In this episode…

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Adding a backyard deck is one sure-fire way to increase your home’s living space but is building a deck a DIY project? Tom & Leslie share some guidelines. Plus…
Do you have really long room in your home that’s about as appealing to decorate as a bowling alley?  Learn a few painting tricks and furniture tweaks for the layout, that will leave you with a room that feels cozy and comfortable. Do your electrical circuit breakers of fuses trip more than they should?  If so, it may be your electrical service panel isn’t up to snuff. We walk you through five signs that show when it’s time to UPGRADE your service panel for your safety – and your sanity!
Plus, answers to your home improvement questions about, installing a trench drain, eliminating sink odors, stopping squeaky wood floors, repairing bowing basement walls, cleaning rusty tub stains, clean tips for wood paneling, installing an installing a programmable thermostat.

Do you have a home improvement or decor question? Call the show 24/7 at 888-MONEY-PIT (888-666-3974) or post your question here.
!doctype> Read Transcript
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: Happy Pre-Spring. That’s the new season that we invented, because we can’t wait to get to the warmer weather. And so many folks are thinking about the projects they want to take on when it gets warmer out. We decided why wait? We’ve created a new season called “pre-spring.” So if you’ve got a pre-spring question about a project, you’re in the right place. Call us now with that question at 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974 or post it to our website at

On today’s episode, adding a backyard deck is one surefire way to increase your home’s living space. But is building a deck a DIY project? We’re going to share some guidelines to help you figure it out.

LESLIE: And also ahead, do you have a really long room in your house that’s about as appealing to decorate as a bowling alley? Well, we’re going to share a few tricks and tweaks for the layout that will leave you with a room that feels cozy and comfortable.

TOM: And if your electrical service panel isn’t up to snuff, you could get a shock of another kind. We’re going to have the five signs that show it’s time to upgrade that panel.

LESLIE: But first, we want to know what you want to know in this pre-spring season.

That’s right. I’m just going to make it official with you, Tom.

TOM: Alright. Let’s go for it.

LESLIE: Pre-spring. Get out there. What are you working on? Let us help you get that house in tip-top shape so you can really just enjoy yourself.

TOM: 888-666-3974.

Let’s get to it. Leslie, who’s first?

LESLIE: Dot, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

DOT: A couple of years ago, we had a driveway put in. We have a house with an attached garage. And they had, oh, graded the driveway, they said, properly so the water would drain away from the house and into the lawn. And we get standing water in our driveway still. And I was just wondering the steps to – the proper steps to put a trench in our driveway and possibly a drain.

TOM: OK. So, it would seem to me that if – you’re talking about water that’s collecting on the driveway itself or on the side of the driveway? There’s a distinction.

DOT: In the driveway and also close to the house and where the driveway meets. And then there’s an attached garage there, also.

TOM: If we were to stop the water from collecting on the side of the driveway, would the top of the driveway still be flooded?

DOT: I think so. Apparently, they graded it …

TOM: Alright. Because it’s easier to put in a curtain drain along the side of the driveway than it is to slice the driveway and insert a drain. Because if you want to try to drain what’s on the driveway, essentially you have to cut a slice into the driveway. It’s not something that you could do; it requires specialized tools. And then a drain is inserted and it’s kind of like a very narrow grate, almost like a box, that’s dropped into the driveway. The driveway is graded to the top of it so that the water can sort of roll in and then fill up the drain and then run out.

If, in fact, that this water is collecting along the side of the driveway, it would be easier, kind of from a do-it-yourself perspective, to add in a curtain drain. The way that works is you would dig a trench that was maybe a foot wide, maybe a foot deep. You’d put some stone in the bottom of that and then you’d put a perforated PVC pipe. You continue to fill that up with stone all around it. You’d add some filter cloth over that and then you would regrade and you would be – it would be completely invisible when it’s done. And of course, it has to be pitched properly and discharged properly, as well.

So, the curtain drain on the side of the driveway is easier than sort of the trench drain where you have to cut the driveway. I would tend to say do the curtain drain first and see how it goes.

Dot, I hope that helps you out. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

LESLIE: Wayne in Iowa is on the line with a septic issue. Tell us what’s going on.

