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Robert Lamoureux: Keep your water off of city property

Your Home Improvements

Posted: January 7, 2011 9:12 p.m.
Updated: January 8, 2011 4:55 a.m.

Hello Robert,
Because of the rains, I had a flood in my back yard. I have a wall that is adjacent to the city sidewalk. When my backyard looked like a swimming pool, I put a hole in the wall so that the water would drain out and across the sidewalk. I’ve been told I was not allowed to do that. I don’t know what I should do. Thanks,
Shadi C.

Hi Shadi,
It’s hard to say without seeing the configuration of your yard, but it sounds like it was not graded properly. 

If your backyard is dirt, and you have just low-lying areas, you can bring in some loads of dirt and raise the level so that the water doesn’t flood. This way, it would force the water to the front of your property and to the deck drains. 

I have seen grading problems where the best solution is to tear everything out during the summer months and start from scratch. Regrade to raise the level to pitch towards the drains or street.

Another alternative would be to dig a pit and put in a sump pump. You can buy the pumps in a plastic drum, which is buried in the lowest spot. You would also need to run some permitted electrical lines for power. Hook up your discharge line to the nearest area drain. 

Another option would be to go under the sidewalk and core the curb, with permits, which requires a engineer’s site visit and plans. But no, you cannot discharge water onto city property.

Hi Robert,
I’m not good at math, but I want to figure out how many yards of concrete I’m going to need for a sidewalk job. Many thanks,
Frank D.

Hi Frank,
For flat work, you get roughly 80 square feet per yard of concrete at 3 1/2” to 4” deep per yard. 

Before the pour, make sure you don’t have any areas more than 4” deep. Set your forms, backfill any low spots with dirt or a plaster washed sand to bring the level up to the 4” mark.

Remember to compact any dirt you bring in for the backfill. If not, water can get up under it and will undermine the concrete and cause it to shift or sink. For the most part, plaster washed sand self-compresses and it pretty much packs itself, but you still want to put some pressure on it. Wet it down with some water and let it set overnight. 

If the sidewalk is up against the side of a house, take pieces of rebar, core and epoxy which will keep the concrete from floating away from the building. 

Mr. Home Improvements,
I’m in the market to replace several windows in my home and was wondering what you think of Milgard?  Thank you, 
Lloyd F.

Hi Lloyd,
I like Milgard. The Presidential line features some of the best windows available, in my opinion. They’re not that much more expensive than your average window, and you get a lifetime guarantee. For as long as you own your home, the windows have a warranted. 

As long as they are installed correctly — the proper nailing pattern and so on, Milgard is unbelievable about honoring the warranty. Although I’ve had a couple of problems over the years, there was never a question. The company stands behind its product. 

Hi Robert,
We’ve spent a lot of maintenance money on the entry gates to our community. We just replaced the loops and circuit board. Now our gate won’t open again, and we are being told that the loop detector is bad. Are these types of expenses common or is this indicative of a bad gate company? Thank you,
Mel W.

Hi Mel,
It’s just like anything else. It really depends on how much wear and tear that gate has. How much is that gate opening and closing? Average would be twice a day per vehicle. Weekends has probably more traffic due to vehicles coming in and out all day. 

If you have 50 homes in your community with two cars per family, then that’s an average of 100 cars in and out per day. So that’s 200 opens and 200 closes per day, not including trips to school, shopping, landscapers, other workers, deliveries, UPS, Fedex, etc. 

By comparison, if I’m driving my car for a living, I may put on 50,000 miles a year, as opposed to the little old lady in Pasadena who only drives to church and back. Naturally, my car is going to wear out sooner. The same principle applies to gates. 

We’ve been working with gates for 30 years now and have a lot of experience with all the different operators and equipment. Some gate operator brands are better than others, but none are 100-percent foolproof. They don’t do well in high winds. The more surface area of the gate, the more stress is placed on the operator and the crank arms. 

There are a lot of moving parts involved that must be maintained. There is the electrical, the electronics and the gearing. Also, many HOAs don’t service their gates on a regular basis. So the loads on the motor, gear box, clutch and components are all magnified.    

On the electronics side, low voltage equipment is not regulated — and there is a lot of junk being bought and sold out there.

As far as your circuit boards, loops and detectors being burned out — yes, it’s the nature of the beast. Replacing your boards, loops, limit assemblies, etc., have nothing to do with the loop detector. They work and go bad independently.

But routine maintenance will help extend the life of your equipment.

For example, during the winter, ants will tend to crawl up inside the operator to the circuit boards because they are seeking the heat of the low voltage transformers. The moisture on the bodies of the ants will short out the circuit. We see this often. 

When it comes to low-voltage in the winter, spray your equipment with an insecticide to keep the ants away. Be careful though, sometimes snakes crawl up in the housing as well.

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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