- Smart Home Devices: How hard is it to create a smart home? We’ll look at popular new devices to make your home smarter, safer, more convenient, more energy-efficient, and more fun!
- Improved Insulation: Installing fiberglass insulation is now easier and less itchy with a new product that’s strong, yet soft as cotton. Find out what it is, just in time to insulate your home for fall and winter.
- Home Office Space: Working from home in a small space can be a challenge. We’ve got ideas on how to organize and optimize any area for a home office.
Plus, answers to your home improvement questions about:
- Wet Basement: Beverly’s wet basement doesn’t need a French drain; it just requires an easy fix with improved outside drainage to keep the water away. We’ll tell her what to try to keep the basement dry.
- Insect Stains: The swarm of flies outside Mike’s house is leaving stains all over the siding that are hard to clean off. We’ve got suggestions on a treatment to apply to help clean the siding and how to keep on top of the fly problem.
- Flooring Options: Finding bedroom flooring to match the flooring in other rooms of Char’s home is a challenging design issue. Comparing floor samples might help her decide.
- Water Heater Problem: Is one water heater enough to direct hot water to the far side of a large home? Stewart may want to decide between installing a second water heater or a hot water recirculating system.
- Painting Over a Stain: After Sarah’s roof leak was fixed, it left a ceiling stain that paint won’t cover. Priming it first will help her get the yellow ceiling white again.
- Brick Wall Cracks: What’s causing the long, wide vertical crack in a brick wall behind Jim’s garage? He’ll need a structural engineer to see if it’s an active or inactive crack and a contractor to make the right repairs.
- Popcorn Ceiling: Dirty popcorn ceilings can’t really be cleaned; they must be repainted or removed instead. We’ve got step-by-step advice for Margaret on how to update her old ceiling.
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: Here to help you take on the projects that you’d like to get done around your house. So, whether you’ve got a house, a condo, a co-op, a yurt, we don’t care. We are here to help. If it’s the place you call “home,” well, that’s where we can fit in, as well, to help you make it that special place that you want it to be. If you’ve got questions about a project – whether it’s repair, renovation, remodeling, décor – well, you can reach out to us a couple of ways to get those questions answered. First, you can pick up the phone and call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or you can go to MoneyPit.com and click the blue microphone button.
Coming up on today’s show, these days there are seemingly endless ways to easily and very affordably make your home smarter with automated devices. But not all smart-home devices are created equal. So we’re going to take a quick look at some of the most popular smart-home add-ons and talk about how to make the best choices for your home.
LESLIE: And fall will be here before you know it, which makes now the right time to think about adding insulation. But if the thought of taking on that typically scratchy and itchy job makes it not your favorite fall project, you’re going to be happy to hear that there’s a new generation of fiberglass insulation available from Owens Corning. And it’s literally as soft as cotton. We’ll tell you all about it, just ahead.
TOM: And working from home can be great but keeping an organized workspace can definitely be a challenge, especially when space is a bit limited. So, if your home office is starting to feel like the tiny cubicle that you left behind, we’re going to share some terrific DIY tips to help keep you productive, in just a bit.
LESLIE: But first, The Money Pit is about helping you create your best home ever. So whether you live in a house or an apartment, you’re dealing with a repair or dreaming about a renovation, we’re going to help you tackle your to-dos with confidence and have a little fun along the way.
TOM: Plus, we’ve got a great giveaway, this hour, from our friends at Trex. They just launched the new Trex Transcend Deck Kit at Lowe’s. And Trex has provided us a $500 gift card to Lowe’s to help you get started with that project. It’s going to go out to one listener drawn at random. So make that you and submit your home improvement question to qualify. The number here is 1-888-MONEY-PIT or you can post your question on MoneyPit.com by clicking the blue microphone button.
So, let’s get to it. Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Alright. Beverly in Ohio is fearful of some stuff going on with the foundation and drainage.
What is happening at your money pit?
BEVERLY: You’ve addressed this many times but this seems different: water in the basement. I’ve already gotten the French-trench discussion with a company and I know that you guys say that’s not necessarily it. And I’d prefer not to go $10,000. Anyway, there’s a lot of plantings by my home. It doesn’t seem to be grading; everything’s pretty flat. But I’m desperate to know what to do. It’s really putting a lot of fear in my soul.
