Take a Shock Out of Electricity Bills

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: Give us a call, right now, because we’re here to help you with your home improvement projects. You’ve got a do-it-yourself dilemma? You’ve got a décor project you’d like to tackle? The winter is dragging on and maybe it’s pretty dark inside your house and you want to spruce things up, brighten them up? Give us a call right now. We are here to help. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

Now, about this time of winter, we also see electricity bills that – they seem to be spiking. And that’s mostly because of the high heating use. You know, using your furnace and your water heater all can drive up those bills. But we’re going to give you some tips, this hour, that will give you big savings and not require you to even put on lots of sweaters in the process.

LESLIE: And are you looking for an easy and stylish way to add lighting to your kitchen? Well, pendant lights can do just that. We’re going to have tips on how to spruce up your space with pendants, just ahead.

TOM: And now that we’re in the very dark days of winter, do you find you’re coming home to a dark house more often than not? We’ve got tips on a simple, smart-home product that can automatically adjust to make sure that will never happen.

LESLIE: But first, the show is all about helping you. So, what are you working on, you guys? It’s still wintertime. Are you getting something ready – a new, little space in your house – or perhaps dreaming of an outdoor project in the warmer weather? Well, whatever it is, we’re here for you.

TOM: Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

Let’s get right to it. Leslie, who’s first?

LESLIE: Risa (sp) in Oregon, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

RISA (sp): Well, I need someone to recommend a really good gutter guard so that I don’t have to keep cleaning my gutters all the time. Because every time we’re up there, it gets more dangerous because we’re getting older. And they keep getting clogged because we have big trees around our house. We have maple, ash and big firs. And so, consequently, you’ve got tiny, little needles; pointy, little seeds; and big, flat, wide ones.

TOM: OK. Well, there’s a number of different types of gutter guards. And on MoneyPit.com, we have a very popular article that kind of walks you through the different types and tells you whether or not they’re worth it or not.

The type of gutter guard that I seem to like the best are the ones that are mesh – a really, thin mesh that has tiny holes in it – that are permanently attached to the gutters themselves. And then the water basically runs through it and the leaves kind of wash off it. So, I’ve had good success with that type of gutter guard, personally. So that’s something that you might want to look into.

They also have different types of nylon gutter guards or one called – we call it the “bottle brush” where the brush sort of lays in the gutter. But the kind that are mesh, I think, seem to work the best. There’s a number of manufacturers out there that do that.

And then the second type I would look at is called the “reverse curve.” That’s a piece of metal that goes up under the roof shingle and over the top of the gutter. And basically, because water will sort of hug that gutter guard, it will run into the gutter and the leaves will wash over the top.

But if you go to MoneyPit.com and search for “Cost of Gutter Guards: Are They Worth It?” you’ll find that story. It’ll walk you through all the options.

RISA (sp): Well, I can try. But the biggest problem I’ve had is the big, fat maple leaves. Because they just stick to just about every gutter thing I’ve tried and then the water goes over them.

TOM: I bet. Yeah, yeah. Right. Well, I’m telling you, I think you – a lot of the gutter guards that are out there, that you find at home centers, just don’t work very well. But I’ve found that the reverse curve and the mesh gutter guards seem to be the best.

I will caution you, though: one sort of problem I have with the gutter-guard industry is they tend to try to hard-sell you on these systems. So I would just make sure I find a very reputable company to deal with on that.

I remember having a very bad experience, some years ago, where I was just strolling down the boardwalk in New Jersey and there was a home show going on. And there was a gentleman there that was – just kind of pulled me out of the crowd, wanted to sell me on gutter guards. And so I just kind of let him talk and man, I could not get him to tell me how much his product cost. He kept trying to get my wife and I home in the house, at the same time, so that he could try to close the deal.

And I’m saying, “Look, what if I had a 60-foot ranch with one-story house with 4 leaders and a gutter on the front and back?” I was trying to think of the simplest gutter job I could think of. Even then, he could not – or probably more accurately, would not – quote me what his prices were. So that’s a problem. It shouldn’t be that hard to figure this out. So just be careful in making sure you find a good guy.

