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Robert Lamoureux:‘Listen to the rhythm of the falling rain...’

Your Home Improvements

Posted: December 18, 2009 10:00 p.m.
Updated: December 19, 2009 4:55 a.m.
I’d like to remind everyone that we are now offering free t-shirts and they look great. On the back in full color is “The Signal” logo, with the “Your Home Improvements” logo on the front.  As a thank you to our readers, if we answer your question, we will send you one of these shirts with our compliments.  
— Robert Lamoureux

Dear Robert,
I live in a two-story house and there is a downspout right outside of my bedroom window. When it rains, it is so noisy that I can not sleep. Fortunately, it doesn’t rain that often but when it does, the drops are amplified through the metal downspout and it is driving me crazy. Moving my bed won’t help because you hear it all over my bedroom. Short of ripping the downspout off the wall, which I am considering, can you think of a quieter solution? This is like  water torture. Thank you,
Sleepless in Simi

Hi Sleepless,
There is a 90 degree fitting at the bottom of the downspout and the sound you are hearing is the water hitting the belly of that 90. All you need to do is go to your home improvement store and buy a small sheet of rubber to line that elbow or shoe.   
You may have to take the elbow apart or use a pair of snips and cut it open, but secure a piece of rubber on the bottom, attached with some silicone caulk.  
You may want to double up the rubber depending on how thin it is, but keep in mind that you want the rubber to lay flat as possible. You don’t want a lip on the leading edge that will catch any leaves or cause any obstructions.  

Mr. Lamoureux,
We have two families with electric cars in our HOA of 50 units. It has come to our attention that they plug into the community power in the evening — so basically we are paying for this electricity they are using. Is it possible to run an outlet to their home electrical meter so they are each charged for the electricity they use? Would this be the most economical solution, especially if others decide to go electric? Thank you,
Gordon S.

Hi Gordon,
To regulate their individual power consumption, you’ll first need to determine how much amperage the cars are using, the draw, to know what type of meter to install.
You would put in an additional circuit, run power from the house panel, run the voltage over and mount an in-line E-mon D-mon meter for each electrical source you would like to regulate. In this case you would run it over to their parking spots and install the receptacles. I would recommend a locking cover to prevent others from plugging in for free power.  
These meters are digital and will give you a display of how many watts have been used. There is a specific mathematical formula that you must use — the power company will not do this for you, to calculate the energy costs on a monthly basis. The individual homeowners would then be responsible for paying that amount of the HOA electric bill.
There won’t be a problem with additional installations you may need run from a sub-panel, but you would install subsequent receptacles, to different stalls, in the same way.

Hi Robert,

This is the first time I have written in. I have read your column from before as a homeowner and now that I serve on our board of directors. I have contractor question for you. Some of the doors at our complex are damaged — be it by age, lack of maintenance and vandalism on some. We need to get them replaced. We called two contractors and also asked our handyman to give us a price to replace 5 exterior doors. Our handyman’s quote is based on hollow doors and is by far the lowest price bid. Of course we want to save as much money as possible but are these acceptable for the exterior of a building? Thank you,
Susan A.

Hi Susan,
No, for safety reasons these doors can only be metal clad, fiberglass or solid core. Hollow core doors are for interior applications only.  
Your exterior doors are not something that you want to cut corners on, and their installation is relatively inexpensive compared to other HOA maintenance issues.  
If it’s difficult for your HOA to purchase and install five doors, you may want to consider raising your dues in case you have an emergency. In any event, install good, heavy duty exterior doors and keep them painted so they will last. Do it once, do it right.

Hi Robert,
I have a very old house with elaborate landscaping and terracing in the back yard. There are a series of concrete steps that take you down to a lower area and over the years, these steps have cracked. I have looked everywhere for similar steps to replace them with but have heard from several sources that they are no longer being manufactured. I’ve decided to just buy all new steps in the same color so they will look the same. I will keep the stringers and posts that are there, very elaborate, but they have a texture that the new steps don’t have. My question is, is there a way to put a slightly rough texture on concrete? Thank you in advance,
Alfonso W.

Hi Alfonso,
You could try taking one of your steps to a sandblaster. I would ask them to put a light finish on one half and go heavy on the other. Then compare which finish matches what you are looking for. Once they are finished with the texture, use a sprayer and apply a coat of sealer. This will provide long term protection to the surface and will maintain the color longer.

Hi Robert,
We have remodeled our home and relocated our kitchen to where the master bedroom used to be. The bedroom had only a single door, but we want to open up the entrance with the equivalent of a double door leading in to the new kitchen. What should I do about the header?
Gary S.

Hi Gary,
The old header will have to come out and a new one installed. A rule of thumb for headers, using 4 x lumber, is to go one inch + for every one foot of opening. For example, if your double doors total five feet wide, then you would want to go with a minimum header size of 4 x 5, with a recommended size of a 4 x 6.

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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