Handyman on Call

Manufacturer may replace faulty door

Q. I bought and painted a wood paneled exterior front door a few years back, and every winter the wood shrank, revealing an unpainted border around the panels. I knew what was happening, and when the panels expanded in humid weather, the unpainted streaks disappeared. But this time there is so much shrinkage that I can see daylight around some of the panels. What can I do about that?



A. First, contact the builder of the door; a builder might recognize the flaw and give you a new door. If no response, you can seal the daylight joints and others with an adhesive caulk.


 Place a bead of the adhesive caulk on all joints, and press it in with your fingers, on both sides of the door. When the wood expands as it takes on summer moisture, the edges will be even tighter, and one would hope that when the wood shrinks in winter dryness, the joint will stay tight and show no daylight. Then, repaint the door, or at least the joints. Also, if you put a storm door up, you might avoid the problem in the future.

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 But if the door is a well-known brand, you might be able to get a replacement.

Q. I am 81 and my sister is 90, and we are tired of lugging away the water condensing from our basement dehumidifiers. I noticed April Air and Wave as two appliances that automatically pump the water outside. Would they work?


TIRED OF LUGGING, in Wellesley

A. Yes. They may be more expensive than the nonpumping kind, but it’s worth it. But be careful with dehumidifiers. They may be doing a good job of drying out the air in the basement, but left on for long periods, they may also be overworking, pulling water vapor right up through the concrete basement slab. Try shutting off one unit and see how that works. Also, try turning off the units and opening windows for cross-ventilation to release water vapor more efficiently and more cheaply than the dehumidifiers. Ventilation can also work in the humid months of summer.


Q. I have Hurd casement windows throughout. The house and the windows are about 15 years old. The mechanism for opening and closing them has broken on two windows. On one it is the crank and on the other it is the connection in the “arm” that extends to open the window. Do I have to buy new windows or is there some after-market way I can fix or replace the mechanism(s)? Other than that the windows are in great shape.


ED MAHAN, Marlborough

A. First, take the parts to Home Depot to see if you can find a match. Try Googling Hurd windows. Or call Hurd Windows and Doors in Medford, Wisc., at 800-433-4873.

Q. I am reroofing after many years and three layers of shingles. The roofer told me I need releading, which I don’t understand. What does it mean? He also suggested installing a ridge vent, even though my small attic areas and other spaces under the roof are dry, without decay or mold. Should I? I also think he said he’d do it for an extra $250.




A. Releading means removing or replacing the lead flashing around the chimney. It may not be needed, because lead is the toughest, longest-lasting flashing you can get. The roofer won’t know for sure until he takes off all layers of shingles. The flashing is on top of the shingles, and mortared into the chimney. It may be intact.

 If the roofer meant he would take off the lead because it is a hazard, he is mistaken, I believe, and if he insists, check any rules on lead flashing.

 A ridge vent, done right, will do no harm and will provide more venting in the attic, which you can always use. The price is right, too, so let him do that.

Q. I had a leak in the roof of my old house, which stained the woodwork white. How can I remove it?


LIAM LYNCH, Cambridge

A. The water turned the woodwork white because the woodwork is finished with shellac, a clear finish made of ground up bugs of a certain type, thinned with denatured alcohol. Shellac is very sensitive to water. To remove, clean the finish with denatured alcohol. This will remove the stains, but will also dissolve some of the shellac. When all stains are removed, recoat with one or two coats of shellac. White shellac (clear shellac) is very clear and will darken the woodwork very little. Orange shellac has a darker hue, and will darken the finish.

Peter Hotton is also in the Thursday g Section. 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