View Mobile Site

Ask the Expert

Signal Photos


Robert Lamoureux: Before you dig, call Dig Alert

Your Home Improvements

Posted: December 17, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: December 17, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Mr. Lamoureux,

I don’t know if you can post this in the paper, but I wrote in a couple of weeks ago asking about installing a fence. You told me to call dig alert, and thank goodness I did, because there was a gas line running exactly where I was going to install the fence. The line ran between properties and into mine. I found out it was only two feet deep. I was using a power auger, and would have definitely cut through this line. Thank you for the advice.  

Benny D.


Hi Robert,

I read your column and enjoy it very much. We’re adding an addition to our home. I’m planning on doing all of the work myself. On the blueprints it says I can use plywood for the sheerwall or O5B. Are you familiar with this product? Thank you,

Jean M.


Hi Jean,

It says OSB, which is oriented strand board. It looks like plywood which is made from wood fibers that are glued together. The OSB is a little cheaper than plywood, but it’s basically the same thing and is widely used for sheerwall applications.

Just make sure you follow all of the nailing patterns called for, and determine if you need to use ring shank or screw downs.


Mr. Lamoureux,

I’ve got a flat roof with a perimeter wall about 3 feet high. On top of the wall, there is a metal covering that blew off during the winds. I can’t find this kind of metal. Is it necessary to replace? 

Hu S.


Hi Hu,

What you are describing is a parapet wall flashing cap. It is usually either nailed or clipped on.

It needs to be replaced because it protects against leaks. You can go to a sheet metal company and have them fabricate a new cap for you. Provide measurements of the length, width and skirt — the part that hangs over the edge.

Tell the sheet metal company if you have metal clips on the wall; or give them one of the clips. Most are nailed.

All of the nail holes need to be filled to protect from leaks. I recommend Vulcum, which is a single-stage urethane caulking. Don’t use a regular caulk on this because of the limited elasticity. 

When reattaching the flashing cap, keep the nailing to a minimum. The more nail holes you have, the more possibility of leaks. 



I have had nothing but problems with my plumbing over the years. Now I have a problem in my slab in the kitchen. The homeowners’ association sent out a plumber and he is going to spray an epoxy lining in the pipe. I would like to get your feelings on this before I permit them to do this. They have scheduled the work for Dec. 21, so I hope you can answer before that time. Thank you,

Sasha R.


Hi Sasha,

I’ve seen hundreds of these epoxy lined pipes over the years and my experience with them has been negative. In theory, they work great. The insurance companies like it because it offers a cheaper alternative to sawcutting the slab, which is additional labor and concrete repair.  

With the coating, they come in and spray this system and it works, but if and when you have another back up, you can’t use cutters on the cable because it will damage the liner. 

In  my opinion, the epoxy lining is a band-aid. It’s a waste of money and time. To do this job properly, they need to open that slab and replace the pipe. Depending on the age of your home, you might have galvanized. 

If cutters are used, the insurance company will say that you destroyed the lining and now you own it. One suggestion would be to ask the insurance company what kind of allowance they are giving for that repair.  Then ask if they will give you that money so you can make up the difference and have the job done right.



I have a property that sits lower than my next door neighbor’s yard. I have a block wall that divides our yards, but from their side, it is only chest high so they are looking right into our pool. Can I add rows of blocks on this wall? Is there anything else I need to know? Thank you very much,

Ron L.


Hi Ron,

Unfortunately, the answer is no. (After a follow-up email, I found out Ron’s wall had 11 courses). Your footing is designed for up to 11 courses and the cap, and that’s it. It can’t handle more of a load than that. To rebuild it higher, it would have to be engineered and the city probably would not allow it anyway.

You can, however, plant some shrubbery on your side of the wall that can grow up to eight feet high. It will require maintenance, but it will help with your privacy. Go to a nursery and look at their evergreen, year-round shrubbery. Some varieties grow in very dense. Many people look at this option as a living fence and prefer it to block.   


Hi Robert,

This is my first question to your column. I’m the treasurer on the board of directors. Our siding is a combination of wood and stucco. We have first and second floor balconies that are wooden. With all of this wood, we are constantly painting. Is it possible to replace all of the wood with stucco? How feasible is that? 

Ruth H.


Hi Ruth,

It’s feasible, but you are going to have some load factors on the balconies because the stucco is much heavier than wood.

You would first need to consult an architect to work out the loads. Then you’ll have to speak to the city.  They’ll want to get involved because you will be changing the architectural design of the building. You’re also going to need permits, which will require drawings. The city will want to know what you have there now and the replacement materials. They will be the final word. 

The architect will tell you if it’s conceivable, regarding the loads on the upper balconies, contingent on the size of the existing joists. Before investing any money on architectural fees for field visits and drawings, I would first speak to the building department and learn of any specific requirements in your city. The next step would be to hire a licensed, reputable contractor and use progress payments.  

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


Most Popular Articles

There are no articles at this time.
Commenting not available.
Commenting is not available.


Powered By
Morris Technology
Please wait ...