Small Bathroom Makeovers And More #1218171

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Happy Holidays. It is the big holiday weekend. We know that you’re probably not picking up the tools right now and that’s OK. I mean if we didn’t have to be here, we’d probably be goofing off, too, you know? But we are.

    LESLIE: That’s true.

    TOM: And since we are here, we’re going to give you some tips, some advice on home improvement projects that you might want to tackle after this holiday craziness passes, whether it’s a project of décor, maybe you’re totally frustrated with your kitchen, having done all this cooking, and ready for a new one. Maybe you’re thinking about doing some redecorating of some of the inside of your house because we had a long, cold winter ahead. Whatever is on your to-do list, you, this hour, get to slide it over to us and put it on ours by picking up the phone and calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. We’re here to give you the tips and the advice to find the best, easiest, most successful and cost-effective ways to get those projects done.

    Coming up on today’s show, with all that food prep going on this time of year, even a sink with a disposer might get clogged now and again. We’re going to share the tricks of the trade to clear those holiday clogs so you can get your kitchen back in action as fast as possible.

    LESLIE: And with all the holiday guests stopping by and maybe even staying over, you might be paying more than you want for hot water. Well, we’re going to have a quick and inexpensive way that can help that’s so easy to install, you can get it done yourself well before your doorbell announces the arrival of this weekend’s guests.

    TOM: Plus, with all the traveling going on, it’s a good time to look at your home security. Hey, did you know that the weakest door in your house might very well be your garage? We’re going to have tips to help you secure that entry, just ahead.

    LESLIE: Plus, from QUIKRETE, we’re giving away a Walk Maker Kit worth 80 bucks that makes it super easy to build a beautiful cobblestone walkway that’s going to lead Santa right to your front door.

    TOM: So let’s get to it. What’s on your home improvement to-do list? Give us a call right now. Let’s talk about it. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Or you can head on over to The Money Pit website and post your question to the Community page at

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Ken in Florida is on the line and he’s having a question about some noisy pipes. What’s going on?

    KEN: Yes. Hi, Tom. Hi, Leslie.

    TOM: Hey, Ken.

    LESLIE: Hey!

    KEN: I love your show.

    TOM: Thank you.

    KEN: I live in the villages and it’s pretty unique for what I’ve ever seen – is I had those plastic pull – push/pull – shut-off valves under my sinks. So, never had a water-hammer problem in my own house, ever, until I changed the valves. I put in quarter-turn, stainless-steel valves and now I’m getting water hammer on my cold-water side.

    TOM: Huh. How about that? Gee, that doesn’t really make sense because a valve is a valve. It’s stopping the water. I wonder if the pipes got loose when you did the valve replacement and now maybe that one pipe has the ability to kind of shake more. Maybe it was held so solid before that you didn’t get a water-hammer effect.

    KEN: Yeah, that’s possible. But when I changed the valve, I was very careful cutting it. I didn’t yank on it or anything and it just blows me away. But yeah, that’s a very good thought because if there was a strap or a clamp in the wall and just moving it enough to cut it and install the new valves, that could have done it.

    TOM: Right.

    KEN: Now, my other question would be on that same thing. Is the water hammer – is it something that’s going to tear apart my connection in the wall?

    TOM: Not likely. It sounds worse than it is. It’s possible it could cause a leak if you had a weak connection but the option there is to put in what’s called a “water-hammer arrestor,” which is like a shock absorber for water hammer and in homes where that’s a constant …

    KEN: Yes. I have those on my supply lines for my washer and dryer.

    TOM: Alright. So you’re familiar with them. So that’s an option, as well. But I would take a look and see if you can determine if that pipe got loose as part of that plumbing work, because that would make sense.

    KEN: OK.

    TOM: Just because you had push/pull valves and now you have gate valves, that shouldn’t have changed anything in terms of whether or not that pipe is shaking.

    KEN: Right. Yeah.

    TOM: And for those folks who don’t know what water hammer is, you’ve probably heard it. It’s when the water is running through the pipes and there’s a valve that’s turned off and the pipes shake or bang. And because they’re copper, generally, you hear that throughout the entire house. So it sounds worse than it is. It is possible it can cause a leak but I would say that that is not likely.

