View Mobile Site

Ask the Expert

Signal Photos


Don't paint that tile, you'll regret it

Your Home Improvements

Posted: November 28, 2008 9:58 p.m.
Updated: November 29, 2008 4:55 a.m.
Hello Robert,
I've got a question for you. The tile in my bathroom is really ugly. It was here when we moved in and it was something that I wanted to change but have lived with it for a couple of years now. A neighbor suggested I could paint the tiles and I was wondering if there is a particular kind of paint you would recommend.
Beth B.

Hello Beth,
No. Tile paint is available, but it's the worst idea on the market.

You can't clean it with anything abrasive or it will scratch off and look worse than it was before. You paint over the grout and the tile and no matter what you do, ultimately it will look terrible. I strongly urge against it.

Wait until you've got the money, then do it once and do it right. Rip out all of the old tile. Do a complete tear out and start from scratch. Don't try to salvage the green board or wonder board underneath. Install new board and make sure everything is sealed and caulked, level and true. Then put in your new tile.

You'll be much happier with the results.

Mr. Lamoureux,
This is the first time I have written in. I have an air switch, and I'm not real sure what that is, on my garbage disposal. I push the button and nothing happens. It's always worked until now. I know that it is tied into the regular switch, which is on, but I don't know what the problem is.
Larry M.

Hello Larry,
An air switch pushes air through a tube which activates a micro-switch that operates the device. It's nothing but a light switch with an air bladder. You've got a box that plugs into 120v and your disposal plugs into that box. It's just a relay.

These are also used around jacuzzis to operate the jets without having to work with a live 120v switch. Your only using air so it's much safer. For your garbage disposal, it was probably installed as a convenience so you could just push the button of the air switch without having to walk over to turn on the disposal.

To troubleshoot something like this, although it could be the disposal, or the breaker to the line switch, it's probably a problem with the air switch.

Unplug the hose off of the back of the button of the air switch and blow through it. If the disposal goes on, then you've found the problem. Just replace the air switch.

Hi Robert,
I've learned that it's better to keep the maintenance up as opposed to the cost of repairs. I've got a lot of questions, but I'll just ask about my automatic gates. I installed new fittings but am still having problems with greasing and squeaking. And, what other type of general gate maintenance do you recommend?
Joe R.

Hello Joe,
Jack up the gate about an inch or so, and inject the grease with the zirc fitting. The grease will ooze around the pin once you lower it.

For maintenance, remove the operator cover then take a leaf blower or compressor and blow all of that dust out of there.

Also, this time of year with a colder climate, ants will be looking for the warmth of those motors and will crawl up inside the housing. They will crawl over your control board. If enough of them get in there, they will act as a conductor and short out the boards or the transformers. Turn the power off and spray the compartment with an ant spray - not on the control board but all around it - the gear box, on the concrete pad and around the ground.

While you're in there, get a good chain lube. Don't saturate the chain because the dust will collect, but lightly spray it. Make sure your chains are tight and your drive belt is good. If you have a gear box, check the oil in there.

Then put the cover back on and spray for ants around the exterior. Be sure and let the fumes go away before you power the motor back on. Once a month, go out and use ant spray around the operator because they will find a way in there and short out your boards. This is very common and it happens all of the time, especially this time of year.

Hello Mr. Lamoureux,
I own a small apartment complex and would like to know what's involved with installing gas shut off valves on 10 meters? Also, can we turn these back on again once they go off or do we need to go through the gas company?
Victor H.

Hello Victor,
If all of the meters are located in the same area and are piped together, then they are fed through a manifold which could be 2 inches or 2 1/2 inches. If so, they would probably have two manifolds that feed two rows of five meters. If this is the case, you could install two unions and one EQ valve, earthquake valve, per row which would shut those meters down at 5.0 or higher.

EQ valves are about $400.00 for a 2 inches manifold and about $600 for a 2 1/2 inches. These size valves are more expensive, but one valve would operate five meters so you would save money on the labor of installing individual meter valves.

You can install the unions and the EQ valves yourself if you are able to thread the pipes. You have to cut the line, rethread and install the unions and the EQ valve. I'd recommend that you use the yellow gas tape and pro dope together. This makes sure there won't be any leaks.

To reset, there is a little chain with a flat blade that will allow you to adjust the set screw and turn the meters back on after an earthquake without having to contact the gas company.

Hello Robert,
I'm a bit upset. We had beautiful ivy that had been growing on our home for over 10 years. Recently, a new board of directors was elected for our HOA and they decided we had to remove the ivy because "it did not align with the aesthetic of the community." Can you believe this? We took the ivy down, but there are still pieces that are stuck to the stucco. It may be growing inside the stucco in some areas. How can we remove it?
Carolyn W.

Hello Carolyn,
The ivy is not strong enough to penetrate the stucco. It could not be growing inside unless the stucco was already cracked.

The only way you'll ever get those fingers off of there is to sandblast. You can hire a sandblaster or go to the local rental yard. You will also need a compressor to drive it.

Once you have it all cleaned, you'll have to refinish the areas of stucco you blasted. Then repaint to match if you don't know the color combination.

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 ...