- Painting is a project most homeowners are happy to tackle themselves. But it’s also a project that can go terribly wrong if you don’t take just three steps before you start. We’ll share pro tips for painting success.
- Looking for a simple way to cut heating and cooling costs? A smart programmable thermostat can cut both heating and cooling costs by 10%. Learn how to heat up your home on a budget.
- If you are thinking of updating your bedroom with a new mattress or furniture, we’ll have tips to make sure your purchase results in a better night’s sleep.
Plus, answers to your home improvement questions about:
- Maria from Hawaii has a shower that is leaking into her subflooring.
- Dennis in Nebraska wants to know the best treatment option for his 2-story wood deck.
- Kathy is asking, “Is it okay to paint a refrigerator?”
- Dave in Pennsylvania is putting a vinyl floor in his below grade basement and wants to know if he must put down a vapor barrier and should it be glued down or a floating floor?
- Cathy from California wants to know how easy it is to paint brick.
- Mike in Georgia wants to know how to refinish a stained and dirty floor.
- Michelle from Ohio is wondering how far a raised flower bed should be from the house to make sure she doesn’t get any flooding.
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: On a chilly fall weekend. We hope that you are enjoying the warmth and comfort of your home on this weekend or you’re out busying about, getting ready for the next holiday that is upon us. Whether you’re planning a project, doing a project or stuck in the middle of a project, that’s where we come in. Because we’re here to get you unstuck, get you moving and give you some help getting those jobs done.
LESLIE: And if you’re like me and you’re getting your tree, give me a call because I can help you out. We’re going to find good ones this weekend. I know it. Got to be the first.
TOM: You’re in the zone of tree, right?
LESLIE: Oh, my gosh. This is the tree weekend.
TOM: So, I have a question for you: how many boxes of decorations does the Segrete household have for a single tree?
LESLIE: I’m going to say two good-size holiday bins. One is, for sure, all ornaments and the other is a couple of ornaments, all the lights, the tree skirt. But they’re good-size bins. I’m not going to say that they’re gigantic but they’re not small, either.
TOM: I was going to say five but OK.
LESLIE: Oh, there’s five holiday-decorating bins because, you know, I decorate the entire house.
TOM: Right. Yeah, that’s true.
LESLIE: But there’s two that are dedicated just to the tree.
But wait, if I ever get a new house, there’s going to be more than one tree, so …
TOM: Oh, of course. You’ve got to have one in every room, right? Or at least every main room.
TOM: Well, listen, whether you are stuck and you’re decorating, like Leslie – well, I shouldn’t say stuck. Whether you’re enjoying the decorating, like Leslie – I enjoy getting decorating done, because I’m kind of like – I just want to blink and it be finished. So, we sort of power through it and get ‘er done so we can get all those boxes away.
But whatever stage of home improvement or décor you’re in, we are here to help you with projects that you might need some advice on. Help yourself first by reaching out to us.
Couple of ways to get in touch: you can post your questions at MoneyPit.com or call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Coming up on today’s show, when it comes to maintaining your home, painting is one of those projects that is among the most basic of DIY jobs. But it’s also one which a lot of homeowners do themselves and get wrong. And that can happen if you don’t take just three very simple steps before you prop the lid of that can open. We’re going to share those tips, just ahead, in today’s Smart Spending Tip.
LESLIE: And are you looking for a simple way to cut your heating-and-cooling costs? Well, installing and using a smart programmable thermostat can cut your heating costs by around 10 percent. We’re going to tell you how, in just a bit.
TOM: And if you’re thinking of updating your bedroom with a new mattress or furniture, we’ll have some tips on how to make sure your purchase results in a much better night’s sleep.
LESLIE: Plus, we’re giving away a new product from DAP that’ll end the hassles of stripped screws. It’s called DAP Tank Bond Liquid Grip. And it retails for 6.98 but DAP is also throwing in a $50 gift card to Lowe’s.
TOM: If you want to win it, pick up the phone and call us with your home improvement questions. We will draw one listener out of The Money Pit hard hat. So, those that call, those that post are all eligible to win. That number is 888-MONEY-PIT. Or post your questions at MoneyPit.com.
Let’s get started. Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Heading out to Maui, which I wish we were really heading out to Maui, not just talking to Maria on the phone.
MARIA: Oh, Leslie, you’re missing out. You’re missing out.
LESLIE: I know it. I’m so jealous.
