- Kitchen Features: Designing a dream kitchen? Find out the top 10 kitchen features that homeowners want.
- Television Tips: Make TV time more enjoyable by using the best settings for picture and sound quality. Here’s how to adjust your TV.
- Energy Savings: Avoid electric bill sticker shock by following these tips to save energy and money each month.
Plus, answers to your home improvement questions about:
- Insulation: Should Andy be adding insulation to keep his home warmer? Old insulation can start to settle and sag, so he could add two overlapping layers to insulate better.
- Settling Home: Renee is worried that a cracked support beam will shift her walls and chimney. Releveling a settling house can impact wires and plumbing, too, and she needs to contact her HOA for structural repairs.
- Drywall: Why is the drywall separating at the seams and how can it be repaired? The cause is probably shrinking and movement, but Mike gets some easy DIY tips on how to patch, prime, and paint the seams.
- Plumbing: The hot water in just one of the faucets is suddenly turning cold. It sounds like a bad valve, so Susan can replace that faucet set and see about installing a pressure-balancing valve to keep the water temperature even.
- Driveway Cracks: Jim keeps patching cracks in his concrete driveway every winter. Instead of adding more concrete, he should use an epoxy patching compound that will adhere properly.
- Mold: Laurie thinks mold in the basement drywall and insulation is causing allergies and other issues. She needs to replace the carpeting with tile or laminate flooring, check drainage around the house, and add an air filtration system or air cleaner to breathe easier.
- Water Sediment: Well water is leaving clay residue in the kitchen and bathroom faucets. It shouldn’t be too hard for Paul to install a whole-house sediment filter to clear up the water.
- Wall Cracks: It’s common to have cracked walls in an old house. We give Jan some step-by-step instructions on the right way to repair the cracks in her walls.
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 to help you with projects you want to take on around your house now. Or better yet, are you planning some projects for the spring? About this time of year, we start to think like, “I kind of had it with this whole winter thing, so I’m thinking ahead to outdoor living. I’m thinking about updating my man cave, my she-shed.” Whatever project you want to get done – maybe some landscaping you want to set up some plants for, maybe a fence – all great projects to talk about, because it gives you time to do the planning so when the weather turns warm, you are totally good to go.
But whether your project is inside or out, you can reach us with those questions by calling 1-888-MONEY-PIT or post your questions at MoneyPit.com.
Well, according to a new survey, 45 percent of Americans invest more money into their kitchens than any other room in the house. We’re going to take a look at the top ten features asked for in a dream kitchen, just ahead.
LESLIE: Alright. I love that.
Also ahead, do you ever sit down to watch TV and then wish that the image were better? Well, the TV might not be the problem. More than likely, you just need to adjust the settings for the room where the TV is located. So we’re going to walk you through those steps.
TOM: And this time of winter, electricity that keeps heating systems humming higher can spike electrical bills. We’ve got tips for big savings that won’t require you to put on a whole bunch of sweaters, in a bit.
LESLIE: First, what are you guys working on? Are you dreaming about a project that you’d like to tackle this year? Well, whatever it is, if you can dream it, you can do it. And we can help. So give us a call, shoot us an email, whatever you want. Post your questions. We are ready to help you out with all of those projects so you can finally have the money pit you love.
TOM: The number here is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. Or post your questions at MoneyPit.com by clicking the blue microphone button.
Let’s get to it. Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Heading out to Pennsylvania where we’ve got Andy on the line.
What is going on at your money pit?
ANDY: Well, right now, our house is really old. And the furnace just can’t handle. I think we have some insulation. I think it’s that really old type that’s like newspapers and [wood chips] (ph).
ANDY: Things are a bit creaky around here.
TOM: So, Andy, can you get up in your attic? Is the attic accessible?
ANDY: It is. But it burned out – it’s all charred out. Burned down like a hundred years ago.
TOM: I’ll presume it’s still structurally sound or we wouldn’t be having this conversation.
