Kitchen Cleaning Tips for Better Air Quality

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  • 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: Pick up the phone, give us a call on this beautiful spring weekend at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, because we want to talk with you about your home projects. Whether they’re inside or out, from foundations to shingles, whatever project you’re working on, we’re here to help: help you find ways to get it done quicker, easier, faster; make sure you can do it once, do it right so you won’t have to do it again or just tips to help you improve and beautify your space. Whether that’s outdoor, perhaps with a patio or deck or inside with a kitchen or bathroom, we are here to help you get started. Help yourself first, though, by picking up the phone and calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    First up on today’s show, we’re going to talk, also, about one place in the home that can get pretty disgusting if it’s not cleaned and that’s your range hood. It is not a pretty sight, folks. If you look – turn your head and you look up into it, it does get pretty nasty. But it just doesn’t do the job very well if it’s like that. So we’re going to have some tips on the easiest way to get it cleaned, looking great and working better, too, and keeping the air clean inside your house. That kitchen-exhaust fan can be a full-blown polluter if it’s not running right. So we’ll give you some tips to get yours the onceover so it’ll be working properly.

    LESLIE: Plus, are you ready to step outside and start enjoying this beautiful weather? Well, one way to do just that is by building a pergola. It’s a fun weekend project and Tommy Silva from This Old House is stopping by to tell us exactly how to get that done.

    TOM: Plus, with all the lawn-and-garden work going on now, you might be storing more hazardous liquids like gas and oil and grease and such. We’re going to have some tips on the best way to store those flammable liquids safely so that your garage or your shed does not become a fire hazard.

    LESLIE: But first, we want to hear what you are working on. Midway through April, guys. We are cruising towards Memorial Day. Let’s get your house ready because before you know it, it’s going to be summertime. And we want everything to be in tip-top shape so it can be a lot of relaxing and not a lot of home improving.

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

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

    LESLIE: Nancy in Georgia is dealing with some flooring squeaks. What is going on at your money pit?

    NANCY: I’m hoping you can tell me.

    TOM: OK.

    LESLIE: Well, tell us where you’re hearing them. What kind of floor? When does it happen?

    NANCY: The house is 48 years old.

    TOM: OK.

    NANCY: And I have pulled up the carpet that was in there and I’d like to put hardwood. But there’s a squeak right in the doorway. It’s in the top floor of my two-story home.

    TOM: Mm-hmm. OK.

    NANCY: And I can’t get to the flooring unless I tear out the ceiling of my dining room.

    TOM: Yeah, you’re thinking you have to deal with this from the bottom and that’s not the case.

    Now, when you took the carpet up, what are you looking at? Are you looking at plywood? Like old plywood?

    NANCY: Subfloor is what – I mean it …

    TOM: Yeah, subfloor. Right. So it’s probably old …

    LESLIE: It’s like a solid subfloor. It’s not slats where you can see through.

    NANCY: No, it’s 8x4s maybe or 8×6. Mm-hmm.

    TOM: Right. That’s plywood. OK.

    So, what you want to do here – and this is typical. What you need to do is you need to figure out where the floor joists are under that floor. And it’s not that hard to do because if you look at the floor itself, you’re going to see a nailing pattern where the floor joists are running. They’re probably going to be every 16 inches and they’re going to go from the back wall of your house towards the front wall.

    And what you want to do is screw – where those nailheads are, you want to drive a drywall screw through the floor and tighten up the flooring. Because what’s happening is the flooring is loose in that area. And as you step on the floor and you get that squeak – squeaks happen for one of two reasons. It’s either because the floorboards themselves – the plywood itself is moving against the adjoining seam and squeaking, right? Or it could be that the plywood is pulling the nail in and out of the floor joist below and that’s squeaking.

    But when you screw the floor down as opposed to nailing it down, you tighten everything up. And it’s a really good idea to do that before you carpet. Because even though you found one now, chances are the minute you put that floor down, you’ll find three more. So if you screw that floor down – all that subfloor down – nice and tight using these long drywall screws, which you can drive in with a drill, you’re going to find that that floor is going to be a lot quieter in the long run.

