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Wood floors, retaining walls and strange goings-on

Your Home Improvements

Posted: September 12, 2008 10:13 p.m.
Updated: November 14, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Hello Robert,
I am installing wooden floors in my home. I have never attempted anything like this before and wanted to check was there any advice you could offer before getting started.
Jason G.

Hi Jason,
Have you ever seen a wooden floor that has shrank and pulled away from the wall? It happens all of the time, even to some of the pros. To prevent it, pull all of the wood flooring out of the boxes and put it in the room where it will be installed. Arrange it in short stacks and let it get acclimated to the new space; let the interior air get to it for at least seven days. I've seen it stacked outside, in the garage, and even going directly from the truck to install. This will give you nothing but problems. If you're storing the wood in your garage until the weekend for example, especially when the mornings are cool, the wood is going to shrink and could even start to warp after you lay it down.

Hi Robert,
We are looking to bid on a house at an auction at the Convention Center that we are going to use as a rental property. To give us an idea of how much we should bid, would you please tell us about how much it would cost for us to give the home a complete makeover? I've included a list of the square footages and what we want to do in each room. Basically, we want to start by removing the tile and replacing it with marble. Also, is there a one-stop shop where we can find nice marble, carpeting, wooden shutters, etc?
Jack F.

Hi Jack,
We've had several people write in this week with similar questions, so we'd like to address everyone's question at once. These days, your local home improvement center has a wide array of furnishings. On top of that, there are some specialty stores that you can go to for higher-end merchandise. The prices vary too much to be able to provide a quote. It would depend on exactly what you would want, but why would you want to do this? Based on national averages, 80 percent of all tenants will not take care of your property. Of course, you'll want to provide a nice and safe living environment but you do not need to upgrade anything. Give them level entry flooring, countertops, sinks, toilets, etc. If something can be fixed, have it repaired instead of replaced. Also, I would minimize the landscape to as low of maintenance as possible. So, I would strongly recommend to not up-grade anything in rental properties whatsoever. It is just going to get damaged or destroyed 80 percent of the time.

Hi Robert,
We have some strange goings on in our condo, especially in the shower. The water will get scalding hot to freezing cold in a matter of seconds. It happens so fast I don't even have time to reach the faucet to turn it off. Do you have any idea what would cause it to do this or how to fix it?
Stephanie J.

Hi Stephanie,
Most of the time, this type of problem is caused by a mix-it valve. Now, since you live in a condominium, it could be that your neighbor has a bad mix-it valve which is affecting your water. I would report it to your local management company and then call a boiler specialist to determine that your boilers are in good working order. We worked on a property recently where there was a bad valve in two separate units that was causing problems on the entire floor. This is not easy on the plumbers in that they have to coordinate with each homeowner to let them test. Once found, it's a simple matter to replace. Just remove the escutcheon plate for access.

Hello Mr. Lamoureux,
We read your column all the time. I am a property manager at an upscale community in the hills. I don't know if the problem was caused by the earthquake, but it wasn't called to my attention then. We have a retaining wall more than 200 feet long in the back of the property with portions of the wall more than 10 feet high. Large sections of the block have split both horizontally and vertically. Here's the problem. I called a construction company to get a bid for repair. They said that according to city code, we would have to call a structural engineer before they could bid the job. So, after the structural engineer arrived, he said he had to call a soils engineer. Are we being scammed here? Why would we need a soils engineer? Does this sound right to you?

Hi J.G.,
No, you are not being scammed. Everything you've described sounds correct. Since the 1994 Northridge earthquake, the codes changed dramatically and continue to change. There were revisions made in January of this year. A soils engineer, technically called a geotechnical engineer, is required by the city for your retaining wall construction and are typically hired by the structural engineer. Their purpose is to analyze the components of the soil and in some cases the qualities of the bedrock to determine if it can safely support the type of structure to be built upon it. Based upon the findings of the geotechnic, the structural engineer then determines the amount of steel required for the wall, as well as the depth and width of the footings. This information is then given to an architect that draws the prints, which is in turn given to the general contractor for the construction. So, to bring out the engineers, the architect, the contractor to demo the wall, take out the old footings, re-pour and shore and rebuild a 200 foot wall - let me just say hold onto your wallet. This is going to cost a fortune.

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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