Smart Ideas for Saving Money with Smart Homes

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: What are you working on this beautiful September day? If it’s your house, you are in exactly the right place, because we’re here to help you get your projects done. Whether it’s a do-it-yourself project or a project you want to hire a pro for, give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Home improvement, remodeling, décor, design, we have tips and advice to help you get it done.

    Hey, coming up this hour, there’s an old saying that the devil’s in the details. And that certainly applies to those big construction projects. And if you’ve hired a pro for a remodeling project, there is one really important thing you need to make sure gets done before making that last payment to a contractor. We’ll explain what that is, just ahead.

    LESLIE: Plus, smart houses are big on convenience but often require a big budget unless, of course, you take the DIY approach. We’re going to have tips for making your home smart without the big up-front investment.

    TOM: And also ahead, school has barely started and if your kids are feeling disorganized, we’ve got some solutions for creating the best homework spaces, just ahead.

    LESLIE: But first, we’re here to help you get everything you are working on at your money pit done in a timely fashion. Let’s do it once, let’s do it right. So give us a call and let us know how we can help you.

    TOM: That number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

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

    LESLIE: Terri in Washington is on the line with a decking question. How can we help you with your project?

    TERRI: Yes, I have an 11×12-foot deck on the back of my home and I’d like to put some kind of a roof over it. I don’t want something to keep the light out but I don’t want it real bright. I’ve gotten five bids and five different ways that they thought it should be done. And I’m thoroughly confused at this point.

    TOM: OK. OK. So what kinds of things are you considering? Like awnings and that sort of thing?

    LESLIE: A pergola? An awning?

    TERRI: No. No, I don’t want an – I want it to be permanent so that in the winter, when it’s raining, I can still go outside.

    TOM: OK. And what has been the cost range of these designs?

    TERRI: I’ve had anything from $1,700 to $6,500.

    TOM: Hmm. OK. Well, the problem here is that you have no way of comparing apples to apples, because what you have is apples to oranges. And the reason you have apples to oranges is because there is a critical, missing component of this project.

    LESLIE: A design plan.

    TOM: And that’s a design plan, exactly. So, what I would recommend you do, since the appearance is very important to you is – this is the kind of small project that it would be worth hiring a designer or an architect to lay out for you.

    TERRI: Yeah.

    TOM: For the few hundred dollars it will cost you, you’ll be able to make sure that this is exactly what you want to achieve with this space, Terri. The designer will work with you to choose the materials, to choose the size, the shape.

    LESLIE: And it may, Tom – it may have to be an architect, because depending on what the village/town/county – you might need a variance, you might need special permits. It might be something that you need an architect to have approved specific drawings.

    TERRI: I don’t think you have to have a permit for this size. I think if it was 1-foot larger, we would have to have a permit.

    TOM: But let me give you one of the other key benefits of this and that is that once you have the design done, then you can go back to those five contractors and say, “This is what I want you to build.”

    TERRI: I see.

    TOM: So you’re not relying on them to design it; you’re saying, “This is what is going to be designed. Now, you can give me a price to build it if you want to build it.”

    LESLIE: Right.

    TERRI: Right.

    TOM: And this way, you’ll have all five contractors bidding on the exact same project.

    TERRI: And then I can compare apples to apples.

    LESLIE: Correct. Because currently, you’ve got each contractor just being like, “Well, this is what I think.”

    TERRI: OK.

    TOM: Yeah.

    LESLIE: And then the next one is like, “But I think this.”

    TERRI: Exactly. And I tried to narrow them down but – so that they – so we’re all on the same page but it just doesn’t seem to work.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And the other thing is if one of the contractors has given you – I doubt there’s drawings associated. But say one contractor has been like, “Oh, here’s my sketch and here’s what I’m thinking of doing,” and you like what’s been presented, you can then use that. But really, an architect, this is where they come in; this is their forte.

    TERRI: OK.

    LESLIE: They’re going to help you determine materials. It really will be exactly what you want.

