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Robert Lamoureux: Steel is best option for replacement posts

Posted: November 6, 2009 9:55 p.m.
Updated: November 7, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Hi Robert,
I will be installing a wooden fence around my property. I’m basically repairing and rebuilding what is already there. About half of the posts are bad and I will be replacing those and some of the planks. The posts are 4 inch x 4 inch. I remember you said when you install posts, they should be put on a “stand off bracket” that is set in concrete so the bottom of the post will be off of the ground. Does that apply with fences? Thank you,
Alan R.

Hi Alan,
You want to use stand offs if you are replacing load bearing posts. If you have posts that are supporting a carport or soffited structure, for example, then you don’t want the post sitting at ground level or sunk below ground because it will rot from water saturation.
If you just want to replace like for like, remove the posts and demo out the concrete footings.  I would replace with pressure treated or redwood or cedar 4” x 4”s. Dig your hole and put 6 inches of gravel at the bottom. Stand the post on top of the gravel and then pour your concrete. The gravel will act as a leech bed so the water will drain down and away from the posts.
A beefier option would be to go with 2” round galvanized steel posts instead of the wooden 4” x 4”s. They would be used with transition brackets that go from the galvanized post to the wooden rails. This came out about 8 – 10 years ago. If you do it right, a plank will land in front of the metal post so it’s hidden.  
The best option, in my opinion, would be to go with vinyl fencing. It is a bit more expensive than wood, but aesthetically, it looks good. And once you put it in, you’re done. You move on. There’s no paint, there’s no maintenance. No rot, no termites, no problems. It basically lasts forever. As far as I’m concerned, vinyl is the only way to go.  

Mr. Lamoureux,
We are replacing our windows and I hear you can install some type of styrofoam that simulates wood. Could you provide more information on this? Thank you, Sincerely,
Lena V.

Hi Lena,
It’s called planton. It is available at stucco product and supply companies and is specifically made for trim work. Generally you buy the material pre-fab with an existing style but it is possible to buy in bulk and customize. For custom work, make a template and use a utility knife to make the cuts. Or, there are special cutting irons that get hot — it’s a wire that you pull through and it shapes the styrofoam.  For most applications though, the pre-fab is fine.  
For the installation, you would apply the planton to the lath with an adhesive. Then continue with the stucco and finish. Most of the time, the planton comes with a fiberglass cloth covering to which you apply the finish base 100 or 200 with whatever color dye you choose.
Typically, you would offset the color to accentuate the trim. When finished, it looks like wood but it’s cheaper with no maintenance.  
Since it is styrofoam, it’s not nearly as strong as wood. There are times when it might get scraped or damaged. The repair is as easy as applying stucco mix and molding into the right shape.

Hi Robert,

We have an overhang on our back patio deck. This overhang is 3 feet wide and 42 feet long and the bottom of it is all stucco.  If you look up, it is all stucco. There is about a 20 foot section of the stucco that has come loose and is hanging down about 3 inches. You can push up on it with a broom stick. The stucco that is still attached is cracked and looks bad but is not hanging down.  How can we attach the stucco section back to where it goes? Many thanks,
Mildred T.

Hi Mildred,
Stop pokin’ it with a broom stick. That stucco is like concrete and is very heavy. It hanging loose like that is very dangerous to people, pets and property. I would call a licensed contractor and let them take care of this immediately.  
You can’t simply stick the bad stucco back up to the underside of the soffit. What has happened is the staples that were used have failed and have come loose. Maybe the original installers used the wrong staples, or got in a rush and didn’t use enough. Maybe the roof flashing is allowing water to drip down inside the soffit and gather on top of the stucco, and this added weight pulled it off of the lath. Whatever the reason, if that falls it’s a lot of potential damage to someone or something.  
The contractor will have to demo, relath and restucco your soffit. They will cut out and remove all of your bad stucco, install new lath and then three coats of new stucco. The first coat is the scratch which has grooves in it so the next coat will have something to grab onto; the second coat is the brown which is the leveling base before you apply the finish or color coat, and then the color coat with a finish to match your existing. As you can imagine, applying stucco upside down is not easy. Stucco guys that do this kind of work are artisans.
While it’s open, I would check to see if your soffit shows signs of water intrusion. You might need to replace your roof flashing. If so, get it all taken care of at once.

Home Improvements,
The wind caught my front door and it slammed hard enough to put a vertical crack in the wall.  I have repaired the crack, but the area is smooth and the rest of the wall is not. Are there any tricks to match the finish? Thank you,
Al M.      

Hi Al,
There are several types of finishes. Most of them are easy to match. Go to your local home improvement store and get a can of texture. Warm it up under hot water to about 70 degrees.  This will make it flow out of the can smoother.
Before spraying on your walls, practice on a piece of cardboard. This will show you how close to hold the can to the surface and how much to apply to match your wall texture. When you achieve a similar look, spray it on the wall. If you make a mistake, the texture is water base so just scrape it off and do it again.
Once you’re happy with the application and the texture has dried, paint the wall. Don’t just spot paint the repair because it will be visible. It never matches 100 percent. What we do is paint entire wall — corner to corner, top to bottom. It takes more time, but that’s the only way to insure the repair will be invisible.  

Robert Lamoureux has 25 years of experience as a general contractor, with separate licenses in electrical and plumbing contracting. 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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