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Where To Find Top Contractors, Natural – and Cheap! – Pest Control Solutions, and Making Used Paintbrushes Like New

  • Transcript

    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: What are you working on? We’re here to help. Pick up the phone and let us do just that. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. It’s a beautiful day in our neck of the woods. We hope it is in yours, as well. But if it’s not, hey, work inside. We can help, 888-666-3974.

    Coming up on today’s program, while we encourage DIYers, it occurred to us that some projects are best left to the pros. And that’s why we’ve invited one of our favorite pros, Kevin O’Connor, to stop by from TV’s This Old House. He’s going to help us with tips to find the best contractors in your part of the country.

    LESLIE: And summertime is almost here, which means bugs are on their way. Woohoo! But you don’t need to fill your home with unhealthy chemicals just to try to get rid of them. Coming up, we’re going to share some natural pest-control solutions that are effective and more importantly, safe.

    TOM: And don’t toss that used paintbrush. Why not clean it instead? It’ll save you big in the long run. It’s not as terrible a job as you might be thinking. We’re going to tell you how to get those brushes looking and working like new.

    LESLIE: And one caller we talk to this hour never has to deal with wobbly ladders or wobbly knees again. We’re giving away the innovative and comfortable Werner 9-Foot Reach Fiberglass Podium Ladder, which really is awesome and you’ll feel super-sturdy up there. And it’s a $99 value.

    TOM: Learn more at WernerPodium.com or call us, right now, for your chance to win your very own. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

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

    MARILYN: Hello. I have moved into an old home that has unfinished and some finished wooden floors that were carpeted. Unfortunately, in taking that carpet up, former pets that were here have left their mark all over the floors.

    TOM: Oh, no.

    MARILYN: There are stains and there is a dreadful, dreadful odor throughout the house. The dogs that I have brought in have continued that process and now have to live outside. My question is: what do I do? What can I do to get the odor out of these wooden floors?

    TOM: What I would do, Marilyn, is I would sand the floors. This is the one time where I think it makes a lot of sense to do a thorough sanding of these floors.

    LESLIE: Yeah. You’ve got to completely refinish.

    TOM: Yeah, especially if you’re saying that some of the floors were unfinished to begin with. So I would sand all the floors to take off some material, vacuum up that sawdust and then I would add three coats of polyurethane.

    Now, I’m sorry, let me back up. Before you polyurethane, if they’re still stained, then I would add some wood stain to the floor to darken the color a little bit and hide any of those remaining marks. Because if you try to go totally natural, the stains will obviously show up. But if you add – it’s like a slight tinting to – a tinted stain. Like, say, one of the colors that I use a lot is called Early American, which is like a very light, brown color. You know, that looks really nice and does hide some of those stains that could be in the wood. And then add the three coats of urethane.

    LESLIE: A big trend is dark gray, almost even like an ebonized wood floor. Dark wood floors, even if it’s a super-dark chocolate or almost on the black/gray scale, really are impactful and beautiful and that could hide a lot, as well.

    TOM: Yeah. And well, that’s a good point. You could – you don’t have to go dark is what I’m trying to say. You could just go just very fairly lightly. But from there, I think you’ll be good to go. I think once you put the urethane coating on it, you’ll no longer have the odor issues.

    MARILYN: Love your show. Thank you so much.

    TOM: Thank you, Marilyn. Good luck with that project.

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

    Welcome, guys.

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

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

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

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

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

    JEAN: Right. OK.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    BILL: That’s right. I want shiny.

    TOM: Alright, Bill and Jean. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. We are here to give you a hand as we ramp up to the summer kickoff: Memorial Day. What are you working on? Let us help you. We are here for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, summer brings a lot of things with it, including bugs. We’ve got tips to help you keep them away the natural way when The Money Pit continues, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by Pavestone’s easy-to-stack RumbleStone Rustic Building Blocks. Create any outdoor hardscape you can imagine, to instantly add old-world charm. Available at The Home Depot. For more information and product instructions, visit Pavestone.com.