Head on over to HomeAdvisor.com and read the reviews on the roofing contractors there. I’m sure you could find one through that site.

RISA (sp): I will. I’ll check yours first and go to the next one.

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

RISA (sp): Thank you.

LESLIE: Danny in Texas is dealing with some strange dirt or some sort of dusting around the air-conditioning vents. What’s going on?

DANNY: We have an older home with – that has been completely remodeled. We have a geothermal, state-of-the-art air-conditioning system, new insulation in the attic, new insulation underneath, UV-pane windows. Everything’s modern, state of the art but it’s an older home. We are getting this black mold around the ducts coming out of the ceiling. And we have caulked around it so that no air is coming through. We have checked in the rooms. Relative humidity, we’re looking at between 41, 38, 39, 40, those little things. So that’s how much the humidity is. We can clean it but six months, it comes back.

TOM: These ducts are just for air conditioning or are they for heat, as well?

DANNY: Heat and air conditioning. Yes, sir.

TOM: And they’re coming through the ceiling?

DANNY: Through the ceiling. Return air goes through the floor, under the house.

TOM: Right.

DANNY: The geothermal system runs and then all the ducting comes through the ceiling attic, into the ceiling.

TOM: Hmm. OK. Does it have really small registers? They look almost like donuts? Or is it regular registers?

DANNY: No, no. These are big ones. They’re like 14×8, 13×7, something like that.

TOM: Is this a problem that’s more prevalent in the summer?

DANNY: No. It’s happening all the time.

TOM: Because, first of all, the reason I think you’re getting mold spores there is most likely because you have warm, moist air that strikes a colder surface and condenses and then dampens.

DANNY: Correct.

TOM: And the ceiling itself, I don’t know if the mold extends into the drywall but I would expect it would, because that’s frankly mold food. You know, if you get dust that’s on the register or dust that’s – or the paper that’s in the drywall is basically the mold food. And that’s what mold needs to grow.

DANNY: Wait. There is no drywall. We have 1×8 shiplap ceilings.

TOM: Oh. You have wood ceilings. Well, you know what? Wood’s an organic material, as well. So, pick your poison. Whether you’re talking about cardboard or wood, it’s still there.

DANNY: Yeah.

TOM: One of the things that you might want to think about doing is – do you have an electronic air cleaner in this system?

DANNY: Yes, we do. It’s called a Bi-Polar – that’s all I’m looking at the – at this when they brought it out. Installed two Bi-Polars in the main unit. And what it does is it electronically does something with the ions and it’s supposed to do that. Plus, we have electronic filtration system that’s supposed to zap the dust.

TOM: These air cleaners have – they’ve been getting better over the years. But what I’m thinking is, to make sure that we’ve got good – a good air cleaner is part of the system that’s going to capture both the dust and the mold, the dust mites, the bacteria. All of that can be trapped now by a really efficient air cleaner. The Trane CleanEffects one is good. Aprilaire has one that’s also very, very good. But a very good-quality air cleaner – electronic air cleaner – not just a filter but a complete air-cleaner system will do an effective job at that.

Also, reducing the level of humidity may help, as well. But it sounds like your humidity is not that significant right now. So I would lean towards improving the air-filtration system. And the next time that you have a mold problem like this, you should not just clean it off but you should treat it with a bleach-and-water solution or any one of the commercially-available mold products. Usually, they have a residual value to them so it not only takes off what’s there but stays on that surface and prevents future mold from growing. And I think that’s probably the best way to approach this. Does that make sense?

DANNY: Very good. Yes, that makes sense. Because we have treated it with the bleach-and-water system and my wife was researching what products we could use. So we’d take the duct down and we’d clean all around and everything and let it dry and then we put the – put it back up. So, OK. No, that sounds good.

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

LESLIE: You are listening to The Money Pit. Give us a call with your décor or your remodeling question now to 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor, where it’s easy to find top-rated, local home improvement pros for any home project. Go to HomeAdvisor.com.

