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S20 E36: Soil Testing, Adding a Receptacle

Mauro shares why he became a painter and what he loves about his job; Jenn shows how to test soil at home; Heath adds a receptacle to a kitchen island.

Previous episode: S20 E35 | Next episode: S20 E37

In this episode:

Paint expert Mauro Henrique explains how he became a painter, how he was introduced to the TOH crew, and his journey from Brazil to the United States. He tells us all about how it was never his goal to become a painter, but rather it was to become a carpenter. But, when the painter called in on a job that he was working on, his boss set him to work painting a room. It wasn’t long after that Mauro fell in love with painting.

Next, landscaping contractor Jenn Nawada teaches host Kevin O’Connor everything he needs to know about home soil test kits. Jenn explains the importance of soil testing, helping Kevin understand that he can’t fix what he doesn’t know about his yard.

First, Jenn teaches Kevin a bit about acidity and explains where the soil’s pH must be to benefit most plants. Then she shows Kevin the different home soil test kits, how they work, and the various mixtures a homeowner can purchase or create to amend their soil. Finally, Jenn shows Kevin a four-way soil analyzer that uses test probes to clue the user into the soil’s condition and needs.

Finally, master electrician Heath Eastman takes us to a house call. A homeowner explains that despite her relatively recent kitchen renovation, she has no outlets on her kitchen island. After discovering that the previous electrician did run wires to the island, Heath tracks them down and gets to work.

Heath shows the homeowner the best location for the outlet and how he makes clean, precise cuts using painter’s tape and an oscillating tool. Next, he uses a metal-clad cable and an electrical box to run from the outlet to the electrical box. Finally, he wires the new outlet and tests the GFCI.


How Mauro Became a Painter

Painting expert Mauro Henrique tells us how he became a painter and a member of the This Old House crew.

Testing Soil at Home

Landscaping contractor Jenn Nawada shows host Kevin O’Connor how to use a home soil test kit to check the condition of his soil.

Where to find it?

Jenn explains the importance of soil testing and how you can do it at home.

For the soil analyzer:

  • Clean the prongs of the tester with distilled water and clean cloth before use and between uses. This will keep the readings from being affected by the pH of a previous test or tap water.
  • Dig a small hole, remove organic debris, and insert the prongs into the soil you wish to measure. The first reading that appears will be pH, which is measured on a scale from 1 to 14, with 1 being the most acidic and 14 being the most alkaline. Seven is a neutral pH. Most plants will grow in a pH between 6 and 7.5.
  • These analyzers also often include a moisture reading as well. You will want the moisture to be at midrange.

Directions for pH strips are the same as the prong meters:

  • To dig a small hole, remove organic debris and thoroughly mix and wet the soil with distilled water.
  • With the strips, it helps to put a sample in a container and let it settle overnight. Don’t wipe off the strip after wetting—it will smear. Let it fully dry naturally and read the test results.

The capsule tests are as follows:

  • Dig between 3-4 inches below the surface with gloved hands and take a sample of soil, mix with distilled water, transfer some of the solution to the color comparator, add powder from each capsule to separate test containers, shake and watch the color develop. Then, note your test results. You are looking for adequate to sufficient results for each.

All materials used can be found online or at local home centers.


How to Install an Electrical Receptacle on a Kitchen Island

Master electrician Heath Eastman solves a problem for a homeowner by adding an outlet to her new kitchen island.

Where to find it?

Heath installs a receptacle to a kitchen island without an existing receptacle. He explains that at least one receptacle is necessary for any island or peninsula countertop to code.

After turning off the power by flipping the switch on the main breaker, Heath uses a Non-contact voltage tester pen to ensure the wires aren’t live. He suggests using painter’s tape and the electrical box to create a guide to cut into the cabinetry with an oscillating multitool. Next, he uses a level to check that the electrical box is perfectly vertical. Heath uses a hand drill to screw the electrical box into place before removing the knockouts. Once the knockouts have been removed, he runs wires through the box and connects the corresponding wires leading from the outlet. Restore power after replacing the receptacle cover.

National Electrical Code 210.52(C)(2) Island and Peninsular Countertops and Work Surfaces

  • One receptacle needed for first 9 square feet
  • Another receptacle needed for the next 18 square feet
  • A third receptacle needed for the remaining 18 square feet

Original Air Date: July 14, 2022, Season 43; Ep. 36 23:42