    TERRI: That sounds wonderful.

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

    LESLIE: Robert in Florida needs some help staining cabinets. Tell us what you’re working on.

    ROBERT: I had bought some cabinets – kitchen cabinets – from one of the major hardware stores.

    TOM: OK.

    ROBERT: And they are natural wood, oak face. And I’m looking to stain them like a mahogany color, the dark red.

    TOM: Mm-hmm. Right.

    ROBERT: And I’ve tried it on – like the Minwax or whatever stain. I’ve tried that on a spare piece and it doesn’t come out the way I want.

    TOM: OK.

    ROBERT: It doesn’t absorb the color or something. It’s like a brown color instead of the red mahogany-type.

    TOM: OK. You know, the color is going to depend on the species of wood. So, what they might call a mahogany stain is going to look different on oak versus birch versus pine. So, what you want to do is – what I would do is – I’m trying to get just the right color – is I would buy those – the tiny cans of Minwax. And I would buy two or three that are closest to the color. I would try them on and also pick up some oak. So you could buy a piece of oak trim or something like that from a home center, that you can play with.

    ROBERT: Right.

    TOM: I would put it on, let it dry. And then – and this is an important step – put a clear finish on top of it. Because it looks very different when the finish is over it than when just the stain color is there.

    ROBERT: Oh, for once you put the seal on it?

    TOM: Correct. Well, the finish. So I would get a small – like I said, two or three cans of the different colors that you’re considering, just to test it out. Buy some oak, go ahead and stain them up and then put a couple of clear coats of urethane on top: satin urethane, so you don’t have a lot of sheen to it.

    ROBERT: Right. I don’t want the shiny, yeah, right. I’ve done two, three, four coats of stain. You wipe it off, you put the clear coat on it and everything. It’s just not right; it doesn’t keep that deep, rich color.

    TOM: Well, typically, you don’t put three or four coats of stain on it. It sounds to me like you’re just not finding the right color. So maybe we need to go to a different manufacturer until we can find the color that you’re looking for, if Minwax isn’t doing it for you.

    ROBERT: Right, right. Because I want it to look professional; I don’t want it to look like I did it in my garage. But of course, I am but …

    TOM: You are doing it in your garage.

    So if you’re not finding the color that you want, that’s available off the shelf with the Minwax products, what you could do is you could use a tintable stain. So, for example, Sherwin-Williams. Do you have a Sherwin-Williams store near you?

    ROBERT: I would have to look it up but …

    TOM: They have a line of stains called Wood Classics. These are oil stains? But the difference is that they mix them for you right in the store. So you can go into the store and you can bring one of your doors and show them the color you’re trying to get to and they can work with you to mix up exactly the right color. So you don’t have to really find one off the shelf; they’ll mix up pretty much anything that you need.

    ROBERT: That’s what I’m looking for.

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

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Give us a call with your home décor or your home improvement questions, right now, at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor, where it’s easy to find top-rated local home improvement pros for any project. Go to HomeAdvisor.com.

    TOM: And just ahead, if you’ve hired a pro for a remodeling project, there’s one really important thing you need to make sure gets done before making that last payment to the contractor. We’ll explain what it is, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor. You can find top-rated home service pros and book appointments online, all for free.

    TOM: That’s right. That’s 1-888-666-3974.

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

    HUGH: Just finished up a job of replacing a bunch of water pipes. And we had to cut a whole pile of holes in the ceiling, in the walls and so on to have access. And so we’ve got a bunch of sheetrock work to do and I was wanting to get a recommendation on what the best tools to get – in other words, how the best way to cut it is, whether a knife or a hand saw or some sort of jig saw or toothless saw or whatever, and other basic tools that would be needed to do a good job on replacing the sheetrock.

    LESLIE: Oh, Hugh, I can sympathize with you completely on this because we just did this in my basement, which is also my home design office and the playroom for my family.

    TOM: You just did this project.

