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Handyman on Call

No-frills fridge is way to go

By Peter Hotton
Globe Staff / September 30, 2010

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Q. My husband and I plan to buy a new refrigerator to replace one that came with the house. I have to defrost the one I have now, probably because the self-defroster has failed. What do you think is a good refrigerator, and what features should I consider?

NEEDING HELP

A. All I can do is give you my own experience from the various fridges we have owned, including the current one, an Amana. The best feature of this one is the freezer, which has two drawers at the bottom. Great idea. Other opinions are personal. Avoid gadgets like ice makers and ice water dispensers. A few years ago one manufacturer produced a talking fridge. It did not last very long. What you need is a simple machine that will cool the food, produce ice cubes (in a tray), and keep the frozen stuff properly frozen.

Q. My painter messed up a paint job on the indoor trim in my house. He did not sand or prime. The paint came off in sheets, so he removed all he could, then primed the wood with an oil-based primer, which kicked up my allergies severely. He insisted that a primer should be oil based. What can I do?

NANCY HENRY, Haverhill

A. You could fire him, or have him use a latex primer sealer or latex enamel undercoat; the two are the same, and state-of-the-art. After the primer, two thin coats of an eggshell finish latex paint will work well. I’m not even sure oil-based paints are allowed anymore, or at least are being phased out, so I wonder where he got that antique oil-based stuff.

Q. I have some hairline cracks on the basement floor that leaked water during the March deluges. I heard about a radon seal injection method that might stop that seepage. It is only $79 — is it worth trying? I have a French drain, and the only water I got was through those hairline cracks.

S. HAYNES, Beverly

A. It’s worth trying, but I doubt it will help much. If the cracks yielded water during those 50-year storms, you may not get water for another 50 years.

Q. One of the fascia boards on my house was holed and really messed up by digger bees and woodpeckers. I put up two new boards and painted them. What will keep the digger bees and woodpeckers away?

EDITH WHITE, Newton

A. A piece of aluminum flashing nailed to the boards and painted white will keep the carpenter bees away, but the woodpeckers are likely to chip away on the aluminum next spring when they are looking for mates. The birds will make a racket, but will not penetrate the aluminum. In the future, if and when those new boards are damaged or rot out, you can replace them with Azek, solid vinyl trim boards.

Q. When our cellar flooded, I decided to take everything out and start over again. I plan to put down ceramic tile. After some wood was removed to make way for the tile, I discovered holes in the concrete made by the nails that held the wood. I think the holes should be filled before putting down the tiles. My husband said that levelastic, the cement-type material used to smooth out floors, will fill the holes. Who’s right?

SETTLE THE ARGUMENT

A. Aha! You’re both wrong, at least in my opinion. Apply the tiles with thin-set mortar, which will fill the holes anyway, or at least partly fill them. If you really want to, push the thin-set into the holes with a small dowel and forget about them.

Q. My oil tank is maybe 60 years old, at least 50, and is not leaking. When should it be replaced? Is there a way to check its condition, and can repairs be made?

CURIOUS

A. When? Yesterday. There is no reliable test to determine its condition, and repair is also not reliable. Replace it now!

Globe Handyman on Call 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 (photton@globe.com) also chats online about house matters 2-3 p.m. Thursdays. Go to www.boston.com