How to Decorate a Kid’s Space to Grow as Fast as They Do #0430181

TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

TOM: And we are here to help you tackle your next home improvement adventure. What’s on the to-do list today? Give us a call. Let’s talk through it at 888-666-3974.

Coming up on today’s show, if your child’s room is space-challenged and maybe you’re thinking about making some changes so you don’t have to, I don’t know, step on Legos anymore, we’re going to have some tips to help you design a room that can grow as fast as they do.

LESLIE: And let me tell you, stepping on those Legos, especially in the middle of the night barefoot, it’s not a fun thing (inaudible).

TOM: Painful.

LESLIE: Alright. And also ahead, you know, between bad weather and more deliberate forms of vandalism, mailboxes really can take a beating. We’re going to have tips on how to build a mailbox that can stand the test of time and the neighborhood kids.

TOM: And now that spring rains are upon us, is your house truly watertight? We’ve got tips on how to prevent all the sneaky ways water finds its way in, just ahead.

But first, let’s take your calls, your questions and get you some answers, 888-666-3974, 888-MONEY-PIT. Give us a call right now.

Leslie, who’s first?

LESLIE: Anastasia in Colorado is on the line with a bathtub question. What’s going on?

ANASTASIA: Well, I have a tub drain. Trying to get that out – the drain out because it’s – I can’t put a plug in it now. So, what I’ve tried is the drain-remover tool or it’s a plug wrench. And then I also tried that flaring tool to get it out and neither one of them works, because the little crosshairs in the bottom aren’t still in there, because it’s from 1960 tub.

TOM: Oh. So you have nothing to grab onto, is that what you’re saying?

ANASTASIA: Yeah. So, I’ve tried to get WD-40 in there, underneath the tray, but I can’t reach under there. And then I could crawl under the house but I don’t want to do that. So I was trying to think of a better way of getting it out.

TOM: If I understand it correctly, this normally would unscrew but what you’re driving – what you’re trying to grab onto is either stripped or completely gone.


TOM: I have only two suggestions for you. Number one is to hire a plumber, which is probably – you didn’t need me to tell you that. But I will say that the plumbers deal with this kind of thing all the time. And secondly, if I was a plumber and I was faced with this and there was absolutely no other way to get this off, I would probably drill it off and chisel it away, which you could do with a cold chisel.

And it’s not a pleasant process and it’s time-consuming and kind of a pain in the neck but when all else fails and you’ve just got nothing to grab onto, that’s a way to get it done.

ANASTASIA: Alright. That’s what I thought but I thought you might have a little trick up your sleeve.

TOM: But that’s a trick but it’s a lot of hard work. Anastasia, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

LESLIE: Art in Pennsylvania is on the line working on some storm repair. Tell us what happened.

ART: About a month ago, we had a windstorm and it took off three sections of shingles off of the roof. And I was able to retrieve them. They were, ironically, in pretty good shape.

But I remember seeing a program on PBS where they were redoing homes down in Florida, in the section where they get a lot of storms down there. And I think there is a requirement for the way that shingles are to be installed down there and I’m thinking, if I remember it right – and I didn’t have a chance to see the whole program. But on mine, when I took mine off, there was only like three nails in each of these shingles there. And I think, if I remember correctly, that down there they were requiring that there be more nails than that used to install shingles.

TOM: Well, Art, your goal now is to replace the shingles that you lost. And did you save the shingles? Were they intact enough to use the actual shingle for the repair? Because this way, the color will match.

ART: Yes. Yes, they were; they were in very good shape, yes.

TOM: Alright. So then what I would do is I’d get back up there and – assuming you can do this safely – and you’ll nail the new shingles back in. You want to put nails – you can put them pretty much where the old nails were but of course, not in the same holes because they’re going to be broken-through now.