TOM: Well, Beverly, rest assured that if you improve your outside drainage, I suspect this problem will go away. One way to know is this: if your water problem seems to get worse with heavy rain, this is definitely something that can be controlled by drainage.
You say that the outside looks good. You mentioned it’s flat. That’s not good. Soil has to slope away from the wall; it shouldn’t be flat. But more importantly, most of the time the wet basements are caused by a problem with the gutter system. You either don’t have the right-size gutters, they’re getting overflowing. They’re overflowing because they’re undersized or they’re partially clogged. And something as simple as the downspouts not being directed away from the foundation far enough – when the installers put it in, they usually put them out about 2 feet from the foundation and leave the water right there. So it kind of circles right back into that basement and that’s why the walls get so wet.
But I don’t think you need a French-drain system. That would only be done if you had a rising water table. It doesn’t sound like that is the case here. So I would extend those downspouts. And if you want to prove this before you do a lot of work, just get a bunch of long leaders. They’re a few dollars each at a home center. And hook them up to the bottom of those downspouts, run them out. Even though it might look a little sloppy for a while, I think you’ll find that you’ll have almost an instant reduction in the amount of water getting down there.
And once you’ve convinced yourself that that is the solution, you can neaten them up and run them, perhaps, underground and bring them out somewhere to daylight and do a nice job making them a lot more tidy. But drainage, drainage, drainage. That is the cause of wet basements. So, you’ve got to fix it. And that’s going to be your solution here and it won’t happen again.
LESLIE: Alright. We’re heading out to Mike who’s got a super-gross problem.
What is going on with these flies at your money pit? Tell us about it.
MIKE: I have a fly problem – a housefly problem – with fly poop all over my siding. And power-washing alone does not do the trick. Looking for the best solution to pre-spray, let it soak and then clean off.
TOM: Mike, this reminds me of another problem that’s very similar. And that is the problem of artillery fungus, where you have fungus that comes out of mulch and sticks to the siding and it seems to be virtually impossible to get off. But I think when it comes to bugs, it’s like when they stick to your car.
You know, Leslie, when you go to a Pep Boys and you want to get them off, they have special products for this because it’s designed to dissolve the – whatever the fly juice is that sticks to your car.
TOM: And I think the same thing kind of applies to the house.
I know of a product called Super Clean, which you can find at – I believe it’s at Walmart and other places like that. It comes in a purple bottle. And it works really well. It’s sold, basically, as a cleaner and degreaser. But for this case, what you would do is you would apply it to the siding, let it sit for 5 or 10 minutes and then you would have to scrub it. Now, there’s going to be a lot of elbow grease here but I think you’ll find that it will release those bugs from the siding and you’ll be back to a clean house once again. I think the key, though, is to not let it get too bad because otherwise, you’re going to find yourself doing this a lot more than you should.
In terms of managing this population going forward, you might want to talk to a certified pest control-management professional. Because I know that there are fly traps that can be set in your area that would at least minimize the population and result in fewer flies getting themselves – I guess it’s kind of like a suicide run right against your house. And splat and they stay there and they stay in the siding. So, if you have fewer bugs, you’re going to get fewer bugs on the siding.
LESLIE: Yucky. Hope we can fix that problem for you. It’s gross.
TOM: Well, the summer, the fall, both great times to create a brand-new deck at your house. And we’re going to help some lucky listener do just that because we’ve got a great giveaway today, courtesy of Trex.
Now, these guys just launched the new Trex Transcend Deck Kit at Lowe’s. I’ve been working with the Transcend Deck Kit; it is amazing. Absolutely beautiful. And to celebrate, they’ve given us a $500 gift card to Lowe’s to help you get started with that project. This deck kit includes all the materials you need to build a 12×16-foot deck with Trex’s top of the line Transcend Decking, the Trex Fascia, and the Trex Hideaway Hidden Fasteners.
And by the way, I just put in my decking using these hidden fasteners for the first time and I loved it. It maintains the perfect ¼-inch space between the boards. It made it really easy and quick to assemble. And they even come with a little tool that holds the fastener in place so you can drive it in quickly. And I was super impressed.
So, the way this kit works is, basically, you go to Lowe’s, you choose the kit you want and all the Trex products you need get dropped into your cart with one click. You could either have it delivered to your house or to the job site.
