Handyman on call

Dealing with icicles, big and small, on the roof

Q. I have a few big icicles on my roof, which I knock down with a broom. There are a lot of little ones, too. How do they form? I noticed that after a snowfall, the snow stays on my roof while my neighbors’ roofs are soon bare. Why? I have gutter guards on my gutters. Would that make a difference?




A. Big, dangerous icicles grow because the roofs are warm with little insulation on the attic floor and little or no attic ventilation. You had a few big icicles. Your roof is cold, due to an insulated attic floor and plenty of ventilation, but when the snow melts, the water flows over the roof, the gutters (with or without guards) ice up and water flows over the gutter, causing a few icicles. Those big icicles are not dangerous if they are nipped before they get humongous. Ignore the little ones.

Q.The neighbor above my condo is complaining about vibration/humming from ceiling fans in my unit, first just one, now all four of them. Three were installed 10 years ago, one (a $300 fan) in 2010. I have had two electricians and two knowledgeable men check them, and all agreed that they are installed properly, and there is no vibration or humming detected. Is there anything an electrician can do to cap, insulate, or cover the parts of the fans that are in the space between our units? She is now demanding that I remove all the fans. She’s also complained about my bathroom fans and is seeking legal action against me.

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Sue, by e-mail

SUE, by e-mail

A. It’s just your luck to have that benighted soul above you. But there is something you can do to make things quieter. Ceiling fans are hung from special electric boxes made for ceiling fans. Yours are attached to joists that are directly touching that woman’s floor, so even tiny vibrations are heard and felt in her unit. It will not work to insulate that space, because the electric box is still in contact with the joist.

 Here’s something you can do. Have an electrician or sound control person take down the fan(s) and the electric boxes. Then fill the ceiling cavity with blown-in fiberglass or cellulose in the cavity between joists. Then put up a piece of sound-absorbing board and plasterboard to fill the gap, with the wire sticking down, and finish the plasterboard patch. Then screw into the joists a wood medallion sort of cover that is separate from the ceiling. Then, the electrical box and the fan will be completely in your unit. A sound engineer can do this right.


 Complaining about bathroom exhaust fans? Send that woman a bill.

Q. All the blades on my six-blade ceiling fan in a cathedral ceiling have sagged and I can’t find anyone who knows why this has happened. One opinion was that they had absorbed moisture and were too heavy. But I think the blades are dry. It also has a reverse mode, but I can’t get it to change so that I can bring all that hot air down during the winter.

Carolyn Copeland, by e-mail


A. I too can only guess that the arms of the blades have bent for some reason. Just for the heck of it, I Googled “sagging ceiling fan blades” and came up with numerous ideas, including tightening screws that hold the blade to the shaft and hold the shaft to the unit. It may indeed be a matter of tightening screws. Not feasible? Call an electrician, who also reverse the blades.

Q. I have a gas fireplace that came with the house when I bought it six years ago. A few chips have fallen off the free-standing ceramic heat shield. Should I replace it?

Ralph, North Attleboro

RALPH, North Attleborough

A. If the shield is three-quarters or more intact, I think it is safe. Any less, replace it. If you have kept any of the chips, you can glue them back on with Super Glue.

Q. 1) How can I remove rust on outdoor granite steps? 2) My ventilating fan on the roof has not leaked in years. But with the recent heavy snow, I got a quart of water on the attic floor. Can I prevent that? 3) How can I paint a concrete ­grotto in my backyard?

Barbara, Belmont

BARBARA, Belmont

A. 1) Mix 4 ounces oxalic acid in a quart of hot water, and pour this on the granite and let dry. Or scrub with CLR (calcium, lime, rust). 2) If it is only a quart that came from the melting snow, just wipe it up and wait for the next. 3) Paint the grotto with a latex solid color stain.

Peter Hotton is also in the g section on Thursdays. He is available 1-6 p.m. Tuesdays to answer questions. Call 617-929-2930. Hotton ( also chats online 2-3 p.m. Thursdays. To participate, go to
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