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Robert Lamoureux: Deck in disrepair needs quick care

Your Home Improvements

Posted: December 10, 2010 11:07 p.m.
Updated: December 11, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Hi Robert,
I have a deck with a sandy-pebbly type finish. The paint has come off in some areas and I have low spots in other areas. Basically the deck is looking bad and I’d like to know how to repair it and repaint it. Would I use a patio paint? Thank you,
Dennis A.

Hi Dennis,
What your describing sounds like a elastomeric deck with a Mer-Ko finish. If you want to keep the same look and do all of the work yourself, contact a Mer-Ko distributor. They will have the repair kits, top-coat textures and different systems like the flats, satins and glossies, depending on what you want.

Before doing any repairs, you may want to have a contractor look at the deck first. Your deck could have a rotted subfloor or joists and you might need to rebuild it.  

Perform a water test and make sure it’s not leaking all of the way through. Check that the waterproofing membrane is good. If the deck needs to be rebuilt, then all the time and money you’ll put in on the repairs will be wasted.

Once it is determined the deck is in good structural condition — and all you need are some minor repairs to the surface — purchase an epoxy repair kit for low spots or divots. This contains a liquid and powder coat that is mixed and then troweled over the sub-floor as needed. Mix to the consistency of toothpaste. Let it dry for 24 hours then apply the Mer-Ko topcoat which is available in several colors to match. Put on a couple of topcoats as per the manufacturer’s recommendations and you’re good to go. 

Robert Lamoureux,
I installed a sump pump in our basement recently. I tested it a couple of times and it worked fine, but now it has stopped working for some reason. I took the pump apart and put it back together and everything seems to be fine except that it does not pump. Do you have any idea why? By the way, I replaced the pump with a new one. It also worked the first two times and then stopped working as well. I’m pretty sure this is an electrical problem, but that appears to be fine as well. I don’t know where to look next. Thank you,
Andy P.

Hi Andy,
You’ve probably got a check valve, in-line, that you either installed or replaced. Between the check valve and the pump, you have to put a relief hole. What’s happening is you’re getting an air lock. The pump is trying to come on but it can’t because it’s locked up.

Take a 1/8” drill bit and put a hole between the check valve and the pump. Yes, water will trickle out of this hole, but this is what needs to be done. It will prevent the air lock which is keeping the flapper on the check valve closed.

Regarding the check valve, they are available in metal or plastic. Personally, I like the PVC with a flapper. I prefer the gravity feed, where the water just sits on top of the flapper — not spring loaded. 

It’s been my experience that during the summer, metal check valves will rust solid and then by winter, when you need it, it has basically welded itself shut. So, in my opinion, stick with the PVC check valves. Over they years, they have been the most reliable.

Hello Robert,
I just discovered your column a couple of weeks ago and really like it. Have you been writing the column long? I serve on a board and we have a problem with roof ladder access locks. They keep coming up missing or keys get lost. For liability, we need a good way to keep these ladders secure. Any suggestions? Thank you,
Jeena N.

Hi Jeena,
Thank you very much. This is column # 173. There are locks out there that can be programmed to a four digit code combination. You could use the last four, or the first four numbers of the building address. The combinations can all be made the same — but I’d recommend against it. 

Put each lock on a chain. This way, a chain and lock can be welded or screwed onto the face cover so the locks won’t mysteriously walk away. I’ve seen it time and time again, a lot of service people will just drop them on the ground and they vanish, or they end up on somebody’s truck.

If the lock is chained and welded, there’s a much better chance it will stay there. 

These locks are called Sesame locks and are available at most home improvement retailers. The locks come with a special key to open the package and dial in the code you want. At less than $15 each, they are well worth the money.

Hi Robert,
I always like the look of a driveway with pavers, at least when they’re new, but other properties I’ve seen look really bad after a year or two. We’ve got a parking area/driveway for our residents through the main entrance that I would like to cover with pavers. Is there a way to keep them looking nice? What’s your feeling on this? 
Mike F.

Hi Mike,
Aesthetically, most people don’t put them in right and have settling problems. You’ll notice many of the drives out there are wavy or you can see the tire depressions left if someone consistently parks in the same spot. These are some of the problems you’ll find due to poor installation.

The right way to put in pavers, as far as I’m concerned, is to excavate down and put in a 4” concrete bed. Once the concrete sets, come back and put sand down, then put the pavers in with about 1” of sand on top. 

Once all of this is done, come in with a vibroplate to vibrate the sand between the pavers. The reason for the 1” of sand on top is to protect the surface of the pavers from the machine. You could just sweep the sand between the pavers, but the vibroplate sets the pavers and sand together.  Now you can drive over them and the pavers won’t budge. 

Rains will eventually wash the sand out of the drive, so for maintenance, add more sand and vibroplate every couple of years.

Personally, I’d go with something low maintenance, like a stampcrete.

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 is available to be picked up at our 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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