The Trex Transcend Deck Kit is available exclusively at Lowe’s and Lowes.com. And that $500 Lowe’s gift card we’ve got that – go out to one lucky listener who reaches us with their home improvement question, with the emphasis on question. Yes, you’ve got to have a good home improvement question to qualify. We’ll draw a name at random at the end of this week’s show to award that Lowe’s gift card to one listener.
So, make that you. Head on over to MoneyPit.com, click on the blue microphone button and record your question.
LESLIE: Heading out to Wisconsin. Shara has got a decorating question. Well, dilemma here.
What’s going on?
SHARA: In our living room, kitchen and hallway leading down to the bedrooms, we have laminate, which is a kind of a golden-oak color. I don’t know what to put in the bedrooms, which go into – open up into the hallway. I want to put a brown because we don’t want to put the same thing. We can’t find it from the rest of it. And my husband wants to put gray. Can you tell us what would be best? We’re going to do a vinyl.
LESLIE: Alright. With that golden tone – I hate that golden tone. I’m so sorry to say it because I’m sure it’s all over your house and you love it. But it’s – to me, it’s always a difficult challenge because the golden has these weird, warm tones but then still some sort of yellow hint to it. So trying to match something to it or coordinate with can be challenging.
On one hand, I like the idea of a gray but it’s got to be the right gray. It has to be sort of in that same warmish family, with maybe some brown undertones, so that they won’t clash but will kind of blend together. And it also depends if that golden tone of yours is on the warmer side or on the cooler side. You really have to get a sense of that color.
I don’t love the idea of the golden with a darker tone. I feel like there’s nothing in that dark tone of wood flooring that kinds of picks up any of that. That said, maybe it’s not a wood-look floor at all. Maybe it’s a tile. Maybe it’s a carpet. Maybe it’s something different. But the golden is always challenging.
What do you think, Tom?
TOM: I agree with you. I think that sometimes that golden gets really too bright and it is hard to pull it down. And then gray, I kind of like the gray idea but only if it has those wood tones in it – those warm wood tones – that’s going to blend it.
What you really have to do here is go to your flooring supplier – you can go to a store like LL Flooring – and get some samples. And lay them in there against that golden color that you love so much. And I think the answer will become apparent. Once you put enough samples in front of it, you’ll get a real good feel for what the possibilities are. If you happen to have some of that existing golden flooring, even better yet because you can go to the store and hold your current floor against a bunch of different options.
And you said you wanted to go with vinyl. I think that’s a great choice today. You have so many different extruded vinyl-plank products, luxury vinyl-plank products that are just absolutely beautiful. Super durable.
And take a look at the Duravana, which is a type of stone hybrid. Also 100-percent waterproof, super-durable product and very, very affordable that you’ll find at LL Flooring. And I think once you find the one that has the right sort of connection with that golden floor that you have right now, you’ll be all set. And you’ll both be happy.
LESLIE: Well, it used to be that setting up a smart-home device to dim your lights or adjust the thermostat seemed like you needed a NASA engineer to dial it all in for you. You know, when smart homes first became an option for mere Earthlings, it definitely required a lot more time and effort and expense. You had to rewire, things had to be hooked up. But that’s really not the case anymore,
Today’s wireless technology has made it so easy and affordable to install smart-home devices that control everything. I mean everything from temperature of the room, surveillance, entertainment, lighting, pretty much anything. You say the words and your house is doing it for you.
TOM: And so if you’re wondering what exactly constitutes a smart home, well, Juniper Research defines a smart building as a building that uses connectivity to enable economic use of resources, while creating a safe and comfortable environment for occupants. And I think that’s a great definition because smart homes are growing at a rate of about 150 percent per year. And that’s exactly what they do for you.
LESLIE: Yeah. It’s awesome. So if you guys are ready to make your home smarter, there are two ways to organize your smart-home devices.
Now, if you’ve only got one or two, you can use the software that’s provided by that manufacturer to get started. But if you’re going to go all in with several smart-home devices, you’re first going to need to hook up a central hub device. And those are available through Amazon, Apple, even Google. And these basically act as a home base. And that allows you to manage a variety of smart-home devices all under that one software program.