MARIA: I have a shower in – at a house in California. And it was leaking into the subflooring.
MARIA: And we couldn’t figure it out. But I remember my mom saying that she had a problem and it was pouring through there 5, 6, 7 years ago.
MARIA: So I had a friend of mine, who is a plumber, come in and he checked the pan to see if there was any water leaking through there, if that was the problem. And he said it appears that it needs to be grouted with DAP around the periphery of the shower floor, where the shower wall meets the floor. And I’m wondering, what’s the best product to use for that and do you know that that’s even a solution? But that’s basically all I know right now.
TOM: OK. Well, let me try to help you get to the bottom of it.
So, first of all, he’s talking about a caulk. DAP is a caulk manufacturer. And that may or may not be the problem. But I will say that that, by itself, is probably not what’s causing this if you have any significant amount of water.
But first, here’s how you eliminate whether it’s the tile pan – the shower pan – or not. What you do is you run the shower and you block the drain. If you have one of those rubber jar openers or something like that or even a washcloth would be OK for this.
TOM: You lay it across the drain and then you fill that shower pan up with water. So that means you’re going to put about 3 or 4 inches of the water in there. Don’t let it overflow but fill it up. Turn the water off and then let it sit.
TOM: Now, while you’re doing this, you need to be able to check around it or under it right away. Because if the pan has failed, it will tell you quickly when you do this test.
I used to do this all the time in the years I spent as a professional home inspector. And after the first time getting caught letting the water come through the ceiling for a bit too long, I learned that as soon as I do this, to immediately run downstairs and look underneath to make sure nothing’s coming out right away. But this will tell you, because you’re basically flooding the whole pan.
Now, if that’s OK, there is something to be said for the possibility that you could have gaps in the grout, where the tile meets the pan. But it’s not exactly the floor, because the pan goes up a few inches. And if you notice that you have places in that grout where it’s missing, the first thing you should do is regrout those areas. And then the seam at the bottom, between the tile and the top of the pan, that’s where you would caulk it. And I would recommend you use a silicone product for that.
What gets tricky – and sometimes you don’t realize why this is happening – is that when you step into the shower, you could run the shower and it’s fine and we see the pan’s fine. But when you step into the shower, now the water hits your body and starts bouncing against the walls. Many times, that’s when the leak happens, right? Because now the walls are really getting wet and before, it was pretty much heading right for the pan.
So that’s the process that you should follow and I’m sure you will get to the bottom of it. And if it turns out that the shower pan is bad, that’s the bigger project because that has to be totally taken out. At that point, it’s not a matter of just caulking it; you have to take the shower pan out. So you pretty much have to reno that area of the house.
MARIA: That means we’d have to retile and everything, huh?
TOM: Yeah, absolutely. It’s a job.
MARIA: Oh, right.
TOM: It’s common. When the pans get to be 20, 25 years old, they’re going to fail. If that ends up being the case, take a look at the systems that are made by Schluter, which is S-c-h-l-u-t-e-r. They make a modular system where you can basically replace or rebuild the shower in sections. And I’ll tell you, you put this stuff down you’re never going to have to worry about a leak again.
MARIA: Right. Because what I was getting from – the impression that I was getting from the plumber was it’s not a fix-it-and-forever thing. It’s just that, periodically, you are going to have to – every 5, 6, 7 years – recaulk and seal that area.
TOM: Yeah, if turns out that that is the cause, then I agree with him. You are going to have to redo it from time to time. But if the pan has failed, that you’re going to have to hop on because it’s going to get worse before it gets better. It will continue to let a little water get underneath it and rot away any subfloor.
Is this on a second floor or over a crawlspace? What’s underneath this?
MARIA: It’s over a crawlspace.
TOM: Yeah. So, you need to maybe set yourself up so that you can, with a strong flashlight, look into the crawlspace right at that shower area and see if you get any drippage when you’re doing the shower-pan test. Because that’s going to answer it, right there, real quick.
MARIA: Beautiful. Fantastic.
MARIA: Well, you guys are the best, you know? I listen to you driving to work and back, so I really enjoy it now that I am an inherited-home owner.
TOM: Well, we’re glad we were able to help you out.
MARIA: Mai Tais on me when you guys come to Maui.
TOM: Alright. Deal.
LESLIE: Oh, we can’t wait.
TOM: We’re in.
MARIA: Thank you so much.
TOM: Take care.
