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Robert Lamoureux: Playing electrician is dangerous

Posted: June 9, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: June 9, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Hi Robert,

This is my second question I’ve sent you over the years. I’ve been doing some electrical work around the house. I found a problem inside my wall which was a Romex wire that had a huge tape ball on it and under that wires were nutted together. That’s where the problem was. Does that entire piece of Romex need to be replaced? Thanks,

Al H.


Hi Al,

Good job on finding the problem. Unfortunately, we see that sort of thing all of the time in our industry. It is due to someone wanting to play electrician who does not understand, or care about codes or why they are in place. They just wrap it up in tape and bury it in the wall thinking everything will be fine. 

Instead, what you’re left with is a fire hazard. That is why it’s critical that any electrical connection be made inside a UL approved metal or plastic box designed for connection points.

Always make sure you use all UL approved electrical fittings, connectors and straps according to code. 

What you can do, depending on the length of the run, is to put an access box at that connection. 

You can get a retro-fit box or you can frame in a single gang box. Make your connections in the box, put on an access cover and paint it the color of your wall. Then if you ever have this problem again, you have the access box installed. 



I’ve got a basement area and want to put in a drop type ceiling with the rails.  How can I get that rail level? 

I know the floor is uneven so I can’t measure up. Do I measure off of the existing ceiling which doesn’t appear to be straight or with a level. The longest level I’ve found is about 6 feet. I’d like to know how to get it perfectly straight. 

Turk W.


Hi Turk,

Go to a local rental yard and they will probably have a spinning laser. 

What you do is put it on a tripod in the middle of the room. There’s a leveling sequence you use to level the laser itself. 

As it spins it will give you a constant steady line so the entire time you are working there is a line on the wall. It spins at such a high rpm, it’s like you chalked a line. 

Take the perimeter rails and mount them to the wall all the way around. 

Then take your T-rails, cross rails, and lay them across. You’ll suspend them from the ceiling through the holes in the rails. Once you’ve got the perimeter mounted, you’re home free. 

If your rental yard has one available, rent the laser. If not, they are affordable in relation to what you would spend to hire someone to do it. 

You can buy the laser at your local hardware store.  They’re a couple of hundred dollars but you’re going to save this anyway in labor and at the end of the day you’ll own the laser level. 

There are an array of tiles to choose from and you can incorporate your lighting in the drop ceiling as well, which would need to be permitted.


Hi Robert,

What do you think about retrofit windows? Good or bad? Thank you,

Alfonso A.


Hi Alfonoso,

If you’re on a really tight budget and your windows are leaking and causing damage then replace them with what you can afford. 

If cost is not the primary issue, then I would advise to definitely stay away from retrofit windows. 

My experience for the last 30 years has been that inevitably, retrofit windows will leak. It’s just a matter of time. 

Personally, I have never set one retrofit window.  There is too much liability. 

Usually within five or so years the caulking around the framework will break down. I was at a complex last week in Sherman Oaks regarding this issue. 

The developer put in retrofit windows three years ago and every one of them is now leaking.  

For me, I would take the time to break 12” to 18” of stucco all the way around the old window as needed, install new paper, a new frame and put in a new window. Do it once, do it right.


Hi Robert,

I have a pool that has not been plastered in about 15 years. There is gray showing under the plaster. The tile is not in the best shape. The stone around the pool is cracking. I’m willing to do whatever is needed. What is your recommendation? 

Ray D.


Hi Ray,

If you have the funds, do a complete tear out.  Take it down to the gunite.   This is the gray material you are seeing which is concrete that is shot on at about 100 psi.  That is what gives you the basic mold of the pool.

Take off all of the plaster with chipping hammers.  I’ve seen companies sandblast and then recoat but the plaster will not bond properly. 

Within a couple of years, you’ve got another mess on your hands. 

Many people don’t like the white plaster. Talk to the plastering company for options. Some like the lagoon-look of a light or dark gray. 

Different shades of plaster can provide dramatic effects on a pool. I would not recommend painting the bottom of the pool.  I’ve seen it time and time again there will be problems with paint curling, lifting and floating in your pool. 

For this type of work, it’s critical that you work with a reputable company.   They will also be able to do your tile work and coping — which is the stone you said is cracking. 

It’s your prerogative to bring in different trades, but I would let the plastering company do all of the work.

If there is a problem there is only one company accountable with no finger pointing amongst the subs. 

If you do decide to bring in subs on this or any other multi-trade job, it’s best that everybody meets together beforehand to discuss their individual responsibilities. 

We have designed a custom, full-color The Signal/Your Home Improvements T-shirt to give to you if we answer your question. The T-shirt is available for pick up at the IMS Construction office in Valencia.

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.

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