Q. During his teething days, my dog chewed my doorjambs and casings leaving them with many chew marks, deep but not ruining the wood. Can I fill them with wood filler and then repaint?
A. The problem is curable, but not with wood filler, which would be too costly to fill all those holes, scratches, and bites. Joint compound would also work, but the best stuff to use is Minwax Wood Rot Filler, an epoxy that will not only stick to the wood but can be smoothed out and sanded before priming and painting.
Epoxy is a two-part mix, but don’t mix a whole lot because it will harden in 15 minutes, before you finish your work. Also, apply Minwax’s wood hardener before applying the epoxy.
Q. My old house has aluminum storms that are old and dark and extremely hard to open and close. They are square in their frames and tight enough, and I also cleaned them and applied WD-40, with no results. What can I do?
A. Those old windows are not anodized and the aluminum is very rough, and are probably friction fit (without latches) and are unlikely to improve much. This might help: remove the sash and rub all contact points on window and frame with candle wax.
Here’s what Peg from South Weymouth said she did to get rid of snakes in her local garden and her garden in Florida: “I found ‘Snake Away’ at Home Depot. I bought a gallon of it; it is grainy and the cobras don’t like to slither over grainy things. I started around the outside of my house and eventually around the perimeter of the yard. So far, no cobras. And I used to have many cobras in my yard.” The Handyman said there are no cobras in Massachusetts, except in zoos. “They are all cobras, to me,” said Peg.
Q. I have a cottage on Cape Cod, with no heat. When is it safe to install drywall, set ceramic tile, and put up Sheetrock? I plan to have it done over the winter. Also, are there any restrictions on laying plastic on the sandy floor of the crawl space, or installing insulation?
A. Drywall and Sheetrock are the same kind of plasterboard wall, and require joint compound to smooth over joint tape and nail heads. Tile requires thin-set mortar or adhesive. All are sensitive to freezing, so the work has to be done above freezing, or maybe even 40 degrees during the work and for six hours after. Fortunately, all these materials set and cure in six hours or so . For laying plastic sheets and insulating, the only restriction is the comfort of the workers.
Andersen repair kits
When Gino Marrinveci asked how he could fix his Andersen windows which had lost their strings, the Handyman suggested he call an Andersen dealer.
Two callers beat him to it. Carmine Riccioli of Medford said he found Andersen repair kits at J.B. Sash & Door Co. in Chelsea. Bill from Waltham said he bought kits for $15 each at J.C. Adams in Cambridge.
Q. I have been struggling to grow grass in my shady backyard. It is small, 20 by 25 feet, and the struggle has been long and frustrating. I finally came up with an idea to put down AstroTurf or a similar surface. I have seen some and it is rather realistic. What do you think?
A. I have never been a fan of any fakery in the yard, but your situation is ideal for a plot of high-grade artificial grass. Build a border of brick in sand about 4 feet wide on three sides, with the open part butting up to the stairs. Then fill in with the AstroTurf or other brand. Make sure it drains, and if it does not, slope it a bit to drain into the border. Or make the border into a garden for shade loving plants such as hosta and foxglove.
Q. We have a robin or robins living near our townhouse that leave bird droppings on our sidewalk, driveway, privacy fence, and lawn. They also peck large holes in our garden looking for worms, scattering the mulch around. I think they sleep in a tree near the driveway. Do you have any suggestions for getting rid of them?
A. Huh? That would be like shoveling sand against the tide. It’s a natural occurrence, and you and I are butting into their territory. Live with them. Keep a cat in your protected yard. Take off the mulch and expose the earth, which they won’t disturb. Hose off the droppings, and enjoy the nice weather.