Wood panel door can be fixed with caulk, and some help
Q. The wood panels in my front door keep cracking, starting after its installation less than a year ago. The contractor will not do anything about it, and when I asked for a steel door, he said he would have to put in a whole new frame. What can I do?
PAM GOODY, Needham
A. You can get after that contractor because I think he is responsible for the installation for a year. At least he should show you common courtesy. And he can put in a steel door without changing the frame. He should also replace that busted panel, or more if more are cracked.
And, you can make your own repair. The panels in a wood door like yours are floating; that is, they are not glued together. They move within the frame when they expand and contract from moisture content. But in your case one or more panel expanded and resisted moving. Here’s the fix: buy a caulking cartridge and a caulking gun. Have someone hold a board against the crack on one side, and then put a bead of caulk on the crack on the other side. Press it in with your fingers, scrape off excess and clean off residue with a damp sponge. The reason for the board is to prevent the caulk from oozing through. Do the same on the opposite side and then paint.
Q. Would you have any advice on replacing a damaged threshold? Will we need to replace the whole door frame?
A. Yes, you can repair or replace a threshold without replacing the frame. If there are rotted areas, you can dig them out, apply a Minwax wood hardener, then fill with a Minwax wood rot filler. Or use an auto body filler called Bondo.
If you can’t do the above, cut the threshold in the center, perpendicular to the length, creating two pieces. Pry them out carefully; the vertical parts of the frame are nailed to the threshold, so it will be hard work. Buy a new threshold made of oak at a lumber store. The store can order one. Use the old threshold as a template for the new threshold. Pull or cut off any protruding nails, then tease the new one into place. Nail it to the wood below. Stain it with one coat of a semitransparent stain.
Q. I bought a low flush toilet, which works fine, but after a few weeks the tank started to sweat profusely. A plumber adjusted a plastic tube that fits into the standing pipe in the tank, but the sweating continues. What else can I do?
VIRGINIA BOHME, Cape Vincent, N.Y.
A. The northern location of your house contributes to the sweating. The water in the tank is very cold, and when water vapor builds up in the bathroom, it condenses on the tank. It can happen on the bowl, too. The fix is to reduce water vapor on the bathroom, by opening windows or running the exhaust fan during and after showers.
Q. My coffee table is oiled and black. A grayish circle appeared when a flower pot was out on the table. How can I get it off?
TOM LANGELY, Medfield
A. First, wash with paint thinner to remove oil around the stain. Then try rubbing with Colgate toothpaste. Or rottenstone and oil to wet the rottenstone. Then rub. If that doesn’t work, sand with fine sandpaper to reduce the stain, then bleach it. Rinse with water, let dry, then apply mineral oil and rub it in. Repeat with the oil, and rub and rub. Add oil whenever you feel inclined. Hopefully this treatment will blend in with the original finish.
If none of this works, you will have to sand that part of the table, then oil again.
Q. When I built my house, we all thought that vertical knotty-pine boards were just the ticket. Then I shellacked the knots and painted. Now, I’d like to smooth out those grooves. Can I fill the grooves with wood filler or joint compound?
A.B. McGREGOR, Merrimac, Mass.
A. You can’t fill those grooves because they are individual narrow boards, and each board will expand and contract with moisture content, messing up any filler material. Even taping them with joint tape is doomed.
Here’s a possibility: Cover the wood with 1/4-inch plasterboard and tape the joints as you would ordinary dry wall. This will bring the wall out so far that the window and door wall casing will be barely protruding, spoiling the design of the wall. You can fix this by covering the casing with 1/2-inch boards, retaining the 3/4-inch extension of the casing from the wall. One more possibility: If the wood boards butt up against the casing, simply take them off and nail or screw on 1/2-inch plasterboard.
Q. I own a condo. The trustees want to sealcoat the driveways, at considerable expense. I am having trouble convincing them not to do it. One contractor told me it is simply cosmetic. What do you say?
ROD MASON, Lincoln
A. I say it is cosmetic, maybe 90 percent, and will do little to protect the driveways. This is confirmed by the driveway contractor who paved my driveway.
Peter Hotton is also in the g section on Thursdays. He is available 1-6 p.m. Tuesdays to answer questions. Call 617-929-2930. Hotton (firstname.lastname@example.org) also chats online about house matters 2-3 p.m. Thursdays. To participate, go to www.Boston.com.