Home Security for Summer Travelers

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

LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

TOM: And what are you doing on this beautiful summer weekend? We hope it involves a lounge chair and a nice, cool drink, just some chill-out time around the old money pit. We did plenty of that this past weekend but also did a little bit of home improvement. And if you’re mixing some of that in and maybe you need a hand, don’t quite know how to start, where you’re going with it, whether you can do it yourself or you need a hire a pro or you just want to get some tips and advice to get the whole thing on the road, well, that’s what we are here to do. And you can help yourself, though, by calling in your question, 24/7, to 888-MONEY-PIT. Does not matter when you are hearing this show. We answer those calls, 24/7, at 888-666-3974. And if we’re not in the studio, we’ll call you back when we are.

Hey, coming up on today’s show, summer-vacation season is in full swing. But when you leave your house, it is very susceptible to break-ins. That’s when a lot of burglaries happen. When homes are vacant and folks are away, the burglars love to play. We’re going to have an update on some surprisingly simple ways to keep burglars out of your house, plus info on the wireless home security-system marketplace. Right now, it is so competitive, it’s fantastic because it’s keeping prices down while it’s raising the bar on keeping your home secure. We’ll have that info, in just a bit.

LESLIE: And also ahead this hour, trees are great for shade and they’re super fun for kids to climb. But on the downside, a tree can block a view or even damage sidewalks and driveways with roots that grow out of control. Well, we’re going to have a solution other than cutting it down.

TOM: And if you’re thinking about updating your kitchen but you’re concerned about the costs and the complications of that project, we’re going to have tips on easy updates you can do over a weekend that can totally transform your space without the hassles or the expense.

LESLIE: But first, we want to hear from you. Give us a call, let us know what you are working on. We’ve got a few weeks left in the summer. I know. I’m not trying to rush it but let’s get these projects done while the weather is fantastic and enjoy the outside while we’re doing it.

TOM: The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

Let’s get to those phones. Leslie, who’s first?

LESLIE: Terry in Alaska is on the line and has some questions about kitchen design. How can we help you?

TERRY: I’m working on my third house. Third house is supposed to be free when you build them yourself but that ain’t working out. But at the point here we’ve got the kitchen cabinets all brand new from factory, in boxes. And now we’re at the countertop dilemma before we really get going. And every one of these TV shows, if they ain’t granite, the people are like, “I ain’t buying the house,” and that kind of stuff.

TOM: Hmm. Yeah.

TERRY: But I was thinking granite and that stone stuff’s over $100 a square foot around these parts. So I’m trying to – the last laminate that we had was pretty darn good. And kind of wondering at what – in the future here, is laminate dead?

TOM: I don’t think so.

What do you think, Leslie?

LESLIE: I mean I do not think so. I use them a lot on projects for work and I use them on my TV-design shows. I actually just did a bakery in Brooklyn for our design show on the Bravo network. And I used a laminate that looked just like a Carrara marble. Granted, it had seams in some places and you knew it wasn’t the real deal but it looked gorgeous. And it was a fraction of the cost. It’s really amazing how many options there are.

There’s a couple of brands you should look at. It’s Formica. It’s Laminart and Wilsonart. And you can order sheets from them. You might find a better option than what you might find at your local home center. I don’t know how much shipping might be to Alaska but there’s a ton of great options out there, from things that look like a natural surface to just completely outrageous things. So, I wouldn’t be afraid of a laminate.

TERRY: I did see they started having better – I don’t know – the edge trim and then they tried to make the 45-degree miters go way better. I’ve got 50 square feet of this stuff and I was thinking if I buy granite, I’ve got to stare at granite the rest of my life because it costs so much. But if I buy laminate and I don’t like it a couple years down the road, I can rip it out and put some new without too much work.


TOM: All those people that get granite, they love it when they first get it. And then they slowly but surely begin to hate it because it’s hard to take care of. Because it’s stone and it soaks up …

LESLIE: I hate mine.

TERRY: Yeah.

TOM: Yeah, it soaks up everything.

LESLIE: I don’t hate it for the maintenance reasons; I just don’t like the look of it anymore.