But here’s – the best way to restore some level of comfort to your house is by adding insulation. And in your case, that insulation in an older home, it’s typically settled and sagged inside the ceiling joists, which is what you see when you go up in an attic and look down.
So what I would do is – if it looks like you don’t have much insulation, I would replace what’s there and I may even put in two layers. I’d put one running parallel to the ceiling beams and the other one perpendicular. So you kind of crisscross them like a pie crust.
And in doing so, you’re going to find a big difference because the ceiling is where most of the heat loss happens. And if you can only insulate one area of the house – people ask me about insulating the floors and the walls and so on and so forth. The attic is always the number one place that really delivers the quickest return on your investment and really actually generates some warmth.
Now, the project has actually gotten easier. Owens Corning has a new type of fiberglass insulation out now that is really easy to handle. And it doesn’t separate and get friable and released to the air like the old stuff did. It’s called Next Gen Insulation by Owens Corning. So take a look at that. It’s not expensive; it’s affordable. And I think it’ll make a huge difference in your house.
Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Renee in Texas, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
RENEE: Yes, mine is kind of like a double question. I have about a 30-year-old, connected-on-both-sides townhome, two levels.
TOM: OK. OK.
RENEE: And I heard a crack a couple months back. Well, you know, it was one of the support beams and it just – like a big, strong branch just cracked.
TOM: Huh. Did you actually see the cracked beam somewhere?
RENEE: No, I didn’t see that but I have begun to have cracks along on that same side of the house, in the corners of the wall?
RENEE: Down the corners where it’s breaking apart. But at the same time, I’ve noticed that the house has become unlevel. And that’s a little part because it’s old and it’s connected on both sides but I’m in Texas and we have big droughts and it kind of shifts a little bit.
RENEE: My concern is when I get the support beam fixed and the foundation fixed, I’ve seen on the DIY shows that suddenly they go back and they look and the house or the chimney has just been trashed. What can I do to prevent that?
TOM: Why do you say it’s been trashed? Because it shifted?
RENEE: Right. When they did the – when they put in – when I’ve watched the DIY shows, they go and they fix the foundation and the foundation’s fine. And of course, they shift everything up and now there is …
TOM: Yeah. That’s why you have to be very, very careful when you do anything that changes the angle that the house has sort of settled into. Because if you don’t, once you bring a foundation up, everything else moves. Yeah, in a wood house, if you try to straighten a slopy floor, for example, all the wires and the plumbing can get stretched and twisted and so on. So, it’s not just foundations that are of concern.
I’m concerned, though, about this crack that you say that you’ve heard. But you’ve seen cracks in your walls but you’ve not physically seen the structural crack, correct?
TOM: Alright. Now, you said it’s a townhouse. Is there an association that …?
TOM: OK. So in an association form of ownership, typically you don’t own the structure. So the structure – if the structure was to fail, that’s typically the responsibility of the association to address. Is that your understanding?
RENEE: I can double-check on that.
TOM: But in a typical condominium form of ownership, what you own is inside wall to inside wall. In some cases, you own the …
LESLIE: And then what’s beyond that wall is not yours.
TOM: Right. In some cases, you own the drywall; in some cases, you don’t. So, for example, if there was a fire, God forbid, and the whole place burned down, you would be paying for the drywall, the kitchen cabinets, the appliances, stuff like that. And the association would be rebuilding everything else, including the related infrastructure.
So you need to figure out, if there’s a structural problem, who’s responsible for it. I suspect you’re going to find it’s the association that’s responsible for it, which is good news for you. And then I would bring that to their attention and ask them to address it.
Now, as far as the cracks in the corners of the wall are concerned, I have to tell you that that’s pretty typical and that by itself doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a structural problem. The way to fix that, though, is important and that is that you want to sand down the drywall in that area. And then you want to add some additional tape and the type of drywall tape you use would be the perforated type. It looks like a netting; it’s like a sticky netting. You put that on and then you spackle through that three coats: one, two, three coats; each one thin but three coats. And that type …
LESLIE: And allowing each one to dry and be sanded in between.