You can’t really put too many nails on them. If you want to put an extra nail or two, that’s fine. But the key is after you get done nailing all of these down again, what I want you to do is to get an asphalt cement. And you can get it in a caulking tube and put a little dab under the loose end of the shingles so that the tab presses down and reseals. Because when shingles are new, they have an adhesive on the back of the tab that seals it to the shingle below. But when they’re torn off, that adhesive is gone. So you put a little dab of asphalt cement in there and that will keep it in place and stop it from sort of lifting up the next time you get a strong wind that comes across. Does that make sense?

ART: OK. Well, I thank you very much. You’ve been very helpful.

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

LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit. What’s your how-to or your décor question? What are you working on? Call in now at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor. They make it fast and easy to find top-rated home pros you can trust for any home project.

TOM: And just ahead, is your child’s room space-challenged? We’re going to have some tips to help you design a room that can grow as fast as they do, after this.

Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

TOM: And hey, whether you’re planning a décor project, remodeling your kitchen, your bath, fixing a leak or fixing a squeak, we are here for you every step of the way. So call in your question, right now, to 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor, the fast and easy way to find the right pro for any kind of home project, whether it’s a small repair or a major remodel.

And sometimes, a small repair can feel like it turns into a major remodel.

LESLIE: What happened?

TOM: I had an issue this week. Our dishwasher stopped working. All of a sudden, we noticed that there was no water coming out and we had that kind of scary, burning kind of a smell.

LESLIE: Oh, yeah.

TOM: So, yep, killed the power. Decided it was an older dishwasher; it wasn’t worth fixing. So I ordered up a new one and then as I was waiting for it to come in, which took a couple of days, I decided I had some time to yank out the old one. So I yanked out the old one and underneath the dishwasher, to my surprise, was nothing but a wet, mushy mess. There had been a very slow leak that had gone undetected for a long time and it rotted out a good piece of that floor. I was surprised. We saw nothing, we smelled nothing. There was no evidence of it whatsoever.

LESLIE: I’m surprised the dishwasher didn’t fall into the basement.

TOM: I know, right? So I yanked this out. I’m like, “Oh, my goodness. You’ve got to be kidding me,” and picking up these pieces of what was like plywood. And it looks like mud in my hands. It was terrible.

So not to mention the fact that I’ve got a really old house, so I didn’t really have a square hole for my dishwasher. I went in thinking it was a parallelogram, like the sides were square. I decided, I think it was – what’s the other one where they’re all different? Is it rhomboid, where there’s four of them that just – sides that just – nothing lines up? So I had to kind of start with a level platform and work it up to a flat, level space and then just kind of let everything else sort of fall where it was.

So, all of those folks that we talk to on air and online through social media go, “Oh, your house must be perfect.” Yeah, not so much. We have the same issues going on as you do in your house. So give us a call and we will help you through what’s going on, 888-666-3974.

LESLIE: Tony in Florida is on the line with some noisy plumbing. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.

TONY: It’s in the walls. It seems like the clanking is going on in the walls. And I can’t get to the pipes because they’re hidden – they’re all covered by the walls. So every time I put the faucet on, hot or cold, bang, it’s one slam and that’s it. That’s what I get. And I’m just wondering, is there some easy, quick fix for something like that, you know?

TOM: Yeah. So does this happen, Tony, when you open and close the faucets? Is that when it’s worst?

TONY: Correct.

TOM: Alright. That’s called “water hammer.” And what water hammer is – you have to remember that water is very heavy; it weighs, actually, 8 pounds per gallon. And so, as the water is traveling through the plumbing line and you open or close a faucet, the inertia of that water just keeps moving. And it’ll shake the pipe and that’s what makes the banging sound. And of course, pipes transmit sound like crazy and so you’re getting that kind of sound to it.

So, what can you do? There’s two things that you can do. All the piping that you could possibly access – so that would be like in the basement or crawlspace or attic. Any place where you can see a pipe, you want to add some additional strapping to the wall so that takes some of the bounce out of it.

The second thing that you can do is you can install – or have a plumber install – something called a “water-hammer arrestor,” which is, essentially, a shock absorber for a plumbing system. And it will take that inertia from the water and absorb it slowly so it doesn’t bang the pipe.

