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Handyman on call

Duct tape left a mess on home’s exterior

Q. I’m hoping that you can offer a solution regarding the removal of duct tape adhesive from fiber cement exterior siding. During the holidays I used duct tape to hang some lights on the house. When I took the lights down during the January thaw, some of the adhesive remained on the siding. I tried scraping it with a putty knife, but nothing was coming off. I thought that the cold weather might be making it adhere and that it would loosen up in the warmer weather. During the past two weeks I’ve tried numerous solvents, including Heavy Duty Citrus Degreaser. Although the adhesive has softened, it’s still adhering. I’m now afraid that as the weather heats up, the adhesive is going to bake on.

— TOM GILLIGAN, BY E-MAIL

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A. First, try anything you might have in the house. Paint thinner or rubbing alcohol. Then, but not in any order, waterless hand soap, Turtle Wax Bug & Tar remover, Goo-Gone, Citrus Green, Citrus Clean, any kind of oil (it takes time) — WD-40, De-Solve-it, Klean strip, 3M adhesive remover, Un-Du, and Un-Seal. Some of these can damage paint, but will not hurt the fiber cement.

Q. I have a large dry crawl space under an addition built many years ago. The problem is odor. It will be a tough area to work in, but I have contracted with a removal company to remove the debris. After the debris is removed — old asphalt, beer bottles, old doors, etc. — is there something I could put in the area to reduce the dirt odor that will come up through the floor? Heat ducts run through the space. Should I insulate under the floor? Insulate the heat duct pipes? Ventilate to the outside?

— SUE MICHAELS, NEWTON

A. Here is what to do: Insulate the ceiling of the crawl space with 6-inch fiberglass insulation, or 4-inch rigid Styrofoam insulation, and wrap all ducts with 1- or 2-inch fiberglass duct insulation. Then put polyethylene sheets on the dirt floor, to keep water vapor and odors in the ground. Finally, open windows for cross ventilation; if there are no windows, install vents on both sides of the space and keep them open all year.

Do the same with the basement, except plastic on the floor. All these will release water vapor and you will have no more moisture and no more smell.

Q. My bathroom walls are painted over wallpaper, and I would like to remove the paper so I can paint. But how?

— KATHY KING, PEABODY

A. The paper is probably vinyl coated, so you must score the paper, creating lots of scratches to allow steam or stripping solution to penetrate the paper and soften the paste for scraping. Rent a steamer. Buy a scoring tool; one is called a Paper Tiger, sold in wallpaper shops and maybe hardware stores. You will have to wash off paste residue and glue size to get the wall clean. If the walls are originally painted, apply a latex primer sealer before applying a latex wall paint.

Q. I need advice on re-flashing of my chimney as part of a re-roofing project. My hip roof was stripped and new step flashing was installed along the chimney base, which runs through the center of the house. The old, lead counter flashing was removed and copper counter flashing was installed. The copper follows the slope of the roof. I was expecting the copper to be bent at a 90-degree angle and mortared into horizontal mortar joints. It appears that some sort of sealant is packed between the chimney and the top surface of the copper, which seems to be intentionally spaced away from the bricks to make a pocket for the sealant. It seems to me, that if the sealant pulls away from the chimney for any reason, I’ll lose the function of the counter flashing.

— PAUL BLECHARCZYK, W. ROXBURY

A. Some contractors are relying on compounds and caulking to help protect the house from water invasion, and have abandoned tried-and-true metal flashing and counter flashing, which often need no caulking. Yes. I agree — that lump of caulking may last for a few years, but is doomed to failure. Copper and lead flashing has worked well for years, and almost never needs replacing. I suggest you instruct your contractor to take off that useless caulked copper and install it as counter flashing, with the top edge mortared into a brick joint. It will have to be cut or reformed as step flashing of separate stepped units, so the top of each is level, not following the roof’s angle, with a short folded flange mortared into the joint.

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 (photton@globe.com) also chats online 2-3 p.m. Thursdays on www.Boston.com.
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