    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. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Leslie and I are standing by to answer your home improvement question. And if you’re a do-it-yourselfer who would rather have your feet on the ground than up high on the ladder, here’s more reason to call: we’re going to give away a Werner 9 Foot Reach Fiberglass Podium Ladder.

    LESLIE: Yeah. You know what’s really cool is that this is an innovative, new ladder. And it’s going to make your jobs easier and it’s going to make them safer, as well. It features a wraparound guardrail and the holster-top tool holder, which is going to hold your tools while you’re working so you don’t have to.

    Let me tell you, you really feel safe and secure up here. Because I always find that on a traditional ladder, I’m stepping where I’m not supposed to, I’m reaching in ways that I’m putting myself in uncomfortable positions where I perhaps may fall. And you’re not going to get this on the Werner Podium Ladder.

    So check it out; it’s really awesome. The website is WernerPodium.com. And start getting to those higher projects that you’ve been avoiding.

    TOM: It’s a prize worth $99 and it’s one of our top-product picks from this year’s National Hardware Show. Check them all out at MoneyPit.com and give us a call, right now, for your chance to win and of course, to get the answer to your home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Steven in Texas needs some help with a cabinet project. What can we do for you?

    STEVEN: Yes. So my wife has challenges with chemicals like formaldehydes and glues and paints that they put in kitchen cabinets, the new ones. And I was wondering if you had any idea what a person could use that you could get away from those types of chemicals in cabinets.

    TOM: So you’re looking for a cabinet manufacturer that is sort of formaldehyde-free and VOC-free? Is that correct?

    STEVEN: Yeah, that’d be right. Yes.

    TOM: Steve, that’s an interesting question because when it comes to kitchen cabinets, so many of the products that go into kitchen cabinets have the potential to have VOCs or volatile organic compounds in them. Because you can start with the boards that are used to build the cabinets. If they’re a pressboard or a composite board of some sort, that may have formaldehyde in it, for example. Then you have the finishes and on and on and on.

    I think what you want to do is you want to look for kitchen cabinetry that is built to meet the new CARB 2 standard. That’s C-A-R-B 2 standard. That stands for the California Air Resources Board and that’s a standard that measures the level of those types of toxins in cabinetry. And so if you search for kitchen cabinets that meet that standard, I think that’s a good place to start.

    STEVEN: Well, generally, I do like maybe some metal cabinets, you know, that would look nice in a kitchen. Would you have any ideas on something like that?

    TOM: Well, you’d still have finishes on metal cabinets that would have some of the same issues.

    STEVEN: Yeah.

    TOM: I haven’t seen metal cabinets in a kitchen in forever. The Gladiator folks at Whirlpool are doing a really good job these days with metal cabinetry for laundry rooms and utility areas and spaces like that. But I don’t know if that cabinet line is going to extend to the point where you’d have enough flexibility to do it in a kitchen.

    LESLIE: Well, I can share with you a vendor of a no-formaldehyde-added cabinetry. They’re actually beautiful, handmade, wooden cabinets. I’m not sure of their price point but I am familiar with the fact that they are not adding any chemicals to it. And they are very responsible in how they utilize the wood and the products that they use to make their cabinets. It’s a company out of Portland and their name is Neil Kelly. And it’s N-e-i-l K-e-l-l-y.

    And then, there was a metal-cabinet manufacturer that I was familiar with a while ago. It’s Fillip Metal and it’s F-i-l-l-i-p. It’s sort of this new revival of some interesting, repurposed materials. And you might want to check them out, as well.

    STEVEN: OK. Well, thank you very much for the information. I appreciate it.

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

    LESLIE: Alright. Carol in Oregon is on the line with some rusty water at her house. What’s going on?

    CAROL: My house is about 25 years old. I’ve lived in it for about six. My problem is well water corroding both of my toilets.

    TOM: OK.

    CAROL: And I don’t know – I’ve tried using Clorox. That doesn’t seem to work. I’m wondering if there’s something – some kind of a chemical or something – that I can put inside the tank to keep it from turning black.

