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Handyman on Call

Giving fridge breathing room

By Peter Hotton
Globe Correspondent / August 23, 2012
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Q. We have a fridge that is tightly wedged between a countertop and a room dividing wall. There is about a ½-inch space next to the wall, and zero clearance against the waist-high countertop. There is plenty of room in the back .

Mold is growing on the wall that is ½-inch away from the fridge. We’ve pulled it out a couple of times and cleaned, but it is an ongoing problem and is destroying the paint and wallboard. Can we clean the wall again and put some kind of mold-proof surface on it to prevent further problems? Or should we buy a smaller fridge and slide it into the space, with a newly repaired wall? G. HATFIELD, by e-mail

A. That wall doesn’t have enough room for air to circulate; it needs to be at least 1½ inches.

You can’t pull the fridge away from the wall, but you can make the space bigger. You have to rebuild that wall and treat it with a mold-resistant paint. Because it is indoors on each side, you can make that wall thinner maybe. Its studs are 2x4s so you can take it down and install 2x2 studs with plasterboard on one side and Formica Brand Laminated Plastic, which is mold resistant, on the other. That way the air space will be at least 2 inches, and you can pull the fridge ½-inch away from the countertop. Paints with Zinsser’s Perma-White mildew proof paint.

Q. Is it normal to see lint coming out of the dryer vent on my roof? I see lint build-up on the ground and the roof.

DRYER, in Hotton’s chat room

A. It’s normal — and dangerous — when the vent is full of lint. Clean it out now, then every other month in the future.

Q. Is it possible to install central air to an existing steam heat system? Would it be crazy?

CARO, in Hotton’s chat room

A. It’s impossible, so it’s not crazy to think it. With any kind of water-fed heat, you need ductwork and a compressor and distribution unit. It can cost $10,000 or more.

Q. I have an 8-year-old steel bathtub with a tile surround and a ton of rust on the tub. I tried steel-wooling the rust and repainting, without success. How best to fix it?

DAVE, in Hotton’s chat room

A. Steel tubs are among the worst deals you can ever get. For a replacement, cast iron with a porcelain enamel finish is best. Even acrylic and fiberglass are good. One thing you can try is reglazing. Companies clean the finish and treat the rust, and apply an epoxy finish that is guaranteed for some years.

Q. I am considering “popping” out the back side of my Cape style house to increase the space in my upstairs rooms. Do you think that done right, we’d get our money back in terms of recouping what we spent and having the house worth that much more?

GUEST, in Hotton’s chat room

A. It doesn’t work quite that way. What you spend on the improvement might add 75 percent of the cost to the value of the house.

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

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