Next Score View the next score

    Handyman on call | Peter Hotton

    Time to consider dropping deceitful carpenter

    Q. I need a new threshold to replace the one that is rotted out under my front entrance, which includes a door still in good shape and two sidelights. I hired a carpenter who said he can’t provide a threshold but will have to replace the door and sidelights at a cost of $1,000. I know he’s wrong but how can I convince him just to take out the rotted threshold and leave the other parts, which are in excellent shape alone?

    I also need a few new red cedar clapboards, and the carpenter said they don’t make them any more, and I have to get another material. 


    IRENE, from Malden


    A. For starters, he’s a liar and is hoping to sell you the whole shebang and make a bundle.

    Get Talking Points in your inbox:
    An afternoon recap of the day’s most important business news, delivered weekdays.
    Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

    So either drop this ding-a-ling or convince him to take out the threshold and put in a new one. It is tricky, but entirely possible. Those thresholds do exist; I have seen them in the Brosco catalog. Brosco calls them sills. Even if a sill cannot be found, a carpenter with savvy and imagination can build one from a pressure-treated 2x12. I don’t know why yours rotted, but I think it failed because it was improperly installed.

    Concerning those red cedar clapboards, the carpenter is lying again. Red cedar clapboards are available, and most of them are primed for painting.

    Q. I have a problem with my cutting board. I glued some black buttons on the bottom of the board to give it some traction while cutting on it. When I removed them, the adhesive stayed and I can’t get it off. What solvent will work?


    GERT, from Quincy


    A. Try a solvent such as paint thinner, rubbing alcohol, Goof-Off, and many others called miracle workers. Try paint thinner first. (Gert called back to say the paint thinner worked perfectly.)

    Q. The trim around my shower stall is polished marble, very shiny. A cleaning lady used a bleach product to clean it, and etched the marble and made it dull. How can I restore the shine?


    HAL BERMAN, Wayland

    A. Bleach did not etch the finish because it is not an acid. “Polished” marble is polished by buffing it with a buffing machine or vigorous rubbing with a dry cloth. Try it. The smoother the finish, the higher the shine.

    Q. I had my bathroom walls tiled with ceramic tile. Accent tiles are brown, embossed with a painted gray accent. The tiler left some grout on the accent tiles, and I’m afraid rubbing will remove the gray paint. How can I clean the grout?



    TOM MUNSON, Maine

    A. You won’t hurt the accent because it is not painted, but a part of the glazed tile, impossible to remove except by heavy sanding. You can remove the grout with muriatic acid, sold in hardware and paint stores. Mix it half and half with water; always pour the acid into the water, and paint it on the grout. It will fizz up, and you can wipe it off with a damp sponge or dry cloth. Sometimes just wiping the grout with a dry cloth or Mr. Clean’s Magic Eraser will do it.

    Q. My garage door is 19 years old, but has a number of rust spots. How can I paint it with that rust on it? Do I have to use a paint for metal?


    BILL, from Westwood

    A. I don’t think you need to use a metal paint, although using a Rust-Oleum primer and finish coat is a good idea. Whatever you use, sand thoroughly, to remove as much of the rust spots as possible. Then paint the rust areas with a liquid called Rust Reformer, which will turn the rust black and make it paintable. Then apply a primer and one finish coat. Thin coats are more successful than thick ones.

    Q. Sometimes the stopper in my toilet wasting water. How can I fix that and prevent it from recurring?



    A. Take off the tank top and check the chain that holds the stopper, and if it is hung up, simply free it.

    Q. Someone spilled a lot of oil on my new driveway, and made a real mess. I removed some by pushing it off, but a lot remains. How can I get rid of the rest?



    A. Sprinkle lots and lots of SpeedyDry or cat box clay on the oil until it mounds up. You will see the absorbent clay change color. Wait for an hour or so, then sweep or shovel it up and dispose of it. Repeat as necessary.

    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 or e-mail He also chats online 2-3 p.m. Thursdays on