Handyman on Call

How long will her stone-lined water heater last?

Q. I live in a six-unit condo building, there are six owners who each own an 80-gallon tank of a Vaughn Hydrastone lined electric water heater. I have lived in this building since it was built 20 years ago and the water heaters are still working well. I have heard that we need not replace our water heater because of the hydrastone lining. Some plumbers say to replace it. Do we need to think about replacing them in the very near future?


A. They aren’t broke, so why fix them? Stone-lined electric water heaters are the best you can get, and who knows how long they will last. I have one, and have owned two since buying my house 50 years ago. I don’t know how old the heater was when I bought the house, but the current one is at least 35-plus years old. So hang on to yours as long as you can. When such heaters fail, they usually do not lose water.


Q. My dishwasher is a 2005 Maytag and is seldom used. When I opened it up I found a hose had come off inside, so I am afraid to use it. My son-in-law said he put the hose back on once, but I am still concerned. What can I do?

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JOYCE, from Peabody

A. Remember the ads about the Maytag repairman never getting any work? Well, call him, or rather your appliance dealer, who will come for a fee and fix it properly.

Q. For years, my apartment was invaded by spiders, mostly in the bedroom, 12 and more at a time. I poured Boraxo several months ago into floor cracks and other spots, and the spiders are gone. Will they come back?

CONNIE, from Natick


A. Spiders go wherever they find food (bugs). The boric acid in the Boraxo did the trick. Keep track of how long you are spider-free, and if and when they come back, give them another barrage of Boraxo. I like spiders because they eat a lot of bad bugs, but 12 at a time would make me rather jumpy.

Mr. Clean saga, Part 2

Here’s a note I received from Margaret Ann Brady of Cambridge in reply to MK Feely of Scituate who sent me a gentle brickbat last week on Mr. Clean’s Magic Eraser: “It’s true, they do shred easily, but I too could be accused of partiality in their favor — they’re just the right tool for so, so many tasks. You go right ahead & pitch ’em.”

Q. My daughter is buying a house that has very dark brown kitchen cabinets. She would like them white. How can she do that?


A. Think twice before changing color, because if you keep the brown cabinets, you can decorate around them. But here’s how to paint them, if they are wood: Sand them heavily to reduce gloss and roughen the finish. Give one coat of a Kilz stain killer, because it is hard to cover dark colors with paint. Then apply one coat of a latex primer sealer, and finish with two coats of an eggshell finish latex paint. Skip any of the steps and you will be in big trouble.

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. Go to