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Handyman on Call

Quieting a vibrating air duct

By Peter Hotton
Globe Correspondent / December 30, 2010

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Q. My heating and air conditioning system works nicely from a heat pump, except for one steel air duct that vibrates quite noisily. How can I stop the vibration? The duct is in the wall of a closet. A contractor friend suggested that I drive a long screw through the wall and onto the duct, which will hold it rigidly and stop the vibration. Would that work?

JAY, from Lincoln A. Yes. A standard screw may work, but it will only hit the steel ductwork and maybe tighten it up. A more reliable way is to use a drill with an extra long bit to go through the wall and make a small hole in the duct. Then you can drive a long sheet metal screw into the hole, eventually getting to the ductwork and tightening up in the metal. If that doesn’t work, or you are leery of this idea, cut a square hole in the wall to reveal the duct, then make a permanent fix to tighten the duct. Screw a wood frame around the opening and put a little door in it, so you can check it every now and then. Or patch the wall.

Q. The paint is peeling off one of my ceilings, which isn’t so bad except I have a textured ceiling, made with plaster. I know I have to get rid of the peeling paint; would a steamer work?

JULIE PINEL, Westwood A. It certainly is worth a try, although the plaster used to texture the ceiling might melt from too much steam or water. So take it easy with the steamer, and also scrub softly with a soft bristle brush to take off any loose paint. When you paint, use a latex ceiling paint and apply two thin coats. How do you make thin coats with a roller? Load the roller, then roll on an empty part of the tray.

Q. My attic has fiberglass layered on top of blown-in insulation on the attic floor. There’s an interior door leading to a steep set of stairs going up there. I tried stapling a batt of fiberglass to the back of it, but is there something better?

TRENT, in Hotton’s chat room A. Yes. It is a rigid foam called Thermax or High R Sheathing in lumber stores. Cut this to fit the door (cutting out space for door knobs and other protrusions), and nail it to the back of the door. Something sturdier and a fair insulator is a sheet of Homasote, which I put on the back of a basement door leading to the kitchen.

Strip and paint for a quick sale? When Cheryl asked Dec. 16 about the need to strip off the paper and paint the walls in the kitchen of a 15-year-old house she is putting on the market, she said several visitors suggested the wallpaper is dated, and should come down to facilitate the sale. The handyman suggested keeping the paper, which is secure on the wall, or even painting the wallpaper.

Here’s an e-mail reply from Barbara Favermann, a real estate agent:

You really missed the mark on this one. As a successful real estate agent, I can tell you that she MUST MUST MUST strip and paint the kitchen wall a neutral color. Immediately.

First impressions make or break a sale. It is a dated kitchen, which translates into a dated house. I am surprised that her agent did not insist on this being done prior to the house being listed. It could be one of the reasons why she has not had any offers as yet. This house should be taken off the market now. A freshly painted kitchen will be so much more appealing to buyers.

OK, Ms. Favermann, the handyman asks, since when must Cheryl strip the paper? Are there rules or laws or tut-tuts in the state building code? And nowhere did Cheryl say there have been no offers yet. And since when is a 15-year-old house dated? If that were so, what would that make my 1768 house? I know that many agents recommend spiffing up the house (cheaply) for a quick sale, but I am encouraging Cheryl not to go down that primrose path. I think the only thing we should do is wait to see if and when the house sells.

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.