Should I install soffit vents?

Q. My one-floor Cape house was renovated before we bought it. The previous owner opened the ceilings and put in two skylights, and finished the ceiling with drywall. This created a pocket in the ceiling above and/or below the skylight (for two skylights, that is), and we don’t know if the pockets are insulated. Should we install soffit vents below the roof overhang, where there are none for the whole house? (The roof does have a ridge vent).

DOUG, in Hotton’s chat room

A. Give top priority to building soffit vents, 2-inch-wide screened strips, on all soffits. I am guessing that the ridge vent you mentioned means that there is a small attic into which soffit vents can allow air to move into the attic (or between insulation and roof if there is no attic), and eventually through the ridge vent, in standard construction. The addition of soffit vents should complete the renovation.

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Q. After grinding out a big tree stump, what can I do with the leftover chips and a hole left behind so grass and shubs and trees can be planted?
DAN, in Hotton’s chat room

A. If the chips are small, mix them with loam and fertilizer, and tamp it down thoroughly so that it is even or a little higher than the surrounding ground. The small chips eventually rot but should not make a big difference in the level of earth in the hole. If the chips are big, take them to the proper disposal area.

Q. We have been having a problem with small moths in our kitchen and some worms in our raisins. Do you have an idea how we could deal with this? I have tried some flying insect spray, which seems to help somewhat..

BOB BAUM, Brainard N.Y.

A. Those moths and their larvae, the worms, are pantry pests. The cure is to get rid of any contaminated food, put other food in metal containers, and wash the cabinets thoroughly with detergent and water, to which bleach has been added. You can also buy pantry pest traps and other treatments, in hardware stores.

Q. My electrician is replacing the 100-amp panel in my 1920 house. The cost is about $900. He says he can replace it with a 200-amp system for about $300 more, but that is not necessary for my power needs. Would such an update be good for the house when I sell it?

ANDY, in Hotton’s chat room

A. Go for the 200 amp. It will be good for a future sale, no matter when that will be. In a 1920s house the system was probably 60 amp, and even 100 amp is passe in this day and age.

Q. The floor of our fiberglass insert stand-up shower is creaking. The house was built in 1996, and we have been in the house for 2½ years. We first noticed the noise about a month ago, and is prevalent when the user shifts body weight while standing in the shower.

BRIAN ZIVE, Mansfield

A. If the shower was installed in 1999, the floor is hollow, and flexes and squeaks when someone uses it. Live with it, no harm is being done and the floor is unlikely to leak.

Q. We heat our 1930s house with oil-fired hot water. How often should the chimney be cleaned? Do building codes require a liner for a chimney? Is a chimney cap a good idea? How much does repointing a chimney cost?

CHARLIE, in Hotton’s chat room

A. A chimney that serves oil-fired heaters does not need cleaning very often, maybe every 5 to 10 years. I don’t think a liner is needed for oil burners. A chimney cap is good to keep out critters and water. Repointing by a mason is expensive. You could do the work yourself, but the sweat equity is tremendous. And remember, when putting in new mortar, be sure to press it in very compactly.