View Mobile Site

Ask the Expert

Signal Photos


Robert Lamoureux: Mailbox thief needs to be stopped

Your Home Improvements

Posted: November 13, 2009 10:23 p.m.
Updated: November 14, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Hi Robert,
Someone is breaking into our mailboxes. We see them on the surveillance camera walking up and reaching over the gate to open it and then walking in, but we can’t see their car because they park on the street. Is there a wide angle lens we can use that will scan a much broader area?    The mailboxes are now in very bad condition and the postmaster will not deliver our mail until they are repaired. Can we build a security frame with a padlock to make it more secure? Could you give me an approximate cost to add another security camera that would tie into our DVR?  Thank you,
Helen S.

Hi Helen,
Unfortunately, this is not that uncommon. For the pedestrian gate, I would suggest hiring a welder to put a latchguard on the exterior of the gate and a handset protector on the insde.  These two steps will help prevent unauthorized entry. The latchguard will make it more difficult to use a piece of wire to pop the latch open. Make sure that you have a dead latch, which is spring loaded, not a bedroom latch. The handset protector is round or square stock that is welded over the door knob so when someone reaches over the top, they are unable to reach and turn the knob. I say “help prevent” because these are just deterrents. If someone really wants onto the property they could always jump the fence.  

I’ve seen damages to those cluster box units before and you don’t repair them. Once they’ve been damaged to the point of no mail delivery, they have to be replaced.    

Concerning the additional padlock you mentioned, postal carriers use arrow keys to open arrow locks on mailboxes. Only the post office has those kinds of keys, and those keys are zoned for different districts. They are not going to carry additional keys or remember a combination to unlock the boxes on your complex.  

Regarding security camera, you would have to install another camera. There are too many variables to give an estimate, but for most HOA’s it would not be cost effective. First of all, we have to get power to the camera. How far would we have to run the electric? Would we excavate through planters beds, or asphalt or concrete? What kind of camera? Black and white or color? I will say it can get very costly. Even if you capture the plates on his car, they may be stolen.  Or, if you are able to see his face, unless someone is there to identify them, the police aren’t going to get involved unless it’s a really serious crime. Other HOA’s faced with similar situations find a pattern. For example, someone is coming in from 3 a.m. to 5 a.m. every couple of weeks. They then hire security to watch and take him down.

Hi Robert,
I hired a man to work on our elastic deck. Part of the surface was peeling which he painted with water based “deck paint.” Those areas are starting to peel again and I’m concerned because the rains that are coming. Apparently, this was the wrong paint to use. I would appreciate if you had a better suggestion. Maybe an oil base? Many thanks,
Dan H.

Hi Dan,
You just can’t apply any type of paint to a deck that you want, even though it says “deck paint.” With an elastomeric decking system, you would use elastomeric urethane base paint.  Fiberglass decks use water based products. This is one of the reasons you need to use professional installers that can first of all identify what type of system you have and can then recommend the right repair.     

Decks have to be waterproof. Even if the paint used was water resistant, that doesn’t mean your deck is waterproof. How long had the surface been peeling? If the lid is leaking, water can rot the joists and framing of the deck. Seven years of water exposure and you’re looking at a complete tear off and rebuild. Also, the water can travel through the deck or through the flashing inside your home and damage the studs, drywall, floors, etc. This is one of the easiest ways to turn your home into a mold lab.

You have to make sure the deck is waterproof. The first step will be to water test. If you’re working with limited funds, you may be able to spot repair the damaged areas but you might have to replace the entire surface, depending on the condition. Personally, I don’t like spot repairs. There is no way to match the old faded colors and it looks bad. My philosophy is if you’re going to do it, do it once and do it right.

What you’ve got now sounds like two dissimilar products that are reacting with each other and will leave you with a big mess on your hands.

The best recommendation would be to hire a qualified, licensed contractor and have them come out for an inspection, perform a water test, and then do what needs to be done.  
Mr. Lamoureux,
I need your help please. Two months ago, the people living upstairs (I live on the second floor and they live on the fourth floor) had a broken washing machine hose and it flooded our end of the building. Large sections of our living room and bedroom ceiling had to be removed, our carpeting and wood floors were damaged.  His insurance company told me that all of the repairs should only cost $12,800. Out of four contractors that have bid on my unit, the cheapest price has been $20,200. What am I supposed to do? I have spoken to both the contractor and the insurance agent and neither one of them is willing to move. Thank you very much,
Darlene S.

Hi Darlene,
This is a common scenario. In one hand, you have the contractor’s proposal. In the other, you have the settlement from the insurance company. The two numbers are not close. The contractor will tell you there’s no way he can do the work for that amount — the insurance company says their figures are based on calculations and formulas and that’s all they are willing to pay out. In this business, insurance companies are notorious for bottom lining and coming in way too low.

Whenever you feel an insurance company is trying to beat you, hire an independent adjuster and let them fight for you. They will make sure you are getting what is fair. They are going to charge you up front, but in the long run, they will see to it that you get what is due. Check with your HOA attorney to see if he can recommend a good independent adjuster.

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


Most Popular Articles

There are no articles at this time.
Commenting not available.
Commenting is not available.


Powered By
Morris Technology
Please wait ...