip presented by Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans, next.

    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. We’re here to help you with your home improvement projects and your décor dilemmas, as well. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Rich in California needs some help in the yard. What’s going on?

    RICH: Yeah. I put – I bought my house about six years ago and I put sod in the front yard. I rototilled it.

    TOM: OK.

    RICH: And the Bermuda grass has taken over.

    TOM: Oh, boy.

    RICH: How do you get rid of Bermuda grass without killing the sod or any other plants that you have?

    TOM: Well, there’s a product by Bonide – B-o-n-i-d-e – called BurnOut Weed and Grass Killer. It comes in a ready-to-use spray applicator. And that’s specifically designed to get rid of the Bermuda grass.

    Now, in some cases, when it’s intermixed with the grass you want to keep, you can’t split it out. So what you end up doing is waiting until the fall, when it’s cooler, and you spray the weed-killer product and then you wait for the weeds and the lawn in that area to die down. And then you seed right through that.

    So you don’t have to take up the lawn; you can seed right through the dead lawn now and then have it come back up in the spring next year. But that can only be done in the fall, because it takes that long for the roots to grow deep enough so that when the summer rolls around, there’s plenty of water available for that grass.

    So, that’s one approach: BurnOut. And it’s made by Bonide and you can find it pretty much across the country, in garden stores and home centers and such.

    RICH: Yeah. I do have one question. I bought some stuff that you have to mix it with so many gallons of water. Can you over – if you don’t mix it correctly, can you end up killing your sod if you don’t mix enough water with it?

    TOM: In any event, with all of these products there, they may be available as concentrate. And you do absolutely need to follow the label directions, in terms of that concentrate-to-water mixture.

    And if you make it too strong, it could have adverse effects. Is it going to have an adverse effect for you on that day? It may or it may not. But it’s real important that you follow the manufacturer’s specifications on that. They put a lot of time and energy and expense and technology into making sure these mixes are designed to perform consistent with those instructions. And so, you kind of ruin that chemical balance if you don’t mix it with the right amount of water.

    So, I would definitely make sure you follow the letter of the instructions on that.

    RICH: OK. Yeah. It pretty much took over my yard.

    TOM: Alright. Alright.

    RICH: I used to have the green grass in the wintertime. I was the only one.

    TOM: Yeah.

    RICH: Now, it’s not no more. And I spent a fortune and it’s the city side that has the Bermuda grass and – from the sidewalk to the street.

    TOM: Yep.

    RICH: And so but – OK, I’ll look into that, you know? I thank you for very much for taking my call. I appreciate it.

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

    LESLIE: Well, when it comes to maintaining your home, painting or even staining wood surfaces is important to keep your siding and trim in good shape. But while painting is a task that’s really among the most basic of DIY projects, it’s also one where simple mistakes can lead to really big heartache.

    TOM: Yes. And the key comes down to preparation. Weathered surfaces need to be cleaned and loose paint has to be removed before you even think about opening a can of paint. If not, the new paint simply won’t stick and your efforts will be wasted.

    LESLIE: Next, it’s always smart to apply a coat of primer first. Guys, primer is formulated differently than paint. Paint’s meant to be a finished coat; primer is meant to be the first coat. It’s got better adhesion, so it’s going to stick to those old surfaces. And then it prevents that new paint from peeling right off, so you’ve got to prime. Don’t skip that step.

    TOM: Yeah. And thirdly, for the best finished look, be sure to choose the right kind of paintbrush. There are differences. Natural-bristle brushes are best for applying oil-based paints. But for latex, synthetic-bristle brushes deliver the best results and help maintain the value of your home.

    LESLIE: And today’s Building with Confidence Tip has been brought to you by Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans. It’s completely online and reduces annoying and time-consuming paperwork and gives you a real, accurate and personalized mortgage solution based on your unique financial situation. No hidden fees or hassles.

    TOM: Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans. Apply simply, understand fully, mortgage confidently.

