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Pesky squirrels, shower cracks, and chimneys

Peter Hotton answers your questions about leaks, cracks, drips, chips, and more.

Q. Recently, my wife and I had a carpenter install new energy-efficient Andersen windows and a new slider into our house. The carpenter told me that he put in some insulation around the new windows and door. We are doing some interior work on the house and a person at a local insulation company suggested that I purchase some low expansion insulation foam. My carpenter said spraying the insulation can make windows hard to open, by gumming up the mechanics. What’s your take on this insulation?


A. These units are installed as one unit, with caulking on the back of the casing for a good seal. He should remove each unit to check, and if there is no caulking, put in plenty of an adhesive caulk to make a good seal as he reinserts them. The offer to insert low-expanding foam is wrong; there is little room between the unit and rough opening to allow enough to get in there to be worth the effort.

Q. We have a “pre-fab” shower unit in a basement bathroom, necessitating that the wastewater be pumped up to the sewer line. Therefore, the floor of the shower is elevated to accommodate the piping to the pump. The floor appears to be fiberglass. Unfortunately a crack developed. Previous owners tried to place epoxy over it. The edges have now lifted, the floor is still not properly supported, and we are concerned water could be getting under the epoxy, below the shower floor. Could we re-epoxy the crack, or must we tear out the unit and start over?



A. To reinforce the floor and fix the crack will be more work than replacing with a properly floored unit, so you should go with a new unit.

Q. We have a 2½-story house that has been vinyl sided. Squirrels have climbed the siding on a bay window section and chewed through the corner strips twice. We replaced them, but it happened a third time. This time, the squirrel chewed along the siding panels next to the corner strips. How do I stop the damage? I tried sprays and considered a trap.


RICH, by e-mailRICH, BY E-MAIL

A. If it is one critter, you probably have little choice but to capture and kill it. He might also quit with the approaching nice weather. Try again with repellents. Animal urine often is a deterrent. Also, consider building a sturdy metal frame covered with hardware cloth (¼- or ⅓-inch steel mesh) to keep him from the target areas. Or, call Nixalite of America, which builds needle boards to deter birds and other invasive critters.

Q. I am about to have stairs and six floors sanded upstairs in my two-family house in Dorchester. One sander says seal and then two coats of polyurethane. Next one says no need to seal, just two coats of polyurethane. Is sealing necessary? Is two coats of polyurethane sufficient? The floors are not bad, is there such a thing as a light sanding?


A. Any first clear coat on a wood floor is a sealer, so two or three coats of polyurethane will stand up well.

Q. I have a gas burner/boiler and stainless steel chimney liner. Does that need to be cleaned by a chimney sweep? Additionally, the steel exterior door to my cellar entry is rusting. Suggestions?



A. Burning gas produces nothing but water vapor (the fumes are toxic), so I don’t think there is a need to clean it. An occasional inspection would help. For your other issue, get a steel bulkhead and door that is secure, and with powder coat to avoid rusting.

Globe Handyman on Call Peter Hotton is also in the g section on Thursdays. He is available 1-6 p.m. Tuesdays to answer questions on house repair. Call 617-929-2930. E-mail him at photton@globe.com.