Take the fire department’s advice on chimney repair
Q. We were told by a chimney cleaner (Company A) that though they have been cleaning the chimney every year and we have been using seasoned wood, we have third-stage creosote buildup. Company A completed a cleaning and gave us a quote for installation of a stainless-steel liner. They said they could not clean the creosote buildup, but it didn’t need to be cleaned before installing the liner and they could just install the recommended stainless liner.
Company B agreed that we have third-stage creosote buildup and gave us a quote for a chemical treatment. Company B disagreed with Company A, stating we should clean the flue before installing a stainless liner since the heat can transfer through the liner to the creosote buildup, increasing the chance of a chimney fire.
Company C gave us a quote for a professional deglazing and/or stainless liner. The company stated that all we needed was a more aggressive cleaning with their brushes. They completed the regular cleaning, and stated the flue had creosote buildup. It was thick but not glaze. “We gave very aggressive sweep with coarse brushes . . . and a deglaze is not needed. Recommend having hot fires and burn correctly to minimize creosote buildup. After inspection, stove is ready to use.’’
The fire department advised that we should not install the stainless liner until the deglazing is done due to heat transfer.
Since the flue was cleaned by Company C (which has an A+ rating with the BBB), would it be safe to install a stainless liner and use the wood stove? How seasoned does the wood need to be?
V.G., North Shore
A. Wow, even the Handyman is confused. So, I say go with the outfit that has nothing to sell: The fire department, which knows more about chimneys, flues, liners, creosote, and fires than anyone. It is true that a stainless liner is required with a wood stove, so I would go with Company B. Give wood at least six months to cure.
Q. The metal covers of my bathroom baseboard radiators, are getting pretty rusty. Can I paint them? If so, how?
A. To paint, sand off as much rust as possible; for any remaining rust, use Rust Reformer or other brand containing phosphoric acid, which will turn the rust black and make it paintable. Prime with a metal primer and finish with an oil-based paint.
But here is an easier way: buy contact paper, and put it on the metal covers. When it looks kind of tired in maybe a year or so, pull it off and put on a new layer.
Q. I have storm windows (True Channel) that are corroded and the latches simply won’t open. How can I make them work?
ANN FOGARTY, Cohasset
A. It’s not corrosion but rather the aluminum of those good quality storms got a bit dirty. Spray latches and the grooves where the storm slides with
Q. I put shiny pie plates up on my eaves to discourage woodpeckers from making holes in my trim and siding. They worked, and kept the birds away, but they just went to another part of my house. Now what?
JANE WINCHELL, Lexington
A. Put the plates on those other places, too. Your neighbors might think you’re nuts, but you will not have the birds. Or hang a lot of silvery Mylar party streamers around. I have heard a lot of complaints recently that nothing works, including pie plates, streamers, and fake owls. Here’s another plan: Buy a large, heavy-duty balloon with a big eye painted on it. Some say this works well.
Q. I have used Phenoseal as an adhesive caulk, and it works very well, but when I use just a little, and I try to preserve the rest for future use, it comes out all lumpy. How can I keep it pliable?
DICK, from Watertown
A. Stick a big old nail into the nozzle, but be sure to turn off the caulking gun. Put a piece of duct tape over the nail to keep it from coming out. When you are ready to use it again, push a bit of it on a piece of paper to make sure the rest is creamy, smooth, and workable. Some of the new cartridges I have noticed have a screw cover that will take the place of a nail.
Q. I have had my marble tiled bathroom cleaned and sealed several times. The marble now has water marks, so I had three estimates to deep clean, polish, and seal the marble. The estimates ranged from $300 to $1,200. Isn’t that rather high?
A. Marble is one of the softest, most absorbent stones. Granite isn’t far behind. It seems to stain if you look at it. You can pay, or you can tile over the marble with a good-looking ceramic, using thin-set mortar. The glazed tile might get dirty, but is easily cleaned and does not need sealing.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) also chats online about house matters 2-3 p.m. Thursdays. To participate, go to www.Boston.com.