TOM: Just ahead, is your electric bill giving you sticker shock? Well, the first step in cutting those costs is figuring out where all that energy use is going. We’ll have tips to help, after this.

Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

TOM: We’d love to talk with you about your home improvement projects, your remodeling projects, your décor projects. Whether you are fixing squeaks or fixing leaks, whatever is going on in your house, give us a call right now. We’re here to help. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT and that’s presented by HomeAdvisor, where you can find top-rated home service pros and book appointments online, all for free.

LESLIE: Don in Missouri is on the line and is needing some help purchasing a new money pit. How can we help you?

DON: Me and my wife are planning on building a guest house on our property and we were wondering if it’d be better to build from the ground up or to have a prefabricated house built.

TOM: Well, either is a really good option. You know, the advantage of prefab homes is that they go together much more quickly. And there’s various levels of prefabrication. You can get a home built in sections or you can get a panelized home where the walls are assembled. And I’ve seen many of these homes go together and they’re extremely well built.

Building a lot of these things at a factory gives you the ability to control a lot of things it’s hard to control on the site: accuracy of all the cutting and the measurements and the humidity of the wood and that sort of thing. I think either way, you really can’t go wrong. And building it prefab would bring it together quicker if that’s something that you’re interested in.

DON: Nice. Ah, thank you.

TOM: Alright. Good luck. Thanks so much for calling us, John, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT and let us know how that build goes.

DON: Thank you.

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

MING: Hi. I have a closet door that it’s supposed to – the light’s supposed to come on when I open the door. I have to jiggle that little button and play with it for a while before I can get the light to come on. And sometimes, it arcs.

TOM: So you’re turning this light switch on and you’re getting an arc? That’s really dangerous. That is an immediate fire hazard. So, you need to have an electrician fix that right away.

See, these switches can basically deteriorate internally. And if they’re sparking like that, that’s a big problem. Consider yourself lucky but that should not be happening and it has to be immediately replaced.


TOM: Alright?

MING: I should not use that door.

TOM: You should get that switch fixed. It should not be doing that. Alright? That’s your first thing, your first to-do.


TOM: Let’s prevent a home fire, shall we?

MING: Yeah.

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

MING: Thank you.

TOM: Well, is your electric bill starting to give you sticker shock about this time of year? The first step to cutting those costs is figuring out where all that energy use is going. So, we put together a few tips to help.

LESLIE: First, a lot of that power might be going to so-called vampire appliances that draw energy even when they’re turned off. If you want to spot them, you need to look for a big transformer plug and then plug them into a power strip. This way, you can easily switch it off when you’re not using them.

TOM: Keep toaster ovens, microwaves and coffee makers unplugged when they’re not in use. And also run big appliances, like clothes washers and dryers and dishwashers, only when you’ve got a full load. And be sure the heat and the water are on the lowest settings.

LESLIE: Also, be aware of products that use chargers – like cell phones, iPads, tablet PCs, laptops, game systems and a whole slew of similar devices – and unplug those chargers from the socket when you’re not actively charging a device.

TOM: Now, all these things may seem small but trust us, they all add up to bigger monthly electrical bills. So, if you want to cut those costs, it all starts with really small steps.

And if you want some help with your home improvement questions, that starts with the small step of picking up the phone and calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT or posting your questions online to The Money Pit’s Community page at MoneyPit.com.

Let’s get back to the phones. Leslie, who’s next?

LESLIE: Dan in Rhode Island is on the line with some sort of leaky-window issue. What’s going on?

DAN: I had an issue with the – there was water leaking inside the top of my window. It was a real rainy day.


DAN: But I did notice that on the outside of the house, where the gutters were mounted to was rotting away. So there was pretty much a hole there and it seemed like the water might have been getting in and then seeping into the house.

TOM: So that’s entirely possible. Just because you happened to see it come in the top of the window doesn’t meant that’s the source of it. It’s most likely the flashing.

