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Robert Lamoureux: Time to replace electrical outlets

Posted: June 25, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: June 25, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Hi Robert,    
I’m now a new home owner, and am enjoying your column more than ever. We have an older home and there are a few problems that need to be addressed. One that we want to take care of first is an electrical plug problem. My wife will plug in her hair dryer, and it falls out of the socket. It is like that throughout the house. Is that something we can repair ourselves or would it be too dangerous? Thank you,
Sean F.

Hi Sean,
Whenever you’re working with electricity, you want to proceed as cautiously and safely as possible. I usually recommend hiring a qualified electrician for any electrical repairs, but this is something that you can absolutely do yourself.

First of all, turn the power off and check with a meter to make sure the power is off at the plug. All you need to do is go to your local hardware store and buy some new receptacles. Don’t buy the cheapest ones available. You can get them for 50 cents each, but these will give you same problems you’re having now. So, get a good quality receptacle.
There will be a wiring diagram included that will show you exactly how to install. There’s really nothing to it. Get one wired up and finished then turn the power back on to make sure everything is done correctly. White on white, black on black.
You have two options. You can slip the wire into the back port or you can wrap it around the side screw. Make sure that you put the ground (green wire) on the green screw. The white wire is your neutral and black or red will be your hot. 

When finished, test it with your meter and make sure you have 120 volts and go on to the next one.  

Hey Robert,
I have a bad stucco patch repair on my garage. It’s wavy and lumpy and does not match the rest of the wall. It’s in the shape of a square, like it’s where a window used to be. Do I need to take it down to the wood frame and start all over?

It’s about 2 feet by 4 feet. How would I fix this? Thank you,

Nick S.

Hi Nick,
Take a surface grinder with an abrasive disc and grind it down so that it’s below the working surface. Then get some base 100 or 200 and build it back up using a sponge trowel. 

Depending on what color your garage is, you can get dye and color it or stay with the natural base color white. I would start in a small area and work it to your satisfaction.     
Don’t grind it too deep. The base is not intended to be thick. If you need to build it up, you’ll use a sand and cement mix.

Get it just about flush and then come in with the base coat, aka the finish coat or sand coat. Use a rubber sponge trowel and work it in a swirling pattern until you achieve the look you want to get. It’s just a matter of practice and doing it that will teach you how to perfect it. 

New stucco is hot, meaning the alkalinity is high. It has to cure for 30 days before you paint or it will burn the paint, causing it to bleach out and look spotty.  

Hi Robert,
I’ve been a faithful reader for a couple of years now. I have a rental property which was recently vacated. There are areas where it looks as if they took the end of a baseball bat and punched round, 4-inch holes in the walls. 

I want to do the job myself, and want to do it correctly. I don’t know if I have to cut out from stud to stud and replace the drywall or is that size of a hole patchable? I don’t want any indication that there was a repair. I’d also like some recommendations on how to match the same kind of texture that is on the walls already. Keep up the good work. Thank you very much,

Harold S.

Hi Harold,
You can get what we call “frog clips” at any hardware store. These will allow you to take the size drywall needed to make the repair and clip it to the adjoining surface. They are just small metal clips and for the size holes you’re talking about, I would use three of them. 

Once the new drywall is in place, start the floating process with the joint or topping compound and make sure you tape it up nice.

You’re going to want to gradually feather out the joint compound to probably 18 inches around the hole in all directions so it doesn’t go on too thick at the center.      

You can buy the texture in a can and, for optimum results, you’ll want that can to be about 73 degrees. It works the best at that temperature. You can set the can in a sink of water to adjust.  If it’s too cold, it will come out too clumpy. 

If this is your first time, the best way would be to practice on a piece of drywall to use as a sample board. Get a couple of cans and start to work with them.

This will teach you how far away to hold the can, at what angle and how thick you’ll need to apply. Even if you make some mistakes and have to wipe off the texture and start over, you’ll save plenty of money from bringing someone in to do the work for you. 

After the texture, be sure and paint from corner to corner on the affected wall so you’ll have a 100-percent match.  

We bought a foreclosure home and one of the contingencies was that we accept the home “as is.” It’s basically a 2 story 2,600 square foot fixer. That means there’s a lot to fix. I can tell from stains in the attic that the roof leaks and it is tile. We don’t have a lot of money and would like to ask the best way to fix? Thank you for your time,  
Marquis W.

Hi Marquis,
The first thing I would do is roof maintenance around all of the pipe jacks — the flashing detail that comes around the pipe as it protrudes the roof. The leaks could be caused by something as simple as cracked pipe jack flashing. 

Use Henry’s 208 roof mastic. You’ll want to use some rubber gloves and/or a putty knife and seal around the pipe flashing. Peel off any loose mastic while you are up there.

Allow the new mastic to cure for a few days, then wet the roof to determine if it’s still leaking or you could wait until the next rainy season. Generally though, roof leaks will be found at the protrusions and if you seal all of the penetrations, there’s a good chance you’ll take care of it. 

You’ll also want to look for any nail-pops and drive those back down.

You can use caulking to seal them but usually there are no leaks in those areas anyway because the paper will keep the water out.  Tiles, as a rule of thumb, are set up to accept 8 percent saturation.

Continuous water will eventually penetrate the tile and reach the paper, but then it’s the paper that keeps the leak out.  
Although you might need to do a complete tear off and re-tile, I would start with roof maintenance as a first step to see if this takes care of it. 

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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