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Robert Lamoureux: Sewage spill requires proper cleanup

Your Home Improvements

Posted: February 18, 2012 1:50 a.m.
Updated: February 18, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Hi Robert,

We came home to find our bathtub literally full of sewage and our toilets full to the brim and running over the edges.  I’ve never seen so much (sewage) in all of my life.  The homeowners association hired a plumber who snaked it out, but didn’t fix it. 

They hired another plumber that found out it was a collapsed line. 

My question: is there anything we need to look out for? The plumbers were taking buckets of sewage and pouring it into our planters. 

I don’t know what else he could have done with that stuff, but it still smells horrible. 

They have cut some of the drywall away. They pried up some but not all of the damaged hardwood floors and threw it away. 

We have dryers in there now to help with the flood damage, but the association is telling us they don’t have the resources (they’re broke) to help us. 

What do we do? Please give us your thoughts.  Thank you very much,

Gil A.


Hi Gil,

If your association is in financial trouble, I’m sure they have liability insurance. 

Based on what you’re telling me, you’ve got substantial damages. Since it’s sewage, you will need an environmental company to come out and really get your unit cleaned properly. 

The company will see that all of the damaged drywall is removed. 

When drywall sits in water, it absorbs the water,  a situation called “wicking.” The cleaning company will come in with moisture meters and pull back all of the flooring.

Everything has to be sanitized. The toilets need to be pulled because the waste water got up under the toilets. Any tile floors that you have with grout must come up because  the sewage will have soaked through the grout. 

Environmentally, it’s not safe to stay at your residence until everything gets cleaned up. 

If you have homeowner’s insurance then get the company involved. They will also probably want to look at adjoining units because water has a tendency to travel under the sill plate and could impact your neighbors as well. 

Regardless of whether assistance comes from your HOA or your personal homeowner’s insurance, move out as soon as possible and get the clean up addressed immediately. 

This will not be a quick process. Be prepared for further inconveniences, as it will take days of drying and maybe weeks of putting your home back together again. 

Regarding the plumber, he should have never dumped waste water into your planters because again, that’s environmental waste. 

Have the clean up company look at the planters when they are there. What the plumber should have done is have gone to a cleanout — most communities have ground cleanouts — and poured the buckets directly into the cleanout. 

As an alternative, he should have requested to pour the waste into a neighbor’s toilet. 


Greetings Robert, 

The caulking on my water heater vent pipe is cracked and needs to be recaulked. I know that it needs hi temp silicone caulking but no one at the local DYI stores knows what to use. Can you help? A brand name would be OK just so I know what to get. Thanks,

Kerry C.


Hi Kerry,

For something like this, we would chip off the existing damaged caulking and wrap it with Henry’s 208.

It can be applied with a paint brush or you can wear rubber dishwashing gloves and just smear it around the pipe joint.

Henry’s 208 is non-flammable roofing mastic and by the time heat from your hot water heater reaches that section of pipe above the roof line, most of the heat will have dissipated. 

Some people will let it sit for a day or two and then will go back and spray paint to match the color of the roof.  If the roof is brown, we would also use a brown primer. 


Hi Robert,

I am replacing the posts on my patio that have rotted at the bottom. I read an article once where you said to use a bracket so the post won’t sit on the concrete. What is that called?  Thank you,

Nesta D.


Hi Nesta,

It’s called a standoff bracket. You can get a retrofit type where you use the existing footing. 

You would cut the two straps that are coming out of the concrete, core and install the new bracket.  Then set your post on top of that. It stands off of the ground about 1”.

Let’s say your posts are 4” x 4”.  To hide that 1” rise, come in with some 2” x 6” and build a skirt. Miter the edges for a finished look, otherwise, you’ll see the 1” piece of metal the posts are sitting on.


Mr. Lamoureux,

Somebody broke into our home recently. It’s just my wife and I. No children living with us anymore. The police said it looks like they used picks on our front door lock and just came in. Are there certain locks you would recommend over others so we don’t have this happen again? Thank you very much,

Darrell S.


Hi Darrell,

I recommend Medeco.  They’re not cheap, but they are one of the best. Shy of a fire axe or a drill motor, they are not getting into a Medeco lock. 

Personally, I have a friend that is revered as one of the top locksmiths in Southern California. 

He installed the locks at Ronald Reagan’s house, works for the FBI, etc. He is as big of an advocate of Medeco as I am.

I have them on my home and on my commercial building.

The reason a Medeco can’t be picked is because the pins on a conventional lock come down from the top of the cylinder. You have what they call tension bar and a rake. You put a little tension on the cylinder and you push on the pins and get them past the sheer line. This is what permits the cylinder to turn and open the door.

With Medeco, the pins come down in two different directions and at an angle. It’s impossible to retract the pins because of their placement. I’ve seen time and time again in this industry where the Fire Department walks up to the door and see a Medeco lock, the only thing they can do is take a fire axe to the door. Without a key, that’s the only way inside. 

These locks are very durable, they will last you a lifetime. I use them all of the time. Other than maybe putting some lube on them once a year, I do nothing to those locks and they work like they’re brand new. 

When you hold a Medeco lock compared to any other lock, based on weight alone, you know you have a quality appliance.  

Medeco offers different classifications. For example, you can get a high restricted key. That means only you and whoever else is on the signature card can get a key for your lock. 

No one can duplicate those keys except the locksmith where you got the lock. 

We have designed a custom, full-color The Signal/Your Home Improvements T-shirt we will give you if we answer your question. The T-shirt is available to be picked up at our office.

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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