Floor Patching and Leveling

This job was in Huntington beach California. The customer was a general contractor that had a floor in terrible condition. After consulting several sub contractors and product suppliers I was called to see if I could help patch the floor in a permanent and cost effective way.

Whenever I approach a floor with significant damage I consider the future use of the floor. The recommendations from other contractors were expensive and excessive.This area was owned by a property management company and was going to b used as a retail store with a short loop commercial carpet.

My factors to consider are;

Weather/ exposure – This floor is in southern California which has moderate temperatures and its also indoors so this is the best case scenario. Because the concrete will loose heat through the footing around the perimeter and the soil underneath I know that the top portion suffer only gradual temperature changes..

Installation Requirement – Because this is a short loop carpet the floor will need to be smooth and free of all but the smallest defects.

Appearance or Future Consideration – The landlord did not pay the GC to make the floor brand new. Only to apply materials necessary to accommodate this installation and future installation of a similar type.

My treatment of these types of situations is becoming very routine. The cracks and major holes are cleaned, primed with masonry adhesive and filled with rapid set brand’s Cement All. Cement all has proven both indoor and outdoor to grip existing masonry surfaces exceptionally well.

I also frequently mix pea gravel into the cement all when filling in very large or wide areas to compensate for cement shrink.

Here is the patched floor. These are some spots were the floor was in reasonable condition.

floor patching

floor patching


In other areas the floor looked like a grenade testing facility. In these scenarios i mix the cement all in a 5 gallon bucket into a soup and add pea gravel if i can. Smoothing the whole mixture onto the top with a squeegee.

Once all areas are in a reasonable condition I spray the entire floor surface with a glue using hudson sprayer. Then i mix a floor leveling compound and use a squeegee to fix an minor imperfection that may remain.

Typically this will eliminate about 99% of defects wich is good enough to let the floor guys touch up the floor as they see fit.



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Metal stud framing torrance ca

This was a job in Torrance California. I was requested to build a small metal stud enclosure to finish off an area which had no plan details for another larger construction firm.

This is a fairly typical and straightforward job. I used 20 gauge 6″ joist and studs.2016-04-29 07.02.09

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Demo of manuacturing

A lot of people think demoing is easy. It’ thankless work carried out by the dregs of society. But fortunately those dregs have been hired by me to complete this work and so they will at the very least have the best tools and instructions available.

This job was a little room where spirulina, which is a vitamin supplement, was placed into those tiny little pill cases. Fabricated from metal studs and plywood it was then completely covered with a  washable fiber reinforced plastic.

Here are some pics at the start.


demolish a vitamin manufacturing room

Here you can see all three levels of material; FRP, Plywood, Metal Stud.

complete wall construction

The ceiling was the hard part because we were demoing a suspended ceiling made from metal lath and concrete. There is only one way to demo this type of ceiling if you can’t cut the wires from above. It’s with the smallest impact hammer with a scraper attachment.

The ceiling must be scraped clean of the concrete and then the lath must be cut with shears.


Finally we are left with just an open space. After this  I turned off the fire sprinkler then cut and re-threaded the fire heads to a new height near the ceiling so they wouldn’t get broken. As well as cut out some old supply, drain and HVAC pipes.




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Italian restaurant remodel

This was a job in down town Los Angeles. It was an Italian restaurant that I never got a chance to eat at. It was also a night job which I don’t do anymore

The scope of work at this job was to remodel the office and bathrooms as well as some other aesthetic issues. As with anywhere in Los Angeles space is limited. This office was small and had no air conditioning

On the exterior we installed a mosaic for the owner and also leveled the concrete. This is the one thing I think they were disappointed with. The concrete color did not match either the interior or exterior and the mosaic was ok but not perfect. I didn’t promise perfection and I think it turned out good but I know there vision was a bit different.


I also installed some sliding cabinet doors in the POS/ bar area. This included building a shelf for the equipment and running speaker wires through the attic. The owner was told it could not be done and I admit it was not easy. But nobody wants wires glued to the ceiling!

