Kid’s Home Alone? What They Need to Know First

  • 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: Hope you’re enjoying this beautiful summer day. And if your plans include some home improvement projects, well, you’re in the right place because, hey, we’re here to help. We want to give you some tips and advice to make them easier, help them go smoothly, help you work around any problems that you’re having, help you decide if you can do it yourself or you need to hire a pro. But to do all that, we need to hear from you. So pick up the phone and give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. Doesn’t matter where you are or when you’re hearing this show, those calls, those questions will be answered. Give us a call, right now, at 888-666-3974.

    Coming up on today’s show, we’re going to talk about kid safety, especially when it comes to home-related emergencies. You know, just because kids may be at that age where, perhaps, they can stay home alone, that might not prepare them to handle a home-related emergency. We’ll have a checklist on what they need to know to do, just ahead.

    LESLIE: And that’s really smart. You’ve got to think about all of those things.

    Now, if you’re in the market for new floors and have an active family, there are four things that you should be looking for. We’re going to share those tips, in just a bit.

    TOM: Plus, if you’d like your home to feel open and airy but don’t have the budget for a big-time remodel, we’ve got smart tips to help open up the space without emptying your bank account in the process.

    LESLIE: And if you’re a DIYer, here’s two tools that you’ll love working with: the Arrow Electric Stapler and Nailer and the Arrow Dual-Temp Glue Gun. We’ve got both to give away to one listener drawn at random this hour.

    TOM: Want a shot at winning those great tools? All you need to do is pick up your phone and call us, right now, with your décor or remodeling or fix-up question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. That’s 888-666-3974.

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

    LESLIE: Karen in Texas is on the line with a driveway that is just cracking up. What’s going on?

    KAREN: My home was built in the late 1970s. And that’s what’s going on – is my driveway has just gotten full of cracks and everything. So, when I was looking into replacing – tearing it out and replacing the concrete – I had someone suggest to me that there’s some newer products on the market that you can overlay over top of the concrete.

    TOM: Yeah. So, this is a concrete surface, right? We’re not talking about asphalt. It’s definitely concrete?

    KAREN: Definitely concrete.

    TOM: Alright. Now, the cracks that you’re seeing, is the driveway sagging or is it – just have these sort of fissures in it? I’m asking you this question because I want to know if it’s structurally unstable. Because no matter what you put over it, if it’s got a weak base, it’s just going to continue to move and crack. It’ll look better but it’ll still do that.

    KAREN: I wouldn’t say it’s unstable. There are quite a few that run. They’re not small, short ones. I mean they’ve gotten pretty big. There is one area at the bottom of the driveway, by the street, that seems to have had a little bit of a collapse.

    TOM: Shift? Yeah.

    KAREN: Nothing you can’t – yeah. Nothing that can’t be dealt with.

    TOM: Alright. So, here’s what I would do. There’s a new product out just this year from QUIKRETE. It’s called Re-Cap. And it’s a really interesting product because they’ve designed a project that will absolutely bind to old concrete and not separate.

    And it’s fairly simple to apply. You put it on. You wet the – you clean the concrete, you put it on. And when the concrete’s wet – and you work it, smooth it out. You trowel it out. You can use a squeegee. You can use a broom to give it a bit of a broom finish. And then the whole thing dries in just a few hours. I think that would be a great addition.

    In terms of the end of the driveway, where it reaches the street, that’s the part we call the “apron.” What I would recommend you do there is to go ahead and tear that out. You can pick up a few bags of QUIKRETE and mix it up in a wheelbarrow and repour that. And this way, you can make sure it’s nice and thick and structurally stable. And then even sort of extend the Re-Cap color onto that so it’ll all look like one piece when it’s all done.

    But I think that that’s probably the best. Because if the concrete continues to move – and by that I mean sort of shift a little bit, expand and contract, freeze/thaw cycle, whatever – those cracks will show back up. But most of them will be filled in by the Re-Cap product and I think you’ll like how it works.

    KAREN: Awesome. That was what I was hoping to hear, because it’s got to be a whole lot less expensive than having it torn out and completely repoured.