Now, from your description, it sounds like you may have had an obstructed gutter that backed up and splashed water kind of behind it, rotted out the fascia that it would have been attached to. That possibly could have been a source for water infiltration. Or that could just be coincidental and there could be an issue with the flashing around the window.

What kind of siding do you have on the house?

DAN: It’s actually a – it’s a wood siding. I’m not sure the type of it. But it’s not like a cedar shingle. It’s something a lot older. The house was built in 1960s.

TOM: OK. But it’s some sort of a shingle?

DAN: Yeah.

TOM: Well, here’s what I would do. I would fix the gutter and the fascia, right? That’s an easy thing to do. And then I would monitor and see if it still continues to happen. If it does continue to happen, then what I would do is I would remove the siding around the top and sides of the window and just reflash the whole thing.

It’s kind of hard to do this sort of in bits or pieces. You’ve got to really do the whole thing or not do it at all. So, that’s the best way to approach it. Let’s do the easy thing first to see if that actually does it, which is that gutter replacement. And then if not, we can start to dig a little deeper into it until we get to the bottom of it.

You know, if you do get that gutter fixed – or even if you don’t, frankly – there’s another thing you could try and that is to go outside with a garden hose and don’t blast it but maybe take – if you have a jet on the end of it, take that off. But just let the water roll over the window from the top. Go up about a foot or two above the window and wet the siding down as if it was just drenched in a big rainstorm. And see if that lets water inside. That might also give you the clue that there could be a problem with the flashing and not the gutter or in addition to the gutter, OK?

DAN: Yeah. Now that you mentioned the flashing, maybe it does make sense. Because they actually have – it looks like a piece of vinyl, possibly, that is – it’s like a U-shape. It catches the top of the replacement window and it goes from the inside, over the top of the window and then to the outside.

TOM: Right. Sounds like what we call a “J-channel.”

DAN: From the inside, it looks like the letter J but then if you kind of go – if you look at it from the outside, the whole piece is probably like a U-shape.

TOM: Right.

DAN: I would say that sits right on top.

TOM: You might be talking about either the J-channel or a drip edge. But either way, those are all part of the flashing system. And if that window is leaking when you do your hose test, then you’ve got to sort of disassemble that and put it back together with good flashing all around, OK?

DAN: Alright. Thank you very much.

TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

LESLIE: Lisa in Iowa, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?

LISA: I’ve got borders and wallpaper to take down. Now, what if I paint over it? Should I prime it? And if I have to take it off, do I score it and then peel it off? Do I use water and vinegar? Hey, that’s my question.

TOM: So here’s the best way to approach this project. And yeah, you’re right: it is a lot of work. But we really don’t like the idea of painting over the wallpaper, because you’re just kind of putting off the problem for later. It makes it even harder to deal with.

LISA: Darn.

TOM: The easiest way to take off a lot of wallpaper is with a steam wallpaper stripper. And it’s a tool that you can easily rent. I know Home Depot rents them. I’m sure other places rent them. And it really does a good job of steaming the glue and loosening up the paper.

You can speed the job up by scoring the wallpaper. And there’s a neat little tool called a “paper tiger” that is really a one-of-a-kind. And it kind of rolls over the paper and puts a bunch of little holes in it that helps the steam get through the surface to get to the glue underneath. And it comes off that much easier.

Now, even though I say it’s easier, it is still a lot of work, so I don’t want you to kid yourself. But renting the steam stripper for the wallpaper is definitely the best way to go.

LISA: Well, cool. Thanks a million.

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

Coming up, pendant lights add style and light. But is the install a do-it-yourself project? Find out, after this.

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

LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

TOM: Give us a call, right now, on The Money Pit’s listener line at 888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor.

LESLIE: You can get matched with top-rated home service pros in your area, read verified reviews 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: Terry in Ohio is on the line and dealing with a stinky, hot-water smell.

Terry, does it smell like rotten eggs?

TERRY: It’s only happening in one bathroom. My husband replaced our electric hot-water heater two years ago with a gas. And it actually has been happening almost since that switch occurred. But the smell is only in the upstairs bathroom. And so I don’t know why we’re getting this smell. We’ve put bleach down in the tank and tried to clean out the tank but we continue to get this smell back.

