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Robert Lamoureux: Don't just grind away on trip hazards

Your Home Improvements

Posted: June 25, 2010 10:00 p.m.
Updated: June 26, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Hi General Lamoureux,
I love to read your column and it is obvious that you really know all areas of construction and especially those that apply to our area and building regulations.
As you know, Santa Clarita is partly in the high desert with high temperatures during the day and usually a big drop in temperature at night. In the summer time it costs a lot to cool the house by air-conditioning.

I was wondering about your opinion on whole house fans in this area. Do they work for our climate? Are there any types to avoid? Do you have a recommendation for a good whole house fan for our area?
Dan J.

Hi Dan,
   Thank you. Whole-house fans do work. I have a little experience with them. Typically you want to install them in a central passageway in the house, like in a hallway.

   Any type of air movement will climatize your home. In the mornings and evenings when the air is cool, open your windows and turn on the fan. This will pull cool air into your home and blow hot air out through your attic. 

  For the installation, you have to open a hole in the ceiling, do a little framing to mount the fan and run the electrical. It’s all basic but be sure to pull your electrical permit.

Fans keep your home cooler. This will save on your AC costs and wear and tear, and will also keep your attic cooler, which could extend the life of your roof.  

Hey Robert,
   I have finished my barbecue and am ready to run the gas line to it. I actually saved your article about how to do this from about a year ago, but I’m interested in how to tee off from the pool heater.

Would you please go into more detail of how this would be done? Thank you,
Monte S.

Hi Monte,
   It depends on how many BTUs the heater is and the size of the gas line, but bottom line this is something I would not recommend. You just don’t want to interfere with the gas flow to any device.

For example, your pool heater calls for a certain amount of BTUs. If you starve the heater by tapping off and running a barbecue or if somebody leaves it on all night — then the heater kicks on and you’re starving it for BTUs because there’s demand at another device, then you’ll get what we call sooting.

It builds up layer after layer and becomes a potential fire hazard. It is carbon and it will ignite. The best way to run gas to your barbecue would be to go back to the source and bring in an independent gas line. The ideal situation would be to tie in after the gas meter.  Many times this requires concrete demo and running underground, but if you’re going to do it, do it once and do it right. Be sure and pull your permits.

 You can run plastic gas line.

Go down two feet. You have to put a tracer in, which is a 10-gauge bare copper wire, no insulation, so the line can be located if necessary. You leave one end exposed.

If you go Scotchkote all the way, then you don’t need a tracer wire because the pipe itself would act as a tracer.

 Any risers that come up out of ground have to be in Scotchkote. Any 90s need to be wrapped in 10-mil gas tape with three wraps for a minimum of 30 mils.

Hello Mr. Lamoureux,
   I read where you discussed repair of a trip hazard that involved a concrete saw, demo hammer (jack hammer?) and to, “reform, pin with steel and repour.”

I’m just wondering is there an alternative?
Many thanks,
Bob B.

Hi Bob,
   There’s always grinding. If the trip hazard is ½” or less, you can use a grinder but it’s just a Band-Aid and an ugly one at that. Anything over ½” and you could ruin the machine.
Grinding is fast and cheap but aesthetically it looks terrible. All you’re doing is scraping the top layer of concrete off and exposing the aggregate underneath.      

   Although expansive soil and compaction problems can lead to trip hazards, most of the time the problem is due to roots growing under and causing the concrete to lift. You can grind and save time and money, but the roots will continue to grow and lift the concrete. Soon, you are left with an ugly trip hazard that still has to be repaired.

You don’t necessarily have to rent a demo hammer and a concrete saw to do the work. A sledge hammer will work as hard as you do. And, you can use a Skilsaw with a masonry blade to score. You don’t have to demo the whole pad from joint to joint. You can sawcut 2 feet back from the elevated trip hazard, cut the roots, reform, pin with steel and repour.  Be sure to wear gloves and eye protection because concrete chips will fly. Be sure that your circuit is GFI’d. A concrete saw is gasoline powered, so you can use plenty of water to keep the blade cool. If you’re down on your knees with an electric Skilsaw, you don’t want any water in the equation.

   If you do decide to repair only a small section, know that it will always look like a repair has taken place because the color of the concrete will never match completely.

I have seen good results from bringing in brick or stone to install a ribbon. This makes it look intentional and much nicer.

Hey Robert,
 How do I fix my pool skimmer?
Vanessa E.

Hi Vanessa,
   Well, you can’t. The best thing is to go to your pool supply and buy a retrofit door that’s spring-loaded on each side.
You have to make sure you put the device in correctly because when you pull the set pins out, it launches those springs.
It’s called a weir door and it has foam on the top to keep it floating. Once you get it in place where it belongs, you’ll need some needlenose pliers or lineman’s pliers to pull the two pins to set.  That’s it.

Everyone who submits a question that we answer in this column will receive a custom, full-color Signal/Your Home Improvements T-shirt. Submit questions to:
Robert Lamoureux of IMS Construction, Valencia, Calif., has 30 years experience as a commercial general, electrical and plumbing contractor. The opinions expressed in “Your Home Improvements” are not to replace the recommendations of a qualified contractor after a thorough visual inspection has been performed.


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