How to Hire Pro Surveyors

  • Transcript

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And we are so glad to be here with you this weekend – this final daylight savings weekend – and we’re going to have to say goodbye to that extra hour of daylight for another few months as we head into the dark days of winter. But your house doesn’t have to be dark. We’re going to give you some tips on how to spruce it up, if that’s a project on your to-do list. Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Coming up on today’s show, if you own a home and you want to take on just about any outdoor project, like building a deck or a fence or a patio or even adding a room, you need to know the exact dimensions of your lot. And that’s a job that falls to a land surveyor. But not all of those guys are created equal. We’re going to tell you how to select the best pro for your property.

    LESLIE: Plus, everyone loves a beautiful, green lawn but not so much the time, expense and hassle it takes to keep that lawn green by watering it, cutting it. We’re going to tell you about a new type of grass seed that needs about 25 percent of the usual watering and cutting. And it will remain green all year long.

    TOM: And if you love the look of greenery around the outside of your home but seem to have only a black thumb when it comes to getting that green to flourish inside your house, we’re going to have a solution for that.

    LESLIE: And give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT for your chance to win a great prize. We’ve got a fantastic set of products that are going to keep your home clean and green.

    TOM: That’s right. We’ve got the JAWS Ultimate Cleaning Kit going out to one caller drawn at random. That’s the Just Add Water System and it includes a full range of cleaning products for every hard surface in your home.

    That kit’s worth 44.99. Going out to one caller drawn at random. You want a shot at winning it? You’ve got to call us, right now, with your home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Liz in New Jersey is on the line and she has a kind of thrifty idea. She wants to reuse wall-to-wall carpeting? What’s going on?

    LIZ: Yes. I have carpeting that is 20 years old but it’s in my living room, which hardly anybody – you don’t have to step on it to go through other parts of the house. And it looks fine. And I was wondering if I could have that taken up, because underneath is hardwood and I wanted to refinish it. But my carpeting in my bedroom, which is smaller, is worn. And I was wondering if I could put that carpet in the bedroom.

    TOM: I don’t see any reason that you couldn’t do that. You know, pulling the carpet up is pretty easy to do as long as it was put down correctly to begin with.

    Now, I will caution you, if that space in the living room turns out to be not one piece of carpet but carpet with a seam in the middle of it, that seam could be your weak link. That seam might not be obvious to you, if it was done well to begin with, but when you take the carpet up, you may find that it’s basically two pieces of wall-to-wall carpet seamed together with seam tape. And then if you try to move that piece upstairs, the tape could break apart because now you’re kind of disturbing it. And you may have a bit of a mess on your hands.

    But I see no reason why you couldn’t reuse the carpet. It’s certainly possible. That said, I think the most expensive part of this project is going to be the labor, because you’re going to have to have a professional carpet installer do this work. And considering the fact that the upstairs bedroom is fairly small, the added cost of brand-new carpet might not really add that much to the overall project.

    LIZ: Oh.

    TOM: So think about the economics of this, OK? If you’re going to spend money on an installer, then it’s going to cost you X dollars to have them come in, take the old carpet out, cut a new piece to fit upstairs and move it upstairs. How much more can the carpet possibly cost you, especially if you bought a remnant or something of that nature?

    LIZ: Oh, I see. Yeah. I think it’s one whole, long piece. I really do.

    LESLIE: It depends. Because, usually, the bolts of carpeting are 13 feet. So if you’ve got a run of the room that’s bigger than 13 feet, then you’re probably going to have a seam somewhere in there.

    The other thing to consider is that 20-year-old padding might not be reusable, so you might have to get new padding. Whereas if you got new carpeting, they’re going to throw in padding, for the most part. So, think of all those things.

    TOM: Alright, Liz. Well, good luck with that project. We gave you some stuff to think about, 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Floyd in Iowa on the line who needs some help with a crawlspace. Tell us about it.