WAYNE: Well, when I take a bath, I have odor when I drain the tub. If I take a shower, I have no odor when I take – when I take a shower, obviously, I don’t plug the drain. But everything runs through down to one pipe, which goes out to a septic tank. I do know the line is good from the house to the septic tank, because I had to dig that up before I ever did any of the plumbing in the house. I did not replumb the drain on the tub but otherwise, the house has new plumbing throughout.

TOM: So we don’t think that it’s in the drain line. For example, when you talk about sewer odors, the first thing you think of is a missing trap. But if the plumbing has been redone, it’s not likely that that’s the case, correct?

WAYNE: No, it has a trap. And it doesn’t leak into the basement but I – whenever I take a shower, it works fine. But if I take a tub bath and pull the plug on the drain, I get a sewer odor in the hallway outside the bathroom.

TOM: Because the other cause of those odors is something called “biogas” – is when you get a lot of bacteria that can form in a drain. And it may not even be the drain of the tub; it could be the drain of the sink. I presume there’s a sink in that same bathroom. And sometimes, even in the overflow channel of the sink, you get this bacterial buildup that can have just an awful odor to it.

And the solution there is to thoroughly clean it with an oxygenated bleach so that you kill that bacteria, flushing out the overflow channel, scrubbing the drain with almost like a bottle brush to make sure that all of that bacteria is eliminated.

Biogas can be very pungent and unpleasant to live with but relatively simple to get rid of once you get to the spot where it exists. Will you give that a shot?

WAYNE: Yes, sir. I most certainly shall.

TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit.

LESLIE: Now we’ve got Charlene in Tennessee with a flooring question. What can we do for you?

CHARLENE: Well, we built our house in 2006 and we purchased, from the mill, solid-oak hardwood planks that we were going to put down for flooring. And it’s 6 inches wide, tongue-and-groove.

Underneath that, we put – my husband thinks it’s called AdvanTech. It was a 50-year warranty and the mill told us between that and the tongue-and-groove solid oak to put 6 mil of plastic.

TOM: Alright. So what’s the problem we’re trying to solve here?

CHARLENE: The problem that we’re solving is in a few areas, one which is mainly the bath and the other is the kitchen, there’s a squeaking noise. It’s like you can’t sneak in that area. It’ll make that noise.

TOM: So when you go on a diet, your husband can hear you when you try to sneak into the kitchen to get to the refrigerator, huh?

CHARLENE: Yeah, something like that.

TOM: Alright. So, look, this has little to do with what is underneath the floor and more to do with just sort of normal wear and tear and expansion and contraction. The reason those floors are – those boards are squeaking is because they’re moving. And so, what you need to do is to tighten them up.

Now, since it’s a finished floor, you can’t just go willy-nilly throwing nails and screws into it; you’ve got to be a little more strategic. So what you want to do is find the place where there’s a floor joist underneath. And you can do that with a stud finder.

And once you identify that spot, you drill small holes through the floor and you use what’s called a “trim screw,” which is only a little bit bigger than a finish nail. You screw through the finished floor, into the floor joist, and that will pull that floor down and make it tighter and reduce the amount of movement that it’s capable of. And that’s what’s going to quiet down your squeak. A little harder to do when it’s a finished floor but that’s the way to do it.

CHARLENE: OK. It sounds like it might be an easy fix.

TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Gary in Maryland with some wall cracks. Tell us what’s going on.

GARY: The cracks are along the one outside wall – or the one wall on the short side, on a 26-foot side. And they’re both on either side of the bathroom, which is between two bedrooms.

TOM: So what you’re describing is a pretty normal scenario. We typically get movement in walls of homes and where you have seams between walls and ceilings, one wall and another wall or above a window or above a door. That’s where the movement tends to evidence itself.

Now, the solution here is going to require that you redo the seam between the cracked areas. What you’ll do is you’ll pull off the old drywall tape, if it’s loose. If it’s not loose, you could probably leave it in place. But if it’s loose or if it’s wrinkled or anything like that, I would pull it out. And I would replace that with fiberglass drywall tape.

