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Robert Lamoureux: Proper way to clean sidewalks, driveways

Your Home Improvements

Posted: June 26, 2009 10:14 p.m.
Updated: June 27, 2009 4:30 a.m.
 
Hello Robert,
I’m a long time reader with a first time question. What would you recommend for concrete and brick driveway and sidewalk cleaning? I’d be interested in how to clean some rust stains and prevent from staining again. Is acid safe to use?  Sincerely,
Jeff B.

Hi Jeff,

Acid is only as safe as the precautions you take when using it. Some people think just because muriatic acid is used for swimming pools and is available in every hardware store, that it is nothing to worry about. This is not true.  Muriatic acid is HCL. It is the same chemical as hydrochloric acid, and is one of the most corrosive of any acid.

Attention to safety is always the number one priority. No job is worth getting injured and most injuries can be prevented by taking the right precautions.   

There are other cleansers that are considered safer than muriatic acid which you could consider.

If you do want to use acid, there are specific safety precautions you should follow. Recommended protective equipment while working with acid is a NIOSH  (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) approved respirator for hydrochloric acid; chemical resistant clothing and protective nitrile, neoprene, PVC or rubber gloves, and a minimum of an 8-inch face shield and splash-proof goggles.

This may sound like your overdoing it with the safety equipment, but muriatic acid can cause chemical burns on your skin, it can burn your lungs, and it can cause blindness.      

I tend to make it a little hotter than most, and go with a 25 percent muriatic acid and 75 percent water mix. When diluting the acid, it is important to slowly add the acid to the water. If you were to add water to the acid, the bottom layer of acid could cause a heat reaction and could blow the mixture on you.  

When ready, spray down your driveway and sidewalks with a Hudson sprayer and let it sit for about 20 minutes. This strong of a mix should start to bubble immediately and should take most or all of the gunk off of your concrete. Most times it will look like brand new when finished. This will not only clean the concrete, but will neutralize the alkalinity of the masonry making it very easy to accept a sealer. Make sure you hose it down with plenty of water when finished.  

Next, you could get a concrete sealer at your local building supply house to roll on or spray on with the Hudson sprayer. One product in particular called Okon, goes on milky white and penetrates into the pours of the concrete. This will help protect against future staining.  

Hello Robert,
I’ve noticed that you answer Home Owner Association questions and seem well versed about HOA problems. Our board wants to raise our dues by 20 percent. I have seen the operating expenses and they are already making plenty of money from the current dues structure. We think this is ridiculous. What can we do? What do you think? Thank you,
J.L.

Hi J.L,
Yes, I’ve worked with HOA’s for almost 30 years. It all depends on what your reserves look like.  I’m okay with raising dues, especially if you’re not funded properly. If your reserves are not fully funded, then I absolutely agree to raising the dues 20 percent because you want to avoid surprises in the future.

For example, let’s say that based on your reserve study, your roofs will be due in seven years — they will need to be replaced which will cost each homeowner $5,000. When the time comes, I would not want to go door to door asking each homeowner for the money because the Board did not follow their fiduciary responsibility. Would you?

Water costs go up, trash goes up, insurance, everything goes up. Why shouldn’t dues be increased every year to compensate for everything else in life that gets more expensive?   

If you have a Board that is prudent enough to want to raise the dues, then I am 100 percent behind them. I believe HOA’s should raise their dues annually. I serve on two Boards of Directors and I am of the mindset that I would rather put too much away than not enough. I believe in having a good cushion in my operating account as well as my reserves. Especially now with more and more non-payment of dues and foreclosures, it is a Board responsibility to make sure they are funded.

Like you said, your current dues may cover the operating expenses like the landscaping, electric, water — all of the daily operating costs, but that has nothing to do with the reserve account.

Have you seen the reserve study? What is going to have to be replaced or painted this year and at what cost?

What about unforeseen emergencies like broken water lines or mains, flooding, roots lifting and breaking concrete, termite damages, etc?

Would these problems be funded? These are some of the reasons why it is crucial to have money set aside in the reserve account, and that money needs be replenished when it is used.

Dear Mr. Lamoureux,
I had a BBQ that wasn’t running right so I bought a new one. It’s still not running right. The man at the store said it may be water in the gas line. Does this sound like a possibility? How do you fix?  Thanks very much,
Ed C.

Hi Ed,
I would say that is a very strong possibility and is very common. For the repair, you have to replace that gas line or run a separate line to your grill.  

Either way, the lines have to buried at two feet. You use Scotch Coat, which is a protective coating on top of black gas pipe or plastic gas line. To join lengths of the plastic line, you have to socket weld it with couplings or use butt fusion which needs a heater available at your local rental yard. This way, you use an iron and basically melt both ends together and stick them together. For this, I would strongly recommend you use someone who is certified for butt fusion. If not, the line is going to leak.

Also with the plastic, you have to bury a tracer line with it which is a bare piece of bare #10 copper. This is used in case the gas company wants to come out and identify that gas line, they would send a signal through the copper wire out of ground, called a firefox, and their locator would pick up the signal telling them exactly where the gas line is running. We usually wrap the plastic line with the copper wire about every 10 feet.

Most people use the plastic gas line underground because it is cheaper than the Scotch Coat, but to transition out of ground, from the two foot mark up, the line has to be Scotch Coat. You cannot come out of ground with plastic pipe.  

To use Scotch Coat underground, file off the coating or take a torch and burn it off. You have to remove this coating or the threading dyes won’t fit onto the pipe. Once you get both ends threaded and ready for the coupling, use the yellow gas teflon tape wrap at each coupling. I use a gas compound also. Then you want to really cinch those couplings on there. Use two pipe wrenches and give it all you’ve got. This is where water got in the line in the first place so make it tight.

After you make all of your connections, then you’ll want to wrap each coupling with 10 mil. tape three times so you have a minimum of 30 mils of tape. When you threaded the pipe, you had to burn off the scotch coat so the dyes would fit. You wrap it up so that none of this bare pipe is exposed. The inspector will check this. He will also cap off the line and see if it holds 10 lbs. of pressure for 15 minutes.       

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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