    FLOYD: OK. I just recently purchased a home. And in part of the basement, I have a crawlspace. And when the inspector came in to do the inspection on the house, he recommended that I put plastic down and to close the vent. When I was listening to you guys’ show the other day, I noticed that you guys said something about keeping the vents open so nothing ventilates into the house. So I was just kind of trying to find out which direction should I go? What kind of plastic should I use? And does it sound like a good idea?

    TOM: OK. So, let me clarify for you. First of all, putting a plastic vapor barrier down across the floor of a crawlspace is always a good idea. You use the plastic Visqueen – the big, wide sheets – overlap them about 3 feet. Try to get as much of that surface covered. What you’re doing is preventing some of the evaporation of soil – of moisture up through the soil – so that’s a good thing.

    In terms of the vents, the vents should be opened throughout most of the year except, perhaps, just the coldest months of the winter. So if you close it, say, November and December and maybe January, that’d be OK. But for the rest of the year, those vents should be open because it helps take the moisture out.

    FLOYD: Now, I also have insulation up in the rafters of the floor joists. Is it a good idea to put – or to seal that with any kind of plastic at all or should I leave those exposed?

    TOM: Nope. No, you can leave it exposed just like that. It needs to ventilate.

    FLOYD: OK. Good deal.

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

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

    STEVEN: I’ve got this porch and it’s got really, really old wood. I guess it’s about 15, 20 years old. Anyway, I cut it up to make a long, shorter porch and I winter-protected it about two years ago with Thompson’s WaterSeal which – it did a job. It just turned pretty looking wood into ugly wood. And I water-treated it. Now I’ve got my wood back and I want to treat it again but I don’t want it to go ugly on me.

    TOM: You don’t want it to go ugly on you, huh?

    STEVEN: Right. Yeah.

    TOM: Well, what kind of wood is the floor, Steven?

    STEVEN: I’m pretty sure it’s pine.

    TOM: Pine. OK. So, what I would recommend you do is apply a solid stain to that floor. Because a solid-color stain is going to have enough pigment in it where you’ll see the grain come through it but it’s not going to wear off and go ugly on you, I should say. Solid-color staining is what we use on decks. It’s also what we use on porch floors. It’s not like paint; it’s stain. But it’s going to show that grain.

    STEVEN: OK. Do I need to water-seal it after that?

    TOM: You do not. It’s all built in. Alright? So look for solid-color wood stain and that’ll do it.

    STEVEN: Oh, man, I appreciate that. Because I was dreading it, you know? Because I mean it’s just pretty to look at. We’ve got nice, good-textured wood and I just remember what happened last time. Man, I just don’t want to do that again.

    TOM: Yeah, it’s a lot of work just to use the sealer and stop right there. Because what happens is the UV-radiation from the sun gets to it, it breaks down the wood fibers and it starts to gray out on you. So, if you use a solid-color stain – and you can go right on top of what’s there now; just make sure it’s clean – you’ll be good to go.

    STEVEN: Yeah. We just got through pressure-washing it and that’s what got all the Thompson’s WaterSeal up.

    TOM: Yeah, just make sure it dries thoroughly before you stain it, OK?

    STEVEN: Hey, man, I appreciate you and I listen to you all the time. You all are great.

    TOM: Alright. Thank you so much. Good luck with that project.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Give us a call with your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week right here at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Well, if you own a home and you want to take on just about any outdoor project – like, say, building a patio, a deck, a fence or even adding a room – you need to know the exact dimensions of your lot. Now, that’s a job that falls to a land surveyor. But not all of these folks are created equal. We’re going to tell you how to select the best pro for your property, in today’s Pro Project presented by, 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: Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT with your home improvement question 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 HomeAdvisor’s top-rated pros for free, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: And hey, here’s another great reason to reach out to The Money Pit. Not only are you going to get the answer to your question that’ll help you tackle all the things around your house, we’ve got also up for grabs the JAWS Ultimate Cleaning Kit.

