Dear Maintenance Men:

Written by Apartment Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

By Jerry L’Ecuyer & Frank Alvarez

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 putting 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:
I have given my residents information on how to prepare a personal emergency preparedness kit for their families.  My question is for you is: does my Apartment or commercial building need an emergency preparedness kit?  And if so, what should be in it?

Dear Diana:
A quick list of what should be in your family disaster preparedness kit: Flashlight with batteries, canned goods, a Gallon of water per person, a knife, Meds and blankets at minimum. 

Now this works ok for a family, but may not be appropriate for an apartment building.  The residents may very well shelter in place during a disaster and be fine.  What may be in danger is your property!  Start with a bit of preventive disaster maintenance.  

1:         Locate the main water shut-off valve and any minor shut-off valves. Make sure the valves are in working order.  If they are gate valves, it might be time to upgrade them to ball valves.  Old gate valves are notorious for breaking valve stems at the moment you need them to work. 

2: Locate and clearly mark the main electrical panel.

3: Locate and mark the main sewer clean-out.  Run a mainline snake or hydro jet at least once a year.   (A Friday evening main back-up is a disaster.)

4: Locate and mark the main gas or fuel oil shut-off valve.

5: Write down and post this information in a public area of your apartment building, including emergency phone numbers and how to get hold of management.   Alternatively; Post this information on the inside of a kitchen cabinet door in each rental unit.

Dear Maintenance Men:
I want to create a seating and relaxing area in the middle of my building’s courtyard.  My thoughts are to use decomposed granite and eliminate the current grass area.  How do go about installing the surface without making a mess or a future headache for myself. 

Dear Bryan:
Decomposed granite or DG for short is a great way to add a durable, natural and water wise surface.   A few things you need to know before you get started.    The key word in DG is “Decomposed”.  In other words, this granite is decomposing.  There are three options:  raw DG for flower beds, stabilized DG for walkways and resin-coated DG for driveways.   For your purpose you need to use a stabilized DG for walkways.  It has a binder mixed into the DG.  Non-stabilized DG is much cheaper, but will of course decompose, create dust when dry and slush when wet.    To properly install DG, dig down three inches overall and use a wood, rock or brick border to keep the edges of the DG from crumbling.  As an option, lay down a weed barrier cloth under the DG.  Apply DG in one and a half inch layers, water down (don’t flood) and tamp or use a heavy roller to compress the DG.   Wait eight hours between layers to let the DG settle.  Repeat the above for each subsequent layer. When installed properly, the DG surface will be rock hard, stable, dust free and will allow water to drain.

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 licensed contractor and the Operations Director and co-owner of Buffalo Maintenance, Inc. He has been involved with apartment maintenance & construction for over 30 years. Frankie is President of the Apartment Association of Orange County and a lecturer, educational instructor and Chair of the Education Committee of the AAOC.  He is also Chairman of the Product Service Counsel.  Frank can be reached at (714) 956-8371 For more info please go to: 
Jerry L’Ecuyer is a real estate broker. He is currently a Director Emeritus and Past President of the Apartment Association of Orange County and past Chairman of the association’s Education Committee.  Jerry has been involved with apartments as a professional since 1988.