Handyman on call

Wasp invasion doesn’t have to sting

Q. Help! I have been in my house for 10 years, but this year my yard and outdoor areas are inundated by wasps. They are all over the house, in the ground and making big paper nests. I am desperate for a repellent or just to kill them. I’ve been stung twice. This year is the worst in 10 years.


A. You hit the problem right on the head. You have two kinds: a paper wasp, which makes nests the size of a football, and the ones in the ground, called mud daubers or ground wasps. Your best bet is to ignore them if you can. Don’t fool with the mud daubers, they are the meanest.

If not, there are repellents made of pyrethrins and something called Microcare, and killers such as flying insect killer, hand dusters, electric zappers, and sprays, and wasp traps. You can go after ones on or close to the house, but try to avoid other areas. If you try to do something about them, do it in the cool of the evening or during cooler weather. They generally die out after a killing frost; the queens hibernate until spring when they start new colonies. Don’t bother taking down paper nests; they will not be occupied again. Repellents and sprays are sold in nurseries, garden centers, and hardware stores.


Q. Winter may be over, but I am having trouble with my front step treads. They are bluestone or flagstone, 2 inches thick. After many years, they are spalling, little chips, some are big chips, coming right off the top. The depressions left by the chips are holding water. What can I do? I think the cracks appeared after the use of snow melt.


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A. I think your treads are bluestone or limestone, one piece for each tread. I don’t think they are flagstone, which is not usually used for stair treads, and are usually not cut 2 inches thick. The bluestone or limestone had invisible cracks, and water got in and froze, and popped off the chips.

There is no cure but replacement. Use bluestone (no guarantees on any invisible crack), or better yet granite, which can be cut with a rough, slip-resistant surface. Make sure the new treads are also 2 inches thick. Granite is more expensive but will outlast you, me, and Methuselah. If some of the treads are still in good shape, leave them in place. The contrasts between bluestone and granite will not be a problem.

Q. I am looking at a couple of houses that have asbestos siding. One is in good shape but with several shingles missing or broken beyond repair. The other has a lot of peeling paint. Are they worth buying?

ROD MASON,Somerville

A. You can buy replacement asbestoscement shingles. Lynn Lumber of Lynn is one that sells new shingles. The siding with peeling paint is the problem. You cannot scrape, sand, abrade, pressure-wash, drill, break, scratch, cut, or saw asbestos-cement. Perhaps scrubbing off the peeling paint with a stiff-bristle brush will work safely. The only alternative is to have the siding professionally removed.


Q. My wife and I have a four-poster bed that has been taken apart and put together several times by movers, who were either in a huge hurry or had no idea what they were doing or both. All the joints are loose, so we need to get it fixed, but we are not in a position to do it ourselves. How do we find a reliable furniture person or handyman who could do it for us?


A. Call an upholsterer. Such professionals not only reupholster furniture, they can also repair it. It sounds as if the bed just needs regluing.

Q. We have had bats in our attic and in our garage for years. We would like to get rid of them (at least the ones in our attic). There is bat poop all over our items and on the exposed insulation in the attic. Can you recommend a bat exterminator?


A. I don’t know of any bat-specific exterminators, but you can call an exterminator. If he does not exterminate bats, he might refer you to a bat expert who will get the bats out of the attic and make the house bat-proof.

Q. Last summer, I had my roof shingled and added a roof vent. I checked with the contractor about the size of the opening on each side of the ridge pole because they were only about 1 inch. He said they were OK. I think they are too small. I ask your opinion.


A. What you called a roof vent is a ridge vent. A 1-inch gap on each side of the ridge board means that the gap along the full length of the roof ridge is 2 inches, entirely adequate for good ventilation in conjunction with soffit vents (the soffit is the under part of the roof overhang). The proper soffit vent is a 2-inch wide screened strip the full length of all soffits. Incidentally, if your ridge is 30 feet long, the 2 inches of gaps under the ridge vent represents 5 square feet! The 2-inch-wide soffit vent represents another 5 square feet.

Peter Hotton is also in the g section on Thursdays. He is available 1-6 p.m. Tuesdays to answer questions. Call 617-929-2930. Hotton ( also chats online 2-3 p.m. Thursdays. To participate, go to