- Home Improvement Costs: What are the most popular home renovation projects and what do they cost? How to budget for remodels and repairs.
- Wallpaper Removal: Getting rid of outdated wallpaper can be a chore, but we’ve got tips on making wallpaper removal less of a hassle.
- Composting Leaves: Once all those fall leaves have been raked up, don’t just drag them to the curb. Find out how to compost leaves for next year’s garden.
Plus, answers to your home improvement questions about:
- Electrical Wiring: An old home has a mix of old and new outlets and wiring. Lisa learns why it’s always safer to update electrical wiring and outlets and keep things grounded.
- Updating Formica: Mark needs to make his dark Formica countertop lighter. We offer info on a great product that gives the beautiful look of granite.
- Wood Countertop: Anne wants to install an undermount sink with a hardwood kitchen countertop. We caution her that wood is hard to maintain and suggest some easier alternatives.
- Exterior Paint: Why does exterior paint keep bubbling and chipping even after the siding was primed? The previous paint job may not have been done properly, so Dana will have to strip the surface and use a bonding primer, then repaint.
- Cleaning Windows: Is there a lazy way to clean windows? Marie will still need some effort to avoid streaking and clouding on the windows.
- Metal Roofing: Where can you find information about the different grades of metal roofing? Joe learns about a helpful website with lots of details on why metal roofs are a good investment.
- Plumbing: Mary will be installing a whole house water filter but doesn’t know where the underground lines are. We tell her where to look for the location of the main water valve inside her home, where the filter will be attached.
- Sink Insulation: Is there a way to insulate a kitchen sink to keep standing water warm? Jim may need to get creative with spray foam insulation or an insulating blanket.
- Wet Basement: After a long drought, Cindy is suddenly getting moisture in her basement when it rains. She’ll need to check the drainage in her gutters, downspouts, and grading around the house to solve the problem.
- Cabinet Hardware: The selection of doorknobs and cabinet hardware that Russell has found is disappointing. We’ve got tips on finding more variety through cabinet hardware websites to update his kitchen.
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: And we are here for you. So what are you working on? What are you trying to get done? What are you planning for now? Was there a last-minute project you want to get done before the end of the year? Is there a project you want to take on next year, next winter? Maybe you want to cut that energy bill. Maybe you want to think ahead to some outdoor-living improvements. Whatever is on your to-do list, you can put it on our to-do list by calling us with those questions at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or posting them to MoneyPit.com. Just click the blue microphone button. Because that’s what we do. We are here for you to help you get those projects underway.
Hey, coming up on today’s show, are you thinking about taking on a big reno project in the new year? Well, more than 90 percent of homeowners are doing just that. We’re going to take a look at the top projects on those to-do lists and what they actually might cost you.
LESLIE: And also ahead, does your home suffer from old, worn or even dated wallpaper? Well, removing it isn’t as hard as you might think. Alright, listen, it’s kind of hard but it’s totally worth it if you want to make the wallpaper go away.
TOM: Yeah, we’ll make it easier.
LESLIE: Yeah. We’re definitely going to make it easier. We’re going to share the steps that will also help make it go a little bit more quickly. So, stick around if you want to get rid of that wallpaper.
TOM: Once and for all. And do you love all the colorful trees that we’ve seen over fall but you dread dragging pounds of leaves to the curb? Well, got a better idea: why not compost those leaves so they can benefit next year’s garden? We’ll share the step-by-step.
LESLIE: But first, what are you guys working on? You need some help with a renovation? Maybe you’ve got a repair or a décor project? Well, whatever it is you are dealing with this very busy time of year, let us help you out with your to-do list. So give us a call.
TOM: The number here is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Or post your questions on MoneyPit.com by clicking the blue microphone button.
And we’ve also got some tools to give away today from Arrow Fastener. We’ve got the Cordless 5-in-1 Professional Staple and Nail Gun going out to one listener drawn at random. If you want that to be you, you’ve got to reach out with your questions.
Let’s get started. Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Heading over to Texas where we’ve got Lisa on the line who’s got a question about outlets.
What’s going on at your money pit?
