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Coiling cord in an oval can create kinks

Question: You wrote recently that you bought one of those plastic cord winders for winding an extension cord, the type that takes the place of hand winding, which gets everything tangled up. You also said you forget where you bought it. Have you remembered? - R.M., Milton, Mass.

Answer: Are you questioning the handyman's memory? Well you might. No, I have not remembered, but I can't see why places like Home Depot and Home Quarters wouldn't carry them. Check them out.

However, we received a call from Avram Silverman of Wellesley, Mass., who said that coiling a cord in an oval creates sharp turns, which could put kinks in the cord. With kinks, you can get a break in the cord, and a burnout, which is an obvious hazard, Silverman said. It would be better to coil the cord like a rope, in a circle, not an oval, preventing sharp corners and kinks.

Question: I pulled off the brass house numbers when I painted the house. I tried polishing them with Brasso without much success. What will polish them properly? Also, I bought a corner shelf for my shower, the kind held on with suction cups. It held up for awhile, but when I took off the shelf to clean the shower and tried to put it back, the cups would not hold, and the shelf just slid down the wet wall. What's wrong? - Bill Rubin, Arlington, Mass.

Answer: For the brass numbers, assuming they are solid brass, try Noxon, which people have told me works better than Brasso. But even with Noxon, you need power buffing with an electric drill with a buffing bonnet attachment. And, even Noxon will not work if the numbers were lacquered. If that is the case, you have to remove the lacquer with lacquer thinner. Use lots of ventilation when working with lacquer thinner; it is very volatile. Once the lacquer is off, the brass will polish up nicely. And, instead of Noxon, you can rub the brass with soap pads.

Once the brass is polished, you can spray the numbers with clear plastic, which will keep them shiny and brassy-looking for awhile. In fact, I was scanning a new Improvements catalog and found a brass cleaner called Lusterlite and a brass clear finish called Staybrite Brass Lacquer. You have to buy the polish and the Staybrite as a kit for $14.99. I have not tried it, but it might be worth a try. It is item No.151502. Call 800-642-2112.

As for the down-sliding shower shelf, all I can think of is that the cups have lost their suction, perhaps by drying out and hardening. Try this: Make sure the wall is dry before putting the cups in place, and wet the cups just a little. Too much water will make any cup sag, especially with weight on it.

Question: I have walkup steps to a bulkhead door in my new house, but no door in the foundation, just an opening in the concrete leading to the steps. Can I put a door in there? Should it be an insulated steel door? How can I set the frame for the door? I plan to finish off the basement someday. - Bill Leavis, Tyngsborough, Mass.

Answer: You could put in an insulated steel door, but an exterior wood door will do just as well, and looks a sight better. The height of the opening may be lower than standard, so a steel door might not work because it cannot be trimmed. A wood door can be trimmed.

As for the frame, you could build it of fir or pressure-treated wood, but if the basement is dry, the pessure-treated wood is not necessary, except for the threshold. You can build the rough frame with 2(MUL)10s or 2(MUL)12s, or as wide as the foundation is thick. Build the top, sides, and threshold in one piece so you can slip it in the opening and secure it with bolts driven into precut holes in the concrete. Then trim it all off with pine boards.

That is a somewhat simplistic instruction. You may have to make adjustments so that the final opening will allow the door to fit and be hung properly. This you have to play by ear, but it is definitely possible. And, you might make it a lot easier if you buy a setup door, complete with door, frame, and casing, provided the rough opening in the concrete foundation is the right height and width. And, if the opening is too big for a setup door, you can always make it smaller by lining it with 2 x 10s or 2 x 12s, or larger boards if necessary.

Question: My son built a deck, then enclosed it as a room. How can he treat the ceiling of the crawl space under the floor? What kind of insulation would be good? One man said he would fill the space between the joists with R-21 high- density fiberglass, then staple Tyvek to the bottom of the joists to hold the insulation in place. Another said to foam in insulation. - Hal Learner, Newton, Mass.

Answer: I think the high-density fiberglass is the best idea, and probably less expensive than the other. Stapling Tyvek (an airtight but vapor-permeable woven polymer that comes in rolls) to the bottom of the joists is also a good idea, although I suggest installing wire hangers to hold the insulation in place in addition to the Tyvek. And, be sure there is a vapor barrier touching the floorboards above before installing the insulation, if that insulation does not have a vapor barrier attached to one side.