TOM: Yeah. And that type of repair typically will last.
Now, after you do the spackle repair, you’ll have to prime the wall. You can’t just paint on top of it; you’ll have to prime it and then paint it.
TOM: So I would address the structure with the association, I would fix the cracks on your own and then see what happens.
RENEE: OK. So just one more question. Let’s say that if it’s not in the association, that I do have to go into it, not only am I concerned about my roof but how much of a problem will I have with my neighbors on both sides of me?
TOM: Depends on where the crack is, if it exists at all. If that’s the case, then I would suggest you hire a professional home inspector and have the inspector do what’s called a “partial inspection,” which is usually a single-item inspection, and investigate this crack and see what’s going on in the structure. And then we’ll know how far it’s gone and what needs to be done about it.
RENEE: Yeah, that’s cool. Thank you, guys. I appreciate your time.
LESLIE: Mike in Illinois is on the line. How can we help you today?
MIKE: I have a – the drywall through the center of my house is separating at the seams.
MIKE: And it’s straight through the center of the house, down the hallway through the center of the house. And I’m not sure if it’s due to moisture in the attic, drying out and expanding, or if it’s the floor in the house moving.
TOM: Mike, how old is your house?
MIKE: I’d say 20 years old.
TOM: OK. And is this relatively new or has it been around for a while?
MIKE: It’s been there shortly after I moved in.
TOM: Oh, so it’s been there like 20 years.
TOM: Yeah, I think it’s probably shrinkage. You know, when a house is first built, the lumber is very wet and over the first couple of heating seasons, it tends to shrink a lot and you’ll get a lot of movement. Now, over the years, you may have tried to patch it and then you just find that it opens up again. That’s very typical.
TOM: What you want to do to patch it is you need to sand it down where it’s cracking. You need to use new drywall tape on top of that. You can use the perforated tape. It’s easier to work with, in terms of the spackle, because you don’t have to worry about air bubbles behind the paper tape. Use the perforated tape, put about three layers of spackle on there, sand in between, prime, paint. You should be good to go.
MIKE: OK. If I have bathroom vents that are venting out into the attic, would that cause it or would that cure it if I …?
TOM: No, I don’t think – well, first of all, I don’t think it’s caused that but that in and of itself is a problem. You shouldn’t be ducting bathroom exhaust fans into an attic; they should continue through the attic to the exterior.
And the reason for that – you’re in the Chicago area, correct? Pretty cold there. And if you get that insulation damp, it’s not going to be very effective.
MIKE: OK. So, with it venting in there, that’s decreasing my R-value of my insulation, too.
TOM: It is. R-value is rated at 0-percent moisture. So when you add moisture to it, it goes down dramatically. So, the more moisture in the attic, the less effective the insulation becomes.
MIKE: OK. To fix that, would it be alright to add insulation on top of that after I fix that problem?
TOM: Yeah, you can add more insulation but you have to duct from the exhaust fan out of the attic. So, you can do that by going like sort of through the gable wall or up through a roof vent with a proper termination on the end of it so no water gets in there. And just get that warm, moist air out. Don’t leave it in the attic.
MIKE: OK. And I’ve done some research on the internet. I’ve got two bathroom fans. To run them into one, they said to find a wire or a vent that’ll flip one side to the other so it doesn’t backdraft into the other bathroom. I cannot find that.
TOM: Well, I don’t think you really need that because, for example, if you run it to the gable wall and you have a typical bath-duct terminating type of a hood on it, that’s got a spring on it that stays shut. So it’s only going to open when the air is blowing out.
There’s another way to do this and that is to have a remote bath fan where they actually have the motor part that’s up in the attic space and the ducts just connect to the ceiling of the bathrooms. But that’s a nice system – it’s a quiet system – but it’s much more expensive to do. You see that a lot in hotels.
MIKE: OK. Well, thank you very much.