    TOM: Well, absolutely. And by the way, there’s one other option, too. If you’d love to have a paver driveway, there’s a new paver out from Pavestone. It’s called Milano. And what’s cool about these Milano pavers is they’re half the thickness of a normal paver. And they’re designed specifically to go over old concrete patio and driveway surfaces.

    So, you could look into those, as well. Probably a little more expensive – ah, probably a lot more expensive – than the Re-Cap product. But it looks absolutely gorgeous when it’s done and you really can’t tell that it’s not a full-thickness paver when you see it.

    So there’s two options for you.

    KAREN: OK. Awesome. Thank you.

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

    LESLIE: Dave in Iowa has got an issue at his money pit where something smells a little stinky, like rotten eggs. What’s going on?

    DAVE: Oh. Well, I just bought a farmhouse about three, four years ago. And I have this rotten-egg smell in my house all the time. And I also – my sinks and my toilets and my bathtubs are all rusty. I was wondering if you have any ideas for me. I do have a water softener.

    TOM: So, first of all, the rotten-egg smell usually happens because of a bad anode in the water heater itself. That’s a rod that’s immersed into the water. And over time, it deteriorates. And if you have a bad anode, it can be removed and replaced without replacing the entire water heater.

    The other potential cause of this is the water quality itself. But is this well water?

    DAVE: Yeah, this is well water.

    TOM: So, have you had it tested lately to see, among other things, what the sulfur content is?

    DAVE: No, I haven’t.

    TOM: So I would be smart to do that. And this way, you want to make sure that nothing has changed that you’re not aware of, in terms of the quality of the water. But typically, it’s because of a problem with the water heater that leads to that odor.

    Now, in terms of the rusty fixtures, that’s just going to be wear and tear. That’s going to have nothing to do with the water quality, for the most part.

    So that ought to do it. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor. They really have the best local pros for any home service.

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

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

    TOM: And just ahead, can your kids handle a home-related emergency like, say, a broken pipe or a tripped electrical breaker? We’ll have tips to help, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Give us a call, right now, with your home improvement, your home décor, your home remodeling or fix-up question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by Never worry about overpaying for a job. Just use the HomeAdvisor True Cost Guide to see what others paid for a similar project. It’s online and all for free at

    And if you give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, you’ll get the answer to your home improvement question plus the tools to get the job done. We’ve got two great products to give away: the Arrow T50 Professional Electric Stapler and Nailer, plus the Arrow Dual-Temperature Glue Gun. Two great tools from a company that’s been building products for pros and DIYers alike for 90 years.

    And that Dual-Temp Glue Gun is pretty cool. It heats up fast and features a drip-resistant glue tip for glue control and accuracy. It actually has two settings. You can set it for high-temp, which melts glue to sort of a liquid consistency for maximum bonding. And it’s got a low-temp setting that allows the glue to stick and melt at cooler temperatures. And that’s great because it protects delicate materials that also have low melting points. You don’t want to melt your project when you’re trying to melt your glue.

    LESLIE: That’s true. The Dual-Temp Glue Gun is ideal for upholstery, woodworking, crafts, even general home repair. You can learn more and check out Arrow’s pro-tool giveaway at But give us a call, right now, with your home improvement question to 888-MONEY-PIT and you just might win both tools, plus that supply of staples, nails, glue sticks. The whole package is worth 90 bucks.

    TOM: That number, again, is 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Gail in Massachusetts is on the line and suspects that there could be mold afoot at The Money Pit. What’s going on?

    GAIL: My den has a moldy kind of smell to it but mostly after it rains. And I don’t know if there’s a device that can be used to put it up against – the device against the wall to see if there’s any moisture or mold or anything like that.

    TOM: So your den smells damp after it rains. OK. How is your den constructed? Is it on a concrete slab or is it on a crawlspace or a basement?

    GAIL: It’s right above my garage.

    TOM: Well, you’re probably getting a lot of humidity from that garage that’s working its way up into that space. So it’s not totally surprising.

    GAIL: Oh, OK.

    TOM: I don’t think, necessarily, what you’re smelling is mold. It could be some mold in there but I wouldn’t jump to that conclusion. It might just be the dampness and the humidity as it passes through the building materials, getting up into that space and just leaving some odors behind. I think ventilation is a solution for you here and probably better air conditioning and perhaps even some dehumidification.