    Now, JAWS has concentrated, streak-free, eco-friendly cleaning products for every job, every room, every nook and cranny in your house. And the best part is it’s entirely reusable. You’re going to get two pods per cleaning product. There’s a product for pretty much every part of your house and every surface. You put that in the reusable bottle, add water to the fill line and instantly, you’ve got a brand-new set of cleaners.

    It’s a fantastic product. Super environmentally-friendly. It’s a great prize worth 44.99 but it could be yours for free if you call in. Also, Money Pit listeners can save 25 percent on every purchase at Just use the promo code MONEYPIT when you check out.

    TOM: Rethink the way you clean with JAWS, the Just Add Water System.

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

    WENDY: I have two drafty doors and we opted to use the peel-and-stick foam insulator.

    TOM: OK.

    WENDY: And it didn’t work that well. And it just created more of a gap, it seems like. It just didn’t work at all and I’m just wondering what kind of solution can we use instead of the peel-and-stick, fill-in stuff.

    TOM: So, when you say the peel-and-stick foam, do you mean when the doors close, you get drafts that come through them and you use the peel-and-stick weather-stripping?

    WENDY: Yes.

    TOM: Do you want to operate these doors in the wintertime?

    WENDY: Mm-hmm. Definitely.

    TOM: And what kind of doors are they? What are they made of? Are they metal doors or are they …?

    WENDY: It’s a metal door.

    TOM: So it’s an old, metal, sliding-glass door.

    WENDY: No, it’s a regular door. It’s just – and it goes out to our patio but it’s not a wood door. It’s made of metal.

    TOM: Oh, it’s a metal door. It’s a regular metal door.

    WENDY: Yes.

    TOM: Are the drafts coming in around the sides and top of the door or are they coming under the door?

    WENDY: Under the door and on the side, right where the door locks.

    TOM: If the door is out of alignment – in other words, if you close the door and it doesn’t evenly strike the jamb all the way around – it’s going to be almost impossible to get a seal from that type of weather-stripping. It’s got to strike the weather-stripping and then compress it a little bit to give you the seal.

    Now, I would take a look, very carefully closing that door – open and close it from the outside – bringing it to where it just starts to touch the jamb and see if it strikes evenly all the way around. If it doesn’t strike evenly, then you need to adjust the door. And that’s usually done by moving the door jamb one way or the other to get it to basically hang better so that it will strike evenly.

    In terms of the door at the bottom, the door saddle might be replaceable. Or in the alternative, you could do something that’s probably even easier and less expensive – is you could put a door sweep on the bottom of the door.

    Now, a sweep attaches to the face of the door and it basically goes right down to the floor. It looks kind of broom-like; it has bristles that are really tight together. And that actually will help a lot of the breeze that’s coming through and under the door.

    WENDY: OK.

    TOM: And then, of course, you could always go with a storm door and that’s another way to approach the whole thing, OK?

    WENDY: That sounds perfect.

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

    LESLIE: Well, when you buy a home or if you own one and you want to take on just about any outdoor project – like building a patio, a deck, a fence or adding a room onto your house – you’ve got to know the exact dimensions of your lot. And that’s a job that falls to a land surveyor. We’ve got tips on how to select the best pro for your property, in today’s Pro Project presented by

    Now, first off, a land survey, in its simplest terms, basically defines the boundaries of your plot and it’s an assessment that’s done by a licensed pro. You need it when you first buy a house. And it’s often important when it comes to doing improvements, like adding a fence or even building a patio or a deck or addition, because it helps make sure you follow local zoning laws, which can dictate how far you can build to your neighbor’s property line. And it can help make sure, also, that you don’t inadvertently build over on your neighbor’s property line, which could be really bad.

    LESLIE: Yeah, seriously. That could be a huge problem.

    Now, when it comes to finding a land surveyor in your area, it’s really important to check their credentials. Most states are going to require that these pros have licensing and insurance. You want to make sure that they’re familiar with the type of terrain that your house is on. The more complex your project, the more experienced that assessor’s got to be. And you need to read surveyor reviews and ask for references. The cheapest pro isn’t always the right one. If you want the results to hold up in court or in case of a real-estate transaction, the reputation of that pro is paramount.