TERRY: Yeah. When they’re doing the open houses around here, I kind of run through some of them. And I see that they basically put the granite countertop in there but they got the cheapest cabinets you could possibly buy.

TOM: Right. Yeah.

TERRY: So they’re making up for it somewhere but I’m not (inaudible) to me. So I’m not playing that game.

TOM: I guess. Alright. Well, thanks for calling, Terry. We hope that helps you out.

TERRY: Yep. Thanks. Bye.

LESLIE: Maryann in Tennessee is on the line and has some concerns about asbestos. Tell us what’s going on.

MARYANN: Working on an older house. It was built in 1937. I know that there – I was told that there were concerns with maybe the linoleum that’s on the floor. There’s just a little bit in the kitchen and in the bathroom. And before I took it up, I didn’t know whether I needed to check it for asbestos, if there were any other places I needed to check, as well.

TOM: So this is old linoleum? We aren’t talking about tile here? It’s sheet linoleum?


TOM: I’ve not heard that sheet linoleum contains asbestos. I’m not going to say it’s impossible. It’s more a tile.

LESLIE: And it’s a 9×9 tile and it’s always in very specific colors, that you’ll know when you see it that that’s an asbestos tile. They don’t make a 9×9 anymore. This is it.

TOM: Yeah. The only way to really know for sure is to have it tested but linoleum is generally not something that’s associated with asbestos. And even if it did, it would be contained inside of a binder, which makes it less likely to be removed – well, to exposed to the air.

Now, once you take that up, though, you also don’t know what’s underneath it. You could be revealing some other tile, like that 9×9 that Leslie was talking about. But that said, it generally is a good idea to pull up old floors before you put down new ones. So, hope that helps you out.

MARYANN: OK. Is there any place else I need to be concerned about on the asbestos?

LESLIE: Well, you would generally find it wrapping water pipes. And it looks almost like an old-fashioned cast. You can see it’s a flaky substance that’s wrapped with almost like a plaster of Paris. And you’ll know that, also, when you see it.


LESLIE: And that’s asbestos. And while that has very low levels, I would not tackle it myself. You should get a pro, always, to do it if you see it.

MARYANN: Alright. Well, thank you very much.

TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

LESLIE: You are listening to The Money Pit. Give us a call with your home décor or your remodeling 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.

TOM: And just ahead, we’ve got tips to help stop break-ins without breaking your budget. That and more when The Money Pit continues, after this.

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

LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

TOM: Give us a call, right now, with your how-to question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor. They really have the best local pros for any home service.

LESLIE: That’s right. Doesn’t matter what the project is, they make it fast and easy to find top-rated pros.

TOM: And there are no membership fees. It’s 100-percent free to use. HomeAdvisor.com.

So, Leslie, I mentioned that I was doing a bit of home improvement this past weekend. And I thought I’d talk a little bit about one of the projects. I had a tree that I had to take out that was about 15, 16 inches in diameter.

LESLIE: Big tree.

TOM: Pretty good-sized tree but it was a maple tree and had some insects that had gotten into it. And it just was sort of stealing light from another adjoining tree. Decided it was time to thin in out.

So I took it out myself and I got the stump cut down to a little bit below grade. But of course, I still have a stump. Now, I wasn’t about to go out and rent a 1,000-pound stump grinder for this one little tree. Plus, I got it somewhat below grade. So what I did – I took an approach that will let the stump rot much faster than if I didn’t do anything at all.

And what you do is this: you drill holes in that stump. And you want to drill them – I drill them with about a 1-inch drill bit that I had.


TOM: And I drilled about 30 holes in there, the full length of the drill bit which, in my case, was about 10 inches. Had a big drill. So now I’ve got this stump full of holes. Then what you do is you fill all of those holes with Epsom salts. Fill it all the way to the top. Get some hot water – as hot as it comes out of the tap – and then saturate all those holes with that Epsom-salt melt and get down into the wood. What it does is it dries out the stump and it accelerates the rotting. And I know that that stump now, within just a few months, will be really soft and gooey and rotted at the top and I’ll never see it again.