Fiberglass drywall tape kind of looks like a netting and it’s sticky, it’s easier to handle. And so you press it into the seam. And then once it’s pressed in place, then you’re going to add three layers of spackle on top of that, making each one as thin as possible. So you start with the first one, try to keep it pretty narrow and just cover the tape. And then the subsequent two, you go a little wider and a little wider and try to feather out the edges. And that actually will bridge that gap between the two surfaces and the crack will not form again.

If you try to spackle over a crack without doing that, it’s just going to show up. I mean you could spackle it and paint it but it’s going to come out every winter or every summer, depending on whether it’s swelling or shrinking that’s causing the crack. It’s going to pop open again.

GARY: Good. Thank you very much. Good show, too.

TOM: You’re welcome, Gary. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

LESLIE: Well, adding a backyard deck is one surefire way to increase your home’s living space, at least for considerably more than half of the year. Depending on what part of the country that you call home, it can be an integral part of summer, barbecues, get-togethers, not to mention a really great spot for just chilling out in a lounge chair or a hammock, enjoying those warm breezes, maybe sipping on an iced tea or a cold beer and listening to the birds.

That said, guys, adding or perhaps even replacing a backyard deck requires some planning and certainly some skill to pull off, which really begs the question: should I do this myself or should I hire somebody? So, we’re going to talk about the pros and cons of each.

TOM: Well, if you do the job yourself, you stand to save just by virtue of the labor costs. However, building a backyard deck could eat up a number of weekends, depending on how quickly you work and how many mistakes you make along the way.

Also, the DIY option could be perfect if you’re planning on a fairly simple square or rectangle. But things get dicey if you choose a more complicated, multilevel deck design.

LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Now, let’s think about it. Hiring that pro obviously is going to result in a pricier deck since you’re paying for that labor. But on the plus side, a professional contractor – at least one who’s reliable – is likely to finish that project faster than you would. And a pro is also going to take care of the permitting process and will already know what’s up to code, what isn’t. And that’s going to really ensure that your new deck is going to be A-OK with your city inspector and of course, for your family.

TOM: Yeah, I’m really glad you mentioned permits, because a lot of people don’t love the idea of having to shell out extra money and take the time to obtain a permit. But it is really important, because those professional inspectors are your eyes. They’re going to make sure the deck, as you say, is safe and well done. You do not want to build a deck only to find out that there’s some critical flaw in it or maybe that you weren’t even allowed to build one, or you built it too high or too low or too this or too that and have to tear the whole thing down.

If you want to do it right, get a permit, get an inspection. And then you’ll know you’ll have a very safe, secure and valuable space that you’ve just added to your home.

LESLIE: Alright. Now I’ve got Trish in New Jersey on the line who’s got a remodeling question. What are you working on?

TRISH: I have a wall that goes between the kitchen and there’s a set of steps that go down to the basement.


TRISH: My question is – that it’s also a bearing wall. Is it worth it for me to go through the expense of taking this wall out? And then what do I do about the – when you take the wall out, it’s going to drop down to the basement steps right there.

TOM: Right. So, OK, it’s a big project, Trish. Really big project. Because when you take a wall out like that, you have to reinforce all the structure above it first. And you build the reinforcement, then you take the wall out. You reassemble it with different types of structural members – like laminated beams, for example – that run that span and allow you to have that sort of open space.

Now, you raise another good question, like, “OK, what happens to the basement stair?” Well, obviously, you’re going to need a railing there. So, it’s a really big project. I don’t know if that’s going to be worth it for you in terms of what you’re going to get out of this. What are you trying to achieve, from a design perspective?

TRISH: To have an open concept. But here’s another idea. There’s another wall that goes between the kitchen and the dining room and that’s just a small wall, because there’s a doorway there.

LESLIE: Trish, there are some other ways that you can actually make the rooms feel larger. Considering I don’t know the exact floor plan or the situation of the space – but if you’ve got some windows in, say, your dining room, on the wall opposite it, why not put a really large mirror over, perhaps, a service area or some sort of great storage cabinet? Because the mirror will sort of help bounce the light around and open up the space and make it feel larger. Using paint-color tricks, where you slightly change one wall color to a lighter hue in the same family, can make the space feel larger, as well.

