Ask The Expert


Hello Robert,

I own a commercial building on Wilshire Boulevard. The face is old brick — about 20 feet tall — that has been there for 100 years. What do you recommend to prevent it from falling on someone in the event of an earthquake? Thank you very much,


Hi M.L.,

I’d have the brick removed and then either go to a wooden or stucco front. Personally, I like stucco because it screams maintenance free. Put it up and forget about it for years.

Hi Robert,

A few months ago I wrote to you about plantons. You were right; it’s not that difficult to really make a nice difference in the appearance of my house. My house used to be flat and plain and now looks beautiful. Thank you!

Can I put on a 100 or 200 base stucco finish for the top coat and leave it in the original color? Or can I paint it or dye it? What is your recommendation? Thank you again,

Juliet J.

Hi Juliet,

You always want to use dye. Whenever you put paint on any surface, it becomes a maintenance issue down the line. If it’s dyed and impregnated into the stucco, then you’ve got 15+ years of zero maintenance involved.

I would take the base, use the 100 or 200 at your preference, and add dye. Even if it’s a shade off of the color you truly want, I think you’ll be a lot happier this way.

Hi Robert,

I read your column every week. I’m a Board member for our HOA and we had an enclosure wall fall down on us. We’re wondering — can we reuse the same foundation and do we have to call the building department for permits? Thank you,

Hector G.

Hi Hector,

If the wall was over four courses tall, then you’ll need a building permit.

It’s not a foundation; it’s a footing for the block. The City will want to ascertain if the footing can be re-used or if it has to be demolished and re-poured. The inspector will tell you how he wants it pinned.

Generally, the contractor you hire for the work can tell you that information, but once you pull your permits, the City Inspector can come out for a site visit and let you know.

Hi Robert,

After the rain, I discovered the backyard drains don’t work at all. I tried to snake them out and for some reason, the cable stops after 10 feet. It’s like it just hits a wall under there. What do you do when this happens? Sincerely,

Gene J.

Hi Gene,

It could be anything under there. It could be tree roots, or mud, or you could be hitting a 90 degree turn. Unfortunately, some contractors use 90 degree fittings instead of using long sweeps. A sweep would allow the cable to make the turn. If the cable hits a 90 degree turn, it will just keep burrowing straight ahead. You have to be careful, especially if it’s a power cable or it will drill a hole right through the fitting.

You may have to excavate to make the repairs. Once you get it all exposed, clean the obstruction and/or change the 90’s into sweeps so the lines can be serviced in the future.

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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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