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Leave gap in shingles to avoid bulging

Peter Hotton

Q. My neighbor had wood shingles installed on one large wall and then painted. I can see the wall from my house, and it is handsome.. But it was not long before the shingles bulged, buckled and bowed out in several places. What happened, and how can she fix them to make them flat again?

I think I know what happened: The cedar shingles were dry when they were installed, butting tightly against each other. Then they were primed and painted, which sealed them against outdoor moisture. But it wasn't long before moisture behind the shingles wet them enough so they expanded, causing those bulges. When we get long periods of dry weather, the bulges may flatten out, but don't count on it.

Here's the cure: Remove the bulging shingles, and cut 1/8-inch off one side of each shingle. Then reapply the shingles with a 1/8-inch gap between them. This will provide enough room for expanding without bulging.

Removing shingles is hard work and is probably not worth the time and effort. So, split the shingles to remove them, then insert new shingles with the 1/8-inch gap between them. Then prime and paint.

There is an old building rule concerning wood shingles. For green, white cedar shingles (green because they are full of water), butt them tightly to minimize the gaps created when the shingles dry out and contract. For dry shingles (kiln dried or dried naturally) leave that 1/8-inch gap; it will never get bigger and might get smaller, but not small enough for the shingles to bulge when they expand.

Tunneling chipmunks

Q. Our driveway is being undermined by chipmunks, who have tunneled deeply under the driveway, creating a number of sink holes that are the very devil to keep filling in. Would a driveway of natural or concrete pavers (or paving stones) be effective? How deep should the crushed stone be under the pavers?

I presume the driveway is crushed stone, because it is unlikely that sink holes would appear in an asphalt or concrete slab, although depressions could appear in a layer of asphalt.

Pavers will work nicely. Six inches of crushed stone underlayment is normal for such a driveway, but some contractors suggest 12 inches. The underlayment is mainly for drainage. Since the chipmunks are so persistent, I suggest a deep border to help keep them out. This could be several feet of hardware cloth (steel mesh), although digging down to accommodate the mesh is a pain. The deeper the border the better.

Bulkhead Man

Q. What do you think is best for bulkhead doors: wood or metal? I read in your column about the Bulkhead Man. Is he still doing bulkheads?

Wood is good if you want to build your own. Wood will last quite a while but has to be kept painted. You could make a wood bulkhead last indefinitely if you use pressure-treated wood. Leave it natural or stain it with a semitransparent stain, and forget it.

Steel is even more permanent, and Joe Cavallaro of Canton, the Bulkhead Man, custom-builds steel bulkheads that are a heavier-duty steel than commercial types. He powder coats the steel for long-lasting good looks. So if you don't do it yourself, call the Bulkhead Man, 1-800-553-4301.

Custom-fit door

Q. I need a screen door – not a combination but a screen all by itself. However, the opening is 34 inches wide and 93 inches high, and I cannot find one to fit. Do you know where I can find one, standard or custom fit?

Sure do. The wonderful mahogany doors, made in many designs, will bring you back to the good old days. Contact Wooden Screen Door Co. of Waldoboro, Maine, at (207-832-0519) or on the Web at www.wooden screendoor.com.

Goodbye aluminum, hello mahogany!

Peter Hotton: p_hotton@globe.com

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