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Posted: February 2, 2008 12:15 p.m.
Updated: April 4, 2008 2:02 a.m.
Hi Robert,

I have a building with a flat gravel roof which is over 25 years old. Every winter, I have several water leaks. I have had a repairman do semi-annual maintenance every year. He recently told me it's time for a new roof. I have read about sprayed polyurethane foam that can be applied to my existing roof. What's your opinion of it? I'd like to know if it's a good alternative before I talk to contractors. Many Thanks.
Joanne D.

I would not go with any kind of foam application. Every one that I've seen has been nothing but a nightmare.
Your roof is too old. It's obviously bubbled. At 25 years old, there's no more saving it and it's time to have it replaced. Usually eight years down the line, you can go with a cool deck system, or a cool roof. This is an overlay that you put down on a flat roof.
So, either replace it with another flat gravel roof or go with a modified system - modified bitumen, which is either hot-mopped into place or torched down - and put in some roof drains. The gravel allows foot traffic while protecting the membrane underneath from UV radiation. The modified systems come available with a reflective coating to increase the life of the roof and lower air conditioning costs.
Then in eight to 10 years, you can spray a cool deck over it, which will buy you another 10 years.

Dear Robert,
Our living room windows are leaking. They are only six years old, but have already had several contractors out to fix them and they still leak! They have patched, used elastomeric, and caulking. Nothing has worked. One contractor said it might be coming in from the second floor. Is this possible? How can I fix this? Thank you very much.
Helen D.

Well, the elastomeric paint is a last ditch effort to cover up the stucco. If you have a light texture, it usually holds, but the minute you get a heavy or Spanish stucco lace - because of the intricacy of the pores, it won't stick.
It could be coming in from the second story. If you have an opening in the stucco on the second floor, and there is water sheeting down the paper, it could start leaking out through your first floor window. The only way to find out exactly where it is leaking is to use a spray rig. A spray rig is built with sprinkler heads and PVC pipe, to the dimensions of the window. Apply water pressure at 30 lbs. and hold it there for a minimum of 30 minutes, until the window fails - until it starts to leak. If you don't see a leak, you start to travel up the wall until the leak is found. From there, you would go to that point and demo the stucco. Depending on the age of the building, the paper underneath may be bad. If so, you replace it all until you find good paper for the tie-in.

Dear Robert,
I'd like to replace our bathroom sink and cabinet with a pedestal sink. How difficult would this be to do for a non-plumber?
Thank you.
George M.

Rip out the old stuff. Find a pedestal that you want. Repair the floor or put in new flooring. Set the pedestal in place. There's a bolt in the back that you drill and anchor down into the flooring. Set your bowl on top and hook up your water supply lines. It's very easy to do yourself. There's nothing to it. Any homeowner can do this.
Now, before you get started, make sure that the main water shut off is valved down before you disconnect any lines. Go to an opposing faucet to be sure that the water is off. Always test another fixture before you remove an angle stop. You'll want to replace the angle stops to make it aesthetically pleasing. Since they will now be exposed, you'll want something decorative coming out of the wall, with nice braided hoses.
For a hidden configuration, you would re-pipe the water lines and channel up through the back of the pedestal. So, you would have the shut-offs, the angle stops and the flex lines all concealed within the confines of the pedestal, placed in a stack formation.

Hey Robert,
I have a low-flow toilet, but the water is really too low in the bowl. Is there way increase it? Thank you, Sir.
David D.

It depends on what you have. Some of them are adjustable and some are not. You have to look at the configuration of the TTR valve - toilet tank recovery. If you have a TTR, then yes those can be adjusted somewhat, but the manufacturers have it predetermined at 1.6 GPF - gallons per flush. What a lot of the low-flow toilet manufacturers don't tell you is that in many cases there is not enough water to thoroughly push and clean the line, which results in plumbing problems later on.

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.
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