Your Home Improvements: Window trim is not for the birds

Pigeon on the window trim - signal newspaper valencia

Question #1

Hi, Robert. I know you’ve written about certain materials to use for custom garage cabinets. Actually, reading that article sparked my interest and now I’m working on planning my same project out.

I do have a question, though. I want to enclose my water heater and furnace that are both in the garage, but I worry about the ventilation. I don’t want to have these be eyesores in the rest of the clean look, so what is the answer?

How do I make it look uniform by covering these in cabinets, yet give them the necessary ventilation? Do I need to install fans in there?

I’m not going to proceed without your guidance, so I’m hopeful that you get this and are able to help. I sent photos also. Can you please help? Kyle S.


Answer #1

Kyle, the best thing to do is use a 2-inch hole saw and core several holes along the bottom of the cabinet door to allow any gas that might leak to escape. The gas is heavier than air and falls to the ground.

The 2-inch holes along the bottom allow the gas to escape. Good luck; you’ll enjoy having a custom garage.


Question #2

I am a board of directors member at a home owners association. We are in a four-story building that has roof access from within the building. I have been told that our gate that is just outside the door on the rooftop is not up to code.

I’m told that the bars are too far apart and the entire thing is not high enough, plus the latching system isn’t what it should be.

Please look at the pictures and tell me what you see and what the standards are. If we aren’t meeting the standards, do we have to have this whole thing rebuilt or is there something we can do to make it right – that won’t cost as much as a whole new gate/fence?

Sandra C.


Answer #2

Sandra, no, the gate is not to code. This gate that’s just outside the rooftop door is to prevent a toddler from opening the door and falling off the roof; it keeps them confined to the door area.

The parapet, which is the wall that surrounds the rooftop, is too low and is a danger to children, so this gate is necessary. Looking at the photos, the pickets are too far apart from each other and the self-closing mechanism is missing.

This gate should be self-closing and self-latching. You can either add pickets or put expanded metal all the way around to keep a child from getting stuck in the picket.

A self-closing spring or closer needs to be added, and the latch must latch when let go. I would put this as a No. 1 priority for your association; this is nothing to leave alone, even for another day. Good luck.


Question #3

Hi, Robert. Thanks for your weekly wisdom! I have a home here in Valencia and the birds have been picking at my window trim. I just found out that it’s Styrofoam underneath the stucco trim. What on earth?

How do I fix this, and how do I keep the birds from doing this again?

Susan H.


Answer #3

Susan, yes, the trim these days is Styrofoam, called Plant On. To repair this, fill the void with Bondo and shape it to its original configuration, then allow to dry.

You can purchase some stucco and apply that over the Bondo. Do not sand the Bondo too smooth; you’ll need a bit of texture to allow the stucco to bond.

Allow all this to dry and then paint to match. As far as the birds, there must have been a small opening to begin with and this gave them a starting point. A situation like this usually begins that way.

Birds don’t just pick through stucco, if they did they would have eaten our houses by now. I think that once you take care of this “opportunity” for the birds, you won’t have an issue any longer. Good luck.


Question #4

Hi, Robert. I am in need of repairing the wood trim that encases the pillars near my front door; it is rotting. Would you recommend replacing with wood again or should I use a plastic or that Styrofoam product that is being used around windows now, which you’ve mentioned?

Thank you for always helping those of us who have what are probably silly questions with patience. Your advice really does help! Sally L.


Answer #4

As far as the choice between Plant On or synthetic material goes, as long as there is a post under the overlay, then it’s up to you and how you’d like to have it completed. Often, cost is the deciding factor, as well as if you are doing this work on your own or hiring a contractor.

Some people think that if they choose synthetic, they can let the water still hit the area. Unfortunately, the moisture still gets beyond the trim and eventually you’ll end up with a rotting structure under the trim.

Good luck with this.

Robert Lamoureux has 38 years of experience as a general contractor, with separate licenses in electrical and plumbing contracting. He owns IMS Construction Inc. in Valencia. His opinions are his own, not necessarily those of The Signal. Opinions expressed in this column are not meant to replace the recommendations of a qualified contractor after that contractor has made a thorough visual inspection. Email questions to Robert at [email protected].

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