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Robert Lamoureux: Hire only licensed contractors

Your Home Improvements

Posted: July 21, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: July 21, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Hi Robert,

I had a leak that took out 70 percent of my ceiling.

We called a dry waller who said permits were not necessary because they were not repairing the complete room. I don’t want any problems so I’d like to check if this is legitimate. Thank you very much sir.

Miguel B.


Hi Miguel,

You are absolutely going to need permits. Whenever there is a question of safety, permits are required. The city will want to check the insulation, which will be your first inspection.

The leak soaked your insulation so that also needs to be replaced.

Cities are more serious now about insulation than they were 10 to 15 years ago.

For the second inspection, the inspector will want to see the nailing pattern and will confirm the right drywall screws were used at the right length and the right amount.

Inspectors take what we call lids, the ceiling, very seriously. One sheet of drywall falling from the ceiling and hitting someone on the head can be fatal.

It can literally kill you. This is one of the reasons I always recommend using licensed contractors. In your case, obviously, if the workers don’t know about the importance or necessity of permitting a job like this, can you trust them to do the work?

Don’t even consider these guys for this job. Find yourself a reputable drywall contractor that will come in and do the job the right way.


Hi Robert,

We’re on a septic system and at certain times of the day we get a horrendous sewer smell coming out of one the vents on our house.

We don’t really have any money to spend on this right now but the vent is right near the front door.

Is there something we can do? Thank you,

Francine L.


Hi Francine,

You can buy a charcoal filter that you can install on top of the vent. It will stop a lot of that sewer gas — which is methane.

The filter will still allow the vent to breathe, but without the bad breath.

These types of filters are only available at a plumbing supply house.



We have underground parking that has been leaking through the ceiling. I think the leaks are coming from the planters that are located in the courtyard which is on top of the garage level. How could we know for sure and how would we repair? Thank you,

Jack Y.


Hi Jack,

I recommend you contact an experienced contractor and have them water test the courtyard.

They will send out a couple of workers to determine how the water is leaking into your garage.

It could be the decking waterproofing has failed; or it could be a bad area drain or it may be the planters which is common.

If the planters are leaking, they would have to be excavated.

All of the existing waterproofing product would then be 100 percent removed.

This requires peeling and scraping which is extremely tedious work. We also use diamond bits on grinders and wire brushes.

Sometimes we find roofing mastic that has to be sandblasted. If the contractor proposes something like, “remove as much as possible,” then you’ll know they are not prepared to prep the surface properly.

And, if any of the existing waterproofing agent is left in place, it is only a matter of time before it starts to leak again.

Podium slab leaks like the one you are describing is something that should be addressed as soon as possible.

That is what holding up your entire building. You have footings underground in the columns that support the slab which supports the units.

When this slab is damaged, it’s a structural problem which means costs become astronomical.

Carriers will not pay for those damages because it results from deferred maintenance. The repair costs will have to come out of your reserve account.

If the leaks go unchecked long enough, the rebar inside the concrete will rust and swell.

This will cause the concrete ceiling of the garage to spall and concrete will start falling from the ceiling.

I inspected a garage in Burbank a few years ago and there was a chunk of concrete the size of an SUV and about 5” thick that had collapsed the roof line of a Suburban. I recommend you get on this immediately.


Hi Robert,

Our car gate will keep closing whether there is a person walking through there or not. I tried it and it hit me and kept closing. Isn’t there supposed to be a sensor or something?

Marc P.


Hi Marc,

I’ve seen kids especially who will try to ride their bikes or run through the gate quickly before it closes.

They could get asphyxiated if the gate were to close and pin them against the column or docking post.

There is supposed to be an Electronic Reversing Device — an ERD installed. These are built into the control board so if the gate hits something and senses resistance, it will stop moving.

Another safety feature that could be installed is a photoelectric eye like what they use for garage doors.

This sends a beam across to the reflector which sends it back to the sensor. If anything crosses the beam, person or pet, the gate would stop.

Call your HOA or property manager and explain that the ERD is not working and it’s a safety hazard. If there are many children in your complex, you might suggest the photoelectric eye as a secondary precaution.



I have big plans for sealing my asphalt driveway when I can get motivated enough. It’s old and in bad shape with cracks running all over it. As far as I know I need to seal the cracks and then sweep the sealer on top of that right?

Nicholas B.


Hi Nicholas,

You only use the crack filler on the long-type cracks. If any of the cracks are circular and look like the back a turtle shell, this is what we call alligatoring.

Those spots will continue to grow. Water gets under the asphalt and causes the base to move.

If you do have any alligatoring, then these areas need to be cut out and replaced with new asphalt.

Depending on the size, this would probably best be handled by an asphalt company. If it’s not too big of an area, you can do a cold patch yourself.

Any long, straight cracks running either the length or width of the driveway are the ones you can fill with crack filler.

If the cracks are deep you can save on material costs by putting backer rod in there but most people just use sand.

Apply the filler and let dry 24 hours. Apply your first top coat and let dry, then apply the second coat.

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 Robert


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