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Repairing a damaged air conditioning heat pump

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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.

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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.

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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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Concrete wall infill

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This job was in Torrance California. It was a concrete wall infill on a tilt up warehouse. I wish I had better pictures of this job. Even better I wish I had picture of the larger 10′ x 15′ openings I have closed in the past.

When doing a large permanent infill I typically form it an pour it. This is done by drilling, doweling and setting rebar reinforcement with epoxy. Embed depth and rebar size can vary from opening to opening but I recommend overdoing it because this concrete will be standing straight up and down and will weigh 150 lbs per cubic foot.

Next I form the wall area. This job used 1/2 plywood and 2×4 wood. On larger job I would use 3/4 plywood and 4×4 or even 4×6 lumber.

When pouring into plywood its best to have waxed forms. But often I will instead just spray water onto the plywood interior and order a high slump concrete. That along with the vibrator will leave your with only a very few 1/2 air bubbles in some if the tighter corners.

Because finishing is done after forming you can order the mic with an accelerator such as calcium chloride. This will allow you to build forms and pour the same day. Then you can come back the next day, remove the forms and begin finishing the concrete.

At this point the concrete will still be “green” meaning still curing significantly. It will not be fulled hardened and will be warm to the touch. However I will begin grinding and high spots and then sacking concrete to finish it. I don’t use a traditional sand and cement mixture for painted walls. Instead I will use a bag of “cement all” to fill large voids and “one pass” to finish the wall for paint.

One pass in nice because its a hydraulic cement product that binds like cement but dries quickly and can be sanded to give a great finish in less time. Most job are single infills and completing them in only two days is a major plus to the business owner who’s operations are never helped by on-site construction activities.

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Commercial door and window installation


This job was a commercial door and window installation in Westminster. Having installed these doors and windows countless times I can assure you there is a right and wrong way to do the installation.

Firstly on any big job there will be countless pieces of frames and hardware. There is a significant chance that supplier will send you a wrong frame, that they will be labeled wrong or that a field installer may mistake one part of a frame for another and mix up multiple pieces from separate openings.

When installing these I always start by organizing the frames and pieces in front of each opening. If I am managing other installers I tell them to abandon an opening if the pieces don’t work. On jobs with 10+ doors when someone abandons an opening because the parts are wrong we usually find the parts on another opening farther down the line.

On this job however there was already a carpenter attempting to assemble the door frames for the owner and he had mistakenly assembled the pieces from different opening together.

I removed everything and started from scratch. I can teach a group of laymen how to install 100 doors faster than a team of carpenters any day. Moving at production speed is about getting every team member to do just one task fast and consistently accurate.

When installing the doors myself I always do frames and door leafs 100% with bare minimum of frame screwing. Then I come back double check my work and add casing, hardware etc.


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HVAC rooftop platfporms

2016-06-27 06.22.21

This was a job in Carson Ca. The warehouse was getting new offices and needed new heat pumps on the roof. These rooftop heat pumps are installed on metal factory curbs that must be level. We need to modify the roof to accept these curbs and hold them strong and level.

These installation are done by laying out installation locations with the HVAC installer. Typically the equipment installer will have a metal roof curb laid in the location the unit will need to be installed.

After we know our new rooftop location we drill a pilot hole and layout a platform that will be bigger than the supplied curb so we can land as much of platform support onto the roof framing structural.

We then layout or roof demo about 12″ beyond the the platform area and have some demo guys clear our roofing down to the wood. Using our pilot hole we layout the opening for our new plenums and cut the roof sheathing out. This plenum opening gives us access to above and below the roof from a scissor lift or scaffold below.


These are two sets of roof platforms designs for the same job. The solid 4″ x 16″ is best when you are prepared and have the lead time to order it. Because it can be ripped and installed quicker than framing miniature parapet walls which will also need blocking etc.

After the platform side walls are framed and sheathed we install a variety of joists beam stiffeners etc to support the metal factory curb above. The top is also capped with plywood sheathing and the roof curb is left sitting on top.

The equipment installers will come and screw down the factory curb to the platform and then the roofers will come and roof the structure in. Sometimes roof crickets are needed and maybe installed by the carpenter or the roofing company.

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Temporarily Closing A Truck Dock

This job in Torrance California was a warehouse that needed to close 4 truck docks for a new tenant. However they wanted to keep the truck docks for future use after the tenant leaves. This poses a few challenges I have not encountered before.

Typically when closing a truck dock permanently we will demo the dock leveler and rolling door and infill both with concrete or a CMU as appropriate. But in th this case we needed to build something that would last 50 years if necessary but was still easy to remove later.

To start we rolled up the rolling door and simply disabled it by means iof the chain. The door rails were left in place because the interior wall was to be furred out and the entire door would be hidden anyways.




Next the dock levelers were disabled by using a a stick or SMAW welded steel tab to prevent them from moving. These tabs were two inches long with two on each side. These can easily be cut and ground smooth if the dock leveler is needed. On the outside a galvanized steel box was manufactured to fit round the levelers front and create a more aesthetic appearance.

Inside we built a wood frame infill and coated it with a waterproof kraft paper similar to stucco construction. On top of this we add regular cement board. Water is diverted by a flashing on top which the paper is tucked under. Water flowing on top lands on the galvanized steel leveler cover which has a 1″ lip on the backside. With this the construction was waterproof and secure.

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To finish the outside we used a a layer of a product called cement all with a special mesh tape to fill in the major voids. After that we used to coats of a products called one pass to finish the exterior smooth. Then it was primed and painted. The reality of any painted concrete is that the paint itself is a very significant waterproofing. The kraft paper etc was just to be doubly sure.

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The inside was a bit trickier because although the dock leveler was not moving is still was a large metal plate with big gaps inside our future workshop area. To fix these we used a wire fed MIG welder and spot welded 20 gauge metal across the openings. Then we skim coated the entire surface with super-krete’s “gray bond kote” product. It was difficult to install because it was very sticky but so far it has adhered very well to the metal, which was the biggest concern, and after some practice finishing the material has produced a color and texture sufficient for th new ownership.

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Of course whenever I install anything I never promise perfection. Concrete color and texture especially. But my hand troweled bond kote was aesthetically pleasing and similar to the machine troweled concrete of 30 years plus.

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New concrete footings for stairway

This was a job in Torrance California where a new staircase was being installed and the plans called for new concrete footings. The footings had already been excavated by someone else.


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This was a small job and only took two days. We drilled our concrete, blew with air and set a number 5 rebar into our epoxy. When installing narrow concrete like this with existing all around I screed the top with my wood bull float as I go. Its easier on the back and knees. But when the concrete is deeper like this I always allow the float to sit a little higher. This leaves my fresh concrete about 3/8 higher, or “proud” as they say, because the concrete tends to compress and sink in the footing even after its vibrated.

After a good hour or two I can screed with my mag bull float and the then hand finish an hour or so later. Working indoors extends the finishing time by some degree and on this installation I probably could have added concrete accelerator but chose not too. So there was a fair amount of sitting around.


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