Is Your Mattress Making Your Sick

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

LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

TOM: Happy to be here to help you with your home improvement projects, your décor projects. If you’ve got some DIY dilemmas, some things that maybe you want to take on or not going so well – are you worried about getting the job done or whether you can do it yourself or need to hire a pro? Hey, call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT because we’d love to talk with you about just that.

We’ve got a great hour planned for you, full of lots of home improvement and décor tips and ideas. First up, you know, now that it’s super cold out, we’re not seeing so many birds any more. We kind of like watching birds around our house in the warmer months and we miss them in the winter. So we thought we’d put together some tips to help you attract visits from your fine, feathered friends all year long even when it’s chilly outside.

LESLIE: And if you’re looking to add an extra bathroom in your home and you’re thinking about maybe one below grade, that’s a plumbing project that requires some special planning to sort of go with the flow. Because really, gravity counts here, guys, especially here.

TOM: Yeah, definitely.

LESLIE: We’re going to highlight some tips for that project.

TOM: And how about this: are you laying your head down on a bed full of bacteria every night? Well, you might be. We’re going to have some tips to help you detox your mattress to keep it clean and you healthy.

LESLIE: Plus, this hour, we’re giving away the Arrow PT Pneumatic Staple Gun and a supply of staples. Now, this is perfect for a wide variety of repair and décor projects, like making a headboard or even carpeting stair treads or perhaps being very brave and upholstering some furniture. All stuff you can easily do.

TOM: There you go. It’s worth 50 bucks. Going out to one listener drawn at random. Would you like to win that Arrow PT Pneumatic Staple Gun and a supply of staples? Well, you’ve got to help yourself by picking up the phone and calling us, right now, with your home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

Now, if you can’t call right now, there is another way to qualify. All you have to do is go to our website and post a question to the Community page at or for that matter, any of our social-media sites, like Facebook or Instagram or Twitter. We want to hear what you want to talk about. Give us a call, right now, or reach out at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

LESLIE: Robert in Alaska is on the line with a crawlspace situation. Tell us what’s going on.

ROBERT: Basically, what I’ve got going on is we had a lot of rain this summer, so I had water kind of penetrate the foundation. And I was wondering if there is anything I could do from the inside to maybe stop some of that penetration from coming in and getting on the wood that’s holding up the, I guess, the floor.

TOM: Yeah, absolutely. Now, are you talking about concrete-block walls?


TOM: OK. So, a couple of things. First of all, we want to make sure that you are doing what you can to slow the collection of water from outside moving inside. So that means looking at your gutter system, making sure you have gutters and that they’re diverting water away from the house, not just a couple of feet from the foundation but well away. And make sure that the angle of the soil around the foundation slopes away. And that will do a lot to move the water away from that backfill zone.

Inside the crawlspace, you can add a vapor barrier to the soil and that will stop moisture from evaporating up. And on the blocks themselves, you can apply a product called Ames’ Blue Max, which is a rubber paint. It’s very stretchable and it adheres really well. And when you apply it to the block, it stops any moisture from coming through the block. Ames is spelled A-m-e-s and the product is called Blue Max. You can search for it online. Their website is

ROBERT: OK. Good deal. Yeah, I’ve got a company coming in to, I guess, dig the outside of the foundation and lay some drainage this spring – this coming spring – so …

TOM: OK. Well, let me stop you right there, OK? Because that’s not likely going to help you and it’s not necessary.


TOM: If that moisture is consistent with rainfall – in other words, you get a lot of rain, like you mentioned, and then you get leakage – then putting all those drainage pipes and disturbing all that soil is really not the way to go. If you improve your gutter system and you improve the grading – the angle of the soil around the foundation perimeter – that stops the majority of that surface water from getting in.


TOM: The only time we recommend drainage systems, like what you’re describing, is when you have a rising water table which, if you did, you wouldn’t be getting leakage that’s consistent with rainfall.

ROBERT: Ah, OK. Well, good. That’s important to know then.

TOM: Yep. So now there you go; saved you a bunch of money.

ROBERT: Oh, yes, you did.

