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HANDYMAN ON CALL

Linseed oil is an ideal sealer; spiders the best insecticide

Q. Six years ago I stripped my front wood door with every intention to paint it, but I am only now getting to it and the wood seems very dry. Can I treat it with boiled linseed oil before painting?

J.D., Revere

A. Whether you know it or not, you just discovered one of the best primer sealers: boiled linseed oil. The wood seems dry because it is dry. The oil will not only fill the wood by soaking into it, but it will prime and seal the surface, making it perfect for painting. The oil is tricky: Apply it generously with a paint brush, let it sit for 15 minutes, then wipe off the excess with a dry cloth. Dispose of oily cloths carefully by burning them. Left around, they can burn spontaneously.

Another way: cut the oil half and half with paint thinner; stir thoroughly and apply generously. You may not have to wipe it off. Then apply a latex primer sealer (even if the oil is a primer sealer, a regular primer sealer will not hurt). Finally, apply one or two thin coats of a latex house paint or trim paint. And don't forget to do the same on the edges. This is to keep moisture out of the wood, and doors from sticking in the summer.

Q. I found a spider in a waste basket and killed it. I think I have other spiders. How did they come in, how can I get rid of them and keep them away?

WORRIED, from Arlington

Q. Do spiders do damage once they get into the house? I see some cobwebs so I know I have spiders, and I know they are not very neat.

AFRAID, in Central Mass.

A. Don't be afraid and do not kill our arachnid friends. They come into our houses to find and eat bugs, mostly bad bugs. How they enter is a good question, however. Many houses have tiny holes through which insects crawl. First of all, you have little to fear about spiders in this region. Whereas in southern states people have to contend with black widows, brown recluses, and perhaps tarantulas, dangerous spiders are rare in New England.

It's no reflection on your housekeeping to have bugs, and with bugs, spiders are not far behind. Sweep them up and throw them outdoors if you feel so inclined. Admittedly spiders are messy and leave behind fecal matter. But generally they will cause no damage. If you see one dropping to your pillow, then you can do something. ''Afraid in Central Mass." said she would scream if that happened. I like spiders and I sure as shootin' would scream, too.

One last thing: Do not use chemicals on them. The chemicals are more dangerous than the spiders.

Q. My 1971 kitchen has a wall covered with large ''stones" set into a faux concrete mortar. The stones are made of plaster and are attached to the dry wall with a thick black, glue-like substance. It looks awful. How can I remove this mess without damaging the dry wall?

D.F., Marlborough by e-mail

A. Welcome to the world of faux, so popular in the 1960s and '70s and so tawdry! Since the stones are plaster, you should be able to pop them off with a wood chisel and light hammer blow. Or pry them off by brute force. The black stuff is another matter, it is tar based, I think, and can be dissolved with paint thinner, then scraped off. Or, heated with a hair dryer and scraped. Do not use a hot air gun indoors. It is a fire hazard.

Even if it is softened by heat or solvent, I doubt that you can get much of the black stuff off without damaging the dry wall. If successful, fine. But if not, you are probably better off taking it down and replacing it with blueboard and a skimcoat.

Some of my white painted shingles are turning green on the shady side of the house. Can I paint over the green stains? There are also stains on the concrete foundation. I also have lichen, light green-gray spots on the asphalt roof shingles. How can it be removed, or is it OK to leave the lichen in place? A painter suggested power-washing the walls. Can I have the roof shingles power-washed too?

The green stains are algae, and you cannot paint over them. Power wash them or treat them with a solution of one part bleach and three parts water. If you plan to paint, rinse off all traces of bleach first. The green stains on the concrete foundation can be left or power washed.

Leave the lichen aloneIt is harmless and will not hurt the roof shingles or trees. Do not power-wash the roof shingles; full-strength power-washing will destroy asphalt shingles.

Handyman on Call also appears in the Globe's Real Estate section on Sundays. Peter Hotton is available 1 to 6 p.m. Tuesdays to answer questions on house repair; call 617-929-2930. Hotton chats online about house matters 2 to 3 p.m. Thursdays, at Boston.com. Hotton can be reached at photton@globe.com.

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