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Adequate footings needed for sundeck

Posted: August 11, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: August 11, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Hello Robert,

I just finished reading your column and it reminded me of a project of mine.

I don’t know if you have been asked this before but we have a slatted patio cover that extends out 9 feet and is 9 feet wide.

We were thinking about putting some plywood down and use it as a sun deck.

What size thickness of plywood would you recommend for an 81 square foot deck? Thank you,

Paul K.

Hi Paul,

If you have an open slatted patio, then you probably have basic 1-foot-by-1-foot footings in the ground.  

This will by no means strong enough for a deck.  

You’ve got to consider not only the dead load which is the additional weight of the flooring, waterproofing system and handrails which you would need up there, but also have to account for the live load or people that will access the space.  

You’re not quite ready for buying plywood just yet. The first step would be to get a contractor out there who knows what to do.

The contractor will have to dig up those footings to verify the sizes because I doubt with an open slatted overhang that you would have adequate footings to support a deck.

Hi Robert,

I need some advice.  We spent $28,000 to have our kitchen remodeled.  

The payments were divided into three payments.  $5,000 down, then another $15,000 and then $8,000 when the work was complete.  

Everything has been paid and I owe them nothing. I have paid every penny directly to the general contractor and I have all of the receipts but I was just served with a “Materials Lien” for $6,745.  

I have left about 20 messages for him and he is not calling me back.  

What is going on here? I feel like this is a bad dream. Please help,

Arthur M.

Hi Arthur,

It sounds like you did not get releases and your contractor is not a reputable individual.  

A release allows you to check when the subs have been paid.

One way to prevent liens and ensure that subcontractors and suppliers are paid is to pay with joint checks.

This is when both parties endorse the check.

Notify the Contractor’s Board immediately. If subcontractors and suppliers didn’t provide you with a preliminary notice, they lose the right to file a lien.  

If so, you are going to have to pay these costs or they have a right to lien your home.  This is one of the reasons to always make sure you are dealing with a reputable and licensed contractor.

You also want to verify that the subcontractors hired by the general are licensed contractors.   

There are a lot of scams going on out there. I see it.  I’ll hear of some kind of fraud at least once or twice a week.  

We get quarterly newsletters and it’s amazing how many individuals get their licenses pulled for this type of activity, but they just re-open under a relative’s name.  

Or, they’ll just tell everyone they are licensed and insured. It’s amazing how many times homeowners never check their credibility.  

As a homeowner, it’s up to you to do your homework and find out who’s who.

It’s a tragedy, but there are a lot of dishonest people working out there.  

They talk a good game and sound very convincing, but will ultimately only steal from you.  

That’s why you always ask for and check references.  

A good resource is the California State License Board.  Look them up online at  

You can learn if the contractor is licensed and has worker’s comp insurance.  Some companies will say they don’t have any employees so they skirt around the worker’s compensation issue.  

There are also steps on how to select a contractor, check their license, negotiate a clear contract, prevent disputes and mechanics liens, and how to resolve disputes with the contractor if they arise.  

There are also sections on laws and regulations, filing complaints and owner-building information.

In order to avoid Mechanic’s Liens, get material and labor lien releases from your general from the sub-contractors stating all payments have been satisfied.

Another option available is to ask the contractor to pull a performance bond.

This is something you would purchase, but if the job is a significant size the bond acts like an inexpensive insurance policy assuring the contractor will do everything correctly.  

In this way, if there are any problems, you can go after the bond and your money is protected.

Dear Robert,

My home is on a hillside. I have four floors and three of them are set into the hill which gives us a really strong musty smell especially if the house is closed over a long weekend.  

It’s almost overpowering. The lower level is the worst.  

We’ve tried air fresheners and have cleaned the ducts.

The home is spotless but there is a constant smell that we can’t get out.  

We have not found any leaks. We even had someone remove part of the lower level wall to look for and he assured us the wall was not leaking.  

Please let me know if you have any suggestions.  Sincerely,

Lachele P.

Hi Lachele,

That is just the nature of the beast. There are not a lot of options available with subterranean living.  

You’re below grade with either a poured foundation or precision block.   

I do have one recommendation. It’s not an overnight fix, but it will help if you do have crawl spaces in your home.  

What you are smelling is a combination of stagnant air and damp earth.  

You can bring in some circulation by installing attic gable fans which will also help dry the moisture from the ground.  

I worked at a property in Woodland Hills many years ago where there were some high-end condos that were up against a hill.

The residents complained of the identical problem you are describing.

The fix was the installation of gable vents and attic fans in the crawl spaces.  

I put the fans on mechanical timers so they would cycle on during the day and off at night due to noise.  

The fans would pull fresh air from the outside which would then circulate and exit through the vents.  

After about six months of those fans running seven days a week, the earth started drying out to where 80 percent of the smell had dissipated.    

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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