Well, if you’ve ever tried to drive a screw into a door or into a piece of wood, a piece of hardware but only to have it strip, well, we’ve got a great, new product to give away today from DAP that stops that forever. It’s called Tank Bond Liquid Grip. And one drop instantly adds up to seven times more grip and stops your tool bit or your screwdriver from slipping out and stripping a screw.
Now, it works for both driving and removing screws. And it works on any size fastener. So whether you’re putting a screw in or taking it out, this works.
And think about it: if there are some screws on items that usually get loose – I’m thinking kitchen-drawer pulls or hardware, doors, recreation equipment, swings, lawn-and-power tools – if they get loose all the time, this will actually help you get them in firmly. It cleans up easily from tools when the work is done. Simply wipe it away with a paper towel.
Now, we’ve got one package of the DAP Tank Bond Liquid Grip, which retails for $6.98, to give away. But DAP is also throwing in a $50 Lowe’s gift card. If you’d like to win it, call us, right now, with your questions at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. We are drawing one name in The Money Pit hard hat for those that call or post their questions at MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Heading out to Nebraska where Dennis has a question about decking. What’s going on?
DENNIS: Yeah, hi. We built a house about a little over 3 years ago out in the country. And the front deck is wood railings and wood posts that go two stories, actually, and a staircase that goes to the deck down below. Well, it’s all exposed to the south and west, so it gets weathered quite a bit. And it was treated with, I think, a kind of a light walnut stain and everything but it’s weathered quite a bit over the last couple of years. And I was just wondering if – what your recommendation would be to some kind of treatment to not only stain it and preserve it but seal it maybe and – so that it didn’t weather so bad.
LESLIE: Well, you’ve got to make sure that you get whatever’s on there already off. So you want to get to a good surface so that it’s ready to accept whatever you’re going to put on, whether it’s a solid stain or a semi-transparent. So, you can do that with a chemical stripper. You can do that with a pressure washer set super gently.
But whatever you do, once you get that off, you have to let everything dry out very, very, very, very, very well. And then once you’ve done that, depending on what you’re going to apply, there could be a primer that goes on first. It really depends on the product. But you’re best to go with a semi-transparent or a solid stain, because a solid stain is actually going to put much more pigment, much more color. And it will permeate into the actual grain of the wood so that that color can actually sit there longer, help cure that wood longer, really keep it just in a better state so that it will endure the weather conditions more.
And if it’s applied right – you know, the better you apply it, the more correct you follow the directions, the longer it will last. So it’s definitely sort of a process to make sure that it stays and that it lasts and you can enjoy it for a lot longer than you would.
TOM: Dennis, your options for applying are to do it by hand or to do it with a sprayer. And given the structure – the size of the structure – that you’ve described, I would definitely recommend that you purchase or rent a sprayer. I mean frankly, you can probably purchase one for less than it costs to rent one of these things these days. If you look at something like one of the Wagner Control Pro models, they’re not that expensive. And this way, you can get into every nook and cranny, both above and below, when you’re applying this stain.
Now, you don’t have to put anything else but the stain on, because the preservative and the UV protection are built in. So in terms of the product, you’re just going to need a couple of coats of the stain. And again, I think solid color, given the age of the deck, is probably going to give you the longest service.
DENNIS: OK, OK. So just to stain and no sealer or anything like that or any other coating.
TOM: Nope. The stain is designed – it’s an exterior stain, so it’s designed to seal and coat and protect.
DENNIS: So you just kind of have to figure on doing it every few years then? Is that correct?
TOM: If it’s done right, you should probably get – you should get 5 to 7 years out of that, I would think.
LESLIE: Yeah. That’s generally what the manufacturers say. But that’s all based on how you apply it.
TOM: My friend did his deck and a gazebo. And he chose to paint his because he just wanted to do that. But he chose to paint it but he did it with one of those inexpensive sprayers and he was thrilled. I think he got it at Harbor Freight. It was well under 100 bucks.
In fact, he said, “Yeah, it kind of clogged up at the end but I knew I was kind of done with it, so I just threw it out.” I was like, “OK. Well, whatever works for you.” But the guy did a big deck and a gazebo with multiple coats. He probably was done with it and he was done with it for a few years and he didn’t want to store it. He didn’t feel like cleaning it.
DENNIS: Yeah. Yeah. Actually, I have a sprayer and I’m not sure which would be easier. The posts run all the way two stories on the porch. And they’re actually 6x8s.