TOM: You’ve got it, Robert. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

LESLIE: Now, Libby from Missouri is on the line and has some issues with a hardwood floor. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.

LIBBY: I really think my hardwood floors need to be redone. They’re very faded where there’s traffic and a lot of gap.


LIBBY: And that house is about 60 years old. It’s very noisy. Lots of just wear and scratches. And I’m trying to decide whether I should just not try to redo them and – or maybe there’s something that I can do to them to make them look better without totally refinishing them. I don’t know. You have any suggestions?

TOM: Well, sure, Libby. Let me ask you about the condition of the floors. You said that they’re scratched but are the scratches just in the finish or are they sort of deep scratches in the wood boards themselves?

LIBBY: No, they’re not deep scratches. Just from like – just everyday wear, mostly. They’re in really good shape. One room that’s not used very much is in I mean excellent – it looks almost brand new. But the other, there’s – it’s just normal, everyday kind of wear.

TOM: Alright. So here’s what you can do, Libby. You don’t have to belt-sand the floors, which is the way – when you totally refinish them, you take all the old finish off and you grind down an 1/8-inch of material. You don’t have to do that. What you can do is you could just lightly sand the upper surface of the finish and then put another layer or two of urethane over that.

The best way to do that is with a floor buffer and a sanding screen. Now, you can go to a tool-rental place and you can rent a floor buffer and then you can purchase sanding screens, which are these screens that are about 18 inches in diameter. Looks kind of like window-screen material but it’s abrasive.

And there’s two sides to it, so you can use one side, flip it over, then use the other side. And you position it underneath the floor buffer and as you use the buffer in the room, it lightly abrades the surface of the old floor. That takes out the dirt and the grime. It takes off some of the old – any old wax, that kind of stuff. And it’ll start to take out the scratches and that kind of evens it out and cleans it up. Then you vacuum it or damp-mop all that dust up. And then you can apply two layers of urethane.

Now, I’ll give you a trick of the trade. The first layer should be a high gloss, because the glossy urethane is harder than satin. So put the first layer of high gloss and maybe even a second layer of high gloss but your last layer could be satin. And that will give you a nice, even, soft finish and still be as hard as possible.

LIBBY: Oh, OK. I will see if I can get someone to help me with that.

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

LESLIE: Chad in Florida is on the line and having a really hard time getting that perfect shower. Tell us what’s going on.

CHAD: Oh, I’ve got an issue. The house was built in the late 50s, early 60s. And you go to take a shower and you turn the hot water – you think it would be up and then you turn the cold water on and it just seems like that the – you go to adjust the cold there and it makes a kind of a creaking noise. And it’s either scalding hot or freezing cold and you always kind of got to sit there and adjust the cold side on the shower there. And it seems to do it more when it starts to get colder out.

TOM: What you might want to do is think about replacing this with a pressure-balanced valve. A pressure-balance valve maintains the mix between hot and cold, regardless of the pressure in the pipe. So, as you pull more water or less water out of one side, because either the valve is doing that or somebody is using the water somewhere in the house, the flow of water can change but the mix – the balance – between the hot and the cold will not change. And that just makes it a lot more comfortable and frankly, a lot safer for you to use that water.

And if you’re still using two valves like that, it might be time to upgrade to pressure-balance, because I think you’ll find that that’s going to solve this problem.

CHAD: Alrighty. Yeah, that’s what I was – that was my next project. I just got finished doing – enclosing my carport. I’m doing an addition and the bathroom is coming next, so …

TOM: Wow. Well, we’re happy to help you select the next project, Chad.

CHAD: Hey, I appreciate it.

TOM: I’m sure your list – you were just wondering what were you going to put on that list and now you’re all set.

CHAD: That’s right, that’s right. It’s never-ending when you’re a homeowner, right?

TOM: Yep, absolutely. Chad, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at Give us a call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We’d love to hear whatever it is that you are working on this new year. I’m still going to call it a “new year,” because we’re fairly newly into the new year. I think I’m allowed to say “Happy New Year” until, what, February?

TOM: It’s fair. I think so, yeah.

LESLIE: I’m probably still going to be writing 2018 on checks for a while. So, as long as I’m doing that, Happy New Year, everybody.