We also textured and repainted the office walls. This gave them a fresh feel. I then custom built them some wine racks and a desk with a matching storage unit for more wine.

The restroom remodel was key. They wanted something fresh and comfortable with an old school style. I had to demo everything skim coat the walls and level the floors. Add the chair rail and plastic floor base with an inside cove. I re installed all new fixtures over a very nice semi gloss paint and the restroom looked 10x better.


This all happened at night and it was a very long two weeks!

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Concrete Staining

This job was a floor replacement job. The customer had asked for a concrete floor stain and I usually don’t do this type of work except for situations where I know the customer and its being used in a more industrial application.

Whenever I stain, seal or polish concrete I tell every customer the following things;

  1. Although I am experienced at installing these types of products I cannot make any guarantees about the appearance and finish you will receive. This means I will not even attempt to match pictures of jobs I have done in the past.
  2. You, the customer, cannot be picky or trying to create a certain look. If that is the case please contact another contractor. You must accept the results without exception.

These two caveats may seem like a lot. But you have to remember that most of my work is commercial or industrial. Often concrete staining contractors will charge 3x to 10x the amount that I charge. The only real difference is that sometimes they have more experience color matching.

So when a customer comes to me asking for a stain or a seal or both I tell I ask them the color or colors they would like in a very general sense or let them pick from a list of products. Because of my policy I tend to avoid homeowners, retail customer and others who are all about the finish and achieving some certain look. I focus on industrial customers who aren’t super picky and need a cost effective way just to “punch -up” their office bullpen, lunch room or product showroom.

In fact some light coloring or even just cleaning and sealing the concrete in a warehouse can really make a big difference.


So on this job my caveats where exactly the same. No promises but fair work at a far price.

We started with a VCT floor. Only a single tile or two was missing and the concrete below appeared to be in good condition. So we began to demo.

If you look closely you can already see the problem we would encounter. But as I was just going through the motions we began prepping the floor with the diamond blade floor prep tool. This tool is attached to a floor maintainer and will remove any coating as well as eat away concrete itself if left in one spot for too long.

After cleaning the floor this is what we were left with.

floor prepped for concrete stain

To my disappointment the floor was installed sometime way in the past as a stamped and stained floor. Not only that but its was covered in patch job, skim coats, epoxy/floor paint, utility trenches and even one spot where we found pipes coming through the floor. Notice how the floor looks foggy or dirty. This is not the case but its a sign that the prepping machine has properly scratched through the top layer of surface material. If this was regular concrete, for example, the color would go from a gray to a chalkier gray/ white. This floor has been mopped clean though to make sure it was ready.

Of course I called the customer who is the landlords representative and told him this was a worst case scenario and we should consider other options than floor stain. However he instructed me to move forward. I did some minor patching and left the stamp lines per their request. The owners agent said it would be office use and would just need to be durable.

So, per my instruction I continued, and waited a week for the floor to dry out before continuing. Its important that all the new patches have time to cure as well as letting the moisture in the floor escape so it doesn’t block the absorption of the staining material.

In order to hide or create the illusion of a uniform appearance I applied the stain in a circular motion with varying amounts of stain. This created a very randomized coloring effect which is similar to sparing texture on drywall. The goal is to hide imperfections by distracting the eye.

applying concrete stain

The picture above is the application. The color the customer chose was brown and I used a high quality hudson sprayer frequently used for this application. After letting that product dry for a day I went back and applied a satin sealer over the entire surface.

I was anxious because about how the floor would turn out because I had already spent extra time attempting to fix all the problems we were encountering when we prepared the floor.

I was pleased with how the end product appeared considering the budget and the floor we had to work with.

finished floor worst case scenario

finished floor worst case scenario


finished concrete stain close up

Of course when I went with the customer to collect my check they told me that they changed their mind and wanted gray and that this would now be used as a showroom.

