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Tips on Dealing with Customer Service Reps, Prevent Disaster By Winterizing Your Vacation Home, Make Sure Your Electronic Devices Aren’t Using Needless Electricity, and more

  • Transcript

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And Happy Fall Fix-Up, everybody. It is a beautiful, crisp weekend in our part of the country. We hope it’s lovely where you are, as well. And we know that this is the perfect time to tackle projects both inside of the house and outside of the house. So, the first thing you have to do, though, is to pick up the phone and call us and we’ll help you get it done. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Coming up on today’s program, as a homeowner or even an apartment dweller, there are going to be many opportunities to deal with customer-service reps on the phone. Whether it’s ordering phone service or getting cable TV installed, that experience can very easily go badly. So we’re going to have some tips for you this hour on how to make the process go as smooth as possible.

    LESLIE: And also ahead, if you’re lucky enough to have a vacation home, now is the perfect time to winterize that property. Richard Trethewey, the plumbing contractor on TV’s This Old House, is going to be stopping by. And he has got tips to make sure that the frosty weather ahead isn’t going to trip you up the next time you take a trip to that vacation home.

    TOM: Plus, we all love our rechargeable electronic devices, right? Never leave home without them. But if you’re taking shortcuts by leaving all of those chargers plugged in at home when they’re not at use, they could be wasting electricity. So we’ve got a better way that we’ll share with you, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: And also this hour, we’re giving away the Mr. Beams Wireless LED Power-Outage Lighting System. This is a great way to get emergency lighting for your home in case of a blackout and it’s worth 70 bucks.

    TOM: So let’s get right to the phones. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. Call us right now with your fall fix-up question.

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

    LESLIE: Ann in Missouri is on the line with an insulation question. How can we help you?

    ANN: Hi. I don’t have very wide walls in my home. And so the – there’s not much insulation between the outdoors and the indoors. And what I was wondering – I want to add to it and so I was wanting to extend the walls out a little bit. I didn’t know whether I should just leave the covering up and put a line of 2x4s on it or if I should take the wall covering off for the insulation.

    TOM: The walls do have some insulation in it now and you’re wanting to know how you can actually …?

    ANN: Yeah, I want to add to it but I didn’t know whether I should just take the wall covering off …

    TOM: Ann, what kind of walls do you have right now? They 2×4 walls and are those 2×4 wall cavities filled with insulation? When you say they have a little bit, how do you know how much they have and how much they don’t have?

    ANN: I’ve looked in between them. I’ve looked in the outlets and it’s just cold in there.

    TOM: OK. Mm-hmm, OK. Well, look, I don’t think adding more insulation to the walls is going to be the solution to why it’s cold. There’s probably another reason it’s cold.

    Now, the places to add insulation are in ceilings or floors – those are easy to access to – but most importantly ceilings. And if it’s just plain cold there, you may not have enough BTUs of heat getting to that space. How is that area of your house heated?

    ANN: It’s just a furnace, gas.

    TOM: Ducts? What, like …?

    ANN: Ducts.

    TOM: Ducts, OK. And is this an addition?

    ANN: Nope. It’s just my regular domain. So probably underneath more than any – and up above would help tremendously.

    TOM: That’s where you would add insulation: in the floor structure underneath and in the ceiling above but not the walls. The walls you can seal, you can caulk. You can replace windows or doors that are drafty. But that’s a difficult place to add insulation. The easy place to add it is in the ceiling or the floor below, OK?

    ANN: OK.

    TOM: 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 Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Alright, you ghosts and goblins, are you getting your money pit ready for the big Halloween festivity? Maybe you’ve got a spooky fest at your house this weekend. Well, whatever it is you are working on, you know, the holidays are around the corner, starting with the big Halloween this week.

