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Robert Lamoureux: Just say no to nails in stucco

Your Home Improvements

Posted: March 12, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: March 12, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Hi Robert,
My wife and I have been arguing about a situation and we have decided to go with whatever you say.

She wants to nail into our wall to give vines something to hold on to so they will one day cover the wall. I think you said never nail into stucco, but I don’t remember the reason.

Please let us know, if you have time. Thank you again,
Gilbert L.

Hi Gilbert,
You are absolutely right. You never want to nail into stucco, unless you absolutely have to. The reason being is the nail, screw, bolt, etc., will pierce the paper that keeps the water out of your house.

Personally, I would never hang any kind of viny material on stucco. It doesn’t let the stucco breathe. It doesn’t let the paper dry after it gets wet.

After a rain, you want the paper to dry out as soon as possible. Vines keep the moisture against the wall and prevent the sun from hitting the stucco surface. That damp paper just sits there and gets moldy and deteriorates prematurely.
Besides trapping moisture, vines can crawl in through cracks and break your stucco apart.

So, yes, you are correct. My recommendation is do not pound in any nail and do not allow any vines to crawl on the wall.

Since your wife likes the vine look, tell her you have a better idea. Take a piece of lattice and drive it into the ground next to, but away from the wall.

This way, your wall is protected and you will have the appearance of a vine covered wall.  

Hi Robert,
I’m the kind of person who always like to learn new things and do for myself. This is why I enjoy your column. It’s perfect for me.

This is a great time of year for an outdoor fireplace. We’ve always wanted to build one. Are there any regulations we should know about before we hook it up?
Thank you,
Linda W.

Hi Linda,
There are a ton of regulations, especially here in the Santa Clarita Valley, where there is so much brush and the potential for fire.

What I recommend is to do a rendering and take it to the Fire Department office and the Building Department, usually in the same building, and talk to both entities. They will lay all of the groundwork for you, as far as what they are going to require for an outdoor fireplace.

For example, they are going to have you put in spark-arrestors. Anything over
4 feet tall in brick has to be permitted anyway.

Do not build without their guidelines because you do not want to be responsible for catching hillsides on fire. Also, keep in mind that we have to abide by new laws regarding burn days. There are days you can’t operate fireplaces.

I was digging through one of my barns and found an old flagpole that is 24 feet long. I wanted to put it back up with a flag.

How deep of a hole should it go in, and how much concrete should I use?

Dave D.

Hi Dave,
For something like that, I’d recommend you contact the manufacturer.

You want to speak to the people who built that pole and find out exactly what is required. The reason is, wind and movement calculations have been made for that particular type and length of flagpole. It’s not something one should arbitrarily do on your own.

The company that manufactures those poles spends the money to do all of the research to decide exactly what is needed for a safe installation. You do not want a 24-foot high pole coming down on your home or somebody because you didn’t figure in the wind factors and didn’t dig it deep enough or use enough concrete.

Hey Robert,
I’ve got three palm trees that I personally believe were planted too close to our block wall by the previous owner.

Some of the grout is missing on the wall and it looks like maybe the wall is lifting.

Could palms lift a wall?
Darlene S.

Hi Darlene,
Absolutely. If that’s what you’re seeing, unless you’re wealthy and want to replace that wall in a few years, I would recommend to get those trees out of there, and the sooner the better.

The trees will continue to drive that wall out and down. If it’s a wall shared with your neighbor, you are the responsible party.

Don’t get me wrong. I know trees are beautiful, but if they’re planted in such a way that they cause property damage, then they need to be removed. I would definitely pull the trees and replant something that isn’t so destructive, like shrubs. 

Hi Robert,
The metal cap of my chimney got blown off and was damaged. It’s basically a big metal piece with a dome. I’ve been looking for a replacement, but not having much luck.

Do you know who sells these things? 

Robin O.

Hi Robin,
The dome you’re talking about is a spark-arrestor. As the embers go up, they hit that and get broken up before they can get out of the chimney stack and into the air.

You’re going to have to go to a sheet-metal shop and have a new cap fabricated. Take the old one in for measurements.

Chimney caps are generally made out of galvanized steel, so it’s going to have to be neutralized before painting. We use vinegar and water then wipe it down to remove the galvanizing.

Get it primed and painted on the ground before taking it up on the roof to mount it. Chimneys are generally very high, and you don’t want to spend more time up there than necessary. 

This cap will be cumbersome, so you’re going to need some help to get it installed. Don’t install it on a windy day, and don’t use the fireplace until the new cap is replaced.

Also, don’t use nails for the installation. Nails will vibrate themselves out on windy days, which may be the reason your cap got blown down.

Instead, make sure you secure it down with screws. This will hold it tight and keep it up where it belongs.

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.
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