Real estate


In attic, roofing nails are a real head-scratcher

Christoph Riddle/Shutterstock

Q. Our unfinished attic is studded with 2 to 3 inches of roofing nails sticking out. We use the space for storage, and I am worried about safety. The roof is very low, and if I stand up too quickly under the eaves, I can (and have) hit my head directly on a nail. I’m sure this is a common problem, and I can see a couple of fixes: put rigid insulation between the rafters or create some kind of ceiling using wallboard or paneling. But is there a less costly and less time-consuming alternative? It seems as if it would be a common problem, and maybe it isn’t considered dangerous to most people. What is your experience?


A. I carry Band-Aids for this very reason. Your solutions would work fine, taking time and materials to complete, or you could simply wear a hard hat in the attic and save your money.

A quick note on rigid insulation: I would not put the insulation boards up against the underside of your vented attic roof. If you go this route, use 1-inch to 1½-inch strips of plywood alongside the rafters and at the roof boards to keep the rigid insulation off the roof sheathing 1 inch. You can screw the strips to the rafters or use glue — but no fasteners into the roof underside. This ridged channel will allow air to flow from the soffit vents to the ridge vents.


Q. I have a covered porch with fir 1-by-4 decking that has never been painted or stained. It is well weathered to a light brown color, and I like the way it looks very much. I do not want to paint or stain it; however, the occasional drop of food or spill of sunscreen or bug repellant has left dark oily spots that are pretty ugly. I was thinking that I might be able to brush or roll it with boiled linseed oil to mask the stains (making it all appear darker), but still leave it an unfinished, natural color. Would that be a suitable solution? Are there downsides I should be aware of? Should I blend it with turpentine or paint thinner? Do you have a better suggestion?

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SCOTT, Oak Bluffs

A. Boiled linseed oil cut with thinner is old school, and I’m not sure it’s a suitable solution. Why not use a tinted or clear coat of an oil preservative? I use Penofin on a lot of my mahogany and fir decks with great results. Tinting the oil would definitely darken the wood and possibly mask your stains.

I prefer Penofin because it penetrates the wood’s surface and lets moisture pass in and out, allowing it to breathe. The stain contains Brazilian rosewood oil, a strong, flexible, and water-and-mildew resistant substance sustainably harvested from the seeds of the tree. No trees are ever cut to produce this oil. Rosewood oil allows the wood to retain its flexibility and creates no surface film.

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.