    TOM: So, have your tried CLR?

    CAROL: No. What is that?

    TOM: OK. So I would look – take a look at CLR. It’s a product that’s been around for many, many years. A great company. And it stands for calcium, lime and rust. It’s specifically designed to clean rust stains from bathroom fixtures.

    CAROL: OK. Could you spell that for me?

    TOM: Yeah. C-L-R.

    CAROL: OK. Got it.

    TOM: Stands for calcium, lime and rust. See? I was never a good speller but I got that one, huh?

    CAROL: Yeah. You did.

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

    Well, spring is finally here and as it warms up in your part of the country, the only drawback is this: bugs. They love that warm weather, too, and whether they want to take a bite out of your plants, your food or even you, bugs can really make the spring and summer season quite unpleasant.

    LESLIE: Yeah. But here’s some good news. Let’s not get all Debbie Downer on the bugs. They do their job for the environment, maybe not so much for us. But let’s talk about them. Getting rid of the bugs, it doesn’t have to include toxic or expensive chemicals and pesticides. There are actually a number of natural alternatives that are much safer for you, your pets and our planet and they’re just as effective.

    TOM: Yeah. And here are a few good examples. First off, if mosquitoes are the bane of your summer existence, you can plant some lemongrass and some basil. Now, lemongrass contains citronella, the same chemical that’s found in a lot of those bug-repellant candles. And you can even mash up the inner leaves of lemongrass and rub that juice on your skin for the same effect as bug spray.

    LESLIE: And it smells really, really good. I just absolutely adore the smell of lemongrass.

    Now, you can make your entire home less appealing to ants if you plant a barrier of mint around the entire foundation of your home, because ants hate mint and that also smells fantastic. Another thing: bay leaves. They’re another spice that many bugs dislike, so you can set whole bay leaves around your kitchen and cabinets or sprinkle crushed bay leaves along your windowsills and that’s going to keep a lot of bugs away, as well.

    TOM: And if your pests are, say, a little bigger and furrier, you can still catch them the natural and the humane way. For example, for mice, you can make a mousetrap out of a soda bottle. Just set it out at about a 20 degree angle. You want to drop some peanut butter inside and then rub vegetable oil around the inside of the lip. The mice are going to hop in but they will not be able to crawl back out. And maybe you can perhaps then take that bottle of mice out to a remote location and let them go very humanely. Back to nature.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Katherine in Arizona on the line who’s dealing with an issue with sod. And Arizona is pretty darn hot, so tell us what’s going on.

    KATHERINE: I live, actually, in the mountains in Arizona and so our issue is not the heat but the cold. And so what we’ve had happen is that we laid sod about eight years ago. And unbeknownst to us novice homeowners, it had mesh netting on the back side of the roll. And I don’t know if we were supposed to remove that or something but now the sod did not take to our climate and it has died.

    And we would like to reseed or lay on some new sod or something like that. But in order to prepare the soil and till it and all of that, I just don’t know what to do. Because there’s this mesh netting all over the ground. And in some areas, it’s exposed and some areas, it isn’t. But I just wondered what your advice would be.

    TOM: So the sod never really bit, so to speak? It never really grew through the mesh netting and connected with the soil below?

    KATHERINE: Not really. I mean it did in some areas but it just did not grow well for our climate. It couldn’t handle the winters; it just wouldn’t recover.

    TOM: Well, the first thing you want to do is a soil test. You can – sometimes, your county extension services and services like that will do the test for you. Or have a landscaper do the test. But you need to know what’s in that soil and how to adjust the pH to get it just right to reseed.

    LESLIE: Yeah, to fertilize correctly and …

    TOM: Right.

    LESLIE: You know, in other words, you might not be giving it the stuff that it needs and it won’t grow.

    TOM: Yeah, you’re working blind.