LESLIE: I mean that’s pretty cool that that’s a great way to do it. I’ve heard all sorts of crazy things. I remember one time my Uncle Pat, he said, “Oh, I heard that you kind of pour some gasoline on it and set it on fire and it will burn the whole stump out.” Well, apparently, that does not work so do not do that. I know he had a very good-sized yard fire when he did that project.

TOM: Yeah, I bet. You know, there is an approach that does work where you actually can burn a stump out but it’s not quite as simple as what old Uncle Pat did. You have to drill holes in and they have to actually have intersects with coals that go down the side of the stump so it creates this sort of Venturi effect, this place where ventilation and air can kind of flow through. And it can burn down and burn slowly.

You can also put hot charcoals on top of it. But again, they’re all kind of dangerous approaches. And so I would take this very safe approach of just letting Mother Nature do it with a little help from Epsom salts. Or if you really absolutely, positively got to get rid of it, then just have a tree pro come in and grind it out and you’ll be done with it in a jiffy.

Hey, if you want to be done with your home improvement projects in a jiffy, give us a call right now. We’ll give you the tips you need to get those projects done fast, get them done right so you won’t have to do them again. The number, again: 888-MONEY-PIT.

LESLIE: John in Virginia is on the line with a question about building a deck and maybe a pool someday. This sounds like a great yard. What’s going on?

JOHN: Yeah, thinking about – or I’m going to be building a deck and thinking about eventually building a pool to lap underneath of it. And I was just curious as far as what I need to consider initially building the deck enough to put the pool underneath and/or just if that kind of concept will just add a ton to the cost.

TOM: I’ve not seen too many decks that had pools underneath. So you’re talking about a second-story deck with a pool that extends underneath of it? Is that the idea?

JOHN: That’s the idea.

TOM: Yeah. Hmm. Well, let’s think about this. First of all, if you have a deck on top of it, you’re going to have a lot of rain that goes through the deck. You’re going to collect tree droppings and things like that through that deck that are going to drop into the pool. Supporting that is going to be tricky because you’re going to have to have some sort of a beam that extends the width of the pool and then all the support structure for the pool, to hold it up. And if you build the pool after the deck, you probably will have to take the deck apart to get that done, because that whole area would be excavated.

Are we talking about a below-grade – an inground pool here?

JOHN: Yeah, that’s right.

TOM: Yeah. Well, the order of events would be to do the pool first and then the deck, because I don’t see how you’re going to be able to have a deck out and build a pool around it. You need a lot of heavy equipment to get in there, for one thing. And you’re not going to be able to do it when you’re trying to worry about a deck.

Plus, as I said, the support for that is going to have to be very, very long to span the width of the pool. I think this is the kind of project that I would go to an architect for, frankly. I wouldn’t try to figure this out on the back of a sheet of paper.

JOHN: Right, right. OK. No, OK.

TOM: I would design this very carefully to make sure that we’re enabling – our plan enables us to do the work that we want to do, whether we have to do it before we put the deck in or after. But I would definitely have this designed before I even thought about picking up a hammer and a saw.

JOHN: Thanks for the advice. I appreciate it.

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

Sounds like a cool idea but man, it’s tough from a design perspective.

LESLIE: Yeah, it’s tough. You want to make those decisions early so that it’s not a big project down the road. Plus, making those decisions now ensures that it’s a beautiful project that’s going to last and then you can really enjoy it.

TOM: Well, midsummer is a top getaway season. But if you’re leaving an empty house behind, the way you leave that house can make it more of a target for burglars.

LESLIE: Yeah. Here’s an example. I think people have always thought, “Oh, we’re going away. Close the shades, close the shutters. But don’t do that. That’s kind of a dead giveaway that the place is empty. Instead, leave some of those first-floor drapes drawn to avoid outsiders casing your home through the windows and leave those upstairs shades up.

TOM: Yeah. And better yet, just leave the shades at varying levels of open and closed, as you normally would. You also want to use timers for lights but also for music players and TVs so that there appears to be some activity at different times of the day and the night.

