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Robert Lamoureux: Try starting over on tile job to avoid regrets

Your Home Improvements

Posted: July 31, 2009 10:09 p.m.
Updated: August 1, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
Hi Robert,
I follow your column. I'd like to get your opinion on something.
I am replacing the carpeting in our living room with 1 foot x 1 foot ceramic tiles. I have one more course before I finish but the tiles are not lining up right.
I used spacers and was very cautious about setting the tiles perfectly.
I knew that they would have to be cut at the end, but they are not straight.
They have to be cut at an angle which I think will stand out whenever anyone walks in the door.
I tried to pull up one of the tiles to see if I could remove them and it broke.
I don't mind doing the work but the tiles were expensive and I don't want to waste them. Is there a way to fix this?

Jack L.

Hi Jack,
Almost every room you go into in this world will not be square.
Having to cut your tiles at a slight angle to compensate for this is common. It sounds like you started in the back and worked towards the front.
Next time, you'll want to start in the front and work your way towards the back of the room.
This way, you'll have full pieces at the entrance while all of the cuts and angles will be against the back wall of the room and less conspicuous.
You mentioned that these cuts would stand out to anyone walking through your door.
Most people don't pay attention to details like that.
If you can live with it, fine. Personally, it would drive me crazy and this would be the only thing I looked at when in that room. I would have to make it right.
But, this is your house and it's up to you. It is possible to start over but it is going to require a lot of work.
You'll want to use a chisel and a hammer and gently try to pry up and remove the tiles.
Chances are you are going to lose a lot of these tiles to breakage, but the slower you go, the more you will save.
Once you get the tiles up, you'll need to grind the grout off the floor and off the back of the tiles before re-using them.

Mr. Robert Lamoureux,
Hello. I have a question about my garage driveway.
The HOA people are complaining about the condition of my garage driveway. Certain spots of the driveway are showing water spot-like deterioration.
Unsure of the exact term, but the closest description might be "scaling" as it says on the label of Quikrete.
Can this "maintenance" job be properly done by an "average" homeowner do-it-yourselfer and if not, what type of cost am I looking at with this type of job?
Most importantly, I would like your expert judgment about what to look out for and what not to leave out, if hiring a "concrete" professional.
I am most leery of hiring someone who can pay attention to air temperature, properly mixing the Quikrete (if necessary), and other VITAL elements of doing a proper, expert job.
Your column is a most valuable service, and I look forward to it.
Thank you,

Chris W.

Hi Chris,
Scaling concrete is usually found in northern climates where the driveways are exposed to freeze / thaw cycles. Similar conditions can be found in Southern California due to a bad mix or pour.
If this problem is isolated to a small area of the driveway, then you would first clean up the area as best you can. Pressure wash if necessary to remove any oil or dirt and let it dry to allow for a good bond.
Then you would put down a resurfacing material with a polymer bonding agent. Trowel on and finish to existing.
Don't walk on these areas for three days and keep vehicles off for one week. The only problem with this is the repairs are going to be noticeable.
If you have this problem all over the driveway, or if you have what we call spalling where sections of the concrete are breaking out, then you may want to consider sawcutting out the damaged section(s) to pin, re-form and re-pour. Usually, you can count on about $28.00 per square foot for this type of repair.
This will be an easy job for any reputable concrete contractor, so you don't have to worry about temperatures or other problems.
By the way, if you live in a condo, these repairs would probably be an HOA responsibility.

Hello Robert,
I have some strange goings on with my toilet. Sometimes the water will be high in the bowl, and other days it will be very low. Sometimes the water is rocking back and forth like the tide is coming in and, finally, sometimes there are bubbles in the bottom of the bowl. Should my toilet be replaced? Is it about to explode? Thank you,
Sharon R.

Hi Sharon,
The oscillation is caused by a partially obstructed vent and sewer line. It's not breathing properly. When you flush a toilet in another part of the house, it's causing a vacuum. The vertical and horizontal lines need to be cleaned out before they start backing up in your house.

Mr. L,
My pool plaster has rust stains and is cracked in a couple of locations. I'm looking for an economical fix. I talked it over with the local pool supply and they suggested I paint the bottom of the pool. Is this a good idea?
Will T.

Hi Will,
In my opinion, painting a pool as a cover up would be the last resort. I don't believe in it. Anytime I have had any experience with painted pools, it's a lose-lose deal. Within a year, you'll be back to square one.
Besides, if you did want to paint, you would first have to sandblast the plaster to rough it up. This would be done so that the paint would have a strong bond. If you're trying to save money, you don't want to spend it on sandblasting, especially if you're just going to put on a band-aid.
My recommendation would be to drain the pool and spot repair the damages. Clean out the cracks and apply the plaster. Don't mix up too much at once because it bangs up fast. Trowel it on and feather it out. Then ride it out and put the money away until you can afford to re-plaster.
When you are ready, you'll have two options with the plastering. You can sandblast and put a new coat on top of the old plaster, which I am totally against; or you can break out the existing plaster down to the gunnite and re-plaster. As far as I'm concerned, this is the only way to go. Do it once, do it right. There are some very good plasterers out there that we trust. If you'd like, send us an e-mail and we will forward a list to you.
Robert Lamoureux of IMS Construction, Valencia, CA, has 30 years experience as a commercial General, Electrical and Plumbing contractor. The opinions expressed in "Your Home Improvements" are not to replace the recommendations of a qualified contractor after a thorough visual inspection has been made. Submit your questions to: robert@imsconstruction.

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