Use wood molding to replace window frame in steel door

Published: Sunday, Dec. 14 1997 12:00 a.m. MST

Question - The plastic frame around the window in my insulated steel door has distorted, probably from the heat built up between door and storm. Where can I get replacement parts for those frames? If I ever fix that frame, I will take off the storm. Don DiFelice, Groveland, Mass.

Answer - Taking off the storm is a good start. It is not recommended to put a storm door on a steel insulated door, because the heat buildup between the two, especially in the sun, will play havoc with the plastic frame and also could damage the paint on the door itself. Besides, with a steel insulated door, a storm is not necessary because it adds very little to the insulating value of the door. You could put up a nice, old-fashioned wood screen door in summer.

As for the plastic frame around the window, makers of steel doors have not gotten into the spare parts business yet; it is unlikely that you can find such parts.

But what you can do is remove those distorted frame pieces and take them to a lumber store and find wood molding that matches or nearly matches the old plastic. Cut the molding to size and install it around the window.

Some plastic molding is screwed onto the door; if so, it is easy to remove and just as easy to reinstall the wood frame pieces.

If the plastic is not screwed on, it is glued, so pry it off with careful use of a chisel and hammer. Apply heat from a hair dryer to soften glue and make the job easier. And, to put the new wood molding up, use a construction adhesive or an adhesive caulk. Both come in caulking cartridges, making installation easier.

Question - My copper water pipes sweat in the basement in summer and drip onto the floor, making a green stain. Bleach did not touch that green stain. How can I remove that stain and keep the pipes from dripping? M.F.C., Franklin, Mass.

Answer - To remove the stain, wet it with hydrogen peroxide, then sprinkle on cream of tartar and let it sit for an hour or so. Sweep it up and throw it away. Repeat if necessary.

To prevent future dripping, insulate the pipes with foam tube insulation. And ventilate the basement in summer, which should be done anyway to prevent that enormous buildup of water vapor. Keep windows open from April to June and September to October. In July and August, when it is so humid outdoors, ventilation won't do much good, so you can install a dehumidifier. In winter, there will be much less humidity, so ventilation is not necessary.

Question - Snow melting in my garage in winter really soaks the floor, and some of the plasterboard at the bottom of the walls at the floor line is getting soft. How can I prevent those walls from getting soft? If I have to cut the plasterboard, what is the best way to do it? Mark Messore, Wellesley, Mass.

Answer - I think the best way to handle that rotted plasterboard is to cut, say, 51/2 inches off the bottom, and insert a pressure-treated 1(MUL)6 as a baseboard. Don't even bother to paint or stain it. If the plasterboard is soft higher up, cut a little more off and insert a wider board.

To cut plasterboard in situ (already installed), use a utility knife. This is easy with soft plasterboard but more tedious and difficult in sound plasterboard, which is what you should cut anyway. Make a mark with a straightedge, then use the straightedge as a guide to cutting the plasterboard. Repeat the cut until it's all the way through. The plasterboard will come off in pieces, and nails holding the board in place must be pulled. You could instead use a saber or keyhole saw, but this will make a mess, and you're much more likely to end up with a crooked cutting line.

Question - I understand I can treat a new galvanized downspout with vinegar or paint thinner to prepare it for painting. Should I thin out the vinegar or paint thinner? C.J., Waltham, Mass.

Answer - There is no need to thin either vinegar or paint thinner. After that, when the solution dries, prime with oil-based exterior primer, and finish with one or two coats of oil paint.

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