Your Home Improvements

Robert, I live in Saugus and am in the process of tearing down a small dividing fence (and rebuilding). I’m framing it out of wood and want to do paper, lath and stucco on it. So that I don’t get timber rot, do you have any recommendations for me, because I know five years from now if it’s not properly protected then I’ll end up with leaks and a failing wall?

– Jim L.

Jim, Yes, what you’ll do is try to keep as much timber out of and off of the ground as you can, and to take measures to keep it all dry. You can use standoff brackets, pouring the concrete footing and then put the standoff bracket onto that, then mounting your timbers to that. The brackets will keep the water from wicking (soaking up water and the moisture moving up the timber) and rotting from the ground. Another thing to do is while you are papering, first install double paper so you are protected a bit longer, then get a product called Bituthene, which is a roll-on rubberized membrane. Get the max size roll and roll this on top of your paper, then lath (wire) and finally on to your stucco. The bituthene is a fantastic rubberized product that will prevent the water from getting to the paper, thus protecting the timbers below. At the bottom of your wall, make sure to put the weep screed/flashing on, and this will be the final guide for the water, forcing it away from the wall as the water runs down. It sounds like you are a pretty sharp guy so I’m sure this will all make sense to you. Let me know if you have additional questions, and good luck to you with this project. Robert, I live in Santa Clarita and own an apartment building. About two or three years ago you mentioned something about how to tell if a door swings right or left, and I need to know this as I am installing fire doors soon, and will be questioned. Can you please review the basics of determining this, because I keep getting confused, not knowing if you stand on the inside or the outside when noting the swing direction.

– Jack J.

Jack, Great question and it’s a simple answer once you have a way to remember. Try this: your rear end, we call “butt.” The point at which the door and the hinge meet is also called the “butt” of the door. Open the door and put the two together. If the door is on your right, it’s a right-swing door. If the door is on your left, it’s a left-swing door. This is a method that will work every time, and unless you can get it right, there can be many mistakes in ordering. Hope this helps, good luck. Robert, We live in a private community and I am part of a very active BOD who has many handy people. We do a lot of the needed work on the property ourselves. For quite a while, we’ve had folks ignoring and rolling through our stops on the property. One of the things we want to do is to put the white lines and the word “STOP” onto the ground, and install larger STOP signs. Are there rules to the types of materials and height requirements for this?

– Randy A.

Randy, I recommend getting the same type of pole that you see on the city posts. It’s a 2”x2” perforated pole. The minimum height requirement is that the bottom of the sign needs to be 7’ (seven feet) off of finished grade. This makes the average tall person safe to travel near the sign. Core-set these posts in concrete and make sure that your graphics are large enough for the average person to detect easily. You can purchase equipment from Traffic Management. They have pre fab items that will make this job easy for you. Robert, We are getting ready to install speed bumps in our HOA and have talked to a couple of asphalt companies. We are getting mixed messages and will trust your opinion. One company said we can go as high as 4-inches on these bumps, some say only 3-inches. One company never mentioned speed bump signs. One of them said that we need to paint the bumps all white, and the other disagrees. We are stumped and this will be a costly project so we’d like to get it right on the first try and we want it to look as clean as we can, while putting a halt to the speeding.

– Mike R.

Mike, The maximum allowable is 3.5-inches, and you do need signage at all entrances, warning of the impending speed bumps. This warning is imperative for liability for damaged vehicles, so I’d be sure that the signs go up prior to the install of the speed bumps. You also need warning signs just after turns, noting that there are upcoming speed bumps. The speed bumps themselves need to be marked also, distinguishing them from the rest of the road. Prior to beginning this project, I strongly recommend that you contact your local fire department. If you install the speed bumps, and subsequent to that they service your property – if there are too many or the bumps are too high, they will make you remove or change them. They are always willing to come out for a site visit, and will determine the quantity and height required by them, making your project successful the first time. Good luck to you. 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