Mirrors really are a huge help. I’m not talking about mirroring an entire wall but I am talking about – perhaps some strategically placed, really decorative mirrors will do the trick, as well.

These are all ways – furniture layout. If you can sort of keep the flow more open to encourage a good pass-through, that can help make the space feel larger, as well. So there are ways without taking on major construction projects.

TOM: That’ll make it look so much bigger.

Trish, good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

LESLIE: Carl in Arkansas is on the line with a thermostat question. How can we help you?

CARL: I bought an older house and it’s – the thermostat that’s in it now for the heating and air conditioner is an old mercury switch. And what I bought is a Honeywell 5-2 switch, a programmer for 5 weekdays and then 2 weekend days. And what I’m wanting to know is, can I – is that something I can change out myself or is that something I need to hire an electrician to come do? The package says easy to install but I’ve looked it over and it doesn’t look like it’s that easy to me.

TOM: Well, look, if you’re uncomfortable with it, I would not hire an electrician. Kind of heat do you have? Is it gas? Oil? What is it?

CARL: It’s electric.

TOM: Oh, it’s electric heat. What kind of furnace do you have?

CARL: Trane.

TOM: Is this a heat pump?

CARL: No, no, no. It’s not a heat pump. That’s one thing I didn’t want was a heat pump.

TOM: It’s a straight electric furnace?

CARL: Right. Straight electric furnace and it has an outside unit, which is also a Trane.

TOM: Uh-oh. Wait a minute. Listen to me. If you’re telling me you have an outside condensing unit that works with this, you’ve got a heat pump. You’ve got the compressor outside and then the furnace inside.

Now, a heat pump is a combination heat pump/electric furnace. That’s the way they’re designed to work. And the reason that that’s important is because the thermostat that you chose – and I don’t know that this is the case or not but it has to be rated for a heat pump.

Because the way heat pumps work is when you set your heat – let’s say you set your heat at 68 degrees. It starts getting cold outside, right? Then inside the house, it falls to 67, the heat pump comes on. Still cold, falls to 66, heat pump stays on. Still cold, falls to 65, now it’s at more than 2-degrees split between what it was set at and what it is. The heat pump says, “I can’t keep up with this. I’m going to bring on my friend, the electric furnace.” So now the electric-furnace coils kick on and then bring the house up to temperature.

But by you not having the right thermostat, what can happen is you can run more of the electric furnace and less of the heat pump, which will significantly increase your electric bill. So, the thermostat you choose has got to be designed for a heat pump.

So I would say your first thing to do is to confirm – I don’t know if you have an HVAC contractor that you work with but get that system serviced. All these compressors have to be serviced once a year. If you haven’t done it, get it serviced, get the refrigerant checked out. While that guy is in the house, have him install a heat pump-rated thermostat. Because you’re obviously uncomfortable with it and we don’t want you to have all those wires apart and just have a problem where you’ve got no heat or no air.

So I wouldn’t do it myself, because you’re uncomfortable with it. And when in doubt, don’t do it. But make sure you use the right thermostat. Otherwise, you may drive up those costs unexpectedly. OK?

CARL: OK. Well, I appreciate it.

TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

You know, even if you can do it yourself, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you should do it yourself. And just like Carl said, if he read the instructions and it still seems confusing to him, then don’t do it. If you’re not comfortable with it – and especially if it’s something like your furnace where if you hook up the wires wrong – you’re probably not going to break it but you’re not going to have heat and that could be very unpleasant.

LESLIE: Now we’re heading over to Virginia where Margaret has a question about a bathtub. Tell us what’s going on.

MARGARET: We have an old, cast-iron tub and it’s real rusty in spots. And I’m wondering what we could do to restore it.

LESLIE: Now, when you say real rusty in spots, are we talking about big spots or are we talking about small, little ones from a chip here and there?

MARGARET: No. We’re talking about big spots because the water – it was not good water when we first moved here. And so it had a lot of wear and tear on it about 40 years before we moved here. And we’ve been living here, probably, about 45 years, so …

TOM: So your tub is almost 100 years old, huh?

MARGARET: Exactly.