But what you’re describing is a very typical, very normal condition in an older house. Generally, unless it’s really super-bad, doesn’t cause damage. But it’s more of an annoyance than anything else.

Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

LESLIE: Pam in Missouri is on the line with a lighting question. How can we help you today?

PAM: I have fluorescent lights in my kitchen and two other rooms and they are recessed into the ceiling. They’re the kind like you would put maybe into a shop: those 3- or 4-foot-long tubes, T8 bulbs that I hear are going away?

TOM: Yep. Yes. Uh-huh.

PAM: What can I do?

TOM: So, are you having trouble finding the bulbs? Is that what you’re concerned about?

PAM: I am not now but I’m – hear that they will be not used anymore.

TOM: Yeah. But they last so darn long. Why don’t you just go shop online and buy a case of them and call it a day? I mean really. Yeah, they’ll be harder to find but they’re going to be available, because a lot – there’s a lot of industrial folks that use those in offices and that sort of thing. So I wouldn’t fret too much about that.

Listen, if you want to change your lights at some point, then you can plan that project. But I wouldn’t tell you to rip out and remove all your lighting fixtures now just because you’re worried about a supply problem. I’d just go pick up a case of these things. They last forever. And then put the project off until you’re ready to do some real remodeling.

PAM: I’d rather do that because, otherwise, I’d have a big hole in the ceiling that would have to be patched.

TOM: Yeah, exactly. It’s a bigger project for you because they’re built-in. So you’re going to have to take them out, you’re going to have to drywall over the holes. It’s a big job, so – no, I would just pick up a case of the bulbs and live with it for a while, OK?

PAM: Great. That’s easy for me. Thanks.

TOM: Yeah, they’re not too expensive. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

Well, is your child’s room space-challenged? If you’re tired of tripping over Legos or dealing with lost puzzle pieces, we’ve got some easy décor tips that can help you design a room that can really change as fast as they do.

First, you always want to plan spaces that can grow with your child. Now, that includes everything from choosing a color palette that’s going to work and serve for the long-term backdrop for all their ever-changing tastes and interests and buying better furniture pieces. Now, that includes everything from choosing paint colors that can serve as sort of a long-term backdrop for all of those ever-changing tastes and their interests and buying better furniture pieces that can really stand up over time.

LESLIE: Yeah. That’s super important. The room has got to grow with the kid.

Next, you want to think about smart storage. And storage, perhaps, has the biggest impact on the design of a kid space, as it not only gives you the room you need to hide all of their stuff – and they’ve got a lot of stuff – but it also frees up floor space for any activities that you want to have in the room. And that’s important to design in.

Now, storage needs to be flexible for their changing needs. Now, closets are always a great place to find storage but that’s only if they’re organized. So, think about your closet and what you can do to get the most use of the space in there. Is it adding smart organizers? Is it putting bi-level clothing rods? Look at what they’ve got in there, think about what they’re going to put in there and put pieces in that will help you store those items correctly.

And finally, be on the lookout for opportunities to create two-for-one solutions. If you can add a window seat, for example, that creates a great place to sit but it also gives you handy storage for toys or books. Really, think about double-duty items for kids’ rooms. It’s going to save you a lot of space and a lot of headaches.

TOM: For more tips, check out our brand-new post, “Create a Kids Room That Will Grow with Your Child.” That’s online, right now, at “Creating a Kids Room That Will Grow with Your Child.”

LESLIE: Doug in Rhode Island is up next with an electrical question. How can we help you?

DOUG: I did some remodeling work in upgrading the island. And it used to be a floating island. And now that it’s fixed to the floor, I’m considering putting electrical outlets. And I’m just curious as to what might be the best location, as well as what the code – the electrical code – might require.

TOM: Well, are you over a basement or a crawlspace?

DOUG: I’m over a basement.