    So give us a call; we’d love to help you get your money pit in tip-top shape. We’re here for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, if you added up all the time you spend dealing with customer-service reps getting cable TV hooked up or ordering phone service – I tried to cancel a phone service this week. I’ve got to tell you, they love to take your money but when it comes to cancellation, not so much. So we’ve got some tips, though, that can make the process go as smoothly as possible. That’s all coming up, after this.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Roxul, manufacturer of fire-resistant, water-repellant and sound-absorbent home insulation products. Keep your home efficient and comfortable this winter and all year long with Roxul ComfortBatt and Roxul Safe’n’Sound insulations. www.DIYWithRoxul.com. Roxul. That’s R-o-x-u-l.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. Pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. We’ve got a great prize this hour. In fact, one caller that we talk to on the air is going to win a unique solution to power-blackout problems. And if anybody has picked up the Farmer’s Almanac for 2012-2013, it’s supposed to be a pretty hectic winter as far as snow, so you might need this.

    We’re giving away the Mr. Beams ReadyBright Starter House Kit. Now, this is a wireless LED power-outage lighting system. Mr. Beams will automatically detect a power failure and then it provides up to 40 hours of bright light. The installation is really easy; you don’t need an electrician. And the kit includes a power-outage detector, a path light and a ceiling light. And it’s worth 70 bucks. Check them out at ReadyBright.com if you want some more information and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT for your chance to win.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. Let’s get back to those phones.

    LESLIE: Carolyn in Arkansas is on the line with a septic-system question. How can we help you today?

    CAROLYN: OK. I have a septic system and we’ve had a lot of rain here. Oh, probably the last maybe three months or so it’s been a lot of rain. And I’m in the kind of the rice land of Arkansas. It’s very wet ground. OK.

    So, anyway, I was having trouble. When I would flush the commode, it – now, it never ran over, which I’m very grateful for. But the water wasn’t going down, OK? And I mean it would go down eventually but maybe take 20 minutes or more.

    TOM: OK. Does everything else in your house drain normally? Is it only the commode that you’re having a problem with?

    CAROLYN: Well, the commode and the sink in the bathroom.

    TOM: But do we know that it’s the septic system? There could be an obstruction in the drain and that’s the first thing I’d look at.

    CAROLYN: OK. I did have some fellows out and – a reputable company – and they did pump out 120 gallons.

    TOM: Well, that’s – but you’re always going to have 120 gallons. The septic tank fills up with water, it overflows into the field. So, pumping out 120 gallons doesn’t really tell me anything. What I want you to do is to have the lines checked, because I suspect there’s nothing wrong with your septic, that you may have an obstruction.

    Let me tell you a story about a guy who had a toilet that was having a slow drain problem. This guy was having a party and was doing this big cleanup for – before all the relatives showed up the next day. And so the toilet backed up and so he figured out that he thought it was a root problem.

    And so he got up early the next morning and dug this huge hole in his ground to get down to this pipe and then snaked it one way, snaked it the other way, couldn’t find any roots in the way. Went back into the bathroom, decided that the obstruction had to be between the hole that he had dug in his ground and the bottom of the toilet. And so he took the toilet tank off of the floor and looked down into it and tried to snake that out and couldn’t find a problem. But in the process of taking the toilet off the floor, he happened to look into the bottom of the toilet and noticed that there was something blue there.

    Now, there’s nothing that’s really supposed to be blue that’s in a toilet. It turns out that his darling son had dropped a toy phone down the toilet and that’s what was slowing the whole thing down. So, this guy had dug up his whole yard, took his toilet apart, all to try to find out what was causing this problem and hurried to get it done before all the relatives showed up. And it turned out to be a toy that was stuck in the toilet itself.

    So, I’d say that guy was a real idiot and that guy was me.

    CAROLYN: Oh, OK.

    LESLIE: I’m like, “I’ve heard this story before.” I’m like, “Why do I think this was you, Tom?”

    TOM: I was completely wrong on why I thought that – I figured I was smarter than the average homeowner and knew that it – thought it was the willow tree that had clogged the pipes. It had nothing to do with that.

    CAROLYN: Alright.

    TOM: It was just a simple toy that was stuck in the crux of the toilet that I couldn’t see and finally got that off, put the whole thing back together, threw the dirt back in the hole and then headed off to get ready for the party. So you never know why your toilet is clogging.

    CAROLYN: Well, that’s true.

    TOM: And I wouldn’t always think it’s the most expensive possible thing, which is your septic system. Have the lines checked.


    TOM: Who knows? And maybe you’ll find something that got stuck in there.

    CAROLYN: Alright. Thank you so much.