TOM: Yeah. Well, look, it served the house well. It’s not going to last forever. It needs to be reglazed at this point. And I’ve had some experience with folks that have tried to reglaze these tubs inside the house. And it can be done but it’s an awfully messy and intensive job. And unless it’s done professionally, it doesn’t seem to last very long. There are home reglazing kits. Rust-Oleum makes one that’s for tub and tile but I wouldn’t expect it to last all that long.

The best way to do this is to have the tub taken out and reglazed. But if you’re going to do all that, you might as well replace it and not just have that – not just not have that reglazed unless it’s particularly beautiful. I think those are your options. It’s not easy to do a touch-up to something like this when it’s just got so – it’s got almost 100 years of wear and tear on it.

MARGARET: Oh. Yes, yes. OK. That was my question. I appreciate that.

TOM: Unfortunately, Margaret, there’s no easy way to remove 100 years of wear and tear on that tub and so you’re probably better off just replacing it.

Well, if you have a really, really long room in your home that perhaps is as appealing to decorate as maybe a bowling alley, it could be really hard to make that space feel cozy and comfortable. But with a few layout tricks and tweaks, you can learn to love your long and narrow room.

LESLIE: Yeah. I think, first of all, people get stuck because they feel like, “Ugh, it’s got to be one space. What is it? What do I do here?”

But you have to think about long rooms as a blessing in disguise, because they can serve as a very popular open-plan kind of space. So instead of having one large but really strange living room, you can have a smaller living area plus more of a cozy den or a study or maybe a little breakfast nook. The trick here is to zone those areas into separate spots by using your furniture.

Now, rugs can sort of land a spot. You can create a lighting area around that one little spot. All of it playing with color, so it feels like its own individual space. And that really helps to set the tone of “I planned it, I’ve made a lot of usable spots.”

TOM: Now, the next thing you want to think about is to not line things up, because you don’t want to accentuate the fact that it’s already long. So try to avoid having all your furniture along the walls, like you might see in a doctor’s waiting room.

Instead, you want to alternate the furniture groupings. So this is going to force that traffic to take on kind of an S-shape and avoid half the room just feeling like a straight hallway. It’s basically a sneaky way to make you actually use more of the space.

And you also want to arrange things crosswise when possible. And that’s going to visually kind of push those walls outward. And that’s going to make that room seem wider, as opposed to being sort of narrow.

LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And I think the other thing people want to do is they see a big room, so they buy big furniture. But instead of getting that one big sofa and then getting – you know, put it there on the longer wall, think about getting two smaller ones and place them facing each other, with a small coffee table in between or maybe even an L-shaped sofa or one with a small chaise lounge. And that can really use that space in a long room very, very well.

TOM: And lastly, do not overfill this with furniture. Just because the room is long doesn’t mean you need to fill it all. It works particularly well in a symmetrical room when the furniture can be sort of centered around an object, like a window or a fireplace.

So, if you follow some of those steps, this room can really become a very popular space. Everybody likes these open floor plans these days. Well, that’s exactly what that is. It’s an open floor plan where you set the groupings for the activities that are to follow.

LESLIE: John is on the line and he’s dealing with a mold situation. Tell us what’s going on.

JOHN: I have a mold problem around my shower door. I bought the house two years ago. I stripped all the caulking out when I had the mold problem. I’ve put caulking in with a nationally known brand. I even used a Saran Wrap-type thing on my finger to eliminate any contamination. Before I did that, I cleaned it, I stripped it out with a plastic scraper. I also used mineral spirits to clean it out. I put it in and I still have problems with it.

God, I’m just at my wits’ end here. I run the humidity in my basement between 40 and 50 percent. I leave the shower door open. I even shut the furnace vent off in there to try and keep it so it doesn’t have a breeding of bacteria or anything or mold in that.

You’ve got to tell me what I need to do. I don’t know if I have an off-spec caulking that I used, which is nationally known, or if I have an off-spec aluminum frame and door that causes the mold. I have no idea.

TOM: Well, look, you’re going to get mold when you have moisture and organic material. And in a shower, that organic material can be soap and dirt and that sort of thing. So you’re doing the right thing but let’s just back it up and try it again here.

