Handyman on call

Shop around for reasonable window prices

Shop around for the best price on new windows.
Shop around for the best price on new windows.

Q. I called a replacement window company to see what they could do to replace my old windows that are 20 to 25 years old. I stopped looking when one company ­offered 14 windows for $27,000. I gasped at that and the company went “down” to 14 windows for $19,600. Where can I find replacement windows at a reasonable price and at a reasonable quality?


BOB FISHER, Weymouth

A. Duh and double duh! It seems that greedy-gut companies have the idea that if people are naive enough to pay such high prices, they are glad to accommodate them. Do the math: The first offer comes to $1,928 each window. The second offer came way down to $1,400 each. Several years ago I had eight Harvey replacement all-vinyl windows installed for $3,200. It was a good price for a quality window and in four years they have done yeoman service. Yours may be a little higher because of the time between mine and yours. Call Harvey.


Q. The double swinging hinges on my butler’s pantry doors are falling apart. I can’t find any replacements. Do you know where to get them?

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A. Crown City Hardware has a collection of every kind of hinge, lever, knob (some glass ones, too), and handles you can think of, in brass, wrought iron, and other metals, and all styles. I looked in its catalog without success. Another provider is Whitechapel Ltd. of Jackson, Wyo. For inquiries, call 307-739-9478.

Q. In your March 21st column you mentioned insulating the basement ceiling. Just curious, because I had my home professionally insulated (through the National Grid program) and they did not insulate the ceiling in the basement and I asked why. The response was something along the line that because they also fully “sealed” the basement and the rest of the house (filled in cracks and crevices where cold air could come in and hot air could escape) there would not be much benefit to insulating the ceiling in the basement. I also think (but I’m not sure) that they said we would want some of the heat from the first floor to make its way to the basement to protect pipes from bursting, etc. Does this make any sense to you?


BRIAN GETTY, by e-mail


A. I don’t think the crews hired by National Grid and other firms are in the insulation business, and do not know any more about insulating and sealing than an insulation company. Their explanation that sealing up everything made insulating the basement ceiling unnecessary is simply wrong. A basement should not be made air tight, and that is impossible anyway, and it is best to have it ventilated regularly to allow water vapor to escape. If basements are sealed, they will get musty quickly from condensation of water ­vapor.

 Check any new house; I am sure you will see the basement ceiling insulated. Water pipes do not need any heat coming down from the house. All of what you asked about does not make sense to me, as I illustrated above. National Grid’s motives are good, but the execution leaves a little to be desired.

 Insulating the basement ceiling will make those other things unnecessary.

 The only thing you have to do is insulate the basement ceiling with 6-inch ­fiberglass batts with the paper vapor barrier backing up, touching the ceiling above. Or, use a rigid insulation board called Thermax, or Stryofoam insulation board. Cut the boards to fit snugly between joists, and hold them in place by nails driven into joists to act as cleats. Rigid boards come in 1- and 2-inch thicknesses. Put in 3 or 4 inches worth.

Q. I have a beautiful Polish bowl that is stuck in another bowl, and I can’t separate the two, and I don’t want to break either bowl. How can I free them?




I think they said we’d want some of the heat from the first floor to make its way to the basement to protect pipes from bursting, etc. Does this make any sense?

A. Those Polish dishes, plates, and mugs are wonderful and festive; I have a number, and agree that any of them is worth saving. Here’s how: Put the bottom bowl in another bowl filled with very hot water. Put ice cubes in the top bowl and wait. The hot bowl will expand and the cold one will contract, loosening them.

 Nancy responded to tell us the “trick” worked, and asked another question: How can I clear a Waterford crystal rose bowl that has become cloudy?

A. Fill the container with baking soda, water, ice cubes, and lemon juice. Or, add two denture tablets to the water-filled container and leave it overnight.

Old asphalt should be removed before repaving a driveway.

Q. I have a small condo in a 16-unit complex. The association wants to seal all 16 asphalt driveways with a seal coat for $7,000. I read somewhere that seal coating is cosmetic and not worth doing. What do you think?


JOHN, Attleboro

A. Seal coating is indeed 95 percent cosmetic, and might make the driveways pretty, but it is overpriced and not worth spending that kind of money. That $7,000 quote means each driveway owner will pay $437. It’s another boondoggle, like trying to make a warthog pretty.

Q. My asphalt driveway broke up after 40 years of yeoman service. When I have a new one installed, what questions should I ask for a good job?



A. Break up and remove all the old asphalt? Yes — laying a thick or thin layer over the old will not work.

 Lay down 6 inches of crushed stone as a base, good for drainage? Yes.

 How many layers of asphalt should be applied? That depends on the company. Some will apply one thick layer, others will apply two layers: a rough coat and a finish coat.

 Should I seal coat it? No, see above.

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