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

    LESLIE: Well, you might not be terribly surprised by this but according to the author of the new book, Uplifting Service, customer service in this country has fallen into crisis mode. But there are some tricks to getting the most out of your customer-service rep when something around your home breaks.

    TOM: That’s right. Now, the authors say it’s a two-way street, so it might seem obvious but being a good customer helps even when it hurts, I might add. Now, it sounds simple but being appreciative and polite goes a long way, because these people are on the phone all day long talking to people that are very, very nasty. And when they find a nice person, they tend to be a bit more helpful. So, thank the person for trying to help, even before you ask for the help.

    It also really helps to get your service provider’s name and use it. They’re not anonymous people, they’re not anonymous voices, so be upbeat, be energetic, be happy and those folks get the best service. And make sure you also have all the necessary information right in front of you. Know serial numbers, dates of purchase/installation, anything that they might need to help you.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Now, if you do happen to get someone on the phone who’s having an especially grumpy day, commiserate with them. You know, show them that you understand that their job is tough. Also, politely confirm whatever the next steps are. Repeat back to that rep what you understand he or she is doing for you, the dates, the kind of service, all of it. This will cut down any misunderstandings.

    And if that person does a great job, let them know. I mean come on, I always say – I’m like, “All I want is a cookie. Can’t somebody tell me I’m doing a good job and give me a cookie?” Everybody wants that. So let them know they’ve done a great job, they’ve really helped you. Be supportive, because you know what they say: the nice people get the good service. And they really do mean it, so be a nice person today, alright, guys?

    TOM: 888-666-3974.


    LESLIE: Yeah?

    TOM: You’re doing a great job. Here’s a cookie.

    LESLIE: It’s like, “Yeah? You’re setting me up for something?” I always say that.

    TOM: You’re so suspicious.

    LESLIE: I’m like, “Man, all I want is a cookie. I just want somebody to tell me I’m doing a good job.”

    TOM: Here’s your cookie, Leslie. Good job.

    LESLIE: A cookie.

    TOM: Good job. Alright. Who’s next?

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Leroy on the line who’s got a painting question. How can we help you today?

    LEROY: Yes, I had some water damage on my ceiling. It has left a stain on the ceiling in the bedroom. I was wondering, what can I do to repair that? I paint over it and it still comes through.

    TOM: Yeah, if you don’t prime it first, Leroy, it will come through. So the key is that you have to prime the stain spots, because the chemical reaction that occurs in the stained area absolutely has a way of pulling right through the topcoat of paint. So if you prime it and then paint over it, you’ll be OK.

    Now, I will say this: if you spot-prime it and then flat-paint over it, you may see a slightly different sheen, even though it’s a flat sheen, because the absorption rate is going to be different on the primed versus the non-primed spot. If you really want to do it right, you would prime the entire ceiling and then repaint the entire ceiling and then it would be completely invisible. But if you don’t prime it, you will see the stains pull through.

    LEROY: Great. Hey, thank you.

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

    LESLIE: Bob in Washington is on the line with a roofing question. What can we do for you today?

    BOB: I’m looking at putting a roof on the home and in the Yellow Page ads, there’s – one advertises against the other. There’s two; they’re larger contractors here. And one suggests that he’s better by using a hand-nailed technique versus air-mechanical. And I’d like your thoughts on that.

    TOM: Well, I think it makes no difference whether the roofing product is nailed by hand or nailed with an air gun. Both are completely acceptable ways to fasten roofing products to the house.

    I think what makes the difference between one pro or the other is really their workmanship. So I would not be confused by competing claims of how a roof is nailed. I can see somebody using that as – it’s kind of like hand-cut, hand-finished, hand-nailed. You have this sort of vision of something that’s quality in craftsmanship involvement, right? But I really don’t think it makes a difference.

    But what makes all the difference when hiring a roofer is the quality of that work and how well the roof is put together, especially when it comes to those intersections that have to be flashed. So, if all else looks good with these two roofers, I would do a deeper dive on their references and perhaps check online sites like ServiceMagic or Angie’s List, sites like that, to just double-check what their reputations are, talk to past customers.