    LESLIE: And there were holes everywhere in the ceiling and walls. Then we had another leak and we had to make more holes. It was really exciting and so I’m completely with you on this project.

    Now, in the areas where you’ve actually made holes to get to the pipes that you’ve now repaired, did you happen to cut the drywall open to a point where you’ve exposed the studs on either side, so that when you go to make a patch you have something to attach to?

    HUGH: A bunch of them, yes. And we tried to kind of split the 2×4 where the new piece will be approximately ¾-inch on the 2×4. Some of it, though, there – well, all of it, we have at least an exposed 2×4 on one side or another to nail to but we may have to scab on a 2×4 or something like that or I guess – don’t they make some sort of a metal deal where you can put it in there and it helps to hook the old sheetrock to the new sheetrock without having to have a 2×4 behind it or something?

    TOM: Well, I mean there’s a couple of ways to do this. How big are the holes? Are there any small holes or are these all big holes?

    HUGH: It ranges from probably a 1-foot by 2-foot all the way up to, well, one big chunk of one wall, which is about 15 foot.

    TOM: OK. So these are pretty big pieces. So then you’re going to need to support them with some structure.

    HUGH: Yeah.

    TOM: So, sometimes it makes sense to open up the hole until you get to the middle of the adjoining joist or stud, depending on whether it’s a wall or a ceiling, so that you can kind of go halfway down.

    HUGH: OK.

    TOM: So, don’t feel like you’re causing more destruction by doing that. Frankly, it’s going to come out better if you could open this up until the piece will actually split across the floor joist. And once you have that edge exposed, then you can simply attach the piece to it. I would use drywall screws for that.

    Now, the art of this is in the patch. And so the first step is to lightly sand the area because if you – especially if you have old wall there, it might have some debris on it. So just lightly touch that up. And then you use a fiberglass tape across the seam.

    HUGH: OK.

    TOM: Fiberglass is very forgiving because it’s perforated. And you can put that on first and then put the spackle over that and it’ll press through it. If you use paper tape, you have to put spackle in first and then the paper tape over that and hope you got out all the air bubbles. So use the fiberglass tape and then you want to use three successive layers of spackle. You want to start small with a smaller knife, like about a 4-inch tape knife, and then you go to a 6-inch knife and then an 8- to 10-inch knife, so every one gets a little bit wider. And because you don’t do this all the time, you’re going to probably end up sanding in between.

    And so that’s really the process. And then once you’re done with the patching, then you’re going to want to prime the entire room – all the affected walls and ceilings – and then paint it. And because you’re not a pro, I would definitely use a flat paint. Because if there’s any imperfections, it just won’t show up as badly as it could.

    HUGH: OK. Now, one thing that bothered me was sheetrock is beveled on the edges. And I guess, ideally, if I could go back to where the bevel is on the sheetrock and then put a beveled piece in so that you can seal it and all that – but is that – would I be better off to go ahead and take some big chunks out or bigger chunks than what I’ve got, so that we can get back to that?

    TOM: No.

    HUGH: Or can you usually smooth it out enough to where it doesn’t show?

    TOM: No. Not necessary. I wouldn’t worry about the beveled edge. The beveled edge is very helpful when you’re doing whole sheets but …

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And it’s going to go under the tape anyway, if you’re using it.

    TOM: Right. When you’re doing a patch, I would specifically actually not use a beveled edge when I’m doing a patch. There’s really no reason to.

    HUGH: OK.

    TOM: I find it easier – even if I had one beveled edge against one thick edge, I find that more difficult to spackle to because it’s not even, it’s not flat. So I would not worry about the beveled edge unless you’re doing full sheets.

    HUGH: OK. Alright. I surely do appreciate it.

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

    LESLIE: Well, if you’ve hired a pro for a remodeling project, there’s one really important thing that you should make sure it gets done before making that last payment to a contractor. And that’s what we call the “punch list.”