    Now, the other thing to keep in mind is that the best time to do this is not at the beginning of summer. The best time to do this is in the fall when it’s a little cooler out. Because even if you did everything right and it started to grow, the intense heat that follows a month or two down the line will burn it out and kind of ruin all the good work that you did. So I would spend this summer getting the information that you need to kind of come up with a plan.

    Now, in terms of whether or not you remove the old sod or not, if it’s really loose and disconnected and not really knitting – sort of sitting on top – then, in that case, I would take it out and then prep the soil below. If it has connected, then I would leave it.

    Now, if you have sod – is it weedy? Is it also weedy, Katherine?

    KATHERINE: There are lots of weeds. So it’s not so much the sod that’s the issue but it’s the plastic mesh netting, that was on the back side of the sod rolls, that’s there. And I just don’t know – can we till with that there or is that going to get all caught up in the tiller?

    TOM: I think you probably can. In my experience, those types of backers are designed to stay there and not be removed. And they just sort of deteriorate naturally away.

    KATHERINE: Hmm. OK.

    TOM: So I don’t suspect that that would be an issue. Because otherwise, how would you ever lay it down?

    KATHERINE: Right, right. Yeah, I don’t know. I didn’t know what was supposed to be common, just that it hasn’t degraded at all. After a year, it’s still totally there.

    TOM: Well, here’s an idea: one of the things that you could do is you could rent a seeding machine that slices the lawn. There are machines out there that will actually slice it and you – and drops the seed sort of into the slits and that will cut through it. But really, before you do any of that, the first thing to do is do a soil test and see what’s going on there.

    LESLIE: Now, this way, you’ll know how to feed it, how to take care of it, when it’s going to want to be seeded. That will really answer a lot of questions for you.

    KATHERINE: OK. That makes a lot of sense.

    TOM: Yeah. And if the sod – if you end up deciding to leave the sod in place and if it gets really weedy, one thing you could do is something called a “Roundup restoration.” You can spray Roundup right on the sod and kill the sod and actually leave it in place. And then put the seed right up into the dead grass. It will hold it really well and it will resprout. And the Roundup will not prevent the new seed from taking root.

    KATHERINE: OK, OK.

    TOM: That’s called a “Roundup restoration.”

    KATHERINE: Hmm. Alright. That makes sense.

    TOM: Alright, Katherine. Good luck with that project. Let’s hope there’s some more green in your future.

    KATHERINE: Yes, I hope so. Thank you.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Well, admitting that you need home improvement help is only half of the battle. The other half? Finding the right contractor for the job. We’re going to get some tips, up next, from This Old House host Kevin O’Connor.

    TOM: And This Old House on The Money Pit is brought to you by the new Stanley TLM 99S Laser Distance Measurer, featuring Bluetooth connectivity via the Stanley Floor Plan App. Taking measurements in your home has never been easier or more accurate. For more, visit StanleyTools.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: Hey. Say you can’t hear The Money Pit over the sound of your buzz saw? Well, listen to us wherever and whenever you want. You can head on over to MoneyPit.com and click on the Radio and Podcast section. And in addition to our weekly radio show, you can click to receive the feeds of new articles, videos, blogs and more. All online, all free at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Richard in South Dakota, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    RICHARD: Yeah, I have a lift pump that’s making an unusual noise. Like it’ll fire off and then it makes a harmonic noise about halfway through the pumping station.

    TOM: OK.

    RICHARD: And hoping it’ll be like a check valve that needs replaced in there or if it’s – if you need more background, it’s a replacement pump for one I had in there. I had a ¼-horse in there before and now it’s got a ½-horse. It’s actually a bigger lift pump than the one I had before.

    TOM: Generally, when I hear a squealing noise, I consider whether or not it’s an issue with the bearings.

    It could also be an issue with the valve itself, perhaps the check valve. Because sometimes as the water streams through that, it’s vibrating against the valve and then that vibration can transmit. I mean plumbing pipes are really pretty good transmitters of sound, so it can transmit and amplify and sound really bad.

