- If you’re hoping for a lush, green lawn, now is the perfect time to set up your sprinkler system for success. We’ll explain how to dial it in for water efficiency and effectiveness.
- Building a fence is a great way to improve your home’s curb appeal, home value and keep out the wildlife. Whether it’s a project you want to do yourself – or one you’d plan to hire out for – we’ll share 5 tips to help make sure your fence project is a success!
- Mulch is an important element to any spring garden or landscape plans, but how much mulch is too much mulch? We’ll share tips, including an important caution about one popular type of mulch to avoid – because can grow fungus that sticks to your house and your car and be almost impossible to get rid of!
Plus, answers to your home improvement questions about:
- Heidi in North Carolina wants to know if she should move her main fuse panel inside.
- Mike from Minnesota is trying to vent his dryer more efficiently.
- Donna in Washington needs to clean cedar siding that is starting to chip.
- Dennis from Wyoming asks if he can install green board behind a thermoplastic shower wall.
- Judy in Tennessee wants to know the best way to care for hardwood flooring.
- Doug from Virginia needs to clean spray foam insulation off Vinyl Siding.
- Ted has a musty smell in his finished basement.
- Joyce in Missouri wants to know what product to use to refinish hardwood floor.
TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, welcome to The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: This is Episode 2199. Another almost milestone, Leslie. Almost ready to hit 2,200 episodes of this show.
TOM: So, I hope that we can help you, as we’ve helped so many others in the past, with the planning for your home improvement project. If you’ve got a job you want to get done, you don’t know where to start, we can help. Start with us. If you’ve run into a problem, a tricky situation, if you need to involve a contractor but you don’t know if you’re getting a good price or not or even what to ask, all great questions to reach out to us with. You can do that by calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or better yet, post your questions at MoneyPit.com/Ask.
Coming up on today’s show, if you are hoping for a lush, green lawn for the entire season, now is the perfect time to set up your sprinkler system for success. We’ll explain how to dial it in for water efficiency and effectiveness.
LESLIE: And also ahead, building a fence is a great way to improve your home’s curb appeal, your home value and keep out the wildlife. Whether it’s a project you want to do yourself or one that you plan to hire out, we’re going to share five tips to help make sure your fence project is a success.
TOM: And mulch is an important element to any spring garden or landscape plan. But how much mulch is too much mulch? We’re going to share tips, including an important caution about one popular type of mulch you should avoid at all costs, because it can grow fungus that sticks to your house and your car and be almost impossible to get rid of.
LESLIE: Bleh. That definitely is a yucky situation.
But whatever you guys are working on, whatever it is we want to hear from you. Let us know what you’re working on this weekend, what you’re hoping to tackle this spring and summer season. Everything that you’ve got going on – your plans, your dreams for your home – let us know so we can give you a hand.
TOM: That’s right. Because this show is all about the care and feeding of your home. We can help you make smart decisions and create your best home ever. So let’s start doing that right now.
Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Heidi in North Carolina is on the line with an electrical problem.
How can we help you today?
HEIDI: Well, I have kind of a two-part question. I have an older home. It’s about 68 years old. We paid an electrician to come in when we converted over to a heat pump from an oil furnace, to up our service. And we have an old fuse box that are the screw-in type fuses. And when he put the system in – the new electrical box – he was supposed to convert everything over into the new electrical box and he left the little electrical box – the little fuse box – in my kitchen.
And unfortunately, he put the new electrical box on the outside of my house. That would be OK, except I’m a single woman and I don’t – safety reasons. I don’t think it’s really smart considering I have a full-size basement it could easily be put in.
HEIDI: So do I need to – I would never call this guy again, for lots of reasons. But do I need to pay somebody else to come in and convert that last part of my home into this other fuse box or – you know, these little fuses are hard to find and when they blow …
TOM: So, it’s definitely an active panel, right? The fuse panel?
HEIDI: Oh, it’s active. Yes, sir.
TOM: OK. So that’s called a “sub-panel” and that’s going to be a sub-panel from the main panel. You said the main panel is now in the basement or the main panel is outside?
HEIDI: It’s outside. We have a full basement and why he put it outside, I have no clue. But he put the main panel …
TOM: Yeah, that makes no sense. Because the only time you usually see full panels outside is maybe a condominium situation and then they’re in utility closets. So I can’t imagine why that was done that way. It doesn’t make sense. It sounds to me like you do need a better electrician to come in and take care of this.
