Handyman on call

Sticky deck from tree resin

By Peter Hotton
Globe Staff / June 23, 2011

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Q. In my back yard I have a very large poplar tree that overhangs part of the roof of the house as well as a large deck. Last April, this tree dropped so many sticky pods that the deck was completely covered with them. I ended up pressure washing the deck every day for a week to get rid of them as they kept coming. Is there a better way to deal with them?

MIKE, by e-mail

A. The sticky stuff is resin, so treat the fallen pods with denatured alcohol to loosen, then put them in a yard bag. Keep after them, daily if necessary, so they don’t build up and leave a bigger mess by season’s end.

Q. I have conflicting info on the direction a ceiling fan should rotate in summer and winter. What is correct, and when?

JOAN, by e-mail

A. I thought I wrote it down somewhere, so now I must apply logic and reason. The fan should blow down in summer; blowing down will mix the air and feel good flowing over your sweaty body. Blowing up in winter will mix the air nicely and will avoid air directly blowing on you. Check with a ceiling fan dealer.

Q. My folks own a summer home in Seabrook Beach, N.H., and we want to redo the flooring in the basement apartment. It is currently covered by tiles, and a few of them are cracked. The space is about 950 square feet. Occasionally, the apartment gets some water, but not on a regular basis. The cottage is unheated, and vacant from October until May. Home Depot recommended Allure vinyl planking.

JOAN, by e-mail

A. I really don’t think anything like Allure vinyl planking or any plastic system works very well in a basement. With the resilient tiles relatively intact, I suggest you put down ceramic tiles with a thin set mortar, directly on the old tiles. Expensive, yes, but permanent and moisture-resistant, and you can put down area rugs that can be cleaned if they get wet.

Q. The stairs going from my kitchen hall/back door and further down to the basement are wood with rubber mats on each. I have noticed something really weird recently and that is after we have a lot of rain, the rubber actually looks a little wet. It feels a bit damp. Have you ever heard of such a thing?

CAB, by e-mail

A. The Handyman has heard a lot of things, weird and not so weird. Your condition is one of them. It is called condensation. When it rains a lot, water vapor builds up in the house and especially the basement, which is closed up nice and tight. This water vapor condenses on cool surfaces such as the rubber mats. The water that forms on your ice cold highball glass is an example of condensation. Keep this condensation to a minimum or stop it completely by ventilating the basement. Open windows for cross-ventilation to allow the water vapor to escape. Put an exhaust fan in one of the windows, exhausting to the outside. The same goes for areas on upper floors that happen to be blocked off.

Q. I recently did some refinishing, and ended up with some nice rubbing pads, one impregnated with linseed oil and the other with shellac and denatured alcohol. Because I expect to use them again, I’d like to store the shellac-and-denatured alcohol pad in the empty shellac tin with some denatured alcohol/shellac mixture and the linseed oil pad in another small, covered tin with some left-over linseed oil. Is this wise? Do I risk spontaneous combustion?

CHRISTINE, by e-mail

A. Do not keep the oily cloths. There is too much danger of spontaneous combustion. Dispose of them by burning. The shellac and alcohol can be stored in an airtight metal can. You cannot get rid of all the oil in a saturated pad by rinsing with paint thinner. So don’t bother trying. I know one case of washing an oily rag several times in a washing machine, and still the darn thing ignited.

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