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Robert Lamoureux: countertops and new piping

Your Home Improvements

Posted: March 13, 2009 8:37 p.m.
Updated: March 14, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Hello Robert,
I have a Formica countertop in the kitchen and where the seam was placed, I put something hot on it and it buckled in one spot. Can this be repaired? Can a strip be glued over the whole seam? Thank you so much for your help,

Hi Harriet,
Now is a good time to start thinking about a new countertop. You could glue Formica over the top of the damaged area, but you would still have the bump and the edges of the new strip.

Even if you were able to match the color of the Formica, it will never look good again. Formica is very thin to begin with and with the type of adhesive used, it is near impossible to remove it from what is probably pressboard. It would start breaking and pulling the wood up with it.

There are many new countertop styles to choose from. Corian is durable but scratches very easily. Tiles work very well. They are inexpensive, easy to set and easy to clean and are available in hundreds of different styles and colors. If it is within your budget, as far as I'm concerned, granite is the only way to go.

Hello Robert,
I enjoy reading your column in the Signal. What type of yard drains are best next to a patio with surrounding clay soil and yard up to the patio?

My contractor thought he would install a few regular surface drains and connect it with regular PVC pipe into an existing drain line which runs to the street.

As an alternate, are there problems using perforated pipe and filter cloth in clay soil? I was concerned with eventual clogging.

I have a rectangular concrete patio in the backyard that borders my house on one side and has a concrete semicircle facing the yard on the opposite side. The semicircle diameter is about 1/3 of the rectangle length. The yard slopes toward the house and slopes 90 degrees to that to a large catch drain that drains to the street.

The patio correctly slopes away from the house. I would like install the drains on the uphill side where the semicircle meets the rectangle, where water does not drain properly and takes awhile to disappear. This is the only problem area.
Mike H.

Hi Mike,
If you're just installing surface drains, using PVC pipe would work but is not what I would recommend. Perforated pipe will not work in clay. It's not porous enough and would be more likely to clog the line.

With any drain system, you want to think about how you are going to clean them out should they ever get blocked.

If you wanted to spend a little extra money, go with ABS pipe and install clean outs. Instead of the 90's you would use with PVC, you would install sweeps with the ABS. You can't snake through 90's, but if you use ABS with sweeps, you have the option of running a cable machine - a snake, through the lines if they were ever to get impacted. If you plan on living there for a while and want the ability to clean them out as opposed to digging up the PVC line to repair, run ABS. This is what I have at my house and there have been a couple of times over the years where I was glad I went with ABS. It's plumbing pipe so it's a little more expensive, but well worth the extra cost.

The clean outs are usually flush mounted to the ground with a cap; or you could put a regular drain grate on them that lifts off to give you access to the line. This way, you could run a cable all the way out to the street whenever necessary.

Hello Robert,
My house is 30 years old and I have an area in my living room wall above the window that is getting wet when it rains. I used a saw and cut out the wet drywall, but now what? Thank you,
Justin B.

Hi Justin,
Good. You have to remove all wet drywall and insulation immediately. Now you have to water test to ascertain where the source of the water intrusion. This is a two person job. One will stand inside and look for water as the other uses a hose to spray on the outside.

The water could be coming from anywhere. It might be from the roof, a window, or it could be the felt or paper under your stucco or siding.

Start by spraying the window to make sure that the glass and frame are in good condition. If the window is fine it's possible that the paper is in bad condition especially if it is on a south elevation - a southern facing wall. Although the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, it rotates to the south. So, the stucco on that side is being cooked during the day and cooling off at night.

These temperature differences, after 30 years, will damage the paper. Since stucco is porous, water travels through the stucco and it is this paper that actually keeps the water out of your home. This paper, by the way, will go into failure mode after 60 minutes of water sheeting.

This is why it is imperative to make sure your gutters are clean so rain water does not sheet down the exterior walls.
If you determine that the paper is bad after water testing, you have to keep removing stucco until you reach a point to where the paper is in good condition, then replace all of the bad paper as needed.

As a contractor having done this so many years, even if the window is not leaking, I would never just replace the paper and keep the old windows. It is old aluminum, sun-baked and as a rule, most people don't maintenance the wheels. After 30 years of use, replace it while you have everything opened up with a dual pane.

You'll probably want to keep the same sliding pattern so when you select your window, you might find the label "XOX". "X" refers to the operating sash or the slider; "O" refers to the stationary side.

If you're planning on doing this work yourself, make sure that the window is 100 percent true when you hang it and follow the manufacturers nailing and install guide. If they say to nail every three, four or six inches, follow their recommendations to the letter.

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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