If it makes you feel any better, the fact that you have a fuse box does not mean that it’s unsafe. Fuses are actually quite safe if it’s the right-size fuse matched against the wire that’s hooked up to that circuit.
And so, to know if that’s the case, somebody has to open the panel and say, “OK, this is Number 14 wire, so it’s a 15-amp fuse. And this is Number 12 wire, so it’s a 20-amp fuse,” and so on and physically write that right above the fuse on the panel so you know what size to put in there. Because it’s too easy, with a fuse box, to put in a 20-amp fuse on a wire that’s only rated for 15 amps. Then, of course, that’s potentially unsafe.
So, it does sound like you need another electrician. It’s obviously not a do-it-yourself project. And unless there’s some compelling code reason in your part of the country to put that outside, I don’t understand why they would have done that. And you could consider rerunning it back to the inside and unfortunately, that’s kind of where we’re at. It’s not an easy fix; it’s one that’s going to require the investment of a good electrician.
HEIDI: Alright. Well, thank you very much.
TOM: You’re welcome, Heidi. Thank you for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Mike in Minnesota is dealing with “tumble-lint,” if you’d like to call it that. Lint blowing out a dryer vent.
MIKE: So I’ve got a dryer vent that directly vents through the exterior wall that it sits against, so there’s not much ductwork involved. My problem is that the vent sits 12 inches up from our deck surface, right in the middle, and it just makes an awful mess. So I’d really like to put in some type of maybe secondary capture system or maybe even reroute it on the exterior of the house.
I should also let you know that I have three teenage daughters and a wife, so doing less laundry doesn’t – isn’t really a popular solution at my house.
TOM: One solution could be just a clothesline, you know? Did you ever think of that?
MIKE: I’ll offer that one up to my wife, too, and see how that goes.
TOM: There you go. See how far that gets us.
Well, look, the good news is that having a dryer vent that’s so close to an exterior wall like that means that your clothes dry as efficiently as possible. Because if you try to route this anywhere else but directly out, it’s going to take a lot longer for those clothes to dry. Plus, you have the added hassle of needing to maintain the dryer exhaust duct, because it will continually build up with lint and have to be cleaned. So it’s clearly a trade-off.
I don’t think that anything that traps lint is going to be a good thing. It can cause a fire, actually. I mean the fact that it’s venting out is what it’s supposed to do.
Does the dryer lint vent work well inside the machine? Because it would seem to me that if the lint trap is working well inside the machine, you shouldn’t be getting as much lint in the dryer exhaust duct.
MIKE: Well, that’s what I expected, too, and it’s a new dryer. And certainly, it’s capturing a lot, too.
TOM: Well, if you did rerun it, where would you go?
MIKE: Well, I thought about putting it just below the deck, which is about 12 inches down. But I have a basement window there and it would just make a mess of the window. The only other option I’d have is to run it along, basically, the floor of the deck. Maybe it would probably take about 8 feet or so before I got away from the deck. But that would be a sharp right turn.
TOM: Well, here’s what I would think about. I would think about how many turns you need to make, starting at the machine, to get that to happen. So if you take – if you come off the machine and you take one elbow down and then you go into the floor, you take another elbow out, you’re essentially making a U-turn. And then that warm, moist air has to travel all that distance to get out. So, is it possible? Yeah. It’s not going to be as efficient, so that’s your trade-off.
And by the way, keep in mind that with most dryers, you can actually move the dryer vent. For example, I have a dryer that I’m reconfiguring right now that has a dryer exhaust duct out the back. But I noticed that the side of the dryer has had punch-outs – holes – for it. And so I just looked up online and the installation instructors – instructions – showed me how to rerun the duct coming out the side of the machine so that I could vent it quicker to an exterior wall than having to go down through a floor.
MIKE: Oh, OK. That might be an option, too.
TOM: So consider that you may be able to come out of the dryer in a different direction.
LESLIE: Donna in Washington, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?
DONNA: I live in an old – it’s two-story, cedar-shingle house. And anyway, years ago I used to be able to put Olympic stain on it and I kept up the stain. But then they changed the law where I couldn’t use stain anymore. So it was painted in the late – oh, probably ‘99. Well, now the paint started peeling, so I had – one of my sons came and pressure-washed it.
