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Anything that got burned needs to go

Your Home Improvements

Posted: October 31, 2008 8:59 p.m.
Updated: January 2, 2009 5:00 a.m.
Hello Mr. Lamoureux,
I was working on my car to see if the fuel injectors were working right. I get them disconnected and turn the engine over and the fuel sprayed against the back wall of my garage which caught fire. By the time I got the fire out on my engine, I started to put the fire out in the garage but some damage had already been done. Some of the drywall was burned and some joists were charred, which I replaced and some were a little black from soot but still in good condition, so I cleaned them but did not change out. The problem is that the garage still smells smoky probably from the wood I did not replace. Is there anything that can be done besides opening up the drywall and replacing the framing?

Hello B.C.,
Well, at least you know the injectors are working.

Anything that got burned needs to go and everything else needs to be washed down or sealed or you will never get that smell out of there.  Do you have an attached garage? You didn’t mention any smell in your house. Sometimes the smoke and soot will travel from the garage and into the home, making it much harder to clean. In any case, start with the garage. 

There are cleaning restoration companies you could call, or if you want to do it yourself janitorial companies carry deodorizing cleaner products designed for smoke damage. You’ll want to wear gloves and a mask. Everything gets scrubbed down — walls, ceiling rafters, workbench, everything. Depending on how much smoke was in your garage, this may be enough to take care of the problem. Give it a few days, and if you still smell smoke, the next step would be to take the drywall down. The smoky smell of the rafters or the studs behind the wall will permeate into the garage. You can either replace the framing or, if they’re in good shape you could coat them with shellac instead which will seal them.     

Let it all air out when you’re finished. This job will take some time. The more meticulous you are in sanitizing and sealing, the less smell you will have.
Hey Robert,
This is the first time I have written in  We’ve had our house for more than 10 years and never had any problems like this. One day, we plugged in the vacuum cleaner and it just stopped working. I checked the breaker box and saw one that was off. I push it back on and it goes right back off again. What’s going on with this? Is it a bad breaker and are those easy to replace?
Larry M.

Hello Larry,
A few things could cause this and to find out what it is exactly is a process of elimination. It may be a short. This is where the hot and the neutral are touching or maybe a hot going to ground — two wires are touching; or it could be a bad breaker; or it could be that the receptacle is bad. If it’s a short, you’ll turn the breaker on and you’ll hear it hiss before it shuts off. 

Generally, the problem is going to be in receptacle outlet box. Let me say that when it comes to any kind of electrical troubleshooting, I always recommend using a qualified electrician. Keeping safety in mind, they would make sure the power is off and go from one receptacle to the next. Then they would pull the receptacle out and take all of the wires apart. Then try the breaker again. If it stays on, then he’s isolated the problem to that box. They would then turn the breaker back off and reconnect that box. 

If the wiring looks fine, he would check the receptacle. They do go bad, plugging in and out over the years.  
If the recep is good, then it’s a bad breaker. Again, for your average do-it-yourselfer, I would call a qualified electrician for this type of work.  

Hi Robert,
I am starting a project and I have not seen this answered before. We have an Elastomeric deck that is in bad shape. It is leaking down through the floor and I want to get it waterproofed before the rains hit. Do I just roll on a new surface or spray it on?  
Scott D.

Hello Scott,
If the deck is leaking, rolling on a new surface would be more of a band-aid than a repair. Water damage will rot the framing so you want to make sure it is structurally sound.To do it right, you would do a complete tear off. All the subfloor, the plywood, needs to come off so you can inspect the condition of the joists. If they are bad, pull them out and replace them.

If there is no flashing from the stucco to the deck, break the stucco up about 18 inches and put a weep screed flashing in with a transition deck flashing and flash the entire deck. 

I would have two new scuppers made. I would not use the existing scuppers, drains, unless they were in pristine condition. Then you would put the new plywood down. Caulk the joints with an elastomeric caulk and tape with a fiberglass tape and let that set up. 

Then apply the elastomeric which is a 5001/6001 system. The 5001 is the rubber base coat. Put on a good thick coat and let it dry one day.  Then come back and roll on the 6001 which is the top coat. While this first top coat is still wet, broadcast some Monterey sand over the surface that will act as a slip resistant texture. You would let this dry then sweep and vacuum up any loose sand the following day. Then apply two more top coats in your choice of color. You can roll it on or use a squeegee. 

Instead of the elastomeric, I would strongly recommend going with an XL-Crete fiberglass decking system. They are much more forgiving than the elastomeric.

If you have any deck furniture, moving the chairs or table will rip through the surface of elastomeric much faster than with the fiberglass. 

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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