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INSIDE & OUT | A HELPING HAND

Moldy Closets May Mean There's a Leak Lurking in Walls

January 24, 1998|JOHN MORELL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Question: I have a moisture and mildew problem in closets along the north side of my house. I've used a sealer on the outside stucco wall and inside the closets, and I've coated the closets with an oil-based paint. Any other suggestions?

G.G., Huntington Beach

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Answer: Investigate why the closets along that wall are getting so much moisture, says Steve Willsey of the Orange Paint Store.

There may be water leaking from a bad roof shingle or a bent piece of flashing down inside the wall. A moisture meter, which costs about $20, can tell you if moisture is getting into your walls.

To kill the mold and mildew, strip off the sealer and paint, then spray on a solution of bleach and water. Let it dry and spray again if you see more mold growing. When the mold doesn't return, apply a new coat of paint.

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Q. I have four electrical outlets that don't have power. I put a new circuit breaker on them, but they didn't work. I tried replacing the outlets themselves, but that didn't work either. What could be the problem?

M.F., Anaheim

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A. If you're sure the circuit breaker is new and is working, there may be an "open" among one of the outlets, says Kathy McNally of McNally Electric Supply in Los Alamitos.

The outlets have a push connection where you push the wires into the appropriate holes in the back and they stay in place. When they're installed, sometimes they're not pushed in all the way; over time, they might get jarred.

Turn off the power to this circuit, then start with the outlet that's closest to the breaker box. Pull each one out and make sure that both wires are securely pushed into each outlet.

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Q. The previous owner of my townhouse installed wood counter tops in the kitchen and used a tung oil sealer on them. I haven't been able to find this sealer, but I have used tung oil finish on the counters. The problem is that in the area around the sink, the finish has come off and the wood becomes dark when wet. I suspect some sort of mildew or rot has taken hold. Can this be fixed?

A.R., Irvine

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A. Tung oil is a very effective sealer on wood, says Gene Teramura of the California Decorating Center in Santa Ana. It hardens into a tough finish.

The problem around the sink is the water. Somewhere, probably at the point where the sink meets the counter, moisture is coming in contact with unfinished portions of the wood.

First, use a stripping agent and sand to refinish the counters near the sink. If the sink sits on top of the wood, you may need to move it up just high enough to get to the wood underneath. You'll also need to treat the darkened areas with a bleach solution or mildew-cide recommended for wood.

After everything has been stripped and dried, you can redo the counters with a tung oil finish.

Be sure that you're not going to be using the wood counters as a cutting board after the tung oil has been applied, since it's not recommended that it come in contact with food.

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Helping Hand note: Regarding a recent question about removing candle wax from carpeting, M.M. of Laguna Beach writes, "Use a warm iron on top of a brown paper bag over the wax. You can move the paper around until all the remelted wax has applied itself to the paper, then you can use a carpet cleaner to tackle any left-over stain."

If you have a question about your home or garden, A Helping Hand will help you find the answer. Send questions to John Morell, Home Design, The Times Orange County, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92626.

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