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Robert Lamoureux: Permits are necessary for safety

Your Home Improvements

Posted: November 19, 2010 10:23 p.m.
Updated: November 20, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Hello Robert,
I read your column all of the time. I’ve been reading for about three years now and haven’t missed one yet. I will be putting up a small patio cover, 8 feet wide and 12 feet long and I’m not sure if I need permits for the installation. Thank you in advance for your time.
Henry P.

Hi Henry,

Thank you. Your patio cover does require permits because of the load and safety issues involved. The load would be the roof suspended from the house. The safety issues are if it were to come down, it could hurt someone or damage property. Any overhead structure will require permits.

The plans have to be drawn, then brought into the city to pull the permits. If there is a deck involved, then you’ll have footings to be calculated. They will tell you how many, how deep and how wide. Even the waterproofing agent you use for the roof adds weight and needs to be addressed.   

Hello Robert,
I’m a board member of an homeowners’ association. I know you’re not a big advocate of retrofits, and we’ve got several units with retrofit windows that need to be replaced. The problem is that attached to the stucco, there is simulated wood/styrofoam mounted to it that is butted right against the windows. How do we replace the windows without damaging the styrofoam? Many thanks,
Juliet J.

Hi Juliet,

I was on a job this morning with the identical situation — replacing retrofit windows that have styrofoam (planton) borders. 

To answer your question, the bottom line is, you can’t. The planton will have to come off when you pull the windows. The solution is to demo out around the perimeter of the planton and remove all of it.

After the new windows are installed and the stucco repaired, come back and install new plantons. There are a couple of options available. You can buy the raw material, shape it to match the existing, apply the fiberglass and install; or, you get the styrofoam ready to go, already with fiberglass and basically brown-coated, that is then mounted to the wall. 

This is a lot of work and expense, but if you don’t want the retrofit windows, it’s the right way to do the job. If you’re wondering, you must pull permits. I know this is something I bring up often, but permits are required to protect you, your family and your property. In this case, you’d have to let the Building Department see the nailing pattern to make sure the new windows don’t fall out. No matter who is doing the installation, make sure you get permits. Do it once, do it right.

One more thing regarding retrofit windows — I’m not a fan at all. I will not install them. After 30 years, my experience is it’s not a question of if they will start leaking, but when. Additionally, we do not support the aesthetics of retrofit windows.

Standards should be adhered to that have been approved by the board. If individual homeowners install retrofit windows, each with different styles and frameworks, then you will soon have a hodge-podge of unsightly windows with no uniformity within the association. With this, property values decrease and property damage increases.
Hello Robert,
I have never done this before, but I am going to try to do some concrete work myself. I’m fairly handy and think I can handle it. I want to pour a slab and I understand the concrete has to be screeted, floated, troweled and edged. I don’t think this will be a problem. But how do I figure out how much concrete I need for a given area? I’ll be pouring an area 17’ x 17’. Thank you,

Hi BL,

The easiest way to calculate this, without all of the mathematical terms, is one yard of concrete will cover approximately 80 square feet if you’re pouring a 4” slab. 

You’re looking at 289 sq. ft. Unless you have a few friends that want to come over and help you hand mix, I would absolutely have it delivered so you don’t break your back. However, you’re going to do it — trucked in or pumped in — if it’s in the back yard you’ll have to pump it in. So, you’d tell the concrete company you need a pump and a pea gravel mix. They will automatically know you are pouring a slab. 

At 80 sq. ft. per yard and 289 sq. ft. to pour, order 4 yards which gives you enough for 320 sq. ft. This will give you a little insurance and will make up for any low spots in the ground. Besides, it’s a lot better to have a little extra concrete left over than to have to stop, buy bags of concrete, mix it up and get it poured before the rest of the slab bangs up.

If it’s an exterior slab, make sure you have a good slope for drainage. Also, you don’t want any bird baths or low spots that will give you puddles of water every time you hose down. Remember to put in V cracks as you’re pouring. Put your felt at the cold joints.

Hi Robert,
I’ve got an older cabin in Big Bear. The toilet’s flange in the concrete floor is rotted away. Could you please tell me how to go about repairing this? Do I have to break out the concrete then repair the toilet then repair the floor? Thank you,
Patrick G.

Hi Patrick,

No, you don’t need to demo the floor. What you can do is buy a retrofit flange. Break out the rotted one and surface mount the new one by bolting it to the floor.

These kits come with everything you need to retrofit and are available for wood or concrete floors.  Put the new wax ring down and rebolt your toilet.     

Before walking away, make sure everything is tight, sealed and your wax ring is not leaking. 

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 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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