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Dead mice, sloped decks, scratched floors

Q. I had a nice-looking red brick patio installed in my backyard, then had a new exterior door installed. Now there is a gap of a few inches between the bottom of the door and the patio, so the installer filled the gap with plaster, which is already beginning to melt away. What can I do?

- Tom Wall, South End

A. I hope that the door has a proper threshold on its bottom, because a threshold of oak is the only thing that will make the door weatherproof. If not, have one installed. First get rid of the plaster, which is not the thing to use outdoors. It depends on how thick the gap is. If a threshold, sloped to all water runoff, fits in the gap, that is good. If there is a little more to the gap, put in a pressure-treated board to make up the difference. If there is still a gap, you can build a berm of concrete or bricks to close the gap.

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Q. You mentioned a good pipe wrap for pipes that have lost their asbestos insulation on a steam heat system, but I have forgotten. I have to tell my contractor what it is. Can you?

- Andover

A. It is compressed fiberglass. The contractor should know, and also will know what is needed to insulate the steam boiler.

Q. I live in a three-decker which has back porches off the second- and third-floor units. The third floor has a tongue-and-groove deck (we’re told it was replaced 10 years ago) that leaks badly. Of course, both porches get wet but the rain also is clearly leaking through the boards. Also, all that damp is peeling the paint on the bottom of the third-floor deck. A contractor told us the problem is that the third-floor porch is laid flat and needs to be rebuilt on a slight incline. Do you think that will fix the problem?

- Barbara

A. Yes, if the third floor deck was sloped a little, it would make a big difference. I would have to guess the third-floor deck is covered by a roof, as in all triple deckers I know. All three decks should be primed and painted with an exterior primer and exterior deck paint.

Q. About a dead mouse in the wall, and the resulting stink. I called an exterminator, who said he could not even try to find the corpse, and suggested just waiting out the smell, which is already abating.

- Stumped

Q. We have tried glue traps, food bags for their consumption, plastic, and wooden snap traps, etc. Anything else we can try? Somehow we remember you wrote about this at another time, but don’t quite remember the answer.

- Another stumped

A. To both of you Stumpees, there are not many tricks that will succeed. I had the same thing happen two years ago, and I broke into the wall in several areas with no success. An exterminator searched the wall with his TV scope, a little like a colonoscope, also without success, so he charged only $50. A little later, a fly discovered the corpse, laid hundreds of eggs, which hatched into maggots that escaped to my porch and caused my wife to go absolutely ape and destroyed all she could find. Then came hundreds of flies, which I dispatched with a spray; the next day fewer flies showed up, and on the third day, fewer until all were gone. By that time the smell began to fade, all was sweet again.

Incidentally, using odor killers such as Febreze will not work as long as the source of the stink is still there.

If you have mice and know where they are, using plastic traps are the best way to get ’em all, plus closing every possible access hole in the house, the foundation and the wood sill on top of the foundation. To locate those holes, go in the basement on a bright sunny day and turn out all lights and light sources; you may see holes that you would otherwise miss.

Q. We had our floors sanded and polyurethaned six years ago. Our foldable ironing board gradually scratched a small area. Can this section be locally sanded to remove the scratches and polyurethaned only on the affected area?

- Jack B.

A. Yes, sanding the scratched area lightly and applying two or three coats of water-based polyurethane varnish on the scratched area can work. So can coating the scratches with a stain just a little darker than the scratches.

Q. I have a two small-opening windows about 24”x 15” on either side of a large picture window The windows open outward, but now do not work except by going outside and pushing them closed. Can I replace them?

The same picture window is original from 1962. It’s pretty drafty, and I have been thinking about inside storm windows. I do not want to change the appearance of the house it consists of 15 window panels in frames same size as above Any suggestions?

- Bob Fox, Marblehead

A. Those little windows are casement style (they open like a door), and most replacement windows can replace them. They can be had in a middle price range from some companies. As for the big picture window, inside storms are to come by and are usually room darkeners, too, so I suggest you have it replaced as well.

Globe Handyman on Call Peter Hotton is also in the g section on Thursdays. He is available 1-6 p.m. Tuesdays to answer questions on house repair. Call 617-929-2930. Hotton’s e-mail is photton@globe.com.
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