This was about 2 years now but he couldn’t get all the paint off. And it’s flaking because of the shingles and these little grooves, you can’t get it all out. And I live in a two-tone house: a brown stain where the paint’s peeling and the green where the paint’s not peeling.
And it looks terrible. And I’ve called – I’ve phoned two different contractors and gave them the address and they must have just come by and looked at it. And they never even called back, let alone stopped by.
TOM: Chased them off, huh? Yeah.
DONNA: Yes. Plus, they have to have a special license because the house is so old it has to be – in this state anyway, it costs them thousands and thousands of dollars because – or in case there’s lead outside in the paint. Well, it was stained, not painted.
TOM: So, aside from all the drama associating with this, it’s really quite a basic problem. When you have all of these layers of paint that are on the material over all of these years, at some point you’re going to lose adhesion to the original substrate, which is the cedar. The only solution, in that case, is to remove the paint to get down to the originally natural wood.
So, pressure-washing it is fine for the loose stuff. But beyond that, you’ve got to scrape and sand. Because you’ve got to get some of that natural wood to kind of show itself through the remaining stained areas that are painted. Because once it’s ready – truly ready – where you’ve got all the loose stuff off and your surface has been abraded properly, then you can apply an oil-based primer. And the purpose of the primer is kind of a layer – it has different qualities than paint.
Primer is the glue that makes the paint stick. And so, if you use an oil-based primer on there, you’ll get very good adhesion to the cedar. Once that thoroughly dries, then you can paint on top of that. And the topcoat of paint does not have to be oil-based but the primer does. That’s what’s going to give the adhesion. But you can’t just keep putting good paint over bad paint, otherwise the problem of peeling will just continue to repeat itself. Does that make sense, Donna?
DONNA: OK. Thank you.
LESLIE: Dennis in Wyoming is on the line and has a question about a backer board.
What can we do for you?
DENNIS: Yes. I just wondered your opinion on the greenboard being used behind a thermoplastic shower wall. I’m installing a shower in an alcove and they sent me the base.
DENNIS: And then I’ve got these three walls that I have to glue …
TOM: Usually, it’s – that kind of a liner usually goes on top of tile. Can you put it over greenboard? Well, the problem with greenboard is it’s not very water-resistant. It’s more water-resistant than regular drywall but it’s not terribly water-resistant. It’s designed to be a tile backer.
So I would say if you’re going to do it, it’s probably OK but just don’t kid yourself into thinking this is something that’s going to last for more than a few years or maybe 10 years max. But I would be very careful to silicone-seal all of the seams so that you don’t have water that goes through the seams of that shower enclosure and saturate through the greenboard. Because it will sort of soften up and rot out.
DENNIS: OK. Well, thank you very much.
TOM: You’re welcome, Dennis. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, if you’re hoping for a lush, green lawn for the entire season, now actually is the perfect time to set up your sprinkler system. But before you do that, it’s important that the system is tested and adjusted so that you avoid wasting water.
Now, first of all, each zone has got to be checked for leaks. Even if it worked well last year, sprinklers can definitely very easily be damaged during the freezing winter weather. Even a pin-size leak of about 1/32-inch in diameter – about the thickness of a dime – that alone can waste 6,300 gallons of water per month. That’s huge.
TOM: Absolutely. Now, besides checking for leaks, there are a few more ways you can save on water.
First, obviously, water only when your lawn needs it. Now, a smart sprinkler controller can do this for you. The way it works is it tracks the weather and it runs the sprinklers only when they’re truly needed. So that’s a really nice way to save money through the entire season.
LESLIE: Now, you also want to make sure that you water during the coolest part of the day. The morning is definitely best. And doing so in the morning is going to help prevent fungus from growing and will also minimize evaporation. And that occurs when you water in the hot sun. You know, water the lawn, sun is burning on it. It’s going to just go away before it gets a chance to get to the roots.
TOM: Now, double-check that your sprinkler heads aren’t spraying onto your sidewalk or driveway, too. It’s very easy for a sprinkler head to get knocked loose or jolted by a lawn mower or maybe by the kids or pets playing in the yard. If you water your sidewalk, the only thing that’s going to grow is your water bill.
LESLIE: Now, next, you want to put a fresh layer of mulch around your trees and your plants. And that’s going to help keep that soil moist and prevent evaporation. Definitely important.