    If it’s still working and it’s not slowing down on flow or anything like that, I guess I would think probably not to worry about it too much. But my concern is that if it is a wear-and-tear issue and something’s going to seize up, you may end up with a surprise repair.

    This is not your main bathroom, is it? This is an additional bathroom?

    RICHARD: Yeah, it’s an addition that was put on later on, so …

    TOM: Alright. Well, if it breaks down, it breaks down; at least you’re not out of luck. But my concern is that it might be a precursor of worse things to come.

    RICHARD: Yeah.

    TOM: So I would keep an eye on it and see what happens, OK?

    RICHARD: Alright.

    LESLIE: Well, we are big fans of doing it yourself but truth be told, some projects are best left to the pros, pretty much to make sure they come out exactly as planned.

    TOM: Well, from contractors to tradesmen to designers, these folks can bring big value to your project if you find the right pros for the job. This Old House host Kevin O’Connor gets to work with the best pros all the time and joins us now with tips to find pros for your projects.

    Welcome, Kevin.

    KEVIN: Hi, guys. A pleasure to be here.

    TOM: So pros really bring a lot of value to the project. But what’s the most important thing to keep in mind when working with them?

    KEVIN: Well, you’ve got to pick the right one.

    TOM: Yeah.

    KEVIN: We are definitely fans of doing it yourself, as well. But that pro who you bring in – a person who is an architect or an engineer, a licensed plumber – they can bring a certain level of experience and know-how to the project that you could never bring yourself if you’re a do-it-yourselfer.

    And so it’s critical that you find someone who you can work with and who has a great reputation, because they can help you save money by bringing that project in on budget. They can help you save time by making the right decisions and executing them correctly. So, like you guys, we are big fans of bringing the pros in when the time is right.

    TOM: Now, the cost of not having a pro can far exceed the cost of having a pro, especially when it comes to mistakes. I think a lot of folks don’t recognize that.

    KEVIN: I think they don’t. If you’re going to hire a plumber and you’re going to pay them by the hour – and you are making decisions about where the old plumbing has to be disconnected and the new plumbing has to be put in and those aren’t thought through in advance?

    The cheapest place and time to think about those is on paper before you start opening up the walls. And that’s what a pro could do for you. An architect, a general contractor, they can make sure that all of that stuff is thought through and coordinated, because you could really lose your shirt if you don’t have a good plan for your construction project.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And I think another thing that people tend to not think of is bringing an engineer onto the project. You know, so many times you’re looking at something structural and maybe just chatting with a contractor directly when you really have to get a diagnosis first.

    KEVIN: You need to understand the roles of different pros and how they can serve you. And so if you go through a list of some of these things – to your point, an engineer is great. If you have these structural things that have to happen to the house, oftentimes, with your building permit, those engineering decisions need to be stamped by a licensed engineer.

    Someone has to look at those things. So you’re probably going to get into a relationship with an engineer anyway. Why not get him into the project early on so you can make those decisions at the right time as opposed to at the wrong time?

    And architects, they’re going to help you with structural changes, they’ll help you interface with engineers and general contractors. But you’ve got to get permits. You might have to go in front of the zoning board. They can actually walk you through all of that process and help you expedite all of those decisions that have to be made.

    LESLIE: Many architects even go in on those zoning meetings.

    KEVIN: Absolutely.

    LESLIE: They have to be there to present.

    KEVIN: Happens to us all the time. We just did a project in Boston. We wanted to add a dormer to our brick row house and we had to go, we had to get variances and approval. And who do you want to do that? You want the person who’s done it before, who knows the players, who knows the rules and get that thing done. And our architect was able to get the approval in a very fast turnaround for us.

    TOM: Alright. So you’re fortunate because the architects are literally coming to your door with their projects to be built. But for the rest of us that need to find these pros, any tips for finding the best in your particular area?

    KEVIN: Well, I sympathize with the sense that it can be overwhelming, because there are a lot of them out there and it’s a big decision and you’re going to be in a pretty intimate relationship with this person.

    LESLIE: And varying skill level.

    KEVIN: Varying skill level. Absolutely.

