Q. I own a 1930s English Colonial in Medford. The front door is handsome with carved wood and antique glass and, I believe, original to the house, but it is little more than decorative at this point: 1. It leaks cold air around the perimeter. 2. We cannot replace the single-pane glass to double pane. 3. It has a long, vertical crack through its middle. 4. Its top right corner has bowed inward, which prevents the door from closing properly. 5. It has shrunk so you can see about ⅛ inch of light along the right and top sides. 6. The locking mechanism does not go deep enough into the door jamb, so the security it presents when it can be closed and locked is limited. (A locksmith specializing in old doors said that the locking mechanism cannot be changed.) My husband would like to replace the door but I am extremely reluctant to do so since it is so beautiful and I can’t imagine something contemporary would be able to take its place. (I should tell you too that the kitchen door is only steps away and is what we mainly use anyway.) I told my husband I would abide by your advice.
IN LOVE WITH DOOR
A. Handsome or not, a door or anything else is not beautiful if it doesn’t work in so many ways. Let us look at the defects: 1. and 4. A leaky door can be weatherstripped, or fit into a smaller opening. Big bucks. 2. The glass is not antique glass, but can be taken out and installed in a new door. 3 The crack can be filled and painted. Difficult and expensive to do, and iffy. 5. See No. 1. 6. The locksmith said the lock mechanism cannot be replaced because he did not want to do it. Anyone who does will charge big dollars.
All these things may add up to more than a new fiberglass door that will fit properly, lock safely, will look as good or better than the old, will have double-glazed glass, and will last far longer than the old. See the Brosco catalog at any lumber store; you may find one that is as stylish as your beloved old door. Go for it.
Q. Should vinyl siding be power-washed? My condo board said it will have all vinyl siding in the development power-washed.
A. Good reason to be worried. Tell the board, no! Power washing at full power and indiscriminate aiming of the stream will trap water behind the siding and it will stay there long enough to cause decay. The hot sun may evaporate all the water on the sunny side of the development, but it can remain on shady sides, long enough to cause decay. Power-washing will be relatively safe if the power is considerably reduced and the stream of water aimed downward.
Q. My 1873 three-decker is sided with asbestos cement shingles, and the paint applied 15 years ago is beginning to peel off in sheets. Is there a safe way to take off what’s peeling for a new coat(s) of paint? And what kind of paint?
SARAH POLLARD, Cambridgeport
A. There are so many taboos on removing paint from asbestos cement it’ll make your head swim. You can’t nail, screw, sand, scrape, drill, power-wash, scrub with a steel brush or any scrub brush, or use any abrasive on it. That is pretty restrictive, but here are some ways. Coming off in sheets, you can scrape lightly with a wood or soft plastic spatula. Once you remove all or most of the loose paint, apply a thin coat of latex exterior primer and one thin coat of a solid color latex stain or latex house paint. Stick with the original color. I also think that a paint stripper like Citristrip can be used, and hosed off with water.
Q. My nephew installed a water heater just 4 inches from my house boiler. Isn’t that maybe too close together?
FRAN, from Arlington
A. No, I don’t think so. Both units are heavily insulated, so their nearness will not affect each other.
Globe Handyman on Call Peter Hotton also appears in the Sunday Real Estate section. He is available 1-6 p.m. Tuesdays to answer questions on house repair. Call 617-929-2930. Hotton (email@example.com) also chats online about house matters 2-3 p.m. Thursdays. Go to www.boston.com.