So now you know why I rarely do concrete stains!

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Repairing a damaged air conditioning heat pump

2016-06-28 16.40.35

This job was located in signal Hill California. It was to help out someone I know personally.

Fixing any kind of factory equipment can be a huge pain. Even more so when its 100 degrees and the competent repair people are booked 3 weeks out while you are sweating in your office. I have helped repair multiple hvac units because during the busy season HVAC companies send out less qualified crews trying their best to help the inevitable flood of calls that comes in.

However these extra crews really can only check the basics and will often leave by recommending you replace the unit completely. However most situation are fixable and many are even fixable by someone with just a little competence and electrical tools. Rarely do units leak and loose refrigerant. Most often the problems are poor maintenance or an electrical issue.

In this case the control panel was completely off so I did the following step by step procedure used for fixing any heat pump that is not responding.

I removed the thermostat and checked for batteries. There were none and I searched online to determine that it will shut off with out a hardwired power supply. I checked the power at the terminals behind the thermostat and there was none.

Next I went to the breaker. It was on and appeared to be supply power. Next I went to the rooftop unit.

The unit has a disconnect and usually a breaker of fuse as well. I check the power coming in and leaving the breaker. If you are using a non contact tester at this point you must stop and use a multiplier.

Now I began checking the power as it moved through the unit. The power splits up and does multiple things in the unit so I think logically and go to the 24v transformer supplying power to my thermostat. Its only showing 1 volts. Not the 24 I need. So I run down to the supply house and grab a 24v 60va transformer.

As soon as the transformer is installed I switch the equipment back on and everything is working. Naturally I check the air filter and inside compartment for dust and debris to eliminate stress on the unit.

You will notice I have a very linear logic of fixing the simplest items such as checking for power at the thermostat then checking for power at each point. I have successfully fixed several heatpump issues where another company has recommended replacement. This is not for the amateur however and requires skill in understanding as well as safe practices in working with high voltage equipment.

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Pouring Concrete Sidewalk

This was a job where an existing slab on city property was right in front of a roll up door. The cities sidewalk was crumbling fast and the new tenant need fresh concrete installed before they moved in the following week.


Since this job was on the sidewalk we had to do the demo and pour in a single day.

Using a gas-powered concrete saw cut the existing concrete about 3″ below the surface so that our concrete would break away in straight clean lines. Because no one was in the building we brought our own power. Using a 5500 generator we powered the large jack hammer to break up the concrete.

We also used the smaller 7″ grinder and the smaller chipping hammer to do some detail work around parts of the building that are staying.

Because of he schedule we didn’t have a dumpster dropped off. We ordered a small 4 yard dumpster and had it arrive about 3 hours after we started. We loaded it while the driver waited and this way we had our demo 100% complete by 11 am. Here is a pic of the opening right before the dumpster showed up. Notice how we chipped the concrete around the bollards down at an angle to preserve the existing footing but allowing for a new finish. Also notice the straight lines at the right of the concrete opening and the sides. However the lines at the bottom had some parts chipped away and I didn’t notice till the concrete truck arrived. But we had to pour anyway because of the tight schedule.

demoing concrete

Here is the final picture I took. It’s the concrete after it has been screed-ed with a 2 x 4 and wood float. The new concrete has pea gravel as well as 3/4 aggregate. I also increased the depth from  3-4 inches to 5 inches. As usual I did not install metal reinforcement in the city sidewalk.


concrete poured and waiting to be finished

The concrete was poured around 12:30 and was finished around 3:30. However I waited until 6:30 before leaving because I wanted to avoid using cones and caution tape to stop accidental foot traffic. Cones and caution tape tend to attract the neighborhood artists and vandals.

Instead I waited till the concrete firm enough to tape down a hardboard panel which is a super thin 3/16 panel that is almost a cross between wood and cardboard. It’s so thin that it’s not a trip hazard and when the concrete has firmed up after a few hours the panel will allow people to walk across it without drawing any attention from people. Since its taped down to the floor it’s also a great deterrent even if someone does notice the fresh concrete.

