Handyman on Call

Should she have porch columns stripped or replace them?

Q. I own a house built in the 1930s by a man named Hardy for whom my little street in South Boston is named. I am having the house reshingled this spring, probably Maibec white cedar, or Hardee fiber cement.

The front porches each have eight fluted and tapered columns with masses of thick cracked and chipping paint. I am on the verge of having them replaced with PVC approximations or rebuilt using PVC and an underlying structural post. However, the old wood is hard pine, barely checked, in good shape. How do I find someone who could give me a price for removing the paint and repairing it to maintain the original look? Might it be cheaper? What will be the ramifications lead-paint-wise?


A. I think the columns, fluted, tapered with a bulge in the middle to look vertical, are worth keeping. Find a painter who will strip the old paint carefully to make sure that lead is saved for safe disposal, then prime and paint, or paint with two coats of a solid color latex stain.


Q. My father-in-law asked me to buy him a new hammer. The problem is he is a lefty. I can’t find a left-handed hammer in any store. Is this a specialty item? Where would I find one?


in Hotton’s chat room

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A. Buy one at a left-handed monkey wrench store. Since you too are pulling my leg, we’ll call it a draw. I’m a righty, and when I needed to hammer with my left hand, it did take some practice and getting used to.

Q. I was just about to use my new snow rake when I read that you said it does little good. When should a snow rake be used?


in Hotton’s chat room

A. On sloped roofs generally never, because it does little or no good and is hazardous, especially if some snow has frozen. There are exceptions. In the Globe on Feb. 20, a story ran about two roofs collapsing under heavy snow weight. I think this happened because the roofs are quite old and in at least one case, when the rafters spread apart, collapse was due to a lack of a cross bar which connects each pair of rafters to keep them from spreading.

The only sloped roof that needs shoveling is one leaking heavily. Removal of snow will stop the leak. Repairs can be made later.

Those copper stains


For the reader with greenish copper stains around the drain, try Bon Ami powder cleanser, wrote Joan DesRoches, of Mendon.

Soak the copper stain with white vinegar and it’s gone in minutes, wrote JSP, Hingham.

Dean Dakin of Portland, Maine, wrote: I read your answer to Susan Van Home of Swansea about the green color around her bathroom drain. Your answer was “the green was from the copper pipes.” Looking at my bathroom drain of more than 8½ years, I find that all the drain parts and piping are made of PVC. No copper to be seen on the drains. I had the same problem and invested in a metered water softener by Water Right Co. Now there is no green buildup.

Use Bar Keepers Friend cleanser, wrote Herb Wick of East Bridgewater.

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 ( also chats online 2-3 p.m. Thursdays. Go to,