Well, whatever it is that you are working on, give us a call. We want to lend you a hand, 888-MONEY-PIT. You know how to get us.

TOM: 888-666-3974.

Still to come, are squirrels helping themselves to meals from your bird feeders? We’re going to have some tips to keep those feeders full for your fine, feathered friends, when The Money Pit returns.

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

LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

TOM: Pick up the phone, give us a call, right now, with your home improvement question. The number, again, is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Or post it at

And hey, if you do pick up the phone or reach out to us online, we have got a great inducement. I guess we could call it an “inducement.” That’s a long word for a bribe for you to pick up the phone and call us. Because this hour, we’re giving away the Arrow PT50 Pneumatic Staple Gun and a supply of staples.

Now, this tool delivers some serious air-power performance at a price everybody’s going to love. It’s got great features, like an easy-load magazine, over-molded comfort grip, adjustable exhaust cover and a contact safety. And my favorite feature, only because it’s just fun to use, is it will bump-fire. That’s when you hold the trigger down and just staple, staple, staple, staple, staple. Just by touching the end of it to the project, you can really speed those big jobs along.

If you’d like to win it, you’ve got to pick up the phone and give us a call, right now, with your home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. And by the way, if one of your projects is to carpet stair treads, has the step-by-step you need to do just that. That is their project of the week at Just go to, click on Projects. And they’ve got some really great content there with photos and tips and materials lists, everything you need to take on that project and many more, at

LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re heading out to Wisconsin where Kimmy has a question about mold. What can we do for you today?

KIMMY: It’s on the walls and it started at the bottom of the wall. It’s just like black mold and in some areas, it’s somewhat green but most of it is black. And I was trying to get the basement refurnished. And when the guy came and started it, he had to stop because the mold is coming through the panel and you can still see it at the bottom.

TOM: Yeah. Now, this is a home that you own, Kimmy?

KIMMY: No. I’m renting.

TOM: You’re renting it. OK. So, this is the landlord’s problem; this isn’t your problem. And it’s a potentially serious problem, depending on how much of it is there. That type of mold that you describe is what’s known as Stachybotrys: that sort of blackish, greenish mold. And in some cases, it can be – cause an allergic-like effect on people. Could make you not feel very well. And people that are really sensitive to molds can get super sick around it.

Removing it is possible but there’s a process to it. It’s not just a matter of tearing out the old walls or scrubbing it away. Because if you do it incorrectly, you can release those mold spores and they float around the air. And it can get up into the parts of the house that don’t have mold and kind of contaminate it.

So, I would take some pictures of it. I would send a letter to the landlord and let him know what’s going on. And he’s got to address it, because this is a potentially very serious problem. You can’t let it continue.

KIMMY: Thank you so much. I appreciate it. I noticed that since I moved here – asthma runs in my family but I never had asthma. And now I have asthma, I have bronchitis.

TOM: You may be living in a sick house. Your dog seems quite happy, though.

KIMMY: You know, they tried – I even – they even said that it could be dog hair.

TOM: No, no. If you’ve got that kind of mold, you’ve got a serious problem. You need to put him on notice that they’ve got to fix it.

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

LESLIE: Well, if you really enjoy feeding the birds, you probably don’t enjoy feeding everything else around, like squirrels. My favorite online video is always the one of the squirrel with the horse-head feeder.

Have you seen this, Tom?

TOM: No, I haven’t. I’ll have to take a look.

LESLIE: It looks like he’s got this big horse-head mask on but it’s really a bird feeder that they’ve designed just to make a joke.

TOM: OK. Yep. Right.

LESLIE: It’s hilarious. So, you guys know how quickly squirrels can easily get into bird feeders. That’s why you should always look for that birdseed that can help you to repel those squirrels.

Now, there are several on the market that birds love. Squirrels? Not so much.

TOM: Now, if you do have bird feeders, you know how tough it is to keep the squirrels out. But you can try to keep them away by placing those feeders away from trees and power lines and porches and other launching points.

Squirrels are actually great jumpers. They can actually jump distances of 10 feet or longer. So, they’re pretty darn athletic animals.

