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How do you hang heavy artwork on plaster walls?

Q. What’s the best way to hang a picture on a plaster wall? The picture is 20 inches by 24 inches and weighs about 10 pounds.

LANELLE JONES, Monroe, N.C.

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A. The simplest way (not necessarily the easiest) is the best one. Use picture hooks, sold in hardware stores. They come in several sizes. For your size and weight picture, use large hooks. Make sure there is a wire strung from each end of the picture a few inches down from the top. It’s the hanging wire. Use two hooks whether you are hanging the picture vertically or horizontally. You need two to keep pictures from going askew whenever an 18-wheeler passes by. Do not use any other gadgets that might be available. You can do a good job with only a two-foot spirit level to make sure the hangers are level with each other.

To determine where the hooks will go, hold the picture against the wall, and mark the hook spots with a pencil. Now, place a 4-by-4-inch piece of duct tape over each pencil spot, and make sure you mark the spot on the tape. Now drive the hooks. They are designed to be nailed at a steep angle. This angle, plus the duct tape, will prevent breaking the plaster, whether is it is truly plaster or plasterboard or blueboard and skimcoat.

Q. Hi Peter, What is the best way to prepare and paint a rusted wrought-iron railing?

JOHN DO

A. I was looking at my own rusted wrought iron just yesterday when I was pointing brick steps, and this is what I will do. Sand off the rust as much as possible, paint those areas with Rust Reformer, and then spray or brush on one or two coats of Krylon wrought-iron paint.

Q. My daughter bought a house on Cape Cod and found an old mahogany table that was stained red. She tried to paint it. Oh, woe. The red stain bled right through the paint. What can she do?

A. Ah, yes, stained mahogany is virtually impossible to paint without the bleeding. Sanding down to the bare wood probably won’t work because mahogany is open-pored, and any stain gets stuck in the pores forever, it seems. Even heavy sanding and using a stain killer did not succeed on a similar table I had. I ended up resanding to the bare wood, staining it a darker color, and varnishing it.

Q. What do you think of air-duct cleaning? The ducts in my home are for hot-air heat and air conditioning. I don’t know how long they have gone without being cleaned, and I get no bad smells from either the heat or the air conditioning.

NANCY KRUGER

A. I think air-duct cleaning is good but expensive. If you don’t know when the ducts were cleaned, chances are they need it. My ducts were 50 years old and there was no smell, but you should have seen what came out of them when they were cleaned. Have them cleaned every 10 years. And make sure to clean out the dryer vent at least once a year: These can fill with lint and cause fires.

Q. I had trouble with my back door. The carpenter installed a new frame that was short, so he used filler pieces, which are coming off. What now?

FROM HUNGER

A. Hoo-boy! You have a carpenter from hell, so get rid of him and find someone who can build a new frame, including jambs and possibly the threshold. If you need a new door, however, you can buy a setup that includes the casing (frame) and threshold.

Q. Any ideas on how to get that ugly green stuff off my shed roof?

PAT & TOM WILLIAMS

A. There are two kinds of “green stuff” on roofs, always on the shady side. I am surprised you didn’t see my earlier columns on the subject, in which I jabbered away on two green things. One is algae, a form of seaweed that is bright green and does not have any form or height; it sits there on the roof. Treat it with a solution of one part bleach and three parts water, or douse it with vinegar, which will kill it. Dead, it does not have to be scraped.

The other, if it has a shape like little dull green plants, is moss, and it must be removed because it can damage the roof. Treat it the same way you would algae, but after it dies, scrape it off with a wood spatula.

And here is how you can keep it from coming back. Buy zinc strips at a hardware store or from a roofer. They are 3 to 6 feet long and 6 inches wide. Slip them under the second-highest row of shingles parallel to the ridge with 2 to 3 inches of zinc exposed. Rain washing over the strips will deliver dissolved bits of zinc down the roof, preventing new growth. This is also effective against mold. The strips will prevent new growth, but will not kill existing green stuff.

Aye, there’s the rug

The Handyman received several complaints after he advised the use of area rugs. The writers said area rugs are accidents waiting to happen, especially for older people, who can trip over the edges.

My reply: Just what are area rugs? To me, they are not scatter or throw rugs, but large ones (8 by 12 feet), padded, and definitely not wall to wall. To guard against tripping, I suggest tacking down the edges. In the future, I promise to write “large area rugs.”

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 photton@globe.com.
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