    Last time I had to hire a contractor that I did not know, I did get a list of references. And I’ve got to say, I think the contractor was quite shocked when I actually called these folks. So get their references and call them and you’ll find people are generally very willing to talk to you about their experience with the contractor. So, I think that’s the best way to proceed. Workmanship makes all the difference when it comes to hiring a roofer.

    BOB: On the roofing material, up in the Northwest where I am now, would – is there – and I’m looking at a conventional, three-tab, asphalt-type composition roof. Is there a better grade of material or something that I should be looking for? As you can tell, this is a first-time roof for me, so …

    TOM: Are you in a high-wind area?

    BOB: We do get quite a bit of wind up where I’m at, up – kind of up on a hill.

    TOM: I would consider the wind-resistance but a product like an Owens Corning shingle is excellent. But I would definitely consider the wind-resistance and buy a product that’s weighted for – that’s rated for wind. Some of those – I know some of those OC shingles are rated for over 100 miles an hour.

    LESLIE: I think it’s even up to 150.

    TOM: Yeah. The good news is the roof will be there; the house, not so much.

    BOB: Well, thank you so much. That’s been enlightening to me to hear what you have to say.

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

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Well, it’s a sad time when you’ve got to pack up your vacation home for the season. But unless you want to come back to a mess, it’s important to take certain steps before you say goodbye for the season. We’re going to tell you what you need to know, after this.

    NORM: Hi. I’m Norm Abram from This Old House and when we’re working on our projects, we listen to The Money Pit.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit has been brought to you by Andersen Windows. Replacing windows or patio doors is always a big decision. Lowering energy bills? Well, that’s easy. And Andersen Windows, the number-one brand of windows in America, makes replacing your old, drafty windows easy with the new 400 Series Tilt-Wash Double-Hung Replacement Window. Available at The Home Depot.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: You know, over the years, we have had countless homeowners call us for help and notice that many are caused by the same basic mistakes, so don’t let it happen to you. We list those errors and how to avoid them, on our website at MoneyPit.com. Just search “top five home improvement mistakes” and you’re guaranteed not to make them.

    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 are – 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 can 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: Well, if you are lucky enough to own a vacation home, you know it’s a great investment and a wonderful place to get away, that you can actually call your own. But the unique thing about a second home is that it likely remains empty for half of the year or even more, making maintenance and care of it super-important.

    TOM: And shutting down the home for the season, especially if it’s the winter season, has to be done just right to avoid big plumbing problems later. With us to talk about that is Richard Trethewey, the plumbing and heating contractor from TV’s This Old House.

    Welcome, Richard.

    RICHARD: Hi, guys.

    TOM: Now, most people would think that draining a plumbing system should be an easy thing to do. But a lot of people get it wrong and keep lots of plumbers very busy come spring.

    RICHARD: Well, that’s right. Any water left in that pipe is going to freeze and break the pipe. And it won’t show up until the next spring when you turn the water back on. This, more than almost anything, is a function of how well the plumbing was done initially. Many vacation houses are done well so that you can open up one valve and all the water will just drain right out of all the main pipes, because they’ve been installed perfectly with no traps and no places where water can sit.

    TOM: And conversely, many vacation homes were done poorly where they started off as being real bare-bones winter cabins and then plumbing was added to it, electricity was added to it and so on. So it never really had a comprehensive plan. And in those situations, you really have to be very, very careful to get every speck of water out of that.

    RICHARD: Absolutely. So it starts by turning that water main off. And now you’re going to say, “How do I get rid of this water?” So you can open up the draw-off somewhere in the building and drain the water out but that’s not going to guarantee that it all gets out of there. So probably the most effective way is to get an air compressor and to connect it with a double-ended hose to that compressor, again, to that outside sillcock or some faucet.

    TOM: Right.

    RICHARD: And then one by one, go along and open up – let that air pressure push all the water that could be trapped in elbows and T-fittings and push it right out. So that’s going to get most of it out but you still have other places where you have to watch out for.

    LESLIE: Now, is this a necessity, draining the system, if you keep the house conditioned during the winter season but it’s unoccupied?

