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Handyman on call

Making it clear how to reglaze old windows

Q I have an old cottage in Maine, with a sun porch, with 80 -- count 'em, 80!) windows that need reglazing. I know that having them reglazed by a professional would probably cost as much as a new window, but I'd really like to do it myself. Could you give me a step-by-step procedure, including removing old putty, installing new compound, and painting. I have plenty of time.

MILLY SCHWEITZER
Peabody

A It's not as hard as it looks, but it's slow, especially for an amateur. It's best to take the window out of the frame and put it on a sturdy table outdoors, but if the cottage is one story you can probably do it in situ. It's a matter of comfort, or discomfort. OK, here goes:

1. Remove only that putty that is easy to remove with a chisel or a putty knife. This is along the bottom of the sash and up a few inches on each side. If some putty is stubborn, but must come off, use a putty torch, a small metal plate that gets very hot, suitable for heating the putty without breaking the glass. Or use a putty ripper, one that attaches to a power drill. Be careful with that one; keep it away from the glass.

2. With the glazing space open, coat it with boiled linseed oil, and leave it overnight before reglazing. The oil will prevent the dry wood from pulling out the oil of the new glazing compound.

3. Buy a high-quality glazing compound. DAP makes a good one. Make a snake out of the glazing compound, and press it in the space, then smooth it off with a putty knife at a 45-degree angle. Or, buy a special caulking compound designed for glazing windows; it comes in a caulking cartridge for use with a caulking gun, and is easier and faster than standard compound. A glazing alternative is to caulk the space with caulking compound and nail on a glass bead.

4. Then prime and paint with an exterior primer and an exterior house paint. If you are painting glazing compound, wait two or three days to let the compound harden; if you paint too soon you will tend to scratch the compound with the paintbrush. With any glazing material, paint 1/16 inch onto the glass. This is what makes the glazing waterproof.

The first 10 or so windows will be rather messy. The next 70 or so will be perfect because you've had enough practice.

Q My neighbor went on vacation for 12 days. When he returned, he found a frog in an upstairs toilet. Is that possible?

IMPOSSIBLE

A You know it is possible if you believe your neighbor. Frogs seek moisture, water, in fact, and all the drains are open; that is, there is no water in them, so it is relatively easy to shinny up those drain pipes. How he got into the drain system is a good question.

Q I just had the flues cleaned in the chimneys serving my furnace and fireplace. I was told the 70-year-old flue liners were in disrepair, and I have to replace them. I burn wood in the fireplace and gas in the furnace. Do I have to get new flue liners?

COSTLY PROJECT

A The law requires a stainless steel or special aluminum alloy flue liner on a gas-fired appliance. Burning gas creates 1 cubic foot of water vapor for each cubic foot of gas burned, and when that water vapor condenses, it can deteriorate a masonry liner in a relatively short time. I don't think a new liner is required for a wood-burning fireplace.

Q I'm replacing my 36-year-old heating/AC system for a more efficient system. I have forced hot air by gas with central air. Would a hybrid system (heat pump/gas furnace/AQ/C) be advisable as well as cost effective in our New England climate?

MIKE

A I don't think an air-to-air heat pump will work very well in New England and other northern climes, because they usually don't work at temps under 30 or so degrees. A geothermal heat pump, one that uses water pumped deeply in the ground (geo) will work, and well, too. Installation is expensive.

If you replace the furnace, you will get a much more efficient appliance. As for it being gas-fired, I can't give you much encouragement because gas is more expensive -- therm unit for therm unit -- than oil. So I suggest an oil-fired furnace with a modern, efficient oil burner.

Q I plan to reshingle my house. Is it possible, or practical, to reshingle over old shingles?

JOHN ROBINSON, Allston

A It's certainly possible; pros do it all the time, and it saves the labor of removing the first layer. It may not be practical for an amateur, because there's a risk of nailing into a gap between new and old shingles, resulting in a bent shingle. Also, extra shingles will bring the wall out about 3/4 inch, making it difficult for shingles to butt against window and door casings. This is cured by putting a molding on three sides of the casing.

For the amateur, I suggest removing the old layer, which will give a flat, even surface on which to lay the new shingles. It also allows the installation of 3/8-inch Styrofoam insulation under the shingles, which will help prevent peeling of any future coats of paint.

Q My large ceramic tiles were set in mortar on one layer of oriented strand board (OSB). Now, after 11 years, the mortar between tiles is crumbling. Some of the mortar joints are directly above seams in the OSB. I can feel the floor flex between joists. Is there any way to put in new mortar without it crumbling? The joints are 1/4- to 3/8-inch wide.

BRANDY BRANDON
Acton

A For one thing, the joints are too wide. It would be better to make joints 1/16 to 1/8 inch. There's nothing you can do about that, and if it took 11 years to crumble, then it will take another 11 years for the new mortar to crumble. Maybe not, if you compact the mortar very, very heavily. Use a pointing tool, a steel bar designed to press mortar in place. Don't rub the pointing tool back and forth; that will bring water to the top and weaken the mix; press it in.

If the mortar crumbles prematurely, then the only recourse is to stop the flexing: Install an extra joist midway between each set of joists.

Q The closet and bedroom doors are sticking on a new carpet. Sanding the door bottoms tends to tear the edges of the veneer on the doors. How best to cut the door: sand, saw, or plane?

PAUL

A Sawing is the best way for almost any amount to take off, even 1/8 inch. Sanding will take forever and can result in a wavy bottom. The same goes for planing. If you saw, use a veneer blade, a very fine-toothed blade in your rotary saw.

The Globe Handyman on Call also appears in the Sunday Real Estate Section. Peter Hotton is available 1-6 p.m. Tuesdays to answer questions on house repair. Call 617-929-2930. Hotton also chats online 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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