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HANDYMAN ON CALL

Bulkhead door can be insulated, if necessary

I insulated my pull-down attic stairs, and it really makes a difference in keeping the house warm. I have never seen any insulation kits for bulkhead doors. Can those doors be insulated, and will it do as much good as it does on the attic stairway?

AL VAN BIBBER East Falmouth

If the basement is not used for living space, it will do no good at all. Besides, if there is an opening in the foundation at the bottom of the bulkhead steps, you could put a door in that opening. Also, the ceiling of the unoccupied basement should be insulated, which is all the house needs to protect it from basement cold. If the basement is used for living space, then insulating the bulkhead door would be good, if there is no door in the foundation.

So, it is possible to insulate the bulkhead door: glue 1-inch rigid insulation (Thermax or Styrofoam) to the inside of the door. Use an adhesive caulk or construction adhesive.

Can a new layer of asphalt roof shingles be installed over a single old layer? Some of my old shingles are splitting, but they are generally lying flat. Would the layer add too much weight for the roof?

JACK, Worcester

Yes, a new layer is OK over an old one, as long as the old ones are lying flat. That is allowed in Massachusetts and many other states. Roofers can nail down shingles that are curling or rising up. The added weight is negligible; and almost all residential buildings are overbuilt and can take an extra load far more than one extra layer of shingles.

Some of the plaster has come off my wall, revealing some sort of plasterboard underneath. The failure was due to leaks from ice dams. Can I put new plaster up on that underlayment material?

DEBORAH ISABELLE Billerica

Yes you can, and you could do other things to make a proper patch. That plasterboardstuff is Rocklath, a good lath that took the place of wood lath in the 1930s, '40s, and '50s. You can buy gypsum plaster and put on a rough coat, then scratch that rough coat before it sets completely, let dry, then finish with a smooth plaster coat. You need a steel trowel to put that new plaster in place. Let the old Rocklath dry out completely before installing the plaster. If the Rocklath is soft or yields to a poke from a finger, it has gotten excessively wet, will not hold plaster, and has to be replaced.

Or, measure the thickness of the old plaster, and subsitutue a piece of plasterboard of an appropriate thickness. Use an adhesive caulk or construction adhesvie (Liquid Nails) to do the gluing.

I had my Cape Cod-style house completely rebuilt, with four zones of hot-water heat by gas. When all four zones are creating the same temperature throughout the house, a terrible draft comes down the stairs. How can I stop that draft?

B.K., Harwich

You'd think that with the temp equal all around, there would be no movement of air. But that air as it is warmed (and the new system probably heats the air faster than before) tends to expand and rise, and has to find some place to go; and that is down that open stairway.

So the fixes might be one of these: You could lower the temp of the upstairs zones by maybe 5 degrees, so that there would be less tendancy for that air to move. Or, open some windows upstairs, just a teeny bit, just to see if that will stop the draft. A drastic cure, if nothing else works, is to close off that stairway. If the draft is that great, closing off the stairway may not be the best cure, because it may unbalance the heating system's zones.

As a final resort, check with the heating man and see what he has to say.

I painted some Masonite wall paneling some years ago, and it really looks pretty good, but the v-grooves show. I would like to fill them and repaint. What can I use to fill them and how?

REBA ADAMS, Cut Off, La.

I learn something every day. Today it is Cut Off, La., and it is two words. So, for Reba, fill the grooves with joint compound, which contains glue and will stick to many things, including Masonite (hardboard) paneling. You can buy the joint compound ready mixed, and also buy paper drywall tape. Apply the compound in the groove, smooth it out with a wide putty knife, and embed the paper in the compound, smoothing it and pressing it into the joint compound with your putty knife. Now, put a wide, very thin layer of compound over the paper. But this time use a very wide (10-inch) smoothing knife, tapering the compound very thinly in the middle and even thinner on the edges. Let dry overnight, and sand smooth any rough areas.

Now comes the real rules of the project. You must apply two more thin, wide layers of compound, sanding and smoothing after each dries. When joint compound is applied over the groove, it indents slightly. That is why three layers are needed, to avoid this indentation.

Do not avoid this. The Handyman did this years ago with some plywood paneling, and filled the v-grooves perfectly, with the proper paper tape and two layers of compound. It looked perfect. Then he painted the wall and went bananas because he could see the slightly indented grooves. Not much, but enough to go crazy over. He was not happy with this project until he took down the wall.

Properly done, the three layers of joint compound will not create a mound.

My son bought a house with jalousie windows, but the windows have no cranks. Where can I find some for those old windows?

B.F., Milton

Some window dealers may have them, but you can buy them from Window Components of Miami, 800-382-9541. That company will put you in touch with a distributor.

Last week I put up insulation in the ceiling of my basement. I just stuck it up between the joists. Will it stay?

H.F., Norwood

No, it will not. By this time some has probably already fallen down. The proper way to install insulation (fiberglass with a paper vapor barrier, that is) is to install it with the paper up, touching the ceiling above, and hold it in place with insulation hangers, pointed wires stuffed between each set of joits, every 24 inches.

If you put in rigid insulation such as Styrofoam or Thermax (1 inch thick), cut it so it fits snugly. You can put in three or four layers of this stuff; it will be adequate for a basement ceiling. The rigid insulation is likely to stay in place because it is rather stable, not expanding and contracting a lot when the temperature changes. But it would be a good idea to drive a nail into the joist just below the insulation to act as a cleat to hold the insulation in place. If there are a lot of pipes, wires, and other protrusions between the joists, then the rigid insulation is not a good idea.

I put on a modular addition with a roof overhang of 1 to 2 feet. The builder wants to put up gutters, but I am not convinced I need them. The basement has been dry for 18 months, so why should I bother?

ED PARRIS, Wakefield

You are right, in my opinion; with an overhang like that, why bother indeed? If you are not bothered by water dripping on the ground around your house, then don't bother with the gutters. You can put a trench of crushed stone to catch the water and see what happens. If you get no water in the basement, then you're all set.

Globe Handyman on Call Peter Hotton is available 1-6 p.m. Tuesdays to answer questions on house repair. Call 617-929-2930. Hotton also chats on line about house matters 2-3 p.m. Thursdays. To participate, go to Boston.com. Hotton's e-mail is photton@globe.com.

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