    RICHARD: People worry about the risk. I’m a believer in leaving the house in the low-temperature state, not completely letting it go to an icebox and freeze. But people still – if they don’t winterize their plumbing, they still live with that fear that one pipe will split and run all the time. So, most people will feel much more comfortable to get that plumbing system drained out. They might leave the heating on low and a lot of times, the heating system might have a little antifreeze in it, as well.

    TOM: Now, Richard, you mentioned blowing out the water with the compressor. What about the traps? What about the water that stays in on the drain side? Because the air compressor is only going to affect the supply pipes, correct?

    RICHARD: That’s right, on the hot- and cold-water system. On the drain side, it’s a completely separate system. In that case, you have to put propylene glycol – non-toxic antifreeze, often used in the RV world or the marine world – and actually go into every trap and every place where water could sit in the drain system.

    TOM: OK.

    RICHARD: There’s some places that are obvious: underneath every sink, every kitchen sink, every lavatory. There’s some traps that are not obvious: underneath the bathtub; people forget that there’s one under there. And also, the toilet itself is a trap; it’s integrally built into the bowl. And putting a little bit of that antifreeze into the toilet tank itself, lifting the cover, is also a good …

    TOM: Now, are there any other places we may have missed?

    RICHARD: Well, there’s a couple of hidden valves that you – if you have a dishwasher or a washing machine, those valves only open electrically. So, when you have your compressor on, make sure you run the dishwasher or run the washing machine to get the air out. Don’t forget the hoses on the washing machine, as well.

    And what I like to do on the dishwasher itself is to actually disconnect that supply to the dishwasher solenoid valve down low in front of the dishwasher. Because if a little water gets in there and splits that solenoid, it’s a very expensive repair.

    TOM: Yeah, we don’t want any surprises when we’re ready to start our vacation.

    LESLIE: Right.

    RICHARD: That’s right.

    TOM: Good advice. Richard Trethewey, the plumbing and heating contractor from TV’s This Old House, thanks 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 drain pipes on your vacation home and other how-to videos, visit ThisOldHouse.com.

    TOM: And This Old House is brought to you by State Farm. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.

    Coming up, the electronic equipment that you’ve come to love could be sucking electricity when you don’t even realize it. We’ll tell you how to get rid of those vampire energy drains, next.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by TotalProtect Home Warranty. Get total protection against unexpected home repair or replacement costs for appliances, air conditioning, heating, plumbing and electrical. Visit BuyTotalProtect.com to see if you qualify for a special offer. That’s BuyTotalProtect.com.

    TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to 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. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. One caller we talk to on the air this hour is going to win a unique solution to power-blackout problems. It’s the Mr. Beams ReadyBright Starter House Kit. This is a wireless LED power-outage system that will light your home when you need it. The detector senses when there’s a power failure and automatically lights your home.

    It’s worth 70 bucks. Check it out at ReadyBright.com or call us right now for your chance to win. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. And you must have a home improvement question to qualify.

    LESLIE: Darren in Delaware is on the line with a carpet-removal question. Tell us what’s going on.

    DARREN: We have wool rugs down. They’re, oh, about 40 years old and they’ve wore like iron. And the situation being now, you can see – start wear patterns in them. Well, we picked some up – we’re going to replace the rugs – and the padding underneath, going back 40 years, was like a rubber-type padding.

    TOM: Right.

    DARREN: And it was taped in place and it’s all stuck to the oak hardwood floors.

    TOM: Oh, boy.

    DARREN: And we can pull some of it up but most of it is stuck down. Do you have a remedy for removing that without damaging the floor and getting it ready for new padding and carpeting?

    TOM: Well, there’s no way you’re going to be able to do it without damaging at least the floor finish. But if you’ve got beautiful oak floors, why are you going to recarpet?

    DARREN: Well, unfortunately, they had area rugs in this home all that time. I don’t know. Easy maintenance. And it was beautiful around the perimeters and the rugs, they did their job.

    TOM: Well, I mean easy maintenance, you get that with a hardwood floor, too. I’ve got to tell you, if you want to do something that’s really going to add some value to your house, I would show off those beautiful hardwood floors and not put carpet back down.

    But if we can’t talk you out of that, you’re going to have to scrape that padding off. There’s no easy way to do this. You can get a big floor scraper. It looks like the same tool they use to scrape roof shingles off houses; it’s like a long, metal pole with a flat blade at the bottom. And just get as much off as you can.

