Handyman on call

It may be time to replace decaying boards

Q. I am scraping and sanding outside window woodwork and house trim prior to painting. In some areas I have found spots of decay, very soft wood. How can I treat those rotted areas, or do I have to replace each affected board? A friend said I can fill those areas with Bondo, the auto filler material.



A. If the wood is pretty well rotted out, chances are the board needs replacing, or at least the decayed part needs to be cut out and a matching board put in, probably pressure-treated wood, which is easily painted after a year of drying out.


 Other areas that are not as severely decayed can be saved. Dig out the decay as best you can, then douse it with bleach to kill any decay mechanisms, rinse thoroughly and let dry. Apply a Minwax wood hardener, then fill the gap with a Minwax epoxy wood rot filler, sand smooth, and repaint.

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 Be careful working with the epoxy filler; it can harden in as little as 15 seconds, often trapping your mixing stick in the hardening material. Bondo is pretty good, but it does not expand and contract in weather conditions as well as the Minwax wood rot filler.

Q. I live in a house on the Westport River, and it is full of mold: walls, furniture, and every other place, it seems. I tried a bleach and water solution, which works, but there is so much mold that it is overwhelming. Is it due to my living near a river?



A. I don’t think it is the fault of the river, but two other things: You may have closed up the house, not allowing normal ventilation. If you have air conditioning, which is a dehumidifier, the air conditioner is cooling off too fast, preventing its dehumidifying function.


 For starters, call an air conditioning company to check out the unit, which may need an adjustment. Without an air conditioner, venting will help a lot. Since the mold is widespread, call a mold remediation company. A good one is May Indoor Air Investigations in Tyngsborough.

Q. For 20 years my windows worked very well, but recently I discovered that they have a film, which is beginning to peel off, making a big mess. How can I remove that film? I tried a razor blade, but it scratched the glass.



A. Sometimes you can pull down a bit of the film then clean the glass next to the film with warm detergent and water, making it easier to pull down the film as you go along. Short of that, call a window tinting or window film company; because they know how to put on the film, they will know how to remove yours. You can also buy a razor blade scraper that holds the blade at the proper, non-scratching angle.

Q. How can I get blood out of a carpet? It’s on an area of about 8 by 6 inches. Also, how can I clean the darkened grout on my bathroom floor?




A. Try hydrogen peroxide on the bloodstain, and do a small area to make sure no bleaching occurs. It probably won’t, but checking is better than not checking.

 For the darkened grout, if it is near the toilet, it will not lighten until it dries out. That area is often damp from condensation, keeping the grout dark. If there are other dark areas, treat with straight bleach and scrub with a brush. Repeat as necessary. Or, paint the grout lines white with an oil or latex paint. If the tiles are glazed, you can rub off anything you slopped on the tile with a dry cloth after the area dries.

Q. The 3- by 18-foot concrete apron in front of my garage door has broken up in just a few years. How can that be fixed so it won’t happen again?


KAY, from Lynnfield

A. The apron broke up because it was too thin, had no reinforcing bars, and did not have crushed stone under it for drainage. Call a concrete man, who should: take away the debris, dig down 10 to 12 inches, add 6 inches of crushed stone, and pour a 4- to 6-inch concrete slab with steel reinforcing bars.

Q. Squirrels are eating holes in the canvas of my awning that is like an umbrella in my backyard. How can I prevent that?


BILL EIDSON, Arlington

A. There are many repellents you can buy at a garden shop or hardware store; with luck you will find one that is not too repulsive.

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 Hotton’s e-mail is