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    Where is that dripping sound coming from?

    Q. I am amazed by your scope of knowledge. My daughter and son-in-law have annoying drip-like sounds in their downstairs powder room and upstairs guest bathroom that start and then stop for seemingly no reason. The sound seems to be coming from inside the fan in both ceilings, but there is no evidence of moisture. What could it be, and how do they get it to stop?

    KIT WARD, North Carolina


    A. The scope of my knowledge may well extend to waterless drip sounds from fans in both ceilings. My guess is that when they turn on they heat up, and when a fixture heats up, it expands, making a drip-like sound. Any metal will go tick, tick, tick when it warms up and when it cools down. The intermittence of the dripping sound confirms my theory. If I am correct, it is not going away.


    Q. Help! Unfortunately I left a cleaner on my granite countertop and it has taken the color right off. I called a granite company and asked them what to do, but they told me that because of where I bought it, the granite may have come from China and is dyed. They gave me no clue as what to do. Hope you can help. It is unsightly! The counter is black! Thanks.

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    A. You have to go to the place where you bought it and have it resealed or repolished, simple as that.

    Q. We are renovating our kitchen in our 1820 Federal-style home. We have exposed the old brick, which looks lovely against one wall. For space and efficiency, I would like to put the range against the brick. I am worried, however, that steam will act like a magnet for dust and that grease will collect on the brick and make a mess (and be impossible to clean). My contractor doesn’t think sealing the brick will work, and a big, ugly ventilation hood will defeat the look. Do you have any suggestions? Should I just give up the plan?




    A. The brick as background will be just the ticket for the range. I don’t think steam or heat will affect it, and it will do very well if you use a masonry sealer — even without an exhaust hood or fan.

    Q. I have two issues with a natural-gas fireplace. The one that concerns me most is that the unit shuts down after being on for about 30 minutes. I know there is a sensor that turns it off when it gets too hot, but 30 minutes just seems like a short time. Also, the unit does not turn back on once it has cooled. Is this something that could lead to more serious issues? The other issue is the on-off switch. The fireplace does not always light the first few times I try to turn it on. On occasion, I have had to turn it on and off five or six times to get it to light. Is there someone or a company that you recommend I contact?



    A. Both issues are serious, so I suggest you call an expert, which is the dealer who installed it, and if you can’t find that company, any dealer who handles natural-gas fireplaces.

    Q. We have a door that appears to have been painted. Over the years, the paint looks to have worn off in places. Is there any way to remove this paint and then perhaps stain the door?




    A. Paint, tough as it is, does wear, both inside and out. Sand it off or use a chemical stripper — Citristrip is a good one. You can also use a hot-air gun, which will strip it quickly. In every case, the door must be removed, and the work is best done outdoors. Apply one coat of an oil-based semitransparent stain, which will last seven years or so, preserves the wood, and will not peel. I have had good luck with Olympic.

    Q. This is not a question, and I love your column, but you “bumbled” the answer to the writer who asked about the big black bees crawling in and out of holes in the house. You called them bumblebees, but it sounds like a classic case of carpenter bees. The males don’t sting, and they are lots of fun because they divebomb you as you come near their nest. I guess you’ve never had them chez Hotton. They drill holes in the wood, but unlike carpenter ants, they are not as destructive. They look like bumblebees on steroids, but their bodies are black. All the best to you.

    M. KASHDAN, Gloucester


    A. The handyman received about 10 corrections, and by the sheer volume of messages, these readers have got to be right! I wrote what I did because carpenter bees drill round holes to put their eggs in, and there was no evidence from the caller that there were any round holes in the boards, only that the insects were slipping in and out of very narrow slits.

    I do appreciate everyone’s remarks to the beleaguered Handyman.

    Globe Handyman on Call Peter Hotton also appears in the G section on Thursdays. He is available from 1 to 6 p.m. on Tuesdays to answer questions on home repair. Call 617-929-2930. E-mail him at