LISA: Hi. We have an older home. It was built in 1960. And in some areas of the home, there are older outlets with only two holes. And then in some other rooms, we have holes that have – I’m sorry, outlets that have three holes. So my first question is: is it safe to leave them as they are with just the two holes? Or should we have all consistent outlets within this house?
TOM: Well, certainly, you’re talking about two different types of wiring. And the wiring – the outlets that have three – that have the ground plus the two prongs – that’s a grounded wire, which is basically run separately. The ones that – the two-prong is basically a two-wire system and the ground is done through the box itself.
TOM: So, is it safe? Yeah, it can be safe. It’s not as safe or as durable, I would say, as having the modern outlets. But it’s just not a matter of switching out the outlets; you have to make sure you have the wiring there to support it.
Now, if you’re going to plug something that has three prongs into the two-prong, you have to use an adapter. And then you have to actually attach the adapter using the center screw in between the outlets, because that’s how you’re picking up a ground. And even doing that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s grounded, because who knows how those were put together behind the walls. So if you want to be sure, you could have an electrician check them all out and find out if you will be creating a grounded situation if you use that adapter or not.
But if you’re going to do some upgrading, I never think it’s a bad idea to upgrade your wiring and make it safe and make it current.
LISA: I see. Well, that is very helpful to know. And that is something we can definitely take care of and contact, actually, a friend of the family who’s an electrician.
LISA: So we can remedy that problem.
TOM: Excellent. Alright. Well, good luck with that project.
LISA: Thank you so much. And you guys have a wonderful week. Bye-bye.
LESLIE: Now I’ve got Mark in Kansas on the line who’s got a question about a countertop.
What’s going on?
MARK: Well, we have a Formica countertop and it’s darker. And my wife is wanting something lighter. And I’m wondering, do I have to replace it or can I put something over it?
TOM: No. Actually, there’s a product that you can replace that – you can actually cover that top with. It’s made by a company called Daich Coatings – D-a-i-c-h. I actually just used the product myself in the last few months. And it’s called LuxRock – L-u-x-R-o-c-k. They also have another version called Mineral Select.
And essentially, these are products where you put on a primer. And then, once the primer dries, you put on a coat of the LuxRock. You let that dry and then you very carefully sand it. And what you see come through are all the flakes of different colors of gold, for example, that you would see in a granite piece. And once you reveal that and you’re sort of happy with that appearance, then you put on an epoxy topcoat. And that sort of locks it all in.
So in my case, I had a really old kitchen. And I had the option to go over the old top, which I would’ve been happy to do, but I was reconfiguring cabinets. So I decided I would build a countertop myself, from scratch, using plywood. And when people said, “You’re going to put a plywood countertop in?” Well, I’ve got to tell you, I had friends that saw this LuxRock product after it was complete. And they were kind of like, “What do you mean that’s not granite?” They’re looking at it, they can’t see anything that tells them it’s not granite. I finally had to turn a piece of the top upside-down and prove it wasn’t granite. That’s how darn good it looks.
So, check out DaichCoatings.com – D-a-i-c-h – Coatings.com. And you’ll find those products there. They’re really good at this. And I was very happy that I made that choice.
MARK: Well, thank you. I appreciate it.
TOM: Well, on this show, we not only give you the answers to your home improvement questions, sometimes we get a chance to give you the tools to get them done. And today, from our friends at Arrow, we’ve got the Cordless 5-in-1 Professional Staple and Nail Gun to give away.
It’s worth 75 bucks. Includes a year’s worth of staples and nails and brads and stuff. It’s a great tool for upholstery, for woodworking. Maybe you’re doing some insulation, maybe you’re doing some crafts. And I love the fact that it’s cordless. It actually has a battery that can fire over 1,000 shots on a charge.
That’s going to go out to one caller drawn at random. If you’d like it to be you, you’ve got to reach out with your questions to 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Ann is doing some work in the kitchen and looking to add an undermount sink but the counter is wood.
Tell us about this project.
ANN: Well, I was more looking for your opinion, whether I should use a wood countertop for an undermount sink. I know they’ve got some pretty good hardwood countertops that may or may not be. But I’m looking for the long haul where – we’re at an age where we’re going to be retiring within the next few years and I don’t want to have to replace something.
