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Robert Lamoureux: Check out contractor before hiring

Your Home Improvements

Posted: November 19, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: November 19, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Hi Robert,

We may have messed up here at our homeowner’s association.

One of our board members hired a contractor and did not check his license or references or anything. He was hired for a waterproofing issue. He dug out about half of a very large planter, but he did not get any permits.

He waterproofed the front of the wall and 4 feet on the bottom of the planter and told us that the water would not come into the building, but water is coming inside the building.

He is not returning our calls, and it gets worse: The address on his business card is to a storage unit.

I personally saw the material that he waterproofed the planter with. It was a black rubber and green Styrofoam.

How could this leak? What do we do? Thank you for your time,

Vick T.


Hi Vick,     

The green Styrofoam is called Amacore board, which is used to protect the waterproofing membrane from rocks during the backfill. The black rubber material you are describing could be bituthene, which is a good waterproofing agent. But it could also be roofing tar.

The reason it’s still leaking is because he only sealed half of the planter, either to save money, or time, or perhaps just a lack of experience. Because concrete is porous, water will leach through the non-waterproofed section, travel under the waterproofing and then into the building. 

At this point, unfortunately, the entire planter will have to be excavated and all of the waterproofing he applied must be removed. If he did use roofing mastic, it will eventually crack and give you leaks. It will have to be removed by sandblasting.

My recommendation — for not only this repair but any future work — is to go with a reputable contractor. Check with friends, check references, check with the Contractor’s State License Board. Don’t just hire anybody off of the street.

You want to make sure they are licensed and have Workers Comp.

The city of Santa Clarita will not require you to pull permits for waterproofing or sandblasting. Personally, I wish this was not the case, but that’s the way it is.

Beverly Hills, however, and zones 1 and 2 of Los Angeles do require permits for waterproofing. I, for one, appreciate the Building Department being involved.

Your planter may also need crickets, which will act to raise the water and channel it over to a drain. If you have subterranean parking, and you don’t have drains, then spend the extra money and install them.

You would first need to X-ray the slab to make sure not to core through rebar or post tension cables. If the slab is more than 10” it will need a cobalt X-ray.

The bottom line is: Doing it right the first time is always better. In this case, you’ve spent bad money on this problem and were misguided.

Now, you need to spend good money to have the work redone the right way.


Hey Robert,

We have a sump pump that is not working right. It is about 2 1/2 feet tall with 3-inch or 4-inch outlet pipes that drain to the street. There are two pumps and one stopped working.

The plumber said the control board had problems. So we called an electrician who said he doesn’t know what to do.

Who should we call for this type of problem?

Manny P.


Hi Manny,

Not just any electrician can work on control boards and it’s possible to do some serious damage if the repairperson is not experienced.

Look on the control box lid or inside the door and find the manufacturer’s name. Contact the office and have them recommend an electrician who also knows controls.

The manufacturer should be able to give you someone locally who is well versed with that system.


Hi Robert,

My driveway has a lot of cracks. I’d rather repair for now instead of replace.

Could you tell me what I need to do and the costs? Thank you,

Zack S.


Hi Zack,

You can get a 4-inch V-wheel and put it on the end of a grinder. This is a grinding wheel, a diamond blade, in the shape of a “v.” It will run you about $90.

You’ll run the grinder down those cracks, which will cut a V-shaped groove into them, allowing a better bond for caulk. Blow out the dust or hose it down a day or two before you apply caulk.

Once it’s clean and dry, apply your Vulcum or Sikaflex with a caulking spoon into the cracks. This will cost about $13 a tube and will keep the water out. This will help prevent damage to the base underneath the driveway.

These two caulks are urethane based so the products have a lot of elasticity, whereas regular caulking is not as forgiving.

I’ve seen Sikaflex stretch as wide as 3/4 of an inch. Regular caulk can’t do that. This repair option will buy you some time.

Regarding safety, this is something I was guilty of years ago until I was brought to my senses: Sometimes, you’ll see guys lick their fingers and run them along the caulk line to give it a smooth finish. They do this so the caulk won’t stick to them. The problem is they keep liking their fingers throughout the day and repeating this process. Whether it’s caulk or a urethane product, this is not a safe practice. So, be safe and use a caulking spoon.


Hi Robert,

We’re going to be doing some sand-blasting to the stucco of our house. I know people are always asking you if permits are necessary so I thought you’d know.

Jason F.


Hi Jason,

No, you don’t even need a permit to do the finish coat. It’s just a top coat, so no different from painting. 

I do advise you protect everything. Take a little time beforehand because that stuff gets everywhere.

Tarp off everything that you don’t want to get sand on. If it gets on your lawn, vacuum it up with a shop-vac when you’re done.  

I would even tape off the inside of the windows in the house.

The dust created is so fine that it will seep in through any openings you may not be aware you have.

Use painters tape. It won’t lift your paint when you peel it off.

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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