TOM: And by the way, when you cut your lawn, you want to set the blades about one notch higher than usual, because that helps keep the grass blades longer and it provides shade to the roots and prevents, really, greater evaporation. So, don’t be in such a hurry to cut all the grass right down to the nubs, because that’s just going to end up with a really weedy, dried-out looking lawn. Cut it high, cut it often and that’s the best way to have a lush, green lawn for the season.
LESLIE: Now we’re going to Arkansas where Deborah is on the line thinking there might be some mold at her money pit.
Tell us what you’re seeing.
DEBORAH: The last rain that we had, water got in one of my bedrooms. And once the water got in, I noticed that there were black spots on it, which was mold that was on there. And I was just inquiring about should I get someone to come out and clean it or if I would be able to clean that myself.
TOM: Have you fixed the leak yet, Deborah?
DEBORAH: No. I have not fixed that.
TOM: OK. So the first thing you need to do is fix the leak. Because if you don’t fix the leak, it’s just going to come back over and over and over again. So do that, first off.
Secondly, with respect to the mold, I would spray a bleach-and-water solution on that: about one-third bleach, two-thirds water. Protect the surrounding area so you don’t stain the carpet or the furniture or anything like that. Let it sit for a good 15 or 20 minutes and then you can clean it up after that – rinse it off and clean off the wall after that. Then I’d spray a product called Concrobium Mold Control over that, which will leave sort of a residue behind that will stop any future mold from growing.
But there’s no sense doing all that if you still have a leak, because that leak’s going to cause the mold to keep growing. So fix the leak first, then get rid of the mold after that. OK, Deb?
DEBORAH: OK. Alright. Thank you. Appreciate it.
TOM: You’re welcome.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Doug in Virginia on the line with a siding question.
How can we help you?
DOUG: Yes. I had – my son’s house has some vinyl siding on it. And the folks that owned it before he did were patching something with some of the spray-foam insulation – the crack-filler stuff – and it oozed out all over the siding. So I know I can go back and cut it loose, cut what’s extra stuff. But when I get down close to the vinyl, what can I clean the residue off with to make it clean without damaging the vinyl?
TOM: It’s very difficult because you get – those foams are usually polyurethane and they have real adhesive qualities to it. Real adhesive. So, what you can do is try to gently scrape it off with a putty knife. But make sure you use – an older one is better because it won’t be quite so sharp. And very carefully do that.
And then, I’ve stripped off some foam – errant foam – with WD-40 as the solvent. So you might want to try that with a ScotchPad, because ScotchPad is not abrasive. But you could spray the siding with the WD-40 and then work the ScotchPad back and forth. You may find that you pull off some of that residue. It really depends on what kind of foam it is. But you’re right, once it’s dry, to cut as much of it off and then try to abrade the rest of it off. But do so with a mind not to damage the siding.
DOUG: OK. Well, I’ll give it a try. WD-40.
TOM: Yep. Try it. It’s one of the thousand uses for that stuff. They say you only need two things in your tool kit: WD-40 and duct tape. They’re pretty close.
DOUG: Then I can go over the whole back of the house with WD-40 to revitalize the vinyl, right?
TOM: Well, I wouldn’t – if it’s the whole back of the house – if you’re talking about spot-cleaning, OK. But if it’s the whole back of the house, then I think you’ve got a bigger problem. I think you’re looking at new siding.
DOUG: But would I get an oily spot when I use the WD-40 that will look different than the rest of it?
TOM: You will, you will. But soap and water will take it away.
DOUG: I guess that’ll fade, yeah.
LESLIE: That’s why it’s good for only like a little spot.
DOUG: Alright. Well, thanks a lot.
LESLIE: Alright. Now I’ve got Diane in Massachusetts on the line with a noise question.
What’s going on at your money pit?
DIANE: Sided the house 12 years ago and I had blown-in insulation put in 3 years. And the house is noisy. I can hear a humming. It’s annoying. It’s a buzzing. I don’t know why, after doing all of this surrounding the house and trying to keep it warm, I would hear a humming, a resonance in the house.