TOM: Well, first of all, you’re talking about a wood kitchen countertop here or a bathroom?
TOM: Yeah. It’s …
ANN: For both, actually, but …
TOM: Yeah. Well, if you’re looking for a low-maintenance countertop, you should not be looking at wood. It’s going to be a huge amount of work to take care of. Undermounted sink or not, it’s a lot of work. You know, you can – you’re going to seal it and you’re going to varnish it. And I don’t know if you want to have an area for chopping but that’s a whole ‘nother set of circumstances, in terms of how you treat that, because the finish has to be non-toxic. But it is a lot of work, so if you’re looking for maintenance-free, I would definitely not suggest that.
Leslie, what do you think are probably the easiest-to-care-for countertops these days?
LESLIE: I love a natural-stone countertop but are they the easiest to take care of? Not so much. The composite stones out there – there’s a couple of different brands that you can see. There’s quartz, there’s quartzite. They’re beautiful, they’re durable, they’re easy to maintain and they come in a variety of price points, as well. I think when you go with a solid surface like that, it’s much better for an undermount sink, as far as maintenance and durability. And then if you go with a quartzite product, there’s so many different colors, tones, sort of textures to choose from that you’ll be able to find something in your price point, in a look that you like.
ANN: I’m just looking to push the crumbs into the sink.
TOM: I hear you. Well, you can have an under-counter top and that’s fine. It’s just that I think you called us because you wanted to know if that was a good installation. But then when you mentioned you’re trying to look for something that’s maintenance-free, I’m telling you wood is not. Wood is a ton of work to take care of.
ANN: It’s so pretty, though.
TOM: It is pretty.
ANN: Especially with creamy, white cabinets.
TOM: Yeah. Well, listen, you could have some beautiful wood cabinets but the countertop, I would definitely not go with wood.
TOM: Good luck, Ann. Thanks for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
ANN: Thank you very much.
LESLIE: Well, are you ready to tackle a home remodeling project in this new year coming up? Well, according to a survey by Clever Real Estate of nearly 1,000 homeowners, 93 percent of them are planning 1 project within the next 5 years. But what are the most popular projects and how much should you be budgeting?
TOM: Well, the leading focus is on upgrading outdoor spaces. We’ve got – 43 percent of Americans are planning new landscaping or fencing or yard improvements. And 37 percent are planning a new or refinished patio deck or a porch. And also along the top choices is installing a pool; that’s planned by about 23 percent of homeowners.
Now, inside the house, we’re looking at projects like new and refinished flooring; 36 percent choosing that. Bath remodels, always popular. New windows, 29 percent, kitchen remodels at 27 percent and bedroom or living-room remodels at 25 percent. Seeing a lot of reasons to stay home and enjoy that house. Love to see that that’s a carryover from the pandemic. I think Americans are falling in love again with their homes.
LESLIE: I mean I really think it’s great to do the projects at your home where you’re going to be spending the most time.
But in terms of budget now, nearly 1 in 5 homeowners spent at least $10,000 on improvements last year. And about one-third spent $5,000 or more. Now, to pay for those repairs, 56 percent are going to tap into their savings, 44 percent are going to pay with cash and 41 percent are planning to use their credit cards so that they can use the points to take a good vacation.
TOM: I’ll tell you what, we do that all the time.
LESLIE: I do, too.
TOM: We’ve got to do more vacations. But if the vendor takes a credit card, I love using the credit card and then getting the points and then just paying off the credit card. That’s what you’ve got to make sure you do. If you don’t pay it off, then it catches up with you quick, right?
TOM: But those points really do add up.
LESLIE: Agreed, agreed.
TOM: So, whether you’re doing it yourself or you’re having someone do it or you, there’s a lot to consider when planning and budgeting your next big home improvement project. Which is why now is a really good time to think about those projects and get planning for the year ahead.
This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. We are planning to be here to answer your questions in the year ahead. But you can call, right now, and get the answers to your questions that have to get done maybe before the end of the year. So the number here is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
LESLIE: We’ve got Dana in Massachusetts on the line who’s dealing with some peeling paint.
Tell us what’s happening.
