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    handyman on call | Peter Hotton

    Insulation deters ice dams with high ceilings


    Q. Here goes: I am in a condo whose management has challenges keeping up with the exterior. I have a beautiful unit in which I’ve invested substantially. The living room has a cathedral ceiling, which everyone says is hard to insulate. I had terrible ice dams in 2011 that started over the French doors to my deck and the water moved throughout the living room. Ultimately it affected two rooms on each of two floors. Now it’s started again. Water was coming in last night and kept me mopping for hours. The condo crew is here today trying to divert the water. Is there anyone or a company you can suggest who could give me solid ideas about what might resolve this roof problem?



    A. Your case is a classic example of inadequate insulation and ventilation for those cathedral ceilings, which are troublesome at best. Those ceilings are warm, making the roof warm and causing all the ice dams and leaks. I think having an insulator fill the space entirely with iconyne, a foam insulation, without ventilation will work for you. Also, when you reroof, put down a full ice and water shield under the roof shingles, which will stop leaks.


    Q. We are probably the last people on earth to have Formica countertops, so we can’t even ask our neighbors how to make this repair! One edge has started to peel away from the side of our kitchen counter. We’ve tried different adhesives, including Crazy Glue, in an attempt to stick it back together, but nothing has worked yet. Part of the issue may be that we can’t place a heavy object on the area while the glue dries, because it’s on the side. I’ve tried taping it and even standing there pressing against it. Nada.

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    A. No, Formica Brand Laminate Finish is regaining popularity, and is quite elegant in its new form. My daughter can attest to that. Here is how you can attach that strip of loose edging. Use adhesive caulk — Phenoseal and PolySeamSeal are two brands, sold in hardware stores. Put on a thin layer of the caulk on the edge, and hold it in place for maybe five minutes.

    Q. Water pipes keep making noise, only in winter and in one bathroom. Is that normal?




    A. Yes, it’s normal. Those pipes contract when they are cold and expand when they are hot. It is a natural law, and often you can hear them go “tick, tick,” fast or slow. One of my pipes goes “tick tick,” and I have gotten used to it after 50 or so years in the house.

    Q. We have a Kohler off-white bathroom sink about 8½ years old. I think we have fairly hard water with lots of minerals. There is a buildup of a slightly greenish color around the drain, on the porcelain. I have tried a paste of baking soda mixed with peroxide, which worked in the past, but no longer helps. I also tried your old standby, Mr. Clean Eraser. Neither has worked, nor has Soft Scrub. Any other suggestions to get the green stain off?


    SUSAN Van HOME, Swansea

    A. The green color is from contact with copper water pipes. Try straight bleach, then scrub with an abrasive such as Comet.

    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