    Now, the punch list is the final list of to-dos that a project has as they get towards the end. Now, the problem is that by the time, most everyone is so ready for this work to be over that they often get overlooked or put off or not done at all.

    TOM: Yeah. And that’s a problem. No matter how great a relationship you have with your pro and how much they promise that things will be fixed tomorrow, next week or next month, the fact of the matter is that now, before the final payment is made, is when their interest and your interests are in total alignment.

    Think about it: they want to get paid and you want the work 100-percent complete, not 99-percent complete. So, they will never be more motivated, at this very moment, to do just that.

    So, whether the list includes chipped paint, crooked outlets or something even more major, make them fix it before paying that final contract price.

    Now, if the missing or broken item is on order, that happens. Sometimes things have to be ordered; they take a while to get in. But I recommend you withhold twice what that part of the project is worth, to make sure it gets done. Just withholding the value is not enough to motivate the pro. Hold that, plus more than his profit, and he’ll be back just as soon as that part shows up. I can guarantee it.

    LESLIE: Yeah. So think about it when that job is nearing completion. Walk through every space with a pad of Post-it Notes and flag anything that needs fixing. There’s absolutely no wait until the end of the job to alert your contractor of any of these issues.

    TOM: And if it’s a big project, you might want to think about hiring a professional home inspector to help inspect the work and make sure nothing got missed.

    888-666-3974. We’re here to help you make sure your projects don’t get missed. Give us a call right now. We’d love to help you out.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Sonya from Illinois on the line with a foundation question. What’s going on?

    SONYA: Well, I have a – I live in a two-story house with a basement underneath. And attached to that house is a garage and behind the garage is a family room.

    TOM: OK.

    SONYA: And the family room is on a crawlspace. Now, the foundation between the garage and the family room has shifted and cracked due to settling of the house.

    TOM: Alright. Sonya, let me stop you right there. What’s the crack look like? Is it vertical or horizontal?

    SONYA: Vertical, actually.

    TOM: OK.

    SONYA: But it goes down for quite a few of the cinder blocks.

    TOM: Blocks, blocks. OK. Is it hairline or is it opened up?

    SONYA: Part of it is opened up.

    TOM: Oh. And the rest of it’s hairline?

    SONYA: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: I wouldn’t worry too much about it. That’s a very typical kind of crack and it probably is from settlement.

    So I would do two things: first of all, I would seal the crack with a silicone caulk; secondly, I would reassess the drainage conditions at the foundation perimeter. Because if the soil around the outside of the house and the outside of the foundation is allowed to get overly wet – how would that happen? Well, if it’s flat, if the soil is sloped back to the house, if the gutters or the downspouts are overflowing or the downspouts are dropping a lot of water there, that tends to make the soil wet, which makes it weak, which makes the house settle. So I would just take a look and make sure that the soil is as stable and dry as possible. I would fix the crack and then I think that that probably will solve it.

    Now, if the crack continues to move after all of that and you have some pretty good evidence that it continues to move, then at that point – and only at that point – would I suggest bringing in a home inspector or a structural engineer to take another look. But if it’s a hairline to 1/8-inch-or-so crack, it’s not displaced, that’s probably pretty typical. That may have happened a long time ago, too. I don’t know if this is something that you’re recently noticing.

    SONYA: This is recent, because the door frame of the door between the garage and the family room actually shifted, also, to the point where we could not close the door.

    TOM: Listen, if you want to be absolutely sure that you don’t have an ongoing problem here with movement, you could have it looked at by a structural expert. But I would encourage you to make that expert not a contractor and here’s why: contractors are going to sell you a repair, whether you need it or not. You want to have it looked at by an independent professional that’s an engineer or a home inspector and then make a decision based on that advice.

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

    Hey, do you want a smart house but you don’t have a big budget to get it? Well, taking a DIY approach, you can add all of that smart-home automation without spending a dime on a pro’s help. We’re going to have the steps, 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: Pick up the phone and give us a call, right now, with your home improvement questions at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor.com. Never worry about overpaying for a job. Use the HomeAdvisor True Cost Guide to see what others paid for a similar project. That’s all for free at HomeAdvisor.com.