TOM: Well, I’ll tell you what: there’s got to be a reason for this and it’s going to take some real detective work to figure it out. I’ll give you an example from my own home. We recently had mentioned earlier on this show – put in spray-foam insulation and sealed up the attic. It’s never been warmer in the house as a result of it. But in one part of the house, it still was technically a conditioned attic. So by code, we were required to leave some vents in that attic. Now, it ended up that it was so tight in that attic space, even with the vent, that whenever the wind blew, we’d get this really weird, almost like haunting sound.
You know when you were a kid and you would – took an old bottle and you blew across the top of it and it made a big, deep sound with it?
TOM: Like a big jug? Well, that’s what it sounds like when the air blows across this vent. And it makes a really weird sort of vibrating sound in that part of the house. Until I figured it out, I was really scratching my head.
So there’s always a reason for this. In our case, it was a vent. In your case, it could be plumbing. Very often, we get noises in homes that are sourced from plumbing. Sometimes when you run hot or cold water, pipes will expand or contract and cause sort of like a creaking sound that will vibrate through the entire length of the pipe and amplify itself as a result. It could be electrical. If there’s outlets or panel boxes in those parts of the house, they definitely should be inspected to make sure that nothing is disintegrating inside that electrical area.
There’s nothing about adding blown-in insulation that will cause a noise, so the source must be somewhere else that you’re going to have to dig into a bit more, Diane, before you’ll know what to do about it. But I would trust your instincts. If you’re hearing it, it definitely exists. Sometimes, people think they’re going nuts. But I’ve got to tell you, there’s a reason for that but it’s definitely going to take some detective work to get to the bottom of it.
DIANE: OK. You coming over?
TOM: Alright. Well, you put on the coffee and next time I’m up in Massachusetts, we’ll stop by. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, building a fence is a great way to improve your home’s value, your curb appeal. It keeps the wildlife out. So, whether it’s a project that you want to do yourself or one that you’re planning to hire out for, we’re going to share five tips to help make sure that your fence project is a success.
TOM: Now, first up, plan your fence carefully. There’s nothing worse than an ongoing neighborhood feud that’s caused by a fence that’s built on the wrong side of a property line. So know exactly where your lines are drawn. Give your neighbors a heads-up to avoid any hard feelings.
LESLIE: Now, next, you need to make sure that you’re making your fence a legal project. Because while not all fencing is going to require a permit, it’s definitely worth checking with your local officials just to be sure. Some towns do have strict guidelines for fence height, material selection, picket spacing, post-hole footings and minimum setback distance from the sidewalk or street. So, better find out first before you’re doing a project two or three times until you get it right.
TOM: Now, depending on your tolerance for maintenance, you want to think about your materials, because fencing is available in a big, wide range of materials. I mean you can go with natural and pressure-treated woods, composites, vinyl, metal. And in addition to the look you like, consider the upkeep that’s required by the fence selection. Because natural wood obviously comes with the biggest ongoing demands. But maybe vinyl not so much, although vinyl is a heck of a lot more expensive. So, it really is a balancing act to choose the one that’s best for you.
LESLIE: Alright. Now, once you’ve got all your things selected, you want to make sure that you’re setting those fence posts properly. So to make sure that that fence is going to last, it’s super important to set those posts right.
Now, setting posts in concrete is a great way to go but you don’t have to order premixed concrete or even mix it yourself. QUIKRETE actually has a fast-setting product. You’re going to find it in the red bag. And all you do is pour the dry mix around the post and then you water the hole. Literally, just pour water into the hole with the mix. And it’s going to set hard in about an hour and those posts will be totally locked in place.
TOM: And finally, remember the good side of the fence has to face out. Fencing like board-on-board is designed to look good on both sides. But if you get stockade fence, that has only one finished side and that is the side you need to face your neighbor. You don’t get to look at the pretty side; you have to have the neighborhood look at the pretty side.
So, remember, if you don’t do that, you could get yourself in trouble with your local building or zoning departments. And they could make you take the whole darn thing out. So, good side has to face out.
Good fences make good neighbors but only if they’re installed right. And now you know how to do just that.
LESLIE: Alright. We’ve got Ted on the line who’s noticing a musty smell in the basement.
What’s going on?
TED: I have a finished basement that’s carpeted and I live in a townhome. And I just – it has a musty smell and I can’t get rid of it, no matter what I do.
TOM: Is the basement heated and cooled?
TED: It is, yes. I actually have the heat turned on down there now and I usually turn the air on in the summertime. And on nice days, I open the windows and let the windows stay open all day long.