    KEN: OK. Well, thank you very much. Love the show. Keep up the good work and you’re doing a wonderful service for all the do-it-yourselfers.

    TOM: Alright. Thank you. Appreciate it. Alright.

    LESLIE: Thanks.

    TOM: Thanks so much. We appreciate it. And Happy Holidays.

    LESLIE: Harriet in Georgia is on the line with a painting question. What are you working on?

    HARRIET: I have a brick house and the trim is wood. My house was built in ‘78 and originally, the trim was painted with oil-based paint. And since then, it’s been painted with latex paint. And I felt like the oil-based paint lasted better, longer. And I wondered, which do you all recommend?

    TOM: Well, certainly, oil-based paint is more durable in terms of sort of wear and tear because it’s harder. But if you have latex on it right now and you want to go back to oil or back to solvent-based paint, you’re going to basically have to sand that to make sure there’s no loose paint left. And then you’re going to have to prime it and then put your topcoat over that.

    Because my concern is that if it’s not prepped properly, that you might get a situation where it delaminates, Harriet, and starts to peel off. You’ve got to get rid of that top layer of paint by sanding it to make sure that whatever is left is really well-adhered to the surface that it was originally applied to. Does that make sense?

    HARRIET: Yes, it does. Well, if I did the oil-based paint and did sand it, would – is that a better paint than latex or does it really matter that much?

    TOM: Well, it’s maybe a little bit more durable but there’s plenty of good-quality latex paints that are out there today. The thing about paint is you don’t want to kind of cheapen out on it; you want to use the best paint from a good manufacturer. Because if you use like, for example, a Benjamin Moore or Sherwin-Williams, you’re going to have good results. The only time I really suggest oil-based paint these days may be on a floor, if you’re going to paint a floor, because it’s really durable for that or perhaps on something like kitchen cabinets, where the doors are getting banged around a lot.

    But for trim, for the most part, you can use a latex-based paint.

    HARRIET: OK. I’ll do that. Thank you so much.

    TOM: 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

    We hope you are enjoying this very festive holiday weekend. If you are doing any work around the house or getting ready for some guests, give us a call. We’re here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    And hey, if you reach out now by phone or the Community section, you might just win everything you need to get a head start on building a new patio or walkway for spring. Because from QUIKRETE, we’re giving away the Walk Maker Building Form Prize Pack worth 80 bucks.

    Now, this is a great gift for yourself, just in time for the holiday. It’s the Walk Maker, which is a reusable plastic mold. It’s in a cobblestone pattern, so it’s really fun and easy to make a concrete walkway or patio. You just lay down the mold, fill each mold with a single bag of QUIKRETE Crack-Resistant Concrete Mix. Then you trowel the finish and remove the mold.

    You can use the form over and over again. You’ll have a beautiful walkway or patio that’s totally customized by you with QUIKRETE Liquid Cement Colors.

    TOM: That prize package from QUIKRETE is worth 80 bucks. Going out to one listener drawn at random. Make that you. Pick up the phone and call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Scott in Alaska needs some help with energy-efficient lighting. How can we help you?

    SCOTT: Yes, I’m currently changing over my house to all LED lighting. And I also – I have, currently, a few rooms with fluorescent-tube lighting and I’d like to change those over to LED. And I live up here in Alaska and I just haven’t been able to find the tubes with LED.

    TOM: Yeah, they’re available. You can probably find them online and have them shipped to you. But they’re made in the same exact shape as the standard fluorescent bulbs. You know, they’re not inexpensive but they do have a very long life. Those kinds of lights will typically last like 50,000 hours or something crazy like that. I think the bulbs themselves are probably, I would guess, $20 or $30 a piece.

    LESLIE: And the shipping is probably going to be a hundred.

    TOM: Yeah, exactly. But they’re going to last a lot longer. At this point, though, I would also price out replacement fixtures. Because you might find by the time you buy all those bulbs, it might be cheaper just to replace the fixtures. Plus, I don’t know how much energy is going to be wasted, because all those fixtures have the transformers built into them. There may be some system waste, in terms of the fixture itself.

