Question: I have a refrigerator in my garage where I keep sodas and beer. A while ago when I opened the freezer, I found a half-inch layer of frozen black ants. I cleaned them out, but find them again periodically. There are no ants around the refrigerator, and there's nothing inside the freezer that would attract them, so why are they there? And what can I do?
Answer: "You have to understand that ants like warmth and they're curious, so they may be attracted to the refrigerator's motor," says Jacquline Newman of Bates Pest Control in Costa Mesa. "In searching for food, they leave a trail for others to follow. There may be an area on the seal of your freezer where there's a tiny gap that allows them to get inside. While you may think your freezer's clean, there might be a small crumb somewhere that has attracted them. But once they get in, their bodies freeze, and they can't escape.
"Because of the trail that's been left, other ants follow it and end up in the same predicament. If you only open the freezer occasionally, you won't notice the 'build-up' of ants attracted to the freezer. Try putting a new seal around the freezer, and that should solve your mystery."
Q: There are two rooms in our home that my wife and I rarely use. I've closed the forced-air vents to keep us from wasting cool or hot air from the air conditioner and the furnace. However, there's still a flow of air from them. How can I completely seal them off?
A: "Sealing off vents is OK for the furnace; however, it may not be a good idea to do that when you have the air conditioner running," says Ted Blanke of Central Plumbing & Heating in La Habra. "When you close off some of the vents, air may back up at the cooling system's coils and a good air flow is impeded. The coils can then freeze up, and the system could be damaged. To seal the vents off for the furnace, you can try putting cardboard behind the grill, which may work better than the vent control."
Q: We have an old brick wall in our patio that separates the patio from the garden. I'd like to apply a sealer to it that makes the brick look "wet." What should I use?
A: "There are quite a few different types of sealants that will do the job," says Tim Wiles of Decratrend Paints in Cypress. "You can get a sub-sealer in which the sealer goes underneath the surface of the brick and seals it but doesn't necessarily give it any kind of sheen. There are other products using acrylic resins that give it a distinctly 'wet' look. It can be applied with a sprayer or a roller. Make sure the brick is clean before applying; hose it off, and let it dry well, and get stains off with solvent and a stiff brush."
Q: I'm planning on building a trellis in my back yard and I'm trying to figure out a way to get the lumber I need home. I have a small car and I don't want to rent a trailer. What's the safest way to carry lumber in a car?
A: "When you've got a lot of lumber to carry, it's not too safe to tie it to your roof," says Tom Elliot of Orange Coast Hardware & Lumber in Santa Ana. "I've seen people put lumber on surfboard racks and the weight of the lumber collapses the roof. Most lumber retailers offer delivery, and if you don't have a truck or trailer available to you, it's probably best to take advantage of it."
Q: We bought a 47-year-old home recently with a two-tiered back yard. The tiers are separated by a block retaining wall, which is leaning forward. We've been told that this is because the wall was built without drain holes. Can I just drill some holes through the bottom of the wall to allow for drainage?
A: "When a retaining wall is put up properly, no mortar is put between the first course to allow water to seep out," says Don Tisdale of Tustin Block. "You could get a concrete bit that makes about a 1-inch hole and drill through the bottom layer of each block to allow for drainage. There's really not much you can do about the leaning. When it was put up, the builders probably didn't use steel reinforcement rods, or maybe they used block that was 6-inches wide rather than 8 inches."