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Robert Lamoureux: Don’t leave live utilities in ground

Your Home Improvements

Posted: April 7, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: April 7, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Hello Robert:

I removed a large “L” shaped brick barbecue from my patio to make more room.  The concrete beneath needs to be removed and new concrete poured to match  a natural gas line and electrical conduit are in the slab that is being repoured.  Can I just cap the lines below grade and pour concrete over them?  Thanks,

Mike C.  


Hi Mike,

You can bury the gas line and bare conduit, but any live source must be terminated and disconnected. You can’t leave live utilities abandoned underground. 

The first step is to terminate the source. Disconnect the gas line from the meter. If the gas line was left live, it could eventually leak and blow natural gas underground.

Pull all the wire out of the conduit to prevent them from being accidentally reconnected in the future.  I would put a nylon cord inside the conduit to pull new wire in case you ever want to make that line active again.  


Hi Robert,

I’ve decided to do a stucco job at my place.  So far so good except for a ceiling area which is about 2’ wide and 18’ long. I’ve got the wire up, but the stucco keeps falling down on me. I’ve tried mixes and everything I can think of.  Do you have any suggestions? Thanks,

Rick T.


Hi Rick,

The secret for successful overhead stucco work is don’t make the mix too sandy and make sure that the lath is hung tight. If there is any flex or bounce to the lath, the stucco will come down. One way to tighten it up is to zig zag wire in the back and then tie the lath down to it.


Hi Robert,

I’m a board member of our HOA with an insurance background. We have buildings with flat roofs that we are going to have to replace and are hearing conflicting stories about new roof installation. One contractor that came out to inspect the job says he can take the roofing membrane and apply it over the stucco, and this will take care of the leaking. This is by far the lowest bid from the ones we’ve received. 

The others are telling us that flashing needs to be installed that requires demolition of stucco on the walls that go around the roof. We would like your opinion. Of course, we want to save as much money as possible and if the roofing membrane can prevent leaking without spending double to install the flashing, then we’ll do that. Thank you for your time,

Bernard P.


Hi Bernard,

The guys that want to break out the stucco and do it the right way are the guys you want to hire.  If you were to just roll the roofing membrane over the stucco, without the flashing, water that penetrated the stucco would have no way to get out. 

Now all of that water will get into the building because it would be encapsulated between the membrane and the stucco.  As a result, it will create more leaks in and around the areas of those parapet walls. 


Hi Robert,

You said call Dig Alert when digging, but how does that work?   How deep does it have to be to call them?  Do they come out and meet with me?  Are there any fees?  Thank  you,  I enjoy your column —

Anto B.


Hi Anto,

Call Dig Alert at 811 two working days in advance before you do any digging. They will give you a Dig Alert number. 

You’ll need to have the proposed excavation area delineated.  Take a can of white marking paint and write “USA” in several areas with arrows showing where you are going to dig.  You don’t need to go wild and turn it into graffiti, just make it clear.  For example, let’s say your excavation site is 100’ long and 4’ wide. 

For this I would I would write five USA’s on the dirt or concrete or whatever you will be ripping up.  I’d make it about 10” tall and about 18” wide with arrows to point in the direction you are digging.  This way, all of the various agencies know exactly where to look for underground utilities. 

Sometimes these utilities can be a high priority facility. We received the following notice earlier this week regarding one of our projects: “This Locate Request is near an AT&T DISTRIBUTION CRITICAL SUBSURFACE INSTALLATION INFRASTRUCTURE  that provides Switching, Routing and Transmission services to the surrounding area and around the world. Damaging these facilities could interrupt thousands of services.” Can you imagine damaging something of this magnitude?  Based on this warning, we know that we will have to dig by hand and proceed with extreme caution. 


Hi Robert,

We have a sandy, gray coating on our roofs and we permit homeowners to build fencing and decks up there. One of the homeowners is a framer and said the best way was to first lay down 4-by-4s directly on top of the roof and then build the decks on top of that because it would disperse the weight of the deck. Is this the best way? We want to have a standardized approach for any future construction.  Thank you very much,

George K.


Hi George,

It sounds like you have a modified roofing system.  In this case, I would not recommend laying down 4” x 4”s because the surface temperature of those roofs can get up to 180 degrees in the summer, 4” x 4”s will eventually just melt themselves through a modified system.  

Call a meeting with the roofer and the framer and have them install pitch pockets. Your roofer will know what these are. They will put brackets in these so the framer can then tie in his 4” x 4”s so they will float over the roofing system. 

Generally speaking, decking systems like these are already calculated into the load factors. You say you allow decks and fencing to be constructed on the roof. Is it part of the original CC & R’s? Make sure the roof is rated to handle the additional weight. 

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 the 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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