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    Handyman on Call

    Is his roofing bid fair, and how can he be sure?

    Q. My old Victorian house, built in 1881, is huge, with an enormous attic and a turret. I bought it in 1975 and had the roof re-shingled, so the roof is 37 years old. A roofer offered to do a new roof for $17,000. Is that fair, or reasonable?

    LEE MONDALE, Marblehead

    A. Considering the size and intricacies of the roof, including that turret, I think that price may indeed be fair. As a final note, those shingles that lasted 37 years and counting are remarkable. One thing you can do to see if the offer is fair is to invite two more bids.


    Q. I have two cracks in my foundation that are leaking water. One is in the house foundation, the other in the garage, which is a part of the house foundation. A man offered to fix them for $800, but will have to widen the cracks in order to do so. I’m concerned about widening the crack. Is that acceptable?


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    A. Yes, that is acceptable. There are many techniques to fix leaks, and this one I think will succeed.

    Q. I live in an old, lopsided building in the North End. A few years ago a plumber installed a new kitchen faucet and sprayer. When using the sprayer it works fine for the “first” spray. If I pick it up again after just using it nothing comes out and it takes a good hour for it to work again. Why might this be? It’s like it has run out of pressure.

    CYNTHIA, by e-mail

    A. Your reference to your house reminds me of a great movie called “The Lady Killers,” in which a little old lady was a reluctant landlady to the killers, and her house was so crooked that it took 4 or 5 steps and a mallet to get the water going. Her tenants called her Mrs. Lopsided.


    Anyway, I am not sure what’s wrong with the sprayer except there is a temporary blockage in it. So, call a plumber. I had a blockage in my sprayer some time ago, and it took two plumbers to figure what was wrong. Yep, it was a blockage, something there that shouldn’t have been there.

    Q. All the windows in my 28-year-old house are single-glazed (one layer of glass), spring-loaded, and wood-framed, with storms that work very well. Now the windows are extremely hard to move up and down, and I have to take a mallet to get them to move. Is it possible to loosen them, and how?


    A. It’s possible. Try this first: On each side of the window there is a side stop, a thin board nailed vertically to the jamb, and butting up against the lower sash. It is a stop, to hold the sash in place. Un-nail or unscrew each stop, then check the movement of the window. If it moves OK, then replace the stops so they just barely touch the sash. If that doesn’t work, the sash has probably swollen from moisture, so you must plane or cut down the sides to fit more loosely. It’s tricky to take out those sashes, so you might need a window person to show you how.

    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 ( also chats online about house matters 2-3 p.m. Thursdays.
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