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Shower sprays window ledge

By Peter Hotton
Globe Correspondent / December 23, 2010

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Q. A full-size window is in the wall next to my tub/shower. It has a wood ledge on the bottom 1 to 2 feet deep. During a shower, water is constantly wetting the ledge. The paint is peeling terribly and mold is starting to grow. As I rent my apartment I cannot remove the window. How can I keep the window and ledge clean, dry, and in good repair?

THERESA, by e-mail

A. For starters, you can hang a small shower curtain (cut it to size) over the window, so that it covers the window and drapes over the ledge edge. Or hang a shower curtain on the entire wall. Another fix is to put Contact paper on the ledge, folded over the edge to allow water to drip away. The new contact paper is easily removed, so you can replace it when it gets too yucky. Be sure to clean off the mold with bleach and water first.

Q. Everything in our renovated 1920s house is OK, except this: The bathroom ceiling keeps peeling, no matter how many times we paint. I learned that the ceiling was painted with a special paint, but I don’t remember what it is. Would you know?

ALIANA VON RICHTOFEN, Wellesley

A. Sure do. It is calcimine, used extensively from 1900 to 1950 or so. Any paint, other than calcimine or a modern version called Kalkote, will peel, sometimes right off the roller. The cure is to remove every bit of paint and calcimine, and paint with two thin coats of a latex ceiling paint.

Q. My three-year-old roof sometimes leaks — in one area near the eave — in a very light rain, but other times in very heavy rain it doesn’t leak at all. I think it must be the direction of the wind. What can I do about it?

ED, Wellesley

A. I think very light rain causes the leak because the flow of water down the roof is quite slow. In heavier rain, the flow is increased and goes right over the leak or whatever is causing the leak. Wind direction can also cause the leak. Your next priority is to contact the roofer who put that roof on. If he is unavailable, call another roofer who can make an evaluation and suggest action.

Q. There is a lot of construction in my neighborhood, and I think many critters escaped to various houses, including mine. I don’t know if they are mice or squirrels, but do they ever make a racket inside the walls. I have set several traps without success. How can I tell what they are, and how to get rid of them?

CHRISTINE, from Quincy

A. Mice are nocturnal, meaning they are active at night. Squirrels are dirunal, active in the daytime. Squirrels are very noisy. Try putting mouse traps and D-Con in the basement; they might have gained access into the basement. Keep D-Con away from pets and children. Check the house, indoors and out, for tell-tale holes, gnawed areas (both are rodents, and must gnaw to keep their teeth from growing too long). Any tiny opening is enough for a mouse, and squirrels usually enlarge them. You can also put Have a Heart traps in the basement for squirrels. If you capture any, you must release them in the yard (dumb!) or kill them. That’s the law, at least in New England.

If you trap any others in a killing trap, keep reloading them, but you are likely to be shoveling sand against the tide because others will take their place. Whether or not you succeed in all this, you will need an exterminator. Call him. There is an adage that says, if you see one mouse, you have 20.

My battle with Mus (one of the species names) reflects this. Last fall, I trapped the little beggars daily for about a week to 10 days. Then the trap rate fell to two a week, and finally, it takes two to four days to a week for a trap to spring. That means I am running out of victims and/or there are fewer and fewer taking the place of their dead brothers. It also means I am succeeding.

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.