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Robert Lamoureux: Use a licensed electrical expert

Your Home Improvements

Posted: April 21, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: April 21, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Hi Robert,

My electrical panel is on its last leg.  I’ve done some electrical work around the house and I think I can change the panel on my own. I know how it works and don’t see a problem.  Plus of course I know I can save a lot of money.  My question is how safe would it be exactly? What do you think?  Thanks,

Bill B.


Hi Bill,

If you’ve never done a panel change with someone supervising you for the first time, then my vote is absolutely not. 

I recommend you get an licensed electrical contractor out there to take care of this.   You’re talking about live wiring. Without fully understanding electrical theory, trying something like this on your own, especially without any experience, could be a fatal mistake.   

I know licensed electricians that have never changed out a panel.  This is not something you should risk. No way. 



I need and build a swimming pool and am planning on doing a lot of it on my own but intend to sub in all of the trades.  I want to install a barbecue and countertop in the back and will have to run gas, water and a waste line from the side of my house all the way out there. My question is, is it legal to put all of those utilities in one trench? If not, what should I do? Thank you,

Jason L.


Hi Jason,

It’s perfectly legal to put them all in one trench.  My only recommendation would be to stack the utilities separately in case you have a repair in the future.  In this case, I would put the gas line on the bottom.  Water supply lines have a greater tendency of breaking, so I would put that at the very top so it would be easily accessible. 

Many trades don’t care and will put a supply line at the bottom, or intermingled between other lines so you have to cut everything out to get to the supply line leak. 

Personally, the water supply line would be the last one I put in. 

Take it off to the side and make it as neat as possible so that in the future, if there is a problem, it will be easy to repair.   


Hi Mr. Lamoureux,

I enjoy your column in the Signal and thank you for the advice. I have a home in Newhall built is 1984 that has a leaky Spanish tile roof.

I know some repair to the roof was done before we purchased the home last summer. However with that big storm last week it leaks. I plan on having it repaired/replaced sometime this spring.

I want to replace the barrier under the tile. My question is … is felt/tar paper still the common solution or our some of these new self sealing membranes used on tile roofs?  And can you recommend a roofing contractor? Thanks and keep up the good work.

Gary H.


Hi Gary,

You can choose between a 30-pound or a 60-pound felt and I would obviously go with a 60-pound felt.  You’ll have to pull back all of the tile, lay the new felt down and re-roof over it. 

The self sealing membrane you are referring to is bituthene and I would recommend applying this only under the valley flashing.

Just because I’m ultra-paranoid, I would extend it one foot on either side of the valley flashing.  If you were ever to get a build up from leaves and debris, you would have the bituthene with the 60-pound felt on top of that to protect you.

For the penetrations, I would put roof jacks with the self-sealing donuts. This is a rubber seal that goes around the top of the flashing and around the vent pipe.

It’s a permanent seal so you never have to go back and apply roofing mastic. Especially with barrel tile, you want to stay off of that roof as much as you can. It is brittle and corrugated.  Anyone with any weight to them will crack the tiles. 

I have a manufactured roof tile and my rule on my home is no one is allowed on my roof.

That’s it.


The end. 

Christmas lights? Doesn’t matter.


And it’s working; I’ve had my house 20 years and still no leaks. 


Hi Robert,

I’m a widower and although I never considered myself much of a do-it-yourselfer, I very much enjoy your column.  I typically make it the first thing I read. 

I’m involved in a situation with my upstairs neighbor and I hope that you can find the time to shed some light on my predicament. I live on the second floor of a three story condominium building.  

It has recently rained twice, and both times I have had leaking in my ceiling. We do have a management company that has told me that they think the problem is coming from the upstairs deck. 

The owner, however is out of town, will be returning in 30 days and in the meantime refuses to let inspectors look at her deck. I just don’t know where to turn. Everyone is telling me I’ll have to wait but in the interim, my ceiling has been soaked two times and I am worried about mold. 

Would you please tell me, do I have any other options? Thank you very much,

Rachel W.


Hi Rachel,

     You have the legal right to have your home repaired.  Mold starts growing within 72 hours.   My recommendation is to have your ceiling opened up.  Remove all of the wet drywall and insulation  and get some dryers in there. 

I would take pictures before you touch anything.  Photograph everything.  Show all of the damages including any pots you may have catching dripping water.  Gather as much documentation as you can.   

I would then send your HOA a letter — don’t communicate with them on the phone, but instead notify them in writing that you are taking the above mentioned actions and will hold the HOA liable for any subsequent damages. 

Explain that you don’t want to be difficult, but the other side of the coin is that the HOA has a fiduciary responsibility to resolve this problem. 

It’s not fair you live with this for another 30 days. The owner could send keys or contact a representative or come back on her own. 

If she refuses to cooperate, then the HOA shall provide notice to her that they intend to forcibly enter her unit in order to water test in order to ascertain cause and location of the leaks, and then to make whatever repairs are required. 

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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