TOM: OK. Because what you’re going to want to do is run the wire up from the basement below, into the side of the island. Is it a standard kitchen cabinet that you’ve used to create this island with?

DOUG: Yes.

TOM: Because you can mount the electrical outlet, basically cut it into the side of the cabinet. You’re going to want it off the countertop, down below on the side of the cabinet. And the key safety aspect here is you want to make sure that it’s a ground-fault outlet. Those are the outlets that have the test and reset buttons in them for wet locations.

DOUG: I did see something online concerning that.

TOM: Yeah. So as long as you use a ground-fault circuit interrupter outlet and you just bring the wire up from the basement, that’ll be the most practical way to do it. It’ll probably end up not being on the same circuit as the kitchen because, generally, what you do in a situation like that is you grab the closest power source that you can, that’s convenient and safe, and just kind of go up from there.

DOUG: OK. Sounds good. Thanks for your help.

LESLIE: Patrick in Iowa is on the line with a roofing question. How can we help you today?

PATRICK: OK. I bought a home; it was a for-sale-by-owner. The roof was put on about four or five years ago. And in the disclosure, he mentioned there was nothing wrong with the roof. But since moving in – now, being in Iowa, we get severe weather and I understand a couple shingles might rip off during a windstorm or something like that. But it’s literally – it’s daily, shingles are coming off.

So I patched some of the shingles but it is – it’s every time we get a wind, shingles are just blowing off. And so I ask him, “Can I have the name of the company that did the roof?” And so, I got the name and phone number and I talked to the workers that did it and they said, “We’ve been out there every single year, year after year. We told him it’s no longer covered. He has to pay for it himself.” And he – and they asked, “Didn’t he mention that in the disclosure?” And I looked through the disclosure and of course, there’s nothing in the disclosure that mentions anything about it.

TOM: Right. Of course. Yeah. Wow. Sounds like you have a pretty strong case of fraud.

PATRICK: And of course, I don’t want to go down a road that is going to take months and months and months or years. But it is – it’s just one of those cases that if it’s not in the disclosure – but then I can prove that it is. I mean is there any recourse whatsoever?

TOM: Well, yeah. The recourse is to hold him legally responsible for the cost of replacing the roof. And this is really more of a question for an attorney than for home improvement experts like ourselves.

But I was a professional home inspector for many years. I’ve seen these situations before. And if you have a seller that outright misrepresents the condition of part of the property on the disclosure, then they should be held liable for that and in some cases, can be held liable for multiples of what the actual damage is which, in this case, is essentially going to be the cost of a new roof.

PATRICK: And it’s not just that. If I was told, then I could have just budgeted for …

TOM: Right. You could have headed it off, exactly. But it’s – some people just want to make sure – just want to misrepresent their home and try to hide all the problems. And that’s why you have professional home inspectors out there which – by the way, did you get a home inspection done, Patrick?

PATRICK: Yes. There is a mortgage on it. Of course, the mortgage company did their inspections.

TOM: Well, no, besides the mortgage company, did you have your own, independent, professional home inspection done?

PATRICK: I did not.

TOM: Yeah. So that probably was a mistake. Because home inspectors work for you and not for the mortgage company. And a good-quality home inspector – for example, one that’s a member of the American Society of Home Inspectors – would have spent two to three hours going over that house and probably would have seen all of the repaired shingles. Because that’s something that’s actually fairly obvious to see.

So, unfortunately, you can’t focus on the past but you should try to hold the seller responsible and maybe you could take him to small-claims court. I don’t know. Again, question for a lawyer but it sounds like you’re going to need a new roof.

PATRICK: Well, I know that it’s a metal roof that’s going to be going on, so …

TOM: OK. Alright. Well, good luck. Sorry that happened to you, Patrick. Good luck with the project, though. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

LESLIE: Well, between bad weather and more deliberate forms of vandalism, our mailboxes really can take a beating. Roger Cook from TV’s This Old House is stopping by with tips on how to build a mailbox that can stand the test of time.

