Home & Garden

Don't try to seal split shingles; it won't hold

Q. When I painted my outdoor window sills, I noticed that some of the nails on the siding have popped. Also, there are a few split shingles. I plan to seal the splits, but if water gets into the slits, will it freeze?

You can re-nail the popped nails, which popped when the wood dried out. If they persist in popping, pull them and replace them with stainless steel nails, which should hold better. Do not seal or caulk the splits; it will not hold anyway. If you want to seal window frames, do it inside.

Leaky gutter seams

Q. What can I use to stop the seams in my gutters from leaking? I have a seam right over my front door and it leaks right on my head. The builder put some kind of caulking on them but it didn't work. Would black roofing cement work?

For a seam sealer that will really work, go to a gutter dealer and ask for the mastic he uses to seal joints. The stuff I used was clear and as sticky a material as I ever used. You can probably use an adhesive caulk (Phenoseal), but in any case, the seams have to be taken apart and then treated with the mastic before putting them back together again.

Moisture on windows

Q. My daughter bought a house that had double glazed windows, and there is so much moisture on the inside (not between the panes) that she has to mop up the sills several times a day. A contractor told her the windows are OK but the house is airtight, causing the moisture. What can she do?

The least the man should have told her is to ventilate the house to lower the humidity in the house. Or, in extreme cases, install a dehumidifier. Air-conditioning is also a dehumidifier.

Pergo floor?

Q. I have an unheated, enclosed three-season porch and I am having trouble figuring how to cover the floor, which is now plywood. Would Pergo or other plastic laminate work? I don't want to spend too much, but I would like it to look nice. Any ideas?

Pergo can work nicely. Prefinished hardwood would be better, and probably only a little more expensive than the laminate. Another choice is ceramic tile, but it would be the most expensive. Painting the plywood and putting down a rug is least expensive of all. And be sure to insulate the crawl space ceiling.

Loose mortar

Q. An army of chipmunks has invaded my stone retaining wall, taking out enough mortar to cause some stones to fall out. Is there anything I can do?

Chip or brush out the loose mortar, replace the stones, and apply new mortar very compactly, so it will resist their little teeth and claws. You can buy ready-mixed mortar by the bag. It is called Mortar Mix, sold in big-box hardware and lumber stores. Just add water. You can also try spray repellents.

Getting chilly

Q. When I had a new gas burner installed, the installer said my basement is too small to allow adequate air for the burner to work right. He installed a small vent in the wall and a fan that brings air into the basement when the burner is running. I am afraid the basement will get too cold and that it will lose heat. What can I do?

Insulate the basement ceiling. That will stop the loss of heat from the basement, which is considerable, and your fuel savings will also be considerable. Another way to solve the problem is to have the installer disconnect the fan, allowing the vent to allow combustion air to go to the burner by natural means. The basement will still be cold but an unoccupied basement, with proper insulation in the ceiling, is supposed to be cold. Chances are very good the small opening will provide enough air to make the burner work properly.