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A few tricks may help tighten bolts on new windows

By Peter Hotton
October 30, 2011

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Q: I installed new basement windows in a brick foundation that required four expansion bolts. I drilled the required 3/8-inch holes in the brick, and when I tightened the bolts, only one tightened up. The other three are loose, too loose to be effective. How can I make them tighter?


A: Several ways. 1) Pull the loose bolts, and fill the holes with mortar or hydraulic cement (it expands as it sets), let it start to set and then drive in the bolt. The cement will set in the hole, holding the bolt very well. 2) Drive a hardwood dowel in the hole so the bolt will hold better. 3) Fill the holes with an epoxy filler such as Bondo, let it set (it will very quickly) and drive in the bolts.

If the bolts cannot be pulled or the above tricks don’t work, drill a new hole near the old ones and drive in a new bolt, carefully. Or use large sheet metal screws, which will hold in a hole in masonry or brick. In all cases, do not over-tighten; that can mess up the holding power of the bolt.

Q: I was told by a contractor that the untreated, white cedar shingles on the walls of my 1965 house on the Vineyard need replacing. I think they are in good shape, a very nice silver color, with no decay, and no gaps between them, or curling. Besides, you wrote in a column that untreated white cedar shingles will last 40 years. Do I really need to replace them? Also, my roof is 40 years old; do those shingles need replacing?

MARTHA, Watertown

A: You do not need new siding shingles. They can last 10 to 20 more years. I put up white cedar shingles in 1975 or so, and they still are good. I do have some curling on the south wall, but that is due to the exposure of the shingles, which is 6 inches. In the future, if you need to replace the shingles, expose them 5 inches to the weather. Also, two courses (rows) of shingles rotted at the bottom, but that was because they were too close to the ground and were overly shaded.

Those roof shingles can last another 10 years or so. Asphalt roof shingles are rated as to their lifetime in service: 30, 40, and 50 years, maybe even 20 years, the higher the number, the thicker and heavier the shingles. Most roof shingles will last at least five years beyond their rated years.

Q: Some of the shingles on my brand new roof are sticking up along their bottom edges. What can I do?


A:Wait awhile, they may go down by themselves. If they don’t, call the roofer and have him put a bit of roofing cement under the edges and hold them down.

Q:I have a table that I think is teak, with a matte finish. It is 50 years old, and recently it has developed a greasy look and feel. How can I restore its smooth finish?

ROXANA SCHOFF, Cape St. Vincent, N.Y.

A: It’s an oiled finish, and someone fouled up, possibly by using too much oil, or furniture polish. But you can restore it. Wash the finish with paint thinner (mineral spirits), twice if necessary. This will remove that greasy look/feel. If it looks a bit dry, you can oil it. Here’s how: Apply boiled linseed oil, fairly generously, then rub with your hands as long as you can. There will be oil left on the table, so wipe it all off with a dry cloth, then rub some more with your hands. You can maintain this oiled finish by re-oiling once a year.

Use plenty of ventilation when working with paint thinner. Also, dispose of oily clothes carefully by burning them. Oily cloths left around can spontaneously burn. Finally, you asked about turpentine instead of paint thinner. You can use it, but it smells to high heaven, and you will be happy to use lots of ventilation. Turpentine is extracted from pine trees, mineral spirits distilled from petroleum.

Q: I am having a new roof installed. How can I tell that the roofers are doing what they are supposed to do?

PANICKED, in Brighton

A: That’s a big order, because I am assuming you don’t know anything about roof coverings. If you trust the roofer, there is nothing else to do; he will do everything that is in the contract. So, have the roofer write up a contract, which details everything: Keep or remove old shingles, type and rating of new shingles, ice and water shield on bottom edge of roof or all of the roof, how nailing is done (hand nailing is best), drip edge, cleanup. Make sure there is no gobbledygook in the contract, and that you understand every word. Then camp on his project twice a day and check off what has been done. It would be better and more expensive to hire a home inspector to do all this.

Q: Workers left globs of grout on the face of my tile floor. How can I remove it?

MARY, from West Roxbury

A: Buy muriatic acid, cut it half and half with water, and paint it on the spots, then scrub and rinse.

Globe Handyman on Call Peter Hotton is also in the g section on Thursdays. He 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