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

    JAN: We have a – it’s a very small bathroom and they had built a tile shower in this – like the middle of the room. And I want to know if you can change the places where the shower and the toilet are: if you can just reverse them and use the existing drains.

    TOM: No, you can’t because the shower drain is about half of the size of the toilet’s drain waste/vent pipe.

    LESLIE: And it’s a gray-water line, too.

    TOM: Yeah. It’s not – well, they’re going to drain to the same place but you’d have to reconfigure the plumbing. So it’s not quite that easy but not impossible.

    What is this bathroom built on? Is it over a crawlspace or a basement, by any chance, or is it over a slab?

    JAN: It’s on a slab.

    TOM: Very expensive project. I would think of something – other way to redecorate that bathroom and make it pleasant for you. Because switching those is a big job; you’re going to have to tear up the floor to do the plumbing.

    JAN: Oh, wow. OK. Well, I guess we’ll just leave it the way it is.

    TOM: Looking better all the time, isn’t it, Jan?

    JAN: Well, no. But I mean it is what it is.

    TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    What were they thinking when they put the shower in the middle of the room?

    LESLIE: Views from every part of the bathroom? I’m not sure.

    TOM: That’s not a walk-up shower, it’s a walk-around shower.

    LESLIE: Tony in Virginia is on the line with some creaky stairs. Tell us what’s going on.

    TONY: Well, I’ve got a 55-year-old ranch house and this time, before we change the carpet, I’d like to try and get some of the creaks out of the stairs that go to the basement.

    TOM: OK.

    TONY: And on each step, I’ve put seven 2-inch screws where the – around where the finishing nails were. And then on the back plate, I put six screws. And some of the squeak is definitely better but they’re still very squeaky.

    TOM: So, what kind of staircase is it? Is it – do you know your stairs? Is this what’s called a “box stair,” where you have a wide stringer on the side of it that goes all the way down to the basement?

    TONY: Correct.

    TOM: And so can you get to that face? So could we screw through the stringer, into the edges of the treads?

    TONY: Boy, that would be tough because it’s a crawlspace. It’s possible but it would be almost heroic to get to that spot.

    TOM: OK, I hear you. So here is a way – and you’re going to carpet this, so we really don’t care how pretty this repair that I’m about to tell you to do is, because it’ll be covered by carpet.

    But where the treads go into the stringers, what you can do there is on a 45-degree angle, you can pilot first some small holes. And then drive the screws at an angle through the tread, catching as much of the tread meat as you dare, and then going through the back of the tread and then into the stringer itself. Because probably where the tread pulls in and out of the stringer is where you’re getting most of your squeak. I’m going to imagine that what you screwed down right now is the attachment between the tread and the risers, because those are more accessible. But we want you to actually – to secure the tread into the stringers on both sides.

    So do that sort of by nailing – not nailing but screwing at a 45-degree angle, piloting first, but not with a big pilot. Just enough to kind of keep the screw straight. And that will pull the tread down into the stringer and hopefully lock it in place. That plus what you’ve already done, Tony, I think is the best that you can do. You know, wood stairs have a lot of parts to them and they do move as you walk up and down. They will squeak. But if you try to secure those loose treads before you carpet them, I think it’ll make a big difference, OK?

    TONY: Thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Well, unless your home is equipped with hurricane shutters, an approaching storm means you’d better get busy putting up that plywood. Kevin O’Connor from This Old House is joining us next with tips to help make sure you’re ready well ahead of those high winds.

    TOM: And today’s edition of This Old House on The Money Pit is brought to you by ADT. Introducing ADT Go, the new family mobile safety app and service. Go to to learn more today.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Standing by to help you with your home improvement projects. Help yourself first: call us, right now, 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

    LESLIE: Mark in Florida is on the line with a question about termite insurance. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.

    MARK: Was calling to get your opinion on termite bond. And what kind of got me interested in this is I actually sat down and read it – read the contract – one day.

    TOM: Right. Mm-hmm.

    MARK: And if I recall, I think Tom was talking about his daughter in college or something. He sat down and read the contract for a lease or something. I just …

    TOM: Yeah, that’s right.

