Q. I am remodeling my modern 1950s house in Ann Arbor, Mich. I want to replace the shower valve and the head. When we removed the cover of the old valve, we were dismayed to find all the internal parts cemented, and the plumber cannot work in such a small area. He wants to cut away more to gain more working space. We can only access the valve from the front. The room has tiles in mint condition, so I am unwilling to touch them. The tile is irreplaceable. Potentially we could cut the tile around the old valve and cover it with a bigger escutcheon plate, but I have not found one. I am trying not to do patch work with different tile, since that would really accentuate that area. What should I do?
There are two things I suggest. Maybe three. How about keeping the old valve, if it is working? Short of that, you could have a large escutcheon plate made of stainless steel, plastic “chrome” or ceramic. Or, bite the bullet and make the opening bigger, then put up new backer board and put in a square of contrasting tile. I know that is not what you want, but the three ideas may be worth considering. With the large escutcheon, you will have plenty of room to work in if the valve fails.
Slant in gutters
Q. When I had new gutters installed, I noticed there does not seem to be an incline to them. I can see small puddles of water here and there in the gutter, not more than 1/8-inch deep. Should there be a slant?
There should be a slight slant, and your gutters probably do have a slant. I don't think there is a rule in the code books about how inclined gutters should be, but it is generally agreed that a slope of 1/16-inch per foot is adequate. In fact, a level gutter will drain. As long as that water evaporates between rains, don't worry.
Q. I have flies in my bathroom and on other walls in the house, and on windows, where they tend to cluster. How can I get rid of them?
Your referring to them as clustering is the clue to their identity. They are cluster flies and they breed in the ground in August., which is a terrible time to be born, because right away they have to seek shelter when it turns cold. So they gather inside houses, generally around windows in attics and other places where it is warm. They overwintered and are very sluggish. Sweep them up and throw them away; do not use insecticides in the house. If they are a real nuisance, you can put out old-fashioned fly paper.
Making door square again
Q. My aluminum storm door has developed a gap at the top and is getting harder to close. When I open the door, it moves when I lift it. Can it be fixed?
Check to make sure the hinges are tight. Check the corners of the door to see if there are any bolts or screws that can be tightened to restore the squareness. The corners may be crimped or riveted, canceling any thoughts of tightening.
There is another thing you can do: Put a turnbuckle on the door. This is a steel rod that goes from the top corner of the latch side of the door slantwise to the bottom corner on the hinge side. It is connected in the middle with the turnbuckle. Turn this device to make things square.
Peter Hotton: The Boston Globe, 135 Morrissey Blvd., Boston, MA 02107; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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