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Robert Lamoureux: Sun rooms can be made comfortable

Your Home Improvements

Posted: April 16, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: April 16, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Hi Robert,
I appreciate your column immensely. I have an enclosed patio that serves as an extra room to my house. However, in summer it gets way too hot to use, and in the winter, it is extremely cold. The house is small, so this room is needed year round. Is there a way to insulate it effectively? If so, would it be expensive to do?
Dianna B      

Hi Dianna,
You’ve got a sun room. They are notorious for the summer heat and winter cold. 

In order of effectiveness, you can add tint to the windows, which is reflective.

You can also replace the windows with dual pane glass.

To make the room more comfortable get a one-ton split unit. It’s a heat pump on the exterior, and the fan assembly is on the
inside. This will climatize the room and make it much more comfortable.

During the winter, it provides heat; and during the summer, it acts as an air-conditioner.   
Hi Robert,
I subscribe to a soft-water service. How do I know if it actually works? I pay a fee every month but I don’t know if I’m getting my money’s worth.
Gil L.
Hi Gil,
If you want to know for sure, don’t use them for a few months and see what happens.

Speaking from experience, I know it works. I also subscribe to the same service, and they couldn’t get into my garage for about three months because no one was home. During this time, I went to use the water, and I had no water in the house. 

I started troubleshooting and found there was so much hard water sediment in my canister, so they had to come out and change it. Stop using them, and you will see a difference.

Hi Robert,
I want to put an electrical outlet in my backyard. Do I need permits? If yes, where do I get them? Does the plug have to be a GFI? Thank you,
Carrie F.

Hi Carrie,
Yes, the outlet must be GFI’d because outside is considered a wet location.

There may be existing water in the proximity of the recepticle, but someone could theoretically come along with a water hose, or it could rain or it could get hit with a sprinkler. 

It can either be a GFI receptacle or a GFI breaker, depending on how you want to wire it up. 

As far as pulling permits are concerned, if you live within the city limits of Santa Clarita, you need to contact the Santa Clarita Department of Building and Safety (

Have all the wire pulled, and leave it exposed. The inspector will want to see a minimum 6” of wire hanging out of the box, which needs to be strapped within 12”. He’ll also want to see the romex nailed to the stud so you can’t pull the wire and not damage the wire. You can use a tiger box or a nail-on box. 

You want to be sure the inspector can see everything, so don’t cover anything up until he makes his inspection. If anything is hidden, he can make you tear everything out and start over. 

Make sure you turn off all electricity at the main breaker when you wire it up. Pros may work with hot wires, but safety should be your primary concern. 

Hi Robert,
I remember you wrote about this some time back. I’m a bit of a pack rat. I save all of your articles like an encyclopedia, but for the life of me I can’t find the article about stop signs. I sit on the architectural committee on the board of directors, and we want to put in stop signs. 

I remember you saying there was a height restriction on a stop sign. What was that number? Thank you,
Phillip B.

Hi Phillip,
The height requirement is 7 feet. This was decided as the right height to where drivers could still read the sign comfortably, and the majority of the population could walk underneath without hitting their heads. 

Door openings require a 6’8” clearance, but the bottom of a stop sign must have a 7 foot clearance.

Make sure you bolt the sign to the post, using a bolt-through instead of using screws.

In windy conditions, screws will work themselves loose. I’ve seen deck and drywall screws being used to secure the signs, and inevitably, those signs end up on the ground. 

Dear Robert,
We have a downspout next to my daughter’s room, and when it rains, the water echoes through the downspout and bothers my little girl. Can you think of anything that can be done to make it a little quieter?
Tanya J.

Hi Tanya,
Sometimes those downspouts can sound like a steel drum. What you can do is open up the downspout at the elbow or at the transition that turns, and put in a piece of rubber. Look at your downspout and determine where the water lands when it falls. Take a pair of snips, bend it back and place the rubber in there with Gorilla Glue or silicone. 

Hi Robert,
We recently moved into a home that sits along a frontage road. Our living room is on the side of the house where all the traffic noise originates. When we watch TV at night, the sound of all of the engines is really annoying. Is there anything we can do?
Gretchen A.

Hi Gretchen,
What you’re hearing is the wheels on the road. It’s the rubber on the road. 

The best solution is to plant thick, low-growing shrubbery, or you could go with a wall or fence. 

Aesthetically, a wall won’t look as nice, and the city, or homeowners association, may have restrictions, depending on your address. 

If you plant shrubs that are 2-3 feet tall, it will probably dampen 60 percent of the road noise coming into your home. 

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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