    NANCY: OK. I want to put hardwood over it. Can I put those under hardwood?

    TOM: Sure. Yeah, they’re going to be flush with the surface when you’re done.

    What kind of hardwood are you – you’re going to use solid hardwood or you want to use engineered or what?

    NANCY: I want to use solid hardwood. I have hardwood in the hallway that it meets and then I have tile in the bathroom.

    TOM: OK.

    NANCY: And so I have the spaces there for me to use the hardwood. And I’m in the South, so it’s not as expensive here.

    TOM: Yeah, you could use prefinished hardwood or you could use raw hardwood and finish it yourself. There’s a lot of options in prefinished today, though. It’s beautiful. And the floor finishes are actually tougher than what you can apply on your own.

    NANCY: That’s what I’m thinking. And I’m thinking I’ll have to pull the baseboards.

    TOM: Yes, absolutely.

    NANCY: And leave some space – a little space – between the wall and the flooring.

    TOM: Yes, that’s correct.

    NANCY: I laid the hall – OK.

    TOM: Yep. Yep, that’s correct. Yeah, you’ve got the right idea. Yeah, just make sure you screw that subfloor down with those long drywall screws or wood screws that you put in with a drill. Typically, they’re going to have a Phillips or they’ll have a hex head and you can just drill them right in. OK?

    NANCY: Mm-hmm. OK. I’m familiar with those. That’s fantastic.

    TOM: Alright.

    NANCY: Alright. I appreciate your help so much.

    TOM: You’ve got it, Nancy. Good luck with that project.

    LESLIE: Steven from Kansas has some issues with a stone house. Tell us what’s going on.

    STEVEN: I have a native limestone house that was built – this is in the middle of Kansas. And they used a lot of limestone years ago. And this house dates back to the late 1800s.

    I have a problem with the mortar breaking out between the doorframes of the house and the limestone. And I’m not sure exactly what to use.

    TOM: OK. So, you have this mortar that’s falling out between the stones itself and that’s called “pointing.” And that’s pretty common, OK?

    Now, what you need to do is to remove the loosed areas of mortar and to repoint it or reapply new mortar in those spaces where it’s lost. So, to do that, you’re going to want to mix one part Portland cement to two parts lime – it’s a type of mason’s lime – and then eight or nine parts of a washed building sand. And that’s sort of a mix that is going to be necessary to create new mortar in those seams and have it stick. You know, that type of mortar mix is designed to be able to be very workable so that you can get it in between those joints and do those repairs and have it stick and last another hundred years.

    So, it’s one part Portland cement, two parts lime and about nine parts sand. And then you add just enough water to kind of make it workable. Don’t make it too wet, though. Otherwise, it’ll just sort of fall off your trowel.

    STEVEN: I see. OK. I was trying to find something on the internet and I could not find what I thought was proper.

    TOM: That’s typically the way it’s done. Now, you could also buy a mortar mix but when you have a really old house like that, most people are going to mix it themselves.

    STEVEN: OK. Thank you very much. Appreciate it and I really enjoy your show.

    TOM: Well, thank you very much. We appreciate you listening.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor, where it’s easy to find top-rated, local home improvement pros for any project. Just go to

    TOM: And just ahead, we’ve got some spring-cleaning tips for those overlooked spaces in your home. It’s all coming up, 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: Pick up the phone and give us a call, right now, with your home improvement project, your do-it-yourself dilemma. If there’s a job that you need to get done around the house and you don’t know where to begin, begin by calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor. You can get instantly matched with top-rated pros for any home project and book appointments online, all for free.

    LESLIE: Sandra in Michigan, you’ve got The Money Pit. What’s going on at your house?

    SANDRA: The drywall seams in my ceiling, in one bedroom and in the corners in two rooms and in my ceiling in my unheated garage.

    TOM: OK.

    SANDRA: I live close to Lake Michigan, so there’s a lot of moisture here. It gets really cold. And I’m wondering, how do repair it? Do I have to take all that old tape off or can I repair it as is?