LESLIE: I mean they really, really are. It’s so crazy.

Now, another option is mounting the bird feeder on a smooth, metal pole at least 6 feet high with no surrounding branches or bushes within 12 feet. This way, they can’t leap onto it from something and they certainly can’t climb up the pole. I’m sure they’d figure something out but that’s pretty much a good rule of thumb to keep them away from it. And you always want to use feeders with openings big enough for the birds but too small for the squirrels.

TOM: Ah, that’s a great point.

Now, we use a suet feeder. You know what that is? It’s like a metal cage and it’s designed to fit this block of suet, which is great. Because the suet blocks cost $1 or less each and they last about 2 weeks. So, we are keeping our birds very well fed and the squirrels away just with this very simple suet feeder. So you don’t have to spend a lot of money on a bird feeder. You can get something very, very inexpensive and keep them visiting your house in this chilly winter weather. And this way, you get to enjoy them all year long.

Hey, if you’ve got a home improvement question on your mind – maybe it’s a project you’re thinking about tackling when it gets a bit warmer in a couple of months – that would be a great thing to call us about right now. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

LESLIE: Paul in Texas is on the line with a water question. What can we do for you?

PAUL: I have a long run from the main hot-water heater to the both bathrooms: the master and the guest. And I was wondering if I could take a smaller hot-water heater, like a 6- or 7-gallon, and put it near the bathrooms – a little electric one – and run it in series with the main hot-water heater so that initially – that I have hot water immediately. And by the time that that hot-water heater gets empty, the main hot-water heater will be supplying it. And I was curious if there are any issues with that or if there is a better idea or a better way of doing it.

TOM: Well, Paul, as you’ve correctly identified, the issue here is really the distance between the water heater and the plumbing fixture. The longer that water has to travel, the longer you have to wait for the water to get hot. Now, you asked if adding a water heater closer would help. Yeah, it would but you’d have to split that water off into, basically, two completely separate zones.

There’s a better option now and it’s called a “water-recirculating system.” There is one that just came out that’s available at The Home Depot called Watts Hot-Water Recirculating System. It’s only a couple hundred bucks. And the way it works is it’s a recirculating pump that’s put on top of the water heater that will actually cycle the water between the water heater itself and the fixture that’s farthest away from it.

There is a bypass valve that goes in at the fixture that’s farthest away. And that’s a very easy thing to install. It’s a sort of sensor valve at the sink, generally, as far away from the water as you can get. And then what’ll happen is it will always have hot water recirculating through those lines at the ready.

Now, the key to saving money with this is it’s on a timer, so you only run this when you need it. So when would that be? Well, typically, it’s, say, first thing in the morning. An hour or so before you wake up, you have the timer turn the recirculator on and maybe a few hours at night. But that really can save you quite a bit of water.

PAUL: Then don’t you have to run return plumbing from the fixture back to the hot-water heater?

TOM: No, actually, you don’t. The pump is hooked up to the water heater and the sensor valve gets installed at the sink that’s farthest away from that water heater. It installs – the whole thing installs, believe it or not, in less than an hour. And everything is included in the kit, so it’s really the way to go if you’re trying to solve this problem the easy way.

PAUL: Huh. OK. Well, I’ll check that out then.

TOM: Alright. Well, take a look at that. It’s called the Watts Hot-Water Recirculating System. It works really, really well.

PAUL: I’ll look at it then. Thanks.

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

LESLIE: Hey, do you have a basement but not a bathroom? Well, adding a basement bath is a project that delivers a lot of value to your home but it does require some very special planning. Because here, gravity counts, especially with this project. We’re going to have some tips to help you, 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: Standing by for your calls. You can reach us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor.

Winter is here. Is your roof ready? How’s it doing? Well, spring’s around the corner, as well, and it’s a great time to replace that roof. Perhaps think about updating your A/C system. These are projects that HomeAdvisor can help with. They can instantly match you with the right pro for the job, for free.

LESLIE: Well, if you’ve got a basement space at home, adding a bathroom can make that space more usable and add to your home’s value.

