Q. 1) I plan to build a parking space in my backyard for two cars. What is best and cheapest: poured concrete or hot top (asphalt)? 2) When people tell me to build a fence, they say to put the wood posts in a bucket of concrete and then put the bucket in the ground. Does that make sense?
A. 1) Both concrete and hot top are good, but you can save money by doing the prep work for poured concrete. Excavate 12 inches, and add 6 inches of crushed stone for drainage, and pour 6 inches of concrete. That may seem a little too much, but if you add ¾-inch rebars, the slab will last for decades, and it will tend to float on the crushed stone, and avoid tilting or skewing.
2) Never put wood posts in concrete; it will guarantee decay within 10 years. Instead, put the posts in the earth, 2 feet deep. Use pressure-treated posts. Another way is to buy post stakes, steel boxes with a blade that can be driven into the ground. The box will hold a 4-by-4-inch post.
Q. The tenant has left my rental unit, but she had a lot of cats and the place stinks of cat urine. What can I do?
A. There are many odor controls on the market. Try Febreze, or wintergreen-scented rubbing alcohol. Wash with Coca-Cola. Go to any hardware store and ask for odor controls. If the urine stains are black on a hardwood floor, the only cure is to sand the stains to the bare wood, bleach the wood, and finish with an oil-based polyurethane varnish.
All that melting vinyl
Remember last week when Quincy asked about keeping her vinyl siding from warping from the heat reflected by her neighbor’s windows? The Handyman suggested that the neighbor put film on the offending windows to try to stop the reflections. Actually, he thought full aluminum screens on each of the reflecting windows would work, but forgot to mention them. The main reason for the melting is that the houses are too close together.
But others did think of full aluminum screens. The first to call was John Karnakyan, who heads up Stormtite of Watertown and who suggested full-window aluminum screens instead of half screens. George Murray of Melrose also suggested full black pet screens.
Thank you all for your ideas, and especially to Tom Pantages of Marlborough, who calls himself Doubting Thomas, who wrote: “Although it has been proven that the legend of Archimedes using mirrors to burn enemy ships could be true, it is hard to conceive of several windows melting a neighbor’s vinyl siding. Conversely, it is equally hard to conceive of any other cause of the melting vinyl. I wonder if this is now the source of a new urban legend? Can this be verified as a legitimate problem?’’
Q. I left my tool box outdoors and the tools and part of the box rusted. How can I remove the rust and protect the tools?
A. For the tools, remove the rust with steel wool, then oil them lightly with mineral oil or paint thinner before storing. For the box, sand off the rust and repaint.
Q. I’ve had two bids to install vinyl siding. One bidder said he would use ¼-inch Styrofoam insulation behind the siding. Another said he would use ⅜-inch Styrofoam insulation. Is the ⅛-inch difference that important?
A. Essentially there is no difference between the two, insulation-wise. Both will provide insulation value, both will provide an even, smooth surface for the new vinyl to sit properly, and both will provide enough insulation to keep the back of the sheathing warm enough to prevent condensation of moisture in the wall cavity. Take your pick.
Q. I am trying to keep my parents’ old house from deteriorating. The latest problem is a number of jalousie windows, the type with large glass louvers that open and close like a Venetian blind. One window’s louvers are locked in position, and the crank is not moving them. Can I fix them?
A. You mentioned a bolt and washer that is missing its nut. That bolt makes the louvers move as a unit, which is not happening. Take the bolt and washer to a hardware store and get a nut that will fit the bolt, and reinstall it.