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Hello Robert,

Now that the summer is around the corner, my wife wants me to build a planter box. We are thinking about using a red brick and using the stucco wall of the house as basically the fourth side. The more I think about this though, the more it seems I should not have wet or even damp dirt up constantly against my house. Would this be a problem? Thank you,

Pete W.

Hi Pete,

You’re right. Use the brick to build the fourth side.

Stucco is not designed to keep water out of your house. There’s paper under the stucco that will protect the house, but not if there is constant exposure to water. Eventually the paper will deteriorate and will leak. It would just be a matter of time and would probably happen in less than one year.

The right way to build the planter would be to construct all four sides, have it free standing, and pull it away from the house about 1—2 inches to give it some breathing room. This would also allow the water to escape from your home’s wall if there is a weep screed. You can put in weep holes along the bottom of the planter so that any excess water will leach out.

You are also going to want to seal the inside of the planter. Many times I’ve seen where somebody has used roofing tar like Henry’s 208. They’ll smear it on and think everything is fine, but it is far from waterproofed. Henry’s is a roofing mastic and is great for sealing roof vents, but is not designed to be buried underground.

I would recommend a product called BT (bituthene). It’s an elastomeric, rubberized system. Once you get your four walls up and complete, make sure you brown coat – taking portland cement and sand and smooth out all of your grout lines on the inside of the planter. You want it to be all at one, true level. Let that dry out for a couple of weeks then come back and apply a 30 mil coat of BT and let dry for 24 hours. Then apply a second 30 mil coat. Now, you are waterproof. This will prevent water from saturating your mortar and brick and causing damage.

You would then put in a protective Styrofoam-type board to protect the BT from rocks and roots during the backfill. We use Amacore board for this application. Whatever board is left above grade can be trimmed with a razor knife.

We see it done all of the time at homes and condos, but never use your home as the fourth wall of a planter. If you follow the steps above you’ll be fine.

Hey Robert,

I’m having an RV pad poured. A contractor tells me I need 6 inches of concrete. Is that overkill? Wouldn’t 4 be enough? I just want to be sure, thank you,

Mel W.

Hi Mel,

He’s right. I would not only use a minimum of 6” of concrete, but in the path of the carriage, under the wheels, I would install at least 1/2” rebar to reinforce those areas.

If you were to only put in 4”, the concrete would eventually crack under the weight of the bus.

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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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