A quick coverup for mysterious stains on ceiling
Q.I have two round stains on the cathedral ceiling of an addition. They tend to grow a little each day or week, and a third is developing. I have been told they are probably caused by mice, which either die in the insulation or are terrible housekeepers.
There is no access above the ceiling because it has no attic. What can I do to prevent those stains and to cover them?
A. One way to cover them is to paint them with a stain-hiding Kilz, maybe two coats, then repainting the ceiling. This will cover the problem, but will not solve it. Another cure is to cut out the ceiling where the stains are, clean out any mouse nests, and put up a plasterboard patch, which can be invisible, depending on the skill of the installer.
The only other way, and it should work permanently, is to take down the ceiling material plus the fiberglass insulation, and install a foam board called Thermax, the full depth of the rafters holding up the ceiling. Such a foam is likely to be a permanent barrier to critters. Another way to do this is to fill the entire space with Icynene, eliminating all venting in the ceiling. Insulation companies do this, and Anderson Insulation of Abington is a pioneer in this treatment.
Q.My roof is 10 years old, and just a few weeks ago, during a heavy, long rain, it developed a leak, which did not last very long. More recently during a heavy windy rain, I got about a quart of water in a pail on the attic floor. Interestingly, when the wind stopped the leak did, too, while the rain continued. I’m thinking that the wind lifted some of the shingles to let rain in, and the leak stopped when the wind stopped. Is that a reasonable diagnosis?
BERNIE CALLAHAN, Brighton
A. Yes. Shingles are self-sealing from a strip of tar on their backs, but perhaps the seal did not occur for any number of reasons. Have your roofer check those wayward shingles and treat the loose ones with roof cement.
Q.I stained an interior door with a stain I used before, but it came out too dark. Is there anything I can use to lighten it to match other doors?
A. I don’t think so, but try straight household bleach on a small area. If it doesn’t work, live with the dark stain and think of it as a nice contrast with other doors. The only alternative is to sand the door to the bare wood.
If you used the same stain as on other doors, you may have put it on too thickly and left it on too long before wiping it off. Or, you put on two coats.
Q.I had my deck redone with Trex, plus pressure-treated railings, frame, and balusters. How long should I wait to stain the rails and balusters? I could not find an oil-based semitransparent stain at Home Depot. The salesman said he could make up a water-based semitransparent stain. Can I use that water-based stain?
A. Yes, that water-based semitransparent can work. But if you want an oil stain, go to a paint store, where paint and stain are the main product, not a sideline.
Q.I hired a mason to install flagstones on my patio. He used some kind of binder between the stones that are set in sand, and now, not long after, about a third of the flagstones have cracked, but the binder did not. What went wrong? The stones are real stones, 2 inches thick and cut to various square-cornered shapes.
JOHN McDONAGH, Canton
A. There is an old phrase, designed to remind people like me to remember that cold contracts, heat expands. I think that the binder was super strong, holding the stone in place and when the stones expanded and then contracted, they cracked. But I think the stone was already cracked, invisibly, just waiting to completely crack. And, they are pavers, not flagstones, which tend to be irregular in shape. Pavers are set in sand, but I think with only stone dust in the joints.
You and your mason should go to the seller to see if you can get better stones. I also think that 2 inches is too thin for a stone to behave properly outdoors. Stone pavers are usually cut thicker than 2 inches, so they will not crack.
Here’s a trick to try on the intact stones: Tap one of the intact stones with the butt of a mason’s mallet. If the stone is intact, it won’t crack.
Q.I’ve had an ironwood deck (a tropical hardwood) that over eight to 10 years has turned a lovely silver color, without treatment. Recently I have noticed stripes of mold appearing. How can I treat it?
VIVIAN WHEELER, Magnolia
A. Try a solution of 1 part bleach and 3 parts water. Just paint it on and let it dry, then rinse. Don’t put anything else on it.
Globe Handyman on Call Peter Hotton is also in the g section on Thursdays. He is available 1-6 p.m. Tuesdays to answer questions on house repair. Call 617-929-2930. Hotton (email@example.com) also chats online about house matters 2-3 p.m. Thursdays. To participate, go to www.Boston.com