TOM: Yes. But gravity being what it is, bathrooms that are below grade need special considerations in order to go with the flow. Here to talk us through the options is a guy that always goes with the flow: Richard Trethewey, the plumbing-and-heating contractor on TV’s This Old House.

Going with the flow is pretty much your business, isn’t it?

RICHARD: We try to do it as much as we can.

TOM: So let’s talk about basement bathrooms. I mean they definitely add some value but because they’re below grade, you really need to have some special considerations about building one, right?

RICHARD: Right. Everybody, really, would love – if they have a basement, they would love to add a bathroom to it.

LESLIE: Yeah. But can I jump in here?


LESLIE: There’s a time when I like to go look at houses, just for fun; not that I’m in the market to move.

RICHARD: Yeah, yeah.

LESLIE: But I enjoy going to open houses. And you’ll get there and on the listing, they won’t say anything about a bathroom in the basement. And then you get there and it’s sort of like the – “Oops, by the way, there’s a bathroom here. Just ixnay on the bathroom-ay.”

RICHARD: Oh, it’s just that it exists and nobody talks about it?

LESLIE: Yes. Like are there codes? Are there local reasons why you wouldn’t be able to have one?

RICHARD: Well, there are codes because you have to make sure something is properly vented and is permitted. And in the case you talk about, maybe that’s the case that one of those conditions were not met.

Typically, most people want to have a bathroom. Now, you look in the basement and you look at where the main drainpipe leaves the building. If the main drainpipe comes down through the building and exits at a point 4 feet up in the basement wall, there’s no way that you can have a basement bathroom that works by gravity, where you don’t need a pump or some other method. And so you’re locked out of a conventional way.

If you do look and see that pipe go down into the floor, it means that it will turn to horizontal – to 90 degrees – and now you can open up the concrete floor and you can break into that piping and you can actually have a bathroom down in the basement. Now, everybody wants that but it’s a big job. You break up the concrete. Now you can put in the drain lines for both your toilet and your shower and your lavatory.

But now the challenge is you have to find a way to vent that entire bathroom group. So it means that you either have to run a vent pipe up through the building and carry it up to a point – to the highest point in the building before you exit the roof and then reconnect to the vent stack. And that often becomes prohibitive. So the conventional way is oftentimes the much more difficult way to do it and to do it legally.

So there’s other alternatives. Some people love these beautiful macerators. It’s a – there’s a couple different manufacturers. One of them is Sani-Flush, I remember. And it has this little box that lets you put the toilet pipe – maybe you just have to build up a short stoop. You might only go up by 12 inches and have the bathroom 8 to 10 or 12 inches higher. And now, everything works into this little pump unit that macerates any solids but also sends it out through a 1-inch discharge pipe. And so now it becomes almost unlimited to where you can put a bathroom.

TOM: You know, you’re the only guy I know that would ever use the word “beautiful” and “sewage pump” in the same sentence.

RICHARD: Well, that is my dementia.

LESLIE: “Beautiful macerator.”

RICHARD: That’s right.

LESLIE: Oh, it’s wonderful.

RICHARD: That was a great movie.

So, the other thing that is – if you want to have a more conventional – and not use the macerator, you also could dig a pit in your basement and put in a thing called a “sewage ejector.” That’s a receptor that’s going to take in 30, 40 or 50 gallons of liquid and that liquid would be liquid and solids. And so then you would rough the …

LESLIE: Waste. Human waste.

RICHARD: Waste, absolutely. That would – so you would rough the bathroom into the basement, have all of its drain go by gravity back to this receptor.

Now, in that receptor, at the bottom of it is the equivalent of a sump pump. And so as the level rises, then and only then would that pump come on and would then pump the liquid up and into the conventional drain line.

TOM: Drain.

LESLIE: But that sounds like you need some sort of property to have that. You’re digging holes and making pits.

TOM: You need a – you know what you need, Leslie? You need a jackhammer. And it’s a lot of work. We did it – I remember we did it in Year One of Ask This Old House. It was one of the first how-tos we ever did. And it got unbelievable response. And it was before we even know about the macerators or showed them. But people really would love to have that. It expands their living space. If you have a basement, it’s a shame not to have a …

LESLIE: Oh, please. My son tries to go to the bathroom in the slop sink in the laundry room. That’s like his dream. I’m like, “You’re not allowed.”