Sorry but I didn’t get pictures of the panels or the finished product because I was super late getting home for dinner!




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Foil Repair

There is not much to write about this one. Someone had just moved into a warehouse but in order to get a racking permit they needed to repair some of their falling foil which was blocking fire sprinklers.

The also had an indoor basketball court which I though was cool.

repairing foil insulation in warehouse

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Repairing incorrect concrete slab installation

This job was a remodel in Westminster California. Upon initial inspection when the building was intact there was no significant evidence of problem with the concrete floor. However after the demo crew came through the concrete floor showed some serious problems.


This building was at one time was a restaurant and over the years there had been several reworks of the underground plumbing. For reasons unknown, probably cost and convenience, the waste drain pipes were very close to the surface. Also several floor drains had been deleted and the really consistent theme was shoddy concrete replacement. Some area had paper thin concrete only an inch thick. There was no rebar reinforcement in any of the patches.

2016-03-24 14.12.53

To start we started outlining the problem areas. Although the surface concrete could be broken out we decided to saw-cut the edges to ensure we found our way back to a concrete slab minimum 4″ thick. After breaking out the loose concrete we added some fill because the lack of compaction had left some rather large voids.

2016-03-24 14.12.40

We added water to get a good moisture content. When judging moisture content you can take a soil and try to make a ball like a snowball. You should just barely be able to form the material into a ball. It shouldn’t be wet but it shouldn’t be dry and crumbly either.

After hand tamping and watering we drilled, doweled and set 1/2″ rebar at 18″o.c. with epoxy. We poured a 2,500 psi medium slump concrete with pea gravel. When finishing trenching I screed the trench with a wood bull float for convenience. Then after 30 minutes to an hour again with the magnesium bull float just to make sure that the concrete is flush with edges and flat. I then hand finish with a 14″ square trowel, a 14″ pool trowel and a 6″ midget trowel.

In this case I let some of the day laborers practice finishing because the entire floor needs a floor leveling compound at a later date so it was a good chance for people to practice.

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Retail buildout

This job was located in Long Beach California. It was performed for an out of state contractor in a bug hurry.


Although I am a general contractor I frequently am hired by other general contractors to do entire jobs. Especially retail from property managers back east. This was one of those jobs.

I was called in to give a bid on a project that was a last minute and needed to get done fast. It had a little bit of everything from framing a new partition wall. To installing underground electrical and low voltage and lots of odds and ends. They sent a superintendent from another state who was a great guy to work with. However the plans and lights were shipped from out of state so you know there is a good chance of title 24 issues.


Also the primary contractor had a liquidated damages agreement. I sympathized but didn’t agree to a completion date because I don’t promise unless I can for sure deliver. We still made the date but I and worked hard to do it. But I won’t take on someone else’s stress at this point in my life. I have enough of my own!

This is always a good job for me because of my broad experience and great set up I can quickly work through multiple trades without downtime.

Right away we framed the walls. The wall was built under the suspended eiling with our overhead kickers at 4′ o.c. Screwing , drywall and taping no problem. This was a great example of using the taping banjo. Sorry I didn’t get pics!

We saw-cut and dug out our underground power supply chase as neatly as possible because there was ceramic tile down already. Installed and re poured very quickly.


There was a vanilla shell existing so we only reworked lighting an controls. We were working long hours and very closely with the out of state superintendent who was doing the painting and millwork.

All together we built this retail out in two weeks flat. The key to success was being prepared and not having to wait around for different tradespeople and there schedules. Even now I see electrical companies dividing into two parts. The wire and fixture installers and the programmers. Luckily, being a computer programmer I can make quick work of the title 24 controls being used so I don’t have the burden of calling in a different team every single day.

Some jobs just can’t afford to be a day late!


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