TOM: You’re welcome, Mike. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, according to a new survey, 45 percent of Americans invest more money into their kitchens than any other room in the home. And 82 percent have an ideal dream kitchen in mind that they hope to have someday. But what exactly does a kitchen need to be to be a dream kitchen?
Well, the most coveted features of a dream kitchen remodel all have to do with wanting more space: 50 percent want an extra-large fridge, 50 percent also want extra counterspace, while 48 percent like additional pantry space and 45 percent are looking for extra shelf space.
TOM: Now, this is interesting. When asked what is the most loved tool or equipment they use in their kitchen, the famed cast-iron skillet took the top spot with 26 percent, followed by stainless-steel hand tools, 16 percent and baking sheets, 11 percent.
And also, close to half – about 45 percent – said they only use high-end equipment when they cook, claiming it makes a better meal. And 40 percent stated they need a specific kitchen utensil for everything they cook. I can definitely relate to that because my wonderful wife, when she serves us dinner, there’s always a special spoon or serving fork or something that’s assigned to every dish. And it’s always very special.
LESLIE: It’s like you just get into a habit of using these things. It’s the same with Thanksgiving. It’s like I have the same plates I use for the same things and the same spoons. It’s all because you love the whole process of cooking and serving a meal.
TOM: My problem was that it overloaded the drawer in the kitchen where we keep those serving utensils. And so you know what I got? I got one of those stainless-steel – I’ll call it a “bucket” but it’s not really a bucket. It’s like a column.
LESLIE: Oh, they call them “bain-maries.”
TOM: Oh, OK. See, there you go with the fancy words again.
LESLIE: That’s what they do.
TOM: Bain-maries? I’m learning …
LESLIE: Bain-marie. I don’t know what it means. That’s what I learned at culinary school.
TOM: It means stainless-steel bucket on your countertop, Leslie. That’s what it means.
TOM: Anyway, that holds all those fancy forks and spoons and serving tools now. And it’s much easier. We can actually close those drawers again.
LESLIE: Oh, my gosh, it’s the best. You’ve got to keep everything organized in those drawers.
Now, the average respondent also said that they’ve been cooking independently at home for 9 years but it took them 5 years to really feel like they knew what they were doing in the kitchen. Think about that. It takes 4 years to get a college degree but 5 years for you to feel comfortable in your own kitchen? My goodness.
TOM: There’s a lot to know.
LESLIE: I know. But still.
TOM: And this kind of shows the generational differences, because many credited their learned cooking skills to themselves – 55 percent are studying on their own – their parents, another 55 percent or YouTube.
LESLIE: Oh, geez.
TOM: A third credit YouTube with their culinary education.
LESLIE: I am surprised that TikTok isn’t there. Because perhaps if we asked some younger participants – TikTok recipes. I mean my son every day is like, “I saw that you make mozzarella sticks by doing this on TikTok.” I’m like, “Oh, my God. No. We’re not doing that.” All kinds of weird stuff. But honestly, some of the tips are really good.
Susan is on the line with a cold-water shower that I imagine she doesn’t like very much. Tell us what’s going on.
SUSAN: Rather shocking.
TOM: I bet.
LESLIE: I can imagine.
SUSAN: The hot-water faucet in the upstairs shower is the only hot-water faucet that does this – is when I adjust the hot water and it’s right – a good mix with the cold water. Step in the shower, then all of a sudden the hot water stops flowing and the water turns cold. It’s almost like the faucet shut itself off or …
TOM: What kind of water heater do you have, Susan? Is it gas or electric?
TOM: And does this problem exist with any other fixture in the bathroom or the house for that matter?
SUSAN: No. It’s the only one that works that way. The hot – the kitchen does not do that; the other bathroom sinks and faucets don’t do that.
TOM: So this is a single-handle faucet?
SUSAN: No. It’s a – there are two handles. They have separate handles.
TOM: Well, I think you’ve got a bad valve in there somewhere. Because if it’s just happening in one location like that, that’s the only thing it could be. We have plenty of hot water for the rest of the house. I suspect that there’s a problem with the valve. You might just want to replace the faucet set.