LESLIE: And there’s no better deterrent than a good security system. And right now, there is a ton of competition from brands, big and small, seeking to make you their customer. Now, the nice thing is that this has created a lot of choices for you.

Now, it used to be that when you wanted a home security system, you kind of had to sit through a high-pressure sales presentation and then getting an expensive monitored system. It’s not like that anymore.

TOM: Yep. But now, there are a lot of great systems on the market that take care of both those concerns without the electrical work or the drilling. It makes it a very easy project you can do yourself. The systems are completely wireless and professionally monitored. And even the monitoring expenses come way, way down. We’re talking not $40 a month, like $10 a month or $15 a month. So, a lot of options today in wireless home security, all of which can help keep your home safe when you’re there and most importantly, when you are away.

888-666-3974. We are not away. We’re here, right now, taking your calls, your questions. You can also post them to The Money Pit’s Community page at MoneyPit.com.

LESLIE: Lynn in Mississippi is on the line and is having an issue with a pear tree. What is going on that doesn’t involve a partridge?

LYNN: Hey. Yes, ma’am. I have a Bradford pear tree but I think I made a mistake. I’m not sure. But I let it grow up right next to my house.


LYNN: My foundation is concrete. And the tree has now gotten probably, I’m guesstimating, maybe 15 feet tall and it’s got to like three trunks. It’s very, very pretty and it looks good but now I’ve gotten concerned. My concrete foundation is pretty thick but do Bradford pear trees have a tendency to try to grow up through concrete foundation?

TOM: You know, pear trees don’t get that big to a point where they typically impact foundations. And if they did, you would probably see some evidence of that. So, while it sounds big to you, pear trees – standard pear trees – get to be 18 to 20 feet tall or so. And that’s just not big enough to really do much foundation damage. So I think you can live with that for a while and just keep an eye on it. I wouldn’t tear that out.

LYNN: That is wonderful news. OK. What should I look for? Can I go on the outside, where it’s right there close to the house? Is there something that I can look for that will kind of tell me it could be a problem before it actually starts buckling my concrete?

TOM: Actually, you would see it on the inside. If you saw any cracks forming in the concrete opposite where the pear tree is, that would be a good indicator of it. But boy, it takes an awful lot of force to do that. And trees are going – the roots are going to try to find the path of least resistance. So I just don’t think it’s very likely that you’re going to see that. But I’d see it – you’d see it on the inside first. OK?

LYNN: Thank you so very much. I’m going to leave it alone.

LESLIE: Don in Colorado is on the line with a window question. What is going on at your money pit?

DON: My house has a window. It’s a vinyl, double-pane window that, somehow or another, collects lots of condensation. And this happens, typically, in the winter. And what happens is this condensation has kind of created some mold and some mildew in the channels of the window inside. And I’m wondering, what’s the best way or what’s the best solution or a powder product that I could use in that thing to clean that mold and mildew up?

TOM: Well, first of all, the cause of this is that the insulated glass in your windows is not really doing a very good job. So when you have the temperature from the outside basically chilling that entire window, making its way across that insulated space to the inside and then the warm, moist air inside your house strikes the glass and condenses, that’s what causes the steady stream of moisture. And one of the things that can happen when things get wet is it can grow mold.

So, basically, what you have now is kind of a maintenance headache. And it’s just going to be a matter of keeping that clean. You asked what can you use to clean that, to treat that. You can use something natural like vinegar or you can use something natural like Borax. But it’s basically a maintenance job. You’re always going to have to be cleaning and drying those spaces out. Because unless you change your windows or reduce the amount of humidity inside the house, you’re always going to have this problem.

Now, what you might want to think about doing, if you decide to tackle windows, is just do the ones that are the worst first. Typically, they’re on the north and east sides of the house; that’s usually the coldest sides of the house. And use replacement windows instead of new-construction windows, which are going to fit into the old window openings. And they’re a lot easier to install than new-construction windows, where you have to tear off siding and reflash all around it.

So, that’s really your option here. That’s what’s causing it and that’s kind of what you’re up against. It’s basically going to be a maintenance issue until you replace those windows.