    TOM: The tape, sometimes it gets loose when it separates. You definitely need to pull that all off and do a little bit of sanding.

    But what I would do is not put paper tape back. I would use fiberglass tape. It is going to stay a lot better than the old paper. It also takes a lot less skill to put it up and get it done right. And it’s stronger. So, you could put a thin coat of spackle, embed that fiberglass tape. You just kind of lay it right into the spackle and then kind of run the blade over it and then put two or three more coats of spackle. Thin. A thin coat is the key. Don’t put thick. Very thin. And that will tend to bridge that gap.

    The fact that you’re seeing cracking in those areas you described is actually not that unusual, because the house is going to expand and contract. Especially, I see your house is about, what, 13, 14 years old. Yeah, it’s going to have a lot of movement over the first 20 years or so. And so, those types of cracks in those particular areas, in seams and such, is pretty normal. But as it happens, you’ve got to pull that old, loose tape out and then respackle it. And it’s the kind of project, you know, maybe you do when you’re getting ready to paint. It’s not structural; it’s really just cosmetic.

    SANDRA: Right.

    TOM: But if you don’t take it apart and put it back together again properly, it’s not going to stay, alright? You can’t just spackle over it, because the cracks will come right through it, OK?

    SANDRA: I understand. No shortcuts.

    TOM: Good luck, Sandra. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Jay in North Carolina is dealing with a supreme oopsie on a countertop. What happened?

    JAY: Well, I don’t know. I purchased the property about a year ago and actually, I have my son living there. He’s graduating from a college in the Raleigh area and he’s living in that – in the apartment – and it’s wonderful. The only problem is there’s a burn hole on the laminate countertop.

    TOM: Now, Jay, there’s a story behind that but of course, your son hasn’t – yeah, your son hasn’t coughed it up yet, I’m sure.

    JAY: No, well, no, no. This was before he moved in but hey, it’s OK.

    TOM: Alright.

    JAY: My point is it’s right out in the middle of the thing, so it’s this big burn hole. And I was just wondering, is there a way I can cut it out and then put another patch of laminate over it? It’s in butcher-block style.

    TOM: Well, the good news is that you could do a built-in countertop and – a built-in cutting board or a built-in piece of marble. And if you do it in something that’s complementary – look, it may be a little bit weird to have a cutting board on the finished side of the countertop like that but it’ll certainly look like it was always intended to be there and you’ll get away with it.

    The other thing that you could do is you could relaminate the countertop. You can’t fix the burned surface because the plastic’s been damaged, so that’s not something that’s possible. You can’t cut in a new piece of laminate because it’ll be patchy and it’ll look lousy. What you could do is you could put a new piece of laminate across the entire surface. So you’re keeping the structure of the countertop but you’re gluing a new piece of laminate on top of that.

    Installing a laminate is not that difficult if you have some basic DIY skills. You would scuff up the original surface, you would apply contact cement to both the new laminate and the old laminate. You would lay it down and you would press it from the middle on out to get out any air bubbles and rub it all out. And then with a router and a special laminate-trimming bit, you would trim the laminate edge very clean to the existing edge of the top and you’d have a brand-new laminate surface when you were all done.

    It’s best if you can take the old top off temporarily to do this so that you don’t have to work around walls and that sort of thing. But it’s not hard to do and that’s one way to have to – to get it repaired without having to physically replace the whole thing. Does that make sense?

    JAY: Excellent idea. Thank you so much. Appreciate your help.

    TOM: Well, if you’ve got a kitchen-vent fan that’s one of the sort of recirculating types – Leslie, I put those in the better-than-nothing category. I mean as far as an air-cleaning appliance is concerned, they’re not nearly as good as a vent fan that takes the smoky, greasy air outside your house. But it means that you have to keep them clean and it’s even more important when they’re the recirculating type. Otherwise, they’re just going to vent all that gook back into your air.

    LESLIE: That’s right. They’re really not the best but if you’ve got one, here’s what you need to do.

    First of all, you need to remove both the metal and the charcoal filters that are in that exhaust fan. Then go ahead and soak the metal filters and you can replace those charcoal filters. And you should be doing that every six months. Now, wipe away any grease from the underside of the hood and then replace the light bulb.

