Real estate


Should you paint your deck?


Q. My house faces the water and gets slammed every winter. The front porch deck and stair treads are pressure-treated lumber, and the paint peels off every year. I’ve tried latex and oil-based. Is there anything that will color them more permanently and protect them better? Every spring I remove the remaining paint using a heat gun and scraper — no chemicals. Hard work. This year, I’d like to know that I won’t have to repeat the whole process in less than 12 months.


A. I’m not a fan of using paint on decks — ever. Try a clear coat of an oil-based stain or protectant. Oil stains do not peel; they soak into the wood. Think of them as moisturizer. For future reference, the best wood for decks is mahogany or ipe. Alternatively, you could use 100 percent composite decking and railings.


Q. My house is six years old. When should I, or should I, think about maintenance contracts on the central air, furnace, gas lines, etc.? Utility companies are always sending me brochures for such.

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A. A lot of equipment seems to come out of warranty or fail around the 10-year mark. I’d certainly start developing a relationship with reputable companies now so they get to know you and your systems. That way you can develop a trust in their abilities. You should have them come out and inspect your systems and make recommendations for future service.

Q. We have a plaster ceiling in the basement of our circa-1900 house that’s falling apart. In one of those places, I noticed about a foot and a half of asbestos around a hot-water pipe. I’m having the asbestos professionally removed, but I’m also wondering whether I should have the whole ceiling taken out. This would obviously have to include removing any additional asbestos. One reason to remove the ceiling is that it would allow us to rewire at least the first floor. We have knob-and-tube wiring behind the plaster. It would also allow us to insulate the basement ceiling, which experts seem to have mixed feelings about. The price for just taking care of the exposed asbestos is $1,500. For removing the entire 700-square-foot ceiling and any asbestos they find, it would be $4,000.

What would you do? Is there any benefit to keeping the plaster ceiling? Should we insulate the basement ceiling?



A. I would remove the ceiling. Updating old wires is always a good investment. I look at the insulation of basement ceilings as nice to have and needed if you heat that area. Since you’re opening up the ceiling, why not do it?

Rob Robillard is a general contractor, carpenter, editor of, and principal of a carpentry and renovation business. Send your questions to or tweet them to @globeaddress or @robertrobillard.