    TOM: Now, you should also understand the few things that land surveyors can do. They’re going to do boundary-line adjustments. So if the boundary line or the property line needs to be adjusted, they can do that. They can also provide a legal boundary-line description, which is basically what goes in your deed. They can create maps of individual plots and they can locate and pinpoint utility lines so you don’t hit them when you dig.

    Now, in addition to doing your homework when hiring that surveyor, there are a couple of things you can do to make that process simpler and less expensive. For example, if you’re going to do a fence and the land surveyor has to shoot a line down the side of your property, it might be a really good idea if you cleared the area around that property line to give the professional very easy access. And of course, if you’ve got an old survey and you can provide that with the pro, that really helps, as well, because it helps them locate what the reference points were the last time that the plot – that was done. And this way, they can make sure nothing has changed.

    LESLIE: And that’s today’s Pro Project presented by With HomeAdvisor, you can get matched with top-rated home service pros in your area, compare prices, read verified reviews and book appointments online, all for free.

    TOM: No matter the type of job, HomeAdvisor makes it fast and easy to hire the best local pros.

    LESLIE: Ralph in Pennsylvania is on the line with a heating issue. What’s going on?

    RALPH: I have a flat post (ph) on my house, right? And it’s one room that, I guess, when they built the house, they planned it to be a garage? And I’m using that room because it’s really nice but I can’t get it to heat up for some reason. It seems like the – it’s like a draft coming in there. And I can’t get the room warm at all.

    TOM: And how are you heating it? What’s the heating system look like for that particular room?

    RALPH: I don’t have heat in that room.

    TOM: But you say you can’t heat it up. But how are you trying to heat it up?

    RALPH: Oh, I don’t want to – I own one of those ammos (ph) heaters: you know, the stoves?

    TOM: So, you’re using a portable heater and you’re not – it’s still – it’s not warming up. Is that your – is that the situation?

    RALPH: Correct.

    TOM: A couple of things. First of all, garages are essentially the exterior of your house. And so, if they’re not built to contain heat, then they’re going to be very difficult for you to do just that. You mentioned it has a flat roof, so you don’t have a lot of access to that roof space where you could add insulation.

    The walls. Are the walls insulated?

    RALPH: Yes, they are. It’s actually – the garage is actually attached to the house. It’s like part of the house. There’s a big door, actually.

    TOM: So this is part of your house but it’s not part of the central heating system for the house?

    RALPH: Correct. Correct.

    TOM: Yeah. See, I really think you need to have more BTUs in that space, as well. So, I don’t think you’re getting enough heat out of this portable unit. How is your – how is the rest of the house heated? Oil? Gas? Electric? What?

    RALPH: Oil.

    TOM: Oil, OK. Hot air? Forced air?

    RALPH: Correct.

    TOM: Is there an opportunity to extend the heating system ducts – supply and return – into that area that was formerly a garage?

    RALPH: Yeah. I think that’s where – maybe that’s what I have to do. I don’t know. But it – my problem is, actually, that I feel a draft. Even if I take out the plates on the floors and whatnot, on the outlets, I can feel air coming through there.

    TOM: Yeah. So you’re going to probably have to do some comprehensive draft-proofing.

    So, look, first of all, you need to extend the heating system into that. If it turns out you can’t or it’s not going to deliver enough heat, the least expensive way to heat that room would be by to add – and just in this room – electric baseboard heaters. You could have these permanently wired in and run off a thermostat and even run off a clock thermostat so that when it really gets very cold, you could use this to supplement the heat in that room. That’s the least expensive way to add additional heat to that space.

    In terms of the drafts, yeah, you need to start attacking those drafts in all the ways you normally attack them. You want to try to identify them. If it’s coming in around the outlets, then you add gaskets behind the outlets. There’s foam gaskets, very inexpensive, you can put in that go under the cover plate and will cover that area. If it’s coming around the windows, you may need to weather-strip those windows or caulk the windows. You want to attack those one at a time.