    TOM: And of course, if you want a better option, consider installing a fan that draws air out of the kitchen and vents it to the outside of your home, the same way a bath-exhaust fan would. This is a whole bunch better, in terms of trying to keep that air clean in the kitchen.

    LESLIE: Yeah. It’s not only going to help with that air quality, it can actually help with the odors, as well as all of the grease that builds up on cabinets and soffits. So you really have to get that dirty, yucky air from the kitchen outside. And that’s truly the best way: with an outdoor-vented exhaust fan.

    TOM: Yeah. Once those cabinets get greasy like that, it’s so hard to get the grease out of them, especially if it’s an open grain like, say, oak. So, you want to make sure you stay on top of it, alright?

    888-666-3974. Let’s get back to the phones.

    LESLIE: Anastasia in Colorado is on the line with a bathtub question. What’s going on?

    ANASTASIA: Well, I have a tub drain. Trying to get that out – the drain out because it’s – I can’t put a plug in it now. So, what I’ve tried is the drain-remover tool or it’s a plug wrench. And then I also tried that flaring tool to get it out and neither one of them works, because the little crosshairs in the bottom aren’t still in there, because it’s from 1960 tub.

    TOM: Oh. So you have nothing to grab onto, is that what you’re saying?

    ANASTASIA: Yeah. So, I’ve tried to get WD-40 in there, underneath the tray, but I can’t reach under there. And then I could crawl under the house but I don’t want to do that. So I was trying to think of a better way of getting it out.

    TOM: If I understand it correctly, this normally would unscrew but what you’re driving – what you’re trying to grab onto is either stripped or completely gone.

    ANASTASIA: Correct.

    TOM: I have only two suggestions for you. Number one is to hire a plumber, which is probably – you didn’t need me to tell you that. But I will say that the plumbers deal with this kind of thing all the time. And secondly, if I was a plumber and I was faced with this and there was absolutely no other way to get this off, I would probably drill it off and chisel it away, which you could do with a cold chisel.

    And it’s not a pleasant process and it’s time-consuming and kind of a pain in the neck but when all else fails and you’ve just got nothing to grab onto, that’s a way to get it done.

    ANASTASIA: Alright. That’s what I thought but I thought you might have a little trick up your sleeve.

    TOM: But that’s a trick but it’s a lot of hard work. Anastasia, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Roland in North Carolina on the line who needs some help removing some rust. What can we do for you today?

    ROLAND: I have some exposed I-beams in my basement that support a poured-floor garage above. And during construction, obviously they experienced some rust. And they’re 20 feet long, 12 inches high, so I’ve got about 400 square feet, if you will, of rusted steel. And I’m looking to paint them or finish them off a little bit.

    And I was looking at the Rust-Oleum products and figuring I would go through 15 or 20 cans just to cover that amount of space. So I was wondering if you guys had a better idea and how much prep I should do. Should I just – they haven’t rusted since the house has been finished but it does have a coating of rust on there. Is there a better way? And how should I be concerned about prepping them before painting?

    TOM: Well, a light sanding would be important to remove any of that loose rust – that loose surface rust. And it’s not deep; it’s just on the surface.

    ROLAND: That’s right.

    TOM: And then using a Rust-Oleum primer would be the next step. Not the surface paint but the primer. Now, instead of using individual spray cans, why don’t you buy the gallons of Rust-Oleum and rent a sprayer if you have to – a paint sprayer from a rental yard? It would make it super easy.

    ROLAND: Right. That’s the best way to go?

    LESLIE: Yeah. Plus, you’re inside. And using a can of spray paint is not going to make you feel very well and it’s certainly going to make the house stink up a storm. While certainly easy for application, it’s not really the best approach for an interior project. If you’re using regular paint through a sprayer – as long as you protect everything and cover up your ceiling from overspray and the floor, et cetera – you’re going to be in great shape.