    SCOTT: OK. I’m just looking. I’m very impressed with the LED brightness and of course, the energy savings over a period of time. And I just want my whole house to be energy-efficient and save me money in the long run, so – but I just can’t seem to find them up here in Alaska yet. I do like going to Home Depot and they did have some LED tube – fluorescent tubes – but not in my size, currently.

    TOM: Yeah. I would order them online and have them shipped. That would be the way to get them to your door, OK?

    SCOTT: Alright. Well, thank you very much for your time.

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

    LESLIE: Denise in Ohio is on the line with some window condensation. Tell us what’s going on.

    DENISE: I’ve got some windows; they’re double-pane. The house is about 10 years old. And I am constantly battling condensation in the windows. I typically, with a lot of the windows, open them daily and close them at nighttime. If there’s some windows that I don’t get to in the wintertime, when it gets really cold, there is water dripping. It pools, it turns to ice. I try and get some of that putty-type stuff that you can put in the bottom and along the sides.

    TOM: Is the condensation inside the panes of the windows or is it like on the inside surface?

    DENISE: Inside surface of the house.

    TOM: Alright. And these are thermal-pane windows or single-pane windows?

    DENISE: Double.

    TOM: Well, clearly, the insulated glass is not insulated, so that’s why you’re getting this level of condensation. If you had truly insulated glass, it would be too warm for this condensation to occur. But you have warm, moist air in the house. It’s striking the very, very cold, virtually uninsulated glass and then condensing on that glass and dripping down. So that’s what’s going on; that’s what’s causing the moisture. It’s nothing more than, unfortunately, bad windows.

    So, with that said, replacement windows are in your future. Now, you don’t have to do it immediately but it’s a project you’re going to have to face. I mean the good news is that replacement windows, the costs have come down. They’re all custom-made by just by nature, so the company will measure the windows in your house. And by replacing them, they simply pull out the sashes – the old sashes – and slip in a new window into the old hole. And it looks great, it works well. It’s just a good system. So that’s in your future.

    For now, though, what we need to do is two things: we need to take as much humidity out of the house as we can and secondly, I’d like to see you get a barrier in front of those windows. So, if you could use, for example, an insulated shade – one that has sort of those honeycomb kind of designs – that would help a little bit.

    DENISE: I’ve got double right now and I’ve just ordered triple for some other windows.

    TOM: Well, that will help because that, basically, will stop some of that warm, moist air from hitting the window. And also drapes. Shades and drapes help the situation.

    In terms of the humidity, there are a number of ways we can attack this. First of all, you want to make sure you start outside your house, looking at the drainage conditions at the foundation perimeter. Because believe it or not, if water is allowed to collect around the foundation and it doesn’t run away from your house, if the gutters aren’t extended away from the house, that foundation will absorb water and it will release into the air once it gets inside. That adds to the humidity. So I would definitely do that.

    Secondly, I would ask you to check to make sure that all your vent fans are venting out, not recirculating. Because that will help, as well.

    And thirdly, up in the attic, you want to make sure that you’re well-ventilated. Because that vapor pressure starts at the basement or first floor – will permeate all the building materials and end up in the attic. And if the attic’s not ventilated enough, it’s going to kind of hang right there.

    So, those are ways to reduce humidity inside the house. Of course, you could also use a whole-home dehumidifier. But I think, in this case, if we just control moisture and try to get something that’s protecting those windows, that’s the best you’re going to do short of replacing them.

    DENISE: Well, what about getting some circulation? If I open them earlier in the morning and get some circulation going, will that …?

    TOM: Nah, you’re – listen, this is just science, OK? Warm, moist air against cold surface equals condensation, you know? You see this in the summer when you go outside with a glass of iced tea and moisture forms on the outside of it. It’s the same thing. It’s just happening in the winter in your house because everything is reversed: the warm, moist air is inside the house and that cold glass is your window.

    DENISE: Yes. And unfortunately, we have to keep the humidity at a certain temperature because of asthma and allergies.

    TOM: Hmm. Yeah.

    DENISE: Alright. Didn’t get as good a window as I thought I did. Alright. Thank you.

    TOM: Alright, Denise. Sorry we couldn’t give you better news but maybe you’ll get through with that.


