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Mystery noise from fan, serious issues with fireplace

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

Q: My daughter and son-in-law have annoying drip-like sounds in their downstairs powder room and upstairs guest bathroom that start and then stop for seemingly no reason. The sound seems to be coming from inside the fan in both ceilings, but there is no evidence of moisture. What could it be, and how do they get it to stop?

A: My guess is that when they turn on, they heat up, and when a fixture heats up, it expands, making a drip-like sound. Any metal will go tick, tick, tick when it warms up and when it cools down. The intermittence of the dripping sound confirms my theory. If I am correct, it is not going away.

Reseal bleached counter

Q: Unfortunately, I left a cleaner on my black granite countertop and it has taken the color right off. I called a granite company and asked them what to do, but they told me that because of where I bought it, the granite may have come from China and is dyed. They gave me no clue as what to do. Hope you can help. It is unsightly!

A: You have to go to the place where you bought it and have it resealed or repolished, simple as that.

Seal masonry near stove

Q: We are renovating our kitchen in our 1820 Federal-style home. We have exposed the old brick, which looks lovely against one wall. For space and efficiency, I would like to put the range against the brick. I am worried, however, that steam will act like a magnet for dust and that grease will collect on the brick and make a mess (and be impossible to clean). My contractor doesn’t think sealing the brick will work, and a big, ugly ventilation hood will defeat the look. Do you have any suggestions?

A: The brick as background will be just the ticket for the range. I don’t think steam or heat will affect it, and it will do very well if you use a masonry sealer – even without an exhaust hood or fan.

Consult fireplace dealer

Q: I have two issues with a natural-gas fireplace. The unit shuts down after being on for about 30 minutes. I know there is a sensor that turns it off when it gets too hot, but 30 minutes just seems like a short time. Also, the unit does not turn back on once it has cooled. The other issue is the on-off switch. The fireplace does not always light the first few times I try to turn it on. On occasion, I have had to turn it on and off five or six times to get it to light. Are these serious issues?

A: Both issues are serious, so I suggest you call an expert, which is the dealer who installed it, and if you can’t find that company, any dealer who handles natural-gas fireplaces.

Strip paint off door

Q: We have a door that appears to have been painted. Over the years, the paint has worn off in places. Is there any way to remove this paint and then perhaps stain the door?

A: Paint, tough as it is, does wear, both inside and out. Sand it off or use a chemical stripper – Citristrip is a good one. You can also use a hot-air gun, which will strip it quickly. In every case, the door must be removed, and the work is best done outdoors. Apply one coat of an oil-based semitransparent stain, which will last seven years or so, preserve the wood and will not peel. I have had good luck with Olympic.

Buzzing with corrections

Q: You “bumbled” the answer to the writer who asked about the big black bees crawling in and out of holes in the house. You called them bumblebees, but it sounds like a classic case of carpenter bees. The males don’t sting, and they divebomb you as you come near their nest. I guess you’ve never had them chez Hotton. They look like bumblebees on steroids, but their bodies are black.

A: The handyman received about 10 corrections, and by the sheer volume of messages, these readers have got to be right! I wrote what I did because carpenter bees drill round holes to put their eggs in, and there was no evidence from the caller that there were any round holes, only that the insects were slipping in and out of very narrow slits.

Hotton: photton@globe.com

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