    TOM: What I like to do is to try to depressurize a room when I’m spraying in it. So how would you do that? Very simply. You’d open up a window, stick a window fan in it, make sure it points out and then open up another window or door on the other side of the room and get some cross-ventilation. This way, you’re always moving the air outside the house, replacing it with fresh air.

    ROLAND: Sounds good. Is there any concern with the rust coming back through?

    TOM: Not if you prime it. If you don’t prime it, it can definitely come right through. But if you prime it, especially with a rust-inhibiting primer like Rust-Oleum, it’s going to kind of lock that in place. And as long as you don’t have any kind of serious leakage or something like that, I don’t expect it to come back through.

    ROLAND: Super. Thanks so much.

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

    LESLIE: Hey, are you ready to step outside and start enjoying the beautiful weather? Well, one way that you can do that is by building a pergola. Tom Silva from This Old House is stopping by to tell us how to get it done and says that they actually can be more DIY-friendly than they look. That’s a nice surprise. That’s all coming up, next.

    TOM: Where home solutions live, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Pick up the phone and give us a call right now. We’re here to help. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor, the fast and easy way to find the right pro for any kind of home project, whether it’s a small repair or a major remodel.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Hong in Pennsylvania on the line who is having an issue with carpenter ants. Tell us what’s going on.

    HONG: One day – within the front of the house, we have these wooden pillars. And in the round base, I saw there was a neatly cut hole and the carpenter ants were climbing out of that. What’s an effective way of getting rid of them?

    TOM: Well, there’s a product called Phantom – P-h-a-n-t-o-m – that’s a professionally applied pesticide, Hong. Works very well for carpenter ants and roaches and other types of pests like that.

    And the reason it works particularly well is because it’s a non-detectable pesticide. So the ants go through this product and they bring it back to their nest and they pass it from insect to insect. I think of it as germ warfare for insects. And as they pass it from insect to insect, it will very quickly wipe out the entire nest.

    And I think a professional product like that is going to be the safest and most effective way to get rid of these ants. Because if you use a lot of over-the-counter products, chances are you’re not going to get all the ants where they live, because you’re not going to find any product that’s non-detectable that’s available as an over-the-counter. And you’ll end up putting more and more pesticide in than you probably really need to.

    So I would take a look at – You can put in your zip code, find a number of pest-control operators near your house and have them provide you some estimates for controlling this. You really need to get it under control, because carpenter ants are called “carpenter ants” for a very good reason: they do eat wood. We want to make sure they don’t eat anything that’s structural in your house.

    HONG: Yeah. You know that that’s what I was – I thought. OK.

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

    LESLIE: Well, if you flip through any lawn or garden magazine, you’re sure to come across landscapes that include arbors and pergolas. These wooden yard structures are so beautiful and well within most DIYers’ reach.

    TOM: That’s right. And here with tips for building both, we welcome This Old House general contractor Tom Silva.

    Welcome, Tom.

    TOM SILVA: Nice to be here, guys.

    TOM: Now, this is a project that I think a lot of folks are interested in because outdoor living is so important today. We want to get outside and really enjoy that space, kind of treat it like an extension of our own living rooms or kitchens or the places that make us comfortable. These are the types of additions that can do that. Let’s start by talking about what the difference is between an arbor and a pergola. So what’s an arbor?

    TOM SILVA: Well, think of an arbor as almost like an accent piece that gets you into the front entry of your house or maybe into a garden. It’s like a doorway to the outside of your garden, to walk through this little entryway.

    TOM: So it’s just a nice, architectural feature that kind of helps to establish the space.

    TOM SILVA: Right.

    TOM: So what’s a pergola?

    TOM SILVA: A pergola is like a free-standing structure, usually with four legs, maybe six legs, depending on your design. And it’s a place that you can sit under and entertain.

    TOM: Now, does it have a permanent roof?

    TOM SILVA: It doesn’t have a permanent roof. Lots of times, you have the plants that will grow up over the roof or the ceiling of it. It’s because the roof design, in lots of cases, are strips of wood or lattice and that allows the plants to grow on it.

    TOM: Now, because it’s a fairly large structure, it’s going to have some weight to it, some heft to it. Does it have to be properly secured to the ground, just like you would any deck, for example?

