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Inspect for termites before creating play structure

Your Home Improvements

Posted: June 5, 2009 5:42 p.m.
Updated: June 6, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
Hi Robert,
We have a huge trellis in the back yard made from 6x6 supports and 2x8 span beams... but it’s probably more than 15 years old and we were told that it’s got termites in it when we moved into this house 7 years ago... we were told to expect to replace the whole thing in about 5 years.  

It’s still strong it seems and I’d like to attach a few climbing accessories for my 4-year-old son to play on such as a fireman’s pole, climbing cargo net, monkey bar and a swing, sort of like building a play structure with just the accessories and using the trellis as the structure...  do you think the structure is strong enough to handle this? Or what would you suggest to have me do to ensure these items I want to attach will be safe?

Minette W.

Hi Minette
,
I don’t think anyone selling their home would disclose the presence of termites unless they were absolutely sure they were there, because this would translate into a lower sale price. There is no way I would let my child or anyone else play on or near this structure until you had it inspected. If the framing were to fall on someone from the lateral movement of a swing, it would be disastrous. 

I would recommend calling a qualified, licensed termite inspector or general contractor. To verify contractor credentials, you can call the California State License Board at (800) 321-CSLB; or go to their web page at www.cslb.ca.gov. They will be able to tell you if your contractor is currently licensed to do business in the State of California, and can provide information concerning their General Liability and Worker’s Compensation insurance.  

Any contractor or employee of the contractor that comes on to your property must be covered by current Worker’s Compensation insurance. If not, and they got injured while on your property, then that liability falls on you as the homeowner. This applies to anyone that comes on your property while working for you. Anybody that is not insured becomes your responsibility.

So before hiring anyone, make sure they are currently licensed and insured. Also make sure that the carrier of the insurance company sends the current certificate of insurance with the expiration date directly to you. The reason being is some contractors are not good money managers and will buy insurance on a month to month basis. They may be insured for a particular month, but if the job rolls over into the next month, they then become uninsured and you now run huge risks by having them on your property.  

Concerning you trellis, it may look fine but the interior could be riddled with termites. Many times we will remove the skirt at the base of a 6x6 post and see that it has been reduced to a 2x2. I would spend a little money and get a professional out there to have it inspected. Until then, I would keep everyone away from this structure. If you do have termites, have the contractor demolish it and remove it from your property.  

Hello Robert,
Have you heard about any dangers in using Chinese drywall?  Thank you,
Frank L.

Hi Frank
,
 Most of the serious problems that I’ve heard about with Chinese drywall have been located in the Southeast from Louisiana to Florida, but cases have been reported as far north as Canada. The latest estimates state more than 500 million pounds of this drywall and ceiling tiles were imported into the United States and could have been used in as many as 300,000 U.S. homes.

Because of the lower price, builders were saving about $1,000 per home constructed, including homes rebuilt from Hurricane Katrina.

One of the problems is a rotten egg smell which intensifies with heat and humidity which is causing sinus headaches, nose bleeds and burning eyes. California has a dryer climate so although the Chinese products may have been used here, (we know they were imported into Long Beach), it may take time before problems become noticeable.

According to the Florida Department of Health, the Chinese drywall emits “volatile sulfur compounds,” and contains traces of strontium sulfide — (the rotten egg smell) and reacts with air to corrode metals and wires. The chemicals will corrode shower heads and door hinges, and will eat away air conditioning coils and even jewelry.  

The University of New Orleans found hydrogen sulfide, sulfuric acid, sulfur dioxide and carbon disulfide in the drywall possibly being
caused from the fly ash and fumigants used in production. Carbon disulfide can cause respiratory problems and sometimes death.

There are many lawsuits being filed. If you had a new home constructed or remodeled from 2002 to 2007, I would contact your builder and ask about the details of what type of drywall was used.

Hello Robert
,
I have an asphalt driveway this is 20 years old and 300 feet long. The upper portion of the driveway is fine, it’s about 4-inches thick, but down at the street, at the beginning, it is about 2 inches thick and it’s all cracked out. Can I just add more asphalt over the top of where it is bad or do I need to replace all of it?  Thank you,
Dennis P.

Hi Dennis,
It sounds like your driveway was poured backwards. It should have been four inches thick down at the street, on the apron, with the two inch thickness up top at your garage. This is because the apron or approach takes most of the abuse of the car as it drives off of the street and onto the driveway. The bounce of the car, with only two inches of asphalt is what’s causing your driveway to break down.  

With asphalt, you don’t need to replace the entire driveway. You can just patch whatever is damaged. To start, dig up all of the damaged area.  You are going to want to have a good road base underneath.

I would go a minimum of four to six inches of aggregate, the thicker the better under how much you are going to re-asphalt. If you want to use six inches of base, plus the four inches of asphalt means you are going to have to excavate 10 inches below street grade.  

After you install the new asphalt, spread it and feather it out onto the top of the old section for a smooth finish. If possible, wait two to three days to cool and harden before driving on the new section. You don’t want to leave tire tracks after all of this work.

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@IMSConstruction.com.

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