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Do It Yourself


Tips for cleaning grease vents, removing paint from porcelain tubs

By Peter Hotton
Peter Hotton
Peter Hotton has been the handyman expert for the Boston Globe for more than 30 years.

Q: My cherry kitchen cabinets are very greasy above the stove. How can I clean them? Also, there seems to be a vent in the ceiling that I don’t know where it’s going, and I can’t see anything outside. But that vent is greasy, too, and needs cleaning. Is the grease a fire hazard?

Greasy vents can be a fire hazard, and they should be kept clean. Wash with a solution of one cup of ammonia in a gallon of warm water. The vent is a blind vent, leading nowhere except back into the kitchen. Whenever you use it, open a nearby window to allow air to be blown out. Or, have an electrician duct it to the outdoors.

Q. I have a nice-looking claw-foot tub, but the previous owners painted the inside, and now it is a mess, peeling and very dirty. Can I remove the paint? I’d like to keep the tub, but not in that condition.

Many people are keeping their cast iron porcelain-enameled claw-foot tubs because they are historic, nicely designed and big enough to stretch out in. But some benighted souls paint them, as someone did to yours, making a mess of an art object. Your best bet is to have the paint stripped by a professional, to see whether the porcelain enamel is worth keeping as is. If not, you can have it reglazed, which means that an epoxy finish is applied. They can also reglaze the outside, or you can have some fun and paint the outside in some outlandish color.

Q. I read that a fiberglass door can be painted or stained black. Can I paint my solid vinyl windows in the Back Bay where colors are strictly enforced?

I think it’s possible, and I know of two paints for solid vinyl. One is by Cabot, called The Finish. Another is Flashe vinyl paint.

Q. One of my big oak pie plate winding stair treads is cracked right down the middle. I plan to glue it back together. Will that work to keep it from cracking again? It’s about 10 inches deep at its narrow end, and 18 inches or so deep at its wide end. Replacing it is too expensive.

In a word, no. That piece is 1 inch thick or even 1 1 / 4inches thick as all treads are or are supposed to be, and any piece of solid wood that thick and large will crack when it dries out. Re-glue it with the strongest glue you can get and it will crack again, sooner or later. The only thing you can do is to not tempt Mother Nature and plane the edges of the crack smooth and even, so that it is a natural looking gap, or buy two separate pieces to match the shape of the original tread.

Q. I have luckily inherited a beautiful German ceramic spice set from my grandmother. Unfortunately, several of the pieces have broken. The pieces are large enough that I could easily re-glue them. However, I’m not sure what glue to use. The set will never be used for anything but display so “dishwasher safe” isn’t necessary, yet I want the pieces secure. This is one job I really don’t want to botch up. Can you help?

A popular one is what we called Duco Cement, which as boys in the 1940s we used to build flying models like Spitfires, Hurricanes, Messerschmitts, Stukas and P-40s.

Another is Super Glue, which comes in very small tubes, and which sets up in 15 seconds and will hold virtually any hard material to itself. But keep Super Glue off your skin; it can weld your fingers together, and trying to separate them can pull the skin right off. These glues are sold in hardware stores.
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