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Robert Lamoureux: Homeowner is blinded by the light

Your Home Improvements

Posted: August 20, 2010 9:23 p.m.
Updated: August 21, 2010 4:55 a.m.
 

Hi Robert,
I really enjoy your column. There is a light outside my bedroom window which shines into my room and is very annoying. The HOA did come and put up a plastic piece, but it didn’t help much. Is there a better solution? Also, this light has been blinking. The HOA replaced the bulb and told me it would take care of the problem, but it did not  The light is still blinking and the bulb is brighter, which is making matters worse. It’s like a strobe light in my room at night. Thank you in advance for any advice you can provide.
Dia T.

Hi Dia,
Check first with your HOA to get approval, then have the maintenance crew mask off the lens and spray the side facing your window with black paint. It should be painted in such a way it will prevent the light from shining into your room. This is a very common issue and we found this works very well.  

To fix the blinking, the light needs to be overhauled. It has a bad ballast that needs to be replaced. The ballast is just a power supply that steps down the voltage for energy consumption and ignites your bulb, your high efficiency bulb — either a high pressure sodium, mercury halide or mercury vapor. If it’s a yellow light, you’ve got a high pressure sodium. If it’s white light, much like a fluorescent, it’s a mercury vapor or mercury halide. Most lights today are mercury halide.  There are still many mercury vapor fixtures in use, which can be retrofitted to use the halide bulbs. 

Hi Robert,
I sit on my HOA board of directors. I’m new to this game and don’t understand much of it. We have a tremendous amount of wrought iron throughout our community that is damaged because of, we suspect, irrigation. 
We have spoken to a contractor who has done some previous work for us and he said it’s more economical to replace the entire panel than to only replace the cross member at the bottom, where the rusted pickets are.
Can’t they just cut it off and install a new piece instead of rebuilding a new panel? It’s not that we’re being cheap, but rather we don’t want to throw money away.
What’s the best way to prevent rusting?

Thank you,
Jay G.

Hi Jay,

Many times, it’s much more time consuming to cut and piece something together in the field than to fabricate a new panel in the shop. It’s not the cost of the steel, but the labor rates, that adds up quickly. 

For example, if 12 pickets are rusted out at the joint of the bottom rail all of the pickets need to be cut at 45 degrees at the bottoms of the posts so the rail can be welded back in place. Since the rust is cut off, each picket would have to be lengthened to keep the panel the same size — to do the job right.     

Doing this kind of work in the field, on your knees, is very time consuming. If there is only a bad corner or a couple of pickets, then absolutely take care of it on site. Beyond that, it’s better to build a new panel in the shop where the steel can be clamped down to a table and it is easier to work quickly and comfortably.

To help prevent rust, keep all of the steel primed and painted. Position sprinklers so they are not spraying the metal and keep all of the grasses trimmed. These steps will help prevent exterior rust, but iron can still rot from the inside out.

Because of the weather extremes we have here, moisture builds up internally. Going from cool nights to hot days causes condensation which will rust and rot the steel. You can avoid this problem with solid steel, but for many, the price is prohibitive. As a result, for the most of us, rusting is inevitable. It’s a maintenance issue that needs to be considered part of home ownership or calculated in your reserve study. 

If you hire any welders for any project, remember we are in fire season. They have to have fire extinguishers and water.

Anybody with a torch needs to have an extinguisher within 10 feet of the work area.   

While we’re on the subject of safety, ensure all of your welders have workers’ compensation insurance and a minimum of $1,000,000 in general liability. So many times I’ve seen problems with fires where the contractor disappears afterwards. If you hire the contractor it’s your responsibility to make sure they have the necessary experience and insurance.

Hi Robert,
I read your articles and have learned a lot about my home. You convinced me on the importance of gutters. I was cleaning the leaves one year and pulled my gutters down and never replaced them. I want to get started now so I’ll be ready for the rains this year. 

I see there are basically galvanized and aluminum gutters. Do you have a preference? Are there advantages to one over the other? Thank you very much,

Dirk S.

Hi Dirk,
In my opinion, galvanized metal is the best of the two. Aluminum has premade elbows and sometimes, depending on the configuration, you have to use three elbows to make it work. It’s just not aesthetically pleasing. Also, aluminum is a much lighter metal more susceptible to wind damage. 

With galvanized, the cuts are all custom and the gutters lay flatter to the building, which is stronger, more durable and better looking. The only problem with galvanized is you can’t get it pre-primed and painted, so you have to acid etch your painted surfaces. You don’t need to do the inside of the gutter, just the outside to match the color of your house. For this work, you can get an etcher or use vinegar, which will neutralize the galvanizing. Let it dry for a couple of hours before you apply primer, then paint. 

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 Robert@IMSConstruction.com.

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