    You have a central air-conditioning system?

    GAIL: I do.

    TOM: So, there’s a whole-home dehumidifier that can be added to that that will speed up the amount of moisture that it will take out. Because, you know, air conditioners will take out moisture but what happens is they tend to not take out enough. And sometimes, it can still feel kind of clammy. But a whole-house dehumidifier does it all and it’ll take out – I mean most whole-house dehumidifiers can take out 100 quarts of water a day. And that can be built right into the system.

    LESLIE: And you know what? The other ones rely on the owner to empty them, make sure it’s set to the right humidistat. It’s much better to have the whole-house one.

    GAIL: Yeah, yeah. Because I have one in my basement right now that I keep emptying.

    TOM: Yeah, that’s way too much work. You don’t have to do that.

    And by the way, the fact that you have moisture in the basement and you have this up above the garage, you may want to look at just, generally speaking, all of the drainage sources around the outside of your house. Because if your gutters are clogged, if your downspouts aren’t extended away, if the soil around the house is too flat, you’re basically holding a lot of water against that foundation perimeter. And that could be a problem because that’s going to lead to dampness, humidity and potentially even flooding.

    GAIL: Oh, OK. So, we don’t really have a water problem in our basement but I’m wondering if the – so if I just make sure the gutters are cleared out …

    TOM: Well, let me just stop you right there. The fact that you have to use a dehumidifier that collects enough water that has to be dumped, that is a water problem, OK? You’re just not seeing it yet, OK? So you do have a water problem; you just don’t know it.

    GAIL: Yeah, yeah. And also, the washer and dryer are in the closet of the den. And I didn’t know whether – it was just recently installed. And so I didn’t know whether that was kind of a problem, because it almost smells like kind of a bathroom.

    TOM: Yeah. I think you’ve got to stop chasing these smells down and start dealing with the core issue, which is the high humidity and the moisture. I think that’s going to solve it all.

    GAIL: OK.

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

    Well, at some point, every parent faces the decision of deciding whether or not a child is able to stay home alone, right? And as a parent of three, I know that every kid’s different and it’s important to make sure they’re not going to hurt themselves. And it’s also important to make sure they can handle basic things that could go wrong in the house when you’re not home.

    LESLIE: Yeah, definitely. So, here are a few basic tasks that you might want to consider.

    For example, does your child know how to find and shut off the water main in case of a major leak?

    TOM: Heck, do you know how to find and shut off the water main in the case of a major leak?

    LESLIE: That’s true.

    TOM: It’s a really good idea to find that all-important valve and tag it so that you know exactly where it is. And you can show the kids, as well. Make sure it’s easy to operate because sometimes, since they don’t get used very frequently, they can get a little sticky. But make sure it’s good to go and ready to turn off, because it’s the fastest way to stop the water from coming through your ceiling.

    Now, next up, you also want to consider whether or not your child can operate a fire extinguisher.

    We think that’s a pretty basic task but there’s actually a technique to it, Leslie, right?

    LESLIE: There is a major technique to how to operate a fire extinguisher. And some of the techniques I wasn’t even fully aware of until one day, over at ABC at work, there was a fire chief – came in and taught everybody how to use the fire extinguishers on the floor of the office building and it was interesting to learn.

    You want to go at the base; you don’t want to go at the flame. There’s really a technique on how to operate those fire extinguishers efficiently. And you don’t want to hold the plunger down fully; you want to pump it and point it at the bottom of the fire. So, a lot of techniques to use to effectively use that fire extinguisher so you don’t empty it initially and not do anything with it. So you really do need to go over how to use one and make sure that you’ve got the right type of extinguisher for your home. They’re rated A, B and C for different types of fires. Some are rated for all three. Make sure you’ve got one that’ll protect you and your home.

    Next up, does your child know what to do if the smoke detector is triggered?

    TOM: Yeah. Get out.

    If the smoke detector is triggered and you’re not home and cooking, well, it’s a reason to get out and call the fire department. Frankly, it’s as simple as that. And if you want to update your smoke detectors, make sure you use interconnected detectors so if one goes off, they all go off.

    And lastly, what should your kids know to do if the power goes out? Because that’s happening more and more frequently these days.