    MARK: I read that contract and I’m like, “Hey, this thing probably could be a little bit better to protect me.”

    TOM: For a consumer, right?

    MARK: Because as I read it, I thought this is protecting them.

    TOM: Yeah.

    MARK: I mean there was point after point after point that I just thought was very disadvantageous to me.

    TOM: Yeah.

    MARK: And I just wanted to call in. And one of the things that comes to my mind is I’d love to have the bond but if – I don’t have a problem paying a fair amount of money for that. But after you read the contract, it’s like wait a second.

    TOM: It’s kind of a service contract. And my parents have a house down in Florida and the folks in this development that they live in are all from the New York/New Jersey/Pennsylvania area, where we have subterranean termites, right? They’re very common here. But they’re not common in Florida. But because they’re common in New Jersey, they sell them termite contracts and people think that they need them because they needed them back up north, right?

    MARK: Yeah.

    TOM: So they clearly take advantage of people in that. And these contracts – these service contracts, they call them “bonds” – are only going to cover you if an infestation is discovered while the contract is in place. And they’re not inexpensive.

    I think the best way to protect yourself from a problem showing itself is to find a very good company that does very good termite inspections. I do think it’s worth having an inspection done on an annual basis, because a good inspector can pick up signs that you may miss.

    MARK: Sure, sure.

    TOM: And if you can catch these insects early enough, then you could take the appropriate steps.

    Now, in Florida, you have drywood termites, which are a little more difficult. But in this development I was telling you about, the houses are 80-percent concrete block. So they’re not even going to be able to eat the walls. The only wood in the place is the roof.

    MARK: Sure.

    TOM: And so, that’s why I thought they were really being – they were really taking advantage of these seniors in this particular situation.

    So, I think the best assurance that you’re not going to have a termite problem in the long run is to get a good-quality inspection.

    MARK: Sounds good.

    TOM: And have that done on an annual basis.

    MARK: I really enjoy the show and appreciate all the advice you give us.

    TOM: Alright. Well, we’re glad we’re able to help you out. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, unless your home is equipped with hurricane shutters, an approaching storm means you had better get busy putting up some plywood.

    TOM: Well, that’s right. And that does take some work. There are some ways to make the project go easier, though. And with us to talk about that is Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House.

    Welcome, Kevin.

    KEVIN: Hi, guys.

    TOM: We have had an awful lot of storms this past year and I think more and more folks are looking for a way to make this project a little less stressful. What do you think?

    KEVIN: Well, I think it is very important and actually keep this in mind, because the damage to your house can actually be significant. And one of the biggest problems is when the house has a penetration in it. If you lose a window or you lose a door, it’s not just the glass or the door that’s at risk: it’s the entire house, because it can pressurize and it can literally blow the roof off the house and cause the whole house catastrophic damage. So you really do need to pay attention to this.

    TOM: So now is the right time to actually fit hurricane shutters before we have a hurricane or any other type of storm, right? You don’t have the stress, there’s no lines at the home centers buying plywood. It’s a project that you could tackle at your own leisure and be ready for the next one.

    KEVIN: Do it now when it is sunny and dry so that you’re prepared for the next storm. And start with a good, thick piece of plywood; 5/8-inch thick is the way to go. And keep in mind that you’re going to be reusing these, so put a little thought into it.

    Measure beyond the window about an inch on either side. Try to find out where the studs are, because that’s what you’re going to be screwing into. Cut the plywood so it covers the entire window and screw it into those studs, preferably every 16 inches. Don’t nail it, because you’re going to be taking these screws out, taking this plywood off and reusing it over time.

    TOM: And that attachment is definitely something you want to think about.

    What about hanger bolts, the kind that have sort of a lag on one side and a machine thread on the other?

    KEVIN: Well, what’s great about this is if you’re actually putting these on and off, on and off, screwing in and out even into the studs, that can loosen up over time. And so the hanger bolts allow you, with a permanent fixture, a permanent sleeve in the house. And the bolt goes into that, secures the plywood and it comes off very easily. And you don’t have to worry about that connection deteriorating over time.