TOM: Do you have a dehumidifier?
TED: I do not.
TOM: Well, generally, when you get a musty smell, it’s because of moisture. And sometimes, the moisture settles into carpet and furnishings and can exacerbate it. But if you reduce the moisture and the humidity, that will sometimes improve it.
So, in a basement, you could do that with something called a “whole house dehumidifier,” which is actually something that can be added onto the HVAC system. And it will take out – these whole-house dehumidifiers can take out 100 pints of water a day. They work really, really efficiently. And it’s not the kind of thing where you have to dump it or anything like that; it just goes to a pump and gets pumped right outside.
The other thing that you can do is to improve the drainage conditions outside your house. Because believe it or not, if you extend gutters away from the house and if you slope soil away from the house, there’s a lot less water that collects at the foundation perimeter and ends up getting into your house and raising that humidity level. If you manage the moisture at the foundation perimeter and add a dehumidifier, you’ll find that it goes a long way towards reducing that amount of humidity.
Then, finally, I would check the HVAC system to make sure you have a good-quality return vent in the basement. Because you don’t just want supplies, you want returns, too, so it pulls that moist air back into the system. And as it goes through the system, it heats up or it goes across the air-conditioning coil and condenses. You’ll be pulling more moisture out that way, as well, OK?
TED: OK. Great. I’ll give it a shot.
TOM: Alright, Ted. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, mulch can give your lawn a nice, clean, finished look. But did you know that mulch is very beneficial to your plants and soil, as well?
So, here’s how it works. Mulch actually really does a lot of things for the landscaping beds. It reduces surface evaporation of moisture from the soil, it protects shallow-rooted plants, it discourages weed growth and it also improves water penetration.
TOM: Now, you can mulch any time of the year. The areas to be mulched should be cleared of all weeds and leaves and grass. And use at least 3 inches of mulch for an effective covering. If you live in a warmer climate, maybe even go so much as to add 6 inches.
LESLIE: Now, when it comes to materials, you’re going to find there are many choices of mulch. And it really comes down to appearance more than cost. You can find both natural and man-made materials: you know, anything from wood to stone to rubber. So lots of options out there.
TOM: And here’s an important tip. With natural mulch, please stay away from the shredded type and here’s why: because the shredded mulch could contain a type of fungus called “artillery fungus.” And it’s called that because when it grows, it looks kind of like buckshot hit your house or your car with little, black specks everywhere. And the problem is it can be really, really hard to remove. Sometimes it’s almost impossible, especially if you have a vinyl-sided house.
We find that it’s very common in the shredded mulch but not so much in the solid when it’s fully-chipped mulch or the bark mulch. So, just stay away from the shredded type and you should be good on that.
LESLIE: Joyce in Missouri is on the line with a floor-finishing question.
How can we help you?
JOYCE: I do have a question about my hardwood. It’s the old, solid hardwood from – it was put down back in the 50s. I love it and I refinished it, oh, probably about 15 to 17 years ago. And with the time and traffic, the top is wearing now and I need to sand it down and resurface it. When I did it then, I used GYM-SEAL. But I want to know what would be the best product that would be long-term lasting and something that would be user-friendly for an individual.
TOM: OK. So, first of all, in terms of the sanding-it-down part, does the floor have any really severe wear or is it just the finish that’s worn?
JOYCE: Just the finish.
TOM: So you don’t have to sand it down all the way. What you can do is you can basically just lightly sand the surface. There is a machine called a U-Sand machine, which is like an abrasive disk sander that you can rent at a home center or a hardware store. It has four abrasive disks in it. It does have a vacuum system built in so it doesn’t leave dust all over the place.
But it won’t wear down the wood too much. It’ll just sort of take that top layer of finish off and get it ready to be refinished. Because with hardwood floors, you don’t want to sand them completely down if you don’t have to, because that takes many years off their life when you take all that finish off down to the raw wood. It’s really not necessary.
And then after you sand it, then you can apply an oil-based polyurethane. So not water-based but oil-based. Not acrylic-based but oil-based. And you’re going to apply that with what’s called a “lambswool applicator.” It’s kind of like a mop. And you dip it into a paint tray, you apply it in a very smooth, even coat. Start on one end, work your way out the door and then leave for a good 4 or 5, 6 hours depending on the weather.