    LESLIE: Well, many of us are using a lot more hot water these days, especially if you’ve got friends and family staying with you through the holidays. But you can cut down those costs and it’s as simple as adding an insulation water-heater blanket.

    Now, this wraps around your water heater and that will help keep that heat in and that’s what costs the money.

    TOM: Yeah. And here’s why: your water heater actually has to work a little harder in colder weather because of what’s called “standby heat loss.” Basically, when the water loses heat through the tank’s outside shell, it’s made of metal and off it goes into the air where it doesn’t really hang out and help you heat that water at all. So it drives up the cost.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Now, water-heater jackets cost as little as 20 bucks but they’re going to save you big over the life of that water heater. And they’re especially effective on models that are older units that really just aren’t that efficient. And they take, really, just minutes to install, which means you could pick one up today, have it installed before those guests arrive at the door for the holiday. All you really need is a pair of scissors just to cut it to size.

    TOM: And just make sure that when you add the water-heater blanket, you need to be careful not to block the thermostat if it’s an electric water heater. There’ll be two of those: one towards the top of the tank and one towards the bottom. You’ll recognize it because there’s a screw that covers the shield. And if you have a gas water heater, you also don’t want to cover the gas-burner access, which is at the bottom. Just kind of make a big, old U around that and keep it away from the valve and the burner compartment and you’ll be good to go.

    You’ll start getting immediate savings by simply adding an insulating water-heater blanket. Very easy DIY project. You’re talking probably 10, 15 minutes to get this done.

    LESLIE: Cynthia in New York is on the line and there seems to be a whole host of problems going on with this tile floor. I was going to start itemizing but why don’t you just tell us what’s going on?

    CYNTHIA: My house was built in 1948. It’s oak hardwood floors throughout. I bought 12-inch-square ceramic tile from Lowe’s in order to put in an area coming in from the front door, going through the foyer area. And last year, I installed – had it installed. And it was during a heavy rainstorm, so the repair people cut the tiles right inside my house and created tremendous – there was a cement dust throughout.

    And when the installers left, they told me that the grout should be sealed, which I did using a special spray can. And they said that they would return to finish on the edges to prevent tripping, et cetera, because it was raised slightly higher than the rest of the floors.

    After a few weeks, I noticed movement of the tiles and then a couple cracked. And now, all of the tiles move and the grout in the heaviest traveling areas has turned brown when I wet-mop it. The rest remains white.

    TOM: OK. So, Cynthia, let me just summarize this. Essentially, you’ve had this tile down for less than a year and the tiles are getting loose?

    CYNTHIA: Yes.

    TOM: Alright. So, the installation was not done correctly. The grout – the porosity of the grout – whether it’s getting brown, red, yellow or blue I really don’t care so much about, because that’s all meaningless when the tile is not adhered well.

    So the problem here is that the installation sounds like it was done incorrectly. I don’t know how they adhered the tiles, I don’t know how they prepared the floor but there is no way that tile should be loosening up inside of a year and having all of these problems associated with them. So, this is a situation where it really is the installer’s responsibility. And if you can get that installer back, I think they owe you a new floor.

    CYNTHIA: Yeah. I can’t stick one here and stick one there or that sort of thing.

    TOM: You’re fighting a losing battle, OK? Because you had – you saw it right away; they started to loosen up right away. Now it’s just getting worse. And the reason the tiles crack is because they’re not supported evenly underneath.

    So this all comes down to installation. If the floor was put down correctly, those tiles would be rock-solid. Insofar as the grout is concerned, yeah, I mean you do seal the grout. It is a maintenance issue to maintain it. I’m not so concerned about that. It certainly wouldn’t crumble if the tiles were secure. But that really is the issue. The tiles have to be removed at this point. The adhesive has to be pulled out. You may need another layer of underlayment. I’m not quite sure, again, how it was attached. And if it’s done correctly, though, it literally can last indefinitely.

    Cynthia, thank you so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT and good luck with that project.

    LESLIE: Well, with all that food prep going on this time of year, sinks are getting clogged faster than ever. We’re going to share tricks of the trade to clear those holiday clogs and get your kitchen back in action, because it’s super busy this weekend, next.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Now is that time of year when you seem to run out of space in your house. It’s a good time to maybe look for some extra storage in your home. There’s a lot of places you might find that.

