Ask The Expert


Hi Robert,

My wife and I have been arguing about this 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 that the nail, screw, bolt, etc., will pierce the paper which keeps the water out of your house.

Personally, I would never hang any kind of viney material on stucco. It doesn’t let the stucco breathe. It doesn’t let the paper dry when 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 run any nails in 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,

The metal cap of my chimney got blown off and got damaged. It’s basically a big metal piece with a dome. I’ve been looking for a replacement, but am not having much luck. Do you know who sells these things?

Robin O.

Hi Robin,

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

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.

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

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Robert Lamoureux of IMS Construction, Valencia, CA, has 25 years experience as a commercial General, Electrical and Plumbing contractor. The opinions expressed in “Ask the Expert” are not to replace the recommendations made by a qualified contractor after a thorough visual inspection has been made.

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