    LESLIE: Now, it’s probably a good idea, with your – I want to call them “homemade hurricane shutters” with the plywood – to label which way is up, which window is what.

    KEVIN: Sure. Right.

    LESLIE: Otherwise, a storm’s coming, you’re going to be standing there with the biggest puzzle you’ve ever seen.

    KEVIN: You’ve probably got 20, 30 maybe 40 windows on the house. There’s a whole bunch of different sizes. You do not want to be thinking about this when the skies are starting to get dark and the rain is starting to fall.

    Exactly right, Leslie. Label them, number them, you’re good to go.

    TOM: Now, if you have a masonry house, there’s another way that you can install these and you’re suggesting using barrel bolts for that.

    KEVIN: Yeah. You don’t want to be drilling into the masonry, into the brick and having to secure in and out of that all the time. So now you cut the plywood so that it’s the size of the opening, so it fits within the opening. And then these barrel bolts, you can imagine them being a deadbolt on a door where you actually slide it into the hole. Put those around the perimeter of the plywood and then slide them into the masonry so it holds it nice and secure.

    LESLIE: Can I ask you guys this silly question? You know, we were faced with Irene in the Northeast and I can’t tell you how many times I saw people taping up windows. Does that do anything?

    KEVIN: Well, it doesn’t …

    TOM: It depends. I saw a lot of people taping it up with the blue masking tape. I don’t think that does so much.

    LESLIE: Right. I saw clear packing tape and I saw blue tape for painter’s tape. And I was like, “I don’t think either are going to do anything.”

    KEVIN: So, wait, I think here’s what the homeowner is imagining: that they’re going to have a tree limb, for example, come flying through the window and the glass is going to shatter. The tape may cut down on some of the shatter but as I said before, that’s not the real risk.


    KEVIN: Broken glass is easy to clean up. The risk is that that house gets pressurized and you have something much more major going on with the home.

    TOM: Good point.

    Now, Kevin, to completely avoid the potential of storm damage, it seems that it makes more sense to consider, these days, the storm resistance when you buy anything in terms of building material, whether it’s siding or doors or windows, don’t you agree?

    KEVIN: Yeah, I do. If you’re going to replace anything, if you’re going to fix anything, if you’re going to renovate anything, this is the time to upgrade. And code helps us with that but all codes are not created equal.

    And if you recall Hurricane Andrew, which hit South Florida back in 1992, that really forced the Miami-Dade County to step up their building code. And they probably have the strongest, tightest code out there right now. So if you want to know what to get, look to that building code. And if you build to that, you’ve built to the best code that we’ve got in this country.

    TOM: And that’s a good point. And that’s a bragging point for a lot of manufacturers. They will actually brag on their labeling and identify that their particular product meets that Miami-Dade building code. And as you say, if it does, you know that you’re good to go.

    KEVIN: Absolutely.

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

    KEVIN: Pleasure to be here.

    LESLIE: Alright. You can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For local listings and step-by-step videos on this project and others that you can do for your home, visit

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

    Up next, this is the time of year your outdoor-living space might be one of your favorite places to be. But that goes for your pets, too. We’re going to have four tips to help improve your outdoor space in a way that keeps those pets safe and their humans happy, next.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And we’d love to hear from you. Just call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor. They really have the best local pros for any home service.

    LESLIE: That’s right. Doesn’t matter what the project is, they make it fast and easy to find top-rated pros.

    TOM: And there are no membership fees. It’s 100-percent free to use.

    LESLIE: Steve in Wisconsin has a question about a fireplace. Tell us what you’re working on.

    STEVE: My fireplace, it’s a wood-burner – wood-burning fireplace. And about a year ago, all of a sudden I found a damper would be locked open. And I found a piece of mortar wedged down underneath it, behind it. And it’s a fairly big piece of mortar. And I was wondering how to get up in there to patch where it came loose from.