RICHARD: Well, great. Nothing like little boys.

TOM: Yeah. Got to love them.

LESLIE: I’m like, “Not allowed.”

TOM: Well, the other thing about putting that sewage lift pump below grade is now you can tie in your sink and your shower easily.

RICHARD: That’s right. You can have a full bathroom down there, right.

TOM: Right. Now, I know you can do that with a macerator but it has to be up – elevated – like a few inches, right?

LESLIE: To get things to go in the right direction.

RICHARD: Well, yeah, yeah, yeah.

TOM: Something that could be a step-up shower.

RICHARD: You could put the macerator down below the grade but that’s more work than it’s worth. The ones – the macerators are generally used to be above grade and you build up from there.

Now, there’s also an eco-friendly one that we see more and more people at least being interested in, which is composting toilets. It’s sort of like having your own little compost pile in your own bathroom. And they do a good job in places. And I think we’re going to have to look at these more often.

We did a story on Ask This Old House this year about the very real water-supply issue in the American Southwest. And if you’ve ever seen any map of how hard it’s getting, water is a big, big story now. And the toilet is one of the major users of water in the house. And it’s either the toilet is the biggest one or you’re trying to have a green lawn. And both of those things will be challenging going forward. And then there’s – some of the macerating and compost toilets will use much less water.

TOM: So, the options are to use the existing system, to use a macerator, to use a sewage-ejector system or a composting toilet. I imagine they all have their own unique maintenance needs. Is one more work than another, in terms of maintenance?

RICHARD: Well, anything, if you’ve put a foreign material into anything that has a pump – the macerator or the sewage ejector – it’s going to be an issue. It’s going to clog or something. So you’ve got to be careful. Anything that goes in it is no different than the life of a – on a boat. You’ve got to make sure that anything that goes into the toilet is something you’ve eaten first and …

TOM: And easily composted later. And I think we’ll leave it right there.

LESLIE: Always do.

TOM: Richard Trethewey, the plumbing-and-heating contractor on TV’s This Old House. See, I told you he always goes with the flow.


TOM: Thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

RICHARD: Great to be here, as always.

LESLIE: Alright. Catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For local listings and step-by-step videos of many common home improvement projects, visit

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

Up next, is there a chance your mattress is making you sick? Well, there are some simple steps you can take to keep it bacteria-free. That and more, when The Money Pit continues after this.

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

LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

TOM: Standing by for your calls, your questions. You can reach us at 888-MONEY-PIT and that’s presented by HomeAdvisor, where it’s easy to find top-rated, local home improvement pros for any home project. Just go to

Leslie, I’ve got a question for you. Here we are in the middle of January. Did you take your Christmas tree down yet?

LESLIE: It’s down. It was – Tom, it was so bad this year …

TOM: Aww. I thought maybe you’d make it last until February.

LESLIE: No. That’s my dream, truly. But Thanksgiving was so early this year and I always put it up the day after Thanksgiving.

TOM: Yeah, that’s true. Yep.

LESLIE: And truly, by 10 days before Christmas, it was dead. No matter what I did, it was just done. And I took it down New Year’s Day. And when I went to unscrew the sort of the four bolts that hold the tree straight up in the stand, one unscrewed very, very easy and then the other one gave me such – you know, there’s four but the second one gave me such a hard time.

TOM: Oh, yeah? Uh-huh. Right. Right.

LESLIE: And I was trying so hard and getting tools and twisting until, all of a sudden, the tree fell over right on top of me on the floor.

TOM: Then you got it down that way.

LESLIE: I have never seen so many tree needles. And when I finally just dragged it out of the house, there was basically not one needle left on that tree.

TOM: Right. It was a trail.

LESLIE: And I think I went through four vacuum bags and a garbage bag.

TOM: Oh, man.

LESLIE: It was such a mess.

TOM: What a mess.

LESLIE: The boys, of course, thought it was hilarious.

TOM: Hilarious. Right. Yeah. And you know you’re going to be finding those needles for months now.

LESLIE: They’re still in my hair.