TOM: You’ll find that when you start spraying it, depending on the spray tip, it’s a lot easier to use the sprayer. If you’ve got a clean, flat surface like that, that goes a long way, I mean you could roll that. But especially when you get to the joists and the decking and the railing, there’s just so many nooks and crannies. You’ll be there forever trying to do it with a brush.
Just watch the wind. If it’s a windy day, it kind of works against you. But if you’ve got a nice day, it should be a really easy project.
DENNIS: It’s always windy in Nebraska.
TOM: Right. The least windy, I guess, Dennis. Good luck with that project. Thanks for calling us.
DENNIS: Alright. Thanks. Thanks a lot.
LESLIE: Well, when it comes to maintaining your home, painting or even staining wood surfaces is super important to keep your siding and trim in good shape. But while painting is a task that’s among the most basic of DIY projects, it’s also one where a simple mistake can lead to big heartache.
TOM: Absolutely. And the key comes down to preparation. Weathered surfaces need to be clean. Any of that loose paint that you’ve got? It’s got to be removed before you even think about opening that can of paint. If not, that new paint simply won’t stick. You can’t put good paint over bad paint and your efforts will be totally wasted.
LESLIE: Yeah. Now, next, it’s always smart to apply a coat of primer first. Now, primer is formulated differently than paint that’s meant to be the finish coat. It’s got better adhesion, so it’s going to stick to those old surfaces and then prevent that new paint from peeling.
TOM: And for the best finished look, be sure to choose the right kind of paintbrush. Natural-bristle brushes are best for applying oil-based paints. But for latex, synthetic-bristle brushes deliver the best results and help maintain the value of your home.
LESLIE: And that’s today’s Smart Spending Tip presented by the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards Credit Card.
TOM: Apply for yours at BankOfAmerica.com/MoreRewarding.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Kathy on the line who’s got a question about painting appliances. Tell us what’s going on.
KATHY: Well, I have an old house with wide pine floors. And my current refrigerator, which is probably somewhere between 34 and 36 years old, is that lovely harvest gold. You probably remember that color.
KATHY: So, when I say harvest gold, you know I’m going back a lot of years. So, I need a refrigerator. The one I have has been dying a slow death. So, I can’t get a colored refrigerator; they just don’t make them. So I wanted to have it painted and I was going to get a white refrigerator.
And I found an auto-body shop that would do it for me but I just wanted to know – I called the company that – I called Whirlpool because that’s the company I’m going to buy the refrigerator from. And they don’t recommend painting a refrigerator. So, I just wanted to know what your opinion was about painting a refrigerator.
TOM: So, if we got this right, you’re saying that you’re going to buy a new refrigerator but you’re going to paint it in a lovely, 1970s harvest gold?
LESLIE: You can get sticky vinyls printed at a variety of places. You can do it online. I bet Staples or a Kinko’s or something near you might also print on a sticky vinyl. And you can color-match that refrigerator to a Pantone color, which is something that they’d be able to pull right up into the computer and get that exact match. And then you can have it printed on a sticky vinyl, almost like an adhesive paper. And you could go right on top of that.
And you can get it in a matte-finish paper, you can get it in a glossy-finish paper. There’s a variety of places online that do it. Just make sure that you get it wide enough so that you’re doing it in one full width across the face of the fridge and to carry around to the sides. And truly, all you need is a steady hand and a squeegee. And it’s better than painting it. And if you get tired of the harvest gold in the future, you can just peel it away.
KATHY: Oh, that sounds wonderful. I hadn’t even thought of Staples.
TOM: Well, there you go. Alright, Kathy. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
And I’ve got to say, Leslie, that’s the first time we’ve ever had a caller who wanted to keep a 40-year-old paint color.
LESLIE: Oh, for sure.
Alright. Now we’ve got Dave on the line. What’s going on at your money pit?
DAVE: I’m considering putting a vinyl floor in my below-grade basement.
DAVE: And I’m trying to figure out if I need to A) put down a vapor barrier and B) if I need to make it glue-down or a floating floor.
TOM: OK. Well, first of all, there are a lot of great options for basement floors these days beyond just vinyl tile. You know, you have a lot in the engineered vinyl plank area. You have laminate floors that can work down there and even engineered hardwood. So you have a lot of options.
