Ask The Expert


I have three lights out in my office building; one downstairs and two upstairs. I had my handyman take a look at it and he said it was a “major electrical problem.” He replaced the bulbs and they still did not work. I will call an electrician but wanted to get an idea of what this might be beforehand.

Thank you,
Oscar T.

Hi Oscar,
From what you’re describing, I don’t think you have anything to worry about. Offices are usually wired in a daisy chain, meaning half of the lights are wired on one circuit and the other half on the other. This way, if you do have electrical problems, the entire building won’t go dark, only half.
Since you only have three lights that are out on two floors, and not every other one, it means that you have an isolated problem to those fixtures. It sounds like you have some bad ballasts. All you need to do is replace those, and you’ll be fine.
To be on the safe side, as with all electrical repairs, I strongly suggest using a qualified electrician.

Hello Robert,
We have a brick planter that is always getting hit by cars as they pull in too close to our business. I’ve noticed that there are pipes in front of gas pumps that I think would work well for us. How do you put these in?

Natalie B.

Hi Natalie,Yes, those would work. They’re called bollards. Don’t use galvanized pipe because it’s not strong enough. Go to a metal supply house and get “black pipe.” This is the same pipe they use in fire sprinkler systems and is very strong. You want to get a minimum of three inches and, ideally, a four inch diameter with one quarter inch wall.
Break out the asphalt or concrete, and dig down far enough to dump at least 800 lbs. of concrete underground. Set the pipe; fill with concrete with a nice round cap on top. Then, paint traffic yellow or use one of the traffic colors.
Unless you own your building, you should check with the Board or Property Owners before making any types of improvements. Once you get approval, you then need to call Dig Alert at 811 before digging. (Any time earth is moved, and it doesn’t matter if it’s only a couple of inches, Dig Alert needs to be contacted beforehand. If not, you could be fined as much as $50,000.)
Once notified, they will come out and mark whatever utilities you may have running underground – fiber optics, phones, electrical, gas, water or sewer. The service is free.
If there are utilities present, they will mark what kind there are, and where, but not the depth. You would then need to contact that particular utility company and ask about the protocol for pouring concrete around their utility lines in your city. If you get the green light, you have to hand-dig 24 inches on either side of the utilities, and proceed with caution to not cut or even nick those lines.

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Robert Lamoureux of IMS Construction, Valencia, CA, has 30 years experience as a commercial General, Electrical and Plumbing contractor. The opinions expressed in “Ask the Expert” are not to replace the recommendations of a qualified contractor after a thorough visual inspection has been made.

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