Ask The Expert

Hello Robert,

I have some 2 x 4 in the middle of my driveway in the concrete that is lifting up. I can see there were nails that held it down at one time. I want to replace it with bricks or some flat rock and piece it in. What’s the best way to go about this?

Will B.

Hi Will,

That wood you’re referring to is sun wood. This is an old, out-dated style that was used back in the 1970s. It was primarily used around pools. Those nails are what held it inside the concrete. As those nails rusted out and the wood got old, it would start curling. When it’s new it looks nice, but after 5–10 years, you typically get those kinds of problems.

To put in your ribbon, sawcut the width of whatever material you want to use. First you’ll want to lay out the brick or flagstone in a pattern you like. Once you find a good design, mark that out with chalk and sawcut the concrete. Allow yourself at least ¼” to ½” on each side.

Excavate down and put in at least 4” of concrete or 6” of compacted sand as a base. Concrete is the preferred option. Let that cure and then add a mortar bed on top of that and start setting either your brick or flagstone.

Without that strong base, the new masonry will sink with the weight of the cars and will start looking bad in a year or two.

Hi Robert,

We live in Valencia and enjoy your column. We are currently in the middle of a bathroom remodel and will be moving our toilet over 4 feet. I’m in a huge battle with my wife because she wants me to use permits and I’m telling her this qualifies me as an owner-builder so I don’t need permits. I told her I would write in. Thanks,

Hank F.

Hi Hank,

You need to pull permits. Moving a toilet involves venting, which has to be done right. Go to the Building and Safety in Santa Clarita. They are so streamlined in there — compared to any other municipality, the city of Santa Clarita is a joy to work with. They’re easy, they get you in and out, and the inspectors are really good guys.

My recommendation is to do the right thing. We’re talking about a minimal permit fee. I strongly urge you to do it. There are venting issues involved and this is critical so you get the proper flow in your toilet as well as sewer gasses.

With this kind of job, there are subtleties that you may not know that the inspector will bring to your attention. If he does, you’ll get a correction notice. Then you’ll know that you will have done it right.

Hi Robert,

How do you calculate the size of a header when framing out an opening?

Lynn S.

Hi Lynn,

A rule of thumb is to use a 4” x (1” for every linear foot of span). So, if you have a 14’ opening, you would use a 4” x 14” header. However, whenever you are working something like this, have an engineer take a look at it. 

Submit questions to: robert@imsconstruction.com.

Robert Lamoureux of IMS Construction, Valencia, CA, has 30 years experience as commercial General, Electrical and Plumbing contractor. The opinions expressed in “Your Home Improvements” are not to replace the recommendations of a qualified contractor after a thorough visual inspection has been made.

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