Nail points unsightly on roof overhang — The Boston Globe

November 11, 2007

Q: My house has a two-foot overhang with exposed rafters. It is a rather unusual design and is quite attractive. When I had a new roof installed a month ago, the nails holding the shingles penetrated the ceiling of the overhang, breaking some of the wood, with 3/8-inch of the nails showing. How can I fix that? The roofer is sympathetic and offered to try to clip off the nail ends, but that proved impossible. He is not willing to remove the bottom rows of shingles and renail them with shorter nails.


A: Anything that interferes with a design looks bad, and the Handyman is with you on your desire to fix it. Cutting the nail points is difficult and would produce little points of rust. So that is out. You could cut pieces of 1/4- or 1/8-inch plywood to fit between each set of rafters and tap it on the nail points so they just sit on the nail points; then nail it with galvanized siding nails, and prime and paint. Be careful not to drive the plywood too deeply on the nails, because this could drive the nails up, loosening their grip on the shingles.

Or, cut pieces of Homasote to fit. The Homasote is a papier-mache-like material that is soft enough to push onto the nail points. It is 1/2-inch thick, so will nearly cover the depth of the nail points. If there is chance of driving the nails up, you can have someone stand on a piece of plywood on the roof (be careful any time you are on a roof) to prevent this possibility. Or, use white Styrofoam insulation, which is easy to push onto the nail points. It may not be legal to install certain foam insulation uncovered outdoors.

Q: What’s the best caulking to use outdoors to seal an opening where the oil intake pipe enters the basement? The space between vinyl siding and the pipe is roughly 1/4-inch, and the old caulking has failed. Also, the drip edge flashing on the edge of my roof is rusting out. How can I prevent that?


A: For the gap in the opening, use an adhesive caulk. Two good brands, readily available at most hardware and big box stores, are Pheno-Seal and PolySeamSeal. No matter what you use, it must be an adhesive caulk.

For the drip edge: The present drip edge is galvanized or ordinary steel, which promises to rust. Take it out and put in a new, aluminum drip edge. To do this, pry up the shingles carefully to expose any nails driven in the metal edge; pry up those nails and pull out the old, and insert the new drip edge. Then bend down the shingles. Put a bead of roofing cement to hold them down if necessary. Nails will be good, too, but be sure to put a dab of roofing cement over each exposed nail head.

Q: When I was clearing out my parents’ house, I came across an old Franklin stove, cast iron and black, and covered with rust. How can I handle the rust? Would a HHR paint be OK?


A: Yes you can use the HHR (high heat resistant) paint, but you must sand off every speck of rust. If you do not get all the rust off, you can treat it with Rust Reformer (other brands are also available) which contains phosphoric acid and which turns the rust black and makes it paintable. Or, you can instead use lamp black, an old-fashioned treatment that makes the stove look wonderful and stands up to heat very nicely. Lamp black is sold in stove stores.

Q: How can I get bird doo off brown wood shingles?

CAROL, Arlington

A: If the shingles are painted, not stained, you can power wash. Do not power wash bare wood shingles. And here is something that will work: Mechanic’s hand soap. Or, a prewash treatment or a laundry soaker.

Q: My shower area was dripping water from a leak during a rain storm. I called a roofer who went to the roof and put a suction cup over a pipe on the roof in the area of the bathroom. It worked. What in the world is that suction cup and how does it work?

M.F. Watertown

A: That is a great description for a simple boot flashing, a round metal cover with a hole in it that fits over the soil pipe, tightly. The flange of the flashing sits on the roof. Be happy that it worked.

Q: My kitchen disposal is smelling pretty badly of decay. How can I clean it and sweeten it?


A: Make sure the disposal is off, with no possibility of going on accidentally. Then remove the rubber baffle and clean it if that is possible; if it is not, wipe the under side with bleach and water. Wear skin and eye protection when working with bleach. Grind through pieces of lemon, orange, lime, or grapefruit, including rind. Pour a half cup of baking soda into disposal, add two trays of ice cubes, and turn it on. Flush the baking soda and ice cubes down the disposal once a week. Daily sprinkling of baking soda into disposal will keep it sweet.

Q: I know you ran a formula for battling fruit flies, but I lost it, and now I am besieged by the little beggars. Can you repeat the formula?


A: Sure, but write it down this time. Fill a shallow bowl with vinegar and drop in a few drops of dishwashing detergent. The flies are attracted to the vinegar and when they touch it, they are goners because the detergent holds them tight.

Q: I have wood storm windows that I like and want to keep. But I need hardware. Where can I find hardware (hangers, latches, and extenders)? I can’t find any in several hardware and other stores.


A: I looked up the hardware in an old Stanley catalog, but I am not sure it is still available. You can go to an independent hardware store and see if it can order the pieces. Or, write to Bob Gaughan, 72 River Road, Weston, MA 02493, or e-mail Gaughan builds and installs wood storms, so he should have hardware to sell.

Q: I lifted some R-30 insulation with a paper backing facing down on the attic floor, and discovered it was chewed by rodents. I think the rodents are gone now, but can I lift the insulation and paper and put down polyethylene plastic, then put eveyrthing back? I think a solid vapor barrier is essential in saving fuel.

D.S. Waltham

A: You are right about the vapor barrier. Such a barrier is equally important, I think, as the insulation, because it stops the loss of warm air from inside the house to the outside. Although the paper and plastic amount to two vapor barriers, they will be touching each other so they will actually be one. Go for it.

Q: My house has hardwood floors that are in pretty good shape, but have scratches where light and heavy items were dragged. I would like to refurbish them but not by sanding to the bare wood. Is there anything out there that can be used for this purpose?


A: Yes there are, although I am not fully enamored with that idea. They come with various names such as Renewal. And they require sanding, and actually refinishing, and sometimes chemical treatment to allow the new varnish to stick properly.

If I ever went that far to refurbish, I might as well sand to the bare wood and refinish that way. Either way, put down rugs to keep those heavy objects from scratching.

Globe Handyman on Call Peter Hotton is also in the Styles Section on Thursdays. 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. To participate, go to Hotton’s e-mail is

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