Cleaning Concrete, Leaks, Shower

“ …tracking down leaks sometimes takes a bit of detective work.”

Dear Maintenance Men:

What is an economical method of cleaning concrete driveways and sidewalks? The concrete has oil stains, chewing gum and organic matter stains.


Dear John:

There are a few things you can do to help clean up the concrete. Oil stains can be spot treated with cat or absorbent litter. Spread the cat litter over the oil stains and grind the litter into the stains with your shoes. Leave it for 24 hours and sweep up after. Chewing gum can be removed by chilling the gum with ice or CO2 spray and using a putty knife to lift and scrape the gum off of the concrete. Use detergent and a stiff brush to remove the gum stain.

Organic matter stains can be removed with power washer spray. If you have a large area of concrete to clean, use a power washer. Set the power washer to 3000 PSI and use the wide spray head. Be careful not to gouge the concrete with the spray; keep the hand wand moving. Softer material like brick will need less PSI or more distance between the spray head and the bricks.

Dear Maintenance Men:

During the recent rains, my building started leaking. I was surprised, as I have just installed a new roof. The odd thing about the leak is that it is only affecting the downstairs units. What is going on and how do I solve this?


Dear Michael:

Water is a funny thing and tracking down leaks sometimes takes a bit of detective work. The first thing we would check is the roof. As you stated, the roof is new, but sometimes the odd flashing does not get caulked and the water finds its way down the side of a pipe, valley or junction area.

Have your roofer double check all the flashings.

Another issue to look at is water pooling around the foundation. If you have cracks in the foundation, water will find its way in. Be sure to clear any debris, dirt and leaves from around your build­ing or anything that will cause a water dam effect. Overgrown or old landscaping can contribute to leaks by trapping water or redirecting water to the building instead of away from it. Inspect the building’s stucco for cracks. We have seen small cracks in the stucco suck in large amounts of water. Pay close attention to the stucco between floors or on the edge of balconies. Balconies shed a lot of water which may cascade over the edge and flow back into the stucco where a hidden crack will allow the water to enter.

If you have aluminum windows, check the weep holes that allow water to drain out of the window tracks.

Dear Maintenance Men:

I own a building that consists of all two­bedroom, one and three-quarter baths. The three-quarter bathrooms have a sink, toilet and bathtub, but no shower. I would like to convert them to a full bath by adding a shower. How do I do it?


Dear Bill:

This is a great upgrade to any unit. There are a number of ways to go depending on your budget and do-it-yourself skills. The most economical and simple solution to adding a shower to a bathtub is to install a diverter spout that includes a one half­inch hand shower fitting. The hand shower can be sold separately or as a kit with the spout. Connect the hand shower hose to the spout and hang the shower head on the wall. Other than installing waterproof shower walls, you are ready to go.

The second option is a bit more involved, but a much better solution. Because most tub-only bathroom situations usually have no wall tile or “shower wall” material, gaining access to your existing valve and plumbing system should be easy. Let’s begin with the items you will need to start your project. (If you have an existing two-valve system, now is the time to go to a modern single­valve set-up.)

The easiest apartment application valve to buy is a shower/tub valve kit. There are many other brands to buy depending on your budget. The kit will come with a valve, spout, shower arm and head. You will still need to purchase a one half inch copper pipe at least 56 to 59 inches long, a 90 degree brass elbow, slip to thread with ears to attach it to the wall stud at the shower head. Be sure you have a full propane torch with solder and a fire extinguisher before starting the job.

Now you are ready to install. Don’t forget to turn off the water. Since you will be installing new shower walls, don’t worry about damaging drywall. Cut a hole in the drywall stud to stud, 12 inches high at the existing valve level. Then cut a four-inch wide strip of drywall 59 inches up from the location of the existing valves.

Now that everything is exposed, remove the old valves by cutting or use the propane torch to melt the solder joints. Install the new valve in place, cut a one-half inch copper riser between 56 and 59 inches and solder to the valve. Solder the brass 90-degree elbow to the pipe and screw the elbow to a cross stud. If you could not find an elbow with ears, use plumbers tape or a pipe hanger to secure the elbow in place. Test your plumbing installation for leaks.

Install new drywall to cover your plumbing work and the tub is now ready for the installation of the shower wall material of your choice. We recommend a one-piece wrap around shower wall system available at your local home center.


WE NEED Maintenance Questions!!! If you would like to see your maintenance question in the “Dear Maintenance Men” column, please send in your questions to:

If you need maintenance work or consultation for your building or project, please feel free to contact us. We are available throughout Southern California. For an appointment please call Buffalo Maintenance, Inc., at 714-956-8371. Frank Alvarez is a licensed contractor and the Operations Director and co-owner of Buffalo Maintenance, Inc. He has been involved with apartment maintenance and construction for over 20 years. He is also a lecturer and educational instructor for the Apartment Association. Frank can also be reached at For more info please go to: Jerry L’Ecuyer is a real estate broker and has been involved with apartments as a professional since 1988.