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Handyman on Call

Why is the contractor caulking between shingles?

Q. We are having our house painted, and a bit of clapboard and shingle replacement done as well. We have noticed that the contractor has started caulking between the vertical joints of the shingles, both new and old. This just doesn’t seem right to me. I assume the new shingles will shrink, and then the caulk will probably separate, pulling paint with it, and looking horrible. And I’ve never seen it done before, so it just seems like an unnecessary amount of labor that could be eliminated (and save us money). What is your opinion of this?

CHRIS, Jamaica Plain

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A. No, no, a thousand times no. Properly installed, shingles and clapboards do not need caulking. The way they are overlapped they will shed water as long as they are intact and not eroding away.

Q. My bluestone walkway was constructed seven or eight years ago. The past summer or two I have noticed ants have moved in, building their holes in the sand. A few weeks ago I noticed at least a dozen new holes. Since I prefer to use non-chemical solutions whenever possible, I poured boiling water in the holes. Today I noticed new holes have been constructed in roughly the same spot. What other suggestions do you have?KATE MARTIN, Wellesley

A. If you don’t like to use chemicals, douse the area twice a day with boiling water. It is a continual battle. Or, find an effective anticide and wet the area with that. They will stay away longer.

If the holes are not disturbing the bluestones, forget about doing anything. If the bluestone tiles have been loosened or heaved out of position by the ants, then use an anticide and re-lay the tiles in their original positions. I have had ants building mounds of sand on my brick patio for years, but all I have to do is keep sweeping the sand back into the joints. The bricks have not moved.

And, when weeds start growing between the bricks, I douse the area with vinegar, being careful to keep the vinegar away from plants.

Spaced boards or not?

Should deck boards be spaced? Well, yes and no. The Handyman always suggests some spacing, to allow water to drain off decks.

Here is what Paul Tennis wrote by e-mail: You suggested ¼ to 3/8-inch was not too much. I have a different opinion. When I installed my deck boards several years ago the boards were sopping wet. I placed the boards right up tight against each other. When the boards dried over the course of the following weeks, they contracted along their width.

I ended up with a nice even space between the boards. After treating them with a decking stain, the boards have never reverted back to their original width.

Good point, Paul, and the Handyman appreciates your knowledge and interest in sharing it.

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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