Now, once you’ve got that all set up, you can use the personal-assistant app on your phone to easily add whatever peripheral devices you want. You can connect them wirelessly through Wi-Fi or Bluetooth to the hub. And you can easily create settings and schedules to sort of handle all of those multiple devices. Plus, with that single app, you can operate and monitor the devices whenever you want, from pretty much wherever you are.
TOM: The possibilities now are literally endless. So, for example, if you’re concerned about safety and security, you can connect smoke detectors and door locks and motion sensors and video doorbells, cameras, all together into the system. Smart thermostats, that was probably my first smart-home device and I absolutely love it. Smart thermostats and lights, these can help you save on energy costs.
And you can even make household chores a bit easier by programming kitchen appliances or outside sprinkler systems that automatically adjust to the weather. That’s another thing I have set up, which is cool. Because when we get a lot of rain, my sprinklers don’t come on. And that really saves us a lot on our water bill.
LESLIE: Yeah. That’s a really smart program.
There really are tons of fun options that you can take advantage of, too. You can connect your smart TVs, the speakers, your media players, pretty much any electronic in the house. And if you need help staying organized or working more efficiently, you can schedule reminders, set alarms, plan calendars, create lists.
You can get answers to questions in an instant. I find myself shouting out that magical lady’s name sometime at work and I’m like, “Hey.” I can’t say it because everything will start chiming around the studio. But we call her Allegra when we want to talk about her behind her back. We’ll be like, “Allegra, what’s the such and such?” And then at work, when nobody answers me, I’m like, “Oh, right. We don’t have a smart office.”
But it’s awesome. I’m able to drop in on the kids’ rooms and be like, “Hey, dinner,” instead of shouting. It’s just made life so easy.
TOM: It can get a little overwhelming with all the choices. But I think the easiest way to do this is just start with one or two that make sense to you. Get used to the idea, the concept and then you kind of go from there. And I think once you kind of get the hook, you’re just going to keep finding other ways to put smart-home devices together to work for you. And that’s going to make you a lot smarter in your house.
LESLIE: Heading out to Rhode Island. We’ve got Stuart on the line.
What’s going on at your money pit?
STUART: I’ve got about a 3,000-square-foot home. And I built the house. I put a hot-water heater in the basement. Just one hot-water heater for the whole house. It’s more to one side of the house than the other so, obviously, I’m getting hot water pretty quickly on one end. On the other end, it takes forever. I’m wondering how I could split that up. Should I install another regular hot-water heater on the other side of the house? Right now, I have electric one on a timer. Or should I put in a tankless hot-water heater? Or is there some other way to go to put in hot water on the other side of the house?
TOM: So, yeah, the problem you’re describing is common and you have diagnosed it correctly. It’s a matter of the time or the speed or the distance that water has to travel. And if you have the water heater in the middle of the house and your bathroom’s on the end of the house, you’ve got to wait for that hot water to make its way through the plumbing system before it starts to warm up.
Now, the two options are, yes, you could put a second water heater near that half of the house and that will shorten the distance. So tankless is a good option for that.
The other option, though, is to use a hot-water recirculating system. Check out those by Watts – W-a-t-t-s. The Watts Hot-Water Recirculating System consists of a pump that basically will take that hot-water line and rotate or circulate the water through it, between the water heater and the fixture. And it does so on a timer.
So, for example, if you’re usually waiting for water for that first early-morning shower, you’re going to have the circulator come on a ½-hour before that and warm up the water. So that when you turn the faucet on, it gets hot right away and then go off after that. Because you don’t want it to run all the time, for two reasons. Not only does the recirculating pump use electricity but the water heater does, as well. If it’s electric or if it’s gas, it’s got to run more often to keep that water warm.
So check out the hot-water recirculating systems by Watts. I think that’s a good solution in this particular situation.
LESLIE: Sarah is on the line with a painting question.
How can we help you?
SARAH: So, we had our roof fixed and in the process, there was a leak. And they painted the ceiling inside but it stills has a yellow tinge. We’re just wondering how to fix that. Do you have any recommendations?
LESLIE: Oh, geez. I feel like every time that there’s a roof leak, you end up with some strange discolorations.
