Handyman on Call

Peter Hotton writes about house repair twice a week. Read previous columns below.

Handyman on Call

How can he get rid of ants?

Q. This question is unusual, if not unique, because the handyman is asking the question because he is assuming others have the problem: The invasion of ants. Not 2 or 3 a day or week, but 12 or more a day, simply appearing in the kitchen and bathrooms mostly, medium sized, and quite active. How to get rid of them and stay free of ants?

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How to keep mice from snacking on your wiring

Peter Hotton answers your questions about leaks, cracks, drips, chips, and more.

Handyman on Call

Did house wash cause window clouding?

Q. I am trying to find out if using [a particular] house wash causes permanent clouding of the window glass. It was used per the instructions and within days all window glass became cloudy and spotted. The spots cannot be removed. I found one of your columns that suggested using Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, then Windex. Ammonia, baking soda -- nothing has worked -- not even cerium oxide polishing powder.

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How do you hang heavy artwork on plaster walls?

Handyman Peter Hotton answers your questions about leaks, cracks, drips, chips, and more.

Handyman on Call

How to stop wooden thresholds from swelling

Q. Can you tell me what to use on my wooden thresholds so that they won’t swell from heavy rainstorms?CAROL SCHENAA. Sure can, but I have to guess on what and where the thresholds are. There are 2 thresholds, one under an exterior door front and back. They are unfinished oak, and are exposed to weather because there is no roof over the entries. And maybe there are interior thresholds, one between each doorway, whether it has a door or not.

Handyman on Call

What is causing paint to blister — in just one spot?

Q. Some of the paint in our bathroom has blistered, just in one place — the corner with the chimney behind it. (We don’t have a fireplace -- just used for the gas burner, I guess.) There are numerous places where the paint is cracked and some holes (about 1 inch diameter at the most) in the paint.

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How to get rid of skunks and care for concrete

Handyman Peter Hotton answers your questions about leaks, cracks, drips, chips, and more.

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How do you get rid of urine odor in hardwood floors?

Handyman Peter Hotton answers your questions about leaks, cracks, drips, chips, and more.

Handyman on Call

How to clean a half court and turn it into a patio

Q. Around 22 years ago, in my backyard, some friends, my children and I put in a 1/2 basketball court. The children are grown and have moved on and now I would like to use it as a patio. It has held up well, no cracks and is level but it has an overall spotty, dirty look to it. I have power washed it but the dark areas are still there.

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How to kill flies and restore laminate floors

Handyman Peter Hotton answers your questions about leaks, cracks, drips, chips, and more.

Handyman on Call

Why won’t that door stay closed if it’s not locked?

Q. I have not seen an answer to this: I am having trouble with both my doors. We just moved in, so I have no history of the problems. We wanted to change the locks: one’s complicated, so I’d call a locksmith. But that door doesn’t stay closed if it’s not locked. And the storm door won’t close by itself. How do I know if it’s the door or the frame?

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How do I get rid of rust stains in my tub?

Handyman Peter Hotton answers your questions about leaks, cracks, drips, chips, and more.

Handyman on Call

Oil-based stain lasted 20 years. Should he reapply?

Q. I re-sided an old barn with clapboards, and applied an oil-based opaque stain, which lasted 20 years. What should I do now, after scraping and sanding?JOHN HAYES, New HampshireA. That is remarkable endurance, and it might be the fact that the finish is oil-based. Try it all over again, although any oil-based opaque stain that you can buy at a paint store may not be the same as your original coat. One thing I think helped is that you put the clapboards on rough side out.

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What to do to keep critters out of the crawl space

Handyman Peter Hotton answers your questions about leaks, cracks, drips, chips, and more.

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What to do when your house makes cracking sounds

Handyman Peter Hotton answers your questions about leaks, cracks, drips, chips, and more.

Handyman on Call

The mystery of the 22-year leak

Q. In cleaning out the attic while preparing to sell my 1939 Cape in Newton, I discovered way in the back three containers, one with water in it, (the others too far in the back for me to dare peek at) and a punky spot on a board nearby. The bottoms of some cardboard boxes in the area were damp too. The last time anyone was back that far in the attic, that I know of, was 22 years ago (1992) when skylights were installed.

Handyman on Call

Can he fix his windows rather than replace them?

Q. My current home was built in 1985 and has solid wood sliding double pane windows, made by Lousiana Pacific. The windows are no longer available and most of them have leaks allowing moisture between the panes. I know I can easily have the glass in each slider replaced (the wood in most of them is fine and can be refinished and the others restored (some have minor rot). But the bigger concern is most of them ride on plastic tracks which have broken due to becoming brittle.

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Which comes first — staining or painting ?

Handyman Peter Hotton answers your questions about leaks, cracks, drips, chips, and more.

Handyman on Call

Mildew on gutterless home: What to do?

Q. I have a 19th-century house that I prefer to keep gutterless. When rain or melting snow drips or flows off the roof in windy conditions, some of it lands on the siding and I end up with green mildew in many spots. What can I do?

Handyman on Call

Not your run-of-the-mill questions on home repair

Peter Hotton’s Handyman column in The Boston Globe has answered 1,000 questions annually for the last 36 years.

Handyman on Call

How can he get lichen off his shed roof?

Q. I have a 10 foot x 12 foot tool shed in a shady area with a roof covered with unsightly lichen. Can you suggest any relatively simple way to remove it before I paint the shed? GIRARD, BurlingtonA. Ah, yes, lichen raises its ugly head once again. It is hard to remove sometimes, but try this: Wet it heavily and try scraping it with a flat wood spatula. If you start gouging the asphalt, stop, and live with it.

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Pesky squirrels, shower cracks, and chimneys

Handyman Peter Hotton answers your questions about leaks, cracks, drips, chips, and more.

Handyman on Call

How can he get rid of mold in his attic?

Q. I bought my house in 2008 (built in 1977) and was told by house inspector there was some mold in the attic due to no bathroom vent in 2nd floor bath. Had a vent put in immediately. I recently went into attic (crawl space only) and found most of the insulation moldy on top and the bathroom area very moldy but very hard to reach (near soffit/eave area). So, my plan to scrub and clean seemed impossible. The cleaner I bought (Damprid) (I was told not to use bleach by a Realtor, as it would make mold grow?) is an apply, wait 5 mins, and wipe type of cleaner. Since I am not much of a handyman I’m hoping you can help me. Where do I start? New insulation? Is there a spray-only solution to mold?

Handyman on Call

How can he get rid of mold in his attic?

Q. I bought my house in 2008 (built in 1977) and was told by house inspector there was some mold in the attic due to no bathroom vent in 2nd floor bath. Had a vent put in immediately. I recently went into attic (crawl space only) and found most of the insulation moldy on top and the bathroom area very moldy but very hard to reach (near soffit/eave area). So, my plan to scrub and clean seemed impossible. The cleaner I bought (Damprid) (I was told not to use bleach by a Realtor, as it would make mold grow?) is an apply, wait 5 mins, and wipe type of cleaner. Since I am not much of a handyman I’m hoping you can help me. Where do I start? New insulation? Is there a spray-only solution to mold?

handyman on call | Peter Hotton

Prime siding before painting to prevent peeling

Peter Hotton answers questions from readers.