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Robert Lamoureux: Spalling concrete is dangerous

Your Home Improvements

Posted: March 17, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: March 17, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Hi Robert,

I’d like to get your recommendation. 

I sit on the board of directors as vice president of our HOA Our complex is about 35 years old has more than 100 units with a subterranean garage. 

As you enter our building, there is an overhang ledge that is part of the concrete structure that holds the rest of the units. 

Above that ledge there is a 4 or 5 foot wide walkway. 

On the underside there is concrete that is cracked and falling off. There is actually a big piece that looks like it is going to fall any minute. 

My take on this is before it falls on a car or pedestrian we should remove it, but we have a fellow board member that is telling me to it’s not going to fall and to leave it alone or we may cause more damage to the concrete. 

Why would the concrete underneath be doing that?  It looks like it’s bowed. 

Thank you,

Stan D.


Hi Stan,

Your concrete is spalling.  If the concrete on top of this area is not waterproofed, then water is seeping through the porous concrete and causing damage to the underside. Concrete is not something that you can expose to constant water or it will fall apart. This why the courtyards and your type of walkway are protected. 

If the concrete has already started to show damage, then there is no doubt that the rebar inside is rusting. 

What I would do immediately is to get a qualified contractor out there and have the spalling removed. 

Removing a section of concrete before it falls can in itself be dangerous so be sure to use a contractor that understands what they are doing. 

Or, if you don’t want to deal with that, you can cordon the area off and get a structural engineer out there — which it sounds like you are going to need anyway.  

Based on what you’re telling me, if nobody ever waterproofed that walkway, you’ve got 35 years of water soaking through that concrete. 

My guess is there is some serious structural damage and I would recommend you get on this right away. 

Keep in mind that this repair is necessary, but it is not going to be cheap. 

I’ve seen it maybe 10-12 times over the last 30 years. There was a situation almost identical to what you’re describing. 

A chunk of concrete fell and crushed an SUV.  It flattened the cab about half way down. 

Fortunately, no one was killed. I would get this taken care of sooner than later.  


Dear Robert,

Thank you for all your useful answers to questions in the past.

My friend, Ron, has replaced his old dryer with an expensive new one. 

For awhile he was successfully drying clothes. 

Now it acts similar to the old one. There is no hot air after a minute’s running. 

He has been informed that the vent leading all the way to the outside needs cleaning. He lives on the third floor of a five story condominium complex and the vent travels through the ceiling and to the outside of the building on his floor. 

It is impossible to access the vent on the outside.  Do you have any suggestions for him regarding how to get the vent cleared all the way to the outside? 

His building is more than 20 years old and there are probably other vents with the same problem. 

Thank you for any suggestions you can give us and for your wonderful column in The Signal. Sincerely,

Teri A.


Hi Teri,

The dryer vent is obstructed and this can be very dangerous. 

Some HOA’s clean the dryer vents because the vents are hidden in the walls. Sometimes they are conjoined with other units.  Sometimes they will hit a manifold which will drive the hot air out. 

My recommendation is to check with the management company first to see if it is their responsibility. Also check on the duct patterns. 

Vents can exhaust through the roof or through the side of the building.  You can relay this information to the duct cleaning service if the HOA is not responsible, which will save them a lot of chase time. 

They will come in with the equivalent of leaf blowers and vacuums to get the duct cleaned out.

Remember lint is flammable. There are more than 15,000 dryer fires a year — more than chimney related fires. 

One thing you can do to make your dryer safer is to use only metal dryer ducts. 

The flexible foil or plastic ones can sag in the middle and allow a lint build-up. The duct should be kept as short as possible.  Dryer ducts should always vent to the exterior of the building, never to the attic or crawlspace. 

Keep the lint screen and all accessible areas clean from lint — even what collects under and behind the dryer. 


Hi Robert,

I’ve been putting this off for a few years now but I want to install either the whirly birds or gable fans on my roof. My wife thinks this is something that we need to hire a contractor to install. I’m fairly good with my hands and don’t see it as a problem.  I know I need to remove some tiles and cut a hole in my roof and install. What’s the big deal? 

Don’t you think this is a good do it yourself project?  Thank you,

Joseph M.


Hi Joseph,

That would depend on you and your qualifications.  Some people might draw the line at cutting a hole in the roof, but if you’re good with your hands and understand about flashing and counter flashing and how water stays out of a building then I say it’s a doable deal. How else are you going to learn except by giving it a try.       

Once you have it done, take a hose to it to see if it’s leaking. If it is, seeing as it’s cool and dry, now is the perfect time of year to make whatever corrections are necessary. 

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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