TOM: When you say the tank, you’re putting bleach in the water heater itself?

TERRY: It’s very diluted. Just a little bit.

TOM: Yeah. OK. Well, a couple of things. First of all, if the water smells throughout the entire house, then that’s usually caused by a problem with the anode rod in the water heater itself. But since it’s only two years old, I’m thinking that that’s probably not the case. It’s more likely a problem with biogas. And that could simply be something in the drain in that particular bathroom that’s causing this issue. Because you’ll get these microbes that will grow inside the drain and they can really smell terribly.

So, what you need to do in a case like that is to – the best thing to do is to take the drain apart, if you can get under the sink, and take it apart and clean it really thoroughly in another sink somewhere. And get a bottle brush down there and scrub it with a good, strong bleach solution or you can use some oxygenated bleach, even better yet. And that will kill those microbes that are there.

And then once you put it back together, I want you to fill the sink up to the point where you have that water goes down the overflow, which is usually built into the sink body. And make sure you put some bleach in the hot water, too, so that it will slowly trickle down that overflow for a bit of a time. So this way, if there’s any organic matter in that overflow, it will also be eliminated. So I suspect it’s in the drain as opposed to being a problem with the water heater. Because if it was a problem with the water heater, every single sink would smell the same way.

TERRY: That’s kind of what I figured but we couldn’t figure it out. So, I thought – I listen to you guys every Saturday, so I thought I’d give you a call.

TOM: Yeah, well, it’s hard because it doesn’t – it only happens to – sometimes to – once a lifetime. But we hear about this all the time, so we’ve got a pretty good idea where to look for the problem, OK?

TERRY: Oh, great. I appreciate your help.

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

LESLIE: Well, pendant lights, they are a popular choice these days and for good reason: they’re sleek and they can add instant style and drama to your lighting.

TOM: True. But is this an electrical project you can hang yourself? Here to talk about both the highs and the lows of pendants is a guy that we like to hang out with: Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House.

Welcome, Kevin.

KEVIN: Great to be here, guys.

TOM: So, is this a DIY project or one best left to the pros?

KEVIN: You know, it depends but in most cases, I think it’s a DIY project.

TOM: Alright. Well, let’s start at the beginning. Let’s talk about what a pendant light is, for those that aren’t familiar.

KEVIN: Well, you can imagine these things are suspended from the ceiling and they’re hanging by a rod or a chain. And they’re putting light down onto the surface or maybe even casting it sort of ambient through the space. They come in all different sizes, they come in all different prices. Some of them are as small as 4 inches, some of them are as big as 12 inches. Maybe $25 for one, maybe $250. A lot of options exist.

TOM: So this sounds like a good option for task lighting, right, Leslie?

LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Yeah. I mean not only do they work great over a kitchen island or maybe an area where you need some specific downlighting but they really can look great in an entryway or even a hallway.

TOM: OK. So let’s say you do want to hang them yourself. Where do you begin?

KEVIN: Turn the power off.

TOM: That’s always a good place.

KEVIN: Turn the power off so you don’t get electrocuted. And I actually like to use an electrical tester when I do any electrical work. Because even if you turn a circuit off, you want to make sure that you’ve got that circuit right.

TOM: Right.

KEVIN: You can put one of these little sticks up to it and it will let you know if there’s any juice running through those wires.

But once the power is off, it’s pretty straightforward: you’ve got a new fixture, the wires are colored and you want to match them up with the colored wires that may be in the wall or in the box.

TOM: Now, what about the controls for these? It seems like dimmers would be a really good application for this.

KEVIN: Dimmers are great. You can imagine if you have them hanging over a kitchen island and you’re preparing dinner, you want them nice and bright. But when dinner is being served, maybe you want to dim them down a little bit.

And the other thing I like to do, in terms of wiring them – it’s pretty straightforward, right: white wire to white wire, black wire to black wire. But sometimes it could be a three-way circuit. And I have actually taken little pictures of the wiring of whatever fixture I’m taking out so that I can rewire it the proper way when I’m putting it back in.