So, first of all, roof leak is fixed, so that’s good. Now, for painting, I mean you’ve got to – once that leak is fixed and everything’s dry in that ceiling, you’ve got to spot prime. Otherwise, if you just were to re-cover with the ceiling paint, that stain is going to kind of magically seep through and find its way through that paint color. So you have to make sure that you spot prime. Or if you’re up to it, prime the whole ceiling again, let that dry well and then paint it with a ceiling paint. And that’ll do the trick. But you definitely have to make sure you prime it; otherwise, you’re just going to keep seeing it.
TOM: Hey. So, Leslie, do you think it’s possible to be really soft and yet strong at the same time?
LESLIE: What? Wait. Are you talking about yourself?
TOM: No, no. I’m talking about insulation.
LESLIE: I was wondering.
TOM: Yeah. I think Owens Corning really nailed it with their new, enhanced PINK Next Gen Fiberglas Insulation. Fall is around the corner and this new product is really Next Gen-ready as we get our homes ready to stand up to the colder weather.
Now, the reason I say that is because the PINK Next Gen Fiberglas is made with advanced fiber technology and that gives you improved comfort. It feels as soft as cotton, so it’s not itchy or scratchy to handle. But it’s also strong and a lot easier to install.
LESLIE: Yeah. And you know how when you’re putting in the new insulation, you usually end up just squishing it in places that you really can’t reach that well? Well, when you do that, the insulation doesn’t work as well because you’re sort of condensing everything. But with the new PINK Next Gen Fiberglas Insulation, this is designed to recover very quickly right out of the package. So, you can slide it very easily into a wall cavity. It’s going to fit snugly. In fact, it’s going to work so well that the job gets done 23-percent faster than it would should you be using the old type of insulation.
TOM: Yeah. And now really is the time to take on this project before the expensive heating bills start to roll in. And when the attic gets to be at sort of comfortable temperature between summer and winter – and you can work up there. Not only is this new PINK Next Gen easy to work with, it insulates well and it’s going to keep you comfortable and it’s going to absorb some noise, too.
LESLIE: And I feel like it might actually keep the kids’ garage band maybe actually in the garage.
TOM: Yeah. And speaking of kids, the ingredients are safe. There’s no formaldehyde, fire retardants or harmful chemicals. So, if you want to learn more about the new Owens Corning PINK Next Gen Fiberglas Insulation, visit HomeDepot.com or Lowes.com.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re going to chat with Jim who’s dealing with a problem with a cracked wall.
What’s the problem, Jim?
JIM: Problem with a brick wall behind my garage. Long back wall with a vertical crack that’s 6 feet long, separating ¼- to 3/8-inch. And I need to know how to diagnose it or find out what’s really going on behind that, whether to seal it or get a contractor.
TOM: Well, Jim, if you have a crack that’s open 3/8-inch, that’s a lot on a vertical crack.
So we need to know, first of all, whether it’s active or not. Active meaning is it still getting bigger or is it just something that happened and sort of settled down? Why it happened, there could be lots of reason. There could be debris in the soil that rotted away. That often happens around garages where they leave construction debris that gets buried by soil. And when it deteriorates, the soil will sort of settle in and cause voids and that causes some movement. Could be a drainage problem. I don’t know. But we’ve got to know whether it’s active or not.
If it’s not active, then it could be sealed just to keep water out. But if it is active, then you might need a structural repair. Unfortunately, while a lot of contractors will claim to have the expertise to do this, only a structural engineer can really give you the accurate advice that you need, especially when it’s something severe – of a severe nature, like this now. So I would suggest that you hire a structural engineer to evaluate it. And based on that advice, make the repair or have a contractor make the repair so you know it’s done right.
LESLIE: Whatever you are working on, guys, we love to lend you a hand. And we really have a fantastic prize up for grabs this hour. We’ve got the amazing, amazing, new Trex Transcend Deck Kit at Lowe’s. This is courtesy of Trex. They are giving us a $500 gift card to Lowe’s, which will help you get started with a new decking project.
Now, the Trex Transcend Deck Kit, it’s a kit. It’s got all of the materials that you need to build a 12×16-foot deck with Trex’s top of the line Transcend Decking, the Trex Fascia, and the Trex Hideaway Hidden Fasteners. So you’re going to get a beautifully finished deck that has a wonderful sort of textured appearance. The wood grain is realistic, the colors are wonderful. There’s one that kind of looks like very beachy and gray and worn.
