Handyman on Call

Covering the A/C question

By Peter Hotton
Globe Staff / December 2, 2010

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Q. Is it proper to cover an outdoor air-conditioner compressor or not? I have been covering it for years, and this year it had to be replaced. The installer told me to leave it open, maybe just a top cover to keep out excessive snow and rain. Cover or not?


A. A top cover is OK, but don’t make it tight. Covering the whole thing will allow water vapor to condense and at the end of winter you will have a rusty unit. I don’t cover mine, and it still is in excellent shape.

Q. You mentioned a good adhesive called Grip, but I can’t find it. Where can I get it? Big box stores did not have it, or so they told me. Also, I have a tree that is a pain; it is a wisteria and I’d like to get rid of it. But how, without poisons?

OSCAR , in New Bedford

A. I got the Grip in the mail, but I checked around and I think you can get it in Ace Hardware stores. It is a Liquid Nails item (construction adhesive), so it should be widely available. And it is a great glue; I found it works wonders in fixing broken concrete statuary. If the wisteria trunk is wide (yours is 5 inches), you can girdle it. Cut out a strip of bark 1 inch wide and 1/4- to 1/2-inch deep. Girdling will kill the vine in less than a year. Or, cut the vine down and keep removing suckers from the stump.

Q. When I had my Formica countertop replaced with new Formica, some of the contact cement was spilled on the plastic. How can I remove it?


A. Try paint brush cleaner. Apply it and scrub. We got this info from John Bernasconi of Milton, who said it may take several applications and some scraping, but it works.

Foreclosed property

When “Upset’’ in Gloucester called the Handyman about the dangers of a foreclosed condo in a two-family house where he owns the second condo, he cited a possible freezing of pipes in the neglected condo, and other concerns. He also felt that the foreclosing bank was not very responsive to his complaints. The Handyman suggested he get after the bank, and have the water turned off.

MassHousing, the foreclosing bank, was indeed on the job, wrote Tom Farmer, a communications specialist at MassHousing. Here’s what he had to say: The unit we foreclosed on is on Myrtle Street in Gloucester and the owner was refusing to leave the property. When this abutting condo owner called us in June, we were evicting the owner and we were not allowed access to the property while the eviction was ongoing. Our broker in Gloucester offered to pay him cash for the unit’s keys and for him to leave and despite the broker calling six times to arrange a meeting, the owner did not respond. During a weekly check of the property by the broker on Nov. 16, the door to the foreclosed unit was found open and it appeared the owner had moved out and left things behind in a messy condition. We took control of the property and instructed the broker to begin a cleanup both inside and outside and a winterization of the unit. There should be no issue with the pipes freezing in the basement because the foreclosed unit will continue to be heated and checked on by the broker until it is resold. It would certainly not be in our interest to turn off heat and power to the unit and have damage occur as it would lower the value of the property for resale. Feel free to contact me in the future regarding any issues involving MassHousing.

And here us what we heard from David, the original “Upset’’ in Gloucester: On Monday, an agent for the new owner (Wachovia) showed up. Apparently, Wachovia took over the foreclosed property at another auction in late September. The man told me they would either winterize the house or heat it for the winter. I mentioned my concerns about the common water entrance on that side, and he seemed to understand. I will be following up with the agent listed in the notice now posted on the front door.

Globe Handyman on Call also appears in the Sunday Real Estate section. He is available 1-6 p.m. Tuesdays for questions on house repair. Call 617-929-2930. Hotton ( also chats online about house matters 2-3 p.m. Thursdays. Go to