Q. I have six drawer pulls, four key covers, and eight brads for the key covers that I want to have brass plated. I am having no success in locating a source to have the pieces brass plated. Do you or any of your readers know of a source to have the plating done?
STANTON HEALY, MARLBOROUGH
A. Those drawer pulls, keyhole covers, and mavbe even the brads might be solid brass. I have never heard of a brass-plated drawer pull.
Actually, the pulls and the discoloration that you described are typical of solid brass and its tarnishing patterns.
Put a magnet on any pull or keyhole cover. If it sticks, it is indeed brass-plated steel. If it doesn’t, it is solid brass and it can be polished to look new.
Most polishes are pretty good. Brasso, the stuff we used in the Army back in the midcentury to polish our brass, is not good.
If it is brass-plated steel, you can have it plated. Check the Yellow Pages under Metal Plating, or Google metal plating.
Q. I have hundreds of fruit flies or gnats flying all over my house. How can I get rid of them? They look like baby flies. HELP!!!
A. If you have fruit in your kitchen or elsewhere in the house, they are fruit flies, I think, and they came in with the fruit and multiplied. You can keep the fruit bagged, but if the flies are already in your house, here’s the treatment: Fill a small bowl with red wine or wine vinegar and a drop of detergent. The flies are lured to the wine or vinegar, and the detergent will cause them to drown.
Don’t use white vinegar. White vinegar contains no fruit and the flies will ignore it. If you see lots of the flies in the vinegar or wine, your guess is as good as mine.
Q. I have a tall concrete pagoda for my yard. The concrete is developing a white powder. I can brush it off, but it keeps coming back. Can I seal it?
A. That powdering is efflorescence, the leaching of lime out of concrete by water. Keep brushing it off and it might eventually stop. It is harmless. Yes, you can seal it: One coat of a clear sealer will do it for a while.
Q. I asked you a question recently in your chat room about a punky spot on a bathroom floor near the corner of the bathtub. Now the tiles are loose. Before I could save your advice, the session ended. I would like to show the information to my husband. Any way I can retrieve your response?
A. You sure can, and this is the message, lightly edited: That floor is no longer punky but downright wet, and rotting, and all or part of it must be replaced.
It sounds as if moisture is condensing on the tub or toilet bowl, if it is nearby, and running down and staying on the floor until the tiles loosen and the wood under them decays. You need a plumber to lift the toilet and check the tub for any rotten wood under.
You need a carpenter to check the tiles and remove them, and any rotten wood under them. And someone, probably the plumber to find out what caused the decay.
In my view, the decay was caused by water, which came from a toilet leak or condensation of water vapor on the bowl, and on the tub. The tub drain also should be checked. The toilet leak can be fixed by a plumber, and the condensation ended by ventilating the bathroom during and after baths and showers, and installing an exhaust fan exhausting to the outdoors. If any decayed wood is under the tub, it might be a pretty big project.
Q. My butcher block table is a real butcher block, treated with linseed oil and it has served me well. Now it looks pretty tired. How can I restore the surface?
DICK MAKELA, PEABODY
A. Power sand the top to the bare wood, clean off and apply boiled linseed oil or mineral oil generously. Rub with your hands until the oil has sunk into the wood. If it has not, rub off all loose oil with a dry cloth. Dispose of oily cloths carefully by burning them. Oily cloths can ignite spontaneously. Part of the success of an oiled finish is rubbing with your hands.
Q. The toilet in my bedroom bath has cracks, which were fixed some time ago, but the cracks are back, and some of them drip a little. How can I fix those cracks the right way? A man said to use something called Water Plumber.
DR. MIKE CANCILLA, PITTSFIELD
A. That Water Plumber is probably a silicone sealant, which may or may not work. In the long run, you will have to buy a new toilet. This is worth it because all the new toilets are low-flows, and you will save a lot on your water bill.
Townhouse or brownstone?
Here’s a note from Michael O’Callahan of Boston: As a former longtime resident of the oldest Victorian brick row house neighborhood in the country, I applaud your commentary in Sunday’s Globe on row houses, townhouses, and brownstones. As far as I know, the only true “brownstones” are on West Newton Street between Washington and Shawmut (across the park from Stella) and along Columbus Avenue between Worcester Street and Rutland Square (across from Cha-Cha-Cha salon).
Thanks, Michael. As a longtime outlander, the Handyman appreciates your comment.
Another note, on turkeys
From Nancy Tener: I just read your column of this week and was interested in your response to the question about keeping wild turkeys away. We had a similar problem and found that the turkeys were after the birdseed from our feeder that had fallen on to the ground. We stopped feeding the birds and the turkeys disappeared (probably to a neighbor with an active bird feeder!) Also, turkeys have no sense of smell, so they will ignore your idea of a smelly repellent.
And thanks to you, Nancy.