DANA: Yes. On our north side, where it gets very little sunlight, we were painting it. It was painted before but we were repainting it and – where it was chipping. And we did put down some primer first and then we painted it and then it starts – it keeps bubbling and chipping after we’re done painting it.
TOM: Wow. So even though you’re – even though you put down primer, it still seems to keep separating. Is it separating from a layer deeper than the primer coat? Because sometimes, with multiple coats of paint, it’ll break down deeper in the surface, like one of the earlier coats of paint.
DANA: I don’t think it is. Someone said that what they thought might have happened is the first time it was painted, that the painters might have painted it – I don’t even know if they put primer down. They might have put one coat and they might have painted it right after a rainstorm, when the wood was still wet.
TOM: Well, maybe, maybe not. But the thing is, if they didn’t prime it, then that’s the reason it’s separating. Primer is always really important because it really makes the color coat stick, so to speak.
TOM: So if you’ve got peeling paint, there’s no way that you can go over that with new paint, because you can’t put good paint over bad paint. It’s just going to continue to peel.
TOM: So you’ve got to get down to a surface that’s below all that loose stuff.
Now, if it’s a big area, you can prime the whole thing. If it’s small areas that are sort of separated, then you can do what’s called “spot priming.” And just to be absolutely certain, I wouldn’t – when you go to the home center or the paint store, I would get a bonding primer, which is very adhesive and it really sticks to those old surfaces no matter what’s there. And then, once that’s all set up, then you can go ahead and put another finish coat on top and you should be good to go.
DANA: So we’d have to completely strip the paint, is what you’re saying and then put down …?
TOM: I am. Yep, I am. Unfortunately, if it’s not sticking, it’s not sticking. You just can’t go over it. It’s just going to be worse.
DANA: Bonding primer you said? And then paint it again?
TOM: Yes, exactly.
DANA: OK. Alright.
TOM: And that’ll solve it. Yeah, you’ve got it, Dana. Good luck with the project.
DANA: Thank you.
LESLIE: Marie in Florida is on the line who’s looking for an easier way to clean some windows around the house.
What’s going on?
MARIE: Right. Yes, I’m lazy and I’ve been reading the ads and – Spray & Forget. Is there a window cleaner that I can use on the outside, that I could just spray and then forget?
TOM: OK. Yeah. So, Spray & Forget is a fine product and that’s designed to clean mold and mildew and algae and moss off of siding and roofs and surfaces like that and sidewalks. In terms of windows – so, you’re looking for a product you spray on and just does the cleaning for you. And I’m not aware of anything that does exactly that. I think that is a job that is always, once and forever, going to need our own personal touch.
LESLIE: Well, I feel like anything that you’re going to spray on and leave on is going to leave a streak. Because you know it’s – you’ve got to completely remove whatever cleaning formula you put on there. Otherwise, it will streak or cloud or do something unusual. So that’s the issue with cleaning glass. It’s not like a product you can spray on a siding and let it sort of do the work.
TOM: Yeah. There’s a line of products that we like that are cleaning products, including window cleaners, made by a company called JAWS – J-A-W-S. It’s JAWSCleans.com. These are products that – where they sell you the concentrate and a mix in a bottle. And for a fraction of the cost of buying one that’s already mixed up at the store, you can get a dozen or more bottles full of this stuff by mixing it yourself with the concentrate.
And I like it because it doesn’t leave any streaks. And I told the guy that owns the company, who I’ve become friendly with, that I keep a bottle on my desk in my office, because I clean computer screens and glasses with it.
So you might want to take a look at that: JAWSCleans.com. I think there’s a promo code there for The Money Pit that’ll get you 20-percent off if you just enter MONEYPIT in the promo box. And that might be a product that’s so easy to use that it wouldn’t be so bad for you to have to clean those windows yourself.
MARIE: OK. That sounds pretty good. I just – I have 20 windows and I don’t want to clean them.
TOM: You can always hire a pro. There’s folks out there that that’s all they do.
Well, good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at The Money Pit.
MARIE: OK, thank you.
LESLIE: Joe in Delaware is on the line with a question about a metal roof.
What can we do for you?
JOE: I’m looking for a roof that has standing seam and it’s about maybe 24 or 30 inches wide. But I want a good roof. Now, do they make them in different grades of metal? Do they have a 20-year or a 50-year roof?
