Robert Lamoureux: Some serious backyard fix-ups


Question No. 1


I live in Canyon Country on a good size piece of property. We have a low spot near the back of the yard and we are quite tired of seeing it as a floodplain during the rains.

Rather than trying to bring in dirt and re grade the area, my handy husband feels that it would be better to put a pump in to pump out the water. You’ve always said that an outside plug needs to have a GFI, and I noticed where both our garage and patio each have GFI plugs.

I need to know if we need to put a separate GFI where the pump is, because we can’t find the answer online or anywhere we’ve looked. Can you help with this?

Ilene W.

Answer No. 1


The answer is no on this one.

A pump doesn’t require a GFI as long as it is grounded. You do have to maintain the equipment and be sure that the cover stays in good shape, though.

GFI are highly sensitive to moisture, and will trip when a slight amount is detected, so if connected to a pump, the purpose of the pump would then be defeated because it would be shut down by the GFI.

Your lid should be secured and only able to be opened by an adult for servicing purposes, so be sure that it is screwed down always, unless being serviced. Now, a different story would be if you were doing something like a bird fountain with a pump. These need to be put onto a GFI, it is a more likely scenario that a child or someone could be injured playing near this, should there be an electrical issue.

In this case, yes, absolutely a GFI is needed.

Good luck with your project.


Question No. 2


I live in Canyon Country and have attached photos of the bricks falling into my pool.

It is an older pool, but I just can’t figure out why they are falling off/into the pool.

There are about a dozen of these that are pushing off and my pool man though he keeps the pool in good clean condition, he doesn’t know why this is happening, either.


Answer No. 2


The cause of this issue is evident with the photos that you sent.

You have no expansion joint at your coping. I wrote about this a couple of years ago, so I’ll touch on it again for you.

Between the decking and the brick, there should be about a 1” (one inch) gap that has been backfilled with either sand or backer rod. Backer Rod is a piece of tubular shaped foam which fills the void prior to the next step. Remove all of your coping bricks and clean them and the bed of all debris.

You’ll need to cut these back by 1” to now have enough room for the expansion joint.

Now, reset all of your bricks with mortar, allow this area to dry thoroughly before you apply grout between, matching your existing as closely as possible. Fill the gap between the brick and deck with the sand or backer rod and then you’ll want to do yourself a favor and tape off both sides of this joint in order to protect the deck and coping bricks, much like masking off for painting.

Purchase a product called Dek o Seal, choosing the color you’d prefer to have on your deck. Dek O Seal is a two part epoxy that comes in a gallon bucket plus a quart container. The two parts are mixed together, and no need to rush too much, it takes a while to dry so you have some time to work with it. You’ll receive an applicator bottle with the Dek O Seal so fill the applicator and then simply squeeze the mixed product down into the gap.

You can, at this time, apply a small amount of silica sand to the wet Dek O Seal, to give this some texture and prevent slippery areas. This is your choice, but a good thing to consider especially with little feet around the pool. Once all is dry then sweep or vacuum up all excess sand, don’t allow this to get into your pool and cause yourself issues. You should have secure coping bricks for a long time to come, following these steps.

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 [email protected].

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