LESLIE: Oh, that’s a good trick of the trade.

KEVIN: Because sometimes you do get confused. The three-ways are a little bit more complicated to wire up.

LESLIE: So, Kevin, when it comes time to install the new fixture, say the pendant itself has two wires that are the same color. Is there a way to tell the difference between those two?

KEVIN: Well, sometimes, you can actually do it by feel. If you have one of the wires and you feel it and it is ribbed, well, that means it’s probably the neutral wire, whereas the hot wire is actually flat. So that might help you distinguish between the two.

If you’re unsure, though, about what the wires are on the fixture, and especially if you’re unsure what the wires may be in the wall, then it’s time to call an electrician.

LESLIE: Yeah, good idea. And especially if you’ve got a lot of projects, save them all up, hire that electrician once and have them take care of everything.

TOM: Yeah, good point.

Now, what about flickering? That sometimes is a problem with pendant lights.

KEVIN: Yeah. Well, a flicker probably comes when you don’t have a great connection. And that bad connection might actually be between the bulb and the socket.


KEVIN: Lights attract bugs and they can actually get in there. So turn the power off, take the bulb out, clean it out – maybe some compressed air blown in there will get rid of any bugs or dirt – and then put the light bulb back in.

TOM: And if it still doesn’t work, call a pro.

KEVIN: You got it.

TOM: Good advice. Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

KEVIN: My pleasure, guys.

LESLIE: Alright. 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 pendant light, visit ThisOldHouse.com.

TOM: And Ask This Old House is brought to you on PBS by Gorilla Glue.

Up next, do darker winter days mean you’re coming home to a dark house more often than not? We’ve got tips on a simple, smart-home product that can automatically adjust to make sure that’ll never happen again. That’s all coming up, after this.

Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

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

So, Leslie, the new Pantone Color of the Year is out. I know this is a holiday that you celebrate. And it’s beautiful. It’s coral.

LESLIE: It’s a good one this year. It’s coral. I mean I’m almost always going to say it’s a good one. But coral is so gosh-darn pretty.

I’ve got to tell you I received a whole bunch of materials from different vendors that I work with, from Pantone, from all different sources saying, “Hey, check out the Color of the Year.” And some of these sort of design collaborations and these little pages to look at with different shades of coral is why I think this is such a beautiful choice. Because you go from corals that really are peach and light and have pinkish tones to them, to that deeper, orange-y, reddish-toned coral.

And there’s so many different ways to use it, from lacquered pieces of furniture, to small cabinets, to pillows, to fabric, rugs, overdyed rugs, rugs mixed in with browns and blues. It is gorgeous. I really – I was looking at so much of the inspiration and I thought, “Oh, I feel like it’s time to redo my dining room.”

TOM: I knew you were getting ideas. “I could do this with that and I can do that.” But what happens when it’s the color of last year? Then you want to change it all over again, right?

LESLIE: This is very exciting for me. Because you know me: whenever I look at something, I go, “As soon as I make that gray, it’ll be all better.”

TOM: Exactly.

LESLIE: To say coral and gray, it’s a really great combination.

TOM: I think it’ll be a great combination.

LESLIE: No. Check it out. So much out there to look for, guys. You’ll get a lot of inspiration and find new ways to spruce up your home.

TOM: You see, the problem is when you say to a guy, “It’s coral. Or what is that like? Sand? Green? Does it look like algae?” Because …

LESLIE: No. Coral. It’s pinkish, peach-ish.

TOM: I know you know that but most people think coral – coral could be any color. But it’s a beautiful pinkish, sort of deep-ish, reddish kind of a thing. And it looks great, so …

LESLIE: I don’t know what kind of oceans you’ve been in.

TOM: Coral comes in all different colors. It’s not all pink.

LESLIE: I’m going to go with all peachy pink and orange-y red.

