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Do It Yourself


Special lotion best to polish stainless steel sink

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

Q: I read in your column about a cleaner for my aluminum sink. What is it, and where can I find it?

A: An aluminum sink can be polished with fresh, unrusty Brillo pads. However, your sink is not aluminum but rather stainless steel. It can be polished with a stainless steel lotion, or Maas, any high-quality brass polish – all sold in hardware and big box stores. Maas is excellent but not easily located. It is advertised, occasionally, in Parade magazine.

Get a pro to check for asbestos in ceiling

Q: I live in a house that had popcorn ceilings that might have contained asbestos. A previous owner had it removed, but my question is, was all the asbestos removed?

A: If a professional remover did the work, all, I think, was removed, because the rules in removing asbestos are very strict. If an amateur did the work, I suggest you have it inspected by a professional asbestos abatement company.

Call appliance store for help with pilot lights

Q: My gas stove is quite old but still working well, except that none of the pilot lights work, and I have to light the burners with a match. Is there a way I could fix them? The stove came with the house.

A: It may be a blockage, which also might be cleared by you, but it’s better to call an appliance store for a house call, even if you did not buy the stove at the appliance store. It is not worth fiddling with a gas unit.

Remove attic mold, then check the ventilation

Q: We recently discovered black mold in our attic, appearing a few feet above the soffit area on the roofing plywood and extending toward the peak for 3 to 4 feet. Can you recommend a company that can assess (test the attic and house air quality) the extent of our problem and then recommend how we should approach fixing the problem – new roof with new plywood, mold removal in attic alone, other.

A: If the mold is not overwhelming, you can kill it and remove it by painting it with a mix of one part bleach and three parts water. Some may disagree with this treatment, but it has been effective in many cases.

And now for the cause. You mentioned the mold starts a few feet above the soffit area. It might be that there are no soffit vents on the underside of the roof overhang (the soffit), or they are inadequate. The proper soffit vent should be a 2-inch screened strip going the length of each soffit, in addition to having proper high venting, which would include a ridge vent. If there are any soffit vents in place, they may be circles that are spaced, entirely inadequate.

Sump, pump drain rainwater

Q: My 1954 house has a concrete block foundation, and I get maybe a one-quarter inch of water on the basement’s concrete floor after every severe rainstorm. I asked a professional what to do, and he suggested regrading the ground to make sure it is sloping down and away from the house instead of toward the house, and other things that would cost $4,000. I am reluctant to pay that much, so what do you think I should do? The inside walls need repointing, and the man says he would paint “something” on the inside walls of the foundation.

A: Regrading would help a lot, but that is iffy because there must be 8 inches of foundation exposed between the ground and the siding. But this is what I’d recommend, which can solve most of the problems.

During heavy rains, the underground water sneaks into the basement through joints between foundation and floor, in addition to seepage through the walls. This is what you can do, or have done for fair money. 1) Install a sump, a hole in the floor, which can collect that rainwater before it floods the floor, and a pump. 2) Repoint the concrete block, which will help reduce seepage. 3) Paint the inside walls with Drylock, a cement-based paint that will reduce seepage even more. 4) Ventilate the basement all year long to reduce or eliminate condensation on the walls. The sump and pump will cost up to $1,000, but if it works, it’s money well-spent.

If not much improves, you might install a French drain, an inside perimeter drain under the floor leading to the sump. It is very expensive, but the cost is reduced since you already paid for the sump and pump.
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