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

    SUSAN: I have recently purchased a home and there are three areas in the home that seem to emit a cat-urine odor when it gets very …

    TOM: Eww. Yuck.

    SUSAN: Yeah.

    TOM: Alright. So, is it on – is it carpet? What kind of flooring you got there?

    SUSAN: Actually, I’m finding it in the garage, on concrete.

    TOM: Oh, OK. OK.

    SUSAN: And around the front door – which there’s a brick exterior and it’s a metal door. But then it also – have discovered that there’s an area in the bedroom. It seems to be under a window. So maybe on the drywall? The carpeting has been replaced.

    TOM: OK.

    SUSAN: The home – and when I purchased the home, the carpeting had been – all had been replaced.

    TOM: Well, here’s the thing. Let’s take it one area at a time. If it’s the garage and you have a concrete floor there, that could have absorbed some of that unpleasant liquid. What I would suggest you do is take the opportunity to add a new epoxy garage-floor paint to that surface. Very easy to do. Comes in kits. Made by lots of different manufacturers. QUIKRETE makes it, Rust-Oleum makes it. And basically, you mix up the paint and the hardener and it takes about 45 minutes to apply it and then a couple of hours for it to dry and probably the next day, you’re moving the car back in.

    SUSAN: Wonderful. That’s a great idea.

    TOM: So I would definitely put an epoxy paint down. That will seal in any type of odor that’s there.

    Now, as far as that bedroom is concerned, my fear is that they pulled up the nasty carpet, put down new carpet but didn’t fix the problem underneath. But if there was dog or cat activity on that floor underneath, it should have been primed with an oil-based primer.

    LESLIE: And it could be that the padding wasn’t replaced, as gross as that sounds. But I mean that’s a possibility; you never know that.

    But Tom is right. If you have an odor issue associated with the carpet, when you pull up that carpet, that subfloor, whatever it is, does have to be painted with an oil-based primer just pretty much to seal in whatever is there.

    Now, at this point, I hate to tell you you’ve got to go back down to that point and do it but that’s really probably going to be the only way. Because come cooler months, you’re not going to notice it as much but add moisture, high temps, humidity, you’re going to get that scent back again.

    So, it’s possible that the same piece of carpeting can be reused but I would definitely look into making sure that that padding was replaced. If not, do it – and painting that subfloor.

    TOM: I would think that the carpet could definitely be reused. You basically just have to pull it back up, pull the padding up. If the padding is not new, it should be replaced. And if it is new, just peel it back, prime that whole area of the floor and then put it back together. So you’ll need a carpet installer to help you with this, because it has to be tacked in properly. But you can absolutely do it without damaging the existing carpet, OK, Sue?

    SUSAN: OK. Can I use just any oil base or do I need to use like a …?

    TOM: I would use KILZ – K-I-L-Z – or B-I-N.

    SUSAN: OK. Oh, OK.

    TOM: As long as it’s oil-based, I think it will do a good job of sealing it out.

    SUSAN: Wonderful. Thank you so much.

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

    Well, smart houses are big on convenience but they often require a big budget unless, of course, you take the DIY approach. Today, there are many new products on the market that give you the same sense of automatic smart-home control without the need for a costly, centrally-wired hub.

    For example, big-box stores are now offering apps that have no subscription fees. And they can work with a wide variety of products that they also sell from a range of manufacturers. Home Depot has a platform called Wink that can be connected to the Nest or the Honeywell thermostats. You can also control things like smoke detectors or smart-door locks or garage-door openers, security cameras, lighting, even electrical outlets. The retailers are clearly labeling which products work with the app and that makes it easy to choose just those you’re most interested in.

