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Robert Lamoureux: The right window equals less noise

Your Home Improvements

Posted: July 30, 2010 9:07 p.m.
Updated: July 31, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Hi Robert, 
I live in a condo where most of the windows face the alley side. Children are constantly playing outside and it is very noisy. One of the windows leaks and needs to be replaced. Is this an HOA responsibility? What’s the difference between a window and a retrofit window? Thank you,
Joe L.

Hi Joe,

Thermal pane, dual-glazed windows do much in the way of soundproofing. The panes of glass are hermetically sealed and the space is filled with argon, a low heat-loss gas, or left under vacuum. The conductivity of this type of window also make the window more energy efficient because it keeps heat inside the building during winter and prevents heat from entering during summer. 

Another method of soundproofing are windows custom fabricated and installed behind your original window. This gives you an interior and an exterior window. Manufacturing companies report U.S. noise levels are increasing 5 percent every year.
In addition, 90 percent of all noise enters the home through windows and doors. These secondary soundproof windows will reduce noise an additional 75-95 percent.

This noise cancellation technology was first designed and developed for the recording industry. Replacing the window may or may not be a homeowner responsibility. Many times, the HOA owns the windows, but it depends entirely on your CC & R’s — conditions, covenants, and restrictions.

These documents represent a unique set of regulations that outline the responsibilities between you and the association — which are often open to interpretation. If you are unsure about who is responsible for what, contact your HOA. If you disagree, you can always consult with a real estate attorney.  

Retrofit windows can be installed if the HOA permits. This type of window is an inexpensive alternative to a full window replacement.

Leave the original frame in place and just slide in the new window, then caulk. Personally, I’m not a big fan of retrofits, but they can work. The problem is in five or so years when the caulking gives out — then you have to re-caulk and reset the windows. That’s been my experience.

Aesthetically, they have a big frame around them on the outside and they stick out like a sore thumb. You can spot a retrofit a mile away. It all depends on your HOA. If they don’t allow retrofits, you have to install a new window which involves breaking out stucco.

If you’re on the second floor, you need scaffolding. That’s $700 right out of the gate. Plus the window at $500 or $600 depending on the size. Stucco, demo, labor, interior drywall repair — it’s costly for a new window and it adds up very quickly. 
Hi Robert,
There is a crack above my parking space in the concrete ceiling in the garage. This drips dirty water on my car every day and has been going on for a few months. I spoke to the contractor and he said the problem is from a leak in the planter in the common area above the garage. Apparently they don’t want to spend the money to have it fixed. Is there anything that can be done? Thank you,
Samantha T.

Hi Samantha,

Temporarily, you could install what we call a belly pan. This is a galvanized pan with a 1” lip that is fabricated to cover the entire area that is dripping. The bottom of the pan tapers down to a 3/4” threaded fitting, attached to a length of PVC that carries the water over to the nearest column or wall, then discharges onto the garage floor. 

This is only a band-aid, but it will keep the water off of your car. If it leaks onto your car long enough, you’ll need a new paint job. The water leeching through the podium slab is dripping mineral deposits and phosphorus which will destroy the finish. 

The big problem here is damage to the slab. Eventually, the rebar will rust. If it is not addressed, you will have spalling, meaning concrete will break off and come down on top of your car. If they let a problem like this continue, chunks of concrete will come crashing down out of the ceiling.

There was a property in West L.A. with the identical situation. Planter waterproofing had failed and leaked down into the subterranean garage. They called me out after a mini-van sized chunk of concrete about 4” thick slammed down on top of a Suburban. At that stage, repairs were astronomical. 

Dear Robert,
I have a very small bathroom with no windows. I run the fan, but it always seems to be humid and musty. Later in the day the walls are literally wet from the steam. On top of that, I’ve recently noticed black stuff growing in the corner of the ceiling. Is there a solution here? 
Portia W.

Hi Portia,
Install a higher efficiency fan, put it on a timer, and let it run for about 20 minutes after every shower. 

Also, leave the door open to let out the steam and humidity. With closed conditions like that, with no window, it turns into a sauna. Day after day of inadequate ventilation are ideal conditions for mold growth.

Besides installing a better fan, I would have your bathroom inspected right away. If you do have mold, you’ll want to have this remediated as soon as possible. 

We have designed a custom, full-color The Signal/Your Home Improvements T-shirt we will give you if we answer your question. The T-shirt will be available for pickup at our Valencia office.

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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