TOM: Well, if you’re talking about a metal roof, that’s going to be more like a 50- to 100-year roof that – when it’s done right. There’s a really good website that will educate you thoroughly about metal roofing and it’s done by a manufacturer’s association. It’s called the Metal Roofing Alliance. It’s simply MetalRoofing.com.
And they’ve got a great section about Metal Roofing 101 and all of the basics and all the options for you to consider when it comes to metal roofing. But I tell you, it’s never been better. Because first of all, metal roofing has always been great. Because if you ever see an old building with a metal roof that’s been properly maintained, it’s still probably in good structural shape because they just don’t wear out. But today, the metal roofing is not only made better, it’s coated with low-E paint so that when the sun beats down on it, it can reflect a lot of the heat off of the roof. And that lowers your cooling costs, too.
So, I would definitely consider it. It’s an investment-grade roof in the sense that you’re going to have to do it once and do it right and you’re not going to have to do it again for 100 years, you know? So you know it lasts forever, it’s fire-resistant. So I would definitely consider it.
LESLIE: They look really good, too.
TOM: Yeah, they’re beautiful.
JOE: Alright. Thank you very much.
LESLIE: Mary from Arkansas is on the line who’s having some issues locating a water line for a filter.
What’s going on with this mystery?
MARY: I made a whole-house water filter but I live in a subdivision. And all of the lines are buried underground and I don’t know how to locate where it comes into my house. And I don’t know what to do about it.
TOM: Even though they’re underground, that’s very typical. You’re going to have to locate the main water valve and that is going to be inside your house somewhere. Now, I don’t know what kind of house you have. Is it on a slab? Is it on a crawlspace? Is it on a basement?
MARY: It’s on a slab and it is brick house.
TOM: It’s brick. OK.
So, generally, where that line comes into the house there is going to be a valve. It’s pretty much required that there is a valve. And that’s the area where the whole-house water filter would get attached. It basically is inserted after the valve – after the main water valve – and then they put another valve next to it, so it kind of isolates that section of pipe. But you need to identify where that’s coming in.
Now, all I could tell you is that, typically, water lines will feed from the street, so it’s going to be on that side of the house. And I have found – in many, many different places in my career as a home inspector, I have found them behind wall panels. I have found them inside sink cabinets, where it doesn’t really even look like a main water valve yet it’s there. I have found them in closets. I have found them in attics. It’s going to be there somewhere and that’s going to be the trick trying to identify where that is.
But I imagine this is not something you’re going to install yourself. And certainly, it will be part of what a plumber would do for you.
MARY: Alright. Then I just need to get a good plumber and start looking.
TOM: That’s right. That’s right. Kind of a scavenger hunt, Mary.
TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, if you’ve been staring at some old, worn-out wallpaper but you’re really putting off removing it because it requires a lot of hassle, I totally get it. But you know what, guys? You’ve got to try to separate the wallpaper from the wall and that definitely requires some hard work, some patience and a whole heck of a lot of persistence. But if you understand the options for removal, you can save some time, a lot of energy and a lot of hassle in your quest to make that wallpaper disappear. I mean there’s really only four steps that you need to follow here, guys.
TOM: Yeah, that’s right. So, first step is to score the wallpaper. Not as in take score; no, as in cut. Just cut the wallpaper. You’re going to use a utility knife or a wallpaper scorer to create small holes in the paper. And that’s going to allow steam, which we’ll talk about in just a moment, to penetrate through to the adhesive.
Now, keep in mind, the closer and more abundant the scored holes, the smaller the pieces of paper pulled off. So, if you prefer to remove wallpaper in larger sheets, score less. Kind of a trade-off because if you score less, it might be harder to get off. So you’ve got to try to score as little as possible. Let’s put it that way.
Now, back to steam. Yes, renting a steamer, definitely worth the cost and the hassle. Working from the top down, you want to steam and remove one section of wallpaper at a time.
LESLIE: Now, if that wallpaper is really hanging on and just not coming off, you want to start with a solution. Now, you can use hot water and fabric softener and you want to mix it in equal parts, one to one. Then pour that solution into a spray bottle and you need to apply it to those tough-to-remove spaces. But you’ve got to work quickly because that solution is going to lose its effectiveness after about 15 minutes.
