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Flushing out a noisy problem

Q. My toilet sometimes sounds as if it is flushing, but isn’t, and makes a real bang when everything seems done. Anything wrong? The plumber couldn’t figure it out.

A. It’s mighty weird that the toilet sounds like it’s flushing but isn’t. But let me guess. A phantom flush occurs when the toilet leaks a little into the bowl, due to the flapper over the outlet being slightly off center, then the full flush occurs, startling the homeowner at night and annoying him in the daytime. Adjusting the flapper can fix that. But not with your toilet, which may hum a bit but not flush. That big bang you heard is the shutting off the flow by the ball cock, which rises as the water rises in the tank and slowly shuts off, even with that real hard bang. I think the toilet needs a new ball cock.

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Q. Before we bought our house seven years ago, the person who flipped it painted the foundation white. Now it’s peeling and dirty and needs to be redone. I’d like to paint it gray so it won’t stand out so much. How can I prep it and what kind of paint should I use?

SHEILA, in Hotton’s chat room

A. I get very tired of flippers and other sellers who have no idea what a buyer wants, so they go ahead and do something that rarely works, and they don’t give a fig. So, it might be easy to do this: Wire brush and sand all loose paint off, then apply 2 thin coats of a solid color stain of your favorite gray. Thin coats with a solid stain resist peeling where paint might not. A better way, if the foundation is concrete or field stone, is to take off all the paint with a stripper down to the concrete or fieldstone, which will look like it is supposed to. I would never touch my granite and fieldstone foundation. Being natural never needs “improving.”

Q. We just replaced our gas forced hot water boiler, a high efficiency one that exhausts through a wall. I think the guy I went with did a good job, re-piped all water and gas lines in the area, new valves, etc. We got a quote from a bigger company for literally 2½ times his price. What could they have possibly done to warrant that much more?

ROB, in Hotton’s chat room

A. Welcome to the real world of competition. You mentioned no prices, but it doesn’t matter. The bigger company bid way higher, confident that some poor sap of a homeowner would pay those godawful charges because he didn’t know any better. There are greedy people out there. Your choice was instinctive and wise. You also have learned there are real people around like your guy.

Globe Handyman on Call Peter Hotton 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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