SUSAN: Oh, OK.
TOM: That would make sense as to its …
SUSAN: I just wondered, why would that do that?
TOM: I’ll just speculate here. As the water heats up the pipe, the metal expands and causes the valve to squeeze shut a little bit or something like that. There are a lot of reasons it could happen but I think it’s mechanical, because it’s only happening in one location. So it has to be the valve.
SUSAN: Oh. That’s it. Yeah.
TOM: It’s not – there’s nothing mysterious about this. It’s got to be the valve.
SUSAN: Alright. Well, great. Thank you for the diagnosis.
TOM: What you might want to think about when you replace this is talk to your plumber about something called a “pressure-balancing valve.” Now, I’m not sure if he’ll be able to find this for this kind of configuration that you have.
But what a pressure-balancing valve does is it keeps the mix ratio between hot and cold steady, regardless of what’s happening in the rest of the house. So that if you were to hop in the shower and somebody else flushes a toilet somewhere, you don’t get sort of that shock of hot or shock of cold water as one fixture sort of steals water from the other. It keeps the ratio the same. So while you may have less or more water, the temperature of the water never changes. If you’re going to spend the money on a plumber and valves, I would definitely look into getting a pressure-balanced valve set if I could.
SUSAN: Well, I’m glad to know about that. Thank you so much.
TOM: So, Leslie, we just launched Season Two of the PRO Files podcast. And that’s where I get to interview some really accomplished building and remodeling pros who are willing to share their sort of secrets to success.
LESLIE: Alright. Congratulations.
TOM: Now, if you’re a builder, a remodeler, a designer, an architect, you’ll learn ways to improve your business. In fact, in our first episode, we talked to a really interesting person.
It’s Chris Lambert. He’s the CEO of Life Remodeled. And this guy has totally dedicated himself to revitalizing Detroit neighborhoods that are distinguished by their significant need and radical hope. I love the way he describes this. He’s built an amazing organization that’s become a center for a whole host of social service and recreational activities for his community.
So check it out. And you can download the PRO Files podcast at LLFlooring.com/Pro.
LESLIE: Jim in Tennessee is on the line with a concrete cracking-up issue. Tell us what’s going on.
JIM: Yes. I have a concrete driveway that every winter it seems to – the crack seems to separate.
TOM: OK. Yep.
JIM: I’ve used several different things, like cement. But the cement crumbles.
TOM: Of course it does, Jim. Because cement is not a good patching material.
JIM: Oh, OK.
TOM: It doesn’t expand and contract, it doesn’t stick properly. What you need is an epoxy patching compound. Epoxy compounds are designed specifically to stick to the concrete floor that you have and to not crack and re-crack. Anytime you try to use regular cement and fill something in, there’s just not enough base there, so to speak and it will continue to open and close and expand and contract and turn into little chunks of concrete that will fall out.
JIM: Oh, great. I had no idea.
LESLIE: And it’s an easy fix.
TOM: Take a look at the QUIKRETE website. There’s a number of products out there designed specifically for this. But make sure it’s a patching compound and it’ll do a much better job.
JIM: Hey, we love your show. I tell you, we get a lot of good tips on it.
LESLIE: Thanks, Jim.
TOM: Well, do you ever sit down to watch television and wish the image were a bit better? The TV may not be the problem; you might just need to adjust the settings for the room where that TV is located.
LESLIE: Yeah. Now, TVs offer a lot of options that get overlooked when it comes to improving your viewing experience. But these settings can be easily optimized for the space where your TV is located, how it’s positioned, the viewing distance from where you are to the TV, the room’s lighting and the type of program you’re watching. I mean really, there are so many settings I just choose to ignore them all. But when you do pay attention to them, what a world of difference it makes.
So, here are some things you may want to adjust. First of all, try and balance the sharpness. If it’s turned up too high, the edges of an image may sharpen. But all the other details kind of get lost or look a little bit unnatural.
