Q I love the look of chipmunks, charming and fun, but now they are the bane of my existence. They dig holes in and under my walkway, in the flower beds and in planters. I have tried using moth balls in their holes and in the planters, and even tried fox urine, but they scoff at my efforts. Any suggestions?
A "Box traps are the safest and easiest way to get rid of chipmunks," says Stephen Vantassel at Wildlife Removal Services Inc. in Springfield, Mass. Chipmunks won't be deterred if you close up their holes, and they can climb over and under most fences. To trap these creatures you should watch where they run - they follow regular trails in search of food. You can use peanut butter, oats, bacon, or apple slices as bait. Box traps can be purchased from most hardware stores, or from wildlife removal services, and are priced at about $35.
Prevention, however, is always better than cure. A cat will make for a less hospitable environment. Make sure you aren't attracting the chipmunks by providing them with a food source (compost piles, bird feeders, trash bins), or a hiding place such as an overgrown lawn.
Q What do you suggest for painting interior woodwork that has a layer of oil-based paint, then a layer of latex that can be scraped off but not easily. Can a new layer of latex be applied or should the previous layer be removed and then oil-based paint put on?
A As long as the latex paint on the oil-based under layer isn't loose and you prepare the surface properly, there is no reason not to paint over the woodwork again with latex, says Howard Clark, project manager for Warfield Services Inc., a builder in Natick, Mass.
It's the oil-based paints that should not be used over their latex cousins. Oil-based/alkyd-based (synthetic resin) paints shrink as they cure, and they bond so well that this shrinking action actually pulls up latex undercoats. It's the latex coat beneath that loses its hold and peels off the surface, not the new oil coat.
But it's the preparation between coats that's critical with all paints. First scrape away loose paint. Second, sand the surface thoroughly. The higher the gloss on the surface to be repainted, the more sanding required. Use 150-grit sandpaper on old semigloss, but as fine as 220-grit for shiny urethane finishes. This sanding is called "de-glossing." You are roughing the smooth surface, making footholds for the new paint to cling to. There are chemical de-glossing liquids sold that can be wiped on, but even these should be followed by sanding.
At best, paint applied to a poorly prepared surface will look OK but won't be durable. The slightest bump will chip it.
Some advice for new painters. Read the application instructions on the cans before you purchase them. Because of liability issues, manufacturers give lots of information - including what finishes or materials not to use.