Now, once that wallpaper is removed, you have to prep the wall so that it’ll really take nicely to that new paint and primer. So you want to mix a solution of distilled white vinegar and water. And that’s going to remove any remaining glue that’s on the wall. And then you do need to wait until that surface is completely dry. Make sure you apply a primer and then paint or pick out a new wallpaper. Because they’re really, really beautiful today.
LESLIE: Totally beautiful.
TOM: Now, listen, if this still seems to be way too much work, you might be wondering if painting or wallpapering over the existing wallpaper is an option. And yeah, it’s an option but it’s not recommended. Because painting over wallpaper jeopardizes the integrity of the space, which could factor into a buyer’s interest down the road. And even more, it makes the next paint- or wallpaper-removal job that much tougher, because now you’re trying to pierce through the paint and the paper to get it off. So, do it once, do it right and you won’t have to do it again.
LESLIE: Alright. Heading out to Arizona. We’ve got Jim on the line.
What’s going on at your money pit?
JIM: It is a pretty simple product (inaudible).
JIM: It’s a typical house with a kitchen sink. And two bowls in a kitchen sink: small one and a large one.
TOM: OK. Yep.
JIM: In the smaller one, we typically will put soap and warm water in in the morning to wash the morning dishes. And then, by an hour, that water is cold, soapy water.
JIM: And I got to thinking there’s got to be some kind of an insulating blanket that you could buy or manufacture or somehow create to keep that water warm and not waste water warming it up again.
TOM: That’s an interesting idea. I don’t think there’s a commercial product for that. I’ve never seen it. But if you happen to have a very cold under-cabinet area, I could see where that could potentially be annoying. So your challenge will be just simply to insulate this as much as possible.
Now, along the back wall, where the back of the cabinet is on an exterior wall, if you could add a piece of foam insulation – which is available in all sorts of thicknesses, so it depends on what you have and how you can get it back in there. You’re probably going to have to cut it in pieces. That will help a little bit.
On the bowl itself, one idea that I would have is that you may be able to spray this with foam insulation, like a Great Stuff. Now, there’s two different types of Great Stuff. One is designed to expand and one is designed not to expand. And if you use the one that doesn’t expand, it’s not going to stretch your cabinet frame or anything like that.
It’s the kind that’s designed for windows and doors, because what would happen is people would use the expandable foam insulation in a window or door cavity and then it would swell so much, it would expand so much that the window gets stuck shut where it was. So, if you use the kind that’s designed for windows and doors, you may be able to get – that’s pretty sticky stuff. It may be able to adhere to the underside of that sink.
And so I think this is going to be an experiment to see if you can figure out something that works. So I understand the question but it doesn’t have a straightforward this-is-the-product-designed-for-that, because it’s just not something that I think you’re going to find available. So you’ve got to get creative, which means you’ve got to form your own insulation.
And lastly, you could just take a piece of fiberglass blanket – maybe one that’s encapsulated on both sides; there’s different types of encapsulated insulation – and create your own blanket around there and maybe with a series of zip ties hold it in place.
So I think you’re going to have to design your own, sir, OK? Because I don’t think it’s available commercially.
JIM: So maybe I just get some blue board and glue and …?
TOM: And go for it, yep.
Alright. Good luck with that project, sir. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Hey, are you guys big fans of entertaining friends and family over the holidays? Perhaps you’re doing it right now. Well, don’t miss out on The Money Pit Holiday Entertaining Sweepstakes. We’ve got over $1,000 in prizes that are up for grabs.
TOM: That’s right. We’re giving away a gorgeous, ENERGY STAR-rated, new refrigerator from LG with contoured doors, hidden hinges and a host of amazing interior features. It’s a 7-cubic-foot unit, which is the perfect sort of backup size, right? So you’ll always have room for extra holiday food and drink.
LESLIE: Now, we’ve also had a bunch of $100 gift cards to Omaha Steaks to give away. And those make great gifts, as well as a delicious way to stock your own freezer for the holidays and entertaining.