    LESLIE: And with Wi-Fi being so widely available in homes today, it’s become more and more possible to offer products that can communicate with an app via the Wi-Fi network in your home.

    Now, here’s some more examples. There are Wi-Fi-enabled garage-door openers. That’s going to allow you to remotely operate the garage door from an app anywhere in the world. It even alerts you if you’ve accidentally left the door open.

    There’s smart plugs. These plug into an existing outlet but they have Wi-Fi connectivity, so you can turn that outlet off or on remotely. It’s a great option to timers that you use while on vacation, as well as lighting the entry before you walk in the front door.

    Plus, there’s even door locks that can be opened with an app, which eliminates the need for keys and key-copying and making sure someone’s got a key. It’s hugely helpful.

    TOM: Even standby and whole-house generators come with apps that help you monitor their performance, alerting you when power fails in your home and the generator has kicked on.

    LESLIE: Give us a call with your home repair or home improvement question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week right here at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Hey, has homework time become more work for you than your kids? Well, subtract all that whining and add some fun by creating a homework station in your home. We’re going to share some tips, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Give us a call, right now, 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: Now we’ve got Larry in Wisconsin on the line who’s dealing with some siding issues. Tell us what’s going on.

    LARRY: What I did is I was watching This Old House a couple years ago and my house was just built four years ago so I just had a brand-new driveway and everything. And they were showing you how – that you could stain your driveway. And I live in Wisconsin, so I decided to stain my driveway and stuff.

    TOM: Yep.

    LARRY: And then during that time, I got some of that stain on my siding, on my – or yeah, my vinyl siding. And I can’t figure out how to get that stuff off.

    TOM: It’s on the vinyl siding, huh?

    LARRY: Yes.

    TOM: Yeah, that’s going to be a challenge. Well, since vinyl is a solid material, have you tried to sand it with a very, very fine sandpaper, like an emery cloth that may be a 220-grit or finer? Or you could try to use rubbing compound, like you use for a car.

    LARRY: OK.

    TOM: And that’s kind of abrasive, too. You’re going to have to abrade through that surface to see if you can possibly get down to the raw vinyl.

    LARRY: Right. I’ve tried Comet and I even – a little bit of gasoline or some mineral oil and all kinds of – you know what, though? I would never, ever put that stuff back on my driveway again, because the first time we had an ice storm and I went to shovel – and all that stuff just peeled right on up.

    TOM: Oh, really?

    LARRY: Oh, yeah, it was terrible. And then I had to get a pressure washer and rent that and then blow the stuff, you know. It’s just a mess.

    TOM: Maybe you need to go back and look at that This Old House segment again.

    LARRY: Well, here’s what happened, though. I was in sales for 25 years myself; I sold cars. And if I sold somebody a car, I would sell you an extended warranty, rustproofing, fabric, whatever.

    TOM: Right.

    LARRY: So all that contractor had to do was just tell me, “Hey, what color driveway would you want?” And I would have said, “What do you mean by that?” Because they can put that dye in there, that powder and then they could have mixed it right up with the cement and boom, it would have been perfect.

    TOM: Exactly, yeah. Yeah.

    LARRY: But that didn’t happen.

    TOM: You know who was one of the first architects to ever use that technique?

    LARRY: Frank Lloyd Wright?

    TOM: Frank Lloyd Wright. That’s exactly right. You are correct, sir.

    LARRY: Well, he built a lot of beautiful houses right here in my town.

    TOM: He did.

    LARRY: I live in Boyd, Wisconsin and – oh yeah, he was really gifted, that’s for sure.

    TOM: Yeah. Yep. He was way ahead of his time.

    LARRY: Yes, he was.

    TOM: Alright. Well, good luck with that project. I think if you try to abrade that with some sandpaper or some rubbing compound, then that’ll do it.

    LARRY: Alrighty. I’ll try that. Thank you so much.

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

    LESLIE: Well, for so many of us parents, back to school also means back to prodding, negotiating and just plain begging your kids to do their homework. But with just a little organization and planning, you can create a homework space in your home that will keep heads out of the clouds and in the books.

