Strong border will help keep brick walk in line

By Peter Hotton
Globe Correspondent / July 17, 2011

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Q. My brick-in-sand walk has settled a bit, enough to create puddles when it rains. How can I raise the bricks?

R.R., Sudbury

A. The underlayment sand was not compacted enough, so the bricks settled, so it’s a complete makeover job. No compromises. You have to lift each brick, one by one, put it aside, then add enough sand to bring the underlayment up to the right level, tamp carefully to compress the sand, smooth off, and put each brick back in the right place. Tamping is tedious, but you can make it fun by inviting the kids onto the sand to compact it with their feet.

One more thing. The brick might have settled because there was no border on the sidewalk. Without a border, the bricks will walk and separate. A good border is soldier brick, bricks placed vertically, on their long ends. Another good border is a concrete block 8 by 16 inches and 2 inches thick, usually placed on their long side. Such a block is placed vertically to create a step, a change in height.

I discovered an interesting block at Home Depot. It is 1 inch thick, 6 inches wide, and 12 inches long, made of real stone: Travertine marble, the Italian stone that is close to white in color and has fissures caused by running water. Only $2.50 each. At 72 square inches, that is $5 per square foot.

Q. My front door and storm face east, and get a lot of weather beating on them. Now the aluminum storm appears to be warped, and does not close properly. What kind of a storm can I get that will stay put, will close properly and not warp? Also, if I replace my main door, what kind should I get?


A. That aluminum door was probably torn open by a storm, and when it slammed against the house, it warped. The more it did that, the worse it got. I recommend wood. I have two that work nicely. They are inexpensive, have interchangeable screen and storm inserts, and can be painted, or better yet stained with a semitransparent stain. No peeling. Stores do not generally stock them, but can order them from Brockway-Smith.

For the main door, wood or fiberglass is the choice. If a door is well insulated, some experts do not recommend a storm door. Don’t even think about a steel door. They must be kept well painted or they rust.

Q. The host of a party I went to said to take home two nice glasses as souvenirs. So I did, nesting one in the other. Now they are stuck. How can I separate them without breaking them? I know it has something to do with heat expanding and cold contracting, but I don’t know how.


A. I don’t know either. Well, I do know, and that is why I put the formula in my list of useful information. Place the bottom glass in hot water, to just below the rim, and fill the top glass with ice cubes. Physics takes over: The bottom glass will expand and the top one will contract and the glasses shall be free.

Q. Here’s one for you: When I installed a compact fluorescent bulb in a hallway ceiling fixture on the second story, it made intermittent flashes of light that lasted for two to three minutes, and later for five to 10 minutes. When I switched bulbs, the same thing happened. My electrician is stumped. How about the Handyman?

J.J. MALONE, Westborough

A. It could be the fixture, but I am thinking about heat buildup in the upstairs fixture. The attic floor above it is insulated, and the insulation covers the wires as well. In the old days, this was a no-no, but in recent years advances in the cooling of fixtures has made this practice acceptable. But I still think it is buildup of heat. So, take away the insulation above the fixture and see if that works. If it does, I think replacing the fixture can work, too.

Does anyone out there have other ideas.

Q. My cellar has quite a bit if mold. I can’t open the windows because it is difficult to open them. What can I do?


A. The mold is there because the windows are closed. You could put in a dehumidifier, but it must exhaust the water from it outside. And, it is very expensive, lots more than ventilation, which is free. So, find someone to open those windows (nailed, frozen?). Keep them open at least from April to October, so the basement will dry out and cause the mold to go dormant, maybe. To get rid of it, hire a mold remedial company or, if it is not severe, make a mix of 1 part household bleach and 3 parts water, and paint this on all suspected mold. An aerosol spray of a dilute solution will also work, but it is not recommended for use by the owner. I have received several admonitions from people warning me against this solution, but I have found it works, and for me, at least, it works better than other antimold products. Be careful using bleach in an enclosed area. Ventilate the area, and if the fumes begin to affect you, get out of there and let a pro do it.

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