    TOM SILVA: Well, it has to be secured to the ground properly, so you’re probably going to have to go into the ground, at least to your frost line, because you don’t want it to come up and down. But I guess the biggest thing you want to think about with a pergola is whether or not you need a building permit to build it. Because you don’t want to have that thing built and then find out that you’re too close to the lot line or you had to go down a certain depth for your footings. And you want to make sure that you’ve done all that right.

    TOM: Now, what about an arbor? That sounds like it’s a lot simpler project.

    TOM SILVA: Arbor is a lot simpler. An arbor is that entryway into your garden or whatever. And you put some lattice work on it and you’ve got a nice, little place to grow some plants.

    TOM: Now, let’s talk about materials. There’s a lot of choices out there in weather-resistant materials. If you just wanted to tackle a project yourself, you’re a DIYer, would you simply start with pressure-treated?

    TOM SILVA: Pressure-treated is a great way to start; I mean it’s inexpensive wood. Or you can go the next route up: you can go to a cedar. A red cedar is not as good as a white cedar but it will hold up and give you some life. If you wanted to use an accent wood, like an oak, I would stay away from red oak because it won’t hold up to the weather. A white oak will hold up but you’re going to have to really treat that wood and make sure you really treat the part that goes into the ground.

    TOM: Now, it occurs to me that this may be the one and only time you can do a really, really good job finishing this wood structure because, especially if you’re going to put vines on it, you’re never going to get them off.

    TOM SILVA: Right.

    TOM: You can’t mask around the ivy.

    TOM SILVA: Right, right.

    TOM: So, what would you actually do on finishing these before you actually start your planting?

    TOM SILVA: If you’re going to use pressure-treated, you’ve got to think about how you’re going to finish it if you don’t like the natural look of that wood. And it can be a real issue later on when the plants start growing.

    TOM: Great point. Tom Silva from TV’s This Old House, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit. Can’t wait to get started. Perhaps you will tackle it, as well, this weekend.

    TOM SILVA: Thanks, guys. It’s always nice to be here.

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

    TOM: And This Old House is brought to you on PBS by State Farm.

    And just ahead, with all the lawn-and-garden work going on right now, you may be storing more hazardous chemicals like gas and oil and grease. So we’re going to have some tips on the best way to do just that, so that your shed and garage don’t become a fire hazard. It’s all coming up, after this.

    Where home solutions live, 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 projects, your remodeling challenges, your décor dilemmas. Give us a call with those questions, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Heidi in North Carolina is on the line with an electrical problem. How can we help you today?

    HEIDI: Well, I have kind of a two-part question. I have an older home. It’s about 68 years old. We paid an electrician to come in when we converted over to a heat pump from an oil furnace to up our service. And we have an old fuse box that are the screw-in type fuses. And when he put the system in – the new electrical box – he was supposed to convert everything over into the new electrical box and he left the little electrical box – the little fuse box – in my kitchen.

    And unfortunately, he put the new electrical box on the outside of my house. That would be OK, except I’m a single woman and I don’t – safety reasons. I don’t think it’s really smart considering I have a full-size basement it could easily be put in.

    LESLIE: Right.

    HEIDI: So do I need to – I would never call this guy again, for lots of reasons. But do I need to pay somebody else to come in and convert that last part of my home into this other fuse box or – you know, these little fuses are hard to find and when they blow …

    TOM: So, it’s definitely an active panel, right? The fuse panel?

    HEIDI: Oh, it’s active. Yes, sir.

    TOM: OK. So that’s called a “sub-panel” and that’s going to be a sub-panel from the main panel. You said the main panel is now in the basement or the main panel is outside?

    HEIDI: It’s outside. We have a full basement and why he put it outside, I have no clue. But he put the main panel …

    TOM: Yeah, that makes no sense. Because the only time you usually see full panels outside is maybe a condominium situation and then they’re in utility closets. So I can’t imagine why that was done that way. It doesn’t make sense. It sounds to me like you do need a better electrician to come in and take care of this.