What I would recommend is a product called DRICORE – D-R-I-C-O-R-E. So DRICORE is a subfloor that goes down in the basement. And the DRICORE panels are about 2 feet square. They’re tongue-and-groove and they lock together. And in the bottom of the DRICORE panel, it looks like OSB – oriented strand board – from the top but the bottom of it is a rubber base that’s sort of diamond-plated. And it almost has little feet that create an air barrier between the concrete surface and the underside of the DRICORE. This helps avoid moisture buildup, because anything that comes up off of the floor is going to wick away. And then you can basically put the vinyl down right on top of the DRICORE or you could put engineered plank or whatever else you want to use.
But take a look at DRICORE. It’s available at home centers across the country. We did some work with them not too long ago and I tell you, I was really impressed with the product. I was really glad to learn about it. And I don’t think I would do a basement floor any other way moving forward.
DAVE: OK. Well, thank you then. I’ll take a look into that.
TOM: Alright, Dave. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, heating and cooling your home accounts for a third of your annual energy expenses. Now, a simple way to cut those costs is by installing and using a smart programmable thermostat.
TOM: Yeah. And a lot of energy-efficiency upgrades are expensive and complicated. But this one is not. It’s a simple project. Plus, programmable thermostats can lower your heating bill by about 10 percent.
The key is to make sure it gets set and used correctly. The main benefit to any type of programmable thermostat is that it gives you the ability to keep the heat or the A/C where you want it and when you’re home and awake. And it lets you easily lower that heat when you’re away or when you’re asleep.
LESLIE: Now, simple thermostats might have just one or two settings. But more sophisticated ones that really aren’t all that expensive, guys, those are going to allow you to set all sorts of scenarios, like a weekend or a weekday or a vacation mode or a whatever kind of mode. But you’ll be able to figure it out and program it that way.
Now, there’s also high-tech options out there, as well, like smart thermostats that are Wi-Fi-enabled and then can figure out your normal routine and then adjust the temperature for when you’re home versus when you’re away. It kind of gets a sense of your patterns in and out of the house and adjusts those temperatures accordingly so you’re not heating a space when you’re not in it.
TOM: Absolutely. I love my Nest thermostat because I use it just like that. Sometimes when I’m about to be home, I will go in and actually turn it up so that it’s warm when I get in the house. And I’ve done the same thing in the summer by making it cooler and comfortable if I’m 15 to 20 minutes away. This way, you’re not waiting for that cycle to change.
LESLIE: Kathy in California, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
KATHY: In our rental, we have a big wall of brick where the fireplace is. And it’s a dark corner. And I was wondering if we would be able to paint that brick without a whole lot of trouble, to brighten it up in that corner?
TOM: You can paint it but you’d better be sure it’s what you want to do.
LESLIE: Yeah. I mean painting brick is – it’s kind of irreversible. Once you put the paint on, because the brick is so porous it’s just going to get sucked into every little interior nook and cranny of that brick. So should you ever decide that you would like it to be brick again, it’s a lot of stripping and sandblasting. It’s a big to-do. So you want to make sure that that’s something you really want to do. If it’s just the ugliest brick ever, I get it.
KATHY: Well, it’s the only way to lighten up that area that I can think of.
LESLIE: It’s a corner?
KATHY: It’s a corner of the living room but it’s one wall of the living room. It’s the whole wall right up next to the sliding-glass door. So all the way over to the sliding-glass door it’s all brick, from floor to ceiling.
LESLIE: Have you thought about putting mirrors, like an assorted group of mirrors, or adding a different light fixture? There are ways that you can brighten the space with decoration.
KATHY: I hadn’t thought of the mirrors. That might be a good idea.
LESLIE: If you do a cute cluster, almost like a little gallery grouping of different size and shape mirrors and mixing metals and doing something really purposeful and fun and creating a moment, that’s a great way to do it.
KATHY: There’s no electrical in the ceiling.
LESLIE: You don’t need electrical in the ceiling. There are plenty of pendant lamps that plug into an outlet that you can use as swag that – is that what it’s called, “swag”?
KATHY: It’s still called “swag”? Yeah.
LESLIE: Right? Swag [the word] (ph)?
TOM: Yeah, I think so.
LESLIE: You can do something like that and there are really great ways to do that. So you plug in a light fixture and then suddenly, you have a beautiful mini-chandelier or something. There are so many. If you look online for a decorative light fixture with a plug-in, with a plug, you’ll find so many.
LESLIE: And then make sure you can get one of those things that looks like a scrunchie, that you wrap over the electrical cord itself so it hides just the wiring. It’s really easy to do.