JOYCE: OK. With the windows open?
TOM: Yeah. Yeah. If it’s a nice, dry day and the windows are open, that’s the best thing. But just remember: whatever it says for drying time on the can, at least double it because it tends to be a bit sticky for a while.
JOYCE: OK. So an oil-based polyurethane and a lambswool applicator.
TOM: Yup. And then with a light sanding before you start the whole thing. OK?
JOYCE: Sounds wonderful. Thank you so very much and you all have a wonderful day.
TOM: Thanks, Joyce. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
We get more questions on floors than any other topic on this program.
LESLIE: And they occupy a large portion of your home. And there’s always something to do with them.
TOM: They do. And they take a lot of abuse, so that’s probably why people need to fix them all the time.
LESLIE: They do.
Tom W. is writing in to The Money Pit this week and he says, “My living room has knotty pine boards with a brick fireplace at one side. Over the years, the knotty pine has dried and shrunken and caused gaps from 1/8-inch to ½-inch that exposes the inside studs and insulation. What can I do to aesthetically fill in these gaps?”
TOM: I don’t know, Les. The knotty pine has kind of come and gone, hasn’t it, in terms of an aesthetic?
LESLIE: Yeah, for sure.
TOM: Plus, it sounds like it was really poorly installed, because it never should have been put right over the studs like that. It should always have been put over drywall, because you have basically no fire protection between it and the inside.
I can’t give you a lot of great ideas on how to fill those gaps because you have nothing behind it. If you did have something behind it – sometimes we hear about floorboards that have gaps like that. We usually recommend using jute rope – that’s natural, sort of fibrous rope; j-u-t-e – jute – and pressing it in between the gaps. And then you can urethane over it and it seals in place quite nicely. But because you have nothing holding that from behind, that is rather impossible to do.
So my advice would be to take off that knotty-pine paneling, restore the drywall and start again.
LESLIE: Alright. Probably not the answer you were looking for, Tom, but definitely – bright side: fresh start.
TOM: Well, bringing out your outside furniture is a great way to mark the start of warmer weather. But that furniture usually comes with some gross stuff on it, depending on how you stored it for the season. Leslie has got some tips, though, on getting those tables and chairs back in shape, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.
LESLIE: Yeah. You know, even if you’ve had that furniture stored in your shed or your basement all winter long, that outdoor furniture really could use a good cleaning. So, for plastic furniture, you want to mix a little dish soap, some Borax and a ½-cup of peroxide into 1 gallon of water. Then you need to let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes, use a nylon brush to scrub onto the plastic pieces and then rinse it well when you’re done. So that’s super easy to do.
If you’ve got metal furniture, you want to use soapy water and our favorite – most favorite and available – cleaning agent: elbow grease. I mean you’ve just got to do some work here for yourself. If you do find that rust has formed, go ahead, get rid of it with some sandpaper. Then repaint the entire piece with a rust-prohibiting paint or a metal varnish.
Now, for wood furniture, you want to restore that moisture. So you’ve got to oil the surfaces with a sealant or a preservative that’s appropriate to the type of wood. You can clean that furniture a couple of times a month with an oil soap, as well.
Now, once everything’s dry, you can go ahead and add those cushions. But your cushions, they could probably use a pick-me-up, as well. So go ahead and mix 1 teaspoon each of a dishwashing detergent and Borax into a quart of warm water. Then use a spray bottle to douse those cushions generously. And once it sits for about 15 minutes, you want to hit it with a hose to rinse.
Then stand the cushions on their side. This is definitely a trick that helps them dry out so much more quickly. Stand that cushion on the side. Everything is going to drain to the bottom. You’ll even notice, sometimes, a cushion has actually like a little, metal drain built into the fabric cover. And make sure you’re putting it that side down so that they’ll just drain and they’ll dry much more quickly. And then you can relax.
TOM: In those chairs, right?
LESLIE: Exactly. And then park it right after your hard work.
TOM: Park it, exactly. Because that means spring is officially here.
This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Hey, coming up next time on the program, did you know there’s a missing element in most kitchens? It’s not a $7,500 range or a 4-acre refrigerator. It’s simply good lighting. A well-lit kitchen begins with good lighting and especially under-cabinet task lighting. We’re going to teach you how to add those lights – it’s easier than ever to do – on the 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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