    And the roof above that you said is a flat roof, is that roof insulated, as well?

    RALPH: Yes, it is.

    TOM: Well, then, it sounds to me like what you want to do is seal off the drafts and add additional heating to that room the easiest way you can. I just don’t think you’re getting enough BTUs in there with the space heater, OK?

    RALPH: OK. Thank you very much.

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

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

    Remember, you can reach us here with your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week right here at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    And if you love the look of greenery around the outside of your house but maybe you only seem to have a black thumb when it comes to getting that greenery to flourish inside your home, we’ve got a great solution coming up next.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Well, everyone loves a beautiful, lush, green lawn but not so much the time, the expense and the hassle of keeping it weed-free and green. Watering it, cutting it, there’s so much to do.

    TOM: Well, our next guest has invented a product that claims to eliminate a lot of those steps. He’s Jackson Madnick. He’s the founder and inventor of Pearl’s Premium Lawn Seed.

    Welcome, Jackson.

    JACKSON: Hi there. It’s nice to be on your show.

    TOM: So, as the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. And I read that you have an interesting story about how this product came to be, which began with a view of a pond from your living-room window. Tell us about that. What did you see?

    JACKSON: Well, our pond was choked with invasive weeds. And then the town was using herbicide to get rid of the invasive weeds. And then the herbicide was getting into the town’s drinking water. And I joined this surface-water quality committee in town. It took some intensive courses on lake-and-pond management. And I found out the number-one enemy of lakes, ponds, rivers and watersheds and the ocean is lawn-care fertilizer that runs off and fertilizes the pond and not your lawn. And there’s lots of health risks and environmental risks.

    So I wanted to see if there was such a thing as a better, lower-maintenance lawn care or seed mix that didn’t need water, hardly needed mowing and didn’t need chemical fertilizer. And it didn’t exist, so I hired four of the smartest PhDs on Planet Earth in turf science. And we spent eight years researching grass until, finally, we created a breakthrough lawn grass that has some amazing properties.

    TOM: This is amazing what you guys have created, because this grass seed rarely or never needs watering. It grows very slowly and it does so without chemicals. And you say that the secret is, really, the root depth. I guess it goes so deep and that’s why they grow slowly that it really doesn’t need the watering systems that we have in place today?

    JACKSON: Yeah. It needs basically one-quarter of the water of other grass.

    TOM: Wow.

    JACKSON: And certain seeds, in exact proportions covered under two U.S. patents, that grows very slow. So you mow it only once a month instead of once a week. It puts all its energy into the roots, so it grows up to 4-foot roots in a year when most grass grows only 3- or 6-inch roots. And from the deep roots, it out-competes most weeds without chemicals. It also is evergreen. It stays green in the heat of summer and the cold of fall. And you don’t have to tear up your lawn. You just put the seed right over existing lawn to out-compete the grass and out-compete the weeds without chemicals.

    LESLIE: I mean that’s amazing. But is there sort of a one-formula-fits-all out there or do you really have to look at what the conditions are? Is it a lot of sun? Is it a lot of shade?

    JACKSON: Our grass grows in all 50 states of the country and in all climates of the world. And we have three mixes. We have a sun mix for 6 to 12 hours-a-day sun – a full, blazing sun. We have a sun/shade mix for 2 to 8 hours-a-day sun. And we have a shade mix for 2 hours-a-day sun down to absolutely no sun at all, where it will grow beautiful under trees where grass has never grown before.

    TOM: Well, that’s fantastic.

    So, now we’re in the fall season. I think a lot of people think that because you plant everything else in your garden in the spring that that’s when you plant grass. But that’s not true. The fall is the time, right now, when you should be planting that grass seed, correct?