    TOM: So, the damper is blocked open by the loose piece of mortar?

    STEVE: It was. I got it out.

    TOM: You got the mortar out but now you want to patch it.

    STEVE: Yeah.

    TOM: Yeah, that’s tricky because you need some special tools to be able to reach up there. And the chimney sweeps have those types of tools.

    How far above the damper is where the mortar fell out?

    STEVE: I don’t even know yet. I haven’t gotten up there with a camera or nothing. I can’t.

    TOM: Well, the first thing you’ve got to do is figure out how bad this is. Now, if you can’t physically do that, you ought to have it inspected. But I want to warn you that there are two trades in America that very consistently provide advice designed to make you panic and pay. And one of them is a chimney contractor and the other one is the wet-basement contractor.

    So, you might want to just be very careful about who you select and make sure that if they give you advice that says – you know, words to the effect of – “Oh, my God, it’s terrible and your house is going to be burn down unless you pay me all this money today,” which is usually what comes across, get a second opinion to make sure you’re getting the right story.

    STEVE: Right. Yeah.

    TOM: You might want to use and read the reviews. You can find good-quality contractors on that website.

    STEVE: OK.

    TOM: But I think you ought to have it evaluated. Because right now, all you know is one piece of mortar fell out. It could very well be that there’s a lot more damage inside that chimney that you don’t know. Worst case scenario, you’re going to want to reline it.

    STEVE: Right. Yeah.

    TOM: And that would take care of that, OK?

    STEVE: This is a huge piece. It’s like 10×7 inches.

    TOM: Yeah. Well, I mean – and that usually didn’t – it’s probably not alone. Probably has some other pieces in there that are ready to go. So I would definitely have it evaluated by somebody that knows what they’re looking at, OK?

    STEVE: OK.

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

    Well, if you love spending time in your deck and your patio in the backyard, in this warm weather, that definitely goes for your pets, too. But pets can tear up a backyard space pretty quickly and even get into things that could hurt them if you’re not careful.

    Here’s four ways you can improve your outdoor space and keep the pets safe and you happy, too.

    LESLIE: Alright. First of all, guys, skip that fake grass. Now, artificial turf that never needs mowing can be a really attractive idea. But if you have pets, know that that plastic grass can get very hot during the summer. And it’s also challenging to clean. If you want to have fake grass, be a backyard superhero and select real turf grass for areas where pets hang out.

    TOM: Next, you want to be picky about picking the right plants and grasses. For grass, go with something that’s hearty, that’s going to withstand a high volume of traffic. Buffalo and Bermuda grasses can be a good choice, depending on your climate zone. For other plants and shrubs, you can check this online resource: it’s ASPCA’s list of toxic and non-toxic garden plants. And get some advice before you buy those plants.

    You’re going to want soft, yet sturdy foliage near the walkways. So, save the delicate, decorative flowers for those elevated flower beds and the patio flowerpots.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And it’s also a good idea to consider pollinators and the other wildlife in your area. While you want to keep some of those pests out, you have to remember that nature starts in your backyard.

    Now, your family provides habitat and food for birds, butterflies, bees and more. And each of these species help pollinate human food crops and flowering plants. So take them into consideration when you’re selecting your living landscape.

    TOM: And if you want to go all out and make your yard a dream yard for your dog, some ideas might include adding a splash pool for your pup. That’s kind of fun. Keep the dog cool. You could also create a sandbox just for the dog to unleash their love of digging. Or maybe set up a little puppy pergola so you’ll have some shade.

    Be creative. Your canine will thank you and be safer for your efforts. Hey, we’ve got more tips on building safer spaces for pets indoors and out, right now, on

    LESLIE: Well, keeping your home clean really does seem like a never-ending battle. And knowing what products to use and how to use them, well, that’s a minefield. We’re going to help you tackle some tough cleaning questions, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: So glad to be here to help you with your home improvement projects and your décor dilemmas and your remodeling jobs and projects you want to plan for now and for the future. If you’ve got a question about just that, call us at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor. Need new flooring in your kitchen or bath or you’re thinking about a deck this summer? Well, HomeAdvisor can instantly match you with the right pro for the job, for free.

