Your Home Improvement


Hi Robert,

Thank you for taking the time to answer questions regarding home repairs and improvements. We look forward to reading your weekly articles in The Signal!

Our home in Valencia was built in 1993 and we have an upstairs master bath with a shower and separate tub.

The shower stall has a fiberglass, or some sort of molded, floor which is quite stained from the hard water we use. My wife hates the look of it!

A friend installed a Schluter Kerdi shower kit system in his ground floor bath and was quite pleased with the outcome.

However, with our shower being upstairs it makes me worry about leaks that may occur with the Schluter Kerdi system from use, as its shower floor substrate material seems to be made of a high-density foam.

I’m worried about that floor flexing and cracking the tiles and/or grout during use, as well as the drain connection failing. The shower is located directly above our kitchen and I’m guessing there is a plywood sub-floor under the existing shower.

Are you familiar with this system? If so, would you recommend the Schluter Kerdi system to replace the existing shower or would you recommend another method to refinish the area?

If the Schluter Kerdi system is suitable for upstairs showers, should we install concrete backer board to reinforce the floor beneath the shower, prior to installing the system?

And, do you believe this could be a system my wife and I could do ourselves.

In our day we were pretty handy but, being our 60’s, don’t quite have the energy we used to. Watching on-line videos of the Schluter Kerdi system being installed, however, makes us believe we might be able to replace our old shower with this system ourselves.

There should be no electrical in the area and the plumbing seems to be fine so would you recommend getting this project permitted?

Finally, if you believe having a professional service do our remodel, can you provide any recommendations for companies capable of doing the work?

Thank you for any information and advice you might be able to provide us!

– Steve H.



Thank you for being one of our readers.

I’m familiar with the Kerdi system you are referring to. The only concern I have with it is, the transition between the matt and the drain is not as good as using an actual drain pipe.

I don’t know of anyone personally having used it, so therefore I can’t comment on the quality and the long-term durability.

I receive a lot of information through the mail asking me to try certain products; even if I had been asked to try this one, I wouldn’t risk it especially on a second floor. It only takes one leak from a second floor area to create tens of thousands of dollars in damage.

I personally will only use a vinyl system with the dry mortar bed. In the old days, as you will remember, we only had hot mop systems which in time will crack and leak. But, the vinyl systems that I have used for 20 years are all still doing well, with no problems.

As far as you and your wife doing either one of the systems that would be a personal decision. Me, myself, these are the times I step back and let the guys who do it on a daily basis handle these jobs.

There are always little things that come up with this type of installation that require certain little tricks that we who are not doing it daily, aren’t necessarily aware of or maybe forget, and that’s when we get into trouble.

I’ve sent you the name and contact information of a local, dependable tile contractor, separately. Good luck with your project.



My neighbor just had a serious accident while coming down off of the roof of his home, via a ladder.

He was up checking his air conditioning system and when he went to go down off of the roof onto the ladder, it swung backwards and caused him to fall and sustain a back injury.

He had plenty of height with the ladder above the roof, as you’ve written about, so I’m not sure what happened here to cause such an incident.

I know you weren’t there and didn’t see, but do you have any idea what the problem is?

– Roger C.



Funny you wrote to me about this as I just had a reader ask me to do a note in the article about this very issue (ladder safety).

Since I’ve always preached safety for all, the timing is perfect because I’m happy to revisit this topic.

This reader made mention of the safety ratio on a ladder, and it is as follows: for every 4 feet (four feet) of roof height, you pull the ladder one foot away from the vertical surface. So, if you lean it up against a roof which is approximately 12 feet high, then the ladder would be set 3 feet away from the building.

The ladder should extend by three feet above the roof line that you are accessing, so that you are easily able to mount the ladder without stretching from below the roof line to access.

The reason for all of these rules is safety; if you have the top of the ladder too low then when you enter or exit the roof you have to bend over to reach the top of the ladder – causing you to bend, and possibly fall.

If, however, the top of the ladder is 3 feet above the roof line, you’re not bending to secure yourself to the top of the ladder and then are able to exit safely.

The span from the vertical surface is to keep the ladder from either slipping if it’s too far out or the ladder falling backwards if it’s too close.

I realize some of the readers might think this is very elementary, but even in our industry I see a lot of these types of accidents that are preventable just by following the basics.

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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