Handyman on call

Many possible solutions to minimize dust

Q. I have a hot air furnace and I am plagued by dust all over. I had a new furnace installed and my ducts cleaned, but the house is dusty as ever. What can I do? I have some kind of an air cleaner going, but it does not help. The house has always been dusty.


JIM BOYD, Madison, Conn.


A. Dust is a fact of life, and will be with us forever, although houses with hot air heat might seem dustier than houses with hot water heat because the furnace fan blows dust all over the house, where it settles when the fans turn off. Then some smart-alecky kid will draw “Dust Me” on the dusty table top. A new furnace and cleaned ducts will do little good.


 Most people are allergic to dust and dust mites, and there is little you can do. You can buy dustproof coverings for mattresses, box springs, and pillows (call an allergist for info) that will help some. If there are two adults in the house, the dust will be noticed frequently because adults don’t run around the house as kids do, and the dust settles. With more people in the house, especially energetic kids, the dust will be scattered and might not be noticed as much.

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 Also, clean filters often, or invest in an electrostatic filter that will hold more dust than a standard one. Invest in a HEPA type vacuum cleaner that will trap more dust than a regular one.

 What else? You could put a humidifier in the furnace or free-standing console humidifiers on each floor, which will help control the movement of the dust. There are many air cleaners on the market, and new ones keep coming. There is a new appliance on the market called Honeywell AirGenius5, an air cleaner/odor reducer that might help.

Q. I am looking at a home, an average Cape style. The main support beam in the basement has several “splits” in the wood. It is 20 feet long, supported at each end by concrete and concrete block walls. It is also supported at two intermediate places along its length by two steel columns. The house is about 50 years old and the splits have been there for many, many years. Because it has been like this for so long, I am reasonably confident that there is no imminent danger of the beam failing. However, I would certainly feel better if these splits were not there.

 Are splits in these types of beams common and nothing I should be concerned about? Or, if it is something I should be concerned about would a simple home repair person be sufficient or should I be speaking to someone of “home builder” caliber? I assume the repair will involve replacing the beam. If it does come to that, is a wood beam a good idea or would a steel beam be a good upgrade? Whatever is done, I would just like to be sure it doesn’t recur.



JIM BOYD, Madison, Conn.

A. You are right to be confident that your cracked beams will not fail. Stick to that, and do not be concerned. I don’t know of large beams (6x10, 8x10, 10x10, etc.) that have not cracked. They crack usually when they dry out and contract. They are most frequent in basements, so if you keep venting that basement, no harm will be done.

 I have several large beams in my living room and dining room that are nearly 250 years old and they have cracks, and they have not weakened in any way, whether cracks are vertical or horizontal.

 The only way to fix them is to replace them. The beams are split, not broken, so there is no need to fix. Replace with steel beams? No need. A steel beam will fail in the extreme heat of a fire before a wood beams burns out. If anyone offers to fix your beams, send him packing.

Q. My sliding windows, part of many replacement windows several years ago, are beginning to get stuck and are hard to open or close, and leak water after the house settled a bit. How can I get them to work better and be watertight?



JIM BOYD, Madison, Conn.

A. Slider windows are not good to use in any house, in my opinion. Double hung (sash goes up and down) and casement windows are better, and easily sealed. Since the house settled, the frames are out of square, and you would have to take the windows out and straighten the frames. If you can find a name on them, go to the manufacturer to see what it can do. After several years, probably nothing. If no names, call a window repairer, in the Yellow Pages or on Google.

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