TOM: Alright. This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. If you’ve got a décor question that maybe you would like to involve the new Color of the Year or not, give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

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

LINDA: The house that we live in was built in ‘53. It’s ours and we’ve paid it off and trying to keep – upkeep it and keep it in good shape. But in between the dining room and the living room, apparently before we purchased it, there was a wall that had been removed. And the only sign is on the ceiling, where the wall was removed, there’s a double crack on each side of a 2×4, is what it looks like, about that width in the drywall.

And I’ve tried – it’s a textured ceiling they did. We actually had knockdown put on it. But it – we can’t fill the crack. We’ve tried to use drywall mud. It just returns. What can I do to fix this crack?

TOM: So this was opposite both sides of a wall that was torn out? So, they must have slipped in some drywall to patch it? Is that what you’re thinking?

LINDA: Maybe, maybe.

TOM: So that’s not the best way to fix that sort of thing. You can’t put a narrow strip in there and have it ever look like a normal ceiling. If you’ve got a hole like that where you pull the wall out, what you have to do is cut a bigger piece of drywall out, maybe about a foot or two on each side of it. And you do that right on the edge where the floor joists are – the ceiling joists are – in this case. Then you have a bigger seam to tape and spackle and secure. And if it’s done well, then you’re never going to see it again.

So you putting all of this spackle on it time and time again, over all of this period of time, has probably made more of a mess and it’s kind of hard to fix at this point. So what I would tell you to do is to cut out that whole repair, put a bigger piece of drywall in, tape it, spackle it, prime the whole ceiling and then repaint the whole ceiling. And that would be the one to do – the way to do this permanently. Otherwise, you’re always going to see that.

LINDA: OK. Thank you for telling me that.

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

LESLIE: Well, now that the days are so short and dark, quite frankly, there’s a new, very smart dimmer that I’ve been using that adjusts automatically for these shorter days. And it makes sure that the house is bright when you get home. It’s from Lutron and it’s called the Caseta Wireless Smart-Lighting Dimmer. And it gives you a lot more function than your traditional, standard dimmer.

TOM: Yeah. And that’s just one of its very cool features. Caseta is different because it puts the smart-lighting control at the switch. So that means you can use almost any dimmable bulb with it and easily control all the lights on that same switch, from anywhere, using the free Lutron app. So you’re not just controlling the bulb – that one bulb. If you’ve got a dozen bulbs on this switch, you control them all with the app.

LESLIE: Now, to get started, you can pick up the Caseta Starter Kit. It’s easy to use, very simple to set up and it gives you smart-lighting control in one room that you can expand at your own pace.

Now, everything you need is right in that box, including a smart bridge and the free app. And there’s an in-wall light dimmer. You get the wall plate and even a remote.

TOM: Now, the kit starts around 100 bucks and you’ll find it at Amazon, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Best Buy or through your electrician. Or you can learn more at CasetaWireless.com.

LESLIE: Vincent in Texas is putting up a fence and needs some help with the project. What can we do for you?

VINCENT: Yeah. I’m putting up a chain-link in front of my house. Where my house is, it’s in the dip. And the street – both the street – goes up on each end.


VINCENT: And I’m about four blocks from the lake. And we had a lot of rain and that water levels up. And when I’m about 14 inches down, I’m hitting water.


VINCENT: Is there a special cement or how should I do that when setting the post?

TOM: OK. So what you want to do is – because it’s chain-link, you’re going to want to dig down about 3 feet. And try to do that with the post-hole digger even if you hit water. And then the way you deal with this is you mix up concrete, like a QUIKRETE product.

It’s a basic masic (ph) concrete mix. Mix it up in a wheelbarrow to the right consistency and then shovel it into the hole and let it displace the water that’s in the hole. Does that make sense? So as you put the concrete in, the water will kind of work its way right out. And what will be left will be the concrete. It will dry nice and rock-solid and you’ll be good to go.

VINCENT: OK. Thank you. You saved me a lot of worry.

TOM: Alright. Don’t worry about it. That’s the way to handle that. Mix it out of the hole and then drop it in the hole and the water will displace.

