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By Robert Lamoureux: Always hire a licensed contractor

Your Home Improvements

Posted: April 23, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: April 23, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Hi Robert,
I had some concrete work done about a year ago. It’s a “stamp” finish and it looked beautiful, but now it has started pulling away from the house by at least an inch. There is also cracking in the center about a 1/2 inch wide. I called the concrete company and was told the problem is because the soil is moving. The contractor said it is not his fault. He said that he can’t guarantee against cracks because that’s typical. Now I can’t open my gate. I was happy with the price, but now I’m not happy with the work. What do I do? Is there anything I can do? I’m really at a loss and the contractor has stopped returning my calls.
Jenny B.

Hi Jenny,

Hopefully, you hired a licensed concrete contractor. The unlicensed guys have a way of disappearing when faced with problems.

Spider cracking in concrete is typical, but 1/2 an inch? No.

If it’s pulling away from your home, that means it was not pinned properly. The correct procedure would be to core and install rebar that ties the new pour up against the building. This is a typical result when concrete is poured and not tied to the foundation — you can get slippage and separation. 

It also sounds like the soil underneath was not compacted before the slab was poured.

If the company is no longer responding to you, then it’s obvious the contractor has no intention of coming back out to your home to make this right.

I suggest calling the California State Contractor’s License Board and find out what they can do for you. You have a legitimate complaint, but keep in mind, the board is inundated with complaints like this. Unfortunately, there are many so-called contractors that do shoddy work, get a check and run for the hills. 

Your next step would be to contact the board. Send the board photographs and a copy of the contract with all relevant dates and information. The board will work on your side to get this resolved. The board can require the contractor to return your money or come back and do the job right. 

Based on what you’re describing, the entire slab will need to be demolished. Next time make sure you use a reputable and licensed contractor that compacts the soil before the pour, uses mesh and pins the slab to the foundation. The size of the crack in the center is indicative of no mesh being used. 

Again, there are many fly-by-night contractors in the industry. You, as the homeowner, need to be especially aware of who you are dealing with. Work only with licensed contractors. Ask questions. Check references and get everything in writing.

If a homeowners association had hired the contractor to do work at your house you would have no claim. The HOA would, because of their contractual relationship. Since you are the person who has suffered damages, then you have a legal right to go after the contractor. 
Hi Robert,
I read your articles from time to time, but after this I’m going to start reading full time. I had some leaks in my living room ceiling during the recent rains. I have a home with a tiled deck that comes off of my master bedroom, which sits right above the part of the living room ceiling that got wet. I’ve had several contractors inspect the ceiling and they are all telling me different things. Some are telling me the drywall needs to be removed, one says stucco has to be replaced, one tells me the deck is bad and the other tells me it’s the tar under the deck that is bad. I don’t know who to listen to. I’m a widow and I feel like they may be trying to take advantage of me. Thank you very much,
Jess J.

Hi Jess,

Wet drywall is a recipe for mold so you need to have that taken out if you haven’t already done so, and leave it open until the source of the leak has been repaired.   

All the contractors may have their own theories, but until a water test is performed, no one can know for sure where the leak is originating. It very well may be the paper has failed behind the stucco, or the deck, or the threshold, window, roof, etc. — but to be certain a water test needs to be conducted.

We know for sure that the water is traveling down onto your living room ceiling. To conduct a water test post a person at the hole, once the wet drywall is removed, to check the spot for more water intrusion while the exterior of the building is tested with a hose. When it leaks again, then you’ve found the problem, but there may be more than one cause of the leak. 

Hello Robert,
I want to make a work area in my car garage as sound and fire resistant as possible — welding will be performed. What insulating and wall covering material should I consider?
Dale T.

Hi Dale,
You could install sound deadening board or “soundboard” with one or two sheets of regular or soundproof drywall — sometimes called soundproof sheetrock or quietrock, on top. Drywall is fire resistant, but if you want something more effective, go with Type X drywall — 1/2 inch Type X has a 45-minute fire resistance rating; 5/8 inch drywall has a one-hour rating; and 3/4 inch Type X drywall has a two-hour rating — per sheet. 

Instead of the soundboard, depending on your budget, there is a product called AcoustiBlok which is a rubber membrane — a viscoelastic polymer, that is very effective against noise. A 1/8 inch layer of this material, 3 milimeter, on a standard stud wall will give you more sound reduction than one foot of concrete.

More and more homeowners are now soundproofing individual rooms or entire homes. Many communities in California enforce residential noise standards of 60 decibels during the day and 55 decibels at night, imposed by the environmental protection agency which states, “noise degrades quality of life by impairing communication and social interaction; reducing the accuracy of work, particularly complex tasks; and creating stressful levels of frustration and aggravation that last even when the noise has ceased.” 

The 55 decibels/60 decibels level is not much. It’s about the noise level of normal conversational speech at 3 feet. 

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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