    The number one thing that I would recommend is to get references. Talk to friends and neighbors, people who have used these people and say, “Who do you like and why do you like them?” And those sort of personal references are going to be the first place to put you on the right track.

    And then once you start interviewing these people, you ask the tough questions. Ask them about their licenses, ask to see their work. Talk about the tough issues up front. What is it going to cost? How are we going to get paid? Address all of that before you enter into this very important relationship.

    TOM: I like to ask for references from the contractor or the architect that are both recent and older.

    KEVIN: Absolutely.

    TOM: I like to talk to somebody they did work with a year or two or ago to make sure they’re still happy.

    KEVIN: And go to try and find some on your own. Obviously, if you’re a contractor you’re going to give up the names of the people who you had the best relationship with and the best experiences.

    LESLIE: Right.

    KEVIN: Do a little digging. Ask around. These people have got their signs up in the neighborhood, they work locally. If you do your homework, it shouldn’t be that hard to actually find the right contractor to help you out.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And I think another thing that you should be asking, because it sometimes gets overlooked, is rubbish removal. Who’s in charge of it? Who’s in charge of certain prep aspects of the project? Because you don’t want to assume something and then it be completely the opposite.

    KEVIN: The more detail of a quote or a bid that the contractor puts in front of you so that you can work out those specifics, the better off you’re going to be as the project goes along.

    TOM: Let’s talk about designers, another very important pro of the project. I know you work with these folks all the time. Leslie has got plenty of projects she does on her own as a designer. I think a lot of consumers don’t understand what a designer brings to the project. What’s your experience been?

    KEVIN: Well, dare I say, Leslie, that some people often think that the designer is frivolous and they don’t want to spend money on it? Do you find that at times? And it’s probably a misconception. It is a misconception.

    LESLIE: Oh, yeah. I mean I think people sort of overlook the fact that we have inside connections with the manufacturers directly, so therefore your price point is going to be much more value than going retail directly. We’re able to get more hard-to-find items, we know better about placement and layout of items in the room to help create flow, to maximize the use of the space. We’re good with colors and putting things together. I think people forget that and then sort of bring you in last minute or not at all when it could have just been beneficial and time-saving.

    KEVIN: The other thing that I think people don’t appreciate is just how many decisions they have to make.

    LESLIE: Tons.

    KEVIN: Even the smallest project. What size are the tiles? What color? What about the countertops? What sort of edge do you want? What sort of trim detail? Before you know it, you have literally hundreds, if not thousands, of decisions to make. And relying on a designer who’s been there before, it can actually help you make those decisions. It’s going to help you sleep better at night and get you through that project on a quicker, more cost-effective way.

    TOM: I feel like they think of the things you’re not going to consider until you’re much farther along on the project.

    KEVIN: Everybody wants a new stove put into the kitchen and then, all of a sudden, you go on the website and you find out there’s 400 different kinds of stoves and 45 different measurements.

    LESLIE: Right.

    KEVIN: And then you – why do you want to weed through that for the first time and try to make a decision, as opposed to turning to somebody who’s done this dozens of times?

    LESLIE: Who says, “Here are three options. Pick.”
     

    KEVIN: Here are three options. These go.

    TOM: These will work. Go.

    Kevin O’Connor, thank you so much for your advice. We appreciate you stopping by The Money Pit.

    KEVIN: Always a pleasure. Thank you for having me.

    LESLIE: OK. You can catch the current season of This Old House andAsk This Old House on PBS. For local listings and step-by-step videos of many common home improvement projects, visit ThisOldHouse.com.

    TOM: And This Old House and Ask This Old House are brought to you on PBS by The Home Depot. More saving, more doing.