TOM: Well, if you’ve got some home improvement projects that are stuck in your hair or giving you gray hair, give us a call right now. We’d like to chat with you and maybe help you out, get those projects done whether you’re fixing up an apartment, house, condo or a barn. You can call us at 888-MONEY-PIT. If you do, we’ll toss your name in The Money Pit hard hat. We’ve got that great Arrow PT50 Pneumatic Staple Gun and a supply of staples going out to one caller drawn at random. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

LESLIE: Sparky in Georgia is on the line with a question about cleaning a bathroom. How can we help you today?

SPARKY: I live in a subdivision, about 65 employees out in the country. I actually test the water on a daily basis for the chlorine and report that at the end of the month to the local provider. I’ve got a two-bedroom house. In one bathroom, I’ve got no problem with the water in the tank or the bowl. In the master bedroom, I’ve got the bath where it’s got a black ring – water ring. And I’ve replaced the water line, the inside of the water tank, replaced the entire bowl and it continues to come up. Even after we clean the bowl, we still get that black water ring.

LESLIE: So you’re able to remove it but it comes back.

SPARKY: That’s correct.

TOM: And it only shows up on that bathroom and not others.

SPARKY: That’s correct. And the products that we’ve gotten from the – off the store shelf have not been able to help, either. And we’ve actually gone to the internet and it says the more chlorine you put in it, the more that black ring will come back. But we’ve cleaned the bath – both bathrooms with the same products.

TOM: Are the toilets the same age?

SPARKY: The same age, yes. I’ve called the water company and they said they don’t have a clue. And I said I’d sampled the water and tested it every day for the monthly reports.

TOM: I wonder if there’s something different about the porcelain finish on that toilet. For example, if it – if one toilet’s finish was – maybe it was scrubbed more over the years and as a result, it’s worn off some of its porcelain so it’s a bit more porous and becomes more of a trap for bacteria to kind of grow in. And I’m speculating here. I’m kind of shooting from the hip, Sparky, because I know that you’ve tried all of the – all the sort of normal things. But it’s confusing that it happens just in this one particular bathroom with this one particular toilet.

I guess, given everything that you’ve done, have you considered just replacing the toilet and seeing if that does it?

SPARKY: Well, that we’ve done. In fact, I’ve got to go back and – you may be onto something. Because one bowl is round, which is the one issue that we’ve got. The other bathroom is oblong. So they work – same manufacturer but two different bowls.

TOM: That would be the only thing that seems left, because you’ve done everything else.

SPARKY: I was just wondering if there was some product on the market, other than Coca-Cola.

TOM: Yeah. Look, there’s a lot of products that clean this but it’s not going to stop it from coming back. The go-to product for me is CLR. Have you used that yet?

SPARKY: No, I have not.

TOM: So that’s an old standby. Take a look at CLR Calcium – it stands for Calcium, Lime and Rust. It basically is the – one of the best toilet-bowl cleaners out there. Inexpensive. And give that a shot. But if it continues to develop that issue, I might consider replacing the toilet if it’s really bothersome. Either that or get one of those Ty-D-Bol men with the blue dye so you just don’t notice it.

SPARKY: Correct. Yeah, there you go. Thank you very much.

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

For all the time we spend on them, most of us give our mattresses very little to absolutely no TLC, which means a shortened life span and even the risk of illness.

LESLIE: That’s right. Now, if you don’t want to take the steps to keep it clean, you could be sleeping on a bed of bacteria, which is super just disgusting to even think about.

Now, you can keep those germs away by investing in a mattress cover. Not only is the cover going to protect your mattress from dust and dust mites, it’s going to actually ward off any bacteria.

TOM: Now, if something spills on your mattress, you want to remember not to let it soak in. Instead, you want spray on a solution of mild dish soap and water and scrub it with a soft brush, then blot it dry with a towel and let it air-dry. Don’t use a hair-dryer or anything like that; just blot it dry and let it air-dry. That’s the best way to stop that moisture from getting in there and causing any further issues, like mold.