    JACKSON: Absolutely. That’s a common error that people don’t know about. That in the Northern half of the country, you plant September and October. You can plant right up to the end of this month. And it’s the best time of year. The second best time of year is early April. But down south, in the Southern half of the country, you can plant in October, November, December and January as the best time of the year to plant in the Southern states of the United States and California.

    TOM: You mentioned that this is a slow-growing grass seed. If we plant now, will we have grass the first year or what should we expect in terms of the thickness and the height of the grass?

    JACKSON: Oh, yeah. You can go to our website,, and order it. And it’ll go out – you’ll get it in a few days. And you can plant it right away. It’ll sprout in about a week and you will have a gorgeous lawn in two weeks. And so, this is a great time of year. You will have – before the leaves come down and before the snow, this grass will go into the snow green. And when the snow melts in the spring, if you’re in areas where you have snow, it’ll come out of the snow green. None of that brown that you get with many grasses in the cold weather or the hot weather.

    LESLIE: So, Jackson, say you’ve got a beautiful, green lawn but maybe you’re looking for a way to water it less or make it fuller. Can you add it in or is it sort of something that could damage the existing grass or make it not viable? How do you know if it’s OK?

    JACKSON: Well, that’s a very good question and that we get asked a lot. You don’t have to tear up your lawn. All you do is you cut your existing lawn short. Rake away the clippings or vacuum up the clippings and spread the seed and a little bit of organic fertilizer the same day you put down the seeds. And it’ll sprout in a week and it will out-compete all the grass and all the weeds. You don’t have to tear up your lawn. You just put it right over the existing lawn. And the simple instructions are on the back of the bag. And again, this is a great time of year to plant up north and then in the next few months down south.

    TOM: Well, I’ll tell you, if you’d think about, Jackson, all the work that people put into maintaining a lawn, this is going to give people a lot more weekend time.

    The product is called Pearl’s Premium Grass Seed. Their website is I love the fact that you saw a problem and you stuck to it and you hired the best pros and you solved it. You solved something that’s been taking up a lot of time of our homeowners across the country. It’s been adding a lot of fertilizer where it doesn’t need to be added to the water stream. And it’s delivered the most beautiful, green lawn yet as a result of all of that. So thank you very much for that effort and we’re happy to introduce this to our listeners. Take a look, order some today. Get it installed, get it laid down, get it planted like Jackson just suggested. And then let us know how it looks next spring. Can’t wait to hear more.

    Jackson, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    JACKSON: Thanks so much. I love being on here.

    LESLIE: Up next, if you’re sorry to see the green fade away as the weather changes, we’ve got some tips on the best indoor plants for the season, 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: We’re here to help you with your home improvement projects, your décor dilemmas. Whatever is on your to-do list, pick up the phone and give us a call right now. We’d love to help. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor, where it’s easy to find top-rated, local home improvement pros for any home project. Just go to

    And if you pick up the phone and call us, right now, at 888-MONEY-PIT, you might just get the answer to your home improvement question and the products that you need to keep your house nice and clean, because we’re giving away the JAWS Ultimate Cleaning Kit. It’s a concentrated, streak-free, eco-friendly set of cleaning products for every job, every room, every nook, every cranny in your house.

    We love the fact that they’re concentrated. You just insert a JAWS refill pod into the very sturdy JAWS reusable bottles and sprayers and you are good to go in seconds.

    The kit retails for 44.99. It’s got, gosh, half-a-dozen different cleaners in it. But Money Pit listeners, if you would like to check it out and consider purchasing it, you can go to and save 25 percent simply by using the promo code MONEYPIT at checkout.

    That website is Rethink the way you clean with JAWS, the Just Add Water System.

    LESLIE: Kay in Arkansas is on the line and needs some help changing a wall surface.

    What’s going on, Kay?

    KAY: Well, it is a sturdy home. Cinder block. Probably just that thick but it has the brick on the outside. But the inside, I would just like something a little more pleasant to look at.

    TOM: OK. That makes sense. So, are we talking about a basement here?

    KAY: Nope. This is an above-ground. It is a cabin on the lake property.

