HOW TO

Just cold air coming through the mail slot

There are a couple of easy, letter-perfect ways to seal a mail slot.
There are a couple of easy, letter-perfect ways to seal a mail slot.

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By Jeanne Huber
Thursday, November 25, 2010

QWe have a fiberglass front door that looks like wood and has a mail slot. We filled the slot with foam core insulation because air streamed through it. We now have a mailbox outside the house. We would like to cover the mail slot with a nice brass plate for aesthetic reasons and because some mail carriers still try to use the slot. How can we find a metal plate with finished edges? Or do you have another suggestion?

Rockville

AYou can probably find what you're looking for at a company that makes plaques in bronze and other materials. Buy a blank plaque or order one with custom wording, such as a name for your house.

Or, for an even simpler solution, disassemble the mail slot hardware and slip a piece of flat brass behind the front frame of the mail slot. Full-service hardware stores typically carry this material in a variety of sizes.

I have an unwanted brown stain, a sunburst about 18 inches across, on the exterior of my house, courtesy of a juvenile prank. It hit my redwood siding, which has a blue-green stain. Do you have any suggestions for removing the brown stain?

Vienna

Unfortunately, there may be no way to remove the brown stain without creating a bald spot in the blue-green. Because you're dealing with two stains, "it's not like one blanket is sitting on another blanket," says Greg Reveles, owner of Renorr Dynamics (703-960-5041, www.renorrdynamics.com ), a specialty cleaning company that works throughout the D.C. area. "It's more like when mayonnaise is on one side of the bread and mustard is on the other and you put them together. They are not separate anymore."

You don't say what created the brown stain, and perhaps you do not know. If the blue-green stain was water-based and nearly opaque, there's a chance you might be able to remove the brown material with warm water and detergent. If that doesn't work, try adding a little trisodium phosphate (TSP) to the wash water.

As a third option, apply a product such as Cabot Problem-Solver Wood Brightener that's designed to remove tannin, the brown stain that's within some woods, including redwood. Whatever the pranksters threw might have activated those natural stains and brought them to the surface. A wood brightener would remove them without affecting the blue-green stain.

With any of these approaches, go easy on the scrubbing, because you don't want to change the texture of the siding.

If these simple remedies don't work, get on-site assessments from a painter or two, as well as a cleaning company that offers graffiti-removal services. You may need to chemically strip or sand off the brown stain, which will inevitably remove the blue-green as well. For an even color, you will need to treat the entire wall, or at least a section that has a natural boundary, such as the area between a chimney and a corner.

If the cost is too steep, consider doing a patch job. Even though there's no way to make it blend in perfectly, it will surely look better than the splotch you have to stare at now.


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