    Up next, do your wallet and the planet a favor by cleaning paintbrushes rather than tossing them away. We’re going to tell you how, with this week’s Pro Tip presented by Grayne Shingle Siding from The Tapco Group. That and more when The Money Pit continues, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Grayne Engineered Shake and Shingle Siding from The Tapco Group. Contractors can now offer homeowners the charm of natural cedar with none of the maintenance. Visit Grayne.com or ask your pro today.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. One caller that we talk to on the air this hour is going to win the Werner 9-Foot Reach Fiberglass Podium Ladder. It’s got a really innovative design and it makes you feel as safe and as comfortable as if you were standing right on the ground. Try it and you’ll see what safety feels like.

    TOM: It’s a prize worth $99 but it could be yours if we answer your question on the air. So pick up the phone, give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. And you can learn more about today’s prize at WernerPodium.com.

    Well, we all know you’d probably rather toss those used paintbrushes than actually clean them. But contrary to popular DIY practice, most paintbrushes aren’t really supposed to be disposable. There’s actually a better way. You can actually clean them and we’ve got some step-by-step advice to help you do just that, with this week’s Pro Tip presented by Grayne Shingle Siding from The Tapco Group.

    LESLIE: Yeah. I think it’s really important, when we’re talking about cleaning paintbrushes, to think about what type of paint you’re using. Because that’s going to determine which way you’re going to clean it. So when you’re painting with latex, you want to clean as you go. And when the job is done, it’s time to get out that paint that’s collected deep into the filaments.

    Now, you want to run the brushes upside down under a faucet. And when the water runs clear, brush the filaments with a metal brush comb or if you’ve got a hair comb that you’re not using anymore, because you certainly won’t want to put it back in your hair after, in a pinch. And that’s going to just straighten the bristles and coax out any bits of dried paint.

    TOM: Yeah. And then shake off the excess water and let the brush dry really well.

    Now, when you’re done with the project and you’ve cleaned your brush for the last time, you want to store those dry brushes in a plastic zipper bag or better yet, put them back in their original packing sleeve.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. That’s why they’re all so fancily folded and cool to snap. They’re not meant to just toss. Like save those sleeves and use them again.

    Now, if you’re painting with oil paint, the first stop is going to be a dirty jar. And this is where the bristle tips soak in a paint thinner without touching the bottom. This way, they won’t become bent.

    Now, if you need the brush the next day, just soak it overnight, then comb it out and get right back to work. If you’re done and you’re going to put that brush away for a while, you still want to soak it overnight, then comb it out and then go ahead and dip it in a jar of a clean solvent. Shake off that excess solvent, wipe it dry on a newspaper or a rag and then store it.

    TOM: And that’s today’s Pro Tip, presented by Grayne Engineered Shake and Shingle Siding from The Tapco Group. The uncompromising beauty of Grayne’s 5-inch shingle siding offers the charm of natural cedar with none of the maintenance.

    Visit Grayne.com – that’s G-R-A-Y-N-E.com – or ask your pro today.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Jeff in Iowa on the line who’s got an air conditioner that doesn’t always smell so great.

    What’s going on, Jeff?

    JEFF: I can’t smell; the wife can smell. Yeah, we have a …

    TOM: OK.

    LESLIE: We smell everything.

    JEFF: There’s a smell emanating from somewhere. I thought it was maybe the basement. The drain was not flowing like it should and she seems to think that it’s – she says it comes on – the smell comes about when the air is turned on and the air comes out.

    TOM: OK.

    JEFF: So maybe it’s not cleaning or – am I on the right track?

    TOM: Maybe. So, let’s talk about some basics. If we want to get to the bottom of this, we could start with duct cleaning just to kind of eliminate that as a possibility. The second thing we should talk about is what kind of filter do you have?

    JEFF: Just your generic, basic one from a hardware store.

    TOM: Yeah, that’s a problem. So what I want you to do is I want you to pick up a Filtrete filter – 3M Filtrete brand. And they sell one that has activated charcoal built into it and it’s specifically designed for eliminating odors. It’s called the Filtrete Home Odor Reduction Filter and it’s got activated charcoal built in. And so that’s designed specifically to get rid of the odors and then, of course, it does a great job with dust and pollen and mold and that sort of thing.