You want to remove the old caulk. You mentioned mineral spirits. I usually recommend a bleach-and-water solution because this kills – this is a mildicide that kills anything that’s stuck behind. After you get that all dried out and cleaned out really, really well, then you can apply a caulk with mildicide. I would use a caulk that has Microban in it. DAP caulks are available with Microban and it’s a good antimicrobial additive that will not grow mold.

Now, the other thing I would do is I would also make sure that you have – obviously, have a bath exhaust fan and that you have an exhaust fan that’s hooked up to a humidistat, which takes sort of you and anyone else that’s using that bathroom out of the equation. If it’s on the humidistat, it’s automatically going to kick on when the humidity gets high enough to cause mold problems. And it will stay on for some number of minutes when that humidity goes down, to make sure that the room is thoroughly vented out.

That’s the best way to handle that. And I think if you do those steps, you will find success.

JOHN: Hey, thank you very much.

TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

LESLIE: Well, your home’s electrical panel is made up of circuits that provide electricity to your home. Now, you probably never think about it until that circuit trips and then you have to.

TOM: Yeah. But if you find that happening more often, it could be a sign that you need to upgrade your electrical service panel. So we’ve got five signs that service panel is ready to be replaced, in today’s Pro Project presented by

First off, let’s talk about faulty wiring. It’s the leading cause of residential fires in the U.S. And those signs would include dimming or flickering of lights, sometimes a slight shock sensation when touching an appliance or a persistent burning smell and of course, any sparking or discoloring of the power outlets.

But what about fuses? Because a lot of folks don’t have circuit breakers; they still have fuses. The thing is they pretty much function the same. They do prevent short circuits and circuit overloads. The circuit breaker interrupts the circuit. A fuse can actually melt and become a potential fire hazard.

But they’re not illegal. They are outdated. They’re actually pretty accurate at blowing when they’re supposed to but the problem is you have to know what size to replace it with. So, sometimes you find that folks will put the wrong size fuse back in. And that means that the wire is not properly protected. So if you’ve got fuses, I think that’s a definite sign it’s time to upgrade your panel.

LESLIE: Mm-hmm. I think another good sign that maybe you don’t have enough service to your home is that you’re using extension cords and you’re using power strips all over the house, because you don’t simply have enough outlets. I mean that’s really when it’s a good idea to upgrade. You know, you can install multiple electrical outlets and a circuit where they’re needed. And that’s going to minimize fire and tripping hazards. So you’re going to find way more convenience plus, also, a better-operating home.

Now, what about when you add an appliance? Think about a major appliance: maybe an A/C unit or a hot tub/spa, something like that or another thing that uses a ton of energy. You have to make sure that your panel can handle that. Because standard electrical panels provide 100, 150, 200 and 400 amps of power to your home. Anything less is going to be illegal. And if you find that your breakers are tripping when you turn on the A/C or that hot tub, you need an upgrade.

We upgraded the panel to 200 service when I put in the central air. You need it. And it’s great because now there’s outlets everywhere and everything works and it feels fantastic.

TOM: So, finally, if you’re planning ahead on a big project like a remodel, it’s a good idea, while everybody’s there and doing the work, to add on replacing and updating that panel. And certainly, if you plan on selling, it’s a good idea, as well. But only a licensed electrician can take on that project.

LESLIE: And that’s today’s Pro Project presented by With HomeAdvisor, you can get matched with top-rated home service pros in your area and book appointments online, all for free.

TOM: No matter the type of job, HomeAdvisor makes it fast and easy to hire the best local pros.

LESLIE: Now we’ve got Jackie in Colorado on the line with a wood-paneling question. How can we help you today?

JACKIE: Well, I’ve got this old, medium-colored, wood paneling, which is really light, that was put over concrete walls. It’s one that’s got the black stripe in it.


JACKIE: I just want to know how the best way to clean it. Years ago, I used Murphen (ph) Oil.

TOM: You mean Murphy’s Oil?

JACKIE: Uh-huh.

TOM: Yeah, Murphy’s Oil Soap is the best way to clean wood. Have you used that again?

JACKIE: Well, I just used maybe a tablespoon with a bucket of warm water. Would that be OK?