But it is super durable; it’s going to last. It’s low-maintenance. It’s super easy to work with. So this is a fantastic prize. And even though the summer’s almost over, you can get a ton of usage out of this deck all year round. And the best part is it’s not going to require painting or staining or sanding or anything other than let me just wash it with some soapy water after the winter season.
So definitely get in on this deal. It’s available exclusively at Lowe’s and Lowes.com. But that $500 gift card for the Trex Transcend Decking Kit is available to one lucky Money Pit listener. So call in now.
TOM: The number here is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Or head on over to MoneyPit.com and click the blue microphone button to record your question.
Well, more people than ever are working from home. But while work from home definitely has got its advantages, it can be challenging to stay organized and focused, especially if you don’t have a dedicated office space. And maybe you need to work in a small space or an area that serves multiple purposes, like the kitchen table, right?
LESLIE: Yeah. Sometimes it’s hard to get away from everybody. And if that’s what you’re dealing with, the key is to find ways to optimize the space that you do have.
The first step: you’ve got to just clear out as much as possible. This is a great opportunity. You can finally sort through all the things that you don’t need anymore. Less stuff means fewer distractions and that, of course, gives you some more space.
Now, next, you’ve got to be strategic about when you set up your work area. If you don’t have a separate room, you might just need a small desk and a file cabinet or maybe some other small storage spot to hold some supplies. You know, if you’ve got a spare closet, maybe just move the clothes elsewhere and turn that into an office nook. You can do a tabletop, some shelving and it’s kind of your own quiet, little spot.
But if you do find yourself having to do your work at your kitchen table or maybe some other multipurpose room at room where you’re sharing the space, it’s kind of a lot of stuff going on. Maybe use a rolling cart that has drawers or shelves and that can be your spot for all your work supplies, so they’re all kind of still in one spot but they’re not just spread out all over the dining table. And when you’re done, they are all stored nicely and kind of out of sight, out of mind. Which is great because it’s there when you need it but not when you don’t.
Now, another thing is to think about – every piece of furniture in your home is taking up space. So don’t forget to think about the space that you get vertically on the walls in the house. There’s all kinds of things that you can mount to those walls that will help you stay organized. So think about new spots.
TOM: And finally, let’s talk about my pet peeve and that’s the Zoom background.
TOM: I think people just don’t get this. You’ve got to make sure your camera is in line with your eyes. You want it to be a well-lit, lightly-decorated background. Nothing too crazy. Also, even your ceilings should be considered.
I know you’ve seen this, Leslie. How many times are you talking to somebody and they’ve got a paddle fan on the ceiling? The computer’s on their desktop and you get this upshot of the face with the paddles spinning above it that looks like one of those hats with the little propeller on it. You think they’re just going to take off and fly off somewhere. So, watch that kind of a shot.
And also, don’t have your Zoom background be a window because otherwise, we’re just going to see a dark shadow of your former self. It’s going to be like Darth Vader there in the shot because the light’s going to compete. It’s just not going to work.
And of course, be careful about what’s happening with the family behind you. You don’t want to be having your door open.
LESLIE: Don’t take it into the bathroom.
TOM: Yeah, right. In between the bathroom and the hall, so people are just wandering back and forth. Let’s just be considerate of everyone.
LESLIE: I always laugh at that: early on in the pandemic, when there was that Zoom trial held somewhere and the attorney turned himself into the cat. And he was like, “I’m not a cat. I’m not a cat.” I still laugh about that. We’ve come so far in this virtual-meeting technology.
TOM: We have. Yep. (inaudible)
LESLIE: But that still just makes me giggle.
Margaret, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
MARGARET: Yes. I’d like to know what I can do about my popcorn ceilings. They’re getting dirty. They’re 20 years old.
LESLIE: Well, there’s a couple of solutions. Do you like them and want to keep them? Or you just want them to not look so dingy?
MARGARET: I would not rather – I would not like to keep them no more.
LESLIE: Alright. Well, generally, with popcorn ceiling, if it’s truly a popcorn ceiling and not a texturized stucco, what you can do to remove it is you can get one of those garden sprayers or those light-duty paint sprayers. Put water in it and you spray the ceiling to sort of saturate the popcorn. And then you take a wide spackle blade – as wide as the one you can find – and you sort of gently start peeling away at the popcorn ceiling – at the popcorn texture, I should say, from the ceiling.
