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Robert Lamoureux: Porch needs a pressure wash

Your Home Improvements

Posted: April 30, 2010 10:53 p.m.
Updated: May 1, 2010 4:55 a.m.
We have designed a custom, full-color The Signal/Your Home Improvements T-shirt we will send to you, if we answer your question in our column. Thank you, Robert Lamoureux

Hello Robert,
We never miss your column in The Signal - now I have a question. Several years ago, we added a porch to the back of our house. The back wall on the porch, of course, is stucco. Over the years the rough surface has accumulated dust and now it needs to be cleaned. Since the floor is carpeted, we don't want to simply hose it down, even though the carpet is indoor/outdoor type.

Do you know of a "dry" cleaning method? Is there some type of paint we could use to give the stucco a more impervious finish, which might make it less susceptible to collecting dust and facilitate cleaning in the future? Thanks and keep the good information coming!
Keith S.

Hi Keith,
Thank you. To answer your question, no, there is nothing like that. It has to be pressure washed and cleaned. You have to hose it down and then clean the carpet.

If the carpeting is not glued down, remove it for cleaning. Or, after you wash the stucco wall, use a shop vacuum and extract as much of the water as possible from the carpeting. Then, go to the local rental yard and rent a carpet dryer at about $45 for the day to dry it out.

Hi Robert,
I just noticed this yesterday. The inside of my garage wall has a very small wet stain on it, and there is a corresponding wet mark on the exterior siding. It just appears to start in the middle of my wall. I removed the wet drywall, about one square foot, but I couldn't see anything because there is plywood under the drywall. Is that structural? Should I cut out whatever I need to cut to find the problem? Thank you,
Gene H.

Hi Gene,
Yes, it's structural. That's your sheerwall. I would recommend to leave it alone, if possible. It would be better to open up the exterior siding and make the repair - if we are talking about wood siding, not aluminum. The problem could be a waste line leak or a water supply line, and the sooner you address it, the better.

After you make whatever repairs are necessary for the leak, make sure to dry out the entire space so you don't get mold, then replace the siding.

I know you may be a little hesitant about pulling the siding off of your home, but if you're very cautious and put everything back the way you took it off, you should be fine. Use a filler if necessary, make sure the paper is in good condition, then prime and paint when you're done.

Hello Robert,
We live in an HOA and all of the lights are always on, day and night. I have spoken with the maintenance guy about it and he said the HOA should hire an electrician. Would you be interested in coming out and taking care of this problem? Thank you,
Arlene W.

Hi Arlene,
Thank you, but I don't accept any jobs from this column because it would be a conflict of interest. Besides, this way I'll tell you what the problem is and how to fix it, and not charge you anything. This is just a matter of troubleshooting. Either the timer is locked on, or it is a bad photocell that's burned in the contact-closed position. When closed, the circuit is completed which allows electricity to flow and illuminate the lights. Day after day of the contact opening and closing will sometimes cause an arc to jump between the open and closed contact and weld it closed, causing the lights to remain on. Once this happens, it needs to be replaced.

Always use a good quality photocell. I know money is tight at some HOAs, but stay away from the cheap photocells or you'll be constantly replacing the item. Plan on spending at least $25-$30. Get something that will last.

Something else you could consider would be to wire the circuits to a multi-pole relay so one photocell operates all of the lights. For this, I would recommend hiring a licensed electrician. First, go to the breaker panel and take all of the wiring that goes to the common-area-lights and put it in a box with a multi-pole relay connected to the photocell.

Mr. Lamoureux,
I own a commercial lot and I want to put in a 24-foot lamp pole. Do I need a permit for this? Can you give any advice? Thank you,
Dean C.

Hi Dean,
You absolutely need a permit. You have to notify Dig Alert at least two days in advance before any excavation takes place. Call Dig Alert at 811.

You'll have to go to the city and pull an electrical permit. After that, you'll want to follow all manufacturer's recommendations for footings, pinning and steel.

The NEC - National Electrical Code - will dictate the minimum requirements on a national level. The city or municipality that you are in has the right to upgrade that code. You have to make sure that you follow the code for your particular city. I don't know how much electrical experience you have, but because of safety reasons, I always recommend hiring a licensed electrician for this kind of work.

You are also going to need a lift and additional help to put up a 24-foot pole.

You're going to have to put in rebar and J bolts into wet concrete. The company should provide you with a template. If not, you can make your own by tracing the base of the lamp post and cut a piece of plywood to fit. Put the J bolts - the mounting bolts - through the plywood and sink them into the concrete. When the concrete bangs up, remove the template. Now you'll know that the bolt locations will land exactly where they have to be to secure the post.

Hi Robert,
I am finally getting around to doing this, and I want to have it finished by summer. I want to add a partition wall inside my garage. Do the 2 x 4's need to be every 16 inches? Thank you,
Mike N.

Hi Mike,
No, since it's a non load bearing wall, all you would need is 24" on center.

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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