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Wednesday, July 19, 2006 01:02 am

In a jam with a door

There’s a simple way to keep it from slamming shut

Dear Gene: Our front door won’t stay open. It keeps swinging shut on its own. What’s wrong, and how can we fix it?

The door or its frame is slightly out of plumb (not perfectly vertical), which causes it to swing shut. You could restore the door to plumb using a level and shifting the hinge positions slightly, but there are much easier ways to fix this problem.

One method is to remove one of the hinge pins — usually the top one — and support the ends of the pin on two blocks of wood. Hold the pin with pliers so it doesn’t fly up at you and strike the pin firmly in the middle with a hammer. The object is to bend the pin imperceptibly. Tap the pin back into place (it should fit more tightly), and try the door. The increased friction caused by the bend in the pin should hold the door in any position. If necessary, repeat with a second hinge pin.

You can also use a doorstop that will hold the door in any position. I favor the “kickdown” type sold at some home centers and hardware stores (also available on line at www.robertbrooke.com). This is a simple lever with a rubber cap that is attached to the bottom of the door. When kicked down with the foot, it will hold the door in position; once it’s been pushed up with the foot, the door swings freely.

Dear Gene: How can we revive an acrylic kitchen sink? We use it carefully, but the finish is badly worn and stained.

If you can’t have the sink replaced with something more durable, such as stainless steel, your best bet is to have it professionally refinished. Refinishers are listed in the Yellow Pages under “Bathtubs & Sinks — Repair and Refinishing.” If you want to try refinishing it yourself, kits containing epoxy paints and instructions are available at most home centers and paint stores, or you can buy a kit online at www.refinishingonline.com (on the home page, click on “Brush/Roll-On Paint”).

A new finish will last longer if you use a plastic dishpan in the sink to absorb most of the knocks and scrapes when cleaning utensils and dishes.

Dear Gene: How can I compare different brands of blacktop driveway sealer to get the best? A sealant contractor recommends a brand sold at a local home center.

I don’t know of any independent tests that compare blacktop driveway sealers. In general, though, I think these sealers are much like paint — the higher the price for the sealer, the better the quality is likely to be. Also, if the contractor has been in business in your area for some time and can furnish references, you should be able to trust his judgment.

Dear Gene: What causes the ugly roof stains I see on many homes? Is this something new? How do you prevent it and get rid of it?

The dark stains are caused by fungi such as mildew, and they are not anything new. In fact, this problem ranks near the top of my list of frequently-asked-questions. The stains are more prevalent in humid areas, and you might be seeing more of them if you have recently moved into such an area.

Cleaners are available to remove the stains. The usual method of prevention is to install zinc strips on the roof. Rain reacts with the zinc to cause a chemical reaction that helps prevent growth of the fungi.

A good source of more information, cleaners and zinc strips is the Web site www.shingleshield.com.

Quick tip: When removing a lawnmower blade for replacement or sharpening, the usual advice is to use a block of wood, jammed between the blade and blade housing, to keep the blade from moving while loosening the blade’s retaining nut. A better and safer method is to attach a C-clamp to the blade housing so the blade bears against the clamp when the nut is loosened by turning it counterclockwise. Also, be sure to pull the sparkplug cable from the plug, to prevent an accidental start, before examining or removing a lawnmower blade.

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