KATHY: Alright. I’ll think on those lines, yep. Easier than painting.
LESLIE: There’s even sconces that are plug-in. So you can create a whole, little gallery thing with mirrors and plug-in sconces and really brighten up that space.
KATHY: OK. Thank you, guys.
TOM: Well, if you’ve ever tried to drive a screw in only to have it strip, we have got a great, new product to give away today from DAP that stops that forever. It’s called Tank Bond Liquid Grip.
LESLIE: Yeah. Now, what’s so great about this is one drop is instantly going to add seven times more grip. And it’s going to stop your tool or your bit from slipping out and then stripping a screw which, you know, it can happen very quickly. So it’s going to work whether you’re driving a screw or removing the screw and pretty much on any size fastener.
One little drop. It’s going to clean up very, very easily with a paper towel. And it’s great for those heavily used screws, in areas like door hardware, kitchen cabinets and kitchen drawer fronts, sporting equipment, the kids’ playground stuff. I mean all of those places where you’re constantly tightening and retightening and retightening eventually will lead to a stripped screw. So let’s stop it before it happens, with the DAP Tank Bond Liquid Grip.
Going out to one lucky caller this hour. Now, it retails for 6.98 but get this: DAP is also throwing in a $50 gift card from Lowe’s.
TOM: Going out to one listener drawn at random. Make that you. Post your questions at MoneyPit.com or call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Mike in Georgia is on the line with a question about flooring. What’s going on at your money pit?
MIKE: Well, Leslie – well, I’ll tell you what, I’ve got a problem. We had to pull up some carpet on the floor where it’s kind of L-shaped. Well, the old hound dog is kind of old and kind of urinated right there in one spot. Short of pulling up the floor and then replacing all that, what can we do?
TOM: So, do you want to refinish the floor? And are we talking about hardwood floors here, Mike?
MIKE: Well, it’s got a blonde finish, more or less translucent.
TOM: Well, I think if you’re going to refinish the floors and you sand those floors, you’ll be able to get through that surface staining and you won’t have too much residual. It’s way – we’re way past talking about how to clean it. But what happens is you get acid in there from the pets and that can change the color. But it’s been my experience that a traditional floor sanding will cut through that without too much difficulty.
So if you’re thinking about refinishing the floors, what I generally recommend is – even if you want to do some of this yourself – is to have a professional do the sanding. Because unless you use a floor sander as part of your day-to-day job, it’s kind of a hard tool to handle. I grew up with tools my entire life. I wouldn’t do my own floor sanding. I’d hire a pro for it so I didn’t ruin my floors. If you sneeze while you’re using that, you’ll dig out of it. And then you could put two or three coats of good-quality polyurethane on top of that but I think a sanding will make that go away.
MIKE: Alright. Well, I appreciate your advice, sir. Thank you very much.
TOM: Good luck. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, if you’re thinking of updating your bedroom, a new mattress is a pretty darn good place to start, because we spend a third of our lives in bed. So, the right mattress, definitely a must. An old, saggy mattress doesn’t provide the support that we need for healthy sleep. And that can leave you achy and sore in the morning.
Now, a mattress generally lasts about 5 to 7 years, which I think is surprisingly short for most people. They don’t realize that it has to be replaced after that, because it kind of creeps up on you. But man, when you do replace it, you notice the difference right away.
LESLIE: Now, if you’re due for a replacement, we’ve got some smart shopping suggestions here.
First of all, you need to know the different comfort levels that are available. So, you can choose from firm, plush and pillow-top mattresses. Now, firm, that’s self-explanatory. Plush is going to offer support but it allows more pressure points to sink into the mattress. And pillow top is going to be the softest option of all of them.
Now, you may also see sales-y labeling such as “ultra-firm” and “super plush” but don’t pay attention to the hype. There’s really no regulation for these subcategories, so it’s kind of tough to determine what they really mean.
TOM: Also, be aware that the stuff that makes up a mattress can impact your comfort and well-being. If you have allergies, if you’re sensitive to molds, things like that, shop for mattresses that are constructed from all-natural, hypoallergenic materials like organic cotton or synthetic-free latex fills and naturally flame-resistant wool casings. All good choices if you’re sensitive to allergies.
LESLIE: Now I’ve got Michelle on the line. What can we do for you today?