    LESLIE: For sure. Luckily, some people have generators in their home, that are on automatic standby, so they’ll come right back on. Other times, though, you’re not so lucky and your kids can become very nervous, very scared when the power goes out. So you should talk with your kids about where flashlights are. You should have LED candles so that your children aren’t dealing with open-flame candles. You need to go over a process of making sure that you have items ready to go so that you can illuminate the home safely. And that’s the most important part there: safely.

    TOM: All great questions to ask yourself and teach your kids if you feel they’re ready.

    We’re ready, though, for your home improvement questions. Pick up the phone, give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Russell in Texas who’s dealing with a door that’s just not sitting right. What’s going on?

    RUSSELL: Well, we recently had the windows and doors replaced in our house about eight months ago. And up until about two weeks ago, the door locked fine. Now, the deadbolt will lock. It’ll go into the side of the door frame but the doorknob itself won’t go in. And these were prehung doors. And I don’t know exactly how to diagnose the problem or even how I would go about fixing it if I was able to figure out what was wrong with it.

    TOM: So it’s gotten increasingly warmer in Texas over the last couple of weeks, right?

    RUSSELL: Yes.

    TOM: And so, I think what’s happening is we’re getting some swelling of the door jambs or the door. And that’s shifting things just enough to make the doorknob not sit properly in the strike plate. So, this is just a door adjustment.

    And did you install these doors yourself? Did you have a pro do it?

    RUSSELL: They were done by a contractor.

    TOM: So I think it’s reasonable to ask the contractor to come back and adjust the doors because they’re swelling now. It is possible to put these doors in so that they work year-round without any adjustments. And so I think it just needs a minor adjustment. It shouldn’t be a big deal. But I would call the contractor, ask him to come back and fix it.

    RUSSELL: OK. Alright.

    TOM: Alright?

    RUSSELL: I’ll give him a call.

    TOM: Yeah, nothing to worry about there, Russ. Pretty normal. Just needs a bit of adjustment. And fixing a door – adjusting a door is complicated if you don’t do it every day, because it’s kind of an interesting beast. It has about six different ways it can move and if you move it in the wrong direction, you end up making it worse. So I’d have the pro come back and fix it.

    RUSSELL: OK. I sure will.

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

    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: Pick up the phone and give us a call anytime. We’re here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week right here at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Now, if you happen to be in the market for new floors and have an active family, there are four things that you should be looking for. We’re going to share those four tips, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: We’re here to help you with your home improvement questions. Help yourself first by picking up the phone and calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Darlene in West Virginia is on the line with a roofing question. How can we help you today?

    DARLENE: My husband and I are considering putting a metal roof on our home. And I wanted to know: is it best to go ahead and keep the old shingles on the roof?

    TOM: No. You know, if you’re going to go through the expense of putting on a metal roof – which is a real investment-grade roofing; it’s a roof that could last you 50 to 100 years – you absolutely don’t want to put it over old asphalt shingles. There’s no point in having them there. And if anything, they could make that metal roof look lumpy. So I would absolutely take it right down to the sheathing and then have the roof installed right from there on up. It is absolutely not worth trying to save a few dollars by leaving that old asphalt there, essentially, forever.

    DARLENE: OK. Because I’ve known some people. They’ve been told, “Oh, yeah, it’ll – you don’t have to worry about throwing them out. You don’t have to worry about taking them off and everything and it’s just fine.” It actually – I’ve even heard them tell people that it’ll add a layer of insulation.

    TOM: Yeah, that’s all crap.


    TOM: And you can quote me on that.

    DARLENE: Well, I’m glad I called.

    TOM: That’s just not true. There’s nothing about an asphalt shingle that insulates anything. It doesn’t trap air. So, it just doesn’t work.

    In fact, what it does do is hold a lot of extra heat on that roof. So …

    DARLENE: And it would build up moisture and everything, probably.

    TOM: No. But in the summertime, that extra heat will add to your air-conditioning costs. So I would just tear that out and forget about it and start from scratch, OK? You’d be better off in the long run.

    DARLENE: Alright. That sounds great. Thank you so much.

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

    DARLENE: Bye-bye.

    TOM: Well, if you’re in the market for new floors and you’ve got an active family, there are really four things you should look for.

