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    Handyman on call

    Citrus-based cleaner may get paint off granite

    Q. Many years ago, some “Rhodes scholar” painted the granite surrounding our garden on Commonwealth Ave. Thanks to the slings and arrows of time, some of it has worn or flaked away, but that which remains is resistant to peeling. Some of my neighbors are inclined (horror of horrors) to repaint it. To me that would be tantamount to pickling a priceless mahogany antique with white paint. I am sure sandblasting would work, but setting up to do so without damaging plants and the fence would be a problem even if the Back Bay Architectural Commission were to approve it. I hope you will have a simpler solution.


    PHILIP HOUCK, Boston

    A. I sympathize with you, for someone painting granite, which I think is just as bad as painting brick or other masonry or stone. But I am confused as to what the granite is: foundation, wall, sidewalk. Sanding would be difficult on any uneven surface, and sandblasting may be illegal these days. But a paint stripper such as citrus-based Citristrip should do well, though slow. It is water soluble, and I don’t think it will hurt these plantings, although you could cover plantings and other sensitive areas with tarps.


    Q. What do you think of those movable machine-driven awnings to keep the patio shaded? Are there any problems with rust or anything else?

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    A. They do work, and the only complaint I’ve gotten is that birds tend to nest under them, creating a droppings problem. There are several cures for the birds, including leaving them alone until the fledglings fly the nest.

    Q. The mirror fell off my medicine cabinet after 40 years of service. It looks to be fastened with rivets, and did not break. Can I put it back?


    SARAH, by e-mail


    A. If the rivets are in the glass, or were, it might be difficult to fix. If so, measure the cabinet and check out the big-box stores or a bathroom dealer for a same-size replacement. An antique one made of wood could also work.

    Q. I have a strange thing happening on my kitchen walls that were painted seven years ago. A bunch of hairline cracks appeared about two years ago, in the paint itself. What went wrong and how can I fix it?


    MARILYN, from Somerville

    A. I think the paint was applied too thickly, and being relatively bulky, expanded and contracted with heat and cold, causing the paint to separate. Weird, but I think true. The cure: sand with medium coarse sandpaper to try and reduce those cracks, then wash with detergent and water, let dry, and apply one thin coat of an eggshell finish interior latex wall paint. Apply a second thin coat if necessary.

     A caller once asked me, how do you apply a thin coat with a roller? Here’s how: load your roller tray, load your roller, then roll it on the drainer part of the tray before rolling on the wall. Do a second thin coat as necessary.


    Q. My asbestos siding is peeling, but not a lot. The painter said he would power-wash the siding at a pressure of 800 pounds per square inch. Is that OK?


    LINDA, from the South Shore

    A. I checked a few Google sites on using power-washing on the peeling paint, and got no definitive answer. The painter should check with the law to make sure the 800 PSI is safe. Otherwise, I suggest trying to remove the peeling paint with a garden hose. Even this might not be legit if the peeling sections are not saved and disposed of safely.

    Q. Can applying window tint film negate the warranty on windows whether the manufacturer so stipulates or not?


    DONALD T. MEYER, by e-mail

    A. That’s a good question that I never considered when a caller asked about window tinting and window films. It is best to check with the dealer who installed the windows. If the windows are out of warranty, it does not matter.

    Q. My swirled ceiling has a large water stain with blistering from a previous leak. A contractor said he would cut out the stained part and put in a patch that would match the swirls perfectly, for a charge far less than my insurance settlement.


    BOB, from Maynard

    A. Go for it. To save even more, paint the stain with two coats of clear shellac, then repaint the ceiling.

    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 on