Your Home Improvements: Backyard BBQ, sink holes

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My name is Angela and I’m the manager for a mobile home park here in town, and have mixed responses from vendors that I’ve contacted for this.

Please see the photos that I have provided and give me your expert advice on this situation.

We have the sink hole that you see, and it seems to be an emergency situation to many, and not to others.

Please give us your advice! We don’t know which way to turn, what is the best procedure for this? -Angela


This doesn’t seem to be an emergency to me, though you will need to cone this area off and not allow vehicles to pass over/near it.

If this hole is not growing at a fast rate, I’ll caution you about labeling this situation as an emergency, when it comes to notifying the authorities.

From the looks of it I’d say that it is not due to a main water line break, because you’d likely see water coming out of the asphalt. My best guess is that this is a sewage line break or perhaps, a fissure.

The only way to tell is to dig and find your source. You do need to get a contractor out there soon, but this will be a situation where Digalert needs to be contacted prior to any digging, whatsoever.

Digalert is the main contact for anyone digging. They are to be contacted with the property address, dig location and date, and you need to confirm that the dig area has been marked with white paint so that when the representatives for each utility arrive, then know where you’ll be digging and they can provide feedback on whether or not their utility lines will be affected.

Do not allow any digging to commence until all utilities have given their pass, because if you or your contractor/representatives dig and hit a line, you now own all of the damage and the cost can run in the hundreds of thousands of dollars depending on the amount of damage.

Also, depending on what the utilities find, you could be having to hand dig. If any lines are near your site, then machine operations are not an option, as the risk of hitting the utility lines is too high. Hand digging will bump up your labor costs, as it will take much more time to perform this task.

Your contractor should be able to provide a “not to exceed” cost of this portion, so that you have an idea of what the initial costs to the HOA will be. The contractor will not be able to determine the overall costs until they can find the source, but then they should be able to give you approximate costs to complete the job.


I’ve enjoyed your columns over the years and now I’m hoping you can help me.

I have a built-in BBQ in my Valencia backyard that needs a new counter top. It is currently tile on concrete, but the tiles are falling off. There is rebar holding a plywood sheet supporting a concrete slab on which the tiles are cemented (see picture).

I figure I have several choices:

  1. Re-build it with tile with metal u-channel screwed to the brick, some sort of concrete backer board screwed to metal channel and new tile mortared or glued to backer board. I’d still like to rest the BBQ unit on the tile top just like the current set up. I’m pretty handy and would like to do this myself. But would I have the same problem with tiles falling off in a few years?

2. Seems pricey, but will this be the best option?

3. Concrete top. Not sure I could do this, but what are the advantages/disadvantages and price for this?

4. I could not do this, but what are the advantages/disadvantages and price for this?

Can I rest the BBQ on the counter top in all these options like in my current set-up? Is this safe? Is there a better way?

I’ve attached pictures of what the BBQ looks like now and a sketch of what I’d like to do. Thanks! –Jeff


Thanks for being a reader of the Signal. Great information you sent, it helps a lot.

The tile is man-made and will eventually fail, much like you are experiencing now.

My recommendation is to go to a natural stone; granite, flag stone or similar products. You can go to American Building Supply here in town and you’ll have many products to choose from.

When you redo the table top, be sure to replace any of the rotted substrate that’s damaged, and install bituthene (rubberized water proofing) water proofing on top of that to prevent water damage to the plywood.

If you go back to tile, this will occur again in time because the water gets in the grout and then breaks down the mortar, causing the failure with the tile.

The concrete you asked about can spall (start to crumble) in time, taking you back to where you are now with damage, because it is also a porous material.

As far as the metal, this also will cause you problems with rusting over time.

I’m a believer in as little maintenance as I can so I try to choose materials that will outlast most. As I can see in the photos the BBQ was done correctly and the new stone will allow you to use the BBQ in the same fashion, and as long as you make proper installation with waterproofing materials, you’ll not have to revisit this for many years to come. Good luck.

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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