Handyman on call

New finish for peeling windows may be best bet

Q. I have 18 Marvin windows just 10 years old. They are good windows, but the cladding, some kind of vinyl, is peeling off. Since the windows were under warranty, I called Marvin and a spokesman said he would send a team to strip off the “cladding” and paint or apply a “substance” that would stick to the fiberglass frame of each window. This work will be free, but there will be no warranty on its material and its application.

I find all this rather bizarre, so I wonder if I should accept this offer.


GEORGE P., Littleton


A. Yes, it sounds bizarre, but do you have a choice? Marvin offered nothing else, so I think the company simply took the cheapest approach in the hopes the new finish will last longer than the first. Because the glass in each window is good, Marvin would have been better off providing a new sash of some sort to replace each unit that has the peeling substance.

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Q. I plan to apply waterproofing on my new brick steps. Is it necessary, or should I leave well enough alone? Would it make the bricks slippery?


RACHEL from Cambridge

A. It is not necessary, nor will it make the steps slippery. But it won’t hurt anything, and just maybe it might help reduce the damage from salt in winter.

Q. I would like to put in a whole-house fan to help cool the house in summer. I want it on the floor of the attic, because the attic has plenty of ventilation to allow the big fan to exhaust the air. Who would install such a fan? A man said such a fan will lose 10 percent of the house heat in winter.




A. The house will lose 10 percent of its heat if the fan is not covered. So, build a tight, insulated box to put over the fan in winter. A whole-house fan works this way: open windows a bit on the first floor, and a few on the second. Run the fan only when the temperature outdoors is lower than the temperature indoors, which usually occurs in the evening.

Have an electrician install the fan.

Q. In several corners in some rooms in the house, the hardwood floors are soiled badly by spider poop. I tried cleaning it with water, but without much success. What will work?




A. At least the spiders are doing their work of keeping the house free of insects. Try this: Make a strong solution of laundry detergent and water with a little bleach added, apply it generously on the soiled area, and let it sit for two minutes to dissolve the poop. Then scrub and wipe up with a damp cloth. If two minutes doesn’t work, four or five will.

Q. After I had a nurseryman cut and trim my shrubs and bushes, big weeds sprang up around each shrub. Why did that happen? The weeds have woody roots and stems.



A. They are not weeds; they are parts of the shrub that was cut. Cutting encourages new growth. Perhaps if you cut the roots a little closer to the shrub you will get less growth, but be careful you don’t overdo it and kill the shrubs.

Q. I have several Velux skylights that are 25 years old. One is fogged, so I called Velux and got a runaround of sorts when the man said, “We don’t make them any more.” Now what can I do?



A. Call Velux again and find someone who can lend an understanding ear. Velux roof windows have not changed much in 25 years, and you should be able to get a new sash with glass or put new glass in the unit. You’ll have to pay for it. By the way, the fogged unit is still insulating as well as it ever did.

Q. I had my roof stripped and replaced last September. The other day I noticed that there are areas where the edges of the shingles are curling. I called the roofer. He went up on the roof and said one of his installers put a couple of rows of sheets (shingles) too close to each other and this is why they are curling. His solution is to trim the abutting sides of the sheets. Is the integrity of the roof being compromised by trimming the sheets? Is there a better way?


DAVID LEVY, by e-mail

A. You have lucked out to find a roofer with integrity. His idea to trim off the edges of the curling shingles is spot on. Have him do it and the curling will stop. The integrity of the roof is not compromised. There is no better way.

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