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Robert Lamoureux: Plywood is not the answer for patio

Your Home Improvements

Posted: October 15, 2010 11:04 p.m.
Updated: October 16, 2010 4:30 a.m.

As I’m sure you often hear, I really enjoy your answers in The Signal. I know you have helped many people who read your columns. I don’t know if I have a question fit for the newspaper, but it’s a question no one else can answer.

I have a wood outdoor overhead patio, constructed of 2 x 2s on the top. It’s per code. Rather than have the open spaces between the slats, I want to cover it with a solid top. I bought five sheets of 1-1/32 B-C exterior plywood, as I could afford to buy marine-grade plywood. I will align and mount the wood on 2 x 4s slanting away from my house.

My question is: How do I best seal and paint this plywood in order to prevent moisture and rain getting in and allow them to last a long time? I’m concerned not only for the top flat sides, but also the edges of the plywood. Do you know what’s best for sealing these to keep wetness out?

Thanks and keep up the good work. I wish your articles were much longer!

Bruce L.

Hi Bruce,
Thank you for the kind words. All you can do is prime and paint. Unfortunately though, because it’s laying horizontal, it’s not going to last. The minute the paint cracks and you get a little weather inside, it’s over. 

One option would be to felt it and put a shingle down. But if you start laying shingles, keep in mind you now have load factors to contend with as shingles are very heavy. You also need to have the right pitch. In California, the minimum pitch for a composition shingle is 2-1/2” in 12 or 2-1/2” vertical fall for every 12 inches of horizontal run. One of the problems with these low slopes is water sits on the shingles longer, and they tend to leak more. 

If there is not enough of a pitch, you could either hot mop it — or put a decking system down like elastomeric or elastocrete.

The bottom line is painted plywood is not going to last.

The minute you score any of the paint, there is an open void and it will start to rot. Also, the plywood is going to expand and contract at one rate and the paint at another. It will crack and the water will get in, guaranteed. 

Hi Robert,
I bought a safety bar for my parents’ bathtub, and I’m not sure how to install it. Will a stud finder locate a stud behind the tiles? Also, what can I use to drill through the tile with so it won’t crack? I hope you have time for an answer. Thank you,
Andy M.

Hi Andy,
If it is an outer wall, then the studs will be 16” on center. If you start at the corner and measure out 16”, you should find a stud, provided the framer did his job. Measure out another 16” for the other end of the handle. The safety handles are designed for those applications at either 16” or 24” on center. Studs in your interior, non-load-bearing walls can be 24” on center.   

Sometimes there is a sheerwall behind the tiles, so you might be able to bite into some plywood, but you’d have to use an anchor bolt because the plywood would not be thick enough to hold a lag screw. 

If the wall is only partially tiled, you can run the stud finder along the top and then measure down. Or, if there are windows above, you know there are two studs on either side of the window that you could lag into.

A masonry bit is all you need to drill through the tile. Or you could use a glass bit.

Drill through the tile and go all the way through the mortar bed, sheerwall and/or wonderboard. Be sure and use the appropriate length lags to go through whatever materials you have in the wall to anchor into the stud.

When it comes to replacing tiles, you can’t always find an exact match. An option would be to remove everything you need and a little more all the way around in order to come in with a different style or color and create a pattern. I know this is for the more adventurous, but I’ve seen many cases where the repair incorporates a pattern that looks much better than the original design. 

Sometimes you have to take all of the tile off and start from scratch. Find whatever method works best for your situation.

When it comes to the bar installation, this is something that has to be done right. It’s a safety issue, and you don’t want your mother or father thinking the bar will help support them and have it pull out of the wall.   

Mr. Lamoureux,
We’re a fairly large HOA with older homes with older galvanized pipes. We are constantly receiving complaints of low water pressure that we have found is actually the rust getting lodged in the aerators of the faucets. This is an easy fix for the plumbers and is getting costly, but something the homeowners don’t want to be bothered with. How can we address this problem?  
Evalyn D.

Hi Evalyn,
Your galvanized pipes are corroding from the inside out. It won’t be long until they start to leak or burst, damaging property, hardwood floors or carpeting, walls and ceilings. Then there’s the repair, texture, prime and paint to the drywall. 
I can tell you what you already know. It’s time for a re-pipe. It’s a big job and an expensive proposition. Also, if the property is more than 32 years old, there’s a chance you have lead paint on the walls so the costs would go even higher due to new EPA regulations.

You can temporarily Band-aid the problem by just unscrewing the aerators from the faucets. Aerators save water by mixing in air, and they also filter out larger minerals and debris.

These larger chunks of mineral deposits collect on the back side of the wire mesh that then block and reduce the amount of water flowing out of the faucet. Once the aerators are removed, the larger granules will flow through unchecked, giving you little rocks in your tea kettle, but better volume until the pipes have been replaced.

We have designed a custom, full-color The Signal/Your Home Improvements T-shirt we will give you if we answer your question. The T-shirt is available to be picked up at our office.

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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