TOM: Yeah, I think you can actually use a little more than that. Follow the label directions. But when you’re trying to clean old, wood paneling like that, Murphy’s Oil Soap is really the best way to go because it’s not going to dry out the wood and damage it. It’s very, very gentle. Just follow the instructions but I think that’s the best product to use for that situation.

JACKIE: OK. I really enjoy your program. It’s just very enlightening for me and I’m not – you know, if I need to find something else, I’ll just call you guys.

TOM: Alright, Jackie. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

LESLIE: You can always email or post your question at And I’ve got one here from James who’s in Texas. And he writes: “I’m considering buying a home with textured walls. It looks like plaster was blown onto it. How hard is it going to be to smooth it out?”

TOM: Hard. Really, really hard.

Look, textured walls, textured ceilings were popular for a very short period of time. And I think there’s been more effort put in by homeowners to get rid of it than there was ever to apply it to begin with. So, I would not try to make it perfectly smooth, because you are definitely setting yourself up for a disappointment.

You can take some of the sort of spikiness out of it but I would get it back to a place that you like. And then I would tell you to paint it with flat paint. Do not use anything with a sheen because it will only make it look worse.

LESLIE: Alright. Tommy in Nebraska is up next who writes: “I’ve got central air conditioning that works great but I have a couple of rooms I really don’t use. And I’m wondering if I should just close up those vents and shut the doors. Is that going to help me save some money on cooling?”

TOM: Yeah, it’ll help you save a little bit of money on the cooling. So, you could completely close those vents. You might want to wrap them with some, say, cellophane, some Saran Wrap, something like that. Because the vents themselves don’t really totally seal it out. It’ll have some impact on the cost of cooling your entire house but I doubt it will have a dramatic impact.

And if you do hear that the system is short-cycling – if the air conditioning is going on and off and on and off – then open them back up again, because that means the system is too big for the remaining rooms.

LESLIE: That’s smart. That’s a good tip because you sometimes think bigger is better; not with A/C.

TOM: Not always. Yeah, that’s right.

Well, are you a first-time homeowner wondering what you need to know that us seasoned money pitters already do? Well, Leslie has got the lowdown, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.


LESLIE: Hey, guys. First, congratulations. You’re the proud owner of your very first home. Well, then the question is: now what? It’s like a kid. No one gives you instructions.

TOM: Right.

LESLIE: You’ve got to care for it, you’ve got to love it and you’ve got to figure out what it needs to survive.

So, as this first-time homeowner, you’ve got to remember it’s your job to maintain your home year-round. So, first thing you need to do is get some tools, things that you’ll have around just to help you when you come up with a little project here and there. Nothing crazy. I’m talking about a basic toolbox, like a hammer, assorted screwdrivers, a pry bar, level, adjustable wrench. If you want or you’re feeling daring or it’s a holiday, you can get some power tools. Maybe a drill, circ saw, some simple things that’ll help you just advance going on with the things going on in your house.

Now, you’ve got to also understand the basics of your home’s mechanical system. That’s a must. So you need to know where your water-main line is and how to shut it off. Because if there’s an emergency, you’ve got to know where to turn that water off. And learn to use your fuse box. Check it out, find it. Keep a flashlight nearby so when the power goes out, you know how to get to it. Those are things that are going to be super helpful when and if an emergency occurs.

And you have to remember that home ownership puts you in charge of covering all of those utilities. So if in the initial months in your new home, maybe you’ve got some sticker shock over how much power and water actually costs, then start looking into taking some steps to manage those energy dollars. These are all things you’re not going to be familiar with right off the bat because renters, a lot of that stuff is already taken care of.

And finally, even if you’re in a brand-spanking new home that maybe has a warranty, it’s wise to have a contingency fund to cushion those curveballs that life can and definitely will throw at a homeowner. So, make sure you’re ready.

If you want some more tips, just Google “money pit first-time homeowner tips.”

TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Coming up next time on the program, we’re all getting ready to plant some bushes and trees and flowers. And you’re probably going to be throwing down some mulch. It is a great way to insulate newly planted trees and shrubs but too much can starve them. We’ll have a tip on how to do this job the right way, on the very next edition of The Money Pit.

I’m Tom Kraeutler.

LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …

LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.


(Copyright 2020 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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