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Robert Lamoureux: Keep air filters clean to prevent trouble

Posted: September 11, 2009 4:28 p.m.
Updated: September 12, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Hi Robert,
I noticed that one of the corners of my bathroom rug was wet, next to the bathtub and thought that the tub was leaking. I then saw water was not only on the baseboards but also on the wall. My husband said a pipe was leaking and started sawing through the wall. After almost all the wall was removed, we discovered that there is a pipe leaking, but is coming from the air conditioner in the attic. My question is why are there two drain pipes there and why was there a P-trap on the pipe that was leaking? I called the air conditioning people and they said to keep gasses from going into my attic? We replaced the broken pipe with a straight piece, without the P-trap. Is it necessary for the trap to be there? Thank you,
Helen S.

Hi Helen,
Well, the only time you put a trap in is if you're tied to a sewer line which would prevent gasses from escaping. If you're not sure, I would give the installers the benefit of the doubt and think that the trap is there for a reason and would put the trap back.
The two lines you referred to are the primary and secondary. One goes to the outside and the other to the inside. The primary sits in the lower corner of the pan. These pans are slightly pitched which forces the water to the primary. By code, these lines go to a lav. This would be the closest sink whether a laundry room or bathroom. This line is tied in and basically recycled. With some buildings, the air conditioning condensation is running off onto a roof. With sun and water exposure, this will eventually rot the drip edge and will damage the roof.
The secondary line is there for an overflow in case the primary is clogged and discharges out to the outside of the building.
While we're on the subject of air conditioners, let me mention again how important it is to keep the filters clean. Some people like to keep their doors open. This lets in more dust than average which collects on the air conditioner filters so they have to be changed out more often.
If you don't keep the filters clean, it will cause the air conditioner unit to condensate and will cause problems. This dust will travel to the A coil, which causes the exchange from hot to cold, and is very difficult to clean. You have to take the shrouds apart which does get costly if you have it done. Not only that, but excess dust translates to the unit not running efficiently, meaning it takes much longer for your house to cool giving you a much higher bill - not to mention the additional wear and tear. Keeping your filters clean will save you a lot of money and headaches in the future.

Mr. Lamoureux,
Rain water and water from sprinklers sits outside of my unit in a hallway and does not drain. I usually end up sweeping it into the plants on the other side. This water is now coming into my unit through the wall, which is stucco. Between the wall and the tiles, there is a metal strip that the maintenance man says is letting water into my house. He says he can glue another piece of the metal on top of the tiles, which will make a dam, and this will stop the water from seeping into my home. Would that work? Do you think this is a good idea? Thank you very much,
Alana A.

Hi Alana,
Yes and no. Yes, it will work temporarily, until the caulking failed and no, it's not a good idea.
Is he planning to stick a piece of flashing on top of the tiles and on the face of the stucco wall? Did your HOA approve this?
I agree it sounds like the flashing has failed and this is allowing water to enter your home. If so, then the right repair would be to have the old flashing removed and replaced. This would require opening up the stucco wall and cutting the tiles for access. You want the flashing under the tile, not on top which is only a Band-Aid - and an unsightly one.
Pull out the old flashing and replace. The HOA may or may not have some of the original tiles, which might be hard to find. Or, you can use a complimentary border tile.
Is anyone working on the ponding issue? Are you sure the water is coming from the sprinklers? Have your landscaper take a look at this. Is there a problem with the directional heads or watering time? Are the planter drains working?

Hi Robert,
We have some very ornate concrete steps at our property leading up to the main entrance. One of the steps got broken and we would like to any advice you have on the best methods of repair. Thank you,
Nick M.

Hi Nick,
If they are pre-cast steps - made off-site by a manufacturer, you could never repair that. It would eventually break off again. Especially if the damage is on the leading edge of the tread, which most of them are from people bouncing refrigerators. The treads get old and the rebar gets weak inside from rains or cleaning and it breaks apart.
If the steps were poured in place, you may be able to repair by saw-cutting the damage and pinning with steel, but the best thing is to replace, not repair. Besides, the more ornate they are the more difficult they would be to replicate.
Start by taking some pictures and going to the building supply places that specialize in stone and masonry products. Let them start looking through their manufacturers and distributors.
There's a possibility that particular step is no longer produced and will not be available. The alternative would be to settle and get something as close as you can, but this will be noticeable. It's up to you and your budget, but it might be best to replace all of the steps with a new pre-cast design. You'll get a brand new look with no odd shapes.

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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