Save Money in this Sunday's paper

Do It Yourself


Don’t restain shingles in good condition

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

Q. Our 87-year-old home has stained shingles. The back was restained 14 years ago and the rest 11 years ago. There is some mold on the shady side but no visible chipping or peeling. Is there a good reason for restaining shingles if there is no visible chipping or peeling?

If your shingles are very dark brown, they are probably a creosote stain popular 50 years ago and are record-breakingly durable. If they are lighter and a different color, they are probably semitransparent stain, which will wear like the creosote and will never peel, let alone chip.

Standard endurance for semitransparent stains is seven years. But if they ain’t broke, don’t fix them.

Q. I bought a 90-plus-year-old home a year and a half ago. The air conditioner compressor was installed last summer. It has an unfinished basement – dirt floor; stone walls. It’s bone dry, but the few boxes of books/papers are moist and smell moldy. I’ve begun to throw those out. Additionally I put a dehumidifier in the basement and am running it to 50 percent. The basement does not smell particularly bad – slightly musty, but not awful. The ducts on the first floor smell moldy/musty when the AC or heat are on. I had the ducts cleaned last summer – made no difference. Any ideas?

That moldy smell is probably coming into the duct work from the basement air. Getting rid of anything musty or moldy smelling, such as paper goods, will be helpful. And put 6-milimeter polyethylene on that dirt floor, which will prevent water vapor from coming up through the dirt. Don’t walk on the poly; if you use the basement regularly, it would be a good idea to pour a concrete floor slab over the poly. Also, have a mold reduction company treat the basement for sneaky mold.

That company should also treat the ducts for mold, but I am not sure that is a problem, because I think the smell is coming from the basement air. Why the second-floor ducts are not musty smelling is a mystery to me. If you don’t put poly on the basement floor, be careful with that dehumidifier; running it at 50 percent is good; anything more would not only dry out the air but also pull water vapor right through the dirt.

Q. My attic was turned into bedrooms many years ago. When the contractor hired a paper hanger (inexperienced) he did not prep the new wallboard before wallpapering the entire upstairs, two bedrooms, and a hallway. Now, I have 17-year-old wallpaper that will not come off without taking a good portion of the wallboard layers with it. Since I cannot remove the wallpaper, I was thinking of using joint compound over the seams and painting over the wallpaper with a flat paint as a base/sealer. Once it is good and dry then I would repaint with the desired color. Does this make sense?

You have the right idea in painting the wallpaper. Are the seams that wide to require filling with joint compound? Frankly, they usually are tight enough not to need joint compound. Paint will fill any tiny seam. Sand the paper with fine sandpaper to roughen the finish, clean off any sanding dust. Apply a thin coat of a primer-sealer. The paper may wrinkle a bit while the primer-sealer is applied, but it should flatten out when the paint dries. When you are ready, apply one or two thin coats of a flat (no shine) or eggshell finish wall paint. Thin coats are best to use.

Q. My refrigerator is in a tight box with about 1 inch of clearance on the top, sides, and 2 inches in the back. I was wondering if it might help to cut a few holes in one side of the refrigerator cabinet box.

That refrigerator has way too little clearance. The clearance should be at least 2 inches on each side and 6 inches at the top. It would be best to rebuild the box unit the fridge is sitting in.
Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.

Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.

  Read more

Quick Job Search
Salary Databases