Do-it-yourself light switch wiring

Q. I recently changed a standard light switch to a dimmer switch. My issue is that I really had to stuff the new switch and wiring back into the box. Is there concern over fire? I capped everything and taped. But it’s tight quarters in there.

TODD A., in Hotton’s chat room

A. Those wires are very tough, and since you capped them and taped, the tight quarters should be OK. If you are still concerned, you might be able to buy a bigger box, but you may also have to buy a bigger plate. Or maybe, buy a double box to accommodate the wires, and put a double switch plate on it.

Q. Some time ago you were kind enough to provide information on placing snow rails on my rubber-roofed second floor dormer, all of 30 feet wide. One roofer wanted $4,000, and another roofer said he would not do it, for fear that gluing or screwing on the rails would cause leaks.


The only suggestion that seems reasonable is to have wood boxes built over skylights or roof windows we have on our family room below to protect them from snow crashing in. The boxes would be temporary, of course.

GUEST,in Hotton’s chat room

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A. I think the rubber roof is shallow enough to prevent built-up snow from going over the edge and crashing down on the skylights. That usually happens when the roof is steep and the roofing material is slippery, as with slate or metal. All things considered, I’d leave well enough alone, and keep an eye on the roof when the snow gets deep. I think it will melt before it gets hazardous. Put on the boxes if you are concerned.

Q. My condo is in a 1960s brick building with some bad sliding windows. I have mold growing on the inside, where I can touch it, so it is not between the two layers of glass. I had the glass replaced, and now in cold weather the inside glass is wet. I can wipe it off, but it comes back. How can I fix that?


A. What you have is excessive moisture in the house, which is condensing on the cold glass. The first time around, mold grew. The second time, with new glass, you just got condensation. What you can do to stop the water is to ventilate the house. Open windows for five minutes in the morning and five minutes in late afternoon, to release that moisture to the outdoors. If you have a humidifier, turn it off and see what happens. Another way to reduce moisture is with a dehumidifier. The dehumidifier is expensive to run, but once it takes out the moisture, it can be shut off.

Q. I have an old, never painted basement concrete floor which I would like to make a uniform color. I believe in the past you have recommended a semi-transparent stain. Do I remember correctly? It already has a number of unintentional stains.

JAY,in Hotton’s chat room


A. Yes, you remember correctly. I have been preaching this gospel for years, and might even have a few adherents. Wash the floor thoroughly before staining. If you get rid of those unintentional stains, fine. If not, don’t worry about them. The stain may cover them, or at least disguise them.

Q. I am planning to roof a small shed with cedar shingles. Is it OK to install them directly on the solid sheathing without paper or furring strips?

ANDY,in Hotton’s chat room

A. No. Cedar and other wood shingles on the sheathing will rot because they can’t breathe. Wood shingles should be applied over a small layer of air. In the good old days, builders spaced the sheathing boards (don’t use plywood) about 6 inches apart. Today wood shingles are applied over Cedar Saver, an air-permeable blanket that provides the proper air space under shingles. This is what you can do: Install furring strips (1 x 3 boards) parallel to the ridge, about 6 inches apart. Then put red cedar shingles on that furring, exposed 5 inches to the weather. Leave the furring exposed at each end, for proper air flow.

Globe Handyman on Call Peter Hotton also appears in the Sunday Real Estate section. He is available 1-6 p.m. Tuesdays to answer questions on house repair. Call 617-929-2930. Hotton ( also chats online about house matters 2-3 p.m. Thursdays. Go to