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Robert Lamoureux: Work smart when working on the roof

Your Home Improvements

Posted: August 6, 2010 8:38 p.m.
Updated: August 7, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Hello Robert,
I live in a single family home. I’m ready to replace my roof and I have a question about flashing around pipes. Does the flashing go on before the paper, do I nail it to the roof? Or, do I put the paper down and then the flashing? Also, one section of the roof feels a little spongy when I walk on it. What’s the best way to repair something like this? Thanks
Ray A.

Hi Ray,
You put the paper down first and then the flashing — they are called roof jacks. Something I can’t emphasize enough is to caulk everything. Use a urethane based caulk, put it under the roof jack and then nail it down.

The spongy area sounds like you’ve got some bad sheathing. You’ll be able to inspect the plywood once you get the paper ripped off. If you have any bad wood, replace it. Of course, pull all of your permits and don’t re-paper until the inspector has a chance to look at your sheathing to make sure your nailing is correct. If not, he can make you tear everything off again and you’ll be back at square one.

Remember, always stagger the plywood for strength. The minimum offset requirement is 2 feet.

For the comp shingles, they have a chalk line for alignment. You set your first course, the starter course, upside down so that the underlayment is against the drip edge of your roof. This is done so that you can’t see the paper through the slits in the decorative part of the shingle. You would then stagger all additional courses.

When you have your tiles or comp delivered, have them deliver it on the roof once your paper is set. You do not want to haul all of that material up and down a ladder. That’s nothing but back breaking work. It’s hard enough when it’s already there.

If you don’t have one already, go to a rental yard and rent a nail gun. Using a hammer and one nail at a time, you’ll be up there forever.

Keep in mind that roofing is not an easy job, especially in the summer. You’re at least one story up and working on a slope.

Falls are the number one cause of death in construction. Be safe. Tie off and work smart.

Hello Robert,
Occasionally my toilet will flush and there is nobody home but me. The first time this happened I ran straight out the back door. I almost called 911. I thought somebody had broken in and wanted to use my bathroom before they stole anything.

Everything looks to be fine. I’ll wiggle the handle and it all looks good. Please help me fix this. I enjoy your column. Thank you very much,

Hannah G.

Hi Hannah,
What you have is a bad flapper. Although it may look fine, rubber sitting in water 24 hours a day, year after year will eventually deteriorate and cause the toilet to leak. Home cleaning products and chemicals help in wearing them out before their time. Here’s some toilet trivia you may not know:

1. 20 percent of all toilets leak.

2. The majority of leaking toilets are caused by a bad flapper.

3. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, a worn or warped flapper can leak as much as 500 gallons per day, per toilet.

4. Estimates show that leaking flappers might be responsible for 11 million gallons of potable water being wasted in the United States every minute.

5. Nationally, about 14 percent of all indoor water use per person per day is due to leaking toilets and dripping faucets. (American Water Works Association)

The moral of this story is to inspect your flapper every year. If you’re toilet runs constantly or self flushes, or if the black of the flapper comes off on your hand, looks warped or damaged, then it past time to replace it.

Hi Robert,
We have a rental house that has a separate storage shed with a concrete floor. Our last renters recently moved and we found five 5-gallon buckets of used motor oil with an oil spill about five feet in diameter and an inch thick on the floor. Not only are we left with getting rid of the oil, but the oil cleanup. We tried cleaning with a water pressure washer and there is still a huge oil stain soaked into the concrete. Is there any way of cleaning this up? We think the concrete is permanently damaged. Thank you,
Linda C.

Hi Linda,
You’re right. The concrete is permanently damaged and there’s not really many options. You can clean it up with Dawn liquid dish soap, which will get rid of much it, but you will still see the stain. Once it’s thoroughly cleaned and dry, you could always cover it with an epoxy paint or a garage floor paint.

Hey Robert,
We’ve got a stucco home with wood trim that is starting to rot. I would like to replace the wood with Styrofoam that looks like wood but can’t rot. Are you familiar with this product and how to install it? Thank you,
Bruce H.

Hi Bruce,
It’s called planton. There are many molding styles available that you can buy pre-cast, which can get expensive, or you can buy the blanks and create your own design. You can cut it to whatever pattern you want. Make a template out of paper. Staple to each end of the planton and cut it out with a hacksaw blade.

Attaching the planton to the building is done with a concrete based adhesive that is really, really sticky. It’s a powder that you mix with water to the consistency of peanut butter. The best way to mix is in a bucket using a paddle blade because you want it nice and smooth with no lumps.

Before the install, mask all of your window frames and put tarps down because it can get a little messy. Apply with a notched trowel and then wiggle the planton to push and clean out any excess adhesive. Let that dry for about an hour, then put a top coat over the planton using the same adhesive. If it gets too hard to work, take an atomizer bottle and spray it with water. Then take a smooth trowel and take it to a nice finish on all five sides. Let that dry for 24 hours, then come back for your stucco coat — the finish coat with base 100 or 200 and whatever color you’re going to use. You can leave it white and paint it, after the phosphorus seeps out, or dye the stucco whatever color you like from the manufacturer.

We have designed a custom, full-color The Signal/Your Home Improvements T-shirt we will give you if we answer your question.

Robert Lamoureux has 25 years experience as a general contractor, with separate licenses in electrical and plumbing contracting. 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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