Your Home Improvements


Hi Robert,
I have a patio made from brick pavers. I swept sand in between the bricks to keep them stationary, so they don’t move from side to side, but they sink. Every couple of years I pull up one corner, spread some dirt, and then put the bricks back. Is there a way to not have this problem?

Victor G.

Hi Victor,
It’s a compaction problem. It’s settling and you’ll probably never get away from that, unless you put in a concrete base or pad. Then you can either set your pavers in a sand bed or in mortar.
Keep in mind that if you use mortar and your concrete cracks, it will transfer up and cause your pavers to crack also. If you stay with a sand bed, the cracks will not transfer through.
The same is true when you are setting tile. You always put a slip sheet down. This way, the tile won’t crack when the concrete slab does.

Hello Mr. Lamoureux,
I’ve got a question about space heaters. I always hear that they are responsible for many fires every year, but how? All the ones that I have will automatically turn off if they tip over. I like using them and see them as being very safe.

Thank you,
Alex W.

Hi Alex,
Space heaters are among the most common causes of house fires. There are precautions you should take and dangers you should be aware of before using them. Here are some safety tips as recommended by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission:
Only use heaters that have been tested and certified by an OSHA recognized testing laboratory like Underwriters or Wyle.
Make sure that your heater has a protective guard around the flame or heating element.
Children or animals should not be left alone in a room with a space heater.
Like the labels say, keep the heater at least 3 feet away from everything.
Don’t place the heater under something that may drop on it from above, like a towel.
Always turn the heater off before going to sleep. Many fires are started each year by a pillowcase or sheet coming in contact with the heating element while sleeping.
Never place anything directly on the heater. Some people will dry clothes or shoes on them.
Specifically for electric space heaters:
As you mentioned, use only newer heaters that have the automatic shut off switch.
Don’t use electric heaters in the bathroom or wet areas due to possibility of electric shock.
Never run the cords under rugs or carpeting. This can cause the cord to overheat.
It’s always best to plug a heater directly into the receptacle. Only use an extension cord, a heavy duty # 14 or # 12 AWG, when absolutely necessary.
For Gas or Kerosene heaters –
Always buy the proper size heater for the room. The wrong sized heater might produce too many pollutants.
If you use an unvented fuel burning heater, keep the doors to your home open to help vent the pollutants.
Do not place gas or kerosene heaters on rugs or carpets and only use 1-K grade kerosene in a kerosene heater.

Submit your questions to: 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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