Something’s stinking up the house. Help!

07/04/2014 12:00 AM

06/30/2014 6:26 PM

A reader, Bob Welch, recently offered an answer to a letter from a woman who could not get rid of a strong odor in her house:

“We recently experienced the same problem. We tried an exterminator, who referred us to Baystate Wildlife Management Inc. in Canton, Mass. One of its employees came out and diagnosed the problem: a critter living in our crawl space. The next day a team installed screening at all entry points, sent their small terrier, Wellington, into the space to chase out any animals, and lastly, installed the final screen, which had an exit-only door. The company recommended ventilating the crawl space and guaranteed the work for two years. Seems to be working.”

The best part of this response, besides the good advice, was that the wildlife manager’s small terrier is named Wellington, a destroyer of Napoleon.

Q. You’ve been a big help in the past, and now I need your assistance once again. I was so proud of myself, finishing up yardwork, installing a stone wall with gardens, and then finishing off by painting a table. Then I dropped the can of paint (a quart of bright yellow latex) on my asphalt/blacktop driveway. It splattered all over, but I was able to blot the bulk of it with towels. How can I remove, or at least reduce, these brightly colored stains? I figured I could use a lot of water with a stiff brush, but then was afraid of spreading it even more. Can you help?

A. Bright yellow is the hardest color to cover or modify, but there is hope. Try power-washing the mess to one side (grass or earth). If you don’t have a power washer, have it done by a pro. If the asphalt is in good shape, it will stay that way. To cover any residue, buy roofing cement, thin part of it to a painting consistency, and apply it over the stain.

Q. How can I clean a problem porch ceiling? We replaced a flat roof (20 by 21 feet) 15-plus years ago and had a bead-board ceiling installed. You suggested stain, and I did it, as did house painters over the years. About three years ago, we agreed to paint after a worker said it would look better and last longer. Last fall, black streaks began appearing. Over the last week I have been washing with bleach and water. It won’t come off unless I use a scrub brush and lots of elbow grease. I’m about halfway finished but wonder what comes next. Do I have to sand, and what should I use for a finish?

A. Too bad you painted. A pretty mess. Continue to remove the mold, but scrub with full-strength bleach. It is highly toxic, so use the proper ventilation and protection. Rinse. Because the final coat is paint, you will have to continue with it. (Use a mold-resistant paint, such as Zinsser’s super white mold-resistant.) Sand thoroughly. Apply a latex primer and finish with one coat of that Zinsser. It is mold-resistant because it is bright white, high gloss, and very hard.

Q. We have what look like very large black bumblebees that fly into a nearly invisible hole in the trim board to the right of the roof overhang. This entertains our young dog to no end, but we are worried about the house and about her getting stung. Any idea what these are and whether we should be worried? We have roofers coming in three weeks and don’t want them to be stung, either. We had cement asbestos shingles abated a year ago, and this particular board was one of the original ones, probably circa 1950.

A. Since the insects are getting in through a narrow slit, I think they are bumblebees. They pollinate, so they are beneficial, and unless they are disturbed, probably will not attack. Try this: Take off that remaining board, caulk it heavily, and put it back up. No dice? Then take down the old one, buy a new one, cut it to fit nicely, caulk it, and then nail it up.

Q. A large part of my roof faces east and is growing fuzzy green moss/mold where two trees provide some shade. Can I treat it without involving tree surgery?

A. The fuzzy green stuff is indeed, moss, which grows almost anywhere in shade and can be a nuisance when it’s where you don’t want it. Left alone, it can ruin asphalt and wood shingles. Treat it on the roof with lots of vinegar, making it easier to scrape off with a wood spatula, a good tool that doesn’t harm asphalt shingles.

Now that it’s all gone, buy zinc strips (6 feet long and 6 inches wide) and insert them under the second-highest row of shingles parallel to the roof ridge, with 2 or 3 inches of zinc exposed. Then rain will wash bits of dissolved zinc down the roof, preventing future growth.

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