Do It Yourself

By Gene Austin
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Saturday, January 10, 2009

Q: How does one get rid of squirrels in the attic? -- H. Cooke

A Many experts recommend trapping the animals with humane traps that won't injure them. You can buy special squirrel traps (visit and click on Get Rid of Squirrels) or use small Havahart or cage traps, sold at garden-supply stores. Peanuts make excellent bait for the traps, which should be placed near suspected entry points.

Traps should be checked at least once a day. Release captured squirrels at least five miles away from the original site in a wooded area where they can find food.

Before setting the traps, you should check the outside of the house to try to determine how the squirrels are getting in. Entry points are generally at the roof edges, often under eaves. Seal the entry points once the squirrels are removed from the attic. Prune back trees that let squirrels gain easy access to the roof.

There are other treatments for squirrels in attics, but some appear rather dubious. One old treatment is to sprinkle mothballs in the attic; presumably the squirrels won't like the odor and will leave. I know people who have tried this and have told me it does not work. There are also flashing strobe lights that are supposed to make attics inhospitable to squirrels.

The lights cost about $250 each and I have no information on how well they work; if interested, visit for more details.

In severe cases, you might need to call in a pest expert.

Part of my house has a metal roof that I want to repaint. Some of the paint is peeling. Do I have to scrape all the paint off? Can I use a latex paint on the metal? --M. Weingart

It isn't necessary to scrape off all the paint, just paint that is loose or otherwise deteriorated. After scraping, bare metal should be primed with an anti-rust primer.

You can use exterior-grade latex paint on the roof, but be sure to buy high-quality paint suitable for metal. Metal roofs get very hot in sunny weather, and cheap paint will often bubble or peel. Apply the paint with a pad or roller.

My stainless-steel range hood has some fine scratches, as if someone used an abrasive cleaner on it. Is there a way to remove the scratches? -- C. Speizer

Fine scratches in stainless steel can sometimes be removed with automotive rubbing compound, sold at auto-parts stores. Put a little compound on a moist, soft cloth and gently rub the scratched area in the direction of the steel's grain. The grain is a barely visible pattern that runs in one direction, often in the longest dimension. Try this in an inconspicuous area to test the results.

A number of special stainless-steel cleaners are available, and most work well. They are generally available at home centers and supermarkets. Some readers have also told me they get good results with damp microfiber cloth.

Questions and comments should be sent to Gene Austin, 1730 Blue Bell Pike, Blue Bell, Pa. 19422. Send e-mail to Questions cannot be answered personally.

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