    LESLIE: Alright. But you’ve got two pros here answering your questions, right now, from our Community section with a post from Emily. Now, Emily writes: “I’m noticing some buildup in the drum of both my washing machine and my dryer. What’s the best way to clean the inside of both of these appliances?”

    TOM: Well, for the washing machine, there is a really easy way to do that. And there’s a line of products from Glisten – G-l-i-s-t-e-n – where, essentially, you drop these – you drop this into the washing machine and run it through a cycle. And it breaks down all the hard-water buildup and things like stains and things like that that gets stuck in the machine. If you do that every few months, it does a pretty good job. They also have a version for your dishwasher and even a good one for your microwave cleaner.

    For the dryer, it’s more of sort of a project you have to do by hand. You have to get in there and get those stains off of the dryer by hand. Now, if they’re mineral-deposit stains that are left behind, you could try using a little vinegar-water combination. That usually melts it right away. If it’s that sort of crusty, white stuff, that should take it right off.

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post here from Steve who writes: “We’re thinking of installing a granite vanity in the master bath. Someone told me that oil and grease stains cannot be removed from granite. Is this true? And what’s the best way to clean granite?”

    TOM: Well, I think the misnomer about granite, Leslie – and you see this in the décor business. I mean people think it’s indestructible because it’s been around for a billion years, right? Well, it may be but that doesn’t mean it’s always going to look the way it did when you put it down. It needs a lot of maintenance. You’ve got to seal it, professionally, probably at least once a year. And you’ve got to maintain it after that.

    Now, maintaining granite surfaces is easy. You simply use warm water and dish soap and then you can polish it with a microfiber cloth. And if you want to disinfect it, an easy way to do that is to put some isopropyl alcohol in a spray bottle and just spray the alcohol over the surface and then sort of wipe it down. And that will disinfect it. But they do require a lot more work than other surfaces.

    I think quartz is probably a lot less likely to absorb stains compared to granite. But granite is pretty absorbent. So if you don’t seal it, maintain it, you definitely are going to have some maintenance issues to deal with.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And I think it also makes sense to say that the lighter the color of the granite or the hard, solid surface, the more maintenance it’s going to need. You’ll have to seal it more often, you’ll have to take care of it more often. And truly, if anything does spill, just do your best to clean it up right away, especially in that category of oils or lemon juice even, which is so crazy. It tears away at things, so you have to make sure that you clean things up right away.

    TOM: Alright. Jonathan wants to know about VOCs when painting kitchen cabinets. “Is it OK to use an oil-based primer with a latex topcoat in order to cut down exposure of VOCs?”

    My advice on cabinets is to use oil-based for both the primer and the topcoat and here’s why: because oil-based finishes are much more durable. Latex is great for almost everything but when it comes to durability, you can’t beat an oil finish. And with a cabinet, they take a lot of abuse, so you definitely want to use an oil-based finish for that.

    But the good news is that a lot of VOCs that you may have experienced growing up, they’re just not in the finishes anymore. The environmental regulations have changed and so I think you can get a really good job and a low exposure to VOCs by using oil-based primer and topcoat with kitchen cabinets.

    LESLIE: And you’ll be amazed at how beautifully it finishes. It just gives you a different kind of sheen and a different kind of durability for those cabinets.

    TOM: You are listening to The Money Pit. Thank you so much for spending this time with us. We hope we’ve given you some tips and ideas for projects around your house. Remember, we are here for you as a resource any time you need us. You can always head on over to, post your question to the Community page or call us, 24/7, at 888-MONEY-PIT. If we’re not in the studio, we will get to you the next time we are.

    I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …

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


    (Copyright 2018 Squeaky Door Productions, Inc. No portion of this transcript or audio file may be reproduced in any format without the express written permission of Squeaky Door Productions, Inc.)

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