TOM: And today’s edition of This Old House on The Money Pit is brought to you by ADT. Introducing ADT Go, the new family mobile safety app and service. Go to to learn more today.

Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

Well, whether you are buying, selling or just enjoying your home, we are here for you every step of the way. Call in your improvement or décor question now to 888-MONEY-PIT, presented by HomeAdvisor, the fast and easy way to find the right pro for any kind of home project, whether it’s a small repair or a major remodel.

Kevin in Maryland, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

KEVIN: Hi. I’ve got a washer and a dryer on the second floor of my house. And it seems, in the last year, I’m getting a lot more vibration, a lot more sound out of those units. And I can feel it a lot more in the second floor. So I’m wondering if there’s anything I can do to kind of reinforce something in order to limit that vibration. Because I’ve got three small children now and my amount of washing and drying is not going to go down at all.

TOM: Well, two things. First of all, you want to double-check that the appliance is absolutely level. Because if it’s slightly out of level, you’ll get more vibration. Then the second thing that you could do is pick up some anti-vibration pads for the feet of the washing machine. These are like rubber blocks that are indented where the washing machine legs sort of sit inside of it. Then they sit on the floor and they help absorb some of the vibration.

I have the washer and the dryer actually stacked – full-size units – stacked on the second floor of my house. And I put the anti-vibration pads in it and whenever the machine is spinning, I can literally look at those pads and see them working, because the vibration is really being absorbed by them. And in fact, I have – also have the washer sitting inside of an overflow pan that’s made out of fiberglass. So to get that to work, I had to sort of carve the bottom of the vibration pads to fit sort of the angle of the pan that they’re sitting in. So even with that modification, they work and they work well.

So I would pick up the anti-vibration pads. They’re about 25 bucks for a set of four and you could find those online or I think I found mine at Home Depot.

KEVIN: Alright. Thank you very much.

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

LESLIE: Well, the roadside mailbox at your driveway may be the first impression your house makes to visitors. And there are some very decorative and stylized options available now.

TOM: Well, that’s right. But roadside mailboxes also need to be built tough to stand up. Between bad weather, snowfall, snow plows and the occasional more deliberate forms of vandalism, mailboxes can take a real beating.

Here to teach us how to build a mailbox that can stand the test of time and everything else is landscaping contractor Roger Cook from TV’s This Old House.

Welcome, Roger.

ROGER: Thank you. And I’ve got to tell you that this winter wreaked havoc on mailboxes in the New England area.

TOM: I can only imagine. In New Jersey, as well, there were – seemed to be more laying down than standing up.

ROGER: Between the snow that was pushed on top of them or the plows hitting them themselves, the lawns were literally littered with mailboxes in the spring.

LESLIE: Once it all melted.

TOM: Alright. So, Roger, let’s say the snow has melted and we saw the scattered remains of our formerly beautiful mailbox. We’ve got to put it back together or we’re going to build one right from scratch. The position of that mailbox is really important; it’s actually controlled by the federal government, correct?

ROGER: It is very important but there’s one more step that is really super important and that’s calling your utility-locating service.


ROGER: Now, you can reach them by dialing 811 nationwide.

TOM: So, across the country, 811 works.

ROGER: Right. And they’re going to come out and you have to give them 72 hours and they’ll mark out all the utilities in the street. So you’ll know that – where you can put in the mailbox and not hit, say, a gas line. Because taking your post-hole diggers and digging a hole in a gas line can ruin your whole day.

TOM: That’s right.

LESLIE: And that’s really because the location of the mailbox is just on the perimeter of your property. And that’s, you know, really the property of the town/village/city. That’s where they put all those utilities for your home and everybody else’s.

ROGER: Yep. That’s where all the lines tend to be.

TOM: Now, once we’ve cleared that the lines are not there and we’re safe to dig, what’s the key to making sure that that mailbox can really stand up?

