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Handyman on Call

How can he prep and repaint his old radiators?

Q. I have a number of cast-iron radiators on the first floor of my house (circa 1929). For those that are in the bathrooms, where there really isn’t room for a radiator cover, the paint is in tough shape. Short of removing them, and sending them out for refinishing (would this involve sandblasting?), what is the best way for a homeowner to prep and refinish? Obviously, there are many hard to reach areas on a radiator that would make prep and repainting difficult, so any tips are welcome. Also, any thoughts on how to clean (or make more presentable) the steam pipes that come up from the floor into the radiators?ED HUDSON, Natick

A. You have a pretty extensive job to do, so do one room at a time. Taking them to a restoration company is prohibitively expensive, but you can do a pretty good job this way: First, check for lead paint; if any is found, the paint must be removed professionally. If no lead, sand and wire-brush the radiators as thoroughly as possible, then paint them with a Krylon paint formulated for cast iron, no primer needed. Krylon specializes in aerosol sprays, but also make paints for brushing, which I suggest you use. Choose any color except the old familiar silver and bronze, which are not good because they make the radiators less efficient. So, what color? Any one you like. Black is best, because it maximizes efficiency. You could make quite a fashion statement with black radiators and pipes.

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The same goes for the steam pipes. Since all are a part of a steam system, one question to ask the paint people: Is there a need for a high-heat resistant paint? I don’t think so, but the sellers of Krylon can tell you. Krylon also makes an HHR paint.

I remember that I used to paint the radiators in my parents’ house in northern Michigan a century or two ago. It was fun, sort of, and the long enduring hot radiators never peeled and did yeoman service in the frozen depths of Upper Peninsula winters from September to May.

Q. Batts of exposed insulation placed between the joists in my 20-year-old house basement ceiling are not pretty to look at. Instead of installing a Sheetrock ceiling, can I staple up Tyvek or other such material to neaten up the appearance of the basement by covering up the insulation?

BRIAN GILMORE, Milton

A. You certainly can. It will not only neaten up the ceiling, but its white color will reflect light. And, if you want to put up a plasterboard ceiling, just do it.

Q. Help, I found a bunch of bugs in my kitchen. What can I do with them?SCARED, Boston

A. Chances are they are roaches, no fault of yours. Or beetles, which have more species and types than any other critter. You can have an exterminator handle them, or sprinkle boric acid powder along baseboards. If you have pets, keep them away from the boric acid.

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 (photton@globe.com) also chats online about house matters 2-3 p.m. Thursdays. Go to www.boston.com

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