TOM: Now, next, take a look at the noise. Now, noise, in terms of a television picture, refers to the graininess in the image. Noise reduction clears up the picture but sometimes it softens details too much. It’s smart to disable that noise-reduction setting if you’re watching a show in high-def or in 4K.
Now, another setting to be aware of is what’s called “motion-smoothing.” If you’re watching sports or an action movie, motion-smoothing is a setting that tries to smooth out the action by adding some frames. Which sounds like a good thing but here’s the problem: it often backfires and creates an image that looks artificial. It’s usually a better idea to turn off that motion-smoothing option.
LESLIE: Now, also, televisions have different modes that you can choose from that affect your color and the brightness. So you’re going to want to try various options, like using the cinema mode or movie setting to watch films in dim or natural light. And then play with the controls for brightness, color temperature, contrast, hue, saturation, sharpness, all of these things until you find the best settings for natural-looking skin tones, dark and light scenes and other details. There is so much you can adjust, it’s kind of fun to really mess around with it.
TOM: And finally, a tip. A lot of these settings are detailed in the instruction manuals that come with the TVs. But if you can’t find that anymore, today it’s really very, very likely that your manual will be online. So just search for that model number and find it that way. And if you get into this and you kind of don’t like the way it’s going, you can easily restart the entire process by just resetting the TV to factory default and then try again.
LESLIE: Laurie in Illinois is on the line with a mold question.
LAURIE: My husband and I think that there possibly might be some mold in our drywall or insulation in our home and we wondered the best way to check for that. We don’t have any airflow in our home, though.
TOM: What makes you think you have mold? Do you physically see it?
LAURIE: Well, we have an underground – part of our home is underground and there is a lot of moisture, it seems like, in the air. We’ve seen some mold on some items in our home. And we have some cold-like symptoms from time to time that we think might be caused from it.
LESLIE: It’s like allergies, you’re saying.
TOM: So it’s more of the effects of it that you’re concerned about.
TOM: And this is in the basement.
LAURIE: Yes. It’s in the part of the home that’s underground and I had read online that some of those mold test kits are unreliable that you buy in the store or mold inspections can be very costly. I just didn’t know the best choice there.
TOM: Well, the truth is that mold pretty much exists in every home and so we can always find mold. The question is whether or not this is causing a problem in your house.
What kind of floor do you have in that basement, Laurie?
LAURIE: It’s cement and then there’s carpet over that.
LESLIE: That’s a huge mold trap right there. If you were to get rid of that, you would notice. Even if there’s moisture management in a basement, we never recommend putting a carpet down on a concrete slab in a basement area, just because concrete’s hydroscopic. It pulls the moisture from the ground. That then gets into the carpet pad, the carpet itself. And then the dust gets in there and you’ve got a breeding ground for mold.
So if you were to get rid of that, put down laminate or tile, use some area rugs, you’re instantly going to notice a better respiratory situation, I think.
TOM: Well, exactly. Plus, carpet is a filter material, so that carpet can trap dust, dust mites and all sorts of other allergens. So there could be other things, Laurie, here that are causing the breathing issues.
So let’s just give you some general clean-air advice. First of all, as Leslie said, the carpet’s not a good idea. Secondly, you want to make sure that your basement remains as dry as possible. And the way you do that is by making sure the gutter system is clean, free-flowing and the downspout is discharging well away from the house itself.
Secondly, we may want to add some sort of a filtration system. Now, do you have forced air into that basement space?
LAURIE: We do not. We do have a dehumidifier that we run and we have some ceiling fans but not in every room or not in every area.
TOM: So, is it a hot-water heated house?
LAURIE: No, it’s electric.
TOM: It’s all electric?
TOM: OK. So what we would really like to see is some sort of a filtration system in there – a good-quality, portable air filter, electronic air cleaner perhaps – that will pull the dust and dust mites and anything else that is of allergen basis out of that basement space. So a portable air cleaner could be a good addition.
But I suspect, from everything that you’ve told us, reducing dampness and removing the carpet will make that space a lot more comfortable.
