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    Handyman on call

    Replacing duct covers and unsticking rugs

    Q. My house was built in 1971. When painting a few rooms recently, we took off the old heat duct covers and wanted to replace them. I am having a very hard time finding a supplier. I need three 4-foot sections. Home Depot, Lowe’s, and the like have shorter ones. I called one place and was told that style is no longer made. Can these be found?


    MARTHA, from Plymouth

    A. If you still have those long duct covers, why not paint them? If not, there is something you can try. Those old duct covers and baseboard vents were made to resemble hot water radiators.


     Look at your baseboard vents. With the cover off, look into them with a flashlight and you will see a hole in the floor about 18 inches wide and 3 to 4 inches deep, or a similar size in the baseboard, which is the end of the duct. So, take off that baseboard vent and replace it with a one-piece 18-inch-long cover. I have four short ones in my house, and they are very effective and a sight better looking.

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     Martha replied: My boyfriend was going to paint them but it has been six months and no covers yet, so I wanted to just buy new ones. I need the full 4-foot ones as the openings in my floor/baseboard are 4 feet long.

     You might be able to use two or more of the short covers to cover the old heat ducts. But please look more carefully; take the baseboard unit off and check the opening for the end of the duct that feeds into the floor opening. The end of the feeder duct may be small, and, if it is, you can cover enough of the floor (add new flooring) to allow a shorter baseboard unit. Or, call a hot air heating contractor to try to figure it out.

    Q. Many years ago you suggested using a foam product to keep bats from taking up residence under rake boards. I can’t find that article and would appreciate some help. Their guano accumulates on a roof just below a window with a fan.


    DOROTHEA, by e-mail


    A. I’m not even sure any foam will help in your case, if the bats can chew off the foam. The gaps under the rake board were caused by the rake board being nailed over the siding, a sloppy technique. One cure is to mark the siding at the bottom of the rake board, then remove the rake board and cut the siding on the mark. Reinstall the rake board so it is butting against the ends of the siding, eliminating the gaps. Another way to do it is to fill the gaps with an adhesive caulk; two are PhenoSeal and PolySeamSeal. It hardens to keep bats away.

    Q. We recently bought an old house with beautiful wide plank pine floors. On the first floor they are in great shape, but on the second floor someone put down carpeting and glued it straight to the floor. The carpets pull up easily, but old yellow glue is left all over the floors. A floor refinisher came in and said trying to sand the glue off was an almost impossible job. He suggested chemical stripping or new floors. Any less toxic options? The floors are in good shape considering their age and really add to the character of the rooms.


    HOPING to be glueless,

    A. You don’t have to replace the planks; that is heresy. If it is really yellow glue (like Elmer’s carpenter glue), it is water soluble and can be softened with water. If it softens, you can scrape most of it off, then use water to continue the removal.

     Try not to use any stripper; it can also remove the finish. A citrus based stripper is the last resort, because it will strip everything and you will have to refinish — three coats of polyurethane varnish will do well. Water based vanish will darken the wood very little. Oil-based varnish will darken it quite a bit.


    Q. I put many limbs of damaged trees through my chipper, and now I have a huge pile of chips. Can I use them as mulch in garden and other areas?


    DAVIES, from Bridgewater

    A. Yes, it is OK, but don’t put it within 10 feet of the house, because wood chips can attract artillery fungus, which can shoot small, black, sticky mold spores 10 to 15 feet. When the spores hit siding, it is very difficult to clean off. If you need mulch near the house, use large stones.

    Q. Nail polish was spilled on my glass table top, and is really stuck. I tried nail polish remover without success. What can I do now?



    A. Your remover failed because it did not contain acetone. So, buy remover that contains acetone, or use straight acetone. Be careful, acetone is nasty stuff.

    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