    My favorite storage space is underneath the stairs that go from the second floor to the first floor of our house. And we actually built a closet under it and really picked up quite a bit of space by doing that. There’s hidden storage spaces like that all over your house. So, if you need storage, don’t just look for the obvious places; look for some of those cubby holes in places where you can carve out some customized storage just for you.

    LESLIE: Well, clogged sinks are a part of life and in my house, it’s the kitchen sink that tends to clog the most often.

    TOM: And that’s not all that unusual. With all that food prep and scraps, even a sink with a disposer can get clogged. But if that happens to you, learning the right way to clear it will make the job go easier and prevent damage to the pipes and the plumbing equipment. Here to give us the proper steps to clear that clog is Richard Trethewey, the plumbing and heating contractor from TV’s This Old House.

    Welcome, Richard.

    RICHARD: Hi, guys.

    TOM: You’ve probably cleared more drains than you can possibly ever hope to count, too.

    RICHARD: Yeah, I’m always big right after Thanksgiving.

    TOM: Now, why would a kitchen sink, even one that’s equipped with a garbage disposer, still have a clogged-drain problem?

    RICHARD: Well, the disposer is doing its job: it’s taking foodstuffs and grinding it up. And so, if it grinds it up well enough, it should go down the drain but it’s also a function of the condition of that drainpipe on the discharge side. We see kitchen sinks that have – the pipes have sagged and so it’s going to clog in that horizontal pipe that should be pitched.

    TOM: So part of the solution here is making sure that the plumbing drain system itself does not have any of the built-in obstructions that sometimes we see: the angular connections, for example.

    RICHARD: Yep. Underneath your kitchen sink, the type of drainpipes that are under there are usually called “tubular.” And they come together with a compression knot that you tighten up and there’s a gasket in there.

    But there’s all sorts of little baffles that are in the tees and they’re designed to keep the water from splashing up into the double sink. But that also becomes a choke point so oftentimes, it’s simplest to just take apart that stuff, clean it all out and then bring it back together again.

    TOM: OK.

    LESLIE: Is there a better material over the plastic fittings that are the tubular parts, that you should be using to sort of help things move more efficiently, like brass?

    RICHARD: It’s funny. As a licensed plumber, I’ve always used brass but – and more and more now as we do Ask This Old House, I’m finding that the plastic is easier to work with, it’s smooth on the inside, it lasts, it’s pretty inert. So, I’m being won over to the plastic world.

    TOM: Now, if you do have a clog in that drain system, is there – the first thing that most people do is reach for a plunger. Are there things like that that work or are you better off just going right under the sink and starting to take things apart where you can physically see what’s going on?

    RICHARD: Well, if you put a plunger on top of a kitchen sink that has a disposer, you run some risk of trying to drive that food through a very small aperture, which is that grinding wheel inside of a disposer. So, we’ve heard stories about people pushing so hard that the disposer just sort of explodes off the bottom of the sink.

    TOM: Wow.

    RICHARD: Most kitchen sinks have a trap that has a clean-out on it. And so the best way, really, in my opinion, is to get under there with a shallow pan, open up that little nut that’s on the trap. That’s a U-shaped fitting that’s under the sink. And that’s designed to trap sewer gases so they don’t come up and make a smell and that’s usually the place where it clogs and …

    LESLIE: Are we turning off the water before we tackle the …?

    RICHARD: We don’t really have to as long as you don’t run the water.


    RICHARD: You know, this is on the drain line only.

    TOM: Now, what about drain cleaners? I cringe when I hear people talk about these but that’s usually a really bad way to clear a clog, isn’t it?

    RICHARD: Drain cleaners only seem to clear the hair off of the plumber’s hands. I’m no fan there, so I hope I don’t start a lobby against me. But nothing beats a mechanical cleaning of a drainpipe with a snake or some sort of mechanical device. So often, those drain cleaners go down there and they crystallize in there or they sit there and they become a place where you’re going to soften and eat up the pipes.

