Each year, thousands of Arizona residents email or call Rosie Romero’s radio show with questions about everything from preventing fires in their chimneys to getting rid of tree roots invading their sewer systems. His goal is to provide answers that suit the specific lifestyle wherever someone lives in Arizona.
QUESTION: Someone told me that if I want to put a gazebo in the backyard, I’ll need a permit from the city. Is that true?
ANSWER: Probably you will need a permit. One of the main things to think about in building a gazebo and meeting city requirements is that you must stay out of the front-, side- and rear-yard setback lines on your lot. You might want electricity if you’re planning to install lights, sound speakers, maybe a TV. You might also want a gas line to power a grill and a water line for cleaning up. For all those possibilities, you need a permit from the city. I’d also suggest that you be sure to build the gazebo fairly close to your house for convenience.
Q: I may have some foundation problems with my 13-year-old house. The windows and doors are fine, but inside the house some tiles are cracking and I think the house may have a heaving problem. The cracking started about six months ago. A couple of foundation companies came out to look at the problem. One company says not to worry. The other one wants to charge about $625 to do some measurements to see if there’s a problem. So what should I do?
A: You probably could wait another six months and keep an eye on the problem. But it might be worth it to do measurements now. Most Arizona foundation problems are due to heaving, not settling. We have expansive clay soils here that don’t get water for months and months. Then suddenly they’re soaked, and the soil expands and can crack your foundation.
Q: I have a problem with air coming into my house through the seams around doors and windows. I can see light coming in around the doors and feel the heat coming in. What type of weather stripping needs to be installed? I can use some new door sweeps, too. I can’t do the work myself.
A: Those are the types of jobs that a handyman can do; have one come to your house and take a look at the problem. It’s a job that shouldn’t take more than a day to do.
Q: I want to know the reasons for installing a tankless water heater. I’m the only person in the house and I now have a heater that stores about 40 gallons of water. Is it worthwhile for me to go tankless?
A: Tankless heaters are super-heaters that flash-heat water using electric or natural gas power. They give you a great supply of water almost immediately. They cost about twice as much as a conventional water heater and they work best in a smaller household. The main downside is that you may need to install a water softener that would treat the water before it goes through the heater. If you don’t install the softener, our very hard Arizona water will eat up the components in the tankless heater in no time. Tankless systems can be great, but you’ll probably never see an economic return from them.
Q: I live on a third of an acre and I’m getting ready to build a garden on part of my lot. But many years ago, the area for my garden was covered with black plastic and then covered with gravel and sand. The plastic is starting to disintegrate. Do I have to remove it before I can make a healthy environment for trees and my garden?
A: Yes, you need to remove all the plastic, probably piece by piece, and you need to get rid of the decomposed granite as well. Then you have to rototill down about six to eight inches and add organic material to the soil.