Q. The vinyl siding on our house has many small black spots that we understand are caused by a fungus in mulch. How can we remove these ugly spots?
A. A great deal of research has been done on the widespread and damaging artillery fungus, which sprays spores on any nearby surface and often originates in rotting hardwood mulch. Some experts say the only practical way to remove the tar-like spots is by laborious scraping, but there have also been reports that it can be removed by some cleaners.
I can’t recommend some of the cleaners used (such as oven cleaner and automotive wheel cleaner) because I think they would cause more damage. However, a few cleaners might work and are worth a try, although any of them should be tested first in an inconspicuous place. Vigorous scrubbing will be needed with any of them.
A leading possibility is Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. Another is a solution of one part chlorine bleach and ½ cup TSP heavy-duty cleaner (sold at paint stores) to three parts water. Simple Green spray cleaner is a third possibility.
If you must scrape, use a single-edged razor blade or a razor-blade scraper (sold at paint stores). Small brown stains often remain after scraping; these can sometimes be removed by scrubbing with a detergent. In severe cases, priming with an oil-based primer and painting can restore the siding.
Infected mulch must be removed, of course. Penn State researchers studied 27 mulches, and concluded that the most fungus-resistant was large pine-bark chips. Cypress mulch was also rated highly. Marble chips and other inorganic mulches work well.
Unfortunately, most insurance companies no longer cover mold damage, but you should contact your insurance agent to make sure.
Q. I need a new storm door, but I can’t find one with light-weight plastic instead of glass. This is important to me because I can’t lift a heavy glass pane for storage in summer, when I want an insect screen in the door. Can you help?
A. Many storm doors are available that don’t require removing the glass for storage. These doors have self-storing glass sash and screen. To charge from all-glass to screen, one of two glass panels in the doors slides out of the way and exposes the screen.
You can see doors of this type at most home centers; installation is also available at most of them.
Q. I have a deck with composite decking. The deck boards are so close together that water collects during rains and takes a long time to drain away. Can I safely drill small holes in this material to provide some drainage?
A. The best bet is to drill the drainage holes at the junction of two deck boards. Drill close to but not into supporting joists, which can be located by noting where deck screws are inserted.
Just a few holes at strategic spots should provide enough drainage. I would not make the holes any larger than ¼ inch in diameter.
Q. I need to touch up a small area on my textured ceiling, which was recently repaired. How do I get a good match between old and new materials?
A. Matching the old paint is the main problem with touching up painted surfaces. Most paints change color slightly in time, and sometimes even the original paint won’t match exactly.
Ceilings are a little easier to touch up because most of them are covered with white, flat paint. There are many shades of white, however, and if you don’t have some matching leftover paint and don’t know what paint was used, scrape a small chip of paint from a corner and take it to a paint store or home center.
Many times a reasonable match for the old paint can be mixed. If the ceiling isn’t well lighted, a reasonable match might be good enough to not be noticeable.
Otherwise, your best bet is to repaint the entire ceiling. You don’t say what type of repair was made, but the repaired area should be primed before either touching it up or repainting the whole ceiling.