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    Handyman on Call

    Peter Hotton on hornets’ nests, wet basements, and more

    Q. I bought a house with two attic vents on the roof that are filled with hornets’ nests. They are empty but they block the vents. The vent base is on the roof and is screened, and the nest is between that screen and the vent above. I can’t move either. I’d have to cut the screen in order to take out the nest. What now? I might be able to get on the roof and open the vents, but I’m not 25 years old and stupid any more.


    in Hotton’s chat room

    A. I like your attitude, it has saved many lives. Try this: Cut the screen, remove the nest, and then build a new screen with a wood border and screw it in the wood sheathing. This framed screen will be easy to remove and reinstall in case of another nest. And there will be.

    Q. We have been notified by National Grid that our gas usage is above the average of a selection of customers with similar homes (ours is Cape style). Over the years we have replaced all of our windows, one of the doors, all three storm doors, added insulation in the attic, and double insulated the wall between the garage and mudroom. My wife and I are the only occupants.


    The second-floor thermostat is located in the center hallway, and my son has suggested that we may be using excess gas by having to bring the hallway up to temperature before the furnace shuts down, meaning the bedrooms are warmer than the thermostat setting. Could you offer a recommendation as to where this thermostat should be?



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    A. A thermostat should always go on an inside wall, to prevent it from being fooled by a cold wall into calling for heat when it is not needed. But since it is in a hallway that could affect its operation, one thing to do is to relocate it in a bedroom, and keep it set at 60, because bedrooms don’t have to be as warm as other living areas. Or, leave the thermostat where it is and turn it off, if you can stand the upstairs to be cooler. Your windows and insulation are more than adequate, but if your basement ceiling isn’t insulated, take care of it now. It will save fuel.

    Q. In my basement is a sump pit. On occasion, the pump has failed or the electricity has gone out and I’ve had to deal with overflowing water. I don’t understand the concept of sending water into your basement. I’d like to disconnect the sump pipe system and find another way to direct water away from my house. I’m curious if a French drain would be the way to go in this situation. There is a slight slope from the house toward the back of my property. I was thinking of digging trenches around the house to set up the pipe drainage system, leading them to a gravel pit toward the back of my property. I have about 40 feet of property from the back of my house to my neighbor’s fence.


    by e-mail

    A. You are not bringing water into the basement; it does that by itself. The water table, called ground water rises from melting snow and rain and the sump fills. Some answers: 1. Install a battery-operated sump pump or a generator to run the power when it goes off. 2. If the sump and pump can’t handle the water, a French drain, a drain under the floor around the inside of the basement leading to the sump, can work well, but is expensive. 3. Your idea of an outdoor drain is good, might be cheaper to build, and is free to operate.

    Globe Handyman on Call Peter Hotton also appears in the Sunday Real Estate section. He is available 1-6 p.m. Tuesdays to answer questions. Call 617-929-2930. Hotton (photton@
    ) also chats online 2-3 p.m. Thursdays. Go to