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Fending off pesty little home invaders

Q. Ants! They are invading the house earlier in the season than usual. I see five to 10 at a time, and I have sprayed outdoors three times with little improvement. Ant cups do help. They are big ants, but I don't think they are carpenters. Anythi...

Q. Ants! They are invading the house earlier in the season than usual. I see five to 10 at a time, and I have sprayed outdoors three times with little improvement. Ant cups do help. They are big ants, but I don't think they are carpenters. Anything else I can do?

A. Yes. Do not spray indoors. But you can sprinkle boric acid around baseboards; use very little, and keep it away from kids and pets. I think they are coming in because it has been so dry in August, and they are seeking water. If they are carpenter ants, they are lost, because carpenter ants nest in damp, punky wood. Keep sweeping them up and dispose of them. They will be gone in cold weather. If you are really concerned about carpenter ants, call an exterminator to determine if there are any in the house. He must search carefully; if he just wants to spray here and there, get another exterminator.

The Handyman has had his own infestations; in fact, two of them. One is fruit flies, which are rampant and are being managed by putting all fruit in the refrigerator and sneaking in and out for a snack. They are agile and quick, so he and the Handyman's wife smack them with a bunched-up towel. At the latest date, we are actually getting ahead of them.

The other plague is what I think are cluster flies. They are huge, much bigger and different from ordinary house flies and breed in the ground in August, just at the wrong time because by the time they grow up it is too cold to survive, so they enter houses for the heat. Usually you will see them clustered around attic windows trying to keep warm, hence the name. Since the Handyman has no attic windows, they enjoy themselves in the kitchen, generally. They are gigantic, and rather lethargic, so they are easy to whack with a rolled up newspaper.

More on window muntins


When "Crazy for Muntins" asked where to find grids for making fake muntins in windows, the Handyman was not sure they were available except in new windows; in other words, not available on existing windows. Muntins, by the way, are the moldings that separate glass window panes.

Guess again, Handyman, said several e-mailers who informed us that, yes, they are available.

Wrote Diane Huster of North Andover: I was able to buy muntins at Doyle Lumber 978-688-4099, Andover in the mid '90s. I had bought a house with a big plain plate glass window. Doyle Lumber came out, measured, and created muntins within a wooden frame for the window to match the two side windows.

It worked so well a year later I ordered "muntins" for my rear Andersen sliders and other plain plate glass windows. The Andersens were "standard inserts" that Doyle ordered even though the sliders were over 10 years old. Back then, they were about $100 each, far cheaper than new French doors or a new picture window. They still work and look great inside and out.

Wrote Michael O'Shea: Muntins: About 12 years ago, I dressed up dead lite sashes in a stairwell by using gray Phenoseal to glue on small stop pieces in a pleasing pattern. No real woodwork involved; just measure, cut the sticks (paint first), butter them, and stick them on. No weights or pressure needed. Trim the excess when dry (overnight) I did the same pattern on both sides and the gray looks like the parting alum used in the glass sandwich. The house was resold last year so I went to the open house, no failures, and they still look great.

Thank you all.

Q. We have an older house and if we dump a bucket of dishwater down the kitchen sink, we can't run the water from the faucet for several minutes. What's causing this odd occurrence?

A. I too am perplexed and have never heard of such a thing. Perhaps the quick dumping of water creates a syphoning effect, pulling water out of the trap, resulting in a vacuum that could stop the flow from the tap for a few seconds. A partially blocked soil stack could also cause that vacuum. So it might be a good idea to check the soil stack for obstructions.


Plumbing still is a mystery to many of us, and I suggest you call a plumber.

Q. My roof was repaired two years ago with architectural shingles. Recently I was in a remote part of the attic and noticed a near round hole one-foot in diameter cut into the wood with shingles and nails visible. The edges were fine with no teeth marks. I believe it was the roofers' oversight. The roof is under warranty. What is the best way to repair it and what do you estimate the cost of the repair?

A. That hole was probably made for a vent of some kind, then later the vent was removed and the hole not plugged. But it is not an oversight; the roofers knew that the architectural shingles were strong enough to span the 1-foot hole. So there is nothing you have to do.

However, there is one thing you can do if you like: Inspect the roof on the outside, where the hole is, to see if there is any depression on the shingles.You can also tell if the shingles are depressed a bit by looking at them in the attic. If there is no depression there is nothing else to do. If there is, and you do not like the looks of it, call the roofers back to make sure they fix it, for no fee. Even though roof job is usually guaranteed for one year (not the shingles), and the job was done two years ago, a competent roofer should do what you think should be done.

It might cost $200 to fix the hole, but you can do it yourself this way, for hardly more than pennies: Determine how thick the plywood or roof boards are and cut a plywood patch the same thickness to fill the space of the hole. Then cut a larger; piece of plywood to cover the patch with an overlap of 6 inches all around, and screw it to the sheathing (roof) boards with solid brass screws.

This will straighten out the shingles if they are depressed and keep them from depressing.

Q. My barn, built in 1829, needs new siding, which is now vertical shiplapped pine boards that have weathered very nicely over the years. I am putting up similar pine boards, even the rough-sawn Eastern white pine boards if I can get them. What can I put on them to preserve them, but still allow them to weather?

A. Untreated pine does not stand up very well to the weather; it tends to erode and check and do other odious things way more quickly than, say, cedar or better, cypress. Since there is no cypress in New England, people made do with cedar, white or red, and painted the pine. But you can treat the pine with a wood preservative, which will make the wood water resistant. Thompson's Water Seal is good, but there are many others on the market, some of which do not need yearly or every-other-yearly applications. Most clear sealers will allow the wood to weather. Be sure to check the label.


Q. One of my rooms has a bamboo floor put down with bamboo glue. Now I see gluey fingerprints made by the workers. I tried many solvents without success. Acetone removed excess glue but not the fingerprints.

A. Bamboo glue is another in a long list of various types of adhesive that is driving us all bananas trying to find a solvent. You could try solvent after solvent, until you hit on the right one, but this could be expensive. There are no small samples of solvents that you can try. But before you try that chore, try any citrus-based product, such as Citrus Green or Citrus Clean, but not a citrus-based paint remover.

And, check out Google with these keywords: Bamboo Glue Solvent.

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