    You could use drain cleaners almost as a maintenance item to sort of keep organic stuff clear in the pipe but I would never do it in a standing clog that was – you had a whole sink filled with water.

    TOM: Now, Richard, so many people are accustomed to just grabbing a plunger when a sink clogs. Is that still an effective thing to do?

    RICHARD: Yeah, it’s the first line of defense. Every house should have one. And that is used to try and drive and push pressure down to clear the stoppage. After that, the next thing you go for is a snake: a mechanical device that can drive a cable down through the drainpipe, down through that U-shaped pipe called “the trap” and mechanically clear that drain.

    TOM: Now, is your advice always then, whenever possible, to try to attack this clog right at its source? In other words, get under the cabinets and try to take things apart, identify the clog. If there’s any obstructions, put it back together that way?

    RICHARD: Yeah, most kitchen sinks, if you look there you can see that the tubular connections can come apart easily. There’s also, generally, a little clean-out plug at the bottom of that U-shaped bend called “the trap.” And then you can put a shallow pan under it, open it up and most of the foodstuffs can come out and then you can run a snake through it, either downstream or upstream.

    TOM: Good advice. Richard Trethewey, the plumbing and heating contractor from TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    RICHARD: Great to be here.

    LESLIE: Alright. You can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For local listings and a step-by-step video on how you can unclog a drain and even others, visit

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

    Up next, with all the traveling that everyone’s doing this weekend, it’s a great time for burglars. They’re celebrating, as well. We’re going to have some tips to help make your home more secure before you take off, next.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Pick up the phone, give us a call, right now, with your how-to or décor project that you’d like to chat about, perhaps plan for the new year ahead. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Today, it is the ho-ho-home improvement show.

    LESLIE: It sure is.

    TOM: So, give us a call and we would love to help you out.

    So, Leslie, is all the decorating done there at Casa de Segrete?

    LESLIE: Are you kidding? Everything’s done. The gifts are wrapped. Everything is just about ready. I always start to worry that maybe I don’t have enough things for one of the kids and I didn’t get a gift for somebody.

    TOM: Well, you’ve got to balance it out, right? You’ve got to kind of keep track. You can’t have one pile be bigger than the next – the other pile. We always were, you know, keeping an eye on that sort of thing.

    LESLIE: I know. And how many – I don’t know how many parents are listening that have younger children that have been doing the elf the entire month. Now, the elf comes from the North Pole.

    TOM: Oh, Elf on the Shelf thing?

    LESLIE: Yes. And pops into your house and keeps an eye on things, then reports back to Santa.

    TOM: Right. Right.

    LESLIE: But sometimes, people fall asleep and the elf forgets to go to the places. And it’s been a very stressful month, so I’m very much looking forward to this Christmas happening fast. Thank goodness it’s this weekend.

    TOM: Oh, yes. The elves’ helpers, they get tired, too, especially after they’re having a long day at work and taking care of kids. I can understand that, so …

    LESLIE: I mean it’s funny. I see on Facebook other parents posting things like, “Oh, no. I forgot.” And some parents are setting them up in these crazy schemes where the elves go – they toilet-paper the house and they do these funny tricks.

    TOM: Yeah.

    LESLIE: And I’m like, “You guys, everybody cool it with the crazy stuff. Just be normal.”

    TOM: The tech-savvy parents probably have elf reminders that they set on their phones and stuff and elf alarms and elf alerts.

    LESLIE: They do. I’ve even seen spreadsheets online. So, for parents out there who are with me on this, we’re in the home stretch, guys. A couple more days.

    TOM: Alright. Almost done.

    Hey, if you are not done but maybe thinking about getting started with a home improvement project, you are in exactly the right place. We’d love to talk to you about that, whether it’s décor, whether it’s construction, whether it’s remodeling. Maybe you’re thinking ahead to the spring. Give us a call right now. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, we’re all super busy traveling this time of year. How many of you are hitting the road or have been on the road for this entire month with all the holidays and celebrating? But we forget that this is also a really busy time of year for burglars. So, I think now is a good time to talk about how to make your home more secure. And one spot that we really need to think about is the garage door.

    Now, here’s why: more than 70 percent of homeowners use that garage door as the main access point to the house. But the garage-door lock is usually one of the weakest.