    If it makes you feel any better, the fact that you have a fuse box does not mean that it’s unsafe. Fuses are actually quite safe if it’s the right-size fuse matched against the wire that’s hooked up to that circuit.

    And so, to know if that’s the case, somebody has to open the panel and say, “OK, this is Number 14 wire, so it’s a 15-amp fuse. And this is Number 12 wire, so it’s a 20-amp fuse,” and so on and physically write that right above the fuse on the panel so you know what size to put in there. Because it’s too easy, with a fuse box, to put in a 20-amp fuse on a wire that’s only rated for 15 amps. Then, of course, that’s potentially unsafe.

    So, it does sound like you need another electrician. It’s obviously not a do-it-yourself project. And unless there’s some compelling code reason in your part of the country to put that outside, I don’t understand why they would have done that. And you could consider rerunning it back to the inside and unfortunately, that’s kind of where we’re at. It’s not an easy fix; it’s one that’s going to require the investment of a good electrician.

    HEIDI: Alright. Well, thank you very much.

    TOM: Well, with all the lawn-and-garden work going on right now, you may be storing more hazardous liquids than you like. We’re talking about gas and oil and grease. So we’re going to have some tips on the best way to take care of those flammable liquids safely, so that your garage or shed does not become a fire hazard.

    LESLIE: Now, first, the most common and the most dangerous flammable is obviously gasoline. But there are other highly flammable products that you’ve got in your garage that you need to consider. I’m talking about paint thinner, charcoal lighter fluid, kerosene. And that’s just naming a few.

    Now, the problem, however, isn’t just spills. All of these liquids give off invisible vapors that can ignite if they come in contact with even the smallest of sparks. So you’ve got to keep them properly labeled, tightly sealed in non-glass containers and as far away as possible from anything that can produce a spark.

    TOM: Or even an open flame. I mean for example, have you ever noticed that gas water heaters in the garage are always stacked on top of blocks that put them a foot or more off the floor? Well, there’s a reason for that, because gasoline vapors are heavier than air. So, if you were to spill gasoline in the car and it collects at the floor and then starts to pile up, so to speak, if it comes in contact with the flame from a gas water heater – the pilot light? – well, kaboom happens.

    So, you want to make sure that those water heaters are off the ground, because that could prevent an explosion due to those gas fumes. So you have to really be aware of what you’re storing in your garage, because it’s not only what you see, it’s what you can’t see that can really cause a problem.

    But we are here and we hope that you can see that we are ready to help you with your home improvement projects no matter what they are, inside or out: garages, basements, kitchens, bathrooms, you name it. Give us a call, right now, and let’s talk about what’s going on in your house at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now let’s welcome a husband-and-wife team: Bill and Jean from Missouri, tackling a garage project.

    Welcome, guys.

    JEAN: We’re building a garage and we were curious about the concrete floor in this garage. Does it need to be 4 inches? Should it be more than 4 inches thick? And then, also, what kind of finish would you recommend that we put on the concrete?

    TOM: Well, for a garage floor, especially if you’re going to have any heavier equipment in there, I would probably go with at least 6 inches. And I would make it a reinforced garage floor. In other words, I would pour it through a woven wire mesh or whatever reinforcement to really you choose. You want to make sure that the soil beneath the floor is thoroughly tamped, because that’s where most people go wrong. If they’re in a hurry to get the garage floor poured, they don’t take the time to really thoroughly pack down the soil underneath. And if you don’t, it’ll ultimately crack.

    And in terms of the finish, I think probably the best concrete finishes today are the epoxy-based finishes. You mix up the epoxy. It’s two parts; there’s a hardener and the base product. You mix it together, you apply it, you have all sorts of different color and different finish options you could do with that. But it chemically cures. And once it does, it really locks in tight to the concrete so it’s not going to peel off. And it gives you really terrific protection.

    JEAN: What about using a polisher to polish the concrete?

    TOM: That’s an option, as well, but you still have to have something that’s ultimately going to seal in that surface. Because remember, concrete is extremely porous. And in a barn, who knows what’s going to be spilled on that?

    JEAN: Right. OK.