TOM: Plus, everyone who enters will receive a special Money Pit promo code for Omaha Steaks worth 30 bucks. Plus, it’ll get you free shipping. You can enter once a day, right now, at MoneyPit.com/Sweepstakes. That’s MoneyPit.com/Sweepstakes.
LESLIE: Cindy in Illinois is on the line with a basement question.
What’s going on?
CINDY: I lived in my home for over 40 years and had no trouble with water in the basement. And then, about 3 years ago, we had a terrible drought here and it seems like ever since then, if we get a hard rain, I end up with water coming up through the floor of the basement.
TOM: So, the reason you’re getting water that comes up through the floor of the basement in a hard rain is because there’s some defect in your drainage conditions outside the house. So, you need to start by looking at the roof and making sure your gutter system is clean and making sure the downspouts are extended away from the house. It should be out 3 or 4 feet.
If that’s all in good shape, then I would take a look at the angle of the dirt around the house, the grade. If it’s really flat or if there’s an area where it’s tilting in or you’re getting neighboring water from runoff from a different lot or something of that nature, you’ve got to regrade to keep the water away from the house.
The only way it’s getting down there is it’s coming from the top and pushing under. It’s not a rising water table, because that takes months to happen. If it’s reactive to the rain, then it’s a problem with drainage, Cindy. So you need to look carefully in that area and I’m certain you’ll find the cause of it and be able to stop it.
Alright. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
TOM: Hey, guys. Are you enjoying the beautiful fall colors but maybe you are dreading dragging all those piles of leaves to the curb? Well, hey, we’ve got a better idea. Why not compost those leaves instead? This way, they can benefit next year’s garden.
LESLIE: Yeah. Leaves really do make great compost because trees pull nutrients from deep beneath the surface. And adding those leaves to your compost pile is going to make your compost contain nutrients that garden plants can’t typically reach on their own.
TOM: Now, the leaves are also good for insulating plants to protect them from big temperature changes in the winter. And the leaves are also going to track earthworms that will help break the leaves down into beneficial leaf mold and compost to create the perfect garden soil: nutrient-rich, loose, friable and well-drained. And this way, you’ll have even more reason to enjoy those gorgeous autumn leaves, now that you know how beneficial they’re going to be in your garden next spring.
LESLIE: Russell in Rhode Island is on the line and he’s having some trouble finding the correct hardware for doors and drawers. What is going on?
RUSSELL: Drawer knobs and hardware that we’re looking to replace.
TOM: So we’re looking for kitchen cabinets?
RUSSELL: Yes, yeah.
LESLIE: Are you trying to match something or you want all brand new?
RUSSELL: We would be replacing everything.
LESLIE: I think that’s pretty good.
TOM: Yeah. I mean it’s a pretty straightforward project. Are these cabinets pretty old?
RUSSELL: No, no. It’s a 3-inch center on the hardware. And we’ve been around to a couple of different places and not really liking what we see.
TOM: There are a lot of great cabinet-hardware websites where you could find just an incredible variety of products out there.
RUSSELL: Oh, OK.
TOM: You can pretty much find whatever you want. So, you know, you could start with the basics, like Home Depot, but then you have a lot of specialty shops. There’s a website called Knobs4Less.com. There’s one called MyKnobs, a site called Signature Hardware.
TOM: And you can see lots of photos and you can see the measurements – the center-by-center measurements – on these handles and …
LESLIE: That’s the trick. You want to make sure you match it because, otherwise, you’re going to be trying to cover up holes and repair things.
TOM: Right. Yeah.
RUSSELL: Right, right. Yep, exactly.
TOM: And check the depth of the screws to make sure that they’re going to be thick enough for your doors.
RUSSELL: Right. OK.
TOM: It really shouldn’t be difficult. It’s true there are fairly limited styles and designs when you go to the home centers, because they have to sell to the mass market. But there’s a lot of really stepped-up hardware out there online these days.
RUSSELL: Alright. Cool. Excellent.
TOM: Even Restoration Hardware, too, I think has a good selection.
LESLIE: Yeah. Restoration Hardware has beautiful pieces.
RUSSELL: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. I’d forgotten about them, yep.