    But if you did want to refinish those floors, you get as much off as you can and then you hire a floor-refinishing company. You don’t do this yourself, because they’re going to need a real big belt sander that does this job. And it’s the kind of thing that you can rent but unless you use it every day, you’ll ruin your floor. And you can sand the floors down and bring them all down to the original wood and then stain them and finish them and they’ll be beautiful.

    DARREN: I see. Now, let me ask you: if you leave it bare floors, there’s no carpeting or rugs or – how about area rugs?

    TOM: Yeah, you put area rugs on it. And you – it could be a beautiful décor element, right, Leslie?

    LESLIE: Yeah. And I feel like nothing makes a room feel larger, more elegant, more well-put together than a beautiful wood floor. And then add on top of that a fantastic area rug, then you’ve really created and complimented the look of the space.

    And Tom’s right: when it comes to value, people love wood floors.

    DARREN: OK. Sounds good. We’ll give it a try. Looks like we have a lot of work ahead of us.

    TOM: But it’ll be worth it. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Well, it’s time now for today’s Fall Energy-Saving Tip, which is presented by Lutron, makers of the Maestro Occupancy-Sensing Switch.

    LESLIE: Well, we’ve all come to depend on mobile devices like our laptops, iPads, smartphones. You name it, we love them. They help us save time. But they could end up costing you electricity if you aren’t mindful about how you charge them.

    TOM: Now, after you’ve charged your device, don’t just unplug it from the charger; unplug the charter from the wall socket, too. Why? Well, as long as it’s plugged in, a small amount of electricity will be flowing and that small amount is known as “drain.”

    LESLIE: Now, if you’ve got a tendency to forget to unplug in general, you might want to try using a power strip. You can manually shut the whole strip off, which is great. And some of the newer power strips – you know, if you head on out to some sort of audio store or an office store, you can find power strips that come with a sensor circuit. And that’s going to monitor the level of current that actually flows through the socket and it will automatically shut off the power strip when it reaches below 30 watts, which is drain level.

    TOM: And that’s today’s Fall Energy-Saving Tip, presented by Lutron. Easy upgrades, big impact. Choose Lutron. Learn more at ChooseLutron.com.

    LESLIE: Sandy in North Carolina, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    SANDY: Well, I have a situation where I have a plastic kind of sink that’s in my laundry room.

    LESLIE: I’ve got the same one, uh-huh.

    SANDY: I made the mistake of taking a pan that had rust on it – kind of a good bit of rust on it at the time – and I soaked it, thinking I was getting some drippings or something off of the pan. And I let it sit there for days. And then I picked the pan up and went, “Oh, cool, that was great.” Now I have a big rust stain in the bottom of my sink from that rusty pan. And I thought, “Oh, my gosh.”

    It looks to me like this is going to be the way it is unless – or until I replace that sink. I tried vinegar, soaked rags for a couple of days. I tried CLR. The vinegar-soaked rags helped a little bit.

    TOM: Did you try Bon Ami?

    SANDY: No, not yet.

    TOM: It’s a powder cleaner. And I’ve got a – well, I’ve got a Corian sink that – it’s white and it tends to stain a little bit. And I’ll tell you what, for any type of a synthetic material like that, you sprinkle that Bon Ami in and let it sit for a bit and it comes out really white. It’s almost like bleaching your sink.

    LESLIE: It’s like a gentler Comet.

    SANDY: Wow, OK.

    TOM: Yeah. I would give that a shot. I’m sure you can find it in your supermarket. Bon Ami – B-o-n A-m-i.

    SANDY: I certainly will. Thank you.

    TOM: You’re welcome.