    TOM: Yeah, it really is. It doesn’t have that same kind of deadbolt quality that every other lock in the house has. But now there’s actually a new lock in the market that fixes this. It’s out from LiftMaster. It’s called the Automatic Garage-Door Lock. And it’s like a deadbolt for your front door but once it’s in place, the garage door is virtually impenetrable. It basically automatically locks and then unlocks whenever the door opens and closes. It makes a sound so you know the lock’s engaged. And then you know that the door is absolutely closed and secure and it cannot be opened up.

    LESLIE: Now, the automated garage-door lock works with LiftMaster’s MyQ app, which is really helpful because it lets you know what’s going on at home even when you’re not there.

    Now, MyQ is going to send notifications if the garage door is left open. And then it lets you close it from anywhere, wherever in the world that you are, with your smartphone. And if you install the Automatic Garage-Door Lock and have the MyQ app on your smartphone, when the garage closes, that lock will also engage. So you can be fully secure and really, the best part is having peace of mind knowing that this is all taken care of. So you can just relax wherever you are.

    TOM: Yep. And it turns out this is an industry first; no one’s ever had this particular type of lock before for garage doors. So, way to go, LiftMaster.

    You can get all the details on their website at

    LESLIE: Joan in California needs some help with a kitchen remodel. How’s it going?

    JOAN: Yes, well, we haven’t started yet and I just need some advice on how to get started. Do you start with an architect or what do you do?

    TOM: That’s a good question. So, planning makes perfect. You want to start with a plan. Now, are you essentially going to replace the kitchen in sort of the same layout that you have right now, Joan? Or are you thinking about really changing things up a lot?

    JOAN: Well, it’s a very small kitchen and I just want to know how to maximize everything.

    TOM: Alright. So if it’s a small kitchen, you can probably do this inexpensively by perhaps starting with a home center. A lot of the home centers have designers that work on the – work on designing kitchens for the cabinetry that they sell. And for a very small fee, they can help you lay that out and take advantage of all of the latest options.

    If you want to do more than that, what you’re going to do is hire a certified kitchen-and-bath designer. But this is sort of like hiring an interior decorator that works just on kitchens and baths. And that’s going to cost you a few bucks.

    But if you want to just do this an easy way, I would start with a home center, in the kitchen department, and see if they’ll lay out some options for you using the type of cabinets that they sell. Those cabinets are usually pretty affordable at that level and they’ll be able to give you some ideas on things, perhaps, you haven’t thought about.

    LESLIE: You know what, Joan? I think it’s really smart to keep a notepad in the kitchen. And everybody and anybody, yourself and your family who use the space, as you walk through and notice little areas where you’re tripping over one another or things that just don’t make sense or you wish that X was here and not there, sort of jot all of those down. So when you do go sit down with – whether it’s a certified kitchen-and-bath designer or someone in the home center, you sort of have all of these issues that could be addressed or might be able to be addressed.

    JOAN: One thing I really want is more electrical outlets, so that’ll have to definitely be in the plan.

    TOM: Well, it’s definitely in the plan and you’ll do these things in order. The first thing you’ll do is rip out the old cabinets and the next thing you’ll do would be to rough-in new wiring and new plumbing to have it exactly where you want it. And then, of course, you’ll start the installation of the new cabinetry as almost the last step.

    It’s also a good time to think about universal design in the kitchen, maybe having countertops of different height. So as you get older, you could sit down and work at the kitchen counter as opposed to just standing up. So, think of the sort of accessibility issues when you design this kitchen, as well.

    JOAN: How much time should I allow for something like this?

    TOM: Well, it depends on whether you have sort of all your ducks in a row. Sometimes it takes a while to get all the cabinets delivered. But if everything is accessible and on site, you can tear out this kitchen and rebuild it inside of a week.

    JOAN: Oh, wow.

    TOM: If you have everybody lined up and everybody is there when they need to be there and the plumber shows up on time, the electrician shows up on time and so on, sure, I don’t see any reason you can’t get it done in a week.

    JOAN: Well, thank you very much.

