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Handyman on Call

Why do they have houseflies since basement redo?

Q. We live in a split level house. Several years ago we refinished our basement, taking it down to the studs and treating all for mold and mildew. Now, we have new walls, tile floors, etc. But since doing this “redo” we are plagued with houseflies every spring. This winter we seem to be under attack by little black flying specks. I have sprayed, to no avail. I need to get rid of them.

from Billerica

A. Houseflies in the spring may actually be cluster flies, which emerge from the ground every August, just in time to be killed by cold weather. Those who survive seek warmth in houses, often settling in attics in winter, clustering around windows, hence the name. They could last until spring. Sweep them up and dispose of them. If there is a bathroom in the basement, it might be drain flies, which can be controlled by putting a cup of bleach in all drains.

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Q. I was told to save heating fuel by keeping my house at 55 degrees at night and 65 in the daytime. Someone else said that the distance between the two temps would cost more than the savings achieved. Now who can I ask?

A. Any lowering of the thermostat for part of the 24-hour period will save fuel, because it will cost less fuel to restore the temperature to 65 than what is saved by lowering it.

Q. I’m planning to tile over the red brick around my fireplace. I’d like to clean up the appearance of the bricks within the fire space. Can the bricks be spray painted? Is there a heat-resistant paint for that purpose?

Hingham

A. Paint the firebox black. Use a Krylon HHR spray paint. The HHR stands for high heat resistant.

Q. My space heater in the basement is mounted on the wall and is part of my oil-fired boiler. It is 50 years old and clatters when the fan hits the housing. My oil dealer said he could replace it but it is not necessary. Should I replace it?

Back Bay

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A. By all means, if your dealer can’t quiet the fan. At 50, it has served you well, and a new one will do pretty near the same.

Q. My Oriental dresser is factory-finished in black lacquer with a medium gloss shine. Recently, someone sprayed (aerosol) wax on it and apparently did not wipe it off quickly and it has spots where the finish was damaged by the alcohol base (I think) in the spray wax. I have used Murphy’s Oil Soap in a damp cloth to rub the dull areas which improved it a bit, but the dull spots still are evident. Can you suggest any other alternatives as I don’t want to do something that would exacerbate the problem.

Cornelius, N.C.

A. Rub the spots with Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. If that doesn’t work, and since the wax is alcohol based, you might be able to get rid of all the remaining spots with denatured alcohol. Try just a bit, and see what happens.

Globe Handyman on Call also appears in the Sunday Real Estate section. He is available 1-
6 p.m. Tuesdays to answer questions on house repair. Call 617-929-2930. Hotton (photton@
globe.com
) also chats online about house matters 2-3 p.m. Thursdays. Go to www.boston.com.

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