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Robert Lamoureux: Driveway only needs targeted fix

Posted: November 12, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: November 12, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Enjoy your column,
I have a question regarding replacement of my concrete driveway. It has been in place about 50 years, and is damaged in several places with cracks and even missing chunks. I do not have a elevation problem, so I can’t think of a reason of why I just don’t pour right over the old concrete. I figure if I drill and place rebar posts and then tie horizontal runs of rebar to that it won’t go anywhere. I figure to save quite a bit of money not removing 200 feet of old concrete.
Ray H.

Hi Ray,
You’re right on the mark. As long as there are no elevation problems, you can do exactly as you describe.

All you would need to do is put vertical pinning in, 1 1/2” — 2” at the most. Make sure the horizontal bars are up off the ground. Just tie them on the ends of the pin. Then pour and float. That will give you a stronger base and less chance of the new slab cracking because it’s not flexing as much.

Anytime you can use a good base it minimizes flexing between the two pieces, the cold joint, where two pieces of concrete dried at two different times and rates. 

Hi Robert,
We had a very light rain over the weekend and my pump could not keep up with it. The result was the usual 1” deep puddle that we are all very tired of splashing through to get to our cars, not to mention the liability of someone slipping.
How do we know what size pump to put in our subterranean garage for it to do what it’s supposed to do? Where do we start? We want to take care of this problem once and for all. Thank you,
Adrienne C.

Hi Adrienne,
The best thing to do is deal with the manufacturer’s rep. They will come out and measure the size of the vault, the rise, the run and the size of the discharge line at your property. Based on those calculations, they will tell you exactly what size pump to put in.

I always lean towards going oversized. You never want to undersize a pump because of the concerns you mentioned. You’ll get back-ups and potential slip and falls. You can also get pumps that overheat and cause the breakers to trip. 
Calculations here in Los Angeles County are based on 1” of rainfall per hour. They’ll size your pumps according to that amount. Make sure you’re dealing with someone who is very qualified. Especially if you’ve got subterranean living conditions. Many condo complexes have living spaces below grade. 

I have seen where the wrong pumps have gone really wrong, really fast where there was three feet of water inside living spaces. Some have garages below used for storage. It’s a big hit on the HOA if the pumps go out so this is something you don’t want to guess on.

Every year prior to the rains, get the pumps serviced. Make sure the vaults are clean and clear with no rocks in the system. You also want the pumps “blocked up” meaning they are not sitting on the ground but are up and out of the sludge on the bottom of the pits. 

Make sure the pumps are fully functional and always have back-up pumps available. These can come from your plumbing contractor who has centrifugal pumps that can put out at least 700 gallons per minute in case you have a problem.

A lot of the panels have back-up alarms. When that alarm sounds, someone has to respond to it. It may be because the pumps are having trouble keeping up or because they have failed. 

I would suggest having a reputable plumbing contractor you can depend on to be on-call. Someone who will come out on a moment’s notice and get you pumped out in case of emergency. 

Hi Robert,
I’ve got a leak in our home but am not sure if it is coming from the window or the stucco. How can I distinguish which one it is? Do I need to cut out the drywall? Thank you,
Karl G.

Hi Karl,
Make sure you remove all of the drywall that’s wet for two reasons. One, to prevent any mold from growing, and two, to see where the water is coming in from during the water test. 

In this instance, for the water test, you would tape off the window all the way around with blue painter’s tape and plastic. Start introducing water to the stucco at the bottom of the window going back and forth, side to side and working your way up until you get the stucco to show signs of leaking. If you do that for 30 minutes with a good nozzle spray and you get no water then you’ll know that the paper under the stucco is fine and the window is bad. 

Remove the plastic and the tape and repeat the process to ascertain the cause and pinpoint the location of the leaking. It could be that the sisalkraft was put in wrong, or maybe it’s rotted because it’s a south facing window. When it comes to leaks, there are a million possibilities — movement, we’ve even seen nails driven backwards through paper. Be patient, you’ll find it.

I’ve got a gas leak somewhere in my line that goes from my pool equipment area over to my barbecue, which is about 25 feet. I can smell it but I can’t discern exactly where it is leaking so I have decided to rip the whole thing out and replace it. Do I need a permit? 
Kelly P.

Hi Kelly,
You will need a permit. The inspector will want to verify the new line you put in is the proper material. Some people use galvanized pipe instead of using black pipe or scotch coat. 

If you use plastic, you’re going to need a tracer line which is a piece of bare #10 copper wire to be used for tracing in the future. 

All of your connections will be with 30 mm tape, or 10 mm wrapped three times.  

He’ll want to make sure all of the connections are correct.  He will require a standing test where you pressure test the line with 17 lbs. of air in the line. With this you cap one end with a gauge on the other end. You fill it up with 17 lbs., which has to hold for 24 hours.

Once the standing test passes, you can make your connections, backfill and compact. 

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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