Handyman on Call

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

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Advice on tile repair fees, washer smells, and glue removal

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

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Should you paint the garage floor?

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

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Ice dams 101: How to insulate the attic

Q. I have a serious problem with ice damming in my house and have been looking for solutions to the problem. It all seems to boil down to not letting the roof heat up from indoor heat sources. It seems that spraying foam insulation on the underside of the roof is the most effective way to accomplish this. I would be interested in your opinion on this vs. fiberglass or cellulose insulation, neither of which seem to solve the problem of air leakage into the attic space. Also, I’d like to know about odor, shrinkage, and other things that can go wrong?

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Advice on smoke detectors, Formica, and foundations

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

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Why does she have ants in the dishwasher?

Q. Help! I expect some ants in the spring, but now have them in my dishwasher and on the counter! They appear to be craving orange juice, fresh squeezed, and anything sweet. How do I get them out of the dishwasher?

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Is a heating/cooling system right for me?

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

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What to do about a rusted medicine cabinet

Q. The bottom shelf of our the medicine cabinet in our bathroom is solid but rusted and the cabinet as a whole needs to be painted. There is contact paper, applied years ago, on the inside door and the back wall of the medicine cabinet. It’s smooth, intact, and not shiny. If I wash the contact paper well and let it dry, and I sand to get as much rust off the bottom shelf as I can, would it be OK to paint the whole interior of the cabinet (over the contact paper) with Rust-o-leum paint?

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Slate vs. asphalt shingles

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

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How to get off burned-on food?

Peter Hotton writes about home repair issues

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How can he get tile adhesive off concrete?

Q. We have a garage floor that had “vinyl” tile. We removed the tile, but there is a black adhesive on it. The person who painted my house said that BM makes a concrete paint that you can apply directly over the adhesive. Is that true? If not, how is the adhesive removed?

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Should a new cedar stockade fence be preserved?

Q. My son just had a 6-foot cedar stockade fence put in a few weeks ago. I’m wondering whether he should apply a wood preservative to seal the cedar pickets now before the winter starts. Also, what is the best preservative to use, if necessary.

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Is installing a wood stove a DIY project?

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

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How do I smooth the rough spots on my deck?

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.