Handyman on call

Sometimes it pays to listen to common sense

Q. I have gotten a very nice chair from you, Pop, and many attempts to move it from your house to mine have succeeded, except into the room I want it in. As Handyman, you should know how to move, finagle, angle and adjust the chair to get it through a narrow doorway where it belongs. But how?



A. This is a real a family affair, with the Handyman patriarch reduced to a role of adviser. Gina, practical, beautiful, and assertive, was the honcho. My advice, far away from the stage of the action is to take the door off its hinges, which my granddaughter, Claudia Henkel, a pretty, bright chip off the old man’s block, said can’t be done. She took another look and said, yes it can. And so it was done, and then the battle began, including the Handyman’s wife, Lucia, another practical soul, and beautiful as well. The big wing chair, very expensively bought by me but not suited to my house, made moving it difficult because its legs are angled, reducing the chance of angling it through the narrow doorway.


The chair also had very fat, puffy sides, arms, and wings, giving Lucia this idea: Why don’t we squeeze those puffy sides so we can force in the chair? Immediately the Handyman heard a squawk of success from his place of exile, and the thing was done.

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It was a brilliancy, and Gina shouted, “Ma, you’re a genius!” Hugs and kisses all around, the Handyman’s short prayer of thanksgiving, and I remember a similar story about a big rig that got stuck under a bridge. The men and pros huffed and puffed, and could not budge it. Then a small boy said he had an idea. Not interested, the pros said, but the boy said, “why not take some of the air out of the tires?” So they did, and the driver drove off to get new air, saluting the boy with three tugs of his horn, “Kid, you’re a genius!”

Q. My tub drain had a heavy buildup of hair and other blockages, and one blockage-buster called Clobber didn’t work. Eventually a plumber used a snake to clear everything. I noticed some of the finish, paint or something, was coming off the tub, revealing black cast iron, in several places. How can I restore the finish to cover the black marks?



A. The tub finish is not paint, but porcelain enamel, which wore off from long use. You can’t cover it, but there are three ways to handle it. 1) Leave it alone and keep the tub clean. 2) Install a new cast iron tub, very expensive, requiring the tile surround to be partially removed and reinstalled. 3) Have the tub reglazed with an epoxy finish. It very often works at a lesser cost. Or install an acrylic shell over the tub. I think reglazing is the most economical way.


Q. My house is at the lowest point in the neighborhood and has a large sump, 12 feet long and 3 feet wide, in the driveway in front of the garage. The pumps send to a buried sewer in the backyard. It was built by my folks, and when it fills up with leaves it’s my job to shovel out the evil-smelling gunk that accumulates at the bottom. Is there a way to screen the grilles to prevent this buildup?


CATHY, in Newton

A. That sump is like a catch basin in the street, and you probably see crews shoveling out the gunk twice a year or so. You could see if you can pay the city crews to clean out your sump. In the meantime, install a screen of 1/4-inch hardware cloth (sturdy, galvanized steel mesh) under the grille, so you can brush it off every few weeks or as needed.

Talk to your local public works department to see what kind of a system your town has and if there can be anything else you can have done.

Q. What do you recommend for the best hardwood floor protection furniture pads? We use felt pads cut to the size of the furniture leg and then stick them on. After a while, they fall off or get clogged with dirt and dog fur. I’d love to find something that works better.




A. You can find good foot pads at any hardware store. The best are round or square plastic rubberized cups that will do the trick. Good for tapered round legs are crutch ends that fit tightly on any round leg, tapered or not. Sold also at hardware stores and some drug stores featuring medical devices.

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 from 2-3 p.m. Thursdays on