Handy on Call

Simple fixes can stop gutters from overflowing

By Peter Hotton
September 11, 2011

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Q: My copper gutters are 10 years old, and I don’t want any gutter guards. But I have two problems. One is where the gutter turns a corner, and water gushes down from two roofs so hard that water overflows quickly. How can I stop it? The other problem is where a gutter on the roof 2 1/2 stories high has a downspout emptying on a shorter roof below, and into another downspout. Water constantly overflows that second gutter. Again, how can I fix it?

MARY McGEE, Wellesley

A: For the first problem, you can devise a baffle, a piece of sturdy copper formed into an “L’’ shape and screwed to the gutter. If it is wide enough, it will stop the overflow on both legs of the “L.’’

For the second problem, make sure the gutter is positioned properly. The water must drip and flow into the center of the gutter along its full length. You could put up another baffle, but instead, try installing a bigger downspout. It may have to be custom made. The slope of the gutter is less important for successful drainage. A level gutter will empty itself, and the slope doesn’t have to be large. Avoid a sagging gutter.

Q: My kitchen table still looks good after 50 years. The top is plastic laminate, probably Formica, and it looks like wood. Trouble is, it is so shiny that it glares terribly when light is nearby. Is there a way to reduce that shine?

CAROL, very anxious

A: Try wiping the top with paint thinner. If that doesn’t work, put a table cloth over it. The only other possibility is to put a new top on. You can buy a matte finish laminate at big-box stores and Formica dealers. Have them cut the top to the shape of the table top, and apply with contact cement.

Q: I have two Corian sinks and both are yellowing near the drain. Any tips?

MARY ANN, from Lexington

A: Try rubbing the stains with a nylon pot scrubber, emery cloth, Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, or even scouring powder such as Ajax or Comet. Corian is designed to be cleaned by light sanding or other abrasion.

Q: The fruit fly trap you mentioned in a column worked very well for me, and I thank you. What’s bothering me is cat hairs on polyester clothing. I have tried everything including sticky lint rollers. Nothing works for me.


A: The fruit fly trap is a bowl of vinegar with a few drops of oil. Be sure to use a fruit vinegar (wine or apple); the flies will ignore grain vinegars.

If nothing works for the cat hairs, the Handyman hereby puts that question out “there’’ to see if anyone has a good idea. If the hairs stick only to polyester, I know the answer: Don’t wear polyester.

Q: My daughter has a problem with raccoons on her roof. She has had holes repaired three times, and she is tired of paying big bucks. Is there a sure way to keep them off the roof and out of the attic?


A: No easy answer. Animal repellents can be effective but they have a habit of washing off in the rain. There is one sure way, but expensive. Nixalite of America of East Moline, Ill., 309-755-8771 or 800-624-1189, makes a variety of needle boards that are attached to roofs, cornices, ledges, and other building parts to deter pigeons and other nuisance critters, including raccoons.

Or, call a nuisance animal person, who can capture the critters. But if he does, he must release them in the yard (not 6 miles away) or, as the Audubon Society so delicately puts it, dispose of them humanely. Which of course means kill them. Nuisance animal persons are usually associated with exterminators.

Q: I have lots of tile problems. First, in my summer house, I have peel and stick tiles that I hate. They are embossed, so I can’t put vinyl tiles over them because they will ghost through the new tiles. They are unpaintable because there is no heat in winter. I wanted Pergo, but I was told Pergo will not do well in a cold house in winter. So what do you think?

The other tile problem involves ceramic tiles in my kitchen and bath. A leak from my washer caused 25 tiles to crack. Some I can lift off the floor with my fingers. How can I rip them out and put in new tiles?


A: A quick, easy and inexpensive fix is to put in a wood laminate floor. It should last maybe 25 years, not bad for a summer house. More expensive is to do it right, and install prefinished 3/4-inch-thick oak flooring. It will last forever.

As for the ceramic tiles, they must have been put in with an adhesive or mastic, so they should pop off fairly easily by inserting a chisel blade under an edge and prying up. Once all are off, put in new ceramic tiles with thin-set mortar. These tiles will resist any spills in the future. There is no need to scrape off any mastic that remains after the tiles are lifted.

Peter Hotton is also in the g section on Thursdays. He is available 1-6 p.m. Tuesdays to answer questions. Call 617-929-2930. Hotton ( also chats online 2-3 p.m. Thursdays. To participate, go to

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