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Robert Lamoureux: Window unit needs proper flashing

Your Home Improvements

Posted: October 1, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: October 1, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Hi Robert,
I’m an avid reader of your column. I even clip and categorize all of your articles in case I ever need to fix anything. I have hundreds of them indexed and refer to them whenever something comes up. I just wanted to thank you for that.

And, I have a question — I’m having a window unit air conditioner installed by a handyman that is going to be put in the wall. 

He explained to me that he is going to cut a hole, install it and make it air tight by caulking around the edges. 

You have said before that openings need to be counter-flashed. Would a window unit like this need to be counter-flashed?  He said the unit is metal so flashing is not necessary. I just want to be clear. Thank you again, very much,

Jessica T.

Hi Jessica,
Thank you for your letter.

You are absolutely correct. It does need to be counter flashed. I would take him off of this project and get someone who knows what they are doing. 

What needs to be done is underlap the equivalent of L-flashing under the paper, once they get it properly framed, including double 2” x 4”s to support the unit. 

On the exterior, you’re going to take a piece of L-flashing, which I would recommend have custom made to go all the way around all three sides.  

This will underlap paper. This way, when water goes through the stucco, it will hit the paper, travel down to the flashing and be directed away from your home. 

Make sure the bottom of the air conditioner is sealed. 

This flashing is a critical element in keeping the water out of your home.

If it is not installed, it may not leak the first season, but it will eventually.  

Hey Robert,
I’ve got a kitchen fixture that I would like to replace with a recessed light. I’ve never done something like this, but am confident I can do it. All I need is for you to tell me the first step. Thank you so much,
Claudia F.

Hi Claudia,
The first step would be to identify what you want.  There are a variety of lights available. 

You can go to any lighting center and see the new styles, including the led’s.

I would get a retrofit can to see if you can cut the opening and position the can. It will come with a cutting template that will make this very easy. 

Take the existing box out that’s holding up the fixture and disconnect the wiring. At the end of the arm there will be a single gang box. Put your wires in the box and make sure the metal lid is secured and slip your can inside.

The lid must be secured because that connection is a potential fire hazard.

If you plan on installing more than one can light, you may have to split circuits. If you are unsure about this, hire a qualified electrician. 

If you are going to do it yourself, there are two rules of thumb when it comes to working with electricity. 
1.  Make sure the power is off.
2. Make sure all of your connections are in a steel or a UL-rated plastic box.  

You can’t leave a box buried in the ceiling without an access plate. Make sure all boxes have a cover and are accessible for future repair.

Hi Robert,
We had our driveway taken out and replaced eight years ago. It was originally poured by the developer.

We tore it out because we wanted stamped concrete with bricks. Since that time, the driveway has sank about 1-inch.
My question is, do I have any recourse against the contractor for something done eight years ago? And, what is the solution for the fix? Thank you very much,

Jimbo L.

Hi Jimbo,
Eight years down the line, I don’t know if you have any recourse against the contractor. 

If the contractor was unlicensed, then there are no repercussions other than small claims court.
What you describe sounds like “settling.”

As far as the repair, you need to cut out that portion of the driveway that is sinking. 

Generally, expansion joints are put in down the middle of driveways. My recommendation is to use that as a breakout point. 

Once you get it broken out, backfill with road base or an aggregate and compact with a tamper. 

You want to be sure everything is solid. Before you re-pour, core and install 12” lengths of rebar into the adjoining concrete, pinning, so the new concrete will not sink. Blow out the holes after drilling and apply some epoxy to set the rebar.

Hello Mr. Lamoureux,
We have two very large sump pump wells, or pits. The pumps inside stand about 4 feet tall with large cables. The pit is 8 feet deep and about 6 feet square. I’ve watched this area over the years, and I’m guessing there is about 2 feet of gunk and trash at the bottom of these pits. There is a terrible smell coming from these pits, and we’d like to know the best way to clean them out. Thank you very much,    
Wendy C.

Hi Wendy,
You have to get an environmental company out there to pump them out.  They will then truck that waste to Carson, where they have an environmental dump. 

You’ll be charged for the pumping and transportation. 

Once it arrives at the dump, it will be tested and you will then be charged for the disposal based on that particular type of waste. It’s not uncommon for the sludge to include runoff like motor oil and transmission oil. If so, it will be classified as a contaminate and hazardous waste. 

I have seen people pump this out into the street because of the high fees involved. But, cities are really cracking down on dumping waste into the gutters because of environmental concerns and the costs of cleaning up the storm channels and inlets every year. Much of it is the same type of waste you are talking about. 

Unfortunately, it’s a very expensive endeavor, but it has not been maintained. The fees are high, but it has to be done properly.

If any illegal dumping occurs, the homeowners association or the responsible party will be fined with possible arrest. 
I was on a job once where a contractor was handcuffed and taken away for this violation. 

 This is a good time of year to get your pumps checked out. You want to be sure that the pumps are in good working order and the impellers are in good shape before the rains.

From what you’re describing, you’ve got a lot of surface area and the last thing you need is to have a failure. 

One is a primary pump, and the other a secondary.  I don’t know the age of your HOA, but you don’t want the pumps failing on you.

The older they get, the more care they need.  

Everyone who sends in a question answered in this column will be given a full-color, limited edition The Signal/Your Home Improvements T-shirt. The shirt is available for pick up at IMS Construction in Valencia.

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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