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Dear Mr. Lamoureux,

My wife continues to use the word cement when she should be saying concrete. Please explain the difference so I can show it to her and settle this once and for all. Thank you,

Dean D.

Hi Dean,

Well, I want to be careful about getting in the middle of a family dispute. I don’t want an angry wife after me.

Just a brief history, concrete or “artificial stone” was invented by the ancient Romans. The mixture they used, which has basically remained unchanged to this day, constructed the Coliseum which is still standing after two thousand years.

Concrete is the finished product of three aggregates: a fine (sand), a course (rock) and the Portland cement that is mixed with water. The water and the cement act as a catalyst, as a bonding agent, to the sand and rock. So cement is only the binding agent, but I do hear that all the time. People will say they are going to pour cement instead of concrete.

Hi Robert,

I have a single family home that is about 40 years old. The garage floor is completely cracked out. Is there any reason why I couldn’t put a layer of concrete over the floor? Thanks,

Kim C.

Hi Kim,

In most homes, when you step from the garage into the house, the rise is generally 4” to 5”. The purpose for that rise or step is to create a safety barrier. If your car were to leak oil or gasoline, for example, the rise would prevent those fluids from running inside your home.

Code requires the minimum clearance between the slab and the threshold to the house to be a minimum of 4 inches. Let’s say your current rise is at 4 inches. If you come in and add 1 inch or concrete, you would only have a 3 inch step which is both becomes unsafe and a code violation – and there is never a good reason to violate a building code.

The right way to proceed on this job would be to demo and break the entire slab out and repour and pin with steel. While you’re at it, put a heavy visqueen plastic down, a minimum of 6 mils. This will act a moisture barrier to prevent water from wicking up through the slab due to static pressure. ithout a moisture barrier in your home slab, your carpets and floors would be wet because concrete is porous.

Hi Robert,

I called a plumber who told me I do not need a permit to change a hot water heater. Is that true?

Kana L.

Hi Kana,

No, that is not true. You absolutely need a permit to change out a water heater.

The inspector will want to see that the heater is installed properly, has the fire board under it, that it is in a ventilated space and that the exhaust ducts are mounted properly and sealed in tape. He will also check for the earthquake strap.

When a plumber says you don’t need permits, it raises a lot of red flags. If I were you, I would look for a reputable, licensed plumber to pull the necessary permits and do the job right. This is a life safety issue. Don’t take any chances.

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

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