    First, you need a product that’s waterproof, kid-proof, pet-proof and impact-resistant. And today, there’s lots of floors available. It’s so hard, though, to find one that looks great and has all of that durability.

    There is a new product, though, we just discovered called SUPERCore, that’s all that and more. And here’s why: SUPERCore is an engineered vinyl-plank floor but instead of the traditional softer wood-composite construction, SUPERCore features a rigid stone core. And that stone is a lot denser and hence, tougher than pretty much any other engineered vinyl-plank floor on the market.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Good point.

    Now, the SUPERCore click-lock floors have a wear layer that is 50-percent thicker than virtually any other waterproof floor that’s on the market. The product’s waterproof, kid- and pet-proof, impact-resistant. It’s available exclusively through

    And on their website, you’re going to find a very convincing demo of just how tough this floor really is. Go there and you’re going to see the founder pounding standard EVP floor with a 2-pound piece of lead, literally, like a sledgehammer. And it’s leaving a dent after dent, after dent, after dent in that flooring. Then he does the same thing to the SUPERCore flooring and you don’t even see a scratch. I mean it is impressive.

    TOM: Check out the SUPERCore at They direct-source the product, cutting out the middleman to give you better floor for less money. And they’ll even send you free samples. That’s

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Tom in Nebraska on the line with a decking question. How can we help you today?

    TOM IN NEBRASKA: I’m building a cedar deck and I’m trying to figure out which products to use in order to preserve the life of it.

    TOM: OK. Well, cedar is a good choice because it’s naturally insect-resistant, so you don’t have to worry so much about decay. But if you want to stop it from cracking and checking and splitting, which it’ll do simply from exposure to the sun, then you really need to think about putting a product on it that’s got a UV protectant in it, like a stain.

    Now, since it’s brand new, I might suggest, in this particular case, a semi-transparent stain that’s going to give it some UV protection. It’ll help even out the color and it’ll protect it from the cracking and the checking that goes on.

    You can pretty much put it on right away but sometimes when people put – build cedar decks, they want to enjoy them for a few months, just until they start to gray a bit and then they’ll stain them. So the choice is yours but a semi-transparent stain would be a good option for you right now.

    TOM IN NEBRASKA: OK, cool. I wasn’t sure what to do, you know? I appreciate it, man.

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

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement 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.

    Up next, open-concept homes are popular but they’re hard to come by in older houses. Now, adding a pass-through between rooms can help. We’re going to share some tips to do that, next.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: We’d love to hear what you’re working on. Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT 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.

    LESLIE: Plus, if you give us a call now, you’re going to get the answer to your question, plus the tools to get the job done. Up for grabs this hour, we have the Arrow T50AC Professional Electric Stapler and Nailer, plus the Arrow GT20DT Dual-Temp Glue Gun. These are two great tools from a company that’s been building products for pros and do-it-yourselfers for the past 90 years. It also comes with glue sticks, staples, nails, everything you need to start tackling projects all around your money pit.

    And make sure you head on over to On their website, you are going to find a ton of projects that you can do. And you can even learn more and check out Arrow’s pro-tool giveaway.

    TOM: Call us now for your home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. You might just win both tools, plus a supply of staples, nails and glue sticks. That whole package is worth 90 bucks. And our number is 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: D.J., you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    D.J.: Yes. I’m having some difficulty with my air conditioning and it’s driving me crazy.

    TOM: What’s going on?

    D.J.: Well, in order to have it come on and stop, I have to manipulate the thermostat by – I know there’s a 5-minute delay on the start of it and the turn-off of it. So I have to either lower the number on the thermostat below my 77 until it kicks in – and it’ll run for hours. And to turn it off, I have to manipulate seven to eight numbers above for it to shut off.

    TOM: OK. So, basically, there’s one of two things happening here. Your thermostat’s broken or your air conditioning is just not able to keep up with the setting.

    So, first of all, if you want to check very simply to see if your air conditioning is cooling properly, there’s a simple test that you can do. If you have something like a refrigerator thermometer that will measure air temperature, what you can do is you can measure the temperature of the air where there’s a really strong register, where it’s blowing air out. Measure that temperature and then also measure it where it’s going back into the system itself, by the return duct. The difference between those two temperatures should be 15 to 20 degrees. If you’re seeing seven, eight degrees, your system’s not cooling properly. It probably needs refrigerant.

    The second possibility is that you just have a thermostat that’s not working properly and the solution to that is just replace it. They’re inexpensive. If you have Wi-Fi in the house, I would get an internet-enabled smart thermostat, like a Nest. And I love my Nest thermostats. They’re so easy to use and I can set them to go up and down whenever I want. And they even will shut – not shut off but go to a different temperature setting when no one’s in the house.

    So, those are your options right there. I think one of the two of those will straighten this out. I’d get on it now before it gets much hotter out and you should be set for the summer.

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

    LESLIE: Well, while older homes have charm and character, the thing that they often lack is an open floor plan. And that’s something more and more modern families want. Well, the good news is that you don’t have to stick with that layout offered in that older home.

    TOM: Yeah, there are ways to make your house feel more open in a closed space. And one way to do that is to create a pass-through between rooms.

    Now, I should say that it’s not a first-time DIYer’s project, because it involves a lot of skills. But you want to start with the most important things first, which is to determine if the wall can be opened up by figuring out if it’s load-bearing. You could look at the floor below, perhaps go into the crawlspace or the basement, look at how the floor joists are aligned. Are they parallel or perpendicular to the wall? If they’re perpendicular, the wall may more likely be load-bearing. If you’re unsure, you’ve got to get some expert help.

    And if the wall is load-bearing, you can still add the pass-through but frankly, at that point the project gets a lot more complicated and shoots well beyond that DIY stage. So definitely hire a pro.

    LESLIE: Next, if that wall is not load-bearing, you can cut out a pass-through. But before you go all in, it’s smart to do some exploratory surgery first. You know, first thing’s first: before you make that first cut, trace out your template exactly where you want that pass-through to go. And try and line up the template so that you’re to the left and the right of where you start a stud. That’s going to make the framing a lot easier.

    Now, if you have the room and you can lay this out so it does fit between those studs, it’s even better because you’re not going to have to frame the left and right sides of the opening. So you really have to think about this.

    Now, also, you want to turn off all electrical to circuits on that wall. And then make sure you have a reciprocating saw and you cut only through the thickness of the wallboard. In other words, do not cut through the studs yet. Just get the drywall off so you can see those studs.

    TOM: Yeah. Now, once you see the inside, it’s a lot easier to double-check if the wall is load-bearing for sure. And you can also deal with any wiring that you find. If you see any plumbing, you can deal with that. You do want to do all this work before you start taking the frame apart.

    Now, if you do have to cut out some studs, I want to give you a tip. Now, if you think about this, you’d cut a square hole in the drywall, you’d line up the right stud and the left stud. Now, across the bottom, you’re going to have to put a horizontal piece. Well, to do that, you’ve got to cut that vertical stud that’s in the middle an inch-and-a-half below where the drywall is. So what I do is I kind of go measure down an inch-and-a-half and then plunge-cut there so the blade kind of goes into the wall. But I leave the drywall above. Why am I doing that? Because it’s a lot easier to fix that little slice you put in the wall than it is to actually piece in a whole piece of drywall, just to cover that new bottom plate that you’re putting in place.

    So, if you understood what I just said, you are an advanced DIYer. If you’re not, hire a pro. OK? Because there are ways to do this and have it done simply and easily. And you’re going to find that once that’s all done, you can trim it out, you can put a piece of countertop there, you can use molding. It looks really cool and it lets a lot of light in from the back side, so it really has the effect of opening up that space without spending a lot of money on a big remodeling project.

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got Sandy calling from Ohio who’s working on a painting project. How can we help you today?

    SANDY: Yeah, I was looking for a product that you can take the varnish off your old kitchen cabinets without having to sand them. I was told there might be some new products out.

    TOM: Well, there’s actually a product that’s been around since 1936 that works and that’s called Rock Miracle. So not exactly new but does a great job. They’ve got a couple of different versions of it but it’s designed specifically to take off varnish. There is a liquid, no-wash remover that basically removes paint, finishes and varnish that you can use. You can check out their website at

    But if you want to avoid most of the sanding, that’s a good place to go. And they have some environmentally-friendly versions of the product, too.

    SANDY: OK. Sounds good. Alright. Thank you very much.

    LESLIE: Give us a call with your repair or home improvement, décor, design. Whatever type of question you’ve got for your money pit, we are here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Still ahead, have you ever been faced with a house or apartment that needs so much work it’s hard to know where to start, especially when your project list is bigger than your budget? We’ll have tips to tackle that challenge, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: We’d love to hear from you on The Money Pit’s listener line at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor.

    LESLIE: You can get matched with top-rated home service pros in your area, read verified reviews and book appointments online, all for free.

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

    LESLIE: Alright. And don’t forget, while you’re online you can go on over to The Money Pit’s Community section and always post your questions there, post pictures. Let us know what you are working on and we will lend you a hand.

    Now, I’ve got one here from Cody in Colorado who writes: “We recently purchased a home that needs some TLC. We want to replace the aging furnace and water heater. We also need to rip out carpeting and replace the hardwood floors. Finally, one of the bathrooms is in really bad shape. How would you prioritize these projects? We want to have them completed over the next two years.”

    TOM: Wow. That’s a big list.

    I mean to kind of sum it up, you want to replace the furnace and the water heater and the floors and the bath. So, I’m thinking safety first. If the furnace or the water heater are unsafe, then replace them now. If not, have them serviced so that you can get another year or two out of them, which is entirely possible, by the way.

    Now, the bath is clearly the biggest job but it’s going to have the best return on investment. So that’s a project that, again, is not an emergency but you want to plan it and get it done and do it well so you add to the value of your home.

    Now, the carpet point is a little confusing to me, Leslie, because Cody says he wants to rip out carpeting and replace the hardwood floors. Generally, you don’t have to do both because carpeting, especially in an older house, is a fantastic drop cloth. And it’s often put down right over hardwood floors.

    You may only need to remove that carpet and then refinish those hardwood floors, which is a lot less expensive than replacing them. In fact, I can’t really imagine why you would ever want to replace a hardwood floor unless it was just in terrible condition. But that’s very unusual. I think you’re going to find that you can refinish that, save some money and really get a beautiful home in the process.

    LESLIE: Now, Cody, for the bathroom, it depends on how bad of shape you mean when you say bad shape. Is it something that a couple of updates could easily enhance the space and make it more enjoyable and more user-friendly over the next couple of years until you can go all in for a full renovation? I think you have to look at it that way.

    If it’s just terrible and falling apart and really non-functional, then I would prioritize it differently. But if there are ways to, say, maybe change the flooring or change out the faucets and the showerhead and add something new and simple, even as simple as a new paint color, it might buy you some time before you take on that big renovation.

    So I’d love to see more. Post some pictures and we’ll talk you through it.

    TOM: Alright. Julie in Nebraska writes – she says, “I’m a first-time homeowner.” Congratulations, Julie. “And I’m going to change all the paint colors inside and out. I can’t figure out, though, which finish to use. I have kids that love to make messes. Which finish is the easiest to clean?”

    Well, Leslie, coincidentally, you have kids that like to make messes, as well. So, what would you tell her?

    LESLIE: You know, it’s interesting and it depends on the type of messes your kids like to make. My kids just like to make giant messes all the time. And while I love eggshell paint – personally, as a designer, I think I love the finish; it makes the walls look velvety and rich – it’s terrible to clean. So I wouldn’t say get that.

    Either go with a scrubbable matte that will give you a flat finish or a semi-gloss or even a satin, just because you need a little bit of sheen or you need that scrubbable enamel built into the paint’s finish so that you can clean it. Because with paint, even if you take a Magic Eraser, say, your kids get something on it, it’s going to sort of change the look of that paint in that spot, especially if it’s eggshell. I speak from experience.

    So, think about the type of messes that you anticipate your kids to make. But ultimately, go with something that has a little bit of sheen. Or if you like a flat finish, go with something that has a scrubbable additive. You will be so thankful that you did. Also, buy stock in the Magic Eraser and just put them underneath the sink, because you’re going to need a lot of them.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show on another beautiful summer weekend, our favorite time of the year. If you’ve still got questions, remember, you can reach us, 24/7, at 888-MONEY-PIT or post your questions online to The Money Pit’s Community page at

    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.)