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Robert Lamoureux: What about those concrete cracks?

Your Home Improvements

Posted: October 22, 2010 9:52 p.m.
Updated: October 23, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Hey Robert,
We pulled up our carpeting to replace with tile, but the concrete slab has hairline cracks. Is this a problem? Thank you, keep up the good work.
Tom M.

Hi Tom,

For spider cracks like you are describing, no, there is no need for alarm. It is the nature of concrete to crack. 
If you have areas that have lifted or if the cracks are 1/4” wide or more, then you would need to have someone take a look and make the necessary repairs. 

Before you install the tile, I would suggest putting a slip sheet down to prevent crack transfers.  Most contractors will use roofing felt for the slip sheet, or you can use rosin paper. It acts as a separation between the concrete and the tile so the energy released from the concrete slab when it cracks will not transfer up and crack the tile. 

Hello Robert,
I live in an apartment but I read your column all the time. We had our bathroom painted about two weeks ago and the paint is already starting to bubble on one wall. The manager said it’s because we take our showers too hot. Does that sound right to you? Thank you for your time,
Rita L.

Hi Rita,

The paint should not be bubbling like that. It didn’t adhere well when painted. It just needs to scraped and repainted. 
Do you have a window in the bathroom you can open after a shower? If not, you should let the exhaust fan run with the door open for at least 15-20 minutes to get the air circulating and clear out the humidity. 

Hi Robert,
We have a below-grade storage area that flooded last year. Apparently, water seeps in through a crawl space and into the storage area, damaging drywall, flooring, etc. The contractors came out and waterproofed the wall and said it took care of the problem. We just had a little rain and it is starting to flood again. It already has that wet-towel smell. I’d like to know exactly what we need to do to fix this problem once and for all. Thank you for your answer,
Cliff M.

Hi Cliff,

We had a similar problem with one of the properties we work with. The solution we designed was to put in a pump system. We excavated the interior of the perimeter wall and put in a drain with a perforated leach line. We put a sock over the drain to keep out the mud and backfilled it with rock, which allows the water to percolate down to the drain more effectively. Over the rock we installed an earthen cloth, then replaced the dirt on top.

At the low point, we excavated three feet deep and installed a 30-gallon drum with the pump placed inside. This is an additional measure that helps keep the mud out and minimizes the maintenance. 

With this type of system, the water is channeled down into the drum, activating the pump, which then discharges the water safely out to the storm drain. 

After all of these years, my preference for pumps is Zoeller. They’re the most durable and maintenance-free pumps.

Hi Robert,
I am a new board president of a 5-story building in Beverly Hills. While researching a possible solution, I found your column.

Our water usage has suddenly gone up and we are being charged for an additional 6,000 gallons. We have no idea where this water is going. Our facilities people have looked for leaks and have not found anything. I called the water company and had the meters rechecked. The company said no mistakes have been made. Please offer your recommendations of what we can do to ascertain the location and cause of this leak. Thank you very much in advance,

Diane P.

Hi Diane,
On a five story, you’re going to have a riser within the building. If you have not already run an isolation test, the first thing to do is to shut down the riser. After you get the building valved down, go out to the street where the meter is located. If the meter is spinning, that means you have a leak somewhere between the meter and the riser. The water is going underground, and there’s a possibility you would not see it. 

If the meter is not spinning, then there are no leaks — which means individuals are either over-abusing the water supply or you have a combination of toilets and valves running and/or dripping within the building.  

It doesn’t take much to waste a lot of water. For example, let’s say you have 30 units in your five story building. If they each just have one faucet that drips once per second, that adds up to 5,000 gallons of wasted water every month. 

If toilets have a bad flapper and are continuously running, the numbers add up very quickly. Water Sense, an EPA partner, estimates the average home wastes approximately 10,000 of water a year which is enough to fill a swimming pool. That means if your homeowners are average, those 30 units would be wasting a total of 25,000 gallons a month.

Of course, any leak should be addressed immediately. It’s a wasted resource and a waste of money.  Although many homeowners simply don’t care until they are fined for over-usage. 

What I would recommend would be hire an experienced plumber and have him or her go door-to-door to check every unit. Have him or her inspect every single faucet and toilet. Sometimes the toilet flappers start to disintegrate and allow water to constantly drain.     
Toilets, stems and washers all fall back to the homeowner. If the HOA is being fined for homeowner neglect, let the homeowner pay for his or her own misuse.

Additionally, mandate that all homeowners are responsible to have the repairs made and revisit in two weeks to make sure whatever was documented had been fixed.

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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