A reader’s broken door latch. (Reader photo)

Question: I have been searching for two years for a replacement for a broken latch on the door of my enclosed back porch. The latch will not move because there is a crack inside the cylinder. I can lock the door with the deadbolt, but if I don’t keep it locked, the door swings open. The latch is 2½ inches long, and all the replacement latches I’ve found are longer. The door, deadbolt and latch are 16 years old and have no manufacturer names. How can I find a latch that fits?

— Laurel

Answer: Try going to a locksmith with a storefront business, suggests Dianna Bootz, owner of one such business, Laurel’s Lock Shop in Laurel (301-317-4100; www.laurelslockshop.com). “Old-timey shops like ours save parts,” she said, explaining that this practice makes storefront businesses different from home centers or mobile locksmiths. “When we replace old locks, we keep them.”

Another possible source is a store that carries used building materials, such as Community Forklift in Edmonston, Md. (301-985-5180; www.communityforklift.org) or the Habitat for Humanity ReStore centers in Gaithersburg and Silver Spring (301-947-3304; www.habitat.org/restores). Community Forklift carries parts for only vintage locks; for more modern ones, like yours, you’d need to buy the whole assembly. But the total cost might come to just a few dollars, said Ruthie Mundell, the store’s outreach coordinator.

If that doesn’t work, consider installing a new latch. One designed for storm and patio doors is most likely to fit the existing holes in your door. Consult with a local locksmith, or shop via the Internet, where you can find diagrams that show the spacing of the holes. If you can’t get new hardware that works with the existing holes, buy a piece of hardware known as a scar plate to cover part of the holes so the new hardware works.

Swisco (www.swisco.com), an online store, carries several styles of storm and patio door hardware and has a discussion board where users can post pictures of their pieces and get replacement advice from the company’s experts. The company’s model 40-058 looks almost like your hardware, but Donna Pallas, who responds to e-mails at the company, suggested their model 40-192 is more likely to fit, even though it looks more industrial. “We’ve seen this before,” she wrote, suggesting that you look at past discussion board entries about storm door replacement handles.

Before ordering, measure the distance from the latch and deadbolt holes and make sure they match the specifications for the replacement hardware. You might need to remove the hardware to get accurate measurements.

Question: Is there is a company that will remove paint from stairway spindles and stain them afterward?


Answer: Yes. Many interior painting companies tackle jobs like this.

Richard Winkler, owner of Richard T. Winkler Painting and Decorating in Alexandria (703-836-4432; www.richwinklerpainting.com), said his crew often starts by testing different paint-removal methods to see what works best on a specific job. Options include a heat gun, an infrared device and a chemical stripper. The company probably would send a three-person crew that might take a day to strip and another day or two to stain and finish the woodwork. The crew costs about $1,000 a day, so the total cost might come to several thousand dollars, Winkler said. For an accurate estimate, he’d need to see the job.

Williams Professional Painting in Alexandria (703-768-8143 in Virginia and 202-751-2026 in Washington; www.williamsprofessionalpainting.com) also does this kind of work. Both companies work throughout the Washington area.

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