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Robert Lamoureux: Get to the root of the issue for proper fix

Posted: June 12, 2009 9:35 p.m.
Updated: June 13, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Hi Robert,
We have underground parking and there is water dripping from the ceiling. I measured out exactly where this leak was and found that there was a root that has lifted the concrete up above. Do you think we can just seal this root with asphalt, or should the root be removed?
Paul W.

Hi Paul,
I would recommend that you first perform a water test to make sure that this is the source of the leak. If it is caused by the root, keep in mind that covering it with asphalt will only be temporary.
The root will continue to grow and will eventually crack the asphalt and now you are back at square one.
Since you asked about covering with asphalt, I'm guessing that the root is growing up through a paved area above the parking garage.
The right way to repair would be to sawcut the area where the root is located, remove the root, and then repair and repour the concrete or asphalt.
You would first want to call the city arborist before cutting any roots. Oak trees are protected and you would need to consult with the arborist who would determine how he would want you to proceed.

Hello Robert,
I am putting in a deck and have heard that it is important what side of the planks should face down. Most of the wood that I purchased is very flat, and I was just putting the best looking side up. Would you tell me more about this?
Mike T.

Hi Mike,
Look at the end of the boards to see the grain pattern. If they are hard to see, then cut some of the board to see the grain.
You'll want to install the lumber with the grain making an arch, or what we call crown side up.
Another way to check is to sight down the length of the board. If you see a slight arch to the wood, then the crown is up. If you see a slight valley, then the crown is down.
Installing the lumber correctly will help prevent the decking planks from pooling water and possibly creating trip hazards over time.

Hi Robert,
We had a leak in our home with one of the copper pipes that leads to the faucet in our bathtub. The plumber made a hole in the wall to fix it, and saw that there were one foot of "flex lines" where copper pipe should have been. I don't know if this was done as part of the original construction, or if it was replaced that way after a previous leak, but I'm not happy about this. The plumber says it is not to code. What do I do now? I think I'm due some sort of restitution because it was repaired wrong, and now it is leaking. Should I contact the previous owner?
Marilyn J.

Hi Marilyn,
I think the best thing to do would be replace it with copper pipe while he's got the wall open.
It might have been installed that way during original construction, or after a previous leak, but it sounds like it would take a lot time to track down who would ultimately be responsible.
Even if you found them and they admitted to it, how much would they owe you? Would it be worth the trouble to replace one foot of flex? It is not to code, but anytime you have a connection you have a potential leak and no one could guarantee that if it was rigid it would not have leaked anyway.

Hello Robert,
I was reading the warning tag on a light in my home. It said do not use anything other than 60 watt bulbs, but this is too dim. How important is that warning? Can I put in 100 watt bulbs? Thank you for your time,
Alicia M.

Hi Alicia,
The problem is the heat generated by the higher wattages. The more heat you are creating, the more at risk of damaging the fixture or fire.
I would follow the manufacturer's recommendation and use 60 watts. If it's too dark, consider buying additional fixtures and add lighting to the darker areas of your home.
Another option would be to call the manufacturer and ask if they recommend replacing the 60 watt incandescent bulb with a compact fluorescent bulb.
An incandescent bulb uses heat to produce light. A fluorescent bulb contains a gas that produces ultraviolet light when the gas is charged by electricity.
The UV light hits the white coating inside the fluorescent bulb and changes it into light. This process is four to six times more efficient than incandescents, so you could use a 15 watt CFL that would produce the same amount of light as a 60 watt traditional bulb.
Also, the CFLs last 10 to 13 times longer and use much less electricity to operate. Here is list comparing the wattages of standard incandescent bulbs and CFLs:
40 watts incandescent = 10 watts compact fluorescent
60 watts incandescent = 15 watts compact fluorescent
75 watts incandescent = 20 watts compact fluorescent
100 watts incandescent = 26-29 watts compact fluorescent
150 watts incandescent = 38-42 watts compact fluorescent
250-300 watts incandescent = 55 watts compact fluorescent.

Hello Robert,
Our upstairs neighbor had a leak which came down into our dining room. He was not at home and we just had to wait, watching it rain through our ceiling, until he came home. He seems to travel a lot, so my question is what can do in the future if this should happen again? I enjoy your column.
Marty S.

Hi Marty,
He could make arrangements with an emergency contact, a neighbor he trusts or a relative that lives close by, leaving them a key so there is a way to enter his home in case of emergency.
Another option, since you are obviously an HOA, would be to contact the management company. They have a legal right to access the home when there is damage to property.
The protocol for this is there has to be a board member present, or the property manager and a locksmith.
The locksmith would unlock the door, the board member or manager observes and documents what took place, then the locksmith would lock and secure the door.
This is a legal break and entry. If the problem is deemed to be a homeowner responsibility, then he would incur all costs. This is why many choose to leave a key with a trustworthy person.
I have seen cases where the fire department is called. They take an axe to the door and now you have a much larger problem.
I would speak to your upstairs neighbor and suggest leaving a key and a contact number.
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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