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

Still ahead, do you have some floors that are just all scuffed up? Maybe you saw too much traffic over this holiday season and maybe 20 seasons before? Well, we’re going to share some easy hacks to make those scuffs disappear, after this.

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

LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

TOM: Give us a call, right now, with your home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. You can also post your question to the Community page. That’s what Adam did.

And he’s trying to clean up some floors, Leslie. What’s going on?

LESLIE: Yeah. Adam writes: “I rearranged recently and my furniture left scuff marks on my wood-laminate floor. What is the best way to get them up?”

Well, first of all, don’t drag your furniture around.

TOM: Yeah, man. Definitely. I mean removing scuffs from wood is different than removing them from laminate. So, if you describe your floor as a wood laminate, make sure you’re following the instructions for the laminate floors and not wood floors.

But back to those scuffs. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Right, Leslie? It really depends on what caused those marks in the first place.

LESLIE: It’s true. My first gut reaction is to say, “Try a Magic Eraser.”

TOM: Right.

LESLIE: Because if it’s from something like the sole of a shoe or some sort of rubber stopper on the bottom of a chair or a sofa, something along those lines, that’s going to come up right away. But if it’s more of a gouge or a scratch into that plastic and that printed finish on it, depending on how that fabric – that flooring is manufactured, rather – that’s a little bit trickier.

TOM: Yes. So the next thing you could try, though, for anything that’s a little bit deeper is a Scotch-Brite scouring pad. You know the green ones that you use on cookware? They have just enough abrasiveness to do the job without damaging the floor. You can use them with a bit of household spray cleaner. Just use small circles, almost like you’re buffing it. And that may tend to take it out.

LESLIE: Now, if you’re still finding that that scuff isn’t going to budge, try WD-40. I know that sounds strange but it does mean Water Displacement 40. And they’ve tried it on a gajillion other different things. And you will see – it came to remove fruit punch from rugs. It’s like – don’t ask how I know that. But it really is an amazing thing.

So, try WD-40. However, you must thoroughly rinse that area after, because WD-40 will leave your floors super slippery. So do not go and spread it all around. Really focus on that area and then clean it up very well. And that should lift out that scuff.

TOM: And be more careful next time you’re moving furniture, will you?

LESLIE: Yeah. Get those little pads for under the legs. Get the magic slides. There’s so many different products out there that actually work. Or get a buddy.

TOM: Alright. Liz wants to add more value to her home and she wants to know if a wooden deck or paver patio would be a smarter thing to do. Can we compare and contrast the two options, as far as cost, labor, DIY versus hiring contractors, et cetera?

LESLIE: Oh, gosh. I like both of them.

TOM: Wow. That’s a good question, yeah.

The idea that you can create living space beyond the four walls of your home is really popular right now as a home improvement project. And the return on investment is also very strong. Some reports will say that a deck will give you as much as about 75 percent ROI when it comes time to sell. But patios are not rated but I would expect the results to be similar.

Determining whether you should do a deck or a patio really depends as much on your house and the height of the back door above grade. If you’ve got a door that’s 4 feet above grade, you’re doing a deck. But if you’ve got a door that’s 12 inches above grade, you’re going to do a patio. You could do both, though, where you have a deck that kind of steps down to a patio. Either way, you can’t go wrong.

Decks are probably more difficult to install than patios but they both have to be done correctly, in accordance with your local zoning or code enforcement. Otherwise, when you get ready to sell that house, the building inspector is not going to be too happy and you might get something that kind of screws up your deal. So, proceed cautiously. Hope that helps you out, Liz, and thanks for posting your question to MoneyPit.com.

LESLIE: And when you’re done, Liz, let’s talk furniture.

TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Thank you so much for spending this little part of your day with us. We hope we’ve given you some tips and advice to take on some projects, get some things done around your money pit.

Hey, if you’ve got questions about your home, your apartment, your condo, your yurt, you can reach us, 24/7, at 888-MONEY-PIT or post your question to one of our social-media pages or the Community section at MoneyPit.com.

But for now, the show does continue online. 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 2019 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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