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Robert Lamoureux: Hot water is a must for cleanliness

Your Home Improvements

Posted: November 5, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: November 5, 2011 1:55 a.m.

We have a 12-year-old 40-gallon water heater that is starting to rust out (no surprise there). It’s only function is to provide hot water for four or five faucets in community building rest rooms used mainly on weekends. We’ve been quoted on a 30-gallon replacement tank, and have also been told we would need instant water heaters for each sink — which makes that idea more expensive.

Do we really even need hot water, and if so, what other alternatives have we not thought of? 
Steve T.

Hi Steve,
If these are out buildings, it sounds like this is a request from the health department, or a plumbing company aware of the requirements of that agency. Either way, yes, you have to provide hot water.  

Since you don’t have washing machines and showers, a 30-gallon tank should provide ample hot water for community bathroom lavatories.

The health department wants to assure that people are able to wash their hands with hot water to kill bacteria before going back into the pool. You don’t want bacteria to contaminate the water. 

They are requiring instant hot water because most people will not wait and will return to the pool without thoroughly washing their hands. 

Hello Robert,
I was reading the warning tag on a light in my home. It said do not use anything other than 60-watt bulbs, but this is too dim. How important is that warning? Can I put in 100-watt bulbs? Thank you for your time,
Alicia M.

Hi Alicia,
The problem is the heat generated by the higher wattages. The more heat you are creating, the more at risk of damaging the fixture or of causing a fire. I would follow the manufacturer’s recommendation and use 60-watt bulbs. If it’s too dark, consider buying additional fixtures and add lighting to the darker areas of your home. 

Another option would be to call the manufacturer and ask if you can replace the 60-watt incandescent bulb with a compact fluorescent bulb. An incandescent bulb uses heat to produce light. A fluorescent bulb contains a gas that produces ultraviolet light when the gas is charged by electricity. The UV light hits the white coating inside the fluorescent bulb and changes it into light. This process is four to six times more efficient than incandescents, so you could use a 15-watt CFL that would produce the same amount of light as a 60-watt traditional bulb. Also, the CFL’s last 10 to 13 times longer and use much less electricity to operate. Here is list comparing the wattages of standard incandescent bulbs and CFL’s :

40-watt incandescent = 10 watt compact fluorescent
60-watt incandescent = 15 watt compact fluorescent
75-watt incandescent = 20 watt compact fluorescent
100-watt incandescent = 26-29 watt compact fluorescent
150-watt incandescent = 38-42 watt compact fluorescent
250-300-watt incandescent = 55 watt compact fluorescent

Hello Robert,
An inspector came out and said we have a crack inside our fireplace on the flue. A contractor wants $10,000 to take the brick down and build a new fireplace with a new flue. Is this necessary? Is this a good price? Thank you,
Henry J.

Hello Henry,
It would be well worth your time to get a second opinion, just like you would with a medical evaluation.  First, I would talk to the contractor and find out more information about this crack and have him give you specifics. Where exactly is it located? Is it on the north, south, east or west side? Then call another contractor and see if his inspection corroborates with the first. If so, now you know you there is a crack.

Most times, the demo/rebuild of a chimney is not necessary. You could instead go to a tin knocker and have a stainless steel flue fabricated and then have that inserted which will only cost you half the amount.

Hi Robert,
This may be an old wives tale, but I heard once that someone was having wooden floors worked on and whatever chemicals and rags they were using self-combusted and burned through the floor. Is this possible?  I’m working on our floors now and was just wondering.
Kenny H.

Hello Kenny,
Yes that is true. It’s called pyro combustion. This is one of the reasons proper cleaning is so important.  An important part of any job includes cleaning the workplace and tools.

When finishing a wooden surface you have to be very careful when using wood oils, especially linseed oil, which is extremely hazardous. Other oil and hard-wax mixtures including sunflower, soybean and thistle oil can suddenly ignite without a spark.

When the oil and a cotton rag oxidizes, it can spontaneously combust. You mostly hear about this happening when someone leaves a bucket of wax-covered or oil-soaked rags inside of a closed closet.

The lack of ventilation and fume volume will self-ignite. There are also instances, depending on the quantities and conditions, where it will also combust outside. 

Always check the safety and warning labels on any products that you. When finished for the day, especially with oil based products, immerse oil-soaked materials in water and store in an air-tight container.

Dear Robert,
I am the vice president of a homeowners’ community. We need some deck work done and we’re planning on rebuilding the desks from scratch. So far, we have received bids on three different types of decking — eurathane, fiberglass and a muir coat. Are there any other types that we should look into? I’d like to know which one is the best. Thank you very much,
Dorothy D.

Hello Dorothy,
I’m familiar with all three of the decking types you mentioned. In my opinion the best choice, hands down, is the fiberglass system.

It’s much more durable and more forgiving on the maintenance if you occasionally happen to neglect the schedule. It’s also much more resilient if anything is dragged across the surface. 

If you’re looking for a strong, durable and waterproof decking system, go with the fiberglass.

It will cost you a little more for the install, but well worth it.           

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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