Handyman on Call

When power washing siding is acceptable

By Peter Hotton
Globe Correspondent / September 25, 2011

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Q. I am seeing neighbors power washing their vinyl and/or aluminum siding. I read somewhere that it is not good to do that with vinyl or aluminum, because water that gets behind the siding is likely to stay there a long time, causing decay. Is it OK to power wash painted or stained shingles?


A. In a word, yes to the last question. And that someone you read “somewhere’’ is me. I have been chattering about that for some time, and it is true. However, some professionals will reduce the pressure and aim the flow of water downward, where there is less chance of getting water behind the siding. In fact, it was a professional in New Orleans who told me about reduction of pressure and care in aiming the water.

Q. An insulator said he would blow cellulose in my cathedral ceiling. Then he put in 7-inch round soffit vents in every other bay (between rafters), then covered the soffit with perforated vinyl. Is this correct?


A. If he blows insulation in the ceiling, make sure there is an air space between insulation and roof boards. That way the soffit vents will allow air to move to the ridge vent. As for those 7-inch round vents, they are good but inadequate. So, have your man cut more 7-inch rounds in those bays where there are no vents. I have seen attics that had sporadically spaced soffit vents, and I saw strips of mold on the attic ceiling under the roof where there were no vents and no mold on areas that had vents.

Q. I have a sprinkler system in my condo. The white covers to the sprinkler heads are protruding through the ceiling in places. I can push them up but the weight of the pipes pushes them back. Can I secure them without interfering with the system?

GUEST, in Hotton’s chat room

A. Leave them alone. I think they are designed to be floating so should not be tampered with. Or have plumber check to see if they are behaving as they should.

Q. I had a new exterior door installed a few weeks ago. I painted it and the frame after it was installed (big mistake!). I painted the door stoop with a floor paint. Now, the rubber weatherstripping on the bottom of the door continues to stick to the painted stoop. It’s hard to open the door. How do I remove the paint on the weatherstripping and what do I do with the stoop since the paint continues to come off?

MELISSA, in Hotton’s chat room

A. By floor stoop, I think you mean the threshold, a heavy oak board that sticks out a little and slopes downward. For starters, it should not be painted. You must take off all the paint and apply one coat of a semitransparent stain. This will not interfere with the weatherstripping, will last for five to seven years and will not peel. Treat the paint on the weatherstripping with a citrus based cleaner, which will soften the paint so you can scrub or scrape it off.

Q. I have signs of bats. One got indoors, but I never found it. Some rest behind the wood shingles. There are no problems indoors. Is there anything I have to do?


A. There is not much you can do. Bats can squeeze into very narrow spaces, as evidenced by their spending days behind shingles. The only way to get rid of them is to eliminate resting or roosting space. I don’t think nailing shingles closed is worth the trouble. If they are not creating lots of guano, I think they and you are safe. I also think they will be gone in the cold weather.

Q. I am looking for 3/4-inch (actual size) thick pressure-treated deck boards. Home Depot and Lowe’s have 1-inch thick boards, any idea who sell the 3/4-inch deck boards?

ANOTHER GUEST, in Hotton’s chat room

A. Pressure-treated deck boards are made 1-inch thick because they are sturdy enough to allow spans of 16 to 24 inches on center without flexing. They are also made of top grade wood. You can get 3/4-inch thick boards at any lumber store, including H.D. and Lowe’s, but the quality is not the best. But you can pick them out yourself and generally get a better grade and less knotty. You can get 1x4s, 1x6s, 1x8s, and 1x10s. If none of these fit the space of the missing boards, rip them (saw length-wise) to fit.

Q. I have very old ceilings with hairline cracks. How can I make it look better? Fill the cracks and paint? Use tin or vinyl tiles?

CELESTE, from Maynard

A. You gave yourself three choices, all good but different in difficulty. 1) Fill the cracks with an adhesive caulk. Put a bead of this caulk on the crack and press it in with your fingers. Then remove residue and paint with a thin coat of latex ceiling paint. Maybe two. This is tedious. 2) Apply tin tiles. Very good and authentic in old houses. Because the tiles must be nailed, you have to put up strapping to hold the nails. 3) Use vinyl glue to glue on vinyl tiles. Get it at the store where the tiles are sold. This is the easiest, but least authentic.

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 about house matters 2-3 p.m. Thursdays. To participate, go to

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