    TOM: That’s right.

    Now, for starters, it’s important to define that workspace, whether it’s a small desk or an entire room. You want to make sure the area devoted to homework serves no other purpose during homework time. So, you want to get rid of distractions, like phones or video games. Think about an open window, an inspirational quote, framed schoolwork or some other detail that gives the space a real special touch.

    LESLIE: Now, picking out the right furniture can also help. There’s a lot of options that help you make a space not feel so much like a classroom, more like their bedroom, more like that extra room, maybe a transition on the playroom. Because say they fold down from the wall and become a desk. Maybe it’s a work cart that also doubles as a desk that you pull a chair up to. There’s a bunch of different things that if you creatively look online, you can put to double purpose or create the space that will encourage them to work without feeling like they’re still in school.

    TOM: With a few changes, the only thing smarter than this homework space will most likely be your kids. So, think about it. Take some time, set up that space and you’ll all get a lot more work done and you’ll have peace in the house at the very same time.

    888-666-3974. If you’ve got questions about your home improvement or décor projects, give us a call, right now, because we would love to help.

    LESLIE: Jackie in Colorado is working on a flooring project. How can we lend you a hand?

    JACKIE: I have a battleship linoleum on the floor. I can live with it but it’s starting to crack in front of the door in the furnace. And it was probably put down in 1930 but …

    TOM: Well, I’ll tell you what, those old linoleum floors, they lasted a long time. But I think, Jackie, it’s time for you to consider redecorating.

    JACKIE: There’s no way I’m going to get this floor up.

    TOM: OK.

    JACKIE: I know it’s underneath some old boards and I have a half-a-basement underneath. And when I walk across it, it squeaks, so I know it’s the flooring underneath the linoleum. It’s probably not good.

    TOM: Well, the fact that it squeaks doesn’t mean it’s not good; it just means that it’s dry and there’s – some are maybe perhaps loose and some boards are rubbing against each other. Quieting the squeaks is one thing; getting a new floor is another. So, let’s just talk about how to quiet the squeaks first. And this is something that a pro can do for you.

    Your floor, no matter how old it is, is going to be installed and secured to floor joists below – floor beams below. A pro can identify where those beams are and they can drive screws from the floor, through the subfloor, through the linoleum and into the floor below. Doing that every 12 to 18 inches will stabilize that floor and cause it to squeak less. Be unlikely to expect no squeaks but you’ll definitely quiet it down.

    Now, once that’s done, you could put a new floor on top of that. And one of the easiest, new floors to put down is laminate flooring. Laminate flooring doesn’t actually physically attach to the old floor; it floats over it. The panels all snap together and they are cut up to about a ¼-inch away from the wall. And then you trim the edge that’s left and it looks terrific and it’s incredibly durable. I’m not going to tell you it’s going to last the 80 years that your first floor lasted but I tell you what, I’ve had it in my house for over a decade and it’s worked great. And we brought three kids up on it.

    JACKIE: I went to a department store in Home Depot and he said, well, the only thing he would recommend – he said, “You can’t put tile or anything like that, marble.” He said it will not work. But he said, “We have what they call a ‘floating floor.’”

    TOM: Yeah, that’s the same thing. It’s not attached; it floats on the old floor. But laminate is the type of material that you’re interested in. They sell it at Home Depot. Lots of different types are there. You can also look at a website like LumberLiquidators.com. You can buy this laminate floor from anywhere from about, oh, roughly $3 a square foot to maybe $5 a square foot. So it’s not terribly expensive and it’s beautiful.

    It comes in many different designs. If you want it to look like tile, it can. If you want it to look like old hardwood floors, it can. And if you want it to look like linoleum again, it could do that. So you choose the design that matches the house.

    JACKIE: Sounds good then. So, I just need to go back and tell him I need a floating floor.

