Handyman on Call

Preserving wooden fences and ridding wasps

Q. I just bought property in Revere. Part of the deal included a wooden fence that has seen better days. The house was built in 2002 and I assume that the fence went up around that time as well. My guess is that very little attention has been paid to the fence as it is dry and brittle and definitely could use some “moisture.” I don’t want to spend a lot of money on it before I know it can be salvaged (or not). I read on the Web that an antifreeze would be a good wood preservative to serve well enough before using a more expensive commercial wood stains. What do you think?

TOBY, at Northeastern University

A. The fence is made of cedar and maybe fir, both woods that bear up well outdoors, and being dry and brittle is normal. If it is not punky or soft from decay, you can rescue it because it’s only 13 years old. If the posts are made of pressure-treated wood, they will last indefinitely. If they are made of cedar, they may be near their full life of 15 years. You can check.


So, it boils down to this: how to help preserve the rails, posts, and pickets. Don’t bother with anything but a semi-transparent stain, which may be cheaper than an antifreeze. Pick a choice of an earth color and apply one coat. It will be good for 5 to 7 years. A clear wood preservative is good, too, but won’t last half as long.

Get The Weekender in your inbox:
The Globe's top picks for what to see and do each weekend, in Boston and beyond.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

Q. My husband’s beloved old fishing boat has a Plexiglas windshield that is cloudy. Do you know of any magic cures to clean it?

LINDA, who likes fishing, too

A. I don’t know how to clean cloudy Plexiglas, and even Google came back with some non-answers. One said to wash with very hot water, with no detergent. If that doesn’t work, here’s my idea: If the windshield can be removed, buy another sheet of Plexi and install that. I’m sorry I can’t do better than that. But good fishing!

Q. I am caulking up barn boards for the winter. Is that bad for them? What is the life expectancy of barn boards?


MARGE, in Hotton’s chat room

A. By barn boards, I must assume you mean vertical siding, usually cedar or maybe pine, on a barn. Do not caulk them; there is no need for caulking on a barn. Caulking cedar clapboards is also wrong, and will do more harm than good. Finally, a good barn board, stained or painted, will last the life of the barn, which can be 200 years or more. Another item called barnboard (one word) is a fake board for indoors, roughened up and stained to look weathered. Pretty silly.

Q. Help. I have an old house in New Hampshire that it is loaded with ladybugs. Why are they there and what can I do? Can I kill them?


A. Those bugs are the Spotted Asian lady beetle, which hitchhiked on a Japanese freighter that landed in New Orleans 30 years ago. I have been answering questions about them for that long. They came in for warmth, and are quite beneficial, eating aphids every day. Sweep them up and toss them outdoors. Kill them? Why? With a spray you will end up contaminating the house and making a big mess that you’ll have to clean up anyway.

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