Ask The Expert


Hey Robert,

I serve on a Board of Directors. We have a very long unsightly wall that runs down an alley behind our building. I’ve noticed at the Sepulveda pass they installed walls that look like stone and I’d like to do something similar to our wall. Where would I look to get something like this going and do you know what it’s called? I read your column all of the time–

Gordon F.

Hi Gordon,

At the Sepulveda pass they are pin-shotting the wall and spraying on gunite, which is a cement mixture, as a cap. They are running rods into the mountain to secure the exterior which keeps all of the rock from falling, so it’s a retaining wall.

The first coat of gunite is sprayed over mesh. Once dry, they spray on another coat. It is then shaped and trowled into what looks like rock and dyed. This is how they created the Matterhorn atDisneyland, for example. It’s just wire, like chicken wire that’s formed into the basic shape. Then the gunite is sprayed on at 100 psi.

You could absolutely do something like this on your alley wall. Call a gunite company and find one that does that kind of decorative stone sculptering as most work only with pools or v-ditches.


I’m continuously caulking the floor and the wall of my shower. It’s always lifting or mildewing. What type of caulk is best for this? Thanks–

Ben T.

Hi Ben,

First of all you should never caulk the bottom of a shower, it should be grouted. If you have a void between a wall and tile, clean it out with a groover and regrout.

There’s humidity in the grout and under the tile. Grout does not keep water out from under the tile. It’s the hot mop or rubberized system they used under the tile that keeps the shower from leaking. So there’s water under the tile and grout and that’s why caulk will never stick.

Once you get it cleaned out, get the tile grout from your local hardware store. There is an array of colors available. When you get it regrouted, that will be the end of your problems.

Hi Robert,

What do you think about retrofit windows? Good or bad? Thank you,

Alfonso A.

Hi Alfonoso,

If you’re on a really tight budget and your windows are leaking and causing damage then replace them with what you can afford. If cost is not the primary issue, then I would advise to definitely stay away from retrofit windows.

My experience for the last 30 years has been that, inevitably, retrofit windows will leak. It’s just a matter of time. Personally, I have never set one retrofit window. There is too much liability. Usually within five or so years the caulking around the framework will break down. I was at a complex last week in Sherman Oaks regarding this issue. The developer put in retrofit windows three years ago and every one of them is now leaking.

For me, I would take the time to break 12″ to 18″ of stucco all the way around the old window as needed, install new paper, a new frame, and put in a new window. Do it once, do it right.

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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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