DON: Thank you very much for the suggestion.

TOM: You’re very welcome. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

DON: Thank you. Bye-bye.

LESLIE: Well, sometimes plans for your yard or for your house change. And a tree can become an obstacle instead of a beautiful piece of landscaping. If that tree is small enough, however, you can transplant it instead of chopping it down. Roger Cook from This Old House is stopping by to tell you how, in just a bit.

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 ADT.com to learn more, today.

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 with your how-to or décor question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

Took on a project this weekend to help Mom out, Leslie.

LESLIE: You did? What are you working on over there?

TOM: She had one big step to get into her house, because the porch had kind of settled over the years. And it was a 9-inch step. That’s kind of a big step for anybody, let alone a senior citizen. So what I did is I built a platform, like a stoop, that was half that height. With a 2×4 and a piece of 5/4 decking, I basically made a small stoop that cut that step half in height. So now she steps on the stoop and then up into the house much easier and most importantly, safer for my mom, so …

LESLIE: Safe. I mean that’s really super important.

TOM: And a really easy project and kind of a fun project. Like a mini-deck that was 2 foot by 3 foot.

LESLIE: That’s really great. You did a good job, Tom.

TOM: Thanks.

LESLIE: Catherine in Rhode Island is on the line with a leaky roof.

Tell us about the problem, Catherine.

CATHERINE: I have a small hole in the ceiling, in the corner of the back end of the house. And I was just wondering if when I go to have it replaced, how much of the plaster they’re going to have to take down.

TOM: So you say it’s a small hole. So this is a hole that was caused by water damage?

CATHERINE: Yes. It’s coming from the roof. I’m going to have to have a new roof, also.

TOM: How old is the roof that you have now?

CATHERINE: The roof is about 20 years old.

TOM: OK. Well, it might be at the end of a normal life cycle.

In terms of that ceiling space, you don’t have to take a lot down. How big is the hole that you have right now?

CATHERINE: I would say it’s about 8 inches across.

TOM: Eight by what?

CATHERINE: It’s just like a slit.

LESLIE: So there’s nothing open; it’s just like a crack.

CATHERINE: Yes, it’s like a crack. And water drips but just from one area; it’s just like a little drip.

TOM: If it’s not swollen or deformed in any way, then what you can do is you can add drywall tape across that crack, which would be perforated. You use – it looks kind of like a mesh; it’s a little sticky and it’s like a mesh. And then you spackle over the tape. And so you can basically spackle this crack closed and then prime it and paint it without having to replace any of the drywall.

CATHERINE: Oh, really? Oh. Well, thank you very much. I thought I’d have to replace the whole ceiling.

TOM: Nah, don’t let the contractors tell you it’s any more than that. It’s a real simple repair. If it’s just a crack, it can be spackled, primed, painted and you’re good to go.

CATHERINE: Well, thank you very much. And I just want to add I love listening to your show. I learn so much. I listen to it every Saturday night.

TOM: Well, thank you very much, Catherine. We really appreciate it. Thanks, again, for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

LESLIE: Alright. Let’s face it: sometimes, plans for your yard or even your house change and a tree can become an obstacle instead of a beautiful piece of landscaping.

TOM: Well, if that tree is small enough, you can actually transplant it instead of chopping it down. Landscaping contractor Roger Cook, from TV’s This Old House, is here to tell us how.

And Roger, you’ve planted a lot of trees on the show and not all of them came fresh from the nursery. So what are the keys to a successful transplant and how big of a tree can we actually hope to move?

ROGER: You can move as big a tree as your wallet can afford.

TOM: Spoken like a true contractor, Roger.

ROGER: There you go. Time of year is critical.


ROGER: We like to move things early in the spring before they leaf out or in the fall when the leaves are falling off the tree. Both good times to put a tree in the ground and get it reestablished.

TOM: So what are we talking about? Like a 3- or 4-inch trunk? Something like …

ROGER: You can do that. You can – in some situations, we’ve brought in tree spades and moved 30- or 40-foot trees that were growing on the site to a new location. Because unfortunately, we don’t plan well enough; we don’t plan for that tree to get as big as it did achieve, so we have to move it.

