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Handyman on Call

Can he fix his aluminum storm door?

Peter Hotton is not writing today. This Handyman column originally ran in the Boston Sunday Globe on June 29, 2008.

Q. My aluminum storm door has developed a gap at the top and is getting harder to close. When I open the door, it moves when I lift it. Should I get a new one, or can the old one be fixed? Also, how can I clean 30-year-old aluminum storm windows, where the frames are pitted and pretty sad looking, and some of the latches are broken.R.S. , Woburn

A. That door has racked from old age, turning from a rectangle to a parallelogram. First, check to make sure the hinges are tight. Check the corners of the door to see if there are any bolts or screws that can be tightened to restore the squareness of door. The corners may be crimped or riveted, canceling any thoughts of tightening.

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There is another thing you can do: Put a turnbuckle on the door. This is a steel rod that goes from the top corner of the latch side of the door slantwise to the bottom corner on the hinge side. It is connected in the middle with the turnbuckle. You can turn this device to shorten the rod and bring the door back to square.

As for the windows, they are probably not anodized, so you can clean them by dipping steel wool into paint thinner and rubbing. And since they are old and latches are missing, they are probably loose as a goose and you can buy new, high quality ones such as Harvey Tru-Channel .

Q. My concrete steps have low railing-like concrete structures at each end, giving them a finished look. They are now cracked and are developing shallow chips from wear and tear. Is there something I can do to fill the cracks and smooth over the chips? The man at the store offered a sand mix, but I am not sure about that.

E.H. , Saugus

A. That sand mix is basically concrete (Portland cement and sand), but it is not good to use in thin layers. You could use a mortar mix, which will stick better, but best to use is Top ’n Bond, which I have found to stick very well in thin layers. If the cracks are hairlines, there is little you can do about them. If they are larger, you can try pressing Top ’n Bond into them. Caulking will also work, but it will give a definite patched look. If you have to patch the surface, and it looks pretty raggedy, you could coat it with Drylock, a cement-based paint, for a finished look.

Q. My daughter has sliding doors on her closet, the kind that roll on wheels on a top rail. One door is sticking. How can she make it work again?

LOU, from Framingham

A. First, check the wheels to make sure they are not loose. Check to see if any part of the door is scraping on the floor or the side of the companion door. If everything seems to be OK, then spray the wheels with WD-40. If the door cannot be moved, then it is off its track or blocked by something that you will have to locate.

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 on house repair. Call 617-929-2930. Hotton (photton@globe.com) also chats online about house matters 2-3 p.m. Thursdays. Go to www.boston.com
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