    TOM: Yeah, laminate. Laminate is what you’re looking for. And have it installed professionally, OK, Jackie? Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Give us a call with your home repair or home improvement question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week right here at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Up next, in the battle against drafts, are you getting blown away? We’ve got some tips to seal up the biggest and least obvious sources of drafts, next.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: What are you working on? If it’s a décor project, a remodeling project, a repair project, you are in the right place. We are here to help you get those projects done. You can call us, 24/7, at 888-MONEY-PIT. Or post your questions online to Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit, like Lydia did who says, “I’d like to entertain on my back deck but living in New York, I don’t have to tell you how narrow a space that actually is. Any suggestions for decorating?”

    So, Leslie, this is a good question for you. Those narrow spaces can be very challenging.

    LESLIE: Well, they can be but you also have to think about how you want to entertain and then decorate according to that. Are you more of a lets-sit-down-at-a-table-and-eat? Are you looking for something that’s a higher dining surface? Is it important to you to have some lounging furniture?

    So, first, think about that. Then realistically look at that square footage of the patio, deck – whatever you have – and the location of your door. Maybe the location of the door wills it to only be one setup. Maybe the location of the door is in the center and it gives you two smaller spaces on either side. Those are going to be things that sort of clue you into how you’re going to set up exactly the things that you want to have in that space.

    Secondly, if it truly is such a small space, you want to look for apartment-size outdoor furnishings. These are just going to be in smaller scale. You’ll still get the same comfort, the same attractive décor. But it’s just going to be made a little bit smaller so you can actually fit the pieces that you need.

    I think it’s also important – do not overcrowd, Lydia. Give yourself some blank space for people to stand, people to walk around, because that will also make the space feel bigger. All these tricks and you’re going to be out there enjoying yourself in no time.

    TOM: Great advice.

    Bill from Boston also wrote. He says, “I’ve got a disappearing attic stairway that sags, so there’s air coming in our house from the attic and vice versa. What can I do to fix or minimize this? It’s doing a number on my heating bills.”

    Yeah, I bet it is. You know, when you have those saggy, loose attic stairs, all the heat just goes right up in the attic. And that’s a pretty expensive thing to deal with because if that heat rises and gets up there, it ain’t coming back.

    So one of the options you might have here, Bill, is to – really, two options. Either you have to repair the attic-stair springs – which is, frankly, quite tricky because there’s a lot of tension there – or you can add weather-stripping if it’s only sagging a little bit, to try to close those gaps.

    But I’ll tell you what I did in my house and I installed a different type of attic stair that’s called a “rainbow attic stair.” And it is an attic stair that’s really heavy-duty. It’s a metal frame that attaches, in a really smart way, to the opening where the old stair was. And then when you pull down the attic stair itself, the stairs sort of telescope out of the frame, all the way down to the floor. So it works really well. And when you put it back together and you slam it shut, it is like closing an appliance. It is really tight and absolutely no air is going to get back up there.

    Now, it is more expensive. So, of course, there may be a third option which is just to take out the old stair and put a new one. But if you do that, you’ve got that thin, roughly ½-inch-thick plywood that covers the opening and that’s not insulated. So, you’ve still got to figure out how you’re going to get some insulation above that if you really want to do the total job right.

    So, a lot to think about there: basically, repair or replace. And when it comes to replace it, what do you want to spend? Do you want to put the same basic unit in once again and then figure out how to insulate that? Or do you want to go with something that’s sort of a one piece, totally insulated, really well-engineered stair like the rainbow stair that we put in here at our money pit?

    LESLIE: Either way, Bill, you’re going to be making a great choice to some big energy savings.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show on this beautiful first full week of September. We hope that you have enjoyed the tips and ideas we’ve provided to you this hour on the program. But if you could not get through and you’ve still got questions, we would love for you to call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT anytime it’s convenient for you. You can also post your question online to The Money Pit’s Facebook page at Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit.

    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.

    END HOUR 1 TEXT

    (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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