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

    Still ahead, could your bathroom use a quick pick-me-up? Wainscoting is a timeless touch that’s great for making small rooms stand out. We’re going to tell you how to install it, when we return.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Pick up the phone, give us a call, right now, with your home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Perhaps you have a décor dilemma, a holiday-lighting emergency. We are here to help no matter what’s going on with your house. That number, again, is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Don’t forget we’re online, too. So post your question in the Community section. And Brian is writing in saying, “We have a very small bathroom that has no character at all. How do we give the room a decorative makeover that it desperately needs?”

    TOM: You know, bathrooms are tough remodeling projects. It would seem that they’re simple because they’re so small but they’re complicated.

    LESLIE: That’s the hard part.

    TOM: Yeah. They’re complicated, too, because when you’re doing a bathroom makeover, any kind of bathroom project, it’s just a hard place to work in. You can’t make any time in any particular project. Just a lot of little steps to try to get it done.

    But if you’re looking for some décor ideas, I think the first challenge a lot of folks have, Leslie, especially with these older bathrooms, is they have good, solid tile but it’s avocado or lemon yellow or some God-awful color from yesteryear.

    LESLIE: It’s possible.

    TOM: And it’s a shame to have to tear that out because it usually is a pretty well-made wall, for example. So I usually advise decorating around it.

    Now, if you’ve got the old mosaic tile on the floor, you can easily cover that with a laminate floor or engineered-hardwood floor or water-resistant, say, an EVP-vinyl floor. But the tile, I don’t know, you’ve got to think hard about whether or not you really want to tear that out, because it’s so well made and maybe decorate around it.

    The other thing that you could do, though, is add some wainscoting. And I’ve seen this done in some pretty impressive small spaces and made them look quite grand. And you don’t do this with standard wood paneling, you do it with PVC paneling so it’s waterproof.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And I mean it really does look very nice. And I bet you could install it over the tile if you really didn’t want to start demoing a wall. There’s good adhesives for that, so you can attach it right to the tile or even make just a pinrail above the tile and attach the wainscoting to that.

    There’s a couple of ways to do it and it really does make a huge difference. And if you put a tiny piece of one-by just to give the perception of a ledge on the top and just to finish off that wainscoting, it really does look beautiful. Paint that in a semi-gloss to a gloss white and pick a beautiful, soothing color for above and suddenly, that bathroom does feel very, very different.

    TOM: Alright. Tess is chiming in with a question. She’s got a problem with gaps between the exterior walls of her kitchen and bathroom and the countertops. The wall seems to be expanding and contracting, leaving a gap between the wall and the countertop. “Is there any way to correct this problem? The counters seem to be anchored properly but what do I need to do to fix it?”

    I think that happens because of expansion and contraction, Tess, and I’ve seen it a lot over the years. There’s a couple of ways to deal with this.

    Now, one way that you can do it, if it’s a fairly small gap – maybe a ¼-inch or so – you can caulk it. But before you caulk it, I would put a backer rod in that space. That’s a piece of foam or you could roll up newspaper, because you want to fill the gap between the countertop and the wall so the caulk won’t fall back in.

    Now, if it’s bigger than that or you want to try something else, just use a piece of molding. Take a piece of quarter round or a piece of shoe molding, attach it to the wall. Don’t attach it to the countertop and let it ride back and forth and cover that gap. This way, as the countertop expands and contracts, the gap will always be covered. Sometimes, it’ll be a little bit more reveal, sometimes a little bit less. But either way, you won’t be looking at that ugly gap anymore.

    LESLIE: It’s amazing. You forget your house is almost a living, breathing object.

    TOM: That’s right. Exactly.

    This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on this festive holiday weekend. We hope that all of your holiday decorating projects have gone well. Hey, if you have any last-minute decorating emergencies, you’re welcome to post a question to the Community page at, where I or one of our fellow experts will chime in and try to get you an answer. But remember, we are here for you, 24/7, at 888-MONEY-PIT. Whenever you’ve got a home improvement question, just give us a ring or post it to the website and we will get back to you the next time we are producing this show.

    Want to wish everyone a very, very joyous holiday season, a merry Christmas, a very happy new year. Thanks so much for listening to The Money Pit.

    I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …

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


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

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