TOM: Now, a tree spade is obviously a very heavy piece of landscaping equipment. But if you’re a homeowner and just want to move a small tree, what’s the key to doing that successfully? Do you have to make sure you take enough of the root?

ROGER: That’s the key to the whole thing is the more roots you can take, the better off you are.

The first thing I’d do is evaluate the tree. Is it in good health? Is it structurally sound? Is it worth spending some money on and moving? If that’s the case, then we go ahead and we’ll dig the tree.

Now, when we dig a ball on a tree, we like to have 10 to 12 inches of root-ball diameter per inch of tree.


ROGER: So if I have a 4-inch tree, I want to dig a 40-inch root ball.

So, we just lay that out on the ground, we’ll go and dig a trench around, we’ll very carefully cut any roots we come across. Because roots that are cut clean heal faster. So when we go down …

TOM: Oh, interesting. So don’t rip out the root; just slice it, essentially

ROGER: Right. If you cut it with a shovel, it’s real ragged. It can get disease or just rot in the end of it.

LESLIE: So are you just exposing the root and then using a good snipper or a saw?

ROGER: Not a good snipper and not a good saw, because you’re in the dirt. We use our old loppers and our old tree saws for this type of work, just to make a good, clean cut on it.

LESLIE: Mm-hmm. OK.

ROGER: Now, what we’ll do is we’ll dig down until we find no more roots. We usually go down 12 to 18 inches, on the average tree, in depth. Once we dig all the way around and we dig underneath the tree, we’ll take some burlap, wrap it and pin it around the ball to hold the soil in place. And then we put twine – jute twine – around it and tighten it and that even holds the soil together more.

LESLIE: Now, how do you plan for the weight on something like this? I mean that’s got to weigh a ton. You’ve got a 40-inch-wide by 12-inch-deep root ball. It’s not something Tom and I are going to go and be able to pick up this tree.

ROGER: Well, it is if you have the right equipment. On a small, tiny, little tree, you could use a dolly; you know, slide it underneath, tip the tree back. But we have what’s called a “tree dolly” and that’s set up with big tires and a lip on the front so if you tip the tree down one way, slide the dolly underneath and then tip the tree back, it sits right up on the dolly and we can move it anywhere in your yard. And then if all else fails, I have a Bobcat; I can move just about anything with that.

TOM: Now, I’ve seen those tree dollies; they kind of look like hand trucks but with an extended sort of lift gate, so to speak, or lift.

ROGER: Right, right. And a lot of times, you can rent those at a garden center. They’ll rent them to you for the day and that’s a great way to move trees around.

TOM: Now, once you’ve actually removed the tree and you’ve balled it up, do you have to plant it right away or could it sit, say, for the winter?

ROGER: We’ve taken some out of houses that were having additions put on. And we do a process, which is called “healing in.” We deal a – dig a slight hole in the ground maybe 3 or 4 inches deep, we set the tree down and then we put mulch around it or wood chips. And that encases it and helps it get through the season. And you can leave them there for a year or even two years, as long as you water them.

LESLIE: And that’s while it’s still wrapped.

ROGER: Right. Leave it just wrapped; don’t unwrap it. Just leave it just like it is, water it and then when the addition’s done, you can take them all out and put them right back in your new addition.

TOM: And when it’s time to actually replant, any special steps you need to take?

ROGER: No. Just like you would any other tree, new or old – meaning a new plant you bought or a transplant – big hole, good soil, fertilizer, water.

TOM: Alright. Great advice. Roger Cook from This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

ROGER: Thanks for having me.

LESLIE: And of course, 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 tree transplanting, you can visit ThisOldHouse.com.

TOM: And This Old House and Ask This Old House are brought to you on PBS by GMC Trucks and SUVs.

Just ahead, if you’re thinking about updating your kitchen but are concerned about the costs, we’re going to have tips on easy updates you can do over a weekend that can totally transform your space without the hassles, in today’s Building with Confidence Tip presented by Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans, next.