LESLIE: But I also really love Anthropologie. Like if you’re looking – which is a woman’s clothing store. But if you’re looking for something that’s a little quirky and maybe has an interesting feel to it, I always check them out, too.
RUSSELL: Anthropologie? OK.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And it’s with an i-e at the end.
RUSSELL: Yep, OK. Excellent. Alright. Well, thank you, folks and love the show.
TOM: Well, thank you.
LESLIE: Joanne in Ohio reached out to Team Money Pit and she says, “My house is full of skylights – seven of them – and they constantly leak.”
LESLIE: “Now, the added light isn’t necessary, so I’d like to get rid of them but I have no idea where to start. Is it something I can do myself or do I need to hire a contractor? And what should my first steps be?”
TOM: I feel like Joanne has a negative impression of skylights.
After having seven and having seven that leak, that’s not normal, Joanne. Whoever put those skylights in or whatever brand you chose was not for you. It sounds like they were definitely not done right. That kind of failure is very, very unusual. So, if you want to rethink the skylights, take a look at Andersen skylights or Pella skylights or VELUX skylights. Much better quality skylights and they don’t leak. Once they’re put in, you’re good to go.
But if you do want to take them out, you kind of have a project here where you have to remove the skylights. You have to remove the shingles around the skylights first, then you will disassemble the skylights. And then you will resheathe the roof, put new plywood sheathing in and then you will reshingle. You end up having to replace a lot of that roofing in this process.
But that’s only half of the battle because inside, you’re going to have what we call the “well,” which is sort of the area between the skylight inside surface and your ceiling. And that’s going to have to be rebuilt, basically, if you want to have a flat ceiling. It’s an awful lot of work.
Maybe, Leslie, I’m thinking if she leaves those wells in place, is there a way that maybe we could think of a way to sort of decorate those former skylights to make them look a little bit better? Maybe she could put some lighting up there or something? What do you think?
LESLIE: Now, Joanne, when Tom is talking about the light shaft or the well, that’s basically the space in your ceiling from where the skylight is to the end of the ceiling itself. So sometimes you get a deeper area, sometimes it’s more shallow. It really depends on your roof type. That’s usually a finished area with drywall, so it does look completed and it sort of just divots into where that skylight itself is.
So, Tom is right: replacing it is definitely a good option. Because to rebuild out that ceiling – to sort of accommodate for that area that’s been dug out, if you will – you have to kind of rebuild that whole area to make it flush and uniform. But if you replace the skylight, then maybe you can add something over there to help finish the space more or kind of disguise it a little bit better. Or add some plants, add some lighting. You can do a couple of things that will take advantage of the sunlight that’s coming in but also sort of give you a different sort of look for the space. I mean there’s definitely some things you can do. But sort of rebuilding that whole roofline is going to be a big, big project.
TOM: That’s why I think just replacing the skylights with ones that don’t leak is the best option.
Alright. So, Sue in Illinois says, “One of our countertops is about 2 foot of butcher block. We put in new countertops and sanded down the butcher block to fresh wood. Should I apply anything to that wood?”
Yes, you should. You should apply a food-grade oil to that wood. You don’t want to use – there are butcher block finishes, by the way, that are non-toxic. You could use those or you could use a food-grade oil. That’s really important because if you don’t, first of all, it’s going to absorb more than you want it to. And you’ve got to have something in there to stop that from happening. Because if you’re not careful, if these wood tops are not carefully maintained, you can get meat juice and fish juice and stuff in there and that can become toxic. You have an E. coli risk. So it’s really important to seal them and then to maintain them as clean as possible.
LESLIE: Yeah, Sue. I don’t know that butcher block is the best choice, for sanitary reasons. It’s a lot of cleaning to get rid of bacteria. But if you’re up for the work and refinishing and re-oiling, then I say go for it.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show on a beautiful fall weekend. Hey, if you guys are getting ready for the holidays which remain and trying to get your house spruced up for all the company that are going to stop by, well, we can help. You can reach us with those questions, 24/7, at 888-MONEY-PIT. Or better yet, post your questions anytime, at MoneyPit.com, by clicking the blue microphone button.
But for now, that’s all the time we have. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …
LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.
(Copyright 2022 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.)