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HANDYMAN ON CALL

Roofing in winter; preventing icicles

By Peter Hotton
Globe Correspondent / February 12, 2009
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Q. Is it OK to strip and reroof in winter? Is 6 feet of Ice & Water Shield OK on the edge of the roof?

SUE, in Hotton's chat room

A. Yes, it's OK to do roofing in winter, although some people claim the cold will prevent the shingles from self-sealing. That is not necessarily so, and it will not be long before the weather warms up enough so the shingles will self-seal. As for the Ice & Water Shield, it is designed to go along the bottom edge of all roofs, to prevent leaks from ice dams. A 6-foot shield is OK, usually. When the shield first came out, roofers laid down 3-foot sections. They found that dammed water often backed up beyond 3 feet, so now 6 feet is the virtual norm.

Q. Help! I have icicles the size of Cleveland all around my house; they are not only thick as an elephant's leg but many go right down to the ground. The attic is ventilated and is quite cold, but there is a hot air furnace in the attic as well. There is no basement to hold a furnace.

RITA, from Stoneham

A. One of the biggest causes of icicles is a warm roof, which allows ice and snow to melt and run over the edges, freezing as it drips away from the heat. Briefly, you need more ventilation in the attic, even though you may have a ridge vent, soffit vents, and even maybe a power vent of some kind. But frankly, that furnace is a disaster, and in my opinion is the main cause of the icicles. You can insulate the furnace and the air ducts, but you cannot insulate that open gas flame. Two things to try: 1. Do your darnedest to relocate the furnace in the living part of the house; build a bump-out alcove if necessary, or dig a very small basement to house it. 2. Get more ventilation in the attic, whether or not you move the furnace. If you need help, call Ventmaster of Arlington.

Q. I have a nice-looking tan leather chair, but it has a stain from the hair of whoever sits in it. What can I use to clean the stain and condition the leather? And prevent future stains?

ANN MAY, Winchester

A. Try Apple Polishes of Brighton, Mich., which deals with all kinds of stains and conditions of leather, suede, and other leather products; 800-322-6569. To keep stains away, put an antimacassar on the top of the chair.

Q. I had asbestos insulation professionally removed from the large steam pipes leading from a 14-year-old boiler. The installers then insulated the big pipes with a foam material covered by a white wrapper. They left the first 6 feet from the boiler unwrapped, saying the pipes near the boiler are too hot for the foam insulation. Aren't those bare pipes losing a lot of heat unnecessarily to the basement, where it is not needed? I'd like to conserve as much heat as possible.

CAROL, from Arlington

A. And so you shall, by insulating those bare pipes. Use a compressed fiberglass insulation, which is designed for high heat. Have a plumber install this insulation, which is generally sold at plumbing wholesalers.

Globe Handyman on Call Peter Hotton is available 1-6 p.m. Tuesdays to answer questions on house repair. Call 617-929-2930. Hotton (photton@globe.com) also chats online about house matters 2-3 p.m. Thursdays: Go to www.boston.com.

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