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

LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

TOM: Call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor.

LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got Sandy calling from Ohio who’s working on a painting project. How can we help you today?

SANDY: Yeah, I was looking for a product that you can take the varnish off your old kitchen cabinets without having to sand them. I was told there might be some new products out.

TOM: Well, there’s actually a product that’s been around since 1936 that works and that’s called Rock Miracle. So not exactly new but does a great job. They’ve got a couple of different versions of it but it’s designed specifically to take off varnish. There is a liquid, no-wash remover that basically removes paint, finishes and varnish that you can use. You can check out their website at RockMiracle.com.

But if you want to avoid most of the sanding, that’s a good place to go. And they have some environmentally-friendly versions of the product, too.

SANDY: OK. Sounds good. Alright. Thank you very much.

TOM: You’re very welcome, Sandy. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

LESLIE: Well, if home is where the heart is, then kitchens are clearly one of the vital organs that convert a house into a home. So it’s no surprise that kitchen renovations are among the most popular remodeling projects tackled every year. But while any home improvement project can be complicated, major kitchen remodeling can turn your life completely upside-down, not to mention all of that fast-food poundage you’re going to be putting on waiting for the kitchen to welcome you back in.

TOM: That’s right. Now, to avoid the home improvement hassles, it makes sense to break down the projects into modules: you know, small parts that can be completed independently of one another. Not only does this make the project more manageable, these smaller changes can have a big, visual impact and cut down on the need for more major makeovers.

LESLIE: For example, changing your kitchen countertop, painting the cabinets or just replacing all of that cabinet hardware are projects that can be done in hours, not weeks, and result in a very attractive and quite frankly, big transformation.

TOM: Yeah. And replacing the kitchen floors, improving the kitchen lighting and just painting the room can give you a fresh, new look in that space. And you can also just replace faucets with water-efficient models, as well as switch out old appliances for more ENERGY STAR-certified products. And those will lower utility costs across the board.

LESLIE: And today’s Building with Confidence Tip has been brought to you by Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans. It’s completely online, reduces annoying and time-consuming paperwork and gives you a real, accurate and personalized mortgage solution based on your unique financial situation, with no hidden fees or hassles.

TOM: Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans. Apply simply, understand fully, mortgage confidently.

LESLIE: Alright. Gene in Tennessee is up with a roofing problem. Tell us what’s going on.

GENE: About 12 years ago, I built me a screened-in porch on my house. I’ve got a ranch-type house.


GENE: And I used the metal clips – the little hangers – to hang my rafters. And I went in beside of my rafters coming off my existing house and it only gives me a 1-inch drop per foot. And I had a little trouble with it leaking and so I had the regular asphalt shingles put on and it leaks.

So, when I had my new roof put on about two years ago, I – seven years ago, I roofed the house and they recommended I put a rubber roof on a 10×30 addition to my house so the water would run off regular. And here, recently, about two years ago, I had one of the new shingles put on my roof. And I noticed that while I was up there, that the rubber seems to be kindly breaking down a little.

TOM: OK. So, a couple of things. First of all, you have a low-slope roof. You originally had asphalt shingles on that, which was a mistake because asphalt shingles, you really need at least like a 3:12 pitch to put those on. If you’ve got a 1:12 pitch, that’s not enough.

So now you replaced that with a rubber roof, which was the right thing to do. But now you’re seeing the rubber roof start to crack. So your question is: “How do I stop that? How do I protect it? How do I preserve it?” Correct?

GENE: Yeah, well, I want to add a few more. It was guaranteed 10 years but it’s about 7 years old now and I want to make it last a little longer, yeah. Some kind of coating?

TOM: So what you want is simply roof paint. Now, roof paint is a very specialized type of paint. It’s usually aluminum in color and sometimes they call it “fibrous aluminum.” And what it does, it has a high degree of UV reflectivity, so it reflects the UV from the sun back out again. And that keeps the roof cooler and makes it last longer.

So, I would definitely give it a coat of roof paint. And if you go to a home center or a roofing-supply center and look for roof paint, you shouldn’t have any problem finding it. It’s very, very specialized. And we’re not talking about the kind of paint you put on your walls; it’s a roofing product. OK?