LESLIE: Yeah. Now, every three months, you also want to alternate between rotating and flipping your mattress. And if you’re going on vacation, let your mattress do the same. Strip your bed before you leave town and that’s going to give your mattress a nice dose of sanitizing fresh air, sunlight, all those wonderful things that sort of help regenerate the feeling of the mattress and actually make it better, as well.

TOM: And one thing you don’t want to do is to use dry-cleaning agents on your mattress. Some folks think that that’s the way to go but the chemicals in these spot removers can be very harmful to the fabric and to the underlying material. So there you go: a few tips to help keep those mattresses in great shape and germ-free.

888-666-3974. Give us a call right now. We’d love to hear what you’re working on in your money pit.

LESLIE: Hey, do you have some really cold floors in your home? Well, we’re going to have some tips to help warm up those tootsies, after this.

TOM: Where home solutions live, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

TOM: Post your home improvement question, right now, to The Money Pit’s Community page at or call it in to us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT presented by HomeAdvisor, where it’s easy to find top-rated, local home improvement pros for any home project. Just go to

LESLIE: Alright. You’ve got two pros standing by, right now, to jump into our emails that we get and the posts we get, also, at And I’ve got one here from Nick.

Now, Nick writes: “Now that it’s really cold outside, my hardwood foyer and tiled kitchen floor are really cold, even with the heat set to 70 degrees. Is it worthwhile to insulate the ceiling joists of my basement?”

TOM: You know, that’s a good question. It’s never a bad idea to insulate a basement ceiling which is, essentially, the kitchen floor in your case. Now, the insulation should not only be in between the floor joists but it has to extend all the way to the exterior walls. That’s what we call the “box beam,” which is the one that’s kind of perpendicular to those floor joists. That’s where the floor beams sit on top of the foundation wall.

Now, the best insulation – perhaps the most convenient for a DIYer – would be to simply use unfaced fiberglass-batt insulation. It’s pretty easy to use because there are some insulation hangers, which are basically wires, that are just a little bit longer than the space between those floor joists, Nick. And you can put the insulation up into that space and then push the wire up underneath it and it kind of supports it right in place. So it’s kind of an easy job to do. Won’t take you very long and you’ll see an immediate improvement in the temperature of that floor. Which if it’s like my house, you’ll notice that when you come downstairs first thing in the morning. Just don’t do it in bare feet because you might be just a tad chilly, right?

LESLIE: Right.

TOM: Now, you also might want to think about extending that insulation downward over the basement walls. And there are some special insulation products that have built-in vapor barriers designed just for that purpose.

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

TOM: That would have been the exact right thing to do if the cracks were in drywall, Marian. Because that nylon wall tape would sort of stretch over the two sides of the crack and pull together.

But plaster is a completely different animal because the way plaster works is there were wood sticks called “lath” that were nailed onto the frame of the house, on the inside walls. And then that wet plaster covered them. And so, it’s so loose at this point that the paper tape and the nylon wall tape is just not going to work.

So, what you can do is use something called a “plaster washer.” It’s kind of like a washer, just like I said, but it’s very, very wide, even wider than what a fender washer is, if you know what that is. It basically has holes in it so that you can not only attach it with a screw but the holes help the plaster that you put on top of it stay in place. If you put these on both sides of the crack, the plaster washer will then support that loose plaster and hold it up.

Now, once it’s supported, then you can apply that nylon tape and replaster it. And chances are it will not crack again. The problem is that it was just – that that plaster is loose. When it’s put on wet and over all these years, it just starts to loosen up. And when that happens, you really do need to secure it. Because frankly, if it’s in the ceiling, it can come down with a bang and it’s really heavy. It can actually hurt you.

LESLIE: I mean it’s really amazing. I’ve seen so many houses that suddenly have a drop ceiling where you know there used to be plaster. And it’s because it’s an easy solution to something that happened very unexpectedly.

TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Hey, thank you so much for spending this part of your day with us. If you’ve got home improvement questions, haven’t been able to get through to us today, couldn’t reach us or just couldn’t get online right now, you can call us, 24/7, at 888-MONEY-PIT. If we’re not in the studio, our team will take your number. We’ll call you back the next time we are. And remember, you can always post your questions to The Money Pit’s Community page at

For now, 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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