And that generally does a pretty good job. Because if you’ve ever tried to paint it, if you don’t have the right roller, when it gets wet it starts to peel away from the ceiling. So by getting it wet, you’re being able to remove it. You just want to make sure, with your blade or your scraper, that you’re not digging into the drywall below it. Because keep in mind whatever’s left underneath there is what you’re going to paint and then see.
MARGARET: OK. How do I go about cleaning if I decide to just go ahead and keep this?
LESLIE: Well, you wouldn’t clean it. You would paint over it.
MARGARET: Oh, no. No.
TOM: Yeah, there’s actually a special roller for that. It’s like a slitted roller. It’s a very thick roller that’s got slits in it and it’s designed to squeeze the paint into that popcorn area. And that’s exactly why I would do it. I would paint it. It’s going to look a lot better than cleaning it. You just can’t clean that stuff. There’s nothing cleanable about a popcorn ceiling. You’ve got to paint over it.
Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Jumping into our emails, we’ve got one here from Barsky (sp) who writes: “I bought a house that was built in 1958 and I’d like to make sure that the outside, kitchen, bath and garage outlets have GFCIs. Do I need to add these individually or can I just add them once at the main electrical panel?”
Oh, that’s interesting. Because I always think of them individually at the outlet point. But is there something else that sort of controls more of the house?
TOM: Actually, you can do both. It depends on what else is on the circuit. But if it turns out that the outlets you want to cover – and pretty much nothing else is on a circuit – you can actually install a ground-fault circuit breaker at the breaker panel itself. Or the other option is you could put it at the individual outlet.
And by the way, at the individual outlet, it might cover – you can wire it so it covers that outlet and anything that follows would have the same ground-fault protection.
LESLIE: Alright. That’s good to know.
Good luck with that, Barsky (sp).
TOM: Well, if you own an older home or you’re thinking about buying one, sometimes you wish the walls could talk so you could find out everything it’s been through. But that is actually not necessary. Leslie will share some tricks of the trade to do just that, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.
LESLIE: Yeah. And I mean you don’t want your walls telling all your secrets to everybody anyway. So, we’ve got other ways that you can figure this stuff out.
Now, it’s very helpful because if you know when that home was built and sort of a close age range to when that possible construction date would be, that really sort of sets you up for what could be going on, what similar problems, different things that could be happening with a home of that time frame.
So, you can go track down some public records. They’re going to hold the key about information to your house. If you can research them, it really is a good idea if you are the prospective owner of a home and you want to know what changes have taken place over the years before you buy it. So go ahead and visit that local building department, the tax assessor or even the registrar of deeds office to find deeds, maps, plot plans, building permits. Each of those pieces of information could fill in a lot about that home’s history.
Now, the insurance companies, they use maps that have been around probably since the mid-1800s. And that’s really a great way to find out about more about your home. They’re used to catalogue buildings in the area and they give excellent descriptions of size, layout, materials that were used in the construction. So there’s lots of great ways that you can find out and really go far back into the time period, depending on when your house was built.
Now, if you look around the house and you’re starting to notice different sort of construction methods, like maybe you see knob-and-tube wiring or steel plumbing pipes – because those were very common from the early 1900s to 1940. But if you see small, fuse-type electrical systems and plaster-lath walls, that puts you in that time period of 1940 to 1960. So you can kind of look around and see how that house is built, see what materials are in it and then maybe do some searches to be like, “Oh, I’m noticing this type of plumbing.” And sort of figure out where that dates you.
And finally, you know, speaking of plumbing, take a good look. Because if that plumbing fixture is original, that date is going to be stamped on it. Like a toilet or a sink. And that can give you an excellent idea of when that was put in. So it could be original to an addition or a renovation but it could also be original to the home. So, lots of cool ways to figure out sort of your home ownership detective badge there, guys, and really figure out what’s going on. Because it’ll make you a better homeowner and it’ll definitely help you prepare for what could come down the road.
TOM: Well, coming up on the next Money Pit, if you love your outdoor spaces and you want to keep dining and entertaining there from spring through fall, a patio heater comes in handy. We’ll review the options, on the very next edition of The Money Pit.
I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …
LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.
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