Handyman on call

Ways to save family photos stuck to their frames

By Peter Hotton
Globe Staff / November 25, 2010

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Q. Several of my favorite family photographs got stuck to the glass in their frames when they got wet. How can I get them off without ruining them?

NEW ORLEANS A. I am guessing they were developed and printed the nondigital way, using liquids. Since liquid was used, water, the most benign of solvents, won’t hurt them. Take the glass and stuck photos out of their frames, and soak them in warm water for just a minute or less, then try pulling or scraping off the photo, gently. If it does not yield, lay the glass down photo side up, take a length of dental floss and pull it back and forth under an edge of the photo. If the photos are affected by either technique starts to work, stop and soak the photos a little longer. I don’t think tap water will hurt the photos, but if you are concerned, use spring water or distilled water instead.

Q. My daughter’s wrought iron rail posts are set in holes in the concrete steps and stoop, but are very loose. Would hydraulic cement tighten them up?

MARY MAHONEY, Westwood A. That’s the stuff. It expands as it sets. Fill the holes (with the posts still in the holes) as thoroughly as possible, so that the material is flush with the concrete. Don’t fiddle with the posts while the cement is curing.

Q. My basement floor is concrete, covered with old style tiles. I was told when I ripped up the old carpets that I could not put wood or plastic wood flooring down there because moisture would collect and damage the installation, so I had it all recarpeted. I can’t afford ceramic tiles now. I’ve had no problems with the carpeting at all, but it’s rather dusty. My relatives recently had flooring put on the concrete in a similar house; partly ceramic tile and partly plastic wood. Was I given bad advice? When my new carpeting gives out can I put wood or Pergo down there? The finished basement has a sump pump.

RANCHHOUSE WRANGLER A. The new carpet should be OK for a while, but if it gets wet the pad should be aired out and dried outdoors. or, if left to dry in place, make sure the basement is well ventilated. It will take a while to dry out. Once the rug goes kaput, or you tire of it, put down the big ceramic tiles with a thin-set mortar. The cost saved for a new carpet and pad will go a long way in paying for ceramic tile. Then you can put down area rugs. Or, put down a special dimpled underlayment (you can find it at Home Depot) and put Pergo or hardwood on that.

Q. I live in a two-unit condo in a 100-year-old two-family house converted when I bought my half five years ago. The other owner was foreclosed and moved out in June, when the bank (Mass Housing) took it over at auction. The bank has done nothing since to clean it up, secure it, or anything. The place is a mess. Fortunately, the neighbors have been more than patient and do not blame me, in any case.

My question is about the water pipes. The pipe enters from the street and splits in the basement to each meter. I am concerned that it will get cold enough in the other unit’s basement to freeze the common water pipe as the weather gets colder. I am also concerned that pipes in the first and second floor might burst, potentially causing water damage to my side as well as the other.

I have mentioned my concerns about freezing to Mass Housing, but nothing has been done. Do you have any suggestions? Are my concerns reasonable? I can probably turn the water on his side off at the meter, but I’m reluctant to enter unless absolutely necessary.

UPSET IN GLOUCESTER A. I think the only thing you can do is to have the water department turn off the water in the foreclosed unit. At least that can prevent broken pipes in that unit, and protect your pipes as well. I also think you or someone, or the town, should get after Mass Housing.

Globe Handyman on Call also appears in the Sunday Real Estate section. 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. Go to