LAURIE: Excellent. Thank you so much. That gives me some great ideas.
TOM: Alright. Well, good luck with that project, Laurie and thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LAURIE: Thank you.
LESLIE: Paul in Missouri is on the line with a clay residue in the water system.
Tell us what’s going on and where you’re seeing it.
PAUL: Yes, I’m seeing it in the kitchen faucet mostly and the bathroom faucet.
PAUL: The well’s 230 foot down with casing the whole way.
TOM: So, you can pick up a whole-house filter. It’s actually called a “whole-house sediment filter.” And the way these work is they’re – we’re not talking about treating the water; we’re talking about filtering the water. So there’s going to be a micron rating. That basically tells you how small of a particle it will trap. It’ll usually be 5 microns or 10 microns. And the other thing that’s important to note is the pressure drop. Because it does take away some of the pressure and so you want to make sure that you have enough pressure that flows through it.
So if you simply search “whole-house filters” online, you’ll find a bazillion choices. And then if you head out to your local plumbing supply and ask them for a sediment filter, tell them your situation. I’m sure your local plumbing-supply contractors or retailers can recommend one that’s going to work for you. Not terribly difficult to install. And that should handle the sediment issue that you’re having in the house, OK?
PAUL: OK, sir. I appreciate it.
TOM: Well, is your electric bill giving you kind of a sticker shock when you peeled it open last time? The first step in cutting those costs is figuring out where all that energy use is going. And it can be a little tricky.
LESLIE: Yeah. First of all, a lot of that power may be going to so-called “vampire appliances.” Now, these draw energy even when they’re turned off. To spot them, look for a big transformer-like plug and then plug those into a power strip. This way, you can easily turn off that strip when you’re not using those appliances.
TOM: Now, you want to keep toaster ovens, microwaves and coffeemakers unplugged when not in use. And run big appliances, like clothes-washers and dryers and dishwashers, only when you’ve got a full load. And do it with your heating and your water on the lowest settings. When it comes to dishwashers, you really don’t need to use the heat setting. You could use the air dry and it’s a lot less expensive to run the machine.
LESLIE: Alright. Now, also, you want to be aware of products that use chargers, like your cellphone, iPads, tablet, PCs, laptops, gaming systems and a whole slew of similar devices. Just unplug those chargers from the socket when they’re not actively charging the device.
TOM: Now, all of these suggestions might seem small but the truth is they all add up to bigger monthly electrical bills. So tackle a few of them and you’ll definitely see a difference.
LESLIE: Jan in Kansas is on the line with a home that seems to be cracking up.
Tell us what’s going on.
JAN: Well, I’ve got a lot of problems. It’s an old house; it’s over 50 years old.
TOM: You have a lot of opportunities, Jan, not a lot of problems.
JAN: Yeah. I’ve got some cracks in the wall.
JAN: And I have one crack that is going from the dining room to the kitchen and I believe it’s cracking on both sides of the wall. Same crack.
TOM: OK. You said it’s 50 years old. Do you know if it’s plaster lath?
JAN: It’s sheetrock.
TOM: It’s drywall? OK. So, fixing that is not a big deal. The thing is that most people usually fix it incorrectly. What they’ll do is they’ll try to spackle it. And by spackling it, you’re pretty much guaranteeing that it’s going to re-crack. What you have to do is sand down the area so you get rid of any glaze from the paint or dirt or anything like that. And then you’re going to cover it with drywall tape. And you want to use the mesh type of tape that’s sticky.
So you put a strip of tape across the crack and then you spackle right over that tape. And you’ll use three layers of spackle. And the easiest way to apply this is if you buy the plastic spackling knives. You can buy one that starts at around 4 inches, then you go to 6, then you go to 8. And they’re pretty inexpensive and you use that to apply the spackle and you sand in between each coat. And then you prime and paint and you’re done. So those are the proper steps.
Where most people go wrong is they just try to do a quick and dirty spackling job and they wonder why it cracks again and again and again. Because that’s basically an expansion joint right now and unless you spread the repair across both sides of it with new drywall tape, it will continue to show up.