    This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Up next, when you have ancient plumbing in your home, you never know what surprises each day might bring. We’re going to help one listener with a rather colorful plumbing problem, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit has been brought to you by Andersen Windows. Replacing windows or patio doors is always a big decision. Lowering energy bills? Well, that’s easy. And Andersen Windows, the number-one brand of windows in America, makes replacing your old, drafty windows easy with the new 400 Series Tilt-Wash Double-Hung Replacement Window. Available at The Home Depot.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Hey, you know, this is really the busy time of year. We’re in the holiday season, everybody is going to be traveling a lot, so you’re going to be away from home. And does that leave you concerned about your home security system? Well, if you are, we want you to get in on your chance to win a complete home security system from Swann. They’ve got a Get Connected, Be Protected Sweepstakes going on right now at Swann.com. There are actually $10,000 worth of prizes up for grabs. So check it out today on their website, Swann.com. And that’s S-w-a-n-n.com.

    And while you’re online, if you want to post a question in The Money Pit Community section, you can do so. And I’ve got one here from Jack in South Carolina who writes: “I have a 100-year-old home. The bathtub has the original plumbing fixtures.” I’m assuming he’s talking about the bathroom faucets, because he says, “I notice that they’re getting a greenish-blue tint on them that won’t come off with a bleach-based cleanser. Any advice?” Ooh, I got tripped-up on that.

    TOM: Well, Jack, I have bad news for you. Well, no, actually, let’s be positive. I have good news for you: your plumbing fixtures lasted 100 years.

    LESLIE: Right.

    TOM: Now the bad news: I think what you’re seeing is some normal oxidation, some normal wear and tear. And while it’s possible to wire-brush those fixtures – all those spouts and faucets – and get that greenish-blue tint off of it, which is basically the minerals and the water sort of mixing together without having a finish on the plumbing fixture – yes, you can get them off, you could potentially relacquer them but I just don’t think it’s worth it. I would recommend that if you don’t like the look of it, if you don’t want to chalk it up to charm, that you replace those faucets with one that might look like it was 100 years old or perhaps has better technology.

    For example, some of the faucets today use ceramic-valve technology, which is really cool because the longer you use them, the less they leak. Because the more those ceramic valves press against one another, the tighter they get. So, good idea to replace those faucets if you really don’t like the look, because I don’t think it’s practical to remove that oxidation.

    LESLIE: Yeah, I feel like you’ll spend the same amount of money, if not more, in the process to make them look new. Because you can; there’s something where they chemically dip them to remove the oxidation or whatever existing finish is on there and then they redip them in a new metal coating to put a new finish on them.

    TOM: Yeah. But you’d have to take it apart to do that.

    LESLIE: Yeah.

    TOM: You’d have to remove it from the tub and by the time you did that, well, you might as well just put a new one in.

    LESLIE: Yeah, you might as well just get a new one. So six of one, half-a-dozen of the other. See how much you like the existing faucet and if you love them, go for it. If not, just find something new.

    Alright. Next up, we’ve got one from Ellen in Pennsylvania who writes: “I want to paint my cement basement floor. There are hairline cracks in it. Should I patch those first and if so, with what?”

    TOM: Yeah, that’s a good question. Now, you definitely should patch them, because we don’t want any moisture wicking up through it. But what you patch them with has to be paintable. DAP has a new product; it’s called DAP 3.0 and they actually have a cement or a concrete or masonry caulk. And what I like about it is it’s paintable. So it’s as tough as silicone but you can paint it.

    If you’ve ever – most people will use silicone on a basement floor crack but if you’ve ever used silicone and tried to paint over it, it gets very blotchy and so it doesn’t really take paint. But this new DAP 3.0 product does. So use something like that – a masonry caulk – that is paintable. Seal that floor, clean that floor. It’s really critical that you clean it because if you don’t, that new layer of paint is just not going to stick.

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got one from Carol in Utah who wrote: “What should I do if I believe something was overlooked on my new home’s report from the home inspector? We just discovered we don’t have enough insulation. Should I have been told that?”

    TOM: Well, define “not enough insulation,” Carol. I mean most homes in this country don’t have enough insulation. So, as long as the report was accurate – in other words, he told you you had 8 inches of insulation and you actually do have 8 inches of insulation – you can’t really blame the guy. If you want to find out what is supposed to be reported on, go to the website for the American Society of Home Inspectors – ASHI – A-S-H-I.org – and look for the Standards Of Practice. Because that’s the guidebook by which all these inspectors have to follow.

    This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. That’s all the time we have. The show continues, right now, at MoneyPit.com.

    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 2012 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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