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Robert Lamoureux: Replace swamp cooler with A/C

Your Home Improvements

Posted: December 10, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: December 10, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Hello Robert,

Your column, with its knowledgeable comments, is interesting and enlightening. I understand my single-story house’s roof needs complete replacement. A new roof had been installed over the original roof, but now that roof needs to be replaced. Last February, we had the evaporative cooler removed, but left the inside duct work in place in case we would add a new cooler in the future. Is this permitted? Thanks for your help.

Bill D.


Hi Bill,

Leaving the duct in place is fine. There is nothing codewise that states you have to take it out. Wiring, on the other hand, can’t be abandoned in a wall. If electrical is not being used, it has to be removed, but old duct work is not a problem. Especially if you have all your ducts in a row. 

The two layers of the roof will have to be removed. This will require permits because the building department wants to see if the sub-roof is in good condition. 

If you want to replace the cooler, it would be best to install it before the roofing because you need the transition flashing from that duct to the outside. Or, you might consider putting in air conditioning instead of the swamp cooler. Now would be the time to button that roof up and bring the unit to the ground. Any time you have any penetration through the roof it’s a potential leak. Not only that, it becomes an on-going maintenance issue. Also, anything that vibrates on your roof, like the spinning of that squirrel cage, only exacerbates the problem. And when you mix that with the water in the evaporative cooler, you’ve got a lot of risk for little return.

I know a lot of people love their swamp coolers, but if it fits within your budget, I would completely abandon that old duct, repair your roof, and go with central air. I think you’d be much happier this way. 


Hi Robert,

The metal pan and top piece on my chimney blew off. I went to Home Depot and can’t find anything like it. What can I do?

Chris H.


Hi Chris,

It’s going to have to be custom made. It’s your chimney cap and exhaust vent. I don’t know what kind of configuration you have, or if you have a spark arrestor. 

Go to a sheet metal shop and have them take a look at it, or if possible, you can give the dimensions. Be sure and add 1/2” all the way around for clearance. Chances are, your neighbors’ chimneys are similar so you could take a picture and give it to the tin knocker.

Once the new chimney cap is fabricated, it can be nailed or screwed on. I would recommend screws because the vibration from the wind will cause the nails to wiggle out. That’s why you’re missing yours now. Then just paint to match.

As a reminder, since January, there is the burn law which prohibits use of fireplaces if the air quality is not clean enough. Be aware of the good and bad burn days or you could be fined.


Hi Robert,

I’m hoping you’ll publish this to your readers. I should have listened, because I know you’ve been very explicit on this topic and I don’t want to see the next guy go through what just happened to me. 

I hired a contractor for a remodel. This has become the world’s biggest nightmare. I didn’t check licenses or insurance. Now, at just about half way through the job, he has stopped showing up for work. I’m getting phone calls now asking for money for things that I have already paid for. I’m out $20,000, and I have two threats to put a lien against my property. Merry Christmas.

If you put this in the paper, let me say I wish I would have listened, but I met the guy and I really liked him. For anybody reading this, take it from me to call the contractors board and find out who you are dealing with before you hire. 

I really don’t know what I’m going to do. Winter is here, and the roof is leaking. I don’t have the money to make the repairs. He didn’t pull any permits either. 

My question is where do I stand? Do I have any legal recourse at all? Thank you for reading this,

Anonymous by request



Unfortunately no, other than tracking him down and going after him civilly, you have no recourse. He’s not licensed. He’s not bonded or insured. All of the safeguards that are usually in place are not there. 

Something to keep in mind that anyone who steps onto your property in the capacity of a contractor, and this would include gardeners and anyone else performing any maintenance or repair, must be licensed with the contractor’s board. And if they have employees, they must have worker’s comp insurance. 

All of this information is available on the California State License Board web page at This site will tell you everything you need to know.   

I’m sorry you’re going through this, but like you said, maybe your story will help prevent others from making the same mistakes. We see and hear about this kind of thing all of the time. Con artists are alive and well, especially in this economy.

Now more than ever, it’s important to do your research before hiring anyone. It will be time well spent.  


Hi Robert,

My pool decking is old and all cracked. I tried a pressure washer to remove the rust and stains, but it didn’t work. Any ideas how to fix it up? I’d be interested in a good idea for a new surface. 

Doug O.


Hi Doug,

You could put in a cool deck. This is a slip-resistant, low-maintenance system that’s easy to refresh and looks great.

This is how we do it:

Start with repairing the cracks. “V” chip the cracks with a diamond blade and fill with a two stage epoxy patch gel. Shotblasting is the preferred method for preparing the concrete for epoxy or urethane coatings.  Mix only enough epoxy that you can use in 30 minutes. A 1/2 gallon kit will fill approximately 150 feet of 1/4” x 1/4” cracks and will dry in four to eight hours.

Once the cracks are filled and the epoxy hardens, we apply an epoxy primer coat. This is also a 2-stage mix, which covers from 300 to 600 square foot per gallon.   

Next comes the texture coat. We mix texture, which is a polymer coating with a cement modifier, and apply it on top of the primer.

Finally, the color or surface coat is put down. We use an acrylic water base coating which is flexible but very durable. It also dissipates heat during the summer so you won’t burn your feet. 

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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