    JEFF: Oh, alright. Thanks a lot. I appreciate it.

    LESLIE: Up next, a bathtub full of water isn’t the only sign you’ve got a clogged drain. We’ll tell you how to spot plumbing problems before they occur, when The Money Pit continues.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by QUIKRETE. It’s what America is made of. For project help from start to finish, download the new QUIKRETE mobile app.

    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: And we are getting ready to head to the National Hardware Show in Las Vegas next week, which is always a fun trip for us. It’s an industry-only event but we get to be there to be your eyes and ears. We’ll give you the scoop on the show’s hottest, new products right from our Top Products Pavilion on the hardware-show floor.

    LESLIE: Yeah. We’ve seen a few already and I’ve got to say that this hour’s prize, the Werner 9-Foot Reach Podium Ladder, is really one of my favorites. Not only do Werner podium ladders let you work facing any direction, there’s no more constantly climbing down to turn the ladder. The top is completely surrounded by a wraparound guardrail and it’s going to give you an extra point of contact, because I always like to lean out and I can rest my hips on it and reach further. And it also features the holster-top tool holder so you can keep all your tools and supplies right at your fingertips.

    TOM: Try it and you’ll see what safety feels like. The Werner podium ladders are available in both fiberglass and aluminum.

    You can learn more about it and other of our top products picks. Just head over to Twitter.com and search the hashtag #TopProductsNHS. You’ll also find photos and more info in our Top Products Gallery at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Alright. But don’t forget to e-mail and post your questions, just like Gus from North Carolina did. And Gus writes: “Recently, the bathtub in my daughter’s bathroom started draining very slowly. I bought a bottle of Drano from the local store, followed the directions on the bottle. The water now drains faster but as soon as the tub starts to drain, I hear a loud, gurgling sound from the drain as the water leaves. What could be causing this?”

    Now, I know every plumber out there is like, “No, not the Drano.”

    TOM: I know, right? Exactly. I mean, obviously, you’ve got an obstruction in the pipes. So, I hear the trick of the trade that sometimes works if it’s not too far down – you can use a wet/dry vacuum to actually suck out that obstruction from the drain. All you do is get that wet/dry vacuum up the bathroom. I like to take out the filters because you don’t really need them when you’re dealing with water. Then turn the vacuum on, try to suck out right above that trap. You may hear whatever the obstruction is come out quickly and if that’s the case, you will save yourself a big plumbing bill.

    Now, if the obstruction is further down the line, you could try to use a mechanical snake to clear that. The consumer versions of these, though, do not go too far down those pipes, for a very good reason: because you end up getting stuck in there or broken off or something. And so if it’s still not working, then you need to call a professional drain-cleaning service.

    Which, by the way, is still something that even we here at The Money Pit do, because the extent of my plumbing snakes are about 25 foot long. I recently had a line that clogged up just from general, everyday wear and tear and use. And yep, I called in a pro and inside of 45 minutes, the problem was gone. So, no harm, no foul. You’re not admitting defeat. Sometimes, you just need to have the right tools to get it done. And I didn’t have the $1,000 snake that goes that far down and does the trick.

    LESLIE: Yeah. But I also feel like, depending on your plumbing situation, you might not be the best person to go snaking a drain. You know, I have twin pedestal sinks in my bathroom and I know they share a trap in some situations, so it’s not for the best for me to try messing around in there. So if you’re feeling a little cautious about it, call a pro.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Thank you so much for spending this hour of your weekend with us. Hey, if you’ve got questions, if you couldn’t get through to the show, we still want to hear from you.

    You can pick up that phone anytime of the day or night and call us, 24/7, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Our screeners are always standing by. We are the worst people in the world to work for; we never let them rest. They’ll get your call to us and we’ll call you back the next time we’re in the studio.

    Meanwhile, you can also post your question online at MoneyPit.com or on our Twitter feed or our Facebook page. Any way you can get that info to us, we will do our utmost to get you an answer as quickly as possible. That’s all the time we have, though, for this hour.

    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 2015 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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