Handyman on call

Windows may be the source of wet ceilings

Q. Almost every year the ceilings on the north facing edge of my house get wet. At the end of winter there is also dripping from the tops of the window frames into the space between the storms and inside windows on the north side. Both problems are worse in the eastern corner where there are large trees. The house has Z-Brick on it and the north side is visibly wet and stays wet for weeks.

 There are no eaves on my roof, but when the last roof was installed we got rubber sheeting under the shingles and a ridge vent. Roofers have said that the problem is ice dams. But this year the ceiling is wet and we have had almost no snow. Could moisture from a bathroom without a venting fan seep into the covered entry hole to the attic and condense? Is there a way to adequately ventilate the attic? Will heating cables help?

— Susan, from Cambridge

SUSAN, from Cambridge


A. Your problem is not ice dams. As of Feb. 6, much snow was threatened, but your roof should be able to handle it because of the rubber sheeting and a ridge vent. Don’t bother with heating cables.

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 You can ventilate the attic by adding soffit vents. But you say there are no eaves, so that is a problem that a roofer should be able to handle, because good ventilation requires vents somewhere along the lowest part of the roof. Some of the wetness is from condensation, which can be partially solved by opening windows twice a day to release water vapor.

 But I think the biggest problem is due to improperly protected windows. I also think the Z-Brick installation is partly to blame, so contact the Z-Brick person to make sure things are correct.

 Start with the tops of the window frames. There must be flashing over each one. The flashing is a strip of aluminum or vinyl folded into an L shape and placed on top of each window — with one leg of the L under the siding and the other leg over the wood frame, then with a little left over folded over the wood edge. Ends of the flashing are also folded over the ends of the wood. Also, if the storms are not caulked, they will leak.

 One more thing: The storm sash (two for each window) may be in the wrong position. As with all double-hung windows, the upper sash should be in the groove facing out, the lower sash facing in. If not , water will gush in.


Q. I have a four-year-old composite deck made with Truemarc that is made of PVC with rice hulls instead of wood filler. After one season the material faded significantly and in different colors. It looks terrible. Unfortunately, the company has gone out of business so I can’t file a warranty claim. What can I do?

— Desperate, in Dedham

DESPERATE, in Dedham

A. Ask the manufacturer, if you can find him, if the material is absorbent. If so, give the deck one coat of a semitransparent stain. Make sure it is semitransparent. If not, paint it with a paint for vinyl. Cabot makes one called The Finish. Others make paint for vinyl, but mostly for siding, but there are some for flooring.

Q. I have a hum or other noise in my house. It is intermittent, and will last for many minutes. It is not in the basement, and the Fire Department could not locate it. A lot of the sounds are in the outer wall in my bedroom, where there are incoming wires outside the wall. How can I find them and silence them?

— Sabrina Mitchell, Canton



A. For you, I think those telephone, TV, or electric wires outside the bedroom may be the culprit. If there are tree branches touching or near the wires, they will scrape against them and hum when the wind blows. Cut the branches.

 This question arose some time ago, and the Handyman collected a lot of possibilities. Here they are in a nutshell:

 Check water lines in hot water heating system; circulator pumps ; doorbell transformer, or other transformers; brass weather-stripping; the neighbor’s garage door opener.

 Here’s one that takes the cake: From Robert Bracket of Frankfort, Ind.: We too had a humming in the dead of night for about two years. Our house backs up to a pasture where a neighbor keeps horses. A telephone pole sits on the property line. The pole was impregnated with a preservative that had a salty taste. We discovered that the horses came by at night to gnaw on the pole. Their gnawing vibrated the pole, conducting the vibes into our house. We discovered this when the power company found that the pole had become unsafe. They replaced the pole with one with a different flavor and the horses have let it alone. Our hum has stopped.

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