LESLIE: Brandon wrote in saying, “I know you recommend always priming before painting. I’m buying brand-new interior pre-primed slab doors. Should I re-prime the doors before painting them? The finished paint I’m using is a primer and paint in one.”
TOM: OK. So, first of all, I don’t think you have to prime them again but I would steer away from paint and primer in one. I don’t really like that kind of a product. I don’t think it really primes very well and I don’t think it paints very well. I would stick – especially since you have pre-primed doors, I would get a good-quality latex, probably semi-gloss to go on top of those primed doors. And this way, the finish will last as long as it possibly can.
LESLIE: Yeah. Brandon, I think a lot of people think, “Oh, this is great. It helps me skip a step.” But generally, with primer, it gives you an adhesion that you’re just not going to get with the combination paint and primer. So definitely don’t skip that step. Go with a primer and go with a separate topcoat and go with a nice, beautiful glossy finish for a door and you’ll be super happy.
TOM: Well, furniture shopping can be an overwhelming experience. Of the many decisions you are faced with when considering a new sofa or easy chair is the material. Leather is durable but it’s expensive. But fabric might not stand up to your daily grind. Leslie has the tips you need to sort it out, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.
LESLIE: Yeah. You know, when you’re choosing between leather and fabric, there’s a lot of stuff that you can be considering.
First of all, most leather types, they’re going to be easy to keep clean. A damp cloth is usually all that you need to wipe your sofa down. Leather is generally a very durable material and can outlive a fabric by many years if you care for it properly. And leather has a clean, kind of more sophisticated, modern look.
However, leather furniture can be easily scratched. And some people find that leather is cold to the touch. Or when it’s humid or warm out, you kind of get stuck to it. And there’s not as many color options as a fabric will allow, obviously.
Now, as far as a fabric goes, you’ve got a ton of colors and patterns available, which is definitely overwhelming because there is a gajillion types of fabrics to choose from. It can give you a warm, cozy, inviting look. You’re going to see a ton of different types and different textures available. Some fabric sofas have removable covers, which will allow them to be professionally cleaned.
Now, on the downside, fabrics can be easily stained and they aren’t as durable as leather. And sometimes, your fabric choice can look a little dated down the road. So you’ve got to weigh your pros and cons and decide which is best for you.
Now, I have two boys and dogs and hamsters. Lots of action at my house. And I have found that – we’ve had a variety of sofas at different times. Also, really dependent on the stages of the kids. So, I kept an old sofa that was kind of velvety for a long, long, long time, even though it got super gross just because I knew the boys were just going to destroy it. And then I went and got a couch, which I thought was going to work great. But the fabric was too – the weave on it was a little loopy and the dog’s nails kept getting caught. Luckily, the store was able to swap out the couch for me for a fabric was more durable, because they did say it would be for pets.
So you’ve got to think about a lot of different things. And think about what stage of your life you’re in, how messy the people are around you. Because believe me, with kids, it gets messy. I can remember, I was about to buy a brand-new sofa when Henry was, I don’t know, three, four. No, little because he had a bottle in his hands. So two or three. And he was jumping on the couch, holding the bottle in his hand. And I’m literally on the phone placing the order. And as he’s jumping up and down, all of a sudden he barfs all over the couch. And I just stopped and looked at the phone. And I was like, “You know what? Never mind.” So, consider a lot of things when you’re ordering furniture.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Coming up next time on the program, there’s nothing like opening your front door to a clean home. But with kids at home, cleaning that house can feel a million miles away.
LESLIE: Yeah. Especially after you’ve stepped on your third Lego of the day.
TOM: You speak from experience, my friend.
We’re going to share a few clever hacks to help you keep your home clean and your sanity intact, 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.
(Copyright 2023 Squeaky Door Productions, Inc. No portion of this transcript or audio file may be reproduced in any format without the express written permission of Squeaky Door Productions, Inc.)
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