Handyman on call

Refinishing a cutting board

By Peter Hotton
Globe Staff / July 28, 2011

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Q. Sometime ago you explained how to clean and refinish a cutting board. I did not need the info, but now I need it. Please tell me again what finish I should put on the board after cleaning it?


A. Here’s the formula. Wet the board with mineral oil. Apply liberally, rub with your palms, and let it sit for 15 minutes. Then dry it off with a dry cloth. Then rub with your hands, fingers and palms. If any parts stay sticky or wet, wipe off with the dry cloth. Dispose of oily cloths safely by burning them. This oil finish can be applied any time, as often as you like. On the other hand, the untreated board is perfectly good to use without a finish. You can clean an oiled finish or plain raw wood by sanding.

Q. I was trying to install Amerimax 85198 (plastic) gutter guard over the gutter. I inserted the gutter guard under the shingle to cover the gutter. It is supposed to snap in but instead rests against the lip of the gutter. I am wondering if I had installed it correctly. Also, does the gutter guard increase the chance of building ice dams in the winter? If so what can I do to avoid ice dam build up?

KRIS MURTHY, by e-mail

A. I don’t know for sure, but it sounds as if you put the guard a bit too far or not far enough under the shingle. Move it a bit one way or another to see if it clicks. The gutter guard and gutters have nothing to do with ice dams. If you have never had ice dams, chances are that your attic is well ventilated and your attic floor is well insulated. A cold roof will prevent ice dams.

Q. One of my concrete paving stones is chipped, about 1 1/2 inches long and quite shallow. Is the strength and the durability of the paving stone compromised?

R.R., Sudbury

A. Not at all. If it is not ugly, leave it.

Q. I’m trying to find a proper coating for my new cedar clapboards. I know you suggested using a semitransparent stain, but I just discovered Benjamin Moore’s Arborcoat, a combination of alkyd and latex semitransparent stain. Will that work for me? My cousin suggested back-priming them. Should I do that?

ROB FAHEY, Sagamore Beach

A. First, don’t bother to back-prime. The stain you found may be typical of what paint manufacturers are doing now that oil-based materials are being phased out for environmental reasons. It’s still semitransparent. and will penetrate the wood and only one coat is needed. That new mix is an emulsion, which features the best qualities of oil and latex in one can. Go for it.

Q. About six weeks ago I remember reading one of your responses concerning repairing vertical siding. I did not save your article, and now I am hoping that you can tell me how to find it. The article dealt with techniques for repairs to the bottom end (drip edge) of vertically oriented siding on a house.

Over the 50 years of weather exposure, lots of water (in all its forms) has flowed down the siding. Some of the boards are still sound, and others are compromised in the last inch or two at the bottom. I recall that you suggested trying some “topical’’ repair as a possible alternative to replacing the unsound boards. It could have been a type of liquid epoxy. Can you suggest how I can find your original article?

BRIAN HOLLAND, by e-mail

A. It’ll be easier to tell it all over again: The repairs I suggested are twofold.

1. Cut a few inches off the bottom of the decayed ends, long enough so you can nail a replacement piece on the sheathing. Cut a piece of cedar or whatever the original is, and nail the patch just below the original. Caulk the joint with an adhesive caulk.

2. If the decay is slight, you can dig out the decay, treat the cavity with bleach, rinse and let dry, and insert an epoxy called Minwax wood rot filler. You can also use a wood hardener, also made by Minwax, before applying the epoxy.

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