    TOM: So you need a paint that can cover the masonry-block walls.

    KAY: Well, a paint or a stucco or something that gives it a different texture than a cinder-block look.

    TOM: Kay, the process of coating the interior walls isn’t as much stucco as it is plastering. So what has to happen is that wall surface has to be covered with a layer of plaster, much in the same way they used to build plaster walls many, many years ago in, say, the 30s or the 40s. In fact, in the late 40s, they used to plaster right over drywall and that was one of the best wall constructions ever. So those are the options that you have to choose from.

    Doing the plaster is probably not the job you want to do as your first DIY project. But if you work with a plastering company – somebody who does this every day – they would have the skills to make the plaster look nice and smooth and have an attractive surface without really taking up much space, in terms of it getting too thick.

    KAY: Right, right. So that’s strange. I have plaster walls on my house at home.

    TOM: Oh, well, maybe they’re going to follow you to the new house.

    KAY: Yeah. OK.

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

    Well, if you love the look of greenery around the outside of your house but seem only to have a black thumb when it comes to getting that green to flourish inside, we have some tips to help.

    First, you need to know how to choose the best plants for inside your home this winter. The first step is really knowing your house and which rooms get the west, the north, the south and the east sun, sunny in the morning versus afternoon and then choose plants accordingly because not all plants are going to work in all rooms.

    LESLIE: Now, next, you’ve got to think about how to choose the best type of houseplants. Most popular might not mean the best plant for you.

    Now, the number-one plants that are requested from nurseries is a Ficus. But this isn’t really a practical plant for a house. They’re difficult to maintain, they need full sunlight and they’re going to drop a lot of dense foliage. Plus, you’re going to end up cleaning up all of those leaves.

    Now, the best alternative is going to be a Kentia palm. They’re very rich with their green color. They’re elegant-looking. Also, the lady palm is another good choice. Each leaf looks like a lady’s hand, with a paper-like texture.

    TOM: Now, if you’ve got plants that are not doing well, it may be time to repot them. If the roots have grown too full and the plant is just not absorbing properly, that might be exactly what is needed to be done.

    In general, when you repot, you can go up about 2 inches in pot size. And you want to use potting soil, not topsoil but potting soil. And make sure you toss some rocks or pieces of broken clay pot to the bottom to line it with holes. This way, the dirt doesn’t clog those drainage holes and the plant can actually drain properly.

    Once you do that, you can add the soil. Go almost all the way to the rim, then add your plant and fill with dirt to cover and water very thoroughly and you will be good to go. And your plant will have fresh, new life for the season ahead.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Louise on the line who’s got some mystery stains on a mailbox. What’s going on?

    LOUISE: OK, I have a brick mailbox and it seems to have salt deposits leaking through the outside of it.

    TOM: Is it in the way of a lawn sprinkler, by any chance?

    LOUISE: No, it isn’t.

    TOM: Because, often, what happens is if it gets groundwater splashed on it – and that can happen if you have sprinklers and wells – a lot of mineral salts in there that will dry and basically adhere to the outside.

    You know, what’s happening here is you are seeing some sort of mineral deposits and you’re going to have to clean it. And the best way to clean it, believe it or not, is to mix up a vinegar-and-water solution. Because vinegar melts the salts.

    LOUISE: Wow.

    TOM: So you can mix them up in a bucket, splash it down with a nice, soft-bristle brush, scrub it. And that should make those disappear. They may come back but the other thing that you could think about doing, once it gets nice and dry and clean, is to apply a masonry sealer to it. And if you use a silicone-based masonry sealer, you want to get one that’s vapor-permeable so it doesn’t trap the water underneath the sealer surface. This lets it breathe and stops it from cracking and chipping. But that should slow down the showing up of any additional salt stains.

    LOUISE: Well, thank you so, so much.

    LESLIE: Alright. Thanks so much for giving us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    We’re here to lend a hand with all of your home improvement questions. Whatever you’ve got working on, we’re here to help.

