The Right Filler Helps You Patch as Patch Can

Question: I just refinished an old pine table, and in the process I used a wood filler to patch a couple of sections. When I applied the stain, however, I noticed that it doesn’t adhere to the patched areas. Why is that? And what can I do to fix it?

B.B., Los Alamitos

Answer: “You may have used the type of wood filler that doesn’t accept stain,” says Penny Ladner of Adams True Value Hardware in Tustin. “Your only alternative would be to remove the stain and try to sand and scrape that old patch off and reapply one that can be stained.

“A lot of people will make that mistake when they go to the store and see a patch that can be painted. They’ll assume it can be stained as well, but you have to make sure that it says on the label that it will accept stain.”


Q: I’ve found condensation in spots near the seal around the freezer door. Is this a sign that the seal is broken?

J.A., Stanton

A: “Take a dollar bill or a piece of paper of the same thickness and close the freezer door on it where you suspect the seal may not be good,” says Bill Van of Arpco Appliance Rebuilders and Parts in Santa Ana. “Then try pulling it out. If it gives some resistance, the seal is probably good. If it comes out easily, then the door’s not sealing properly. If the seal appears OK, it could be because of the weather we’ve had recently. Humidity can create condensation.”

Q: I recently moved to a condominium that has a great kitchen with lots of whitewashed pine cabinets. The previous owners must have stored some exotic, pungent spices in them. No matter how many times I’ve washed them, the smell is still there when you open the cabinet doors. Would applying a sealer inside the cabinets get rid of this?


C.M., Anaheim

A: “That might hold it back, but it’s going to depend on how far into the wood it’s breathing through,” says cabinetmaker Steve Corman of Yorba Linda. “You might be able to seal off the scent from the inside, but it may still be seeping outside of the cabinet. You may have to apply a sealer to the outside as well. This may eventually help you get rid of the spice scent, but keep in mind that it’s going to take a while for the smell of the sealer to dissipate as well.”

Q: We’re considering putting a spa in our back yard, but we’re wondering what’s the best place in a yard to have a spa?

D.D., Fullerton


A: “It’s really going to depend on how much use it will get and what kind of use,” says Pat Ferbert of Redhill Pool and Spa Supply in Tustin. “Generally you want it near the house, but you don’t want the pump and equipment near the house because of the noise and appearance. If you’re going to be using the spa for therapeutic reasons, you’d want it as close to the house as possible. If that’s not the case, you can have a little more freedom and install it in areas that might be more private or could fit in better with your landscaping.”

Q: I want to remove some mirrored tiles from one wall and move them to another. How can I get them off without breaking them?

E.N., Brea

A: “If they’ve been applied with small adhesive squares, you can get them off using a thin putty knife and wedging it in and prying them off very carefully,” says Lorraine Turpin of Standard Brands in Anaheim. “However, if they’ve been applied with a mastic adhesive, you’re not going to have much luck. In any case, when getting them off, be sure to use gloves and goggles or safety glasses.”


Q: In “Ask the Handyman” on July 27, a product was mentioned that can remove wall stains from heat registers. Where can it be found?

F.R., Santa Ana

A: The product, called MEX, was recommended by Wells Paint Store in Laguna Beach, not Laguna Beach Paint Supply, as was mentioned in the column.