Handyman on Call

It may not be worthwhile reglazing the tub

Q. Is it possible, let alone practical, to reglaze a porcelain-enameled steel tub? Also, when I renovate my bathroom, who should I call? Would a general contractor be a good one to call? Also, is it safe to secure an unframed bathroom mirror to the wall?


A. It’s possible to reglaze anything, but some reglazers may not do it on a steel bathtub. There is a difference between an enameled steel tub and a porcelain-enameled steel tub. Enameled steel is worthless, in my opinion, because the steel will expand and contract so often the enamel will break quickly. Porcelain enamel is more likely to resist peeling.

 Even so, a new acrylic or fiberglass tub is excellent, lasting up to 35 years. But the king of them all is porcelain-enameled cast iron that will last forever. The only thing that can happen is that the porcelain enamel will wear off.


 Call a bathroom renovation specialist or dealer. Finally, mirrors designed for damp places will work very well fully secured to the wall.

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Q. I have an old, reliable (Glenwood) gas stove. I left a plastic container in the oven when I went to bake a pie. The pie was fine but the plastic melted into a smooth, thin puddle on the enameled steel oven floor. I scraped off the biggest melted piece, but another part is very sticky and cannot be moved. What shall I do? The Glenwood is no longer made.


A. Try Easy-Off oven cleaner spray. No one seems to know what the plastic is, so finding a solvent is iffy. See if the oven floor can be removed. If so, you can go after that melted plastic with vigor, or put in another steel floor. Or, call your appliance dealer to see if he has any ideas. Until the melted stuff is removed, I would be reluctant to cook in the oven.

Q. I don’t use my front entrance much. Last July, I discovered that the button on my front doorbell had fallen out, so I had my electrician install a new doorbell, this one with a light so you can locate it in the dark. A few days later a friend rang the doorbell and said that the doorbell was very, very hot — not just warm as most electrical things might be, but too hot to keep your hand on it.

 So I called my electrician and he replied that the light bulb gets pretty hot, but I replied not as hot as the doorbell is. He replied, who are you, a licensed electrician? He added that they don’t make doorbells without lights any more, but he found one anyway and installed it. It is a normal temp. Am I wrong in questioning his bill when it comes?



A. I’d wait to see what the bill is, and because of that dig he made to you, he might not send one. Anything hotter than “normal” is a hazard. OK, sit tight and see what happens. If you ever have such an experience again, have him take it out. Then install a big brass door knocker, which uses no power, is reliable and loud, never gets hot, is very handsome, and will outlast the door, the house, the electrician, you, and me.

Q. I have a big platform, like a stoop, in front of my house, topped by a concrete slab and sided by concrete blocks. Something has chewed big holes in the concrete blocks, 10 inches or so in diameter. The front steps leading to the platform are mortared bricks, and while the bricks are intact, mortar is falling out from them. Is the platform in danger of collapsing? Can I fill the holes and repoint the bricks?


A. You sure can, and stop worrying about anything collapsing. If you look in the holes, you will see the platform was filled with gravel. Fill the holes first. Buy Mortar Mix. There are several kinds and any will do, including Top ‘n’ Bond, which is easy to work with. Wet down the edges of the holes, then pile in more crushed stone so that the hole is filled to the inside side of the hole. Then trowel in more mortar until it is flush with the outside face of the blocks. Compact the mortar, but not so much that you are making a depression in the hole.

 If that seems a little much, you can buy real slate roof shingles, and glue a layer of these on the entire side of the platform with a waterproof glue.

 For the missing mortar between the bricks, press in the Mortar Mix very compactly. The only tools you will need besides a shovel (for mixing), are a small trowel and a pointing tool, an elongated S-shaped steel flat bar used to compact the mortar.

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