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Roof stains, a kitchen redo, vinyl tiles, and more

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

Q. Our problem is our new roof. We bought our house eight years ago with a 15-to-20-year-old roof that needed replacing, no problems with staining that I can remember, having put a new liner in the chimney after purchasing the house. The old roof remained until two years ago when we replaced the roof. It looks as if the flashing is rusted, but upon looking closer it appears maybe a staining problem from above? The chimney is stained with a brown dripping, on all four sides.

- The Flemings, Winchester

THE FLEMINGS, Winchester

A. Those brown drippings on the chimney are condensation from the oil exhaust, which is not completely burned, hence the brown color. The exhaust up the new stainless chimney cap is restricted by the liner being too close to the cap, forcing it sideways and down the sides of the chimney. Take off the chimney cap for starters. Also, make sure your oil burner downstairs has enough combustion air and is not in a closed space. Open the door and open basement windows for more air. Or, cut a vent, about 6-by-15 inches, in the foundation wall, to bring in more air. There may be no need to clean the liner, unless you see heavy brown stains inside. Clean the chimney by pressure-washing it.

Q. A few old vinyl tiles with asbestos on my basement floor are losing their adhesion after 33 years. The edges also appear to be separating from the adjoining tile. I installed the tiles myself with spread adhesive after sealing the floor. Can I safely replace the loose tiles with spare tiles I saved? Is there a safe method to re-adhere the loose tiles?

- Tom Grandel, Plymouth



A. Those vinyl-asbestos tiles contain relatively low amounts of asbestos, but still have to be handled carefully. Yes, you can put in the spare tiles with the spreadable adhesive. Save the smallish old tiles to fill in any other places the tiles fail.

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Q. A friend wants a simple redo for her small kitchen. The cabinets are knotty pine. If they are sanded, won’t the knots ooze sap? What would be a good primer, sealant to prepare the wood for painting?

- Mikel


A. The knotty pine has probably lost all its sap, so no problem there. But the knots have to be painted with a stain killer to keep them from bleeding through the primer and paint. Apply two coats of clear shellac or one coat of Kilz stain killer. Then a coat of latex indoor primer and finish with eggshell finish indoor latex paint. Remember, thin coats spell success.

Q. I have raised, six-panel doors in my house that were originally stained. A couple of years ago, I updated my downstairs bath and painted the doors. The problem is that in the winter when the air is dry, the doors shrink and the “seams” show dark. In the summer, the doors swell and look okay. I originally painted the doors in September when the air was still moist. I have thought of sanding the seams or joints when they are visible and repainting, but I am afraid that the paint will bunch up at the joints in the summer when the doors swell.

- Linda Williams, Manomet


Ah yes, it happens to all of us, but the cure is easy: Simply prime and paint the exposed wood, with thin coats, so that when the wood expands, there will be no bunching up of the new paint. I solved my problem by staining and varnishing the doors, or just varnishing them to equalize the colors.


Q. You recently said that granite is absorbent and needs to be sealed often. I have a granite countertop that I don’t believe we ever sealed. It is about eight years old , what happens if it is not sealed? Would it be a good idea to seal it now?

- Barbara


A. The granite ain’t broke so you don’t need to do anything. I am sure your granite was originally factory sealed, so now relax and enjoy its good looks.

Q. I need a new door and have no idea what to get. The threshold is rotting away. Do I need a new one, and should it need to be inspected to make sure that no critters caused the decay? I think I heard that Therma-Tru is a good door.

- Lexington


A. The threshold rotted from constant water, and possible faulty installation, so I don’t think any inspection for insects or other critters is needed. For a setup door, go to a store that carries the Brosco catalog, which features many brands, including Therma-Tru. I think you can do very well by buying a wood door, set up with casing and threshold in one unit, for less than some of the fiberglass doors. Do not consider steel doors. Wood doors can be painted or stained. I have two, and they have been ideal on my old house.

Peter Hotton can be reached at