Handyman: On sloped decks, dead mice, scratched floors

April 25, 2014 

Q: I had a nice-looking redbrick patio installed in my backyard, then had a new exterior door installed. Now there is a gap of a few inches between the bottom of the door and the patio, so the installer filled the gap with plaster, which is already beginning to melt away. What can I do?

A: I hope that the door has a proper threshold on its bottom, because a threshold of oak is the only thing that will make the door weatherproof. If not, have one installed. First, get rid of the plaster, which is not the thing to use outdoors. It depends on how thick the gap is. If a threshold sloped to all water runoff fits in the gap, that is good. If there is a little more to the gap, put in a pressure-treated board to make up the difference. If there is still a gap, you can build a berm of concrete or bricks to close the gap.

Wrapping a steam pipe

Q: You mentioned a good pipe wrap for pipes that have lost their asbestos insulation on a steam heat system, but I have forgotten.

A: It is compressed fiberglass. The contractor should know, and also will know what is needed to insulate the steam boiler.

Porch floor needs slope

Q: I live in a three-decker, which has back porches off the second- and third-floor units. The third floor has a tongue-and-groove deck that leaks. Of course, both porches get wet but the rain also is clearly leaking through the boards. Also, all that dampness is peeling the paint on the bottom of the third-floor deck. A contractor said the problem is that the third-floor porch is laid flat and needs to be rebuilt on a slight incline. Do you think that will fix it?

A: Yes, if the third-floor deck were sloped a little, it would make a big difference. I would have to guess the third-floor deck is covered by a roof, as in all triple deckers I know. All three decks should be primed and painted with an exterior primer and exterior deck paint.

Dead mouse in the wall

Q: About a dead mouse in the wall, and the resulting stink: I called an exterminator, who said he could not even try to find the corpse, and suggested just waiting out the smell, which is already abating.

A: There are not many tricks that will succeed. If you have mice and know where they are, using plastic traps is the best way to get them all, plus closing every possible access hole in the house, the foundation and the wood sill on top of the foundation. To locate those holes, go into the basement on a bright sunny day and turn out all lights and light sources; you may see holes that you would otherwise miss.

Fixing a scratched floor

Q: We had our floors sanded and polyurethaned six years ago. Our foldable ironing board gradually scratched a small area. Can this section be locally sanded to remove the scratches and polyurethaned only on the affected area?

A: Yes, sanding the scratched area lightly and applying two or three coats of water-based polyurethane varnish on the scratched area can work. So can coating the scratches with a stain just a little darker than the scratches.

Hotton: photton@globe.com

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