– BarbaraBarbara, Thank you for your call. I understand that the technology is not easy for you so a phone call is always welcomed, not a problem. What you were told by your contractor is true, any building pre-1978 is at risk of having been put together with materials that contained both lead and asbestos. Your contractor should have been up-front with you in the beginning by checking the year of your home first and put this into his bid. But, he is definitely correct in that the area being worked on needs to be tested and possibly abated of dangerous materials. The abatement of the materials needs to be done by a certified abatement company, as the abatement needs to be done in a very controlled manner with the proper containment and disposal of materials. Once the area is clear then construction can resume and you will be just fine. Good luck to you. Robert, (Robert fielded the following call from Tom K.) Tom inquired about the steps necessary in dealing with building and safety at the city of Santa Clarita. He is somewhat of a novice and needed advice, which Robert gave. Once the work was completed, Tom called Robert back to thank him for encouraging people to reach out to the city of Santa Clarita’s Building and Safety Department, because his experience was nothing but positive, especially with the people behind the counter. Sandy, an employee there, helped greatly by letting Tom know what he needed in order to get a building permit, including the sketch of his home and identifying the area to be worked on. He returned with these items and the city not only issued his permit but they talked him through the steps needed in order to complete his work properly and when he’d need to call for inspections. Tom noted that he was proud to hang the permit in his window, especially being a non-professional contractor, and felt great at the completion of the job. Tom hopes that more people are encouraged to follow these steps, because it was a great experience. To Tom: Robert’s follow-up to this was to thank Tom, of course, for reaching out not only for the advice, but afterwards to share the success story. It is still Robert’s opinion that the city of Santa Clarita’s Building and Safety department is one of the best he’s dealt with and is always an advocate of their work. They are a kind and helpful group of people and their work only helps to make Santa Clarita a better, safer place for us all. It’s always a great idea to reach out to them when considering working on your home; they will guide you in the right ways and ultimately will be an aid in everyone’s safety. Good luck to all of you who choose to do-it-yourself, and remember to use your city resources. Robert, I am a homeowner here in Canyon Country who is a do-it-yourselfer. I recently suffered a leak to an upstairs bathroom that is above our garage, and have run into a bit of a conflict. You see, the problem is, your article…I read it and love it, but my wife is a faithful reader and ultimately learns a ton from you. This is where the problem lies; I am in the process of putting up a board in the garage now that the plumbing repair is complete. My wife says that I need permits to do this, and I say that because it is a like-for-like replacement, I am not in need of acquiring permits. Would you be the mediator here and clear up this confusion, please?
– JimJim, WIFE WINS! You do need a permit and here is why – the “board” that you are speaking of is a sheet of drywall. This is a heavy piece of material and requires the proper nailing technique in order to support the weight of the sheet properly, over time. If this is not done correctly, it can literally cost a life. I know of a person through a friend, who this nearly happened to. This person worked with drywall and put a piece up, however, incompletely in order to take a lunch break. The sheet was mounted and “secure” for the time being, but without it being fully secured, this created a risk. It didn’t take long for that sheet to come down onto this person who was sitting near taking his lunch break, and it broke his neck. Ultimately, this person died due to the trauma and it is a prime example as to why the city requires permits, because the permit comes with inspectors that will look over the work and determine if installation was done correctly, ultimately protecting lives. The outer skin is also a vital part of the drywall and cannot be punctured, which the inspector will be looking for. You’ll be countersinking the screws, but you’ll be expected to not break the paper, which is a skill in itself. These are all things that the Building and Safety department aid in, as they are there for the safety aspect, ultimately to protect us. Good luck with this project, and with the humble pie. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.