    The Money Pit is presented by Never worry about overpaying for a job. You can use the HomeAdvisor True Cost Guide to see what others have paid for similar projects. It’s all for free at

    Up next, do you have a room that’s dark and dreary? We’ve got some tips to let in the light and create a room with a view, even if you don’t have a window, 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: Standing by for your calls to 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor. Are you ready for a basement makeover you can enjoy all winter long? HomeAdvisor will instantly match you with the right pro for the job for free.

    LESLIE: And remember, you can always reach us in the Community section of

    And Tanya posted there. Now, Tanya writes: “I’m putting butcher block in for bar tops and countertops. What do you recommend I seal it with?”

    TOM: You know, butcher block is a beautiful addition to any kitchen but it does require pretty much more maintenance than almost any other surface to keep it looking that way. As a tree – before it was a butcher block, it was a tree – it was always absorbing natural materials, like water, right? So, it’s going to do that when it’s in your counter. It’s going to suck in those food oils, it’s going to suck in the fats and it can become a breeding ground for bacteria, like E. coli, so you have to be really careful.

    So, two options. Number one, you can stain the wood and apply a clear finish or number two, you could apply a food-safe oil, like mineral oil, but you need to do that regularly instead. If you go with the finish, you’re going to have a lot less ongoing maintenance but it is possible that some of that finish can wear off or chip off into your food.

    Now, if you decide to go with this route, make sure the surface edges are sanded down. Wipe the dust away with a damp cloth. Apply that finish in a good, ventilated area and let it dry for a few hours or maybe even a few days before using it.

    And if you go with the oils, you’re going to need to apply those oils regularly, pretty much for the life of the counter. A good rule of thumb to maintain butcher block is to apply them once a day for the first week, then once a week for the first month and once a month for the life of the counter after that.

    LESLIE: I mean it’s a lot of work, Tanya, but it really is a beautiful countertop. You also just have to remember that you need to be cautious when you’re putting any raw foods on the counter, because the bacteria do tend to stay in the butcher block longer. So make sure you clean everything properly, change out your cutting boards often. Just make sure that you’re taking good care of that surface, because you’re going to want it to last. But it’ll last as long as you show it some love.

    TOM: Well, would you like to let the light into your room but you don’t have a window to do just that? Well, it can be done. Leslie has some ideas, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    Help us see the light, Leslie.

    LESLIE: You know what? It’s tricky when you’ve got a room without any windows at home or if you’ve got a room that’s super dark and you want it to feel more light. But there are some tricks that you can do and they’re not very complicated. It can make those rooms feel brighter and even make it appear as if you do have a view.

    Now, for those windowless rooms, you can buy something called a “light box.” Artists use these all the time for tracing or overlay. Or you can simply buy one that hangs on a wall and then get a beautiful image. You can have it printed on something called “duratrans” or even some sort of slightly translucent paper. And then you attach that to the light box and suddenly, it seems like you have this beautiful, illuminated view of anywhere. You want to be in Paris? Boom. Paris. You want to be somewhere in the Arctic looking out at the sea and the whales? Boom. There you are. Totally an easy way to bring the outdoors in and really give you a different view than you might be used to.

    Another great trick is using mirrors. I know this seems like a really simple idea but mirrors are a great way to bounce light around a room, make a room feel bigger. It’s a great décor feature. You can do it with a grouping of mirrors of different sizes, different shapes, different kinds of gilding on the frames. Think of it as a chance to sort of create a gallery wall with mirrors. And then strategically place lights and suddenly, the room just glows.

    Lots of great ways to bring that space to feel brighter, bigger, more fun. A view for an adventurous place. Whatever it is that you are working on, let us lend you a hand.

    TOM: Bright advice, Leslie. Well done.

    This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Hey, coming up next time on the program, do you know the difference between a garage and a home workshop or gym that you could use year-round? About 20 or 30 degrees. We’re going to have some tips to help you add heat to your garage space so you can find it to be more usable throughout the winter, on the very 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 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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