ROGER: Well, first you have to consider that when you’re putting it in, that the federal government has regulations. They want that mailbox 41 to 45 inches high and they want it 8 inches back from the street. Once you have those measurements and you know where you’re going to put it, then you can decide what type of material you want to work with. There’s everything from plastic, wood or even wrought iron.

TOM: Now, when you set that mailbox post, that’s really the first part here. Digging that hole, concrete? No concrete? Stone? What do you think?

ROGER: Well, if it’s vulnerable to snow and a plow, I would say put concrete around it. If it’s not, just pack it in good gravel and it should be OK.

LESLIE: How do you make sure that that post is square and standing up straight?

ROGER: They make a special level – a fencepost level – that fits onto the board of the mailbox. And it’s great because you tie it, strap it onto the mailbox. Your hands are free and you can just look at it as you’re moving that post around and level it up very easily rather than taking the handheld and going from one side to the other. Makes short work of leveling up the post.

TOM: Now, you mentioned the materials before. PVC is becoming very popular. Is that strong enough to stand up as a mailbox post?

ROGER: You have to reinforce it a little bit. What we do is we either slide a 6×6, if it’s a 6×6 vinyl post, inside it and that’ll give it some strength. Or we fill it with concrete.

TOM: Alright, Roger. And as a final tip, when we’ve got that new mailbox installed, any tips for landscaping around it?

ROGER: I like to use some perennials around it or some real hardy annuals, because it’s going to be a high-traffic area.

TOM: Right.

ROGER: So you want to make sure whatever plants are there can withstand the traffic.

TOM: Good advice. Roger Cook from TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit with a plan to build a mailbox that will never miss a letter, moving forward.

ROGER: Hey, Tom, they have this new thing? It’s called email.

LESLIE: Alright. And now that Tom and Roger won’t be getting any mail this year, you can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For your local listings and a step-by-step video on how you can install a new mailbox, visit

TOM: And This Old House is brought to you by Marvin Windows and Doors.

Up next, now that spring rains are in full swing, it’s a good time to make sure your home is leakproof. We’ll have tips to help you keep it dry, from your roof all the way down to your basement, after this.

Where home solutions live, this is The Money Pit. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

TOM: And we’d love to talk with you about your next home improvement adventure. We call them “home improvement adventures” because if you think about it, adventures are exciting, they’re exhilarating and they never quite end up exactly like you planned, right?

LESLIE: You don’t really know where they’re going.

TOM: And that’s what happens with a home improvement project. So, whatever is going on in your money pit, we’d love to hear about it, right now, 888-666-3974. Or you can also post your question to The Money Pit’s Community page at

LESLIE: We’re going to talk with Dot in Wisconsin who’s got a decking question. How can we help you with your project?

DOT: Yes. My deck is located on the south side of my house and every year, we’ve been putting a paint on it. And it’s where we get a lot of sun. And I’m wondering if there’s a special kind of paint I should use, because it peels a lot.

TOM: So, there are special paints for decks. And if you’re continuing to put more coats of paint on the old deck, my concern is that you’re never going to get good adhesion. You may have too many coats of paint on that now.

Are you using paint or stain, Dot?

DOT: I believe it’s a paint.

TOM: I’m afraid, at this point, what you really need to do is to remove that paint so you can get down to the original wood. Because you can’t put good paint over bad paint; it’s going to continue to peel. And once you get down to that wood, then you should prime it and then paint it.

But if you’re able to get most of the paint off – and perhaps you can because, apparently, it’s not sticking well, where you really don’t have too much left – then I would recommend not using paint on it. I would use solid-color stain. It’s still going to give you a continuous color but it’s going to absorb better into the wood and it’ll kind of fade rather than peel. And I think that’s what you’re shooting for.

DOT: OK. Is there a certain type of product to remove the stuff that’s on there now?

TOM: Yeah, there’s a wide variety of paint strippers out there. I would look for one of the citrus-based products and try that. You’re going to – you may have to try a couple of them until you find the one that works best with your particular deck.

DOT: OK. Thank you.