GENE: OK. Thank you.

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

LESLIE: Next up, need a new closet but don’t know where to begin? Well, begin with us. We’re going to have tips, after this.

TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

TOM: Give us a call, right now, with your home improvement question or your décor dilemma. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor, where you can find top-rated home service pros, compare prices and book appointments online, all for free.

LESLIE: You can also email us or post your question in the Community section on MoneyPit.com. We’re jumping into those questions right now. And I’ve got one here from Jack who posted: “We do not have a closet in our bedroom. I want to build one but I’m not sure how large it should be. Any rule of thumb for closet size?”

TOM: Well, I don’t think anybody ever complained about having a closet that was too big.


TOM: Right? In older homes, it wasn’t unusual to come across bedrooms that did not have closets. That’s why …

LESLIE: Yeah. You had armoires and fancy furniture to put your stuff in.

TOM: Yeah. That was used to store clothes and accessories. And that’s a trend that’s somewhat on the rise with customizable wardrobes. But even in homes with added wardrobes and armoires, closets are never a bad idea, especially from a resale standpoint.

Now, in terms of size, you need to balance your storage needs with the right amount of square footage the room is going to lose. Because closets do add value but not if they reduce a room to the size of a postage stamp. So it’s kind of a balancing act.

But to build them, it’s pretty straightforward. You usually start in a corner and you’re going to come out about 3 feet and then across the width of the closet, depending on the size. Just remember work around the door size, work around the depth and then just construct it and build it. And if you don’t want to have to worry about a door because it cuts into your room too much, you could easily use an accordion door or you can even use a curtain.

LESLIE: Or you can use one of those awesome barn doors with that really cool hardware and make it a feature.

TOM: Yep. Oh, that’s right. That slide, yeah. Those are cool. Mm-hmm.

LESLIE: Yeah. So many things you could do and you’ll be so happy to actually have a place to put your things. You could just throw them in and close the door and no one will know that there’s a big mess.

Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post here from Charles. Now, Charles writes: “Our master bathroom’s window has a crank attached to the window frame. The window is in good shape and the frame is, too. My situation is that the crank doesn’t operate the window to open or close anymore. It’s almost like it feels as if it were stripped. Is this something I can fix myself?”

TOM: It sounds like you found yourself, Charles, in the unfortunate situation where the window’s hardware has actually worn out faster than the window itself. I mean I can relate to this; I think a lot of us can. A few years back, I had the same issue with a bathroom window. And it got so bad that I went so far as to caulk it shut, until I got around to actually replacing it, so that it wouldn’t get stuck in the open position, which is really bad in January, by the way.

But a few months later, I did replace it. So, my question to you is: do you know what brand of window you have? If you do, you might be able to get ahold of replacement hardware for the crank. If not, you will have to replace the entire window.

But there is a silver lining. If you do find yourself in that scenario, all replacement windows are custom-made by their very nature. That is it’s going to be designed to fit the exact size of the specific opening. And it might not be as an expensive or complicated project as you would expect.

So good luck with it. Try to find that manufacturer first. If not, opt for a replacement window. It’ll be much more energy-efficient, anyway.

Alright. Geralyn (sp) from New Jersey is writing in. And Geralyn (sp) says, “I grew up in a house that had awnings. I have fond childhood memories of these beautiful awnings on my grandparents’ home. We went and visited every summer. I see a lot more homes are popping up with awnings today. Is it a trend that’s coming back and something we should consider?”

LESLIE: You know, I love the look of an awning. And I think with the right type of home, it really does dress it up kind of adorably. And you don’t have to spend a ton of money. I was recently doing a project for a Bravo show and I found one online from a company called Awntech. Came in a variety of sizes. Shipped it in two days. And it was a black-and-white stripe, super cute. A ton of different styles. Really easy to put up and you don’t have to spend a ton of money.

TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. If you’ve got tips, we give advice, 24/7, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Now we let you go back to your lawn chair and your cool drink for the remainder of the afternoon.

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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