Ins and Outs Are Problem With Doors

Question: We have a home in the hills and frequently have backyard visits from raccoons and squirrels, which we don’t encourage or discourage. We have one dread, and that is one of the animals might get into our house, because we have children in and out of our patio doors all day long, and they never seem to pull the screen closed. Have you ever heard of an automatic door closer that will work on sliding glass doors?

Answer: I don’t know if there is a device, but you might check with local screen companies.

I do know that Pella manufactures sliding glass doors with screens that can be equipped with a spring for automatic closing. I saw one in a recent exhibit of Pella Window Store, 12405 Ventura Blvd., Studio City. There are other Pella Window Stores in Arcadia, South Bay and Lawndale.

Q: We moved a few months ago and since then have had a strange thing happen. We have used an electric skillet for several years without any problem. Now we blow a fuse almost every time I plug it in. Is the wiring bad or has my skillet died?


A: At the place you lived before, you were probably plugging the skillet into an electrical circuit that did not have a lot of other appliances on it. Now the circuit distribution is different. I won’t suggest that you cook your bacon in the bedroom, but take the skillet to an area where you don’t have appliances of any kind to see if it will perform without blowing a fuse or tripping the circuit breaker. If so, the skillet is still alive and well. In such case, you will probably need an additional circuit in the kitchen.

Frying pans have always been a bit of a problem, because while they are considered a small appliance, their wattage rating is quite high; in some cases, for instance, more than a frostless freezer or a dishwasher.

Q: Our 60-year-old Spanish-style home has walls continually covered with mildew. They require repainting. Would applying oil-base paint or a coat of polyurethane clear plastic over latex paint control the problem?

What are the pros and cons of such procedures, and what is your advice about this?


A: You can’t just paint away mildew. A half-and-half solution of household bleach (providing your walls are white, because the bleach will damage colors) should remove the surface mildew, but as with all mildew problems, the cure is in proper ventilation.

You may either need more vents in the foundation of the house or perhaps in the attic or eaves.

I’d get some estimates and advice from a reputable building contractor on improving the ventilation first. Then clean the walls as well as you can before you paint.

Most paints today have some form of mildew deterrents in them, but you may want to reinforce the paint with anti-mildew additives.


Our thanks to Jim Harasta, Deco-Right Co., a licensed painting contractor, who wrote to say this column (Sept. 28) did not mention that heat strippers should not be used to remove varnish of any type. Heed the warning, and carefully follow directions when using any equipment of this type.