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

Well, now that the warm weather is ahead, it’s a good time to inspect the outside of your home for signs of wear and tear brought on by that winter weather. And I want you to start with a roof check. Now, you can do this safely by using binoculars to look for shingles that are missing or broken or buckling or blistering, any of which can cause a leak to occur.

LESLIE: Now, next you want to clean and inspect your home’s siding. Now, you can use a product like Spray & Forget to clear away all the dirt and algae. But remember, if you use a pressure washer, you want to make sure you adjust the setting carefully, based on your siding, so you don’t puncture any holes in whatever your siding is.

TOM: Next, you want to take a look at the angle of the grading at the perimeter of your home. You want to make sure it hasn’t settled so much that it no longer sort of drains water away from your house.

LESLIE: Yeah. Because you don’t want – now is the time that we start to hear about all of those spring rainstorms leaking into basements and crawlspaces. So you want to make sure that you add that soil, get rid of anything that’s settled down. Add more to it to maintain that slope and get everything going away from the foundation. That’s what you want: you want things to go away from your house.

TOM: Yep. And most importantly, be sure to keep those gutters clean and the downspouts extended, as well, because that causes so many flooding problems. It’s just unbelievable.

So, easy stuff to do. Really important. And every one of these steps will help you keep water out of your house.

LESLIE: OK. Let’s welcome Donna from North Carolina with some squeaking floors. What’s going on?

DONNA: We have a 13-year-old home in Raleigh, North Carolina, which was purchased as new construction. We have squeaky floors – wood floors – primarily in the kitchen, in front of the sink. Originally, we – there were shims placed between the joists to even the floor after we moved in. But after a first frost, there were raised areas of flooring, particularly in the kitchen. And some of the shims were removed to even the floors once again.

Currently, we’re selling our house and my concern is that when the purchaser employs a home inspector, that the squeaky floors would be so obvious that we would need to resolve the problem. And I wondered what you would suggest we do.

TOM: I was a home inspector for 20 years and I’ve never ever, in those 20 years, reported squeaky floors as a structural problem.


TOM: So, on that point, I don’t think you have a lot to worry about unless you have somebody that really doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Sometimes, if you get an inspector that is really under-skilled, they will take the minute, normal occurrences of a home and turn it into a major issue. But that’s it.

It is kind of annoying. And trying to figure out why it squeaks requires you understanding which part of that floor assembly is moving, because it’s evidence of movement. So, if there’s movement between the subfloor and the floor joist underneath, that could be one source. Or if there’s movement between the finished hardwood floor and the subfloor and the floor joist, that’s another type of movement.

You can deal with all of this if you were to be able to identify where – from the top side, from the kitchen side – the floor joists are underneath that area that’s loose. And then you can drive what’s called a “trim screw,” which is about as wide as a finish nail, with the proper prep. Which means you have to pre-drill the floor. But you can drive a couple of those into the hardwood floor to kind of tie it all together. And once you do that, you’ll find that you’ll quiet it down quite a bit. And the size hole that you’ll have to fill is no more than the width of a finish nail.

DONNA: OK. So the key is finding the joist, I would guess.

TOM: Floor joist. And there’s a way to do that, too. And you can do that by measuring it out or you could simply get a stud finder – a stud sensor. They have them today where they’re good enough where they can actually see through 2, 3 inches of building material and find the floor joist below with great precision. Stanley makes a number of very good-quality and inexpensive stud sensors that can do that.

But don’t panic. A squeaky floor is pretty much typical and it’s not indicative of a structural issue.

Right, Leslie?

LESLIE: Oh, yeah. It’s just more annoying. And I think one of the benefits of you saying – you know, you seem to have so much knowledge of the shims and what’s going on there. It makes me feel like you have access to the thing, so it should be fairly easy for you to get to the bottom of.

DONNA: Alright. Well, thank you so much for that information. It’s encouraging.

LESLIE: Alright. Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit.

