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Robert Lamoureux: Shower enclosures are hard to remove

Posted: July 3, 2009 3:07 p.m.
Updated: July 4, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Hello Mr. Lamoureux,
I have a shower enclosure, which is one single piece including the tub, three walls and doors. There was a leak between my closet and the shower. When they opened that wall to make the repair, we noticed there was mold growing on the studs and on the inside of the enclosure. I do not just want it cleaned, I want everything replaced! I've measured the enclosure every possible way and it is impossible to get it out of the bathroom door. I can break it and take it out in pieces, but how would I get the new one in? Thank you,
Jerri B.

Hi Jerri,
The door and jambs are going to have to come out. That's the only way. Then you'll need to find a pathway from the bathroom and out the front door. If this bathroom is upstairs, then you'll have to walk the new unit up the stairs. If it's too wide for your stairway, then you'll have to lift it up from the outside and bring it in through a window or another opening.
Those shower units are one of the first things that are brought into a new house, during the rough framing and plumbing, so there is plenty of room to put it in place. To bring one in after the finished framing can get very expensive. You might want to consider different options. First of all, is replacing the shower enclosure necessary? Did you speak with a mold remediation contractor?
Another option would be, instead of replacing it with another shower enclosure, bring in a cast iron tub that will fit through your door opening. You may have to take the doors off the hinges, but this is much better than opening up walls, plus the costs of the repair at every doorway you need to go through. These cast iron tubs are becoming very popular again. Instead of the plastic shower walls you had before, you could have all of the walls tiled for a nicer look. People are going back to the cast iron tubs and tile.
Or, one more option could be that you remove the enclosure and forget about replacing the tub. If there's another tub in the house, just replace the tub with a shower and leave it at that.

Hi Robert,
I've got a sidewalk and patio that I have never liked. It's plain, gray concrete. I have patched many cracks over the years and am tired of the repairs and looking at it. I am considering replacing with flagstone. Can I place the flagstone on top of the sidewalk and porch? Anything you could tell me about flagstone or help you could give would be nice. Sincerely,
Tom Y.

Hi Tom,
Placing flagstone on top of your existing porch would certainly be the easiest way. It would save you the demo and rebuild of a new one, but the first question would be is the threshold of the door high enough to accommodate the stone? Flagstone is thick stuff, up to about 1 inch thick. You can't have the surface of your porch higher than your thresholds because of water problems, but if you have to step up into the house then absolutely, set your stone on top of the porch.
You are going to want to get a stone or rock hammer. With this you will chip at the stone giving you the shape and contour that you want. Although flagstone is a natural product, which comes in many sizes, you still want to get the pieces to fit as tight as possible and minimize your grout lines. This will give it a cleaner, more finished look.
If you are going to rip out the sidewalk and want to use a sand base, dig the dirt down enough to put in a minimum of a 4 to 6 inch sand base. Then you would compact with a vibration plate - available at your local rental yard - then set your stone on top of that and grout. Otherwise, the stone would start to sink in areas and would give you a wavy surface.
Or, instead of a sand base, you can go with a 2 inch mortar bed and set your stone on top of this. Either way, sand base or mortar bed, you'll want to use a rubber mallet to level out the stone as you work. I say level, but you'll want to put a slight pitch so the water runs off of the flagstone when it rains. You don't want to have low spots to give you standing water or what we call bird-baths.
The next step would be to grout between the stones. For this, use a baker's bag, or masonry bag. Keep the grout lines as clean as you can as you go. Once the grout sets up, scrape the excess and use a wire brush.
You buy the flagstone by the ton - or by the pound depending on the size of the project - and have it delivered to your home. Tell the building supply yard how many square feet you have and they figure out how many pounds you'll need.
This kind of work is what they call "labor intensive." The going rate right now for flat stone work like this is $45 per square foot. It's tedious work and the stone isn't cheap anymore, either, but you will save a lot of money doing this project yourself.

Hey Robert,
I belong to an HOA and we got a notice from the Health Department saying that we must have hot water in our bathroom. How is it possible to do this and why is this necessary? Thank you very much,
Eileen R.

Hi Eileen,
The Health Department is requiring this because hot water kills germs more effectively. Since we're talking about a bathroom, they are concerned with sanitation.
They have electric heating elements now that you can mount to the wall - you can mount them under the sink so that they are less visible. Then you tie your water supply line to it, plug it in and you have instant hot water.
These units are approved by the Health Department and they are much cheaper than buying a hot water heater.

Robert Lamoureux has 25 years experience as a general contractor, with separate licenses in electrical and plumbing contacting. He owns IMS Construction Inc. in Valencia. His opinions are his own, and not necessarily those of The Signal. Opinions expressed in this column are not meant to replace the recommendations of a qualified contractor, after that contractor has made a thorough visual inspection. Send your questions to


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