Robert Lamoureux: Root balls, missing expansion joint

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Question No. 1

Hi Robert,
My neighbor has a big palm tree and the wall is beginning to lean and also has cracks where it is leaning.
The neighbor says that because this tree has a big root ball and not long roots, it cannot be the cause of this damage.
I’m hoping you’ll put this into the paper so that if I’m correct I can show him that the root ball on his tree is in fact, the source of the wall damage.
I have young children and don’t want this wall to become a bigger safety issue than it is, but also I don’t want to foot the bill for the wall repair. Please let me know if I am correct.
— Ron S.

Answer No. 1

This is a queen palm, and it is absolutely the source of the wall issues. The root ball, yes, does have smaller roots but the reality is that the root ball itself grows larger and, in this proximity to the wall, creates an upward thrust and forces the wall to move.
The movement of the wall is what is causing the cracks and the instability.
First thing that needs to happen here is that the tree needs to come out.
Once that happens then the wall needs to be demo at least partially, in order to make proper repairs.
Depending on the original construction of the wall, it could mean that at least a portion needs to come down all the way to the footing, but in some cases just a portion can be demo and rebuilt.
Ultimately, it depends on how long this has been let go and how extensive the damage is to the wall.
I am confident that this is the source of the wall movement, as there is nothing else in the vicinity that would cause this. Good luck to you.
— Robert

Question No. 2

Hello Robert,
My name is Gina C. I have a pool where the deck is lifting, causing the bricks that are around the pool, to fall into the pool. Are you able to tell me what the cause of this could be? I’m totally at a loss as to what could cause such a thing.
— Gina C.

Answer No. 2

The problem is a missing expansion joint.
There should have been one put in during installation, and, at that time, there should have been a product called Dek-O-Seal installed into the joint.
Dek-O-Seal fills this approximate one-inch gap along with backer rod or sand, and is there to offer a space for each the concrete and brick to expand/contract during weather.
Between the water and heat, both expand and contract at different rates and when they are butted up against one another, the weaker gets pushed out of the way, in this case, your bricks.
You need to essentially start from scratch, having someone pull the bricks and cut them by about an inch, followed by the reinstallation with the gap and products I’ve mentioned.
Unless you’re very handy, I’d leave this to a professional because the Dek-O-Seal is a two-part urethane that if you’re new to, can be a bit tricky to apply. Once you have this redone, you should have a beautiful deck once again.
Good luck.
— Robert

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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