Coming up, patios should be for collecting friends and family, not collecting rainwater. We’re going to have some tips for keeping the water off of your outdoor space, when The Money Pit continues.

TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

TOM: Give us a call, right now, at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by, where you can find top-rated home improvement pros you can trust. Call in your home improvement question, 24/7, to 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

LESLIE: Or post your question on The Money Pit Community section, just like Heather did.

Now, Heather writes: “ I have a concrete patio. It holds water when it rains and then turns green in the middle. My husband seems to think that the builder didn’t put a plastic barrier. How can I fix this or keep it clean? Thanks for your help.”

TOM: You know, your husband is right in that plastic often goes under concrete but it doesn’t go under concrete patios. You only use it under the floors inside your house, like when cement slabs are poured in basements and crawlspaces and even sometimes in garages. But for patios, you want water to drain off and you want it to drain through.

Your problem is that your patio doesn’t do that because it’s not sloped properly, Heather. And unfortunately, this is almost impossible to fix at this stage of the game. I mean you could put an additional layer of an epoxy compound of – an additional layer of concrete that’s specially formulated to stick to old concrete on top of that but it’s a difficult, messy undertaking.

And frankly, because it’s a patio, I’d rather just see you tear it out and replace it. It’s not that big of a deal and almost just as much work as would be to recoat the whole thing. You’ll be surprised that the average 4- or 5-inch-thick patio slab can be broken up with a jackhammer in probably a half-hour or less. And a little bit more time to cart all that away and pour a new one.

And when you do pour it, you might opt to do something like a paver patio, which doesn’t even require concrete underneath it and it looks really attractive. You just want to make sure you prep that base. That’s where most people make mistakes, whether they’re patios or pavers. They don’t prep the base. It’s got to be properly prepared with the right layers and the right kind of material and tamped down and sloped properly. And if you do that, you’ll no longer have any drainage issues and it can really last you a heck of a long time.

LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we have a post here from Jake who writes: “I have plaster walls in my house and they have cracks. I’ve tried to fix the cracks with paper tape and nylon wall tape but the cracks keep coming through. How can I fix them permanently?”

TOM: Well, cracks in plaster walls are pretty typical. It would be unusual to see a house that didn’t have them. When the plaster is first installed, it’s troweled through what kind of looks like wood sticks called “plaster lath.”

LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Well, it gives it something to stick to otherwise.

TOM: Oh, I’m sorry, yeah, it’s either wood lath or plaster lath. But it’s troweled on and then it sort of spreads and that’s how it sticks to the wall. And when it cracks, as the structure settles, it’s pretty normal.

Now, one thing you can do with this kind of crack is you could use a repair product that’s like a plastic washer. It’s like a fender washer, in a sense, that it’s really wide and has a small hole. And essentially, you screw it right into the crack and it grabs both sides of that broken piece of plaster and pulls it in tight. And then you put a couple of layers of plaster over it or even drywall compound on top of it. And that will sort of secure it in place.

But I’d only do that if the plaster was really, really lose. If it’s just a normal crack, I wouldn’t worry about it. But if you feel like it’s in danger of falling, then I would try to repair it.

LESLIE: I mean plaster really does take a lot of upkeep. You have to really want to maintain that traditional plaster look and keep that in your home. But it takes work.

TOM: It does, it does. But we call it “charm.”

LESLIE: Right. It really is gorgeous.

It’s funny because our houses are both 100 years old. And mine has plaster walls in some areas and then you can see where the new pieces went up that are drywall. So I’ve got the mix.

TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Hey, thanks so much for stopping by, spending a little time with us. We hope that we’ve fueled your passion for fix-up around your house, for décor, for repair, for improvement inside and out. If you’ve got questions, check out our website at Community section right there. There is, I think, about 1,000 answered questions there right now, plus even more articles on the site at, as well as videos. You can also follow us on Facebook, on Instagram, on Pinterest. Or you can subscribe to our podcast on iTunes and Google Play.

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 2018 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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