MICHELLE: I had this huge flower bed right by my house and it’s about as big as a one-car garage. Anyway, I know that it’s to be sloped away from the house but I was wondering, if I have a raised flower bed, how far that raised flower bed should be from the house.
TOM: That’s a great question. Sometimes, people put it right against the house, Michelle, and then it’s great for the flowers but it also holds all this water against your foundation. And it can cause flooding in lower levels, like crawlspaces and basements, or it can even damage your foundation.
So, the flower bed is fine but you need to make sure – you essentially need to build it on a hill in a sense that what you want to do is establish the grade that slopes away from the house first. And then once that grade is established, then you could plant flowers or shrubs or whatever else you want to do.
What you don’t want to do is kind of have an edging around the outside of the bed so that – a lot of times, you’ll see that people will use railroad ties or scalloped bricks or block or something like that. And think of it as a trough that they build around their house. And that’s what happens: it holds water. So just don’t impede drainage, a good flow of water away from the exterior wall, and you’ll be fine.
MICHELLE: OK. Well, thank you so much.
TOM: You’re welcome, Michelle. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Ray writes in. Now, he says, “We have an asphalt driveway that’s long and narrow. It’s got a few deep cracks and it needs resealing. Is this something I can do myself or do I have to hire a contractor? And what’s the best way if I can do it myself?”
TOM: I think he can do it himself.
I mean look, Ray, the key is this: if the driveway is not settled, indicating it has a bad base, that’s the one thing you can’t do anything about. But if we’re just talking about some cracks and resealing, definitely a do-it-yourself project. There are products out there today that are super easy to use. Many of them are even latex base. Of course, you would start by cleaning the driveway and then by filling those cracks.
And I would suggest that you try to give it, you know, at least a couple of days for the crack filler to settle in there and dry real well before you put the asphalt sealer on it. And then when you seal it – Leslie, I like to always buy one of those long squeegees. I know I’m going to throw the damn thing away when I’m done but it’s so worth it. Because otherwise, you end up ruining a broom or something, right?
LESLIE: No. Those squeegees are exactly what – the right tool for the job. And because they’re so affordable, they really are a disposable tool because it’s just messy.
TOM: Yeah. And then, put a couple of traffic cones or a couple of chairs or whatever you have in front of your driveway, just to remind you and any visitors to stay off it for a few days. And once you do that, you’ll be in good shape. Because this is the time of year when the weather is rough, especially if it starts to snow in your part of the country and you’re dripping road-salt chemicals onto the driveway. It makes it even worse. So, good time for you to fix it up and have it protected for the whole winter. And then it’ll look great come spring.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Mary who writes: “My house is over 100 years old and I’m tackling the room that used to be a porch, that was converted to a four-season room. We’re going to remove the plywood flooring. And we found a lot of rot in the floor joists and the sills, as well as in some of the walls. What is the best way to tackle the rot?”
TOM: This is what happens when people try to take an area that’s an outside area, like a porch or a deck, and convert it into living space. Because the construction is much different when you’re intending to kind of close it in and really make it living space.
You have a continuous foundation, generally speaking, so that there’s no open area underneath for air and moisture and cold to get in. You’re going to have proper insulation in the walls. You’re going to have it tied into the roof, so there’s no possible way there’s going to be any leakage that happens there. Because I hear this kind of question over and over again and it’s generally because they didn’t do a good job closing it in to begin with and maybe, in some cases, shouldn’t have done it at all.
I remember when I was doing home inspections, Leslie, sometimes I’d see patio slabs that I know were converted into four-season rooms. And the way I would prove it is I used to have a long 12-inch screwdriver, which is sort of my termite checker.
TOM: And what I would do is I would stick it in the ground, at the edge of the patio, on a 45-degree angle pointing underneath. And sure enough, there’s no foundation, which means that room was as mobile as you could think. It’d just be going up and down with the expansion and contraction of that soil.
So, that’s what you’re up against. I think you really need to evaluate the structure and determine if you can save it. If you just try to just fix the rot, it’s going to happen all over again.
LESLIE: Alright, Mary. Good luck with that, because we want to get you in that room and make that space fantastic for you and make sure it stays attached to the house for as long as possible.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Hey, thank you so much for spending a little part of your day with us. We hope that you’ve picked up a tip or two that helps you improve your money pit. If you’ve got questions, remember, you can reach us at 888-MONEY-PIT or by posting your questions at MoneyPit.com. And we will get back to you the next time we produce the program.
Until then, 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 2021 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.)