    BILL: Yeah, I did a little research on a concrete – or polishing and it’s quite an operation. I mean it’s not …

    TOM: It’s not for the faint of heart, eh?

    BILL: Yeah. No, I’m not going to do it myself. Oh, no.

    TOM: No, you were going to have your wife do it.

    BILL: Hey, you ain’t around. No, my concrete man said that 4 inches – all I’m going to put in this garage is a couple of old collector – old cars. Antique cars.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Then you want that shiny floor so the cars look awesome.

    BILL: That’s right. I want shiny.

    TOM: Alright, Bill and Jean. 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 When we come back, we’re helping somebody who’s working on an older home and really wants to keep that old-home look. So we’re going to help him find some replacement hardware that looks the part, so stick around.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Here to help you with your home improvement project. Give us a call, right now, with your questions at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by Never worry about overpaying for a job. Just use HomeAdvisor’s True Cost Guide to see what others paid for similar projects. That’s all online, for free, at

    LESLIE: And while you’re online, post your question in The Money Pit Community section, just like Janice in Rhode Island did.

    Now, Janice writes: “We’re in the process of remodeling our 1940s home. All the existing doors have mortise-style locks, antique knobs and backplates that are original to the house. However, all of the keys are missing. I’d like to replace the locking mechanism but keep the antique backplates and knobs. They look great. Is there a way to keep using these old knobs and backplates but add in the new locking mechanism? Thanks for your help.”

    TOM: Yeah, I think yes and no is my answer, Janice, because there are certainly many websites and suppliers, like and These sites have been created to address this very issue. Though most use reproductions of the antiques rather than the original locks, because of the challenges of merging those new mechanisms with the older hardware.

    So, in the end, it might serve you best to replace the entire lock, in its entirety, by purchasing one that looks antique in design from a site like this. Adding new parts to the old lock might not work well. You might end up going back and forth, you know, to try to find just what you need. Of course, you could engage a locksmith, if you can find one that has maybe a storeroom in the back with those kinds of parts.

    But I suspect that you might be better off just replacing that with reproduction hardware. It’s going to be easier and less expensive in the long run. And it’s going to look almost the same.

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post here from Sharon. Now, Sharon writes: “Is it the owner’s responsibility to clean out the septic tank and have it inspected before the sale of a home?”

    That’s a good question. Do you have to provide a report on what’s going on?

    TOM: I’m not going to say there are hard and fast rules on that. But typically, they’re – if there’s going to be a septic inspection done, it’s going to be paid for by the buyer, not by the homeowner. However, if you had service work done within some number of months of selling the house, then that certainly would be good information to have. And if your company that did the work found no issues, that might be worth passing onto the buyer, as well. So it’s not necessarily a requirement but it’s a good thing to do, along with all the other good things that you should be doing if you’re putting your house on the market, like making sure that all of your mechanical systems, the service on them is up to date.

    I can’t tell you how many times, Leslie, when I, as a home inspector, would go into a basement or a crawlspace or a closet and look at a furnace and it was clearly ignored for the last 20 years, except for last week, when you could tell it’s dirty, disgusting and rusty and the dirt is caked on the fan blades and it’s got a brand-new filter. It’s like that just did that. That, to me, means you ignored it and then just last-minute tried to make it look better, like putting lipstick on the pig.

    LESLIE: Oh, wait. Is that wrong? No, I’m kidding.

    TOM: Yes, it is wrong.

    So, you want to make sure you get everything properly serviced. And any minor things, like small things like rot – because I’ve to tell you, buyers always think the worst of any of that kind of stuff. Even if it’s a small repair, they can think it’s indicative of your whole house falling apart, that they’re actually buying a real-life money pit. So, clean it up before you put it on the market. You’ll be much better off in the end.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And believe me, those service plans are not expensive and they’re there to be used. So use them.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. We hope you’re enjoying this beautiful spring weekend. And if you’re out taking care of your house, we’re with you